Friday, September 4, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: Slick as a Wink

Our future trip is bearing down on us,
and I am determined not to be up really late the night before
madly setting up prescheduled posts!

I'm also determined to keep 
the new material coming,
which means the Ever-Patient
is tip-toeing around me
as I work in manic mode.

I swear, 
I am married to a saint!

I feel a little bit like Dad
trying to get everything done
before the real last plane
showed up in Lansdowne House.

At least I have a computer
and don't have to deal with
a portable typewriter
and carbon paper!

Late Nights, Getting It Done!
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

So back in time we go for another look into life
in a remote northern community over fifty years ago.

Lansdowne House by the Hudson Bay Dock
Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Father Maurice Ouimet, c.1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 27, 1960 
My father wrote:
Hi There Everyone:
I hope you will excuse the paper, 
because I’m trying out an experiment 
with a different, lighter, and cheaper paper.  

The original won’t look so good, 
but I think that the carbon copies should be a lot better.  

If the experiment pans out, 
I shall be using this paper from now on.  

The uneven edges are explained by its not being 
quite the right size for the typewriter, and I had to cut it.

Note:  In case you have no clue 
what my father is talking about ...

My how times have changed!  
Thank God!

My father usually typed an original letter and three copies,
which meant he had seven sheets of paper 
crammed rolled into Uno's little typewriter.

Well, here it is Thursday night again and still no freeze-up.
I guess I could have sent the entire letter by regular mail tomorrow.

However, if I had done that,
things would have been frozen up tighter than a drum by now.

Lansdowne House was treated to another spectacle 
of Donald making a fool of himself 
in that damned canoe again this morning.  

The narrow strip of water between the island and the mainland 
was filled with drift ice that had come down 
from the upper regions of the lake and lodged 
in front of the Father’s beach.

Map of Lansdowne House
by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  All Rights Reserved

Mainland to the Left.  Island to the Right.
My Father's Canoe Route Between Them on Lake Attawapiskat (31)
The Father's Beach (27)
Hudson Bay Dock (17)
Dad and Uno's Cottage (7) 
Dad's School (25)

It didn’t look too thick or too solid, 
so I tried to take the canoe through it.

I got the canoe about half way out into it, 
or rather out on it, and it didn’t break through.  

A couple of Indians came along, 
so I got into the thing and had them give me a good shove.  
Away I went shooting across the ice 
like I was on a toboggan.  

I shot over the ice (along the surface) 
for about twenty-five feet, and then I stopped. 
As soon as I stopped, the canoe settled slowly 
through the ice into the water, 
and there I was – trapped as slick as a wink.  

I couldn’t go back or forward.  
To put it bluntly, I was in a hell of a fix.  

I was caught there for about fifteen or twenty minutes, 
before I worked myself loose and got back to the beach.  

All the time those cotton pickin Indians 
stood on the beach and just howled with laughter at me.

They were joined by the Brother, 
and I thought he was going to fall down, he laughed so hard.  

Brother Raoul Bernier
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

I was about fifteen minutes late 
when I finally got to school, 
but all my children were waiting for me.  
They knew that I was coming, 
because they had watched the whole procedure 
from the mainland with a great deal of amusement.

There was a plane in today from Nakina 
bringing some freight to the Father, 
but the pilot didn’t hang around too long.  
The weather was closing in down south, 
and he didn’t want to spend the night in the bush. 

It is risky for the pilots to stay overnight 
in the bush this time of year.
If it should turn cold during the night, 
the lake could close up, 
and he would be here till freeze-up was over. 

His plane would be here for the winter, 
till break-up next spring.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  All Rights Reserved

My plans for Halloween have been badly shot 
by the two clinics we conducted this week, 
but I guess that what we accomplished at the clinics was more important.  

However, I’m going to have a Halloween party Monday afternoon,
but there aren’t going to be many appropriate decorations.

