The following is a portion of the personal journal of Marvin Huffaker who was Assistant Superintendent of the Churchill River Power Company at Island Falls from 1930 to 1944. We have published only the part covering the Island Falls period in Mr. Huffaker's career.
Next in importance [after the stock market crash] at this time [the year 1929] was when I was offered a job in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company on the engineering design and development of their mine, mills and smelter at Flin Flon, Manitoba and hydro-electric generating power plant on the Churchill River which was later known as Island Falls, Saskatchewan. This plant was to furnish electric power to operate the plants at Flin Flon, Manitoba. My job offer came about thru Ray Corfield and my experience with the Utah Copper Co., and its diversified electric system in some ways similar to what the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company expected to develop. Also Elwood Bachman, a General Electric Company electrical engineer with an office in Salt Lake who was also consulting electrical engineer for the HBM&S Co. development in Canada who thought I could fit in with that development also. So Mr. Bachman hired me with the verbal agreement that if I went to work for HBM&S Co. in their Winnipeg office the first of January 1930 and worked six to nine months there when they expected the engineering to be completed, they would pay the transportation expenses for Janice and me to and from Winnipeg along with my salary. So Janice and I thought I better take the job especially because it was uncertain what the Utah Copper Co. would be forced to do and also because Ray Corfield had notice to curtail his activities.
We felt fortunate for the opportunity of employment in Winnipeg with a new, just beginning company and hopeful for a more secure future. This was later born out by the fact that the 1929 financial depression lasted many years and really injured many millions of people. If I had stayed with the Copper Company it’s a certainty that I would have either been laid off or put on a schedule of working only a few days a month and then perhaps as an electrician. Later months in Winnipeg it was evident thru the news media how really bad the depression was all over the world. Imagine how terrible it was, not knowing where you and your family were going to get enough food to keep you going and the future didn’t look any brighter.
So with all of this in mind on the 27th of December 1929 Janice and I and many relatives and friends were at the Union Pacific Depot in Salt Lake for Janice and me to take the evening train east and north to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I’m sure there were many tears shed, ours among them even tho we were wished the very best for our future, before the train left and some anxiety and worries by us both after we were on our way. I was worried somewhat about my new job in Winnipeg, working for a new company and new boss, so I studied everything available enroute on the next two days and nights on the train that might be relative to what I thought my new job would be. Also a map that we had with us showed that Winnipeg was two provinces east of Janice’s family in Alberta and much farther north and east of Salt Lake and Magna, Utah. Also no automobile as we stored our nearly new Essex in Dad’s garage in Magna. Also we still remember the last night enroute on the train from St. Paul to Winnipeg, the car was so cold that we had to go to bed in our sleeper to keep warm.
|Marvin Huffaker at Island Falls
(Click on photo to enlarge)
We finally arrived in Winnipeg and didn’t know a single person there so went to a hotel and bought a newspaper so we could check on a possible apartment. This was the 29th day of December, 1929. It was quite cold and there was plenty of snow.
The next day I checked in with the HBM&S Co. office in a Royal Bank Building and met my new boss, Hal Benneche who turned out to be a fine fellow to work for. Then Janice and I started out to find an apartment. From a choice of what we had checked on in the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper. Our big surprise came when an apartment we checked on stated it as BRF. We found that to be "bath room floor.” In other words, the apartment was on the bath room floor and all residents on that floor used the same bath room.
That settled it for “BRF” but we found a small apartment in the Qu’Appelle with one big room to serve as living room, dining room and bedroom, plus a kitchen and a bathroom. It was small but OK and close enough to my work so I could walk to and from. Also it was downtown so Janice could come and go easy during the day and seemed to be clean and not noisy. It was on the second floor with elevator service.
Also inasmuch as the verbal contract with Bachman was that my employment there would be quite temporary, we felt we could get along in a small apartment where we wouldn’t have to buy very much furniture. Also being in the center of the city, Janice would not have to ride busses for shopping and running around and I could also walk to work.
Also with my discussion with Bachman before we left Salt Lake and before we realized how bad the financial depression was going to be, it was suggested that when I finished work in Winnipeg with HBM&S Co. that I might be able to go to Schenectady, New York and take a test course in the General Electric factory there on electrical equipment which would take several months and possibly give me a job with GE or maybe conditions would be back to normal enough at Utah Copper so I could resume work there with Ray Corfield along with the valuable experience I would have had with HBM&S Co. and GE. Little did anyone know then how bad the depression would be and how extensive throughout the world and how it would last, which actually went on for several years.
|Hal Benneche of the Winnipeg office, HBM&S Co.|
After getting settled in our apartment and in the routine with the HBM&S Co. office, Janice and I settled down to everyday living. I worked five days a week and soon felt that I was probably doing OK with my work. I liked my boss Hal Benneche and after Janice met Mrs. Benneche, they became good friends especially as Janice could help her with a little sewing and shopping as Mrs. Benneche had to wear a back brace and Janice helped very much relative to that. There were times when Benneche had to go to Flin Flon for a few days relative to the electrical engineering that we were doing and drawings that we made relative to that engineering. During those times, Mrs. Benneche asked Janice and me to drive her around in their Oldsmobile automobile which was another good break for us as we really enjoyed that. Otherwise we did a lot of walking and bus riding on the week-ends especially to and from Assiniboine Park where we enjoyed band concerts. We also saw our first fancy ice skating exhibitions in Winnipeg and felt that they were the most graceful actions that anyone could possibly do.
The HBM&S Co. employees and wives had parties and we were taken in to be part of them in the mechanical as well as our electrical department. We enjoyed the association very much and that is where we learned to play bridge, cards. It was a very popular game and continued to be popular throughout our years in Canada, altho the last part of this sentence, I’m getting somewhat ahead of myself. I bowled on a HBM&S Co. team and for the season I had an average of 160. That was fun and competitive too.
During the first days in Winnipeg when I was at work and Janice was walking around the city, she especially noticed two things of interest that she wasn’t aware of before. One was that she saw so many fellows on the street carrying brooms, She wondered if, where and what they were going to clean. She later determined that these fellows were going to and from “curling games” which are games being played on ice with large flat stones or rocks and brooms were used to sweep the ice ahead of the sliding stones to influence or help the stone to slide where they are wanted to go, by the players and then stop in an area called the “house” which was a large bulls-eye painted in the ice.
In the spring of this year we saw something else that we hadn’t seen before. The Red and Assiniboine Rivers came together here and quite often they had an ice jam during the spring fast ice melting time. This was quite a sight and sometimes caused some flooding.
In the latter part of July our engineering work was practically finished and the engineering staff was breaking up and the fellows were leaving for all parts of the world. I remember one mechanical fellow left for Russia. By then the financial depression was so bad that I couldn’t go to General Electric in Schenectady and the Utah Copper Co. was practically shut down.
So when on July 31, 1930 this seven month stay in Winnipeg ended and the fact that the hydro-electric power plant being built on the Churchill River, almost 600 miles north of Winnipeg for the Churchill River Power Company, a subsidiary of the HBM&S Co. was practically finished on the initial size of the plant and I had an opportunity to transfer there, Janice and I thought it was a good opportunity and we should take it as jobs were still scarce.
Altho the hydro plant was designed and built by a couple of eastern Canadian contractors, Elwood Bachman was the project engineer and it was he who made it possible for Rees Davis to go there as operating superintendent because he was older than me and had experience as a hydro electric plant operator and me as assistant superintendent. Up till now the plant construction wasn’t quite finished and hadn’t turned a wheel, so I would get in on the remaining construction of the first part of the plant, which was to be around one hundred thousand horsepower when we got all of the alternators (generators) on the bus. The eventual size of the power plant was to be added on as needed in the next years. However, in the meantime, Flin Flon was ready to start operating parts of its mine, mill and smelter and needed power from the hydro plant so the sooner a generator could be started, the better.
So on August 1st, 1930 Janice and I left Winnipeg on a Canadian National Railway train for Flin Flon, Manitoba. We didn’t have many belongings to take with us as to begin with when we left Salt Lake our job north was quite temporary. Our nearly new Essex sedan automobile was left in Dad and mother’s garage in Magna, Utah and fortunately it was paid for.
The train distance from Winnipeg to Flin Flon was approximately five hundred miles with no sleeper or dining car and after a couple of hundred miles north of Winnipeg on the CNR, the country was pretty well virgin country with only a few sparsely inhabited places until we reached La Pas (pronounced the paw) Manitoba where the train stopped for passengers to get food and some stayed overnight and took a train north later or possibly would take a train east to Fort Churchill on the Hudson Bay where a good part of the grain from the western Canada prairie provinces was shipped by boat from Hudson Bay to all parts of the world. Or passengers could take a train from La Pas west to western Canada also. La Pas was junction point and until Flin Flon was under development, it was about the farthest north activity in the area except for hunting, fishing and prospecting with not many people.
The Hudson’s Bay Fur Company had trading posts scattered around and some bands of Cree and Chippewa Indians roamed the area in free style.
Our next stop north was at Cranberry Portage where about all there was there was a couple of cafes alongside the track where the train stopped long enough for passengers to get something to eat. We were here about half an hour and then the train engine whistled a signal for us to get aboard for Flin Flon.
At the end of the second day we arrived at Flin Flon where if there was a sidewalk, it was a board walk with mud and muskeg underneath and when the street was wet it was almost impossible for anything to travel on it.
We got a room on the second floor of the Royal Hotel, a frame and log building with no plumbing for about six dollars for a night. The bed was crude but was clean and sleepable. We had a wooden chair and table and a large white pitcher filled with water in a very large heavy white bowl. I don’t recall what kind of a bathroom we had but probably only a BRF and something for an emergency. There was no arrangement for heat in the rooms but this was supposedly taken care of with a large cordwood stove on the main floor and heat was supposed to go up around the balcony of the second floor, then into the rooms around the balcony on the periphery of the building. However, we didn’t need heat as the weather was beautiful on this August day. The room was clean and we had a good rest on our first night in Flin Flon. There were several cafes or restaurants and the food was good. The next morning I checked in with Mr. W.A. Green the General Superintendent at that time of all the Flin Flon plants and also the future operations at Island Falls after we would get the hydro electric plant operating. I found him to be a very fine and considerate fellow who welcomed Janice and me into their company group and we met his wife and two daughters at lunch. It’s difficult to express how good people like the Greens could make Janice and me as strangers feel that much at home.
