Thursday, April 25, 2013

HR8: What My Father Didn't Tell My Mother

My father also wrote many letters 
to his mother, Myrtle Jane (Pratt) MacBeath.
His father, Royal Stewart MacBeath, had died in 1951.

Royal Stewart MacBeath
and Myrtle Jane (Pratt) MacBeath
Married:  January 2, 1922

It's interesting to see what my father 
told his mother and didn't tell his Sally.

Dear Mother
wrote my father to his mother
on Sunday, September 11, 1960.

Thank you for sending me the extra $20.00.
I wouldn't have asked for it
except that I was desperate.
I only brought $175.00 with me,
and my expenses paid
and still owing
amount to $176.47,
and I still haven't reached Lansdowne House.

I have had to spend so much more 
than I anticipated,
and I wasn't being
being extravagant. 
For instance, my room
at the Windsor Hotel
for three nights 
(Tues., Wed., and Thurs.)
cost $24.00.

instead of just an overnight stop at Nakina,
I am going to have to stay
until Monday or Tuesday
on account of the the transportation problem
of getting to Lansdowne House.
A combination of bad flying conditions
and the fact that they are hauling in
the winter supplies has forced me
to lay over here for three or four days.

Train Station at Nakina, Ontario
Last Stop on Railway
Before Flight to Lansdowne House
D.B.M., Sept. 10, 1960

At Nakina, Ontario 
Which is a Division Point on 
Main Canadian National Railway Line
D.B.M., Sept. 10, 1960

The hotel bill here
(3 nights:  $12.00)
and the extra meals add up.
Here is a detailed list of my expenses.
As you can see I have not been
flinging money around lavishly.

  Dad Tallies Up His Expenses
D.B.M., Sept. 11, 1960

The books I bought at the convention
were books that the various publishing houses
had at the convention for the teachers to buy.

Definitely on My Reading List!
1960 Edition

I bought three books on the general subject 
of teaching to primary grades
because I have never taught primary grades before,
and I needed some sort of guide to help me.

Actually I am terrified 
of teaching grades one and two.

There were books written especially 
to help a teacher to teach 
Indian children to speak English
and then to start them reading English.

All the Indians at Lansdowne House
speak the Ojibway dialect as their native language,
and before you can teach them anything else,
you have to teach them to speak English.

Cree-Ojibwa Village
Frederick A. Verner [Canadian Painter, 1836-1928]
Painting by Verner in the Public Archives of Canada

In spite of the fact that
Helen Cox didn't charge me
for excess baggage,
they reweighed the baggage at Moncton,
and I had to pay 
an excess baggage charge of $7.00.

If I didn't have enough expenses already,
we were all nicked for a $10.00 registration fee.
This covered expenses for
a banquet at the convention
and the yearly dues in
The Northern Ontario Indian Teachers Association. 

I was getting desperate...
enough about the sordid details
of my financial problems.

I had quite a trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Nakina...

Algoma Central Railway
The train is crossing the trestle over Montreal Falls at the hydro dam on the Montreal River.
The train has five locomotives to pull the train up and down the hills.
It is heading south to Sault Ste. Marie (aka Soo)

The Algoma Central Railroad
is a real small railroad
with real character and very antiquated rolling stock.
It reminds me of the old Dominion Atlantic Railway
before they brought in the new modern dayliners.

Passenger Rail in Canada, 2010
Operator (Colored Bars on Upper Right) 
VIA Rail
VIA Rail Corridor
Ontario Northland ~ to Mooseonee
Keewatin Railway ~ The Pas to Pukatawagan (operated by Via Rail)
Algoma Central Railway (a division of CN Rail)
Tshiuetin Rail Transportation ~ Sept-Îles to Schefferville (black)
VIA Rail Corridor (May be jointly operated with Amtrak)
Frequency (Colored Bars on Lower Left)                               
2 trains/week (each way)
3 trains/well (each way)
5-7 Trains/week (each way)
≥2 trains/day (each way)

...all along the railroad, 
which incidentally runs through
some of the roughest, wildest, and most beautiful 
country I have ever seen, 
there are fishing and hunting camps
for wealthy tourists 
who want to rough it 
at about $18.00 - $22.00 per day.

