"What does he know of England who only England knows?"
Kipling's words with little change can be made to fit many other parts of the world besides England. For instance What does he know of Saskatchewan, who only Southern Saskatchewan knows?
The writer made a trip into little known Northern Saskatchewan, North of 54 which opened his eyes and convinced him that the people of this great province know very little of the development that is slowly, too slowly taking place in the Northern part of the province.
After seven years spent in the Mining area of Northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba I took a much needed vacation and made the trip from Flin Flon, Manitoba to Island Falls, Saskatchewan and in seven short days I spent one of the most enjoyable and health giving holidays I have ever spent.
Leaving Flin Flon at 5 a.m. with Dr. C.B. Smith who was on one of his periodical visits to Island Falls, Mrs. Merkeley and Mrs. Hattie who were returning from a vacation outside, and my wife, I boarded an electric dinky on which we rode along the Flin Flon Railway to Mile 86 where we were met by a "Lizzie" and started over the 16 mile road to Mari Lake. "Lizzie" was not in form that morning and when we had ridden four miles, she shed her near hind wheel.
While "Happy", Lizzie's well known "chiffoneer", returned to Flin Flon for a spare wheel our little party hit the trail and walked the twelve miles through the bush where the air was fresh and the smell of the pines health giving.
Arrived at the shore of Mari Lake we were met by two Indians and two white boys with canoes and outboard engines. Boarding the canoes we ran up the lake to Mile 13 on the Flin Flon power line where Peter Waselenko and his wife have a stopping place. Peter being a line man over that section.
Mrs. Waselenko prepared wonderful dinner for us which we did full justice to after our long walk and after dinner we were joined by our Indian Guides again who had returned for our baggage which "Happy” had brought through after repairing "Lizzie".
We spent the afternoon at Waselenko's, had supper and then , well supplied, with blankets and lunches we started across Mari Lake prepared to travel all night.
As a patriotic Scot, I am not prepared to admit that there is anything as beautiful as Loch Lomond, but I will say that Man Lake gives the famous Loch a close run. The night was cloudy so we only got occasional glimpses of the moon but the little outboard motor hummed along merrily and without mishap we reached the end of the lake (25 miles) at 11.30 p.m.
Packing our baggage we crossed the ½ mile portage to Lake No. 1 and having brought the motors along with us, attached them to the canoe that was waiting for us and crossed the 1 ¾ mile lake to Camp 2 where we found a deserted cabin with a very dilapidated roof through which the slight drizzle of rain was coming. In the winter months this cabin is used by fishermen and while we were eating our lunches the ladies, and the men too, to tell the truth, were startled by the sudden appearance at the door of what at first appeared to be a huge bear. "Doc" .was cutting wood for the fire at the time and I can still see him standing there with the axe raised ready to protect the women. The "bear" turned out to be nothings more ferocious than the fishermen's horse, which being lonesome was looking- for company.
After a welcome rest of an hour, we crossed the ¼ mile portage to Lake No. 2 where we were met by two other Indians with canoes on which we made the two miles and then portaged over ¼ mile to Lake No. 3 which is merely a ¼ mile pond. Another ¼ mile portage brought us to Barrier Lake where we again boarded a canoe and headed for mile 38 on the power line where we camped in a comfortable house for four hours, after which we had breakfast and started off at 6 a.m. across Barrier Lake which was beautiful in the early morning sun, the air being so invigorating that in spite of the large breakfast we had disposed of we were hungry again and partook of our spare lunches.
Barrier Lake is 19 miles long and we covered the distance in jig time with the motor running sweetly.
Leaving Barrier Lake we portaged the 1¾ miles to Muddy Lake, crossed it safely (3 ½ miles), portaged 1 ¼ miles to Sandy Bay on the Churchill River which is the last water stretch (3 ½ miles) and walked the last 1/2 mile into the camp at Island Falls.