I spent a day having a good look around the mine mill, smelter and shops and met most of the supervisors, some that we knew in engineering in Winnipeg. Janice and I had a good look around the town and met the supervisors’ wives, some also that we had known in Winnipeg in engineering. Some of the business buildings in Flin Flon were practically built on stilts as the muskeg was almost everywhere except where the mine etc. was. Muskeg did not offer a very good footing for buildings. Also the sidewalks were on stilts also but later the water was drained off the muskeg to a great extent giving better footings.
At this point I should mention how HBM&S Co. started, which subsequently was why Janice and I went to Winnipeg to work in engineering in December of 1929 and later in August 1930 we arrived here in Flin Flon enroute to Island Falls, Saskatchewan after which we will catch up on our third evening in Flin Flon and our trip to Island Falls and then more about Island Falls.
In the year 1928 several engineers in the U.S. including Mining, Metallurgical, Mechanical and later Electrical, got together and decided to check on a mining project in Manitoba, Canada to see if it had possibilities to become a paying mine. Therefore they went to northern Manitoba to check on it and actually took considerable size samples of this ore by dog team with Indian guides to the end of the railway at La Pas, Manitoba. They then had to get permission from the Canadian government and the U. S. government to ship this ore by rail to Denver, Colorado where they assayed and checked it for months before they found a process where they felt they could mine, mill and smelt it on a paying basis. The reason it took so long was because the ore was of such a complex nature and that is also the reason that it had not been developed before because the prospect had been known about for years with no development. This was also true because it was so far north of the end of the railroad at La Pas, Manitoba and so far from available electric power. The engineers finally felt that they had the proper process available and so then it was a question of finding a sponsor to finance the development. Somehow they got the Whitney interests of New York interested and they put up the necessary money. Also they had to get the Canadian government interested enough to build the Canadian National Railway from La Pas north to what was later named Flin Flon.
The engineers must have done a very good job because when the mine concentrator and smelter were developed and built and the railway was completed from La Pas, they produced several metals including 99.9% pure zinc plus copper, gold, silver, etc.
The design and physical layout of the necessary operating equipment was what we worked on in Winnipeg in the engineering department before we came to Flin Flon. I used some of my designs that were generated for use in Utah on plans that we used for Flin Flon.
Next it was necessary to find a source of electric power to operate the finished development. These same original engineers checked on building a steam driven turbine alternator electric power plant in Southern Saskatchewan where there was an abundance of coal for the steam but they hoped to find a possible potential hydro-electric source somewhere north and closer to the mine.
This they did with Cree Indian guides on a canoe trip where they camped one night near the Churchill River and heard what later they found to be a rapids in the river. Next with extensive checking on river flow and possibly building a dam there to raise the river elevation to get the proper head for power thru the hydro turbines. There wasn’t very much information on river flow over the years but with water marks on the banks of the river and information from the Cree Indians, they decided along with some surveys up stream that they could get a fifty-six to sixty foot head by backing the river up about thirty miles and that would not require very many side small dams along the banks of the river to keep the river in its channel. This they did with government permission and help from a couple of Canadian power plant contractor builders. These builders also designed the hydro-electric power generating plant and our friend Elwood Bachman was the consulting electric engineer. The original layout called for approximately one hundred thousand horsepower and perhaps more later if required.
Also I should mention that when the power plant was designed it also meant that they had to have a source of electric power for its construction. There was no available power for this so it was necessary to develop their own source. This they did when they found a possibility about thirteen and a half miles east of the main plant development at what was named Island Falls where later Janice and I were to live. This temporary plant which was necessary to furnish construction power to build the main plant at Island Falls was on the outlet of Sisipuk Lake at Spruce Falls where there were no inhabitants but just a couple of names. This plant was practically tailor made, constructed with native timber and rock and earth with concrete for the dam for the hydro part along with a couple of ninety foot penstocks furnished with the turbines which were designed for a fifty-six foot head so that later when the main plant was in operation and these machines were not needed for construction, they could be dismantled and removed to Island Falls where they could be installed for so called house units. These alternators were twelve hundred fifty horsepower each at five hundred fifty volts and the turbines were to operate @ 56 foot head. They pumped into a three phase power transformer that stepped the voltage up from 550 volts to 6600 volts for transmission to Island Falls. These two machines were ordered from Canadian General Electric Co. and Dominion Engineering for delivery as soon as possible not only because Island Falls needed the power for construction but delivery from Flin Flon at the end of the railroad could only be made to Spruce Falls in the winter over the ice and frozen muskeg. This was really a wonderful little “home made plant.”
Now back to the third evening in the Royal Hotel at Flin Flon when about bed time, there came a knock on our door. I opened the door and there stood a tall Cree Indian who we later knew as Magloire Nateweyes. He said he was to take Janice and me to Island Falls, Saskatchewan tomorrow morning starting at 5 am from here. His looks just about scared Janice to cancel our trip to Island Falls but he turned out to be a fine considerate fellow and a wonderful guide.
|Cart on the 14 mile portage from Flin Flon to Mari lake.|
Our first phase of the trip was over a fourteen mile portage from Flin Flon to Mari Lake on a wagon pulled by a team of horses. This turned out to be so rough over a rocky road that we had to give up the ride and walk at least twelve miles. At the north end of this portage was the south end of Mari Lake or Camp Three for transportation.
Here Janice stood off to one side while our belongings, mail to Island Falls and some freight was loaded into a large barge with outboard motors. She was really despondent as it looked like we were going to the end of the world. The country was beautiful but right then beautiful country wasn’t foremost in her thinking. We soon got away and after 19½ miles in the barge we landed at the north end of Mari Lake at Camp 4 where Fred LaRoche was the cook and camp keeper. It was nightfall then and Fred did everything possible to make us comfortable. He had lots of food for us and I remember especially that he had raisin pie. We slept in the bunk house on individual cots in eiderdown sleeping bags. There were a few mice or rats running around which kept Janice awake and I believe she spent a good part of the night out on the lake shore where there wasn’t noises.
The next day we were away early leaving the barge behind and we travelled over several small lakes in canoes until we arrived at Barrier Lake which was Indian named Kipahigan Lake which was twenty nine miles across. Here we had an inboard motor boat. Each time we crossed a lake to a portage, all the freight etc. had to be taken across the portage by a wagon and tractor or a model A Ford or sometimes carried by the Cree guide on their shoulder with a tump strap.
Before starting to cross Barrier Lake we had to “boil” which meant the Crees always carried tea and a tea pot and always regardless of the weather or time of year, they had to stop and “boil” tea and have lunch. However this was OK and we couldn’t help but marvel at the way these Crees, especially Magloire could carry three to four hundred pounds across the portage on a little trot with a tump strap and then go out on any lake and steer a canoe in summer or a dog team in winter across the lake among islands for many miles in all kinds of weather and even in the dark of night and arrive at the portage across the lake and never miss even by a few feet. Incidentally one Cree later carried seven hundred pounds on a tump strap, three hundred feet to win a prize at a Dominion Day celebration.
Well in the late afternoon of the second day from Flin Flon, we arrived at Island Falls, a distance of about 70 miles via summer transportation. Two days seemed a long time to make seventy miles but it was a beautiful trip on crystal clear water lakes dotted with many islands, some only a couple of hundred feet across and covered with beautiful pine and spruce trees with some birch, tamarack and quaking aspens with no human inhabitants except an occasional Cree family or a trapper camping there.
Island Falls island was a beautiful clean looking place too. Rees and Chlo Davis met us at the Sandy Bay part of the Churchill River and Chlo had a wonderful dinner ready for us. Rees and Chlo and their two children, Dick and Helen arrived at Island Falls about a month before we did and was somewhat established by the time Janice and I arrived. Incidentally at this time I should mention that altho Rees and I went to work in the Winnipeg office at almost the same time, Rees was there alone as far as his family was concerned because Dick and Helen were still in school and so they and Chlo did not go to Canada until the whole family went to Island Falls sometime in May of 1930.
|Chlo Davis and Janice standing on the plow of a Linn tractor.|
Island Falls was actually an island about three quarters of a mile wide and about two miles long that was formed when the hydro plant was built and “A” dam was built as a spillway for excess water to flow down the river that could not go thru the turbines. The dam was eight hundred and ninety feet long and consisted of forty-six stop log openings. This dam and the power plant were the only two places at this point where water could flow down the river. “A” dam wasn’t quite finished when we arrived at Island Falls and Janice saw the first water go thru the dam with a big rush later and it was quite a sight to see that much water make a channel down to Sandy Bay and then on down the river. Our island looked similar to the cleanest and freshest looking park that anyone had ever seen with beautiful trees like the ones we saw enroute from Flin Flon to Island Falls made up of Pines, Spruce, Quaking Aspens and Birch. The latitude here is 55° and 35 minutes north and about 14 miles in Saskatchewan from the Manitoba border and about 600 miles north of Winnipeg and the elevation was 1000 feet above sea level. Another fact about Island Falls was that it was practically two provinces east and north of Janice’s parents in Alberta and many miles more north and east of my parents in Utah.
