Archive for August, 2007

Chibougamau-More about the good, the bad etc…

August 29, 2007

By 1959- Chibougamau had the signs of being firmly settled as a thriving community- It was still isolated, and pretty wild at times, but there was talk of a road going through to Val d’Or, planes and buses were going in and out on a regular basis as were the transport trucks carrying fruit, vegetables and fresh milk which were always in short supply in the early days. The Hudson’s Bay store was well stocked with dresses, gift items, and guns as well as food. The streets were not paved and the sand stung our faces, ruined our clothes and hair do’es, as the wind whipped through town twenty four hours a day in summer and I won’t even describe the effects of winter!

I don’t remember a tree standing in the town site. I guess it was faster to build the much needed houses without navigating around trees. There were plenty of pine trees surrounding the town and for hundred of miles in every direction, but the town site had been laid bare. Miners were not known for their horticultural skills, mostly because of their transient nature and the climate, they were not likely to plant trees and flowers to “pretty up” their company houses.

There were very few cars in town. We walked everywhere we needed to go and that was usually as unpleasant as could be. My father had a car and I drove it whenever I could. Those were the days when we taught ourselves how to drive. The police would stop me frequently to ask if I had yet obtained my license and I always had an excuse- They were very nice about it, and I never got a ticket…or a license there for that matter.

In the summer of ’59, I worked at the local radio station CHIB, located in a back room of the Sport Shop. Two well known local brothers would come in twice a day to sing O Canada and read the news, sports and weather reports. (The serious stuff). They were forever playing pranks on each other, like setting fire to their news reports as they were reading, and the sound booth often rocked with laughter at the most inappropriate times. Between their on-air times, the station & Sport Shop were in the hands of me and a friend. She and I played music, taped records, read bedtime stories, and gave tips on makeup, cooking, & child care. Child care!! (We were 16!) We were just awful!

One day our boss brought in crates of dirt and put a sign in the window of the Shop “Worms For Sale”, because fishermen/tourists were always asking him to stock worms. He explained how we should scoop them into small cartons for sale. We listened intently, and the moment he was out of sight… “pppffft!” The fishermen would come in and ask for the worms. “Worms? We don’t have any worms!” we would exclaim. The worms all died and our boss was pretty annoyed with those ungrateful fishermen!

In 1961, cable was finally made available and there was TV! Most of us didn’t have a TV set.

In the years that followed, we worked at the mines, married, and started our families. We made life long friends and life long memories. Even though most of us eventually moved on to other towns and other careers, we remained grateful for the experience of living in the great northern Canadian wilderness.

PS, Read more on Chibougamau- May12, June 2, June 4, June 17, 2007

Chibougamau now

Eastman, Quebec-The “Haunted” House

August 27, 2007

Recently there has been some interest in this little town, so I thought that I would write about another aspect that an explorer may follow.

About one mile from the old Quebec Copper mine site there was a narrow gravel road that led up a hill to a “haunted house”. We went there often on our bikes, but the road was in such poor repair we had to push the bikes most of the way. The house at the top of the hill was the typical “haunted” variety, 2 stories, gray, and falling down. In fact, it was a very dangerous place-the kitchen floor had caved into the basement and we never dared go to the second floor. The living room had wooden floors which had a large intricate “medallion” of many colours in the middle that was copied directly above it on the ceiling.There were lots of old bits and pieces of things scattered around and we were fascinated by the old calendars, (I wish I could recall the dates.) I found 2 cylindrical records-one was called “Evening Shade by the Knickerbocker Quartet”, which I eventually gave to someone but I never could play them. I am not sure who lived there, but something tells me it was the family connected to the old Huntingdon mines. I think that the house was at the end of a country road that may have actually continued over the other side of the hill, and we may have been getting there by a secondary road or path. Could the name of the road been Sweet Road or a similar name?

Those were the days when parents would let their young kids go unsupervised for hours at a time, exploring and playing. Sometimes it was scary but most kids liked a good scare, and no harm ever came to us.

I often think of that old house, wishing I could have learned more about the people who had lived there and why it fell to disrepair.

Every kid should have their own Haunted House!

PS, check these sites:

A Deserted Island

August 21, 2007

The reason that I continue to write under the title Mining Towns in Canada is because that period of time was the genesis.

If you have been a littlepatti reader, you have met Mary and have come to know her as the lovely person she was.

Even so, she had her moments…with three children to chase after, sometimes, she was understandably at her wit’s end!

On one of those days she exclaimed “I’m going to run away to a deserted island!”

… “but you will take us, won’t you”? I asked. And being Mary, she replied “Yes, of course” and she had a good laugh about that one.

I couldn’t help but try to imagine a “Dessert Island!”


August 14, 2007

When I was about 5 years old I found God. Or maybe God found me. It could have been on a cold winter night when I fell off a sled and laid on my back in the snow and watched huge stars dangling just above my head, Northern lights streaked the sky and diamonds sprinkled on the snow sparkled and took my breath away. I like to believe it was that night that I glimpsed a Higher Authority.

Years later, I began the process of sorting through those childhood memories. Of course, I aspired to being a figure skater like Barbara Anne Scott, a real Princess like Elizabeth, and a swimmer like Esther Williams (to name only a few), but among the day dreams was a sense that I had a very important job to do in my life and it was not about fame or money. I just knew that! As I grew older I was actually able to put words to the feelings but somehow I knew better than to talk about it. I never liked the idea of being thought of as “nutty” or eccentric.

I often wondered about it though, and when “the job” would reveal itself to me.

When I was twenty, a ┬áDoctor at Children’s hospital told me that my child was handicapped. I finally knew what that important job was.

It was a huge relief. I was at the mountain!

My child was a challenge. She was wonderful. She was frustrating. She was interesting. She taught me humility, love and infinite patience far beyond my capabilities.

Whenever I prayed to God, which was not very often, I would say “Okay, I’m doing the job, don’t ask for anything else”!

Maybe God approved. He never did ask more of me. He rewarded me in many ways.

The ultimate reward was my child.

PS: We often go into the back yard on a starry summer night and lay down and let the stars fall onto our faces.

…and this month, my daughter turns 50!

Memory Cells?

August 6, 2007

I always wondered why I can remember back to some incidents at age two, more at ages three and four and everyday life at age five onward. Most people I know have told me that their earliest childhood memories start about the age of six. That makes sense because many children start school at that age and start learning to remember.

My life was not traumatic or dramatic and I am sure that it has nothing to do with level of intelligence.

Is this possible?

. Could it be the curiosity factor?

. Are some people that much more curious than others?

. Are babies born more or less curious?

It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Hey! I’m not that smart…

August 5, 2007

Thanks to my parents, I grew up thinking that I was smart. They never told me I was smart, they never hung my art work on the fridge or bragged about me to their friends. I guess it was a process of elimination. They never called me stupid, and in their infinite wisdom never criticized me so I came to the conclusion somewhere along the way that I was smart. Kids don’t delve into that grey area- average, mediocre, “special”- We only do that as adults. So, lucky me, I was smart!

I was so “smart” that I was an underachiever at school- The principals always lectured me about working up to my potential. Maybe I was, but who knew? I was so “smart” that I quit school and found a succession of very good jobs, performed well and developed a reputation for being smart. I never stopped to analyze it but “You are what you eat” strikes a chord in me.

I had plenty of failures along the way, but I was smart enough to learn from each and every fiasco I created and I admit that I repeated some mistakes over and over again until I got it right or… right enough.

Life was easier back then. There was time to learn and the penalties for acting stupid were not very harsh.

Maybe being smart was different after-all.