When my father arrived in Lansdowne House to teach in 1960
the white population rose to a total of fourteen.
With the departure of nurse Margaret Kelly and the arrival
of nurse Mike Flaherty, his wife Anne, and baby daughter,
the white population surged to a grand total of sixteen.
Three were babies under the age of one.
As winter in the remote bush of Northern Ontario
wore on with its extreme cold and extended darkness,
things got a little testy between two roommates sharing
a tiny, two-room shack with a cantankerous wood stove
and cold running water at a certain Roman Catholic mission.
Something as simple as the arrival of the weekly mail plane
or getting together to talk over coffee could lift spirits and break
the monotony of the long northern winter and the bleak isolation.
And sometimes, well sometimes, my father just had to laugh!
Northern Nights in the Bush
On Saturday, January 14, 1961
My father wrote to his extended family:
Well, here I am again:
I did one hell of a big wash today.
It took me most of the day.
We do one a month up here.
It is so much trouble to set up the washing machine and everything
that we wait till we have a good big wash before we do any.
I can assure you that today’s wash had no trouble meeting this specification.
Actually, the last time I washed was somewhere around the end of November.
It’s a good job that we have lots of clothes, or we would be
pretty strong by the time that wash day came along.
Uno and I originally had agreed to do the wash turn about,
but the only time he did it, he made such a mess of it,
that I have done it every time since.
I have also taken over the stoves exclusively.
Uno just can’t seem to be able to handle them at all.
Whenever he handles them, we either freeze or roast.
I wonder if that sob messes these jobs up purposely to get rid of them.
No, he’s not devious enough for that.
That sounds more like a MacBeath or a Pratt trick.
Uno falls asleep reading his mail.
Photo by Don MacBeath, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved
The mail didn’t come in till Saturday this week,
so as soon as the wash was over, I went over for my mail.
Uno came too, and we ended up at Dunc’s for coffee and a gabfest.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved
Maureen told us all the news
of the outside world
and all about Duncan’s operation.
I saw the baby too.
He looked a little bit
the worse for wear and tear,
but he acted and sounded
just like his old self.
Maureen was telling me that the cyst was about the size of a golf ball.
I know that it must have been quite large,
for it was quite prominent on the child’s neck.
In fact, for a while, they thought he had the mumps.
The doctor assured Maureen that there was nothing to worry about.
This evening Mike and Brian came over, and the four of us,
including Uno, went to the show in the hall.
I don’t go to shows too much up here;
in fact, I don’t even go too much outside,
but when you have been up here as long as I have,
you’ll go to almost anything for a change.
The show tonight was a real poor one,
even by Lansdowne House standards.
As far as entertainment goes,
this was the absolute last resort.
The title was Prairie Rustlers,
and I am sure it must have starred Tom Mix
or even someone back farther than him.
Buster Crabbe and Al St. John, Stars of Prairie Rustlers,
in the Movie Shadows of Death, 1945
Well, this is all that happened to me today,
so I will devote the rest of this issue to a dissertation on dog teams.
I have yet to drive a dog team, but I hope that
not too much times passes before I accomplish this feat.
Credit: Bud Glunz. National Film Board of Canada.
Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, e010962320 /
I think one of the funniest things that I have ever seen in all my life
was the troubles that a poor Indian was having one morning
with a new team that apparently hadn’t been broken to harness too long.
Either that, or they were a bunch of dogs that hadn’t been
worked together as a team too long.
He loaded the sleigh at the co-op store on the Island
and headed them toward the lake.
From the store to the lake, the road passed twelve trees.
Each dog investigated each tree,
so the whole team made 48 stops on the way to the lake.
After the team finally got out on the ice,
each dog decided to defecate;
and, of course, each one did it at a different time.
Four more stops.
By this time there was a terribly frustrated Indian driving them.
There were one or two other stops
before they had gone half a mile,
caused I think, by disagreements among the dogs;
but by the time they got in front of my school
real disaster struck in the form of a female dog in heat.
Apparently all the dogs were young virile males,
for the whole shebang took off hell a whooping
after this poor female dog.
The driver couldn’t hold them back at all,
and the last I saw of the outfit it had left the ice
and was heading into the thickest part of the bush -
dogs, Indian, sleigh, and everything.
I think it was several days before the Indian finally got
his sleigh repaired, his supplies gathered up, his team rounded up,
and was able to resume his trip to the trapline.
I feel real sympathy for Uno and the wash.
My dad had been in the military
and took military pride in his appearance.
He could have given Marie Kondo
lessons on socks in drawers.
One of my earliest memories, in Charlottetown, P.E.I.,
was peeking in Dad's top bureau drawer
and seeing rows of socks neatly lined up,
standing tall like soldiers on a parade ground.
I was memorably impressed, because none of the socks
in other bureaus in the apartment were so disciplined.
Equally vivid is another memory I have from the same time,
certainly from before I started kindergarten.
My mother was putting crisply starched and folded shirts
in my father's shirt drawer in just so piles under my watchful eyes.
"Why do Dad's shirts have paper in them?" I asked.