Our first home in Island Falls was a little log cabin, one of nine that were built for the power plant construction staff foreman and their wives during the plant construction. They were only intended for temporary use but because of the financial depression coming in 1930 the Company felt that we could get along with them until financial conditions improved, which we agreed with. Our cabin consisted of a kitchen with an electric stove with open wire elements, an electric hot water tank in a small back room, a combination living and dining room about 10’ x 20’ with a cordwood heating stove that burned logs four feet long, a bedroom with a small clothes closet and a bathroom with a shower lined with plain galvanized iron. All of these rooms were quite small but we were comfortable with a screened porch across the front of the cabin. Also we were grateful to have a job during the world wide depression and a place to live. Also it wasn’t long until we had home made furniture that we invented and built to fit our requirements in a little log cabin with rent free. Also I should mention here that due to the financial depression, metal prices were away down and the demand was also down so we think the HBM&S Co. did a good job of just keeping their facilities running.
|Log cabin, first Huffaker residence.|
Construction of the power plant left us a saw mill and carpenter shop with all the wood-working tools required to build almost anything from wood. Also there was an abundance of pine trees up the river which could easily be cut and floated down stream to the saw mill. Also we made this saw mill available to the Cree Indians with our operators so they could build houses etc and whatever they needed, even caskets whenever they needed one for burial, all of this at no cost to them. Also the power plant was designed with a machine shop with all kinds of tools and welding equipment to take care of all necessary maintenance. So again we had many facilities to build whatever furniture etc. that we needed for our home. We welded iron together for floor lamps and tables etc and Janice did some clever painting and blowing gold and aluminum powder or dust on the paint jobs while they were wet for quite an effect and really good looking. (This gold & aluminum powder whenever we could get it from Flin Flon). Also construction left us with many single cots and mattresses that were originally used for single men in the bunk houses. We made single beds and lounges, chesterfields or sofas out of these with padded arms and backs and covered them with material as soon as we could get it from Flin Flon or Winnipeg, when transportation was available. Some visiting people were surprised at all the things that we made including even a garden wheel barrow and the furniture, floor lamps and gadgets of all kinds that we made especially because Janice had so many ideas and the ability to sew which completed some very livable furniture, even tho she had to sew by hand as her sewing machine was in storage in Magna, Utah.
|Interior of Huffaker log cabin.|
Furniture wasn’t only desirable but essential and the fact that we didn’t have a store of any kind this side of Flin Flon, only a company commissary meant that it was nice to be ale to make some things that we needed. The transportation of seventy miles to Flin Flon with no road was limited by weather and facilities but our commissary did help a lot for good staple items and before winter freight came with Linn tractors over the ice of the lakes, Janice helped our commissary manager in ordering what we all needed in the commissary for the coming year in addition to what the ladies of our “camp” (which we called it) needed and would like to have.
Out little log cabin was cool in the summer because of our latitude and climate. In the winter, especially as we noticed our first winter when the temperature hovered between 35° and 55° below zero Fahrenheit for weeks, Janice had to wear felt shoes to keep her feet warm in our house. This was a far cry from when we first landed in Winnipeg, Janice with silk hose on and seeing all other ladies with wool hose on and at first she said she would not ever go to wool hose, but she did.
Our cordwood stove which took logs 4 feet long put out a lot of heat but most of it went to the ceiling and yet the floor could be cold. This situation was partly because the outside walls of our cabin were built on the ground level and the floors were built inside and not fastened to the walls. In really cold weather, the ground under the walls would freeze and expand or heave and take the walls up away from the floors. We would then have to chink or stuff oakum or burlap in the cracks to keep the cold out. Our floors were two layers of 1” x 6” boards with roofing between and these boards were cut and planed from unkilned dried wood and so therefore it didn’t take long after laying them for the boards to shrink and cause half inch cracks between the boards. Eventually we were able to get a few rugs that helped the situation. Also we got a couple of electric fans that helped circulate the heat better in the rooms.
Another experience we had in the summer in our little log cabin. There were little worms about half to three quarters of an inch long that bored in the logs of the cabin and we could hear them boring. They didn’t aggravate in any way except the noise and the borings outside or down between the logs and the wall linings which was made of Donnacona sheets ½ inch thick and 4’ x 8’ in size. These sheets were not painted when we moved in but we painted them which made the cabin cleaner and cozier. Even with all the snow we got in the winter, our roof was always bare because of the heat loss thru the ceiling of our cabin but we helped that before the next winter by insulating above the ceiling.
Actually we got along fine and felt fortunate even tho some people outside said that we were too isolated and without a doctor and stores, etc. but we got along fine.
This was all an interesting adventure and we felt fortunate to have a home and a job with earning capacity even tho we took a cut in salary when we came to Island Falls. However we gained other things like free rent and utilities etc. And the so-called depression was still very much in evidence thruout the world and hundreds of thousands of people were without jobs and many lost their homes, automobiles, etc. because they could not make the monthly payments on them. My family in Magna, Utah was about in that same situation and really appreciated a little financial help from us.
And now getting back to Island Falls transportation, the first few years we only had canoe and boat transportation over the lakes and portages about 70 miles in the summer to Flin Flon with Cree Indian guides once or sometimes twice a week which took a full day each way. Also this meant portaging everything from lake to lake so we gave our mail preference and tried to get as much as possible in to Island Falls during the winter with Linn tractors and sleighs over the ice when the ice was two to three feet thick on the lakes. This winter freight amounted to 200 to 300 tons of whatever was needed for the plant and commissary combined for the coming year. For the commissary we ordered packaged meat, groceries, flour, sugar, dry goods and many kinds of clothing. Incidentally as I mentioned previously, the first fall after construction crews left Island Falls, Janice took some wholesale catalogs and picked out what she thought we all would need for the coming year along with what our commissary man, Arthur Jan had in mind. The following years it was easier for the commissary man to keep the stock up to requirements.
|Linn tractor pulling a train of snow sleds. Below, the train has broken through thin ice next to shore.|
A little more about this winter transportation which consisted of Linn Tractors with caterpillar type tracks on the rear and skis or runners on front instead of wheels. Each Linn would be loaded for better traction with steel, cement etc. and would pull a sleigh also loaded with non-perishables and another sleigh behind this one with a heated caboose on it loaded with perishable or freezable food etc, for the commissary and then another heated caboose on the rear end of the train for the relief driving crew to eat and sleep while the other crew of two men drove the tractor. The crews alternated driving so the train made practically a non-stop trip in each direction for about ten hours each way. There were times before transportation started at the beginning of the run when the ice on the lakes was too thin because of heavy snowfall on thin ice which insulated the freezing of the ice. At these times several men would walk on snow shoes on the transportation routes to pack the snow down which caused the freezing temperature to penetrate through the packed snow because of better conductivity and at temperatures of 30° to 55° below zero, the ice, over a couple of days and nights would get 2 to 3 feet thick, enough for up to over a hundred tons to travel over it. These loads happened many times during construction of the power plant. Occasionally the rear end of a Linn would break through the ice near shore as the ice there was the weakest because the lake water outlet current from one lake to the next was here and it undercut the ice and caused it to be thinner at this point. The Linn crew carried 8” x 16” timbers 14 feet or 16 feet long on the first sleigh so if the tractor rear end broke through the ice and was held up by the front snow plow hanging on the remaining ice, they could stand these timbers upright in the water and ended on the lake bottom, with a timber across the top of them and a set of chain blocks, they could lift the tractor clear of the water and in a short time the open water would freeze over and then by draining the oil out of the Linn engine and replacing it with new hot oil, they could crank up and be on their way again.
One transportation trip, the Linn and front sleighs got over the ice and the heated caboose almost submerged in the water and it was loaded with canned foods. The crew got it out of the water intact and after draining the water out of the caboose, they heated the caboose again and they were on their way as soon as the Linn could pull its train in the clear. However, when the caboose was unloaded at the commissary, they found that all the canned goods labels had been washed off the cans so next summer sometimes we couldn’t tell whether we were buying a can of beans or a can of cherries until we opened the can. We had plenty of local wild meat such as caribou, moose meat, fish etc. all times of the year but like to have beef, pork, mutton etc. all cut and packaged for our needs for the coming year to be frozen until required. This packaged meat seemed OK except after nearly a year it seemed a little drier than it should be and perhaps not quite as tasty.
|Ford Model A snowmobiles.|
In the winter our regular mail transportation depended on Crees and their dog teams except if the Linn tractors had a road plowed thru the snow we often followed one of them in a Ford model A light delivery truck with skis on front and three wheels on each side on the rear axles with a chain running on these three wheels, with two of them as idlers and one as the driving wheel. However by the time the year 1933 rolled around we were starting to get some aeroplane transportation which was really appreciated.
The construction companies which had several hundred men at one time working on the building of the hydro plant left us an ammonia compressor type freezer refrigerator which measured about 50 feet by 80 feet in size. Everything kept frozen OK thruout the coming year and seemed fresh enough when thawed out except as I previously mentioned which wasn’t very objectionable. Each family of our operating crew had a locker in this big freezer which was about 30” x 30” x 48” high for personal freezing where we kept moose and caribou meat that the Crees gave us and pickerel fish fillets which we all felt were the best fresh fish that we had ever eaten and which we had the fun of catching. In the summer we had an abundance of wild raspberries and blueberries that we froze plenty of along with all the cranberries that we could use and a few wild strawberries. Also with the aid of local muskeg or what Utah people call “peat moss” we had wonderful gardens even with the short summer season but long sunny days.
Our tomatoes grew well but cold weather and frost came before they were ripe so we picked them green and ripened them inside. I planted watermelons once and when frost came, they were about the size of gooseberries and looked about like gooseberries. Rhubarb came through the winter OK and seemed to come up thru the late snow in the spring. Our planted flowers were beautiful, especially sweet peas which were the largest and most beautiful that we had ever seen. We had to plant roses each year or spring because those left in the ground, winter killed or if they survived the winter, they would be same as wild roses with single petals in the coming summer.
A little more relative to food and where we lived. I think I mentioned that Island Falls was considered a remote area of the Dominion where we did not need a game license and we could hunt or fish anytime of the year as we needed meat for food. Our only law officer to visit us was an occasional Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who came in by dog team in the winter or canoe in the summer and always seemed very fine considerate fellows and nice to visit with. This was also because we couldn’t buy food or anything else closer than Flin Flon and we did not have personal transportation as individuals. This was still virgin country about 35% water and thick timber growth and flat smooth solid rock left there by a glacier many hundreds of years ago for the remainder of 65% of the country.
The water in the Churchill River was clear, cold and very soft and was full of pickerel, pike or jack fish which were caught with a hook and line with a spinner or minnow or even a piece of red flannel for bait. Janice caught them as fast as I could take them off the hook and fillet them. Incidentally I got pretty good at that because I never had time to fish as Janice kept me busy filleting them. We put fillets in the freezer except what we immediately ate but we mostly had plenty to eat as we caught them. There was a lake a few miles from Island Falls where we caught trout but we just fished them because they were fighters and we ate pickerel by preference. Then there were sturgeon in the river that the Crees caught in nets. These weighed up to 60 to 70 pounds and the Crees smoked them and they were really good that way but very rich in oil.
Again getting back to transportation for a minute, we tried many kinds of trucks etc. with big driving wheels and chains on them and skis on the front and one not so big with an air screw propeller encased in a frame and on skis but none was very successful as the snow was so deep. Our Ford Model A was about the best that we had but we could only use it on our island and occasionally in the winter if we followed a Linn on the road that it made over the lakes and then it would have been nice if the Model A had had a little more power.
We soon formed what we called the Island Falls Social Club and elected officers from time to time and financed it by a five percent payroll deduction from our company paychecks. This was from one hundred percent of our payroll as we all belonged to the club.
|Janice and Marvin Huffaker, Chlo and Rees Davis, Elaine and Howard McIntosh, Grace Herman|
When the weather warmed up in 1931 we started to build a club house and school room. It took most of the summer to build as we did it on our spare time and the company gave us all the material necessary. We built it with native lumber that we processed in our sawmill carpenter shop and machine shop. It was large enough for a small school room, bowling alley and recreation room which also was large enough to play tennis and basketball in on the bottom floor and a room on the second floor where we had bridge parties, luncheons and dances. After we acquired a used 35 mm movie projector for black and white film we had movies as often as we could get the film from Flin Flon. Inasmuch as we did not have two projectors, we had interruptions each time we had to change a section of film. During these interruptions we visited and the ladies crocheted, tatted and sewed.
Our bridge parties had a lunch midway in the bridge games and the ladies made a real nice luncheon and in all they were happy evenings. Our dances were just as much fun also. We had three to five players in our orchestra who were real musicians that we hired as plant operators and they developed as experts in whatever they did. Also during these dances we could look out thru the north windows and see the most beautiful display of northern lights (aurora borealis) that anyone ever saw. They flashed and whipped like large silk multicolored scarves and we all agreed that sometimes we thought we could hear them whip.
For our New Years parties and banquets we invited people from Flin Flon and some even came from Winnipeg and we had so many that we had to set up tables in the basketball and tennis area to accommodate so many people. The ladies of Island Falls planned this and furnished the food but did get some help from us fellows, setting the tables etc. Also they had the main problems and food planning and Janice was very instrumental in all of this.
As I mentioned earlier, we had nine little log cabins and a staff house for single fellows. The nine cabins were occupied by operators and wives and to begin with not many children. As the operators married and brought their wives in to live in these little cabins, it seemed to fall to Janice to get the brides started on the right foot in cooking and keeping house. The brides were all nice gals and Janice really liked to help them. Not to mention the fact that Janice again was instrumental in helping to “fix” each cabin for a real surprise in oddities or something when the bride and groom first entered their “home.”
At Christmas time we always had a children’s party after we had enough children to put a party on. This was really wonderful with our few children, singing, reciting and playing musical instruments. Our son Wayne, who came along later in 1933, contributed to this early in his life by playing the piano and one time when he was supposed to sing a Christmas song, he walked on stage and sang “Yankee Doodle.” Can you imagine how that affected Janice? Oh yes, she and all of us laughed it off. Actually Wayne got pretty good on the piano and once when Janice took him to Flin Flon to participate in a music recital he was given a score of 80 by a music teacher from Winnipeg. We really enjoyed his playing and on one of our Christmas parties at Island Falls he played “Silent Night” for the congregation to sing to. Incidentally I took a few lessons from Wayne’s teacher Harry Whitely but I couldn’t seem to get my fingers and reading notes ability to synchronize so I gave up.
Also at this time Magloire Nateweyes got married and we all went across Sandy Bay to attend his wedding which was performed by the Catholic priest who lived at the Cree village. When we went in the church several Crees left their seats and offered them to us. When the services were finished, several Crees went outside and shot their shotguns to drive wicked spirits away. Later they had a square dance and Fred LaRoche our one time company cook played the fiddle and these dancers were really enthusiastic as when they came down on their feet from one step to another, they shook the whole building. It was interesting and a real experience.
Also by then we had a heavy five hundred fifty volt electric circuit from the power house to our living quarters area, or “camp” as we called it. This we heated our houses, commissary, staff house and staff kitchen and club house with electric heaters. This was wonderful heat and inexpensive because power required only meant a few more cubic feet of water thru our turbines after the heaters were purchased.
The construction officials left us an outdoor tennis court that they used and we could play during the summer months up till 10 pm without lights because of the long days and the court was so popular that we installed flood lights and played until midnight. Incidentally our long summer days were about 17 hours long of sunshine and the remainder of twilight and corresponding long winter nights with short days. Tennis was a favorite for Janice and me and we played a lot of it. However later when we had indoor tennis in our recreation hall it was a disappointment mainly because when the ball hit the hard slick floor, it skidded instead of a good bounce and had a low slope which most of us did not like. We liked some resistance when the ball struck the floor surface so some spin on the ball had some effect on its bounce. However on long winter nights it still had some players when the outside temperature was maybe 40° below zero. With our one bowling alley, it was popular also. Whenever Janice passed this bowling alley on her way to our community laundry, she always went inside and knocked pins down if there were any set up.
Another Canadian winter popular game that we later arranged for on the indoor west side of our clubhouse was “curling.” As I mentioned when we lived in Winnipeg this game was played on a sheet of ice 20 feet wide and 114 feet long between the center line of “houses” and 138 feet between backs of houses where the operator would deliver the “stone” or “rock” down the ice toward the opposite end of the ice or the “house.” These two houses were each 12 feet in diameter and were actually a bulls eye painted on the ice on the lengthwise center line of the ice and the idea of the game was to get as many of your teams rocks in the house as possible and to knock your opponents rocks out of the house during each end. Each game consisted of 10 ends and each “rink” or team was made up of four players with each player delivering two stones. The operators alternated from rink to rink throwing their stones down the ice from one house to the other. This is where people or players came in carrying brooms on the streets of Winnipeg when we lived there as these players were going to or from curling and the idea of sweeping the ice was to influence the directing and length of travel of the stone on its way to the “house” for a score. I should have mentioned that these stones weighed 20 pounds or more and the two that each player threw were matched for weight and size. You could curve your stone on its travel by its rotation when it was delivered. Each teammate carried a broom and swept at the instruction of the “skip” who headed each “rink”. This sheet of ice was at outside building temperature with an enclosed electrically heated space at one end of the curling for spectators. This game was popular for both men and women.
We used cutting a fire guard around our island as an excuse to lay out a five hole golf course which became popular and was a lot of fun even tho we had plenty of area to lose balls in the brush or even in the river. On the negative side was sand flies and black flies and “no see ums” and even some bulldog flies with the former ones biting on your neck and you not feeling it until later when it started to itch and bleed as you scratched it. The mosquitoes as a rule did not come out until in the evening but then they were a real nuisance. Incidentally sometimes while crossing a lake you could see a moose standing in the water with only its head out or above water to get away from the biting flies and mosquitoes.
We played softball with teams made up of both fellows and gals of our camp and before the construction fellows left we had some hot games between the construction and our operators which included me.
We had wonderful ice skaters, both fancy and hockey players for which Canada is famous. The fancy skaters were both men and women. To play hockey we cleaned everything out of a bunkhouse that wasn’t used anymore and flooded it for ice. This way we had good ice all winter with no snow to shovel off. I played hockey because I skated as a boy in Magna but wasn’t as good as my Canadian play mates.
Also in the winter Janice and I snowshoed over the deep snow and usually picked the prettiest Christmas tree available and there were plenty to choose from and all free for the choosing. We could drive the model A Ford snowmobile around the island and even up the river over the ice to the earth-filled dams in winter for dam inspection.
Some of our fellows even went in for building boats and they built some nice ones as we had access to our carpenter shop and saw mill and all the wood working tools and metal welding. Also we had all sizes of outboard engines but Janice and I left most of our travels outside of our island to the help of our Cree guides.
Incidentally relative to transportation again and trips to Flin Flon. One of our first years in Island Falls, Janice and I decided to go to Flin Flon on one of those beautiful long summer nights when there was about 17 hours of light and remaining 7 hours of twilight. So we got Magloire Nateweyes to take us by canoe. It was a beautiful night and clean fresh air and stars and the beautiful lakes and pine trees along the shores. Also it was amazing how Magloire would carry the canoe and outboard engine across the portages from lake to lake on a little trot. Even tho the lakes and islands in the lakes all looked pretty much the same to us, he was never lost and crossing a 29 mile or 19 mile lake and a number of smaller ones he always landed exactly at the portage on the opposite side of the lake to where we started. Also he never seemed to get tired. This time there was an electric locomotive (incidentally a duplicate to No. 708 and 709 that I piloted from Erie Penn. to Garfield a few years ago) at Camp 3 to take us to Flin Flon over the 14 mile portage. This was quite a contrast especially for Janice as the last time she crossed this portage, we walked most of the way rather than ride in a wagon over a rough road. Also Janice had really different thoughts now also as the north country was home instead of like our first trip in August of 1930 when camp 3 seemed like going to the end of the world. After a couple of days in Flin Flon at the guest house and shopping and visiting we took a regular boat trip back home along with the mail and a couple of passengers.
Later another trip to be remembered was in the fall of the year. This time another Cree, Etienne McDonald and I were crossing the 29 mile Barrier Lake enroute home in an inboard boat and just before darkness came our engine stopped and refused to run. We were towing a canoe and outboard engine but when I tried to push the boat with the canoe, it didn’t work and the wind blew us across the lake at a 90° angle to our regular course, when we reached shore fortunately the shore wasn’t steep or very rough but the canoe got between the boat and the shore and we lost the outboard engine in the lake before I could get one end of the canoe pulled ashore. The wind by then was so strong that I was afraid the canoe could be crushed between the boat and shore. However, the canoe was still tied to the boat and Etienne got the boat engine started and the boat and canoe going before I could get aboard either, because of trying to retrieve the canoe engine. Etienne continued along the lake shore until he came to a shallow bay where he stopped in less than 2 feet of water as the boat was leaking from being thrown against the shore, not much but it was evident. Until then he thought I was in the canoe. By then it was pitch dark and I was still on shore and the tree and brush growth along shore was so thick and heavy that I almost had to crawl at times and I was afraid to leave the shore for fear of getting lost. I believed if I followed shore I would eventually overtake Etienne especially when he discovered that I wasn’t aboard. I believe it was well over an hour before I saw a fire ahead of me across a small bay of the lake. It was a real relief when I finally reached that fire and Etienne. As usual Etienne had a tea pot boiling and some food ready. About that time it started to snow and I realized it was getting cold but up till then I was too preoccupied to think of the cold. We never went anywhere without an eiderdown sleeping bag so I was pretty comfortable under a big pine tree on pine boughs under my sleeping bag as a mattress. Also as I mentioned earlier, we never went anywhere without food both winter and summer. Somehow I would wake up often enough to put more wood on the fire as it really did feel good.
When daylight came, Etienne and I had breakfast and tea, teas so the Crees could “boil” and the Barrier boat always had food in it. The boat sank a little in that shallow bay but wasn’t in any danger, We were about 30 miles from Island Falls so we set out in the canoe using paddles as we had lost our canoe engine. The wind had gone down and the snow was only a flurry and it was a nice crisp autumn day. Not far out in the lake near the travel route we met Bill Grayson our transportation mechanic and a couple of Crees who were out to find Etienne and me because we hadn’t arrived at Island Falls. A little two way radio would have been wonderful then but at least we did not have one. Bill and Etienne and one Cree went back to repair the boat and the other Cree and I continue to Island Falls. We arrived at Island Falls shortly after noon and Janice was really relieved and I was glad to get home OK. The boat was repaired and they also retrieved the canoe engine as the lake water was still and they saw a small amount of oil coming to the surface of the water from the engine, therefore they were able to hook onto the engine and pull it ashore.
|Floating island of muskeg caught by the log boom in the forebay.|
Now a little more about the Churchill River and the consequences of building a dam at Island Falls. This meant raising the elevation at this point about 56 feet to construct a forebay in the river to give a 56’ head for the power in the turbines of the alternators or generators. The latitude here was 55 degrees and 35 minutes north and elevation above sea level of 1000 feet and 1000 miles west of Hudson’s Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. Also it was nearly 600 miles north of Winnipeg, Manitoba and nearly 60 miles north of Flin Flon, Manitoba by air and about 70 miles by other transportation.
During the time of its construction and when we took over the finishing touches of the power plant, the lowest river flow on record was the year 1930 in which it was 9500 cubic feet of water per second past Island Falls. This helped in building cofferdams and sub structure of concrete in the river. Raising the elevation of the river here caused the river to back up about 30 miles up stream which caused muskeg bogs to float and in some cases large pieces as islands to break away and float downstream. Some of these would be two to three feet thick and up to fifty to one hundred feet in dimensions with growing trees on up to 6” in diameter.
|Marvin standing above a set of stop-logs on the Island Falls power dam|
We built a log boom across the river immediately above the plant to keep or shunt anything floating downstream away from the turbine intakes and scroll cases and turbine runners or wheels. However, the water current even on the surface into the turbines had to be reckoned with even with the log boom there. Therefore when we saw a floating island approach we got several Crees in canoes, met the island in the forebay and tied ropes on the trees growing on the island and endeavored to pull the island away from the water current toward the turbines. We removed stop logs from the dam creating a river there and eventually cause the island to go thru the dam and downriver. One of these times I will not forget. I think it was in 1938 when there was still an occasional island coming down the river that broke away upstream, caused by high water and perhaps wind from its original location. This time Rees Davis and I and a Cree were in our inboard engine boat on the forebay and after tying ropes on the trees on the island and the Crees taking the other ends of the ropes to the north shore to help influence the island in that direction Rees steered the boat to the dam where I stood ready on the front of the boat to grab the dam handrail and pull myself onto the dam. Then I planned on removing the stop logs and open the spillway and have the water take the island thru the dam and down the river. However, just before I reached the handrail with the boat going slowly forward, Rees put the boat in reverse, with a little too much throttle and the boat not only stopped short of where I could reach the handrail but it plunged backward throwing me in about forty feet of water. I seemed to go down and down until I could tread water and come to the surface just as Rees put the boat in forward again and passed me striking the front of the boat against the concrete dam hard enough to plunge Rees’ head through the boat windshield. Fortunately then the Cree threw me a rope which I was able to tie around my waist and then with the help of the Cree I was able to climb aboard the boat but by then my hands were so tired I could hardly hold the rope. If that Cree hadn’t been on the boat and hadn’t helped me as he did, I don’t know what I could have done for myself. I was fully clothed with a leather jacket and leather boots and later I could tell what time this happened because my wrist watch had stopped because it was full of water. The Cree was able to get the boat going and took us over to the plane wharf on the south end of the dam where fortunately a company plane had just landed on the forebay enroute from Reindeer Lake to Flin Flon and Howard McIntosh was there to meet the plane and saw what happened to Rees and me. Howard immediately phoned Janice and Chlo Davis to bring dry clothes from home for me and a change for Rees because his clothes were blood stained from his head injury. And Howard was sure Rees would have to see a doctor in Flin Flon. I felt I could not wait for my dry clothes so I walked across the south end of the dam, thru the gate house to the north end of the dam and opened the spillway in time to get the island floating thru the dam with a rush. The trees on the island hit the top of the concrete dam and broke like matchsticks as they went thru with the current and sounded like shot gun shells bursting. The tailrace became red or brown with the muskeg which made up perhaps 50% of the island, for a minute or two as the island broke up and went downstream. Janice with my dry clothes found me by a generator hot air outlet getting dry and warm after I replaced the spillway stop logs and stopped the rush through of water.
|Fred LaRoche, camp cook.|
Now to get back to the year 1930 when we finished installation of two more 14,000 horsepower units to the point where we synchronized them on the bus along with the first one started earlier in the year. By then all the construction men had left Island Falls except about six men which included a black man who was construction carpenter and seemed to be a fine fellow and a good carpenter. We kept these fellows to help us put the finished touches on unfinished construction jobs along with what we could do with our operating and maintenance men. About this time our staff kitchen cook, Fred La Roche got word that his mother and sister in southern Saskatchewan had died in a home fire, so Fred had to leave here to help take care of funeral arrangements, etc. This meant the six construction fellows and several single operators eating at the staff kitchen had to be fed and we didn’t have a cook. So Janice and Chlo Davis volunteered to temporarily take over the job until Fred returned. Their first check-up on the Kitchen found enough dough to make twenty loaves of bread which had to be baked. The kitchen was so big that they needed roller skates to get around. Well they made it with a little help from Rees and me in serving and some of the fellows later stated that the food was the best that they had ever had. Once incident came up that we had to correct in which a construction fellow said he wouldn’t eat at the same table with the black fellow so he let him leave Island Falls and the black fellow stayed. Later the black fellow came to our house with an operator that we had been friendly with for some time and we all had an enjoyable evening and a couple more later. Fred La Roche returned in eight or ten days and that was a relief for Janice and Chlo but they helped us out of a staff kitchen problem.
Another thing that I would like to mention about Island Falls was that when we first arrived here, there was only a few dandelions growing on the island and they apparently wouldn’t have been here except for some seeds which came in with a few bales of hay that came from Flin Flon for a couple of horses that we had. It didn’t take long also for sparrows to be plentiful either as they apparently like to be around people and what people have. They probably came in with construction. It was several years before we saw a robin of a magpie here. Also the sparrows came in and out of the power house thru open windows and doors at will but a local bird came in once and apparently did not know how to go back out thru an open window and we couldn’t help it so it continued to fly back and forth until it apparently became exhausted after which we caught it and put it outside.
We were told that caribou by the thousands would migrate south early in winter to beat the snow farther north in search of food and would split just north of our island and completely encircle us on their south and then return north in the spring. We were also told by the Cree Indians that some wolves would travel along outside of the herd and have plenty of caribou meat at all times. Our Cree friends kept us in Caribou and Moose meat and sturgeon.
|Janice with Howard and Elaine McIntosh|
Also during the winter red and silver foxes crossed our island as a regular thorofare and the Crees caught snowshoe rabbits here also as they evidently considered this part of their territory. Altho we never did see a wolf, we often heard them in the distance when we traveled to Flin Flon by dog team in the winter, but they always seemed to stay out of sight. The transmission line patrolmen had to be careful in the spring of the year walking the transmission line and not get between a mother bear and her cubs or he was in trouble and several times he had to hurriedly climb a steel tower.
We also got construction machinery ready to leave Island Falls for Flin Flon on winter freight as we would not need it from then on.
We dismantled the two temporary units at Spruce Falls in 1931 that were installed there about 13½ miles from Island Falls that furnished 6600 volt power for construction of the Island Falls plant. Then during the winter we brought these two 1250 horsepower turbines, alternators and transformer and switchgear over the ice to Island Falls and during the next couple of years in our spare time we installed them at Island Falls as house units for low voltage auxiliary power but could be paralleled thru a transformer with the larger units. This was the original plan, first for temporary power to build the main plant with and later to be part of the main plant.
One of our transmission line troubles came at the Flin Flon end of the 110,000 volt line. The substation entrance bushings flashed over due to not being 100% clean during a slight rain causing an electrolyte effect which damaged several of these bushings. Flin Flon did not have enough spares to replace all of them so called on us for our couple of spares. This was during freeze up in November with no transportation as the ice on the lakes wasn’t thick enough for our Ford Model A snowmobile which had skis on front and tracks on the rear. A helicopter would have been wonderful then but there wasn’t one around here. So we got our friend Cree guide Magloire and another Cree with two dog teams and toboggans and loaded a bushing on each toboggan. These bushings weighed about 300 pounds each. So I started out with these fellows and their dog teams early in the evening for Flin Flon. The ice was so thin that we did not travel close together and yet we felt at times that we could feel the ice sway a little. We made Camp 6 that night and stopped to rest and feed the dogs fish as at the end of a day’s run was the only time the Crees fed their dogs very much. These Crees ran behind the toboggan most of the way but I had to ride a good part of the time as I wasn’t used to running and that kind of travel. After a few hours rest and a little food we were getting ready to resume our travel when another couple of Crees showed up and said that Magloire’s lead dog belonged to one of them as Magloire had bought the dog but neglected to pay for him and unless we could pay them, they were going to take the dog. This would make it impossible to continue with both dog teams. Fortunately about then a Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Rees Davis showed up with the RCMP’s dog team. They made this special trip hoping to catch us at Camp 6 as they had a couple of extra dogs for us to possibly speed up our trip. Also with Rees and the Mountie and me we were able to get about $60 together to pay for Magloire’s lead dog as I remember it. I can still visualize when we left Camp 6 out onto Barrier Lake as it was snowing so heavy that a couple of hundred feet onto the lake and I couldn’t see shore or anything but snow. Even so Magloire took us exactly to the portage, a distance of about twenty nine miles across the lake to the south side of the lake as if he could see exactly where we were at all times.
We made Camp 3 that afternoon and there was a locomotive and flat car there to meet us to hurry the bushings to Flin Flon. The railway had been built from Flin Flon to Camp 3 after Janice and I made our first trip there in August of 1930 when we had to walk most of the fourteen miles then. Magloire and I went on in to Flin Flon with the bushings and the other Cree stayed at Camp 3 with the dogs as there was plenty of food there for them. We got the bushings to Flin Flon and installed before another flashover.
Before I left Island Falls on this trip I wired the Canadian General Electric in Winnipeg to have one of their best radios on the first transportation available to Flin Flon for me and it arrived there the next day after I did. This happened to be a console model radio in a cardboard box or crate. So when we arrived back to Camp 3 we strapped the radio on a toboggan standing upright. This seemed to be the proper way to ride it but it was quite difficult to keep it and the toboggan from tipping over on the rough portages but quite easy on the lakes. I watched this very carefully and dragged my feet occasionally on the portages. I was alone with this dog team at times as Magloire ran back and forth to shore many times enroute home to check on fur traps that he or other Crees had set. It seemed that the dogs knew when Magloire left us as they always slowed down and did not pay any attention to me yelling at them as if I wasn’t there. Each time he returned, we speeded up. It took two days to return home and I slept in an eiderdown bag enroute.
|Marvin beside his GE console radio, his standard broadcast radio, and beside a short wave converter which enabled him to get short wave radio reception from all over the Earth: Europe, Australia, Japan and the east and west coast of the U.S.|
When we arrived home I took the radio out of the cardboard crate and warmed it up gradually in our little log cabin before tuning it in which was late in the evening and we were really surprised. We picked up station s all over the continent, US and Canada. Our neighbors spent most of the night in our house listening to music and news. You can imagine that the next day orders went out for many radios as soon as transportation was available. One reason this radio reception was surprising was because the construction people said radio reception was terrible here. However I planned ahead hoping to eventually get a radio and had installed an antennae high on a couple of poles over our cabin which perhaps paid. This was wonderful for night reception but during the day regular broadcast reception was very poor. Later I was able to get a short wave converter attachment for this radio which gave us reception from stations all over the world. Later during the so called world war two we received radio from Tokyo Rose in Japan and Zeesen, Germany with their war propaganda and one of our best stations was Boundbrook, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and White Cliffs of Dover and English stations.
In the summer of 1932 Janice and I decided to go to Lethbridge Alberta by way of Calgary on the Canadian National train from Flin Flon, Manitoba on the same train also was Harry Olson, one of our operators who went to Calgary to marry his girl friend Irene who met us at the railway depot and took Janice and me to a hotel. We like Harry and Irene seemed like a very nice person and later at Island Falls they were a fine couple and raised a fine family there. Now if I am not getting too far ahead of myself, Harry eventually took over my job as assistant superintendent when I left the Churchill River Power Co in 1945. And again if this isn’t too far in the future, Janice and I visited Harry and Irene in Calgary in 1972 after Harry retired from CRP. Then Janice and I drove from Salt Lake in our Caprice first to Vancouver, British Columbia where we visited Vivian Minshall and her likeable husband who she married after she and Bill Shaw divorced after living at Island Falls when we did. Then we drove to Lethbridge where Janice’s brother Henry and wife Rose took us to Calgary where we visited their sons Jerrold and Melvin and their wives Evelyn and Leslie and then as I mentioned above Harry and Irene Olson.
|The Davises, Huffakers and friends posing with the 1930 Fleet Mk 2 biplane, CF-ANO.|
Also I think it was in the summer of 1932 when Janice and I had our first aeroplane ride. This was in a small 5 cylinder “Fleet” biplane only wide enough for one person with the pilot behind the passenger. This time Janice sat partway on my lap and we only had a small windshield in front of us. Without goggles, the tears came out of our eyes and then back of our ears and down our necks. This plane had floats or pontoons instead of wheels and skis in the winter as the country was 35% water in summer and ice in winter and the remaining area was beautiful pine, spruce, quaking aspens and birch along with flat smooth rock left that way by glaciers hundreds of years ago. So you can see we had a possible landing field under us at all times and felt it was one of the safest places to fly anywhere. Our couple of rides at $5 each were thrilling and I took several pictures on the second ride of our area countryside.
In the spring of 1933 as Janice birthday of May 15 approached it looked like spring breakup this year might be a little early and we figured our first child should be born around the middle of June so on Janice’s birthday we believed her trip to Flin Flon and the hospital could not be postponed any longer especially because the ice in the forebay had started to breakup a little early and there was a large open water area in the middle so it was too late to land the plane on the ice and take off on skis. Also, if the wind got strong, the ice might move or shift so there would not be a place where a plane could land on ice or water and the complete breakup might be too late for Janice to get to the hospital in Flin Flon. Normally this was the beginning of breakup with no plane transportation until the forebay and lakes were entirely clear of ice which could be three to four weeks. However this seemed like an emergency and inasmuch as there was enough open water on lake Athapapuskow in Flin Flon for a small plane like Arrow Airways little “Fleet” plane and enough open water also on our forebay, we decided to take a chance on flying Janice out before conditions changed. Therefore just before the plane was due to land on the forebay open water on floats or pontoons, we put Janice in a canoe and skidded it out over the ice to open water and just as soon as the plane landed on the water we hurriedly got Janice aboard the plane and the pilot took off fast and only in a few feet as the plane was quite powerful for its size and weight and was in the air. Janice had goggles on this time and we were glad when she phoned from Flin Flon that she was at the hospital and had a nice room. During the time she was there, she could come and go any time around Flin Flon and Dr. Guttormsson made sure she was comfortable and had nearly everything within reason that she wanted. One day Dr. Guttormsson came into her room and wanted to know why Janice wasn’t eating more and was there anything in particular that she would like to eat. She told him she would like a tuna fish salad so he said he would go personally down town and get some tuna fish for that salad.
This was shortly after we received word on May 24th 1933 from my Dad in Magna, Utah that my younger brother Wayne had died in a Salt Lake Hospital from an accident sustained on riding a bicycle to a part time job early in the morning and being hit by a milk truck at an intersection when the truck made a left hand turn and hit Wayne. Wayne was working part time and attending school at the University of Utah to become and electrical engineer. This was really pathetic as Wayne was a good boy only twenty two years of age and married to a lovely girl, Guila Roe. They were happy and tried to live good lives and hadn’t been married very long.
Our son who we decided to name Elwood Wayne was born on June 14, 1933 after my brother Wayne which meant that Janice spent nearly a month in the hospital before Wayne was born. I was able to be in Flin Flon at the Staff House at that time then back to Island Falls until Janice could leave the hospital. Also about the next day Janice heard a clattering in the hall and the door opened and there was the doctor’s little son with his wagon. Also the doctor showed up then and demanded what his son had his wagon there for and was informed that he had come to take Mrs. Huffaker’s baby for a ride in his wagon. The doctor made his son realize that the baby was too young for a wagon ride but everyone appreciated the son’s effort and the son was then on his way.
|Fairchild 82A float plane.|
In a few days I was able to return to Flin Flon to take Janice and Wayne home and by then our company had acquired an outdated Fokker converted plane from wheels to floats that came from Germany after the end of the first “so called” world war. It was underpowered for floats so when we were aboard we had to head into a breeze or wind to enable it to take off and get air bound and clear the trees at the end of Lake Athapapuskow.
We did not make the flight the first time and the pilot cut the engine and came back to the starting point to wait for a more brisk breeze. We tried again and gave up but the third time he took off and cleared the trees and we were enroute home. We landed home OK and there was a lot of visiting to see our new son.
We were still living in our little log cabin when we brought Wayne home. We made a crib for him in our bedroom and had a telephone on the head of this crib so when we went to the clubhouse for a short time the power house operator could listen in on him and inform us if he was OK sucking his thumb or singing or probably asleep. The club house was only a short distance from our log cabin and we never stayed away from home very long and did not trust him to be alone even with the power house operator listening in on him.
When Wayne was only a few weeks old we influenced my parents in Magna and brother Ken and sisters Evelyn and Lois and daughter in law Guila to use our Essex automobile which was in Dad’s garage with only a few hundred miles on it, to drive to Swan River, Manitoba, then on the train to Flin Flon and stay overnight in the Royal Hotel where Janice and I stayed on our first night in Flin Flon. This was all possible as the financial depression was still on and it had left Dad without a business and no income and nothing to lose as Janice and I sent U.S. money to Magna for them to get to Regina, Saskatchewan where we had Canadian money for them to continue the trip to Island Falls via Flin Flon.
The next day north of Flin Flon was the boat trip from Camp 3 after making the 14 mile portage that Janice and I walked most of the way. I don’t recall how they made that 14 mile portage but I remember that they were thrilled with the boat trip from Camp 3 and all the way to Island Falls which was made in one long day. They stayed at our home for several weeks and after returning home Dad never got tired of telling about their trip even tho he was never quite sure when he left our cabin as to whether he should have a sweater on to go out with. The others felt the same and Janice and I were glad they could be with us especially after losing brother Wayne but I should have known their visit was too soon after Janice gave birth to son Wayne and had him to take care of along with meals and everything necessary for visitors. We should have made their trip a little later after Wayne was born and given Janice a little more time to recuperate and get back to normal. She certainly did not complain but I should have realized but I hope I did help as much as I should have. We hoped Janice’s parents would be able to visit us but that never materialized unfortunately.
We were able to have Zada [Janice's sister] and Ernie visit us several times while we were there and I’m sure they enjoyed it very much and we were glad to have them. It was new experience for them and the financial depression made a trip to Island Falls better than staying home especially because they could drive part of the way to Flin Flon.
On the first day of July which was Dominion Day I had an emergency trip to Flin Flon possibly because of our celebration that day with athletes as I apparently played a little too strenuously and experienced terrible pains in my stomach which did not ease up regardless of what I did. Therefore Dr. Guttormsson in Flin Flon arranged for me to fly to the Flin Flon hospital immediately. So the little “Fleet” plane came up for me. We took off for Flin Flon and only a few miles from Island Falls over Sandy Bay the five cylinder engine threw a piston and therefore sounded like the engine would be thrown out of the plane. The pilot Ken cut the engine ignition and put the plane into a climb to stop the propeller which eased the vibration and then gradually let the plane glide back down to the water where we eventually landed with the propeller rotating as few times as necessary because as long as the propeller was turning, the engine was knocking. We came down on the water OK which proves as I have always said that this area is the safest place on earth to fly because the country is 35% water with equivalent of an airport to land on almost anytime and we really had good experienced pilots also.
Some Cree Indians saw us land and they came out in a canoe and towed us to shore where we tied our plane to a tree and the Crees took us back to Island falls. By then Janice was wondering what happened to us as we were overdue in Flin Flon. You can imagine the expression on faces including Janice’s when I walked up to our house from Sandy Bay. Another plane came up for Ken and me and I was in the Flin Flon hospital before night and found that I had kidney stones. Our doctor suggested that I go to the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. So the next day Janice and Wayne came to Flin Flon and we decided to make a combination pleasure trip of it and also visit the 1934 World Fair in Chicago, after I left the Mayo Clinic. I’m sorry that this did not work out as Wayne took sick when we arrived in Winnipeg and landed in the hospital there with a high fever. Janice was allowed to stay in his room for several days until the fever subsided and then his doctor suggested that Janice take Wayne home. She did this and when he arrived home he was soon back to normal good health and happy. I had to continue to the Mayo Clinic, had an examination and was told that the stones had been there but were gone now and no one could say if I would ever have another one. These stones caused terrific pain while they were there and the minute they left, the pain disappeared so completely that I couldn’t help but wonder if the pain had been that bad.
After leaving Mayo’s I went to Chicago for the 1934 World Fair which was wonderful but would have been better if Janice and Wayne could have been with me. Incidentally one day while I was there the police shot and killed John Dillinger, the gangster, on a street.
This was just another time when I was glad to accomplish what was necessary, I was glad to get back home to Janice and Wayne and sorry that they were not able to be with me and see Chicago and the World Fair. One thing about that trip that I am glad to remember is that I was able to buy Janice a pretty dress in Chicago and it fit her OK and she really liked it.
In March of 1935 the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy had a convention in Winnipeg with representatives of companies from many places. Our company, the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. was represented and fortunately Mr. Green gave me the job of giving a demonstration of slides and a verbal account of the Churchill River Power development. This was relative to an article that Rees Davis and I wrote earlier for the Institute. Several department superintendents from Flin Flon also presented articles on their departments of the company. It was very interesting and written up in a book form under the name of Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. It also developed into a real party for several days and nights with an abundance of food and drinks in the two largest hotels in Winnipeg. Also many supply companies were represented and had exhibits there. There were also many influential people from the Government so I felt it was quite an honor to be part of it and our company the HBM&S Co. was so well represented.
Now back home inasmuch as the operation of our plant was so important for the overall company well being and the fact that we had a responsibility for the plant operation, I should call attention to a few of the happenings at our hydro-electric plant.
The first few years of operation, it seemed that the summers were full of lighting storms which caused many flashovers on our 110,000 volt, 59.8 mile transmission line to Flin Flon and power outages for the mine mill and smelter operation and the town of Flin Flon.
The distance between our home and the power plant was about a third of a mile and I believe I eventually got to the point where I could run that distance in pretty good time thru lightning and rain mostly in the middle of the night to help our operators under adverse operating conditions during the storms and possible power interruptions to Flin Flon.
This situation was helped about now when the Canadian GE Company furnished us with a new set of transmission line protective relays on our 2 – 110,000 volt lines, which we hurriedly installed. Up till now when lightning caused a flashover on a line conductor, the original relays tried to isolate the trouble by current overload only on that line to trip the breakers at Island Falls and Flin Flon but were not fast enough before the other line was also in trouble feeding into the troubled line, therefore in most cases both lines tripped causing Flin Flon to have a complete power failure for a few minutes. These new relays not only depended on current overload but had what was called voltage restraint also which meant that when high current came it also pulled the voltage down, causing the voltage restraint to be less, therefore allowing the relays to operate faster and quicker which isolated the line that was in trouble before the other line was affected and therefore keep Flin Flon in power and fewer power outages and fewer hurry-up trips from home to the power house during a lightning storm perhaps in the middle of the night for me.
When we did have a lightning flashover on a line it meant the shattered insulators had to be replaced by a transmission line crew after the line had been de-energized. During the summer this happened quite often as we had frequent lightning storms and quite a lot of rain. Along with or part of it we had 60,000 cubic feet of water flowing past our power plant in the Churchill River in the years 1933 and 1934 and yet in parts of the US they had drought and terrible dust storms. The river flow tapered off then but we still had plenty of water especially due to the fact that we could get Reindeer Lake water by way of Reindeer River if we needed it.
About now, in fact in the fall of 1936 Janice and Wayne went by Canadian National train from Flin Flon to Calgary and got a room there in a hotel. The Calgary Stampede, a famous event was on there which was also quite an exhibition and display. Ernie and Zada came there too and visited Janice and Wayne in their hotel. Among other events they attended an automobile show and one car happened to be a Packard that Wayne at age three and a half recognized from pictures in magazines at Island Falls. He immediately asked the attendant if he could sit in his Packard and the fellow was surprised and asked Janice how he could tell what kind of a car it was at his age and answered sure could sit in his Packard behind the steering wheel. Wayne also won a soft baseball somehow at the fair and took it back to the room of their hotel where he accidentally dropped it out the open window onto the street below because the window did not have a screen on it. When a knock came on their door Janice was afraid it was someone who had been hit by the ball and was relieved to find Zada and Ernie at the door. They had a good time there and Wayne saw many things that he hadn’t seen before.
After a few days, they took the train south to Stirling to Janice’s parents who up till now had not seen Wayne. There they had a good visit and Wayne was really thrilled when Janice’s brother Henry took Wayne on his new bright red tractor altho Janice’s dad was disappointed that Wayne did not take more interest in horses.
After a good visit for several days and Wayne made such a good impression telling everyone all about the power house at Island Falls with its generators, turbines, exciters, etc., they returned to Island Falls and we were all glad to be together again.
It wasn’t long after that, that Zada and Ernie drove to Swan River and took the train from there to Flin Flon and then our company boat from there to Island Falls. At that time there wasn’t a road from Swan River to Flin Flon and Swan River was the farthest north that anyone could drive. They had a good time there at our home and we all will never forget how Zada became so keen about fishing and each time we said it was time to quit and go home, she always wanted to catch just one more pickerel or pike out of the Churchill River. We all enjoyed having Zada and Ernie with us and they enjoyed it also along with their trip there and back home to Lethbridge.
Now as time seemed to fly by, 1938 year came and this summer Janice, Wayne and I went to Swan River where we rented an automobile, a 1937 Ford, and started for Alberta. This was the first vacation for me for quite some time and it was a thrill to drive and automobile. However it was quite pathetic driving along the U.S. Canadian border of Saskatchewan and north Dakota to see where some of the fences along the highway were almost covered with blown sand from dust storms from the south. Also the parks were full of people without jobs because of the financial depression that started away back in year 1930. However by then it had got a little better from the first years of the 1930’s. Prices were low and while we were at Janice’s parents home we were told that they had to sell their eggs for 10 cents a dozen and then take something in trade. This all made us feel very fortunate in having a job at Island Falls, Saskatchewan.
We had a good visit with Janice’s family and I remember, going and coming on the trip, each time we stopped the car Wayne got out and inspected the tires, etc. Even as nice as it was to have this trip, it seemed nice to get back home and a good place to live and a job with earning ability.
And now when it was so dry south of here a beautiful Grumman Amphibian aeroplane landed on our forebay loaded with Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting directors from the New York office. After spending the day taking them thru our power plant and around the island and they had lunch at our Staff Kitchen and they were ready to leave, one of the fellows said it was so clean and the vegetation was so fresh and green it was hard to believe and the power plant was so clean that you could almost eat your meals off the floor. I was glad to hear a remark like this because we did take pride in our power plant and island. They also mentioned how green everything was in contrast to the dryness south. Incidentally a lady made the same remark about eating off the floor of our plant once when I was taking her on a tour of our plant on her visit to Island Falls.
Also now we were well on our way in building two new houses, one for the Davises and one for us to replace our original log cabins. This was an interesting undertaking and we studied all the information that we could collect to get what we wanted. The company went along with our wishes and we did what we could to furnish whatever we could from what we had here at the plant and to build them with no additional labor but just with our operating force. Janice and I worked on our home in our spare time right along with Alf Broster our company carpenter. It took a long time this way but it was worth it. We had 56 kilowatts in heat with electric heaters that could be turned off and on at will. We also had a fine wood fire place with a wood elevator beside the fireplace so we could bring wood from downstairs on the elevator with a crank so we did not need so much storage upstairs. Janice and I built this elevator and the fireplace was really good looking with the front built of local rock. The Crees kept our downstairs wood storage full at all times as they worked for CRP and there was plenty of wood available and we had a fine electric saw.
|Native rock fireplace in Huffaker's new residence.|
One thing we learned about a fireplace and its chimney after we moved into our house. There were ducks in our area that nested in burnt out hollow trees and our chimney apparently looked like a hollow tree. One day when the Davises were in Flin Flon, we saw a duck inside their house in one of their windows. We went in their house and found that the duck came in thru the fireplace chimney and apparently lived in their bathroom where water was and had messed up all the other rooms trying to get out of the house. We got it out of the house and I placed a large moss screen over the top of our chimney but Rees Davis said there probably would not be another entrance in theirs. We noticed after that that some ducks flying over our house hesitated with a few wing flaps but did not try to enter our chimney but one did go down the Davis chimney again. However we did not get off 100% easy either as when Christmas came and we unwrapped several packages and put the wrapping paper in the fireplace, the draft took some unburned paper up the chimney and it lodged under our screen and caused the fireplace to smoke in the room until we could put the fire out and remove the paper so we could get a draft out thru the chimney.
We really enjoyed our new home even tho we had several storm windows to put on in the fall and remove next spring and all the window washing. I built a darkroom downstairs where I could spend as much time as I desired on one film negative in my enlarger which I acquired after we moved in our house. This was especially desirable because it took so long to send film out for processing and get pictures back especially during freeze up and spring break-up when transportation was halted. Also I should mention that we built our houses on a slope so we could have a walk-out downstairs.
|Sunday School children on snowmobile ride.|
|Wayne in modified 1938 Ford Panel truck.|
In 1939 Janice, Chlo and Irene Olson and Vivian Christensen started a Sunday school for our children using an LDS song book and a bible for stories and it was a real success as our children were glad to attend. After Sunday School each Sunday in the winter I took the children in our 1938 Ford Panel Truck snowmobile for a ride up the river to the dams above the plant. The kids enjoyed this as the only time they ever got an automobile ride ordinarily was when they were away from Island Falls on vacation holidays. It got to a point where I really had a load of them in the Model A but it was fun. The Catholic Priest from the Indian village across Sandy Bay did not appreciate it because one of the little girls with Catholic parents made every effort to attend our Sunday School with the other kids and we were glad to have her. As a result Janice was not very popular with him. Wayne was one of those children who attended and had a snowmobile ride with me up river. We were able to have Sunday School in our club house.
In September of 1939, Hitler and Nazi Germany declared war and attacked Poland, France and Britain and essentially Canada also. The United States was part of those allies and came into the fight first as helping mainly with furnishing material and fighting equipment to our allies but no declaration of war. One thing that I remember hearing was that aeroplanes were sometimes pushed across the US Canadian border into Canada for their use so technically it could not be said that the US was flying planes into Canada for their war effort. I don’t know if this was true altho I heard it.
We at Island Falls were told we were essential for the war effort and to stay on our jobs to keep strategic metals flowing for their requirements and we were glad to be able to do this.
The U.S. Air Force with Canadian approval and cooperation sent several men to Island Falls to work with us relative to weather data etc. along with what we were already furnishing the Canadian government and our own information relative to river flow, etc.
Inasmuch as June 30, 1940 was to be the fiftieth wedding anniversary for Janice’s parents, Janice insisted along with her sisters and brothers for a Golden Wedding Anniversary party in the Stirling, Alberta area where all of the family except Janice lived. Therefore Janice, Wayne and I went by train from Flin Flon to Swan River, Manitoba where we were able to rent an automobile [a 1939 Pontiac] to drive from there to Stirling, Alberta. This was quite a treat because we hadn’t been able to own a car since 1929 when we left Utah. We drove to Regina, Saskatchewan where we sort of outfitted ourselves for the trip and Wayne at age seven was able to get a Canadian Air Force uniform and was really proud of it. Also the Air Force people on the streets returned Wayne’s salutes most of the time so that was really a thrill for him. Janice spent a day in Regina getting things for the Golden Anniversary for the dinner in the church recreation center in Stirling.
|Wayne with his air rifle|
The next day we were on our way in our rented automobile and arrived that night at the Barton’s in Stirling. I remember that every time we stopped our car, Wayne was out and inspected the tires etc. as if that was one of his jobs.
My job when we arrived at Sterling was to get blank invitation cards and envelopes and gold “bronzing” ink and a quill pen and then letter invitations for the Golden Wedding to all relatives and friends.
The family arranged the party in the LDS Chapel and they really did a good job of it and fortunately the parents had good health and appreciated it and the family felt good about doing something for parents who had done so much for the children over the years, especially the good training that the children got. I appreciated it too as I was taken in as really one of the family. Also the dinner that the family provided for that big group of people was very good too.
After dinner which was in the evening, a dance was arranged where the parents went on the floor first and the family followed relative to age until the floor was full. Incidentally however a young couple who were married that day, June 30th, went on the floor with Janice’s parents.
This was a good family reunion, we had a good visit, a good time, a good trip but were glad to get back home at Island Falls even tho some people said we were really isolated there.
On December 4, 1941 Janice, Wayne and I decided that inasmuch as we hadn’t been back to Utah since 1929 that we could spend Christmas there inasmuch as the plant was well under control and we had a fine group of operators and we had passed up taking vacations on many years except an occasional few days on perhaps the odd year or so because of our desire to get the plant organized and operating properly and also the best possible living conditions for all of us at Island Falls. This also met with an OK with Rees Davis who went along with it 100%. So Janice, Wayne and I flew from Island Falls to Flin Flon and then an overnight train ride to Winnipeg then another train to St. Paul. Therefore on December 7th, 1941, a day that most of us will never forget, we were riding the club car of the Rock Island Rocket train between St. Paul and Denver when President Roosevelt came on the radio and announced that we were at war with Japan as the Japs had bombed Pearl Harbour Hawaii with the loss of many American lives and sinking of many US ships.
Train travel then was the popular way to go and the Rock Island Rocket was a super streamliner and very comfortable way to travel. We had a good visit in Utah with our family and friends and it turned out to be a good trip but we were glad to get back home in Island Falls shortly after the new year of 1942.
But now in the summer of 1943 regardless of how much we appreciated Island Falls and CRP Co., we decided we would like to return to Utah. Therefore I turned in my resignation and Janice and I began our preparation to leave Island Falls. We sold or gave away what we did not plan on taking with us and we were able to send several hundred pounds of our personal belongings to Flin Flon for leaving from there by train. Apparently Mr. Green, the HBM&S Co. general manager then had not heard of my resignation up till then so he phoned me and said he was sending their plane to Island Falls and wanted me to return in it to Flin Flon to discuss my leaving their employ. I had dinner at the Green’s residence and a frank discussion on my employment with CRP and relationship with HBM&S Co. family. As a result with this meeting and promise of an increase in salary I went back home that day with the promise to Mr. Green that I would discuss staying with the CRP Co. with Janice and let him know immediately as he hoped Janice and I would not leave. Also the world war was still on and we were supposed to stay on our jobs until further notice so Janice and I decided to stay at Island Falls at least for a while.
I informed Mr. Green of this and the next thing was getting our belongings back from Flin Flon and feeling somewhat ashamed and guilty to inform our friends at Island Falls who we had sold and given belongings to. However they all said they were glad we were staying and would rather call off getting what they had bought from us just because we were staying.
Now it was 1943 and Janice, Wayne and I decided that we would like to have a baby daughter to grow up with Wayne. However after Dr. Guttormsson made an emergency trip to our home and then Janice spent some time in the Flin Flon hospital where she had a miscarriage and was told that she could not have another child, we decided to check with Mrs. Carter who headed child welfare and adoption in Flin Flon to see if we could get a daughter that way. Several months later we were told that Janice could check on a little baby girl in a Winnipeg hospital, immediately after Christmas for possible adoption. Again we believe the Greens, Roches and Caulfields were influential in Mrs. Carter making this possible. So Janice was there the day after Christmas and as soon a she saw the little girl who was a little over two months old and was given assurances that the adoption was in order and everything else also was, it was love at first sight not only for Janice but for this little sweetheart who clung to Janice right from the start. Also there was a long list who would have been glad for this adoption but Janice was fortunate and Dr. Chown in Winnipeg gave Janice assurance that this baby was perfect physically. Again we were fortunate also because we were U.S. citizens in Canada and many Canadians were on the adoption list. Janice took clothes to Winnipeg in anticipation of the adoption so as soon as the hospital clothes were removed and Janice’s home made clothes put on, you can imagine what a pretty little doll Janice had. Then the nurses had to parade our little girl around and show her off. Then she had to go thru all the negotiations to get her released from the hospital.
After that Janice could hardly wait to get in a train compartment, Flin Flon bound, which had already been reserved for by Mac McGillvray, especially because Janice worried that someone who had no right to know, might want to know where Janice was taking that baby. They had a good trip to Flin Flon and the porter was considerate with food etc. for Janice and her baby so Janice was met in Flin Flon by her friend Frances Willis and later taken to catch the plane to Island Falls. You can imagine on this first day of January, New Years Day 1944 when Janice arrived at Island Falls that we were anxious to meet them both. And we was not only me and Wayne but all of Island Falls. It didn’t take long for Janice, Wayne and me to name our little sweetheart, Barbara Joyce and to call her Joyce. She was sure a happy child and seemed glad to be with us. On Parnell Caulfield’s first trip to Island Falls he came almost directly to see her even tho she was supposed to be asleep in her crib, he went in the bedroom and she looked up at him with a big smile.
|Wayne and his sister Joyce|
Mrs. Carter or one of her employees visited us quite often from Flin Flon to determine if they thought the adoption was proper and she told us they had never had one that they approved quite as much as this one. Right from the start it was wonderful to see how Wayne and Joyce enjoy each other and as time passed how Joyce depended on Wayne and how Wayne looked after his sister. Janice and I were grateful in having them both in good health.
In September of 1944 it appeared that Janice’s mother was terribly ill and could not live much longer, so Janice went by train to see her in the Lethbridge Hospital. They had a good visit and we were grateful that this visit could be arranged but sorry that Janice’s mother hadn’t seen Joyce. We were afraid that Joyce was too young for this trip. Janice and I have always wished that her parents could have visited us at Island Falls.
Wayne and I took care of Joyce at home at Island Falls and got along fine except I found it was a twenty four hour job with formulas etc. that Janice knew more about than I did and we were all glad when Janice returned home. Not only to take over but just to be home with us and Joyce especially showed that.
Janice’s mother died on September 25, 1944 and burial was in Stirling, Alberta. She was seventy-two plus years of age and really lived a good life and was instrumental in raising a fine considerate honest family. She was loved by all of us.
The year 1945 was approaching when Wayne would have passed out of the seventh grade in our Company school here and would have to continue elsewhere. We did not want him to leave us so we decided to return to Utah. The end of the war was in sight with the western allies victorious. So I resigned my position with CRP Co. in August for the second time. After some sad farewells at Island Falls when the Noorduyn Norseman plane came for us, we were on our way via Flin Flon, Manitoba, leaving some wonderful people at Island Falls.
We also had some sad farewells in Flin Flon and just before leaving the main office there, Parnell Caulfield, the Assistant General Superintendent at that time, requested the Chief Clerk to issue a check to me for three months salary in advance, which really made Janice and me feel good and grateful. We will always feel that our sixteen years plus in Canada were some of the best of our lives and we lived with and worked with some of the finest people of our entire lives.
Reprinted with permission of Wayne Huffaker,
Our thanks to Wayne for providing the photos and helping to edit, and to Irene Olson for providing us with a copy of the manuscript.
03 November, 2002