Smile! : the latest mysterious find of a century-old denture at the Silver Islet Store
Finding old things in strange places is nothing new to the folks at the Silver Islet General Store.
The historic general store was built in 1871 and is located on Lake Superior in the community of Silver Islet, 80 kilometers east of Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario.
Store owners Jeff and Sandy Korkola recently found a set of dentures in an old tin can in the basement of the store, along with denture cleaning powder.
“They looked pretty clean,” Jeff Korkola said. “I mean the base of the denture looks dark and a bit nasty, but the teeth are surprisingly white and well formed. They look like real teeth.”
Korkola said the false teeth also came with the lower end of a well-used pipe. After doing some research, he said the dentures were probably porcelain teeth with pins set in hardened rubber.
Korkola said that judging by the vintage of Dr. Wernet’s box of cleaning powder, the dentures and supplies date the discovery to between 1910 and 1920. He said there was no evidence of the belonging of the teeth, but he suspects that it was not one. workers or miners who would have worked at the silver mine a century ago.
“I imagine it would have been, you know, quite an expensive process to achieve that.” he said.
A colorful story
Like the store that bears its name, Silver Islet has a checkered history.
A rich vein of pure silver was discovered on a small island near the coastal community in 1868, by the Montreal Mining Company. For a time in the late 19th century, Silver Islet was known as the richest silver mine in the world.
The Silver Islet mine shaft was located under the cold waters of Lake Superior; information that was not always shared with minors until their arrival.
In 1884, a cargo of coal failed to arrive, and the coal pumps holding back the waters of the lake stopped working. The mine shafts of the islet, which had reached a depth of 384 meters, were flooded and the mining operation came to an end.
But the community survived.
The Saxberg family purchased the Silver Islet store in 1985, but it was closed due to family health issues in 2015.
In 2020, the Korkolas set out to modernize the building.
For the past few summers, the store has served cabin owners in the Silver Islet area.
The Silver Islet General Store is also a tourist attraction and attracts people from Thunder Bay and the Trans-Canada Highway.
Jeff Korkola said the family has a large collection of old and weird finds from the store on display, with the old dentures just newer. He said one of his favorite stories is a find made by the late Lorne Saxberg and his brother Bob many years ago in the store.
“Lorne and Bob worked on the second floor of the general store,” Korkola said. “And they found a box of condoms in the floor and the brand was ‘Three Merry Widows,’ with an illustration of three, you know, Merry Widows.”
“You never know what you’ll find at the Silver Islet Store, that’s for sure,” he laughed.