Keith Olson's Memories of Island Falls.

Our thanks to Keith for providing these thoughtful observations about childhood in Island Falls in the 1940's. Much of the following was published Helen Davis's book, Camp: North of '55.

The powerhouse, referred to as the Plant, was where most of the employees spent their day. They generally rode to work in the back of the "ton-truck" or in the "panel" in the case of the office staff. Back for lunch at noon and then the ten-to-one and one o'clock blasts from the Plant whistle indicated that everyone should be back at their posts. The five o'clock siren, which could be heard miles away, depending on wind direction, seemed to say, "well done, time for supper".

Besides the Plant, there were five other work locations. The main one, the town centre as it were, was the commissary, called "the Store". The other four were rather lonely spots with only one or two employees each. In our pre school days, we kids, when sent out to play, would, especially in the winter time, wander into these places, both to warm up and to see what was going on. Invariably, we were welcomed and could stand around as long as we wished only we were not to touch anything. Tom Willy in the Indian store, always formal but friendly, would greet us and enquire as to how we were doing. At the garage, Ken Bracken would joke around with us and seemed genuinely glad that we had stopped by. The garage itself was a gloomy place with lights only at one end and no windows. Bill Grayson's boat shop was where we would linger the longest. It was the warmest of the buildings and most interesting. Bill was usually in the process of building or repairing freighter canoes. He most often worked alone and enjoyed our visits. He would carefully explain such things as how steaming the ribs made them flexible enough to be bent to the proper shape. The carpenter shop, across the road from the Plant, was a bright and airy place. Alf Broster and his assistant from Sandy Bay, Etienne McDonald, both men of few words, would say hello and continue on with their work. There was usually a pleasant smell of recently cut wood and a fine haze of sawdust about.

I was fascinated by airplanes and regarded all pilots as special, to be looked up to. The Company had good pilots, the first being Alex More who set up Hudson Bay Air Transport, followed shortly thereafter by Bob Ross, Ross Lennox, Ron Simpson and Bob Ferguson. Others came later. The four flights per week from Flin Flon, though routine, were an integral part of camp life as most passenger and mail traffic was by air. Our mothers looked forward to the Thursday flight as it brought in the fresh produce. On Friday, we, almost without fail, would hear mother complain to dad that Western Grocers had, again, sent up bad oranges or that the lettuce was spoiled and couldn't something be done. The first two Company aircraft, CF-BFT and CF-BFU served well for several years until more modern aircraft became available. The Norseman had a distinctive engine sound and, on a calm day, could be heard approaching while still 10 or 15 miles out. Other aircraft came in from time to time. One was the Saskatchewan Government Norseman from Prince Albert, easy to recognize with its black fuselage and yellow wings. It had a three - bladed propellor, which gave it a deeper sound than the Company aircraft, and when we heard it approaching knew that shortly, Mr. Davis would be showing important people around town.

The Company aircraft were well maintained and mechanical problems were few and far between and usually of a minor nature. One such occurrence took place as the plane, upon landing on the ice airstrip on the forebay, lost the air from one or the ski shock absorbers, causing it to rest slightly right wing low when parked. Mrs. Davis, who did not enjoy flying at the best of times, was one of the passengers due to go out that day and became quite upset upon observing the obvious problem with the landing gear. Only after much coaxing by her husband, others standing around, and the pilot, did she, being a good sport at heart, condescend to climb aboard. The 30-minute flight to Flin Flon was, as expected, uneventful.

Sandy Bay, or the Indian Village as everyone called it, was far enough removed that, except for the fact that a few men came over each day to work, it was more or less out of sight and out of mind (although, on a calm summer evening, we would be reminded, by the howling of dozens of hungry and bored husky dogs and the occasional peal of the R. C. Church bell that there were others besides ourselves in the area). Because our family boats were on the upstream side of the dams we had no easy opportunity to travel to Sandy Bay in the summer and, it seemed, in any case, Island Falls people were generally disinterested in that settlement and vice versa. Each community ignored the other in most respects. However, in the winter, with a good dog team trail to follow, our parents would, on occasion, usually Sunday afternoon, announce that we were going to go over to see the village. About an hour's walk, one-way, it was somewhat of an adventure even if to get out of Island Falls for only a short time. As we strolled about, I remember feeling somewhat of an intruder as if we were on an inspection trip, comparing our town with theirs, which is really what we were doing. I wondered why the Indians were satisfied to live in shacks generally in disrepair and with untidy yards. It seemed to me that, with most of the residents having lots of time on their hands, a little bit of effort would have made things much nicer. Island Falls, with its power plant, was neat and efficient. Sandy Bay seemed to be "just there" with no particular purpose for existing.

Some of the Indian ways, though, had a certain appeal or mystique to them. Certain families would go up river to live and fish for the summer. We would sometimes pass them on the river, as we proceeded at a brisk pace to our cottage. They would be moving slowly in their freighter canoe with an old, low powered Johnson or Evinrude outboard motor on the stern. With the whole family, the camping gear, and a dog or two on board, the outfit rode low in the water requiring skilful handling on windy days. There was an aura of peace about these travelers. Away from the village, they were at home wherever they chose to encamp. I suspect that we envied them in a sense, as, even though they did not appear to have the ambition, drive and goals in life, which we deemed necessary, they were happy. In the wintertime, the Sandy Bay people travelled by dog team. Once again, there was attractiveness about this way of getting around. When stepping off the trail to let a team pass, the only sound heard, as it disappeared into the forest, was the soft swish of the sleigh gliding over the snow and the tinkle of bells on the dog's harness. Somehow this process seemed more appropriate than our airplanes, bombardiers and tractors, which intruded, noisily, into the tranquility of the peaceful land.