The train stopped at about every one of these camps
to let off tourists,
pick up tourists,
and unload supplies.
All told I believe there were 19 stops
in addition to the four regular stations.

Apparently these camps are flag stations,
and if you want to catch the train,
you stand out by the track and hail the train,
just like a bus.

Algoma Central Railroad Car
D.B.M., Sept. 10, 1960

Once we stopped in the middle of the woods
for no apparent reason.
I didn't know if we had broken down or not,
and considering the condition of the train,
this wasn't a too remote possibility.

Later I found out that they had stopped
to pick up an Indian
who had come out of the woods
and had hailed the train.

We made another stop about 5 miles further on 
to let off this same Indian 
at another indeterminate point
deep in the woods.

Boys oh boys,
The Algoma Central Railroad is really something!  

Nakina is a real frontier town of about 1,000 people.
It is a divisional point on the CNR.

Main Street, Nakina, Ontario
Taken From in Front of the Nakina Hotel ~ Looking East
D.B.M. Sept. 10, 1960

Flag is Probably 
The United Kingdom Union Flag
(1801 to present)
D.B.M. Sept. 10, 1960

There is also a very large telegraph station here,
because Nakina is one of the main relay stations
on the Trans-Canada CNR telegraph system.

Telegraph Office at Nakina
This is one of the main relay stations on the CNR Trans-Canada Telegraph System
D.B.M. Sept. 10, 1960

However, apart from the station and the telegraph building,
the only other buildings in the town
that look substantial
and are in a good state of repair
are the Hudson's Bay Store
and the Ontario Provincial Police Station.
The rest of the buildings are of
rather dubious construction, origin, and architectural style.

View From My Hotel Window, Nakina
D.B.M. Sept. 10, 1960

Log Cabin, Nakina
D.B.M. Sept. 10, 1960

There are no paved streets or streetlights.
However, there are two taverns.
One of them is located in the Nakina Hotel,
which incidentally could never be mistaken 
for the Waldorf Astoria.
The Nakina Hotel is clean (I think),
warm, and comfortable,
but that's all you can say for it.

Nakina Hotel
Sketched with Picasa
from a photograph:
D.B.M. Sept. 10, 1960

In several places the plaster
(actually, I think it is beaverboard)
has been broken and the places
where it has been repaired
are too numerous to count.

At first I was very puzzled as to why 
the plaster should be in such terrible repair,
but last night about two o'clock 
the answer to the puzzle was provided.

I was awakened by 
the most awful racket 
outside in the hall.
I opened the door and took a look.

Two miners 
(there is an iron mine near Nakina)
who had been out on the town 
celebrating in the taverns
were having a disagreement.

The fight was short, vigorous, 
and accompanied by the most 
graphic and picturesque language
I have ever heard.

However, the fight stopped just as quickly as it started.
The combatants threw their arms around one another,
kissed each other, and made up.

One of them offered me 
a drink of Indian moonshine,
which I politely declined.
Then they took off to do more celebrating.

One of the miners in his exuberance 
took a swing at the wall
and put his fist through it.

Well anyway, that explained 
the poor conditions of the walls... 

Nothing Like a Good Fight!

I have been too busy so far
to write anyone but you and Sara.
Tell Aunt Maude I am going to write to her
as soon as I reach Lansdowne House.
In the meantime, I know 
you will be reading this letter 
to Aunt Maude and Uncle Chester.

   My Grandmother and her Siblings

My grandmother, Myrtle Jane (Pratt) MacBeath (in stripes)
with her sisters, Maude (above) and Belle (below),
and brother Chester Pratt ~
Probably taken in St. Peter's Bay, Prince Edward Island (1900s?)

Give my love to Aunt Maude,
and tell her I am thinking about her
and that I hope she feels better.

Well, I must sign off now
and get this in the mail
and go to dinner.

Bye Now,
Love Don

To Be Continued ...

Links to other northern posts:


  1. Wow he sure liked to write
    Bringing much to light
    Still can't get over the money from back then
    Even the rich only had to pay little at a roughing it den
    Miners fighting too
    Sure wasn't boring with such a view

    1. Hi Pat! ~ Yes my dad was a writer,
      most definitely not a fighter!
      I thought his list of expenses
      tickled the senses!
      Roughing it for $18 to $22/day?
      Wish it were the same so I could stay!
      A favorite pastime must have been brawling,
      but I'm sure the miners next morning were crawling!
      Hope your day is sunny and bright,
      and definitely without a fight!