Island Falls is the camp of the Churchill River Power Company Limited, a subsidiary company of the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co., Ltd. whose huge mine at Flin Flon has put the north permanently on the map.
The first sight of the camp surprises and delights the visitor. Unlike most commercial organizations, the Churchill River Power Co. had an eye for beauty and left the trees standing on the camp site. This with a wonderful growth of clover which covers the ground delights one whose view for the past few years has been confined to bare rocks and muskeg.
If cleanliness is next to Godliness, the powers that be have made preparation for the future life as the camp is spotless. The houses which are covered with creeper vines are all supplied with electric heat and light and a plentiful supply of hot and cold water. The result is that there is no smoke or dirt anywhere and as the community spirit is complete, the residents have, by community labor, laid out side walks and two excellent tennis courts and the streets are kept spotless.
This article was written following a vacation spent at Island Falls last year and should be of Interest to those who have made the trip and to those who still contemplate making it.—-Ed.
A very noticeable fact is that there are no dogs, this being due to the prevalence of mice and the necessity of each house keeping a cat which would be impossible if the camp was overrun with husky dogs as is the case in most northern camps.
There is a community laundry supplied with all the very latest electrical equipment, to which each lady in the camp is allowed access for half a day each week while close by is a refrigerating plant from which one can get such luxuries as fresh cream which is brought in during the winter.
A chicken house which is supplied with a sun lamp fools the hens into laying almost as well in the winter as they do in. the summer and supplies the camp with eggs and poultry.
On the edge of the camp is a large recreation hall in which entertainments and dances can be held and church services conducted on Sundays. Badminton is played here.
The timekeeper's wife conducts the school which is attended by the eight children of school age.
With the Churchill River at their very doors, the men can indulge in boating and fishing there being a good number of large sturgeon in the river, and big game can be had for the hunting.
Practically every house has its radio and the reception away up the north is excellent at all hours of the day.
On entering the power house, one is immediately struck by the spotless cleanliness of everything and the smooth running of the machinery. After coming from the Flin Flon mill and smelter with their noise and dirt the generating plant at Island Falls is a revelation.
The workmen wear white shirts and one could enjoy a meal eaten of any part of the floor it is so clean.
One machine which intrigues the visitor was pointed out to me as the brains of the plant. When a motor is turned on or off in Flin Flon, eighty miles away, this machine automatically raises or lowers the gates increasing or diminishing the flow of water so as to keep the power at the 44,000 horse called for
A study of the immense machinery installed in the plant gives one a slight idea of the enormous difficulties that must have been encountered in conveying those huge machines from the railway eighty miles away over lakes and portages.
The plant uses 46,750 gallons of water every second to generate the necessary horse power while 233,750 gallons per second, sufficient to generate 220,000 horse power flows to waste over "A" dam. Some day this waste power will be utilized and the people of Saskatchewan will reap the benefit.
The following facts are of interest:-
There are 22 white men, 11 ladies, 13 children, one half breed and one Indian employed under the able Superintendent, Mr. R.W. Davis.
There are 17 canoes spread over the route between the plant and Flin Flon and these canoes require 10x2-1/2 H.P. motors, 1x6 H.P., 1x8 H.P. and 7x4 H.P. motors.
72 passengers and 30,000 lbs. of freight were carried over the route during the summer months, the heavier freight being taken in during the winter over the ice.
Magloire Noteways, better known as "Mac" has charge of the canoes and engines and is assisted by numerous brother Indians. Peter Waselenko has charge of the line at Mile 13, and Charlie Ver Wilghen is a line foreman.
The plant develops 44,000 horse power.
46,750 gallons of water pass through the plant every second.
233,750 gallons every second go over "A" dam.
280,000 gallons pass through Island Falls every second.
1,683,000 gallons every minute. 1,009,800,000 gallons every hour. 24,235,200,000 gallons every day. 8,846,848,000,000 gallons every year.
This is in Northern Saskatchewan and it is doubtful if one person in 10,000 ever heard of Island Falls.