I don’t know whether there will be a mail next week or not, 
but if a ‘last plane’ comes in any time next week, 
I’ll get whatever editions of the letter that are finished out on it.

We have reached the end of another week’s effort.  
I have run out of anything to say, except goodbye, 
so I’ll say that and leave you.

I'd have given just about anything to have seen 
my father shooting across that ice! 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petit Passage to Tiverton
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

HR10: Touchdown Lansdowne House ~ Finally 

TLL: The Beverly Baxter of the Bush


1.  Brother Raoul Bernier:
     Dad often referred to Brother Bernier as "the Brother,"
     just as he often referred to Father Maurice Ouimet as "the Father."
     Brother Bernier was a brother in the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Catholic Church. (OMI)
     Among the Brother's responsibilities was running the sawmill (4 on map).

     Dad boarded at the Oblate Mission in Lansdowne House
     and shared his meals with the Father, the Brother, and Uno.

     Brother Bernier and my father became good friends,
     in spite of the fact that neither spoke much of the other's language.
     The Brother was a quiet French Canadian with a great sense of humor.

2.  Wedding Anniversary:
     My parents were married 67 years ago today
     in at the Baptist Church in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia.

     How I wish they were alive to celebrate it.
     We would have had one hell of a party!

            Leaving the Church:  September 4, 1948         Honeymoon in Sandy Cove, N.S.



  1. Very sorry your parents aren't around anymore.
    That's a funny story about being stuck in the ice. At least he didn't fall in the water trying to get out.
    And yes, I do remember carbon paper. Dirty stuff!

    1. Hi Alex! I'm glad that you enjoyed the ice story. Dad and his canoe were an ongoing amusement for the people in Lansdowne House. Happy Friday, and have a great weekend!

  2. haha the Indians sound like they were enjoying the show as he tried to get out of the ice.

    1. Hey Pat! Oh yeah ~ Dad was a constant source of amusement in that canoe! Have a great weekend!

  3. Its a wonderful story, and you've kept at it giving us heartwarming pieces with every post. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment, Blogoratti! Hopefully I can keep on top of things as I travel this time! Have a great weekend!

  4. What a sight that must have been to see your dad stuck out there. Amusing to others...but not to dad. Thanks for the great story. May they never end because I can't wait for Fridays.

    1. Thanks so much, Peggy! I would have been laughing with the other children! I have lots of letters yet! Have a lovely weekend, my friend. Tonight a cocktail party and tomorrow the wedding! It's going to be lots of fun!

  5. Ha, I too would have loved to see him shoot across the ice! The benefit of reduced friction eh!? I bet it looked so funny to those kids!x

    1. I'm sure that canoeing well was something almost everyone did, so I'm sure the children loved it to see Dad shooting around on the ice! Have a great weekend, my friend!

  6. Looking on at your Dad struggling, I guess the local people would know when to go out on the ice/water/ and when it was really OK. Wedding Anniversary, what a wonderful photo to keep. I, too, wish my Mum and Dad were here today, modern laptops, no gestetner to print out the 100 copies for the primary school newsletter, after typing the stencil on a manual pedal sewing machine,Enjoy packing for your trip, it will all fall into place in good time.

    1. Thanks, Jean! Our trip is going well ~ having lots of fun! If my father had gotten into serious trouble, lots of people would have immediately jumped into action to help him. Have a lovely weekend!

  7. I would hate to go back to carbon paper! Happy belated anniversary to your parents, sorry they are not there with you to celebrate.

    1. Hey, Sage! I hated carbon paper, and I so love word processing on a computer! It is way, way easier! Have a good one!

  8. Oh my gosh, that story of your dad shooting across the ice and getting stuck out in the middle is really hysterical! He must have been terrified but I can see how it was funny to those watching. Too funny!

    1. It always makes me laugh, Audrey! It's so good to see you. I hope all is well with you, Alain, and the girls! Hugs!

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