Mitchell Franklin - Self Made Man
Mitchell Franklin, born in 1914, has had a multitude of careers and exciting experiences and has no plans to slow down. During a delightful afternoon spent with him in July, his sharp wit, and ribald tales of his early days had us enthralled. Mr. Franklin's great grandmother originally fled Minsk and came to the U.S.
When Mitchell was a young boy, his father travelled west and saw the future in motion picture theatres. He became the owner of the Keith-Albey Theatre in Ottowa which was a major part of the old vaudeville circuit exposing Canadians to the most famous entertainers of the early 1900s.
Mitchell had a religious background growing up on Montreal. He attended synagogue, and was Bar Mitzvahed. During the start of the depression in 1929, Franklin graduated from college and embarked on real estate acquisitions. He bought prime corner properties in Halifax, earning the nickname "Corner King". He referred to this and other ventures as "being in the right place at the right time". It didn't hurt that Franklin had vision, intelligence, a keen business sense, personality and a willingness to take risks.
Mitchell recalled how he developed his own chain of theatres, including the first drive-in theatres in the Maritime Provinces. As a young man, Mitchell travelled to Hollywood in the glory days of cinema. He had a letter of introduction to Louis B. Mayer, the motion picture mogul, who happened to come from his hometown of St. John, New Brunswick, and was also Jewish. Mr. Mayer wanted to fix up this nice Jewish boy with his daughter Mitzi, and through her, Franklin met the likes of Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and others.
At one point, Franklin had the opportunity to buy New Brunswick's oldest paper, and he did. Adding an investigative reporter to work with his editor, this courageous publisher often printed stories pitting him against some of the most powerful people in Canada including the Irvings and the William Randolph Hearsts.
At the start of his business career, Mitchell encountered anti-Semitism, but it became less of a factor as he became better known as an entrepreneur with broad experience.
When Mitchell first saw the beauty of the Fundy coastline, he felt it should be developed for tourism, which was an unknown concept as an industry at that time. He held meetings for years in his home to promote this idea, and he credits PM Frank McKenna, who gave his promise to proceed with this project three years ago, as the key leader to implement the plan. It has now become the most patronized area in the Maritime Provinces.
Mitchell Franklin is a regular fixture at the Fundy Trail Interpretation Center, and takes great joy in meeting and greeting many of the visitors passing through. If you are lucky enough to see him, tell him you heard about him through The Jewish Post, and be prepared for talking with one of the most engaging, self-made men of the Century.
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