Saturday, November 24, 2012

Portrait with Fish

My sister Barb arrived for American Thanksgiving Day bearing a special treat:
a photo album borrowed from my sister Donnie containing some treasured family photographs.

So this holiday weekend I have learned to scan photos onto my computer.
In the album is one of my most favorite pictures of my siblings and myself.
It was taken in the summer of 1961.

Left to Right:  Barbie (5), myself (11) with Bertie (2), Roy (10) Donnie (7), 
and three lake trout barely out of the waters of Lac Seul.

My mother, my brother, my three sisters, and I
were living in a log cabin at an Indian fish camp
at Two Point, on Lac Seul, in northern Ontario.

We had been living in Lansdowne House on Lake Attawapiskat
an isolated, fly-in Indian village about three hours north of Nakina,
also in northern Ontario;
but we had been driven out with just a few hours of notice,
by a huge forest fire.

The forest fire did not threaten Lansdowne House,
but we had been living in a forestry department emergency fire fighting station,
and we had to move so that the firefighters could use it as a base to tackle the forest fire.

Roy, Donnie, Bertie, and me

We had nowhere to go.

It was in early June near the end of the 1960-1961 school year,
and my dad was the teacher at the one room Indian school.

The nurse, Mike, at the nursing station was married to Anne, an Ojibwa-Irish woman.
Two of her brothers, Fritz and John, were fishermen on Lac Seul,
and they had a spare log cabin.
Using a short wave radio, which was our only communication with the "Outside,"
Mike and Anne arranged for us to stay at the fish camp
with her brothers and mother for the summer.

Donnie (7) with John (23)
A Different Day with a Different Trout

Thus began one of the most formative chapters in my unusual childhood.  


  1. This is so intriguing because I do not know anything about your childhood, Louise. Details please if it's OK with you. If not, then that's OK too. That last picture of you holding Bertie is how I remember you all those years back. I have many photos of the school days at just have to figure out which box I put them in. I think tomorrow I'll look!

    1. Lots of details will be coming, Ron, in future posts. I have so much I need to write about in the north. This was just a tiny step forward. John, in particular, has haunted me all my life, because his story is tragic.

      Bertie was literally my living doll. She went with me everywhere.

      I hope you do look up those Wolfville pictures! I'll bet there are some good ones!

  2. Love these old photos Louise! The fish appear to be bigger than Bertie!! I wonder if the fish today are that size?

    This experience certainly would have been a formative one for you and your family. So your Dad was a teacher? Back then I am sure there were jobs about anywhere in Canada to teach.

    SO you have learned to scan eh? Is it difficult? I suppose you can do it with your eyes closed now!

    1. Scanning is not difficult, once you figure out how to do it. It's a little time consuming, but I'm just going to keep doing a little every day. The fun thing is, that once you scan a photo, you can edit it! And I love to work with photos. Eventually, I hope to learn how to restore some of the older photos.

      Both my parents were teachers. In fact, I'm the eighth generation teaching in my family on the MacBeath side. My niece Heather is actually the ninth generation. She is teaching in Kuwait right now. It's the family profession!

      I don't know about how big the fish in Lac Suel are today. The government shut the lake down for fishing in the 70s (I think - I'll have to check my records) because of mercury poisoning in the water. People like John and Fritz really went through rough times. Then a decade or so later, the government decided that mercury wasn't a problem, and reopened the lake for commercial and recreational fishing. Fritz was a guide for many years.

      We five siblings have always been very close because of the times we spent in very isolated places.

      I so appreciate the time you and Ron have taken to comment on my blogs.

  3. Wonderful to spend some time together a remember the good old days!
    On the second pic, your look is so intense!!
    Mercury poisoning is serious, I hope the government has checked that lake thoroughly, I wonder how they could have got rid the stuff??!! The kind of thing that does not go away alone!
    The size of the fish is quite impressive!
    Cheers, and enjoy your Sunday!

  4. I am a little intense, Noushka!
    About the mercury poisoning,
    as I recall and I have to research this more,
    mistakes were made in the original testing and future testing revealed this -
    that's what I remember Fritz telling me back in the 90s.
    These trout were big, but the northern pike could get to six or seven feet.
    Enjoy your Sunday, too!

  5. Like Ron, Louise, I am finding your blog intriguing and I look forward to your posts. Keep them coming. I have a couple of very distinct memories from our friendship back in school - and I'm now worried about those pictures from WHS that Ron mentioned....


    1. Don't worry Ken...I have a million boxes(it seems) to go through....why didn't I label those things anyway...hindsight!

  6. There's something about old pictures, Ken! And memories! Thanks for your encouraging words! More blogs are coming. I've just been busy with Thanksgiving, tree decorating, having our nephew Conor for a week, and my sister Barb for five days. Way too much fun! I hope that you're having a great weekend!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.