  2. That first photo is beautiful! And I love all the black and white images. They sure take you back in time. This is another wonderful post. I am really enjoying them.

    1. Hi Martha!
      Thank you for the helpful feedback! Objectivity is tough for me when I'm writing about personal things. Actually Dad is responsible for a lot of the writing. I want to honor his voice and experiences.

      And I am having so much fun with the photos! My grandparent's wedding photo was taken by a professional photographer on sturdy paper; Dad's were taken on an old Brownie Hawkeye which became mine a few years later.

      I hope you are looking forward to a lovely weekend!

  3. I'm enjoying your old photos too -- you're lucky to have the family portrait ones especially! "Royal Stewart MacBeath" -- now THAT'S a handle!

    1. Hi Debra!
      I'm so happy to hear that you are enjoying our old photos!
      I have hundreds that are unidentified, so I'm going to be sleuthing. I spent a summer working at the Acadia University library in its reference department. One of my projects was organizing and identifying about 3,000 of their historical photos: wwwww & how ~ one of my favorite projects ever. So I'm going to enjoy working on the family photos.

      Yeah my grandfather's name was something! My brother Roy has the same name. We used to call him Royal Instant Pudding or Facial Royale which was a brand of toilet paper. Aren't siblings fun?

      Have a wonderful weekend!

    2. Louise MacBeath ~~~ you got me laughing about your brother's name ~~ not in least fair I'd say!

      wink wink!

    3. Hey Ron! It was totally fair! He has always called me "Weasel" ~ to this day! And his kids called me Aunt Myrtle! Or Aunt Weasel! No holds barred when it comes to Facial Royale! Roy loves to push my buttons, and one of our family names for him is The Instigator! LOL Louise!

    4. Weasel ~~ ? Aunt Myrtle?

      Where in the world did that come from?

      Come to think of it!


  4. The first photo is so beautiful and elegant!!

    1. Hi Nina! Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a lovely comment about my grandparent's wedding portrait! Have a good one!

  5. Wow, what an adventure!!!! The fight in the hotel hallway is quite a funny story, actually. And the photos are just breathtaking, as usual. Love that first one! I'm really enjoying hearing about your Dad's journey....pretty amazing.

    1. Hi Audrey!
      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. Dad, we all, had quite an adventure in the north ~ thank God I was old enough to remember it in great detail. My three younger sisters remember much less.

      I'm glad that you found the fight story funny ~ I thought so too which is why I included it. Guaranteed my father had never in his life stayed in a hotel like that. He came from a very circumspect and fairly well off old Prince Edward Island family. More to come!

      Have a great weekend with your family!

  6. Greta historical info:) Neat pics:)

  7. Thank you for stopping by, Mark! I'm writing a series of posts on my family's experiences in the north. I appreciate the feedback! Have a good weekend!

  8. Amazing history. Those pictures really take one back in time; I especially love that last group one -- I keep imagining what they did after having their photo taken!

    1. Thanks B&R!
      I do love that picture of Nana with her sisters and brother! My great Aunt Maude and i were very close ~ I spent several summers with her. Thank you for leaving the kind comment!

      I can't wait for my nephew Neil and his wife Jeannie to have their first baby ~ then I'll be hitting your shop for sure! You make such lovely creative things!

      Have a lovely weekend!

  9. Dutchess is following your Blog which has me mesmerized! I have never seen the picture of Nana and her siblings....they are all so young...Chester is kind of like Roy and all his sisters! Dad's letters and photos are amazing....I've been going around my house and looking at Dad's paintings from up North...the storm on the lake and Father's Island. You certainly have a lot of material to work with even before you get to Landsdown House which is where my memories begin. Powdered Milk and Biscuts at school, Dad's run in with the "Windigo", the Indian homes, the trips to the water hole with our buckets and the oil drum in the kitchen with the cheese cloth strain and flying in the bush planes! What an amazing time we had. Keep it coming sister! XXOO

    1. Hey Dutchess!
      I'm so glad you left a message! Barb told me that you were following!

      I have all these photos from Nana, and I am on a mission to identify them. That's the youngest picture I've identified with Uncle Chester in it. Dappy ~ that's what everyone called him.

