Friday, September 26, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: What's a Teacher to Do?



Did the beginning of the school year fill you with excitement? 
It was always a fun-filled and hopeful time for me as a student and a teacher. But I'm imagining what it was like for my father in the fall of 1960, when he flew into the northern bush to teach in a one-room Indian school.



My School
Photo by D. B. MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M L (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


 He walked into an empty classroom to prepare for kindergarten and four grades of students ranging in age from five to eighteen, many of whom did not speak English. Because of weather delays, Dad was a week behind opening school. Some of his students had already disappeared 
into the bush for the winter traplines, their parents assuming there would be no school that year. Dad had no idea how many students would show up once school opened. 
 But if there is one thing teachers do well, it is problem solving, and my father didn't let the unexpected stump him. 
Dad wrote on Sunday, September 18, 1960: "My school starts tomorrow. I finally managed to borrow some old homemade seats from the Father. I wish you could have seen us transporting the seats across to the mainland. "I hired two of the mission Indians, (the Dept. pays for things like this), and they hauled them from the island to the DOT dock in a big 18 foot freighter canoe which belongs to the Father. "I wish you could have seen that canoe. They put five double desks 
and four chairs in it the first time, and the second trip, 
they added a large table.
"There couldn’t have been more than 
three inches showing after they got into the canoe, 
and the water was quite rough. They asked me if I wanted to come too, but I wouldn’t have gotten in that canoe 
for a hundred dollars. "I followed them in my little canoe; at least I tried to follow them. However, when I was a little more than two thirds across, I met them coming back for the second load. By the time I reached the DOT dock 
and had tied up my canoe,
they had loaded the second load 
and were starting back.  

"I would have liked to have gotten 
a picture of the whole thing, but of course my camera wasn’t loaded, and I didn’t want to hold up the operation while I dashed up and loaded it. We were in quite a hurry 
because the wind was rising, and we were afraid 
that the water would become too rough."



Mainland, Lansdowne House
Photo by D. B. MacBeath, Fall 1960
"This shows the Hudson's Bay Post in the background.
Center. MacMahon's house is to the left and Mitchell's is to the right.
In the foreground is the only rock in Lake Attawapiskat
I haven't run into with my canoe.
The plane at the dock is the plane I came up in."
© M L (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




Enlarged View
© M L (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Dad also made the rounds of the Hudson Bay, the Department of Transport (DOT), and the Nursing Station scrounging card tables and chairs from the avid card-playing community in Lansdowne House. He had desks for his students but would he have any students for those desks?” Even in the swirl of meeting new people and getting his school functioning, Dad contended with the loneliness of leaving my mother and we five behind. Dad also wrote: “I will be so glad to get you and the children up here next year, Darling. 
You will love it. We will buy a large freighter canoe and an outboard 
and go on fishing trips and picnics across the lake.  
There will be electricity, 
and I think there will be running water, 
but I am not sure. Well, I just heard the plane coming in, 
so I had better sign off.” I am always humbled by the struggles and sacrifices my parents endured to give us a good start in life. 

30 comments:

  1. This is such a touching post! The old photos and your words say it all! It never ceases to amaze me what our parents did for us children.

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  2. Thank you, Linda! It is encouraging to get feedback on my northern posts. I'm struggling to get consistent with blogging, but I am determined to meet my promise to myself to get these posts up each Friday! Thank you for reading it and for commenting! Have a good one!

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  3. Very moving hearing your dads thoughts. You must feel very proud

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    1. It is wonderful, but painful too, to hear my Dad's thoughts. I miss him so much, every day. Take care, Dawna!

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    2. It is wonderful, but painful too, to hear my Dad's thoughts. I miss him so much, every day. Take care, Dawna!

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    3. Computers make me crazy ~ LOL!

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  4. What an amazing thing your father did - setting off on an adventure with no guarantees but a desire to help others.

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    1. My Dad was an amazing guy, Alex! I'm so lucky to have his letters. I takes me feel so close to him, which is what my heart that misses him so much needs. Have a happy weekend!

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  5. Wow, what an adventurer your Dad was. I see where you get your spirit from.

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    1. Dad did like stepping out into the unknown! I hope that you are looking forward to a fun weekend, Terry!

