A visit to Old Fort William in my hometown of Thunder Bay, the land of the Sleeping Giant, has prompted a nostalgic blog post this week.

My hometown

I grew up in Thunder Bay which used to be Fort William (the south side of town where my family lived) and Port Arthur (the north side). The two cities amalgamated in 1970. The name of the new larger city was put to a vote. The choices were Lakehead, The Lakehead, and Thunder Bay. I wasn’t old enough to vote, but I remember I wanted The Lakehead. To this day if you meet someone from Thunder Bay, the first question is: Are you from Fort William? Or Port Arthur?

I left Thunder Bay in my early 20’s to go away to school. Even as a child, I knew I would someday leave my hometown. Now coming back for a 2 week visit after a pandemic, I wanted to show my daughter all the highlights. We visited many sights, some of which I have to admit, I’d never been to before now. It has been eye opening and awe inspiring. There are many things I took for granted growing up. Places I never truly appreciated. Like the view of Mount MacKay right outside our front door and the rugged Canadian Shield terrain with its many mines and canyons. The place where Terry Fox had to end his monumental run for cancer and historic Old Fort William.

Old Fort William

Old Fort William has long been a premier tourist attraction in Ontario. In 1973, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip officially opened the Fort. In the 1800s, Fort William was a major centre of commerce within the North West Company’s network of fur trade outposts.

Many cultures were involved in the fur trade, including Scottish fur traders, French Canadian voyageurs, and native hunters and trappers. The native people in the Fort William area are predominantly Ojibwa.

A visit to Old Fort William by Colleen Kanna, Photo of fur trader

Fur trader

The Fort is a re-creation of the year 1816 with 42 reconstructed buildings, an Ojibwa village, and a small farm. During non-pandemic times, it employs many students all in traditional dress and roles. It has a working community of skilled tradesmen, including a blacksmith, tinsmith, carpenter, cooper, and birchbark canoe builder.

A Visit to Old Fort William by Colleen Kanna, Photo of birchbark canoe

Birchbark canoe

Apparel trade

Of course, I was particularly drawn to the apparel/tailor trade back in the day.

A visit to Old Fort William by Colleen Kanna, Photo of fabric available in 1816

Fabric available in 1816

en Kanna, Photo of dressmaker's shop in 1816

Dressmaker’s shop

en Kanna, Garment construction in 1816

Garment construction in 1816 which looks similar to my Carolyn dress

Fur trade

The furs naturally caught my eye. You can’t help but want to touch them. It made me think about the fur coats donated by women in the COKANNA community. I’m grateful we can recycle, reuse and repurpose the fur for pompoms on my bamboo toques.

en Kanna, Furs in 1816

Furs in 1816

Wouldn’t these raccoon furs make lovely pompoms? Or maybe tails à la Davy Crockett style.

A visit to Old Fort William by Colleen Kanna, Furs in 1816


My bamboo toques with removable fur pompoms will arrive in September. You can pre-order one now.

Bamboo toque with removable fur pompom

Bamboo toque with removable fur pompom

There are recycled raccoon pompoms, black mink, beige mink, and Persian lamb, all handmade. You can state your pompom preference in the Notes section when you check out. Sorry, the one white rabbit pompom on top of the pile is already taken.

Removable fur pompoms in raccoon, black mink, beige mink

Your choice of removable fur pompom

Pre-order your bamboo toque

Until next time,

~ Colleen

Colleen Kanna, Photo by Anna Epp Photography

I’m a recovering Chartered Accountant and Breast Cancer Champion turned Fashion Designer. My COKANNA Canadian-made bamboo clothing is all about comfort and style. Giving back to the community is important to me so I support Rethink Breast Cancer‘s metastatic breast cancer education, support, and advocacy work.