      I'm almost to Lansdowne House. I don't have the picture of Dad with the snowshoes. And Maureen and Duncan also on snowshoes in the bush. I know there are more photos. Wait until I get to John and me! Do you have any Lansdowne photos? I know there were more of Father Ouimet ~ and I am missing a lot from Lac Suel! Can you check your photos, please, please, please? Comments are like cocaine ~ not speaking from personal experience about cocaine ~ just rumors ~ I so appreciated your comment! I so loved hearing from you! I miss, miss, miss you!

      Terry has us going to Reno during the Scallop Days weekend! :( But we're meeting Jon (from Vegas runs) and his girlfriend Cindy whom I have hit it off very well with! And I'm finally going to see Lake Tahoe!

      We're almost to LH. Was it not funny to read Dad's comment about the miners' fight? Have a super weekend, Sis! I'll call you! OMG ~ less than a month to Hawaii. I wish I could walk up the beach and see you there, like last summer! That was the best! I'm balancing on a bosu ball ~ I'm up to about 12 minutes now ~ so I can paddle board. Who knows, maybe I'll even take a surfing lesson!

      Hey, can you take photos of Dad's paintings and send them to me as jpegs? Take care! LL! XXOO!

  10. I suspect your brother was named after "you know who"!!

    So different information for different people ~~ your father surely didn't want to upset your Mom.

    The finances are always the kicker in these stories. Same fact arose in my Mom's story with Dad over seas in the WWII!! Had to tough it out until the $$ came through.


    1. Hey Ron!
      Yeah, Roy was named after his grandfather. And Roy was in proverbial "do do" for not naming his first son Donald Blair ~ broke generations of tradition! Although he named his second son Blair and his daughter has the middle name Donalda!

      It's interesting who Dad told what ~ but once Dad got to LH, he started writing more family letters because he had access to a typewriter and a carbon tape! Money's always a bitch! I just found what he paid fascinating!

      I feel sad when I think of you and your family ~ losing your dad so young! Treasure those letters! I feel so close to my Dad when I read his ~ and ~ Holy Toledo ~ we have far more in common than I thought! I think your Dad would be so proud of you, Ron, because you are an awesome person.

      Have a great weekend! We're going to have a glorious weekend here! Take care! Give Sophie her favorite kind of rub or scratch!

  11. I too love that first photo of your grandparents!
    Ever thought of writing a screenplay once you have all this sorted out? Louise, it would be very timely especially here in Canada as there is a lot of talk/discussion going on about First Nations peoples and the north. Now you don't have to 'get at it' right away!! Just a thought. It would make for riveting viewing I am sure!

    Your father sounded like a very sincere fellow and had a good relationship with his mother too.

    You will be the Picasa Queen soon enough!! lol

    1. Hey Jim! Thank you for the encouraging words! I hadn't thought of a screen play ~ just a book! I've been reading a study by John J. Honigmann on the Indians in Attawapiskat ~ written in 1948. I've been lugging that paper around for at least a quarter century! I wish I could quote from it directly ~ it is heartbreaking! I have a number of amazing references, and a lot of things I have to research. I think you will be surprised at the directions my story goes in! Thank you for being a loyal and supportive reader of my Northern story! Have a great weekend and take care! We just got back from Friday Night Date Night at Parkway Grill! Sometimes two glasses of merlot hits you more! Time to watch a movie with T! I hope that you and Ron are enjoying a great evening!

  12. This is just gripping!

    What a very handsome couple your grandparents were ... such a charming photo, and I love her shoes. All the photos are fascinating ... especially the train crossing the bridge and the view from the hotel window.

    Your dad sounds like a character - there's a kind of undercurrent of humour in his writing which makes it fun to read. He must have inherited it - your grandmother's family all look as though they had a good sense of humour too. They look as though they would have been fun to know.

    1. Hi Sue!
      Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment! And for joining my blog! I discovered that happy event when I turned my computer on this morning.

      Dad did have a wonderful sense of humor, and so did his family. I was too young to understand or remember much of my grandparent's humor, but I remember family stories.

