Friday, June 19, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: The Last Plane ~ Or Not???

I wasn't up in Lansdowne House
as freeze-up approached in the fall of 1960,
but I remember the following spring
and the approach of break-up clearly.

Gossip, speculation, and story-telling
swirled around the community
as everyone scrambled to get supplies in
and letters out before The Last Plane.

The trouble was you never knew when the last plane was 
until the weather truly cut you off from the Outside

Freeze-Up Northern Ontario
flickr:  dmffryed   license

On Monday, October 24, 1960 
My father wrote:

Hi There:
Freeze-up may or may not be upon us.  
The temperature was down to two degrees 
below zero this morning, 
and  the lake was about three quarters covered 
with a layer of ice about a third of an inch thick.  
I had to cross by way of the causeway again, 
but had no accidents today.

The Causeway
linking the Father's Island to the Mainland
Painting by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The ‘last plane’ from Nakina arrived today with mail, 
but didn’t bring any of the freeze-up groceries.  
It looks as if there may be another ‘last plane’ tomorrow 
with the grocery orders and some more mail.
It looks even more hopeful, since the temperature 
rose to above freezing by this afternoon, 
and most of the ice on the lake melted.  
It all depends upon what happens tonight.  

It is very calm now, and if we have a real hard frost, 
we have had it for several weeks at least.  
However, I am going to get the letter ready to go out tonight, 
in case another ‘last plane’ arrives tomorrow.
Some years they have three or four ‘last planes’ 
before it finally closes in.

 A Bush Plane Off-Loading Supplies
(de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter)

There is one consolation about freeze-up 
happening in October instead of in November though. 

If  it comes early, before there is too much danger 
of too much snow, it only takes two or three weeks 
to freeze the required thickness to support aircraft 
(seven inches of good hard ice), 
but if it snows during the freeze-up, 
it takes much longer for the ice to reach the required thickness.  

The longest freeze-up period that the Father remembers 
was seven weeks, the average is from four to five weeks, 
and last year it took only two weeks.  
Let’s all pray for a short period, 
because it is deadly up here without mail.

 Letter from My Father
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Keep the letters coming though, regardless of freeze-up, 
and I will have a glorious time the first mail after freeze-up.  

Please explain to all members of both families 
why there will be a long delay in answering their letters.  
To be specific, explain to Grammie, Athol, Don Fraser, 
Aunt Nan, and Aunt Louise.

Uno’s in bed, and it is pretty late, 
so I have to wind this up.  
I will keep writing this during the freeze-up period, 
and there should be quite a book coming 
after the lake has frozen over.

Bye for now,


My Father Typing
at his small desk sandwiched between the beds
in the small bedroom he and Uno shared
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I can't help imagining poor Uno in bed
just inches from my father right elbow
as he quickly typed trying to get one last letter written 
before freeze-up set in and there were no more planes.

Please Note:  For the next several weeks 
I will have little or no access to the internet.
During this period I will be re-posting 
a few of my earliest northern posts.

If I have an opportunity to get on-line,
I'll reply to comments and visit your blogs.

You can be sure I'll have stories to tell
when I can reliably get on-line again!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue


  1. I can't fathom the isolation of being there. His connection to the family only came through letters that I'm sure his family kept writing to him. He made the best of his circumstances despite the challenges and dangers.

    Enjoy your break.

    1. Thanks, Peggy! I am very excited about the next few weeks, even if I am cut-off from the internet. My niece Heather has been visiting us for the past nine days, and I have been on the run ~ My body has discovered that I am not thirty anymore. LOL But we've had a blast, and it's been wonderful because Heather teaches in Surabaya, Indonesia, and I rarely see her. She leaves this morning, and then Terry and I have to scramble to get ready for a Big Bucket List Item starting on Tuesday!!! Have a lovely weekend. I hope to catch up on your blog this weekend, but I'm sending you hugs and best wishes in case I can't!

  2. Hmmm. The isolation of being North between the Last Plane and freeze-up. The isolation of being without internet for a few weeks. You are your father's daughter!

    1. LOL, Debra! I thought about that! My niece Heather got me set up on Skype last night, so I can finally video chat with her in Indonesia, her father and mother in Kuwait, and the rest of my far flung family around the world. And now I will be off-line. Sure hope I can remember what to do when I get on-line again! I hope to catch up on your blog this weekend, but if I can't, I'm sending you hugs and best wishes now, and I will catch up when I can!

  3. That had to be rough waiting out the freeze up. Hopefully you get internet access soon, or are you just traveling away again and that is why? lol

    1. Tough indeed, although to my brother and me in the spring of 1961 being cut-off was a marvelous adventure. We were Arctic adventurers getting into all kinds of trouble, even if we were below the Arctic Circle. Trust me, if my home internet were down, I'd be speed dialing Comcast, punching 0 over and over again, and cursing loudly into the phone until I got a real human to help me fix it! Thanks for continuing to visit me without fail when my life has been so herky jerky! I hope to catch up with you this weekend if I can! If I can't, have a good start to this welcome summer, and ear scratches to the kitties!

  4. It's interesting to think about freeze ups this time of year and you do it in such a crystal clear fashion. I enjoyed this post, the photos and painting you shared.

    1. Thank you, Stephanie! I appreciated the feedback, because it's hard for me to be objective! Have a lovely weekend!

  5. I'm in awe of these letters and the history they reveal.

    1. Thanks, TPC! That one of my main purposes in doing this, sharing a small piece of Canadian history. Have a great summer weekend!

  6. I agree with T. Powell Coltrin.

    Even though your father was away so much of the time, your family must have really known who he was through his letters. Most people don't have that kind of connection with one another these days, even when they spend lots of time together. I envy the letters that you have from him.

    1. Thanks, JarieLyn. These letters are among my most treasured things. And they did bring Dad closet to us when he was so far away. I miss the days when people exchanged letters. I'm down to one friend who is a letter writer. :( Happy weekend to you!

    2. Hi JarieLyn! You made a comment on a future post last night that I had inadvertently published briefly. I don't know if you saw my comment before I straightened out my publishing snafu or not. Cliffhanger now for sure. We're off shortly, but my northern posts will keep coming on Fridays. Enjoy these wonderful summer days!

  7. The last plane, how they must have waited till the next one would be safe to land. No internet for weeks!!! Be brave, and wait till you get emails and blog posts by the dozens, just like your Dad, who asked for everyone to keep those letters coming. You have so much of his adventuring spirit, what a wonderful legacy. Enjoy whatever you do while away.

    1. Thank you, Nancy! Have a wonderful weekend, but I guess for you it is the first weekend of winter.

  8. Scary to be cut off like that. I wonder what was the record for last planes?
    Wherever you are going without Internet, I hope it's fun!

    1. Me too, Alex; but if it isn't fun the problem has to be with me! Take care!

  9. Even though I enjoy my alone time I do it by choice, but my prayers and thoughts are with you and I hope you are happy and safe.

    1. Thank you, Linda! I need my alone time too! I am happy and safe! My oldest niece who teaches in Surabaya, Indonesia just left yesterday after an event-filled nine days with us. And now we're off shortly for a special time. Take care, my Montreal friend! Hugs to you! I'm still hoping I can catch up with my blogging friends before we leave!

  10. Being cut off can be quite scary indeed. What lovely letters that you must treasure greatly. Enjoy your trip, stay safe and best wishes!

    1. Thank you, Blogoratti! I am very excited! You have a lovely summer. I look forward to visiting your inspirational blog! Take care!

  11. That sounds so scary. To be cut off like that from civilization and not knowing when the next plane will arrive for letters or, more importantly, food.


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