"Because they come from the Chinese laundry," Mom answered.
"Why do Dad's shirts come from the Chinese laundry?"
"Because I don't iron his shirts."
"Because Daddy doesn't like how I iron them."
"Let me tell you a secret," Mom said.
"I don't like ironing men's shirts,
and the first time I had to do your father's,
I made sure I did a lousy job.
I did such a bad job of ironing his shirts
that he never let me do them again."
She smiled and added, "And so you see,
now I don't have to iron his shirts - ever!"
It seems that the MacDonald side of our family
had a few tricks of its own.
Till next time ~
Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
1. Doing Laundry at the Mission:
Whenever Dad did the laundry, he had to gather it all up and lug it over to Father Ouimet
and Brother Bernier's residence. Then he had to start the pumping engine for water. If there
was no wind to turn the wind charger, then Dad had to start the gasoline generator so as not
to run down the storage batteries. Once the laundry was washed, then it had to be hung outdoors
on a clothesline to dry. No fun in the winter at 30 below. Finally, it had to be lugged back to the
shack and draped on the furniture to defrost and finish drying. Dragging in stiff, frozen clothing
is an experience you don't soon forget.
2. Uno Manilla:
Uno was the teacher at the Roman Catholic Day School at the mission.
He shared a two-room shack with my father.
3. MacBeaths and Pratts:
Dad's father was a MacBeath, and his mother was a Pratt;
both were from Prince Edward Island.
4. Duncan (Dunc) and Maureen McRae:
Duncan worked for the Department of Transport in Lansdowne House. He and Maureen were the
parents of Baby Duncan. Maureen had just returned from a difficult trip by bush plane to
Winnipeg with Baby Duncan. His cyst was removed at a hospital there and found to be benign,
much to the relief of his parents and the community.
5. Mike and Brian:
Mike Flaherty, the nursing station nurse
Brian Booth, the Hudson's Bay post clerk
6. The Hall:
The Hall was located in the Roman Catholic mission on the Father's Island. Father Ouimet
had films brought in on the weekly mail planes. He would show these at the hall on Saturday
(and sometimes Wednesday) evenings. The Indians especially enjoyed The Three Stooges and
westerns with cowboys and Indians.
7. Prairie Rustlers: Movie
Father Ouimet could not afford to fly in current films, so he rented earlier ones
like Prairie Rustlers
that was released in November 1945.
Buster Crabbe, not Tom Mix, was the star of Prairie Rustlers.
Crabb acted in 36 westerns, and
and his sidekick Al St. John appeared in most of them. Wikipedia
Here is a summary from Google
which appears verbatim in a number of on-line reviews,
so I'm not sure of the original source:
"In a small town, the sheriff is murdered, and Deputy Fuzzy Jones (Al "Fuzzy" St. John), a diner
owner by day, must take over the slain lawman's responsibilities. The leader of the cattle rustlers
who killed the sheriff is named Jim (Buster Crabbe), and he bears a striking resemblance to
Fuzzy's friend Billy (Buster Crabbe), much to the deputy's confusion. Billy comes to town, and,
to help Fuzzy and vanquish the rustlers, he must face Jim, his cousin, who still holds a grudge
At that time many aboriginal men earned a living in the fur trade by trapping fur-bearing animals
such as beaver, muskrat, and otter. Trappers would set traps along a route and travel repeatedly
over that route to check for animals. Typically the Hudson's Bay Company would advance them
credit to buy supplies for their trip to the winter traplines and for other needs. When the
aboriginals traded their pelts at the Bay, they were then able to settle their debts. This
traditional lifestyle was beginning to disappear when my father arrived in Lansdowne House.
It's now long gone.
9. Marie Kondo:
She is an organizing consultant and author of four books on organizing, including the widely
popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and
10. Chinese Laundries:
When I was a child there were many Chinese laundries and restaurants in the Maritimes.
What I didn't understand was the brutal history of Chinese immigrants in Canada and why
so many laundries and restaurants were owned by the Chinese.
Chinese men first came to Canada as laborers in the late 1770s. They began to come in large
numbers around 1858 to work in the goldfields of British Columbia. When British Columbia
joined Confederation in 1871, the Canadian government was required to build a railroad linking
B.C. to Eastern Canada. Chinese laborers were hired to build the railroad because they were the
Once the railroad was completed, Chinese laborers couldn't find work and many couldn't afford
to return to China. Some of those remaining migrated to the Maritimes where there was
less Anti-Chinese discrimination.
Chinese in Canada faced increasingly onerous taxes and immigration restrictions from 1885
to 1923. The continuing anti-Chinese fervor led to the passing of The Chinese Immigration Act
(also known as the Exclusion Act) of 1923 which essentially eliminated Chinese immigration
to Canada and barred the existing immigrants from most occupations. Working in restaurants
and laundries was open to the Chinese because white Canadians didn't want to do such work.
Saltscapes and Wikipedia
Canada's Parliament repealed the act in 1947, in recognition of the efforts of Chinese
Canadians during WWII. Wikipedia
For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Lansdowne House
Known Today as Neskantaga