      I often read "Anne of Green Gables" to my third grade students, and it was so eerie, because the way they spoke, the expressions they used, their manners and behaviors create such strong echoes in my memory. Nana was a second cousin of L. M. Montgomery and reading Montgomery's book is like reliving the parts of my childhood that I spent in Price Edward Island.

      Thank God I didn't have to wear those clothes! The photo of Nana and her siblings was probably taken in the decade of the 1900s and AoGG was published in June of 1908.

      Have a great day! Maybe you'll get some biking in!

  13. Really loved all these photos. My partner currently works for the National Library of New Zealand and they keep all sorts of really old and historical items that people can go and see and some of it might relate to their families. Thanks for sharing your memories. By the way - I have given you an award on my blog -

    1. Hi Paul! Thank you for the kind comment and the Liebster Award. What a nice surprise! I'm working on that blog post now. How fun that your partner works for the National Library of New Zealand! Libraries are very cool ~ especially when they store historical itms like photos. Have a great weekend. I hope that moving about is getting easier, especially as you are going to be moving!!!!

  14. Hello Fundy,
    Thanks for your reply on the previous post!
    Indeed I believe you should write a book, especially for your children and theirs!
    An advice I am not sure to follow myself, LOL!!, although I have a case full of documents dating back to the beginning of last century! :(
    Well maybe when I reach 100 years old and I can't take fauna pics anymore!!!
    That first photo is puzzling me... They both look thoughtfully in different directions and not at each other, as if they were lost in their own worlds! Also Myrtle Jane's feet are hardly touching the ground as if she was there only temporarily... Well I guess that is probably the way the photographer told them to pose!!
    Keep well, cheers!

    1. Hi Noushka! I am definitely working on some sort of a memoir or autobiography or something! I'm finding my way as I do blog posts. Thanks for the encouragement! Please don't stop your fauna photos! They are spectacular. You pointed out an interesting perspective on my grandparents' wedding photo that hadn't occurred to me before ~ fascinating; but, for sure, they posed! Happy hunting with your camera this weekend!

  15. "I have not been flinging money around lavishly", what a great line, I am going to use it!! (I have been called a cheapskate before, and now I will just quote your Dad!)
    I really enjoyed reading this along with all the photos. This is really fascinating to me. Non-fiction books are my first love in life so this is right up my alley!

    1. Hi Kay!
      I loved that line too ~ and can you believe my dad taught penmanship!
      Thank you for the positive and encouraging words. I am writing a book about my family and the north. I'm just floundering around because it seems so big! Blog posts are helping me get organized and underway. I've been reading a book on memoir writing, and it said to build a platform on a blog or at least on-line. Somehow it doesn't seem so daunting to do post by post ~ like eating an elephant one bite at a time. I have tons of material!

      People like you keep me moving forward, Kay! I can't tell you how much your positive words encourage me!
      Have an awesome day and weekend!

  16. I stumbled across your blog and have been utterly fascinated. I grew up in Nakina (in the 50's & 60's) and now live in Charlottetown PEI, is your father still alive? I'd love to know more about his northern experiences, so few have journeyed to that part of Ontario. It seems a world away now.


    1. Hi, Mary. I'm a little late replying. I came back to this post and discovered your comment. Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad that you enjoyed my post. My father is deceased; I miss him every day. Have a good one!

  17. I grew up in Nakina and now live in Winnipeg. I was born there on the edge of town in Dec 1960. Really enjoyed reading this with all the old pictures. it would make a great book. Its good to see the old buildings as many are gone now. I rarely go back as my mother and father are passed. My eldest sister has a cabin at one of the lakes in the area. Thanks for this. very well presented

    1. Hi, Karen! Sorry ~ I just found your comment now. I'm glad that you enjoyed the old photos of Nakina. I wish my father had taken more, but film and processing was expensive then. Thank you for your kind words. All the best to you!

  18. My Mom and I managed to take the Algoma from Saute Ste Marie in the 80’s, We flew to the Saul in a small AC prop plane first. My Mom was a widow since her 49’s and I was sometimes he travel compagnion.

    1. Hi, Heidrum! I didn't realize last night that you had commented on other posts, so I'm working through them. Those trains were such fun to travel on. I still get a ride on a prop now and then, usually when flying to Vancouver Island. I'm sure you have interesting memories of that trip. Have a good one!


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