'MUSKEG SPECIAL' TRANSCRIPTS BASED ON ORIGINAL UNEDITED MATERIAL
I have attempted to transcribe as much of the content as possible from the 16mm footage
and sound tapes originally recorded for 'Muskeg Special'. This is still a 'shorthand' version
of most conversations, and quite an incomplete list of all the scenes filmed, but it does accurately
reflect the subject matter of this interesting and unique documentary about Northern Manitoba.
For convenience, this content is arranged by the geographic
location of communities
as they are situated along the Hudson Bay rail line between The Pas and Churchill.
The filmmaker welcomes any information to identify people appearing
in the film,
accurate spelling of names, and corrections to any other errors and omissions in this transcript.
Please email Gregory Zbitnew at email@example.com
Sid Allen (president of The Pas Historical Society) has organized
a group of former railway men
as well as one long-time resident of The Pas for interviews in a park by the Saskatchewan River.
Florence Gudgeon: "I was born here in June, 1910. I went
to school in that little church
there in 1916. My husband was with Ross Navigation, operating stern-wheelers on the
Saskatchewan River. I worked at the telegraph office. What I did is dig up the firsts of
everything." (She lists several 'firsts' for The Pas.) "There was the Diamond Queen here.
She went to South Africa in the early 1900s, and came up to The Pas in 1914. Mr. Clarke
here built the bridge." (She introduces 'Pokey' Pocock as well.) "I can't give you any
more information on the Hudson Bay Railway."
Sid Allen: "We have with us today three former employees
of CN. They are Hector 'Pokey' Pocock,
Alec Litchowit, and Mike Clarke.
'Pokey' Pocock: "I came up to The Pas on a construction
crew in 1919. I worked for the railway
for 50 years, then quit. Stared wiping, fireman, worked my way up to assistant car foreman.
Picked up a lot of the wrecks along the line because of bum track. I worked right up to Churchill.
1926 was when they started construction after the First World War."
Litchowit: "I was a section man. I came in August 1926.
We moved here, extended the yard,
and then we moved to Armstrong Lake."
Pocock: "There is an engine and three cars in that lake."
Litchowit: "The bridge went down. They let the engine go and picked it up on the other side."
Clarke: "I was here in 1913. Well track work that's been
everything. I was foreman on the
track as far as Churchill. Muskeg was lots of trouble. The track goes down and we raise it up,
and the frost came up. We saw lots of caribou. We got quite a few wrecks, gravel train
and some other train too. We got to put them back on the track."
Pocock: "It's hard to think back 50 years. It goes on
for so many years, its hard to explain.
I worked every hour of the day for the railway. (Names all kinds of shifts) Well if there was
a change in trains, then there would be a change of shifts. Everything had to work for the company."
Sid Allen: "You worked all year round?"
Pocock: "All year round. 50 years. 50 years without getting fired! (laughs)."
Sid Allen standing next to Henry Kelsey cairn: "Henry
Kelsey was the first explorer to
come to the plains. (Other info about Kelsey) The Pas Historical Society has information
available to everyone. The rail line crossed the river in 1926 and proceeded north.
The railway company was a private company. When it reached Churchill, I believe in the
1930s, it was turned over to the CNR. The Hudson Bay railway was established to facilitate
movement of mining into Northern Manitoba, also the movement of grain to the Port of Churchill.
At the present time the facilities are capable of storing five million bushels of grain, and it is
capable of shipping thirty million bushels a year."
Pan of reserve across the Saskatchewan River with boats going by, and a train going over the bridge.
Tour bus and tour group around historic Christ's Church.
Tour guide: "Henry Budd was the first native priest in North America. Are some of you
from the States? (Above the alter is a large wooden carving of an eagle). The eagle is a bird
of inspiration... They built the church right along the river. The Cree ran the church, now
they are across the river. Christ standing at the door knocking (referring to large stained-
glass window) Our organ is out of commission The brass lectern was put in, in 1919.
Let's get out and let some more in."
General hubbub in church: "Are these the ten commandments?"
Tour bus driver standing near the bus: "I started doing
this for the summer after I retired,
in 1974 at age 60. I'm the escort. The tours are arranged in Winnipeg. We left Winnipeg,
went to Churchill for a day, and we are back here today. Tomorrow we go to Flin Flon,
we're back here on Sunday, then back in Winnipeg Monday morning. So it's six nights
which makes it pretty interesting for them."
Elderly American tourist getting on the bus: "We enjoyed
the tour very much. We came out
of Winnipeg and went all the way to Churchill. It's interesting country. I enjoy the people,
and I enjoy the wild life."
Train leaving The Pas, crosses railway bridge over Saskatchewan River, and passes by.
Train crossing bells. Train leaves. Bells stop.
Morning sounds: mosquitoes, birds and children.
Church bells ringing.
Priest in doorway.
People walking to church.
Father Daniels opening the shutters of the Catholic church.
Mother and children entering the church: "Ladies first."
Grave stones in the graveyard. Causeway from wharf. Underwater
reeds. Skating rink
and two schools. Various buildings in town. Guy walking with a rifle and his girlfriend.
Observation tower. Cormorant Trading Company.
Various shots at baseball game. Batter getting hit by a pitch.
Keeping score, crowd scenes,
pitcher, women operating a food stand. Cheering, comments, hecklers.
Water bomber flies over park.
Molsons posing for a team photograph (they had just gotten
their new uniforms).
Girl taking picture. Player holding up a Polaroid photo.
Don Fenner (coach): "We're practicing up for a tournament.
We might not be able to
play today because there is a big fire close to town, but we're going to try to play before
they come to pick us up. I'm the coach of the team. We just got our uniforms in.
We got a few tournaments in Grand Rapids (names some other towns)."
John Brightnose: "Got to go fire fighting, there is a big fire over here. C'mon let's go."
Don Fenner: "If they want us they will come and get us."
John Brightnose (speaking to players): "What the hell
they good for? No good
fire fighting, no good ball playing. Old men will take you guys on these days."
Child: "Firefighters, you got to go firefighting. Here
comes the plane."
Player: "Don't get paid enough."
Large plane swoops over the ball diamond as it makes a landing on the nearby lake.
Fence and street outside Gabriel Ducharme's house
Gabriel Ducharme sitting on love seat with black velvet painting of naked woman on the wall.
Gabriel Ducharme: "I've been here since 1915. I was born
at Stony Mountain.
I started trapping since I was eight years old. I was too small to cure the people.
Now I'm 83 years old."
CU of Gabriel Ducharme: "If you have a heart attack, get
some of that strawberry root.
You dig strawberries, the root, and you boil that. You can cure that with that."
Gabriel Ducharme: "Another one is Sugar Diabetes. That's
another bad sickness.
You take Mountain Ash, you know Mountain Ash trees. I take the bark of that one,
you peel the bark, and wild ginger that grows in the water, you mix with that and
you can cure it with that. Seneca root. I'm scared of doctors. