Island Falls residents Des and Carol Pyne

Submitted by the Pyne sisters; written by Donna (Pyne) Martin on June 23, 2008.

William Desmond (Des) and Carol Pyne moved to Island Falls from Flin Flon in 1959 before their third daughter, Jule was born. It was a wonderful place to raise a family. Carol enjoyed the village and its surroundings and in a letter to a relative in 1959 wrote that “It is hard to stay indoors and get anything done as it is so beautiful here”.

Des was an avid outdoorsman and spent many days hunting and fishing along the Churchill River and its myriad lakes and inlets. The three daughters: Caron, Donna and Jule fondly remember the houseboat trips that the family went on. Other Island Falls families built cabins to go to on summer holidays but Des built a house boat with airplane pontoons so we traveled to various lovely sandy beaches and fishing spots with our summer home. We also boated to “our” island where we enjoyed many happy days and nights camping, swimming and fishing.

Sometimes Mom would sit on the front deck of the houseboat with her funny sun hat with the sunglasses built in and read her books. Us kids would be catching tadpoles or frogs on shore and keeping a careful eye out for those giant Churchill River leeches along the sandy shore. All of us could make a loon call with precision. We also learned to fish and paddle a canoe from an early age.

Dad was always going on river trips in a freighter canoe called “The Knotty Pine” or on hunting trips with Little Angus or other fellows (native and white). Dad had a great respect for Little Angus and enjoyed the trips in the wilderness with him. Dad had a “grub box” (that Caron now has and cherishes) where he kept his tea pail and other necessary cooking supplies. We lived on bannock, tea, and pickerel when out in the bush. The family was friends with Jim Russell and after we moved back to Flin Flon, Dad spent time with Jim at Sandy Bay. I married my husband, Rick Martin, at one of Jim’s fishing camps: Eddies Beach, in 1978.

The Pyne girls learned how to snowshoe with moose hide thongs tied to our snowshoes while wearing Cree moose hide moccasins with the beautiful, flowered beadwork. Mom became good friends with Lizzie Fiddler from Sandy Bay. Lizzie used to come and help Mom (with three little ones) to wax the hardwood floors. They would sit and visit with coffee and cookies after the work was done. Later when we moved, Lizzie helped Mom with the Cree language course she was taking. I still have the tapes of Lizzie repeating in Cree what Mom said in English. I remember driving over the ice to Sandy Bay and also to Flin Flon over the lakes and portages. I can still picture Dad at one of the phone stations along the way giving his check-in call.

Dad was involved with the social club (I have some of the newsletters he contributed to) and the curling club and then the AA meetings. Mom was the Brownie Leader with Mrs. Barkwell, and she helped out with community events and the centennial cookbook “Island Falls Favorites 1930-1967” which is quite a nice collector piece. I make Ada Russell’s “tea biscuit mix” often for my family. I haven’t tried Myrtle Leslie’s bread recipe on page six yet but Mom said Mrs. Leslie’s bread and buns were the best. The three little Pyne girls got dressed up in our Sunday best with our white blonde hair curled for Sunday School and church upstairs at the Community Hall.

As with all the kids at Island Falls, we looked forward to the Canada Day celebrations with flags streaming from the floats (or one float which was a wagon pulled with all the village kids in). There were wheelbarrow races and candy, and of course the baseball games for the adults.

Another of our good friends while at Island Falls were Ted and Della Berg. They were like grandparents to us little girls. Mom and Dad would go over for supper and card playing. Everybody played bridge on card tables and I remember the lovely little dainty sandwiches…it was all we could do to stay in our bedrooms where we were supposed to be sleeping! I still love a peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich rolled and the egg salad and cheese (Ingersol) triple-decker dainty sandwich.