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  6. I know you know this already, Louise, but what a treasure you have here! Blows me away.
    Your parents had a zest for life that took them to places that most of us wouldn't even consider. You are definitely your parents' child, Louise....in the best of ways. How fortunate you are.

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    1. You're so kind, Jim! I'm rolling now with Dad's story (and mine). It took me a while! You have no idea how much I miss my mom and dad! Treasure your Pops ~ You are so lucky to have him with you still. Thanks for your encouragement!

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  7. He sure wasn't afraid to try something new, not sure without running water I would want to be, need something I can flush at the very least lol

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    1. Believe it or not, Pat. Outhouses work pretty well, LOL! We had running water ~ I ran with the buckets for school and home! ~ Can you tell I've had a couple of glasses of wine? All is well in my corner of the world! Have a good one.

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  8. How marvelous for you to have that wonderful record of his adventures. I loved reading it and seeing the pictures. You should write a book.

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    1. Oh thank you, Peggy. I've been floundering around trying to write a memoir, but I think I'm finally on a path. Thanks for the encouragement! Take care. Your Sadie is so cute!

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  9. Hello Fundy,
    You really know how to share you father's adventures with us!
    The next thing is to put all this in book! :)
    Those times were somthing else!!
    A pity he didn't have his camera loaded to take the pictures, the canoes must have been quite an incredible site!!
    Keep well, enjoy your WE!

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  10. Thanks, Noushka! It took me a while to figure out how to go about it. And yes, I am working on a book ~ I had to figure my way out with that too. Now we have digital cameras that are so usable. Back then it was film ~ usually with 12 images to a film. And it was expensive to process the film, especially for color, so our family could only afford black and white film. I used to have to save my allowance until I got enough money to have my films processed. Then I would have to mail the film, sometimes to another province, to have them processed. Every photo had to count! Aren't you glad that you live now! Those magnificent dragonflies of yours would be hard to catch with an old Brownie Hawkeye! LOL! Have a good one!

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  11. I laughed at how quickly the Indian guys moved desks in their freight canoe versus your Dad paddling across in his little canoe! Experience always counts, doesn't it?

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    1. It is funny! Dad had only been paddling in a canoe less than a week! If there was a way to get in trouble with it, he managed to! Have a good one!

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  12. you are doing a great job Louise - I hear Dad's voice in your words ... and I feel the hauntings of our past ... I am really enjoying these posts.
    Hugs
    Barb

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    1. Thanks, Barb! Your encouragement means so much! Hugs back to you! We just got back from our 2.75 mile loop. Terry's brother Bill and his wife Caroline are coming here this afternoon, so we've got to get cracking shortly. I hope that you are having a great day! Luv u!

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  13. "I wouldn’t have gotten in that canoe for a hundred dollars" I love that line! Once upon a time that was a lot of money.

    What a great post. I feel as if your dad is writing a journal of his thoughts on your blog. It is quite incredible what treasures of memories you have of your parents.

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  14. Hi Martha! That line cracks me up! When I read his letters, it's like having my father with me again. I actually hear his voice in my mind when I'm typing. These letters and photos are some of my most valuable possessions. Nowadays we have mostly emails, and that just isn't the same. Have a happy day!

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  15. Me thinks that you father had a snigglin' suspicion that you just might tell the family story. Keep plugging away Louise it is riveting as always!

    Ron

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Ron! I'm plugging! Have a great day!

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  16. I'm back to tell you that because you are a versatile blogger, you've got some work to do! Congrats! http://swaggerwriters.blogspot.com/2014/09/by-kim-van-sickler-it-all-started-here.html

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  17. "I think there will be running water but I am not sure."
    Imagine your mother reading those words in a letter!
    What a wonderful post, I love to hear more about this...you should write a book! (Oh, I just read your reply in a comment...and YOU ARE writing a book! Good, I can meet you when you come to Georgia on a book tour, see you then! I will be the one with bells on!!)
    Have you ever read "The Water Is Wide" by Pat Conroy?
    I know...I am always telling you books to read, you know me!! xx

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  18. Poor Mom is right! She had five kids aged one to ten at the time! When I go through Georgia on my book tour, we'll share some champagne or whatever your favorite celebratory drink is. And maybe we can go climb Stone Mountain together and listen to Christopher sing! I'll add TWIW by PC to my list! *Hugs*

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.