Mrs. (Joanne) Salt and Mrs. Barkwell would take the kids on hikes to “A” Dam. Sandra, Ricky and Jimmy Salt lived next door to us. Sandra was my best friend even though she was in Caron’s grade at school. There were only three of us in my grade or “row” in the little school room at the community hall. I remember the wonderful big cloak room where we kept our boots and coats. Caron, Sandra, Laurel and Nancy (Bowman) and I would walk to “Panther’s Cave”. I think Joanne Salt built it for us by putting spruce bows overtop of some big boulders. We could play for hours in the bush on the island near the houses, as long as we stayed away from the water. Dad would watch us carefully when fishing on the lower side of the plant as the water really swirled there. It was such good pickerel fishing though! I also remember taking swimming lessons at “the pool”. I also recall the bigger boys carrying Billy Jefferies around. Billy always had a big smile on his face and was always included in everything the rest of the kids were doing.

How sad was the day that we had to move out of Island Falls. This was in 1967. Ted and Della stayed on to manage the “hotel” for the workers who flew in weekly to operate the plant. Sandra Salt and I went up to visit our beloved home when we were teenagers and my husband and daughters went up with me in 1989. The houses were mostly gone by then. It was sad but nice in a way to see nature taking over. I feel (and my sisters the same) that we were very lucky to live at Island Falls.

Carol and Des Pyne Family moved back to Flin Flon in 1967. Dad continued to work for the Churchill River Power Company and flew up to the Falls regularly to work. He would bring home pickerel that he caught while waiting for the floatplane. Mom worked at the Flin Flon public library and then the high school library. Our parents celebrated their 25 wedding at our 519 Phelps Avenue home in Flin Flon.

Carol passed away suddenly at age 49 years from a heart attack (1977). Caron, Donna and Jule remember with fondness the Island Falls wild roses that some of the Island Falls ladies picked for Mom’s funeral. That meant a lot to us in our time of sorrow.

The daughters were off to university and college so Des sold the house and traveled after that. Des remarried in 1980 to Mary Clarke from Bounty, Saskatchewan. She is an adventurer too, with pilot’s license and lots of travels around the world as a nurse helping the unfortunate. Des went to New Zealand and was in a Hollywood movie with Tommy Lee Jones called “Nate and Hayes”. You have to look really hard to spot Dad in the movie (just an “extra”) but he sure had fun and made a few bucks to buy snorkling gear. Dad died of cancer in 1984.

Caron and her husband, Bob, live in Saskatoon where they enjoy getting out to the bush and doing river trips in their kayaks. Caron is a research technician for the federal government and they spend their leisure time traveled to many interesting places in central America and Mexico.

Donna (Pyne) Martin and husband, Rick, live on an acreage near Brooks, Alberta. Donna is a moose hunter, like her Dad. Rick and Donna volunteer with their local Fish and Game Club as hunter education and shooting instructors. Donna works at Dinosaur Provincial Park UNESCO World Heritage Site north of Brooks. We have two daughters. Julia is a registered nurse, married and living in Swift Current. Caley is a teacher up in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.

Jule and husband, Frank, live on a ranch near Stettler where they raise and train thoroughbred racehorses. Their son, namesake Des, works as a computer programmer out of the States.

The Pyne sisters are very close and get together when we can. We enjoy camping and miss the north bush country with the lakes, loons and northern lights.

Des Pyne as "Extra" in Nate and Hayes Movie, New Zealand.

Des and Mary Pyne 1982.

Donna, Carol and Des at Pyne Island (one of many camping trips on the Churchill River).

Des and Carol in Flin Flon 1972.


Mrs. Barkwell and Island Falls children: Left to Right Sandra Salt, Patty Ferg (in back), Nancy Bowman, Caron Pyne, Jule Pyne (in front), Mrs. Barkwell, Donna Pyne, Laurel Bowman, Sandra Dash, Gloria Dubeski.

Des and Carol with girls: Caron, Donna, Jule.

Donna, Jule and Caron ready for church.

Della Berg and Carol Pyne and ?

The Pyne's houseboat and Jule.

Brownies: Nancy Bowman, Donna Pyne, Caron Pyne, Carol Pyne (Leader), Laurel Bowman, Sandra Salt, Sandra Dash.

Terri Henry, Patty Ferg, Caron (birthday girl), Donna, Jule, Sandra Salt, Ross McMurdo.

Des and Carol in Flin Flon 1975.

Caron, Jule and Donna with dad, Island Falls Christmas

Typical photo of dad - in a boat on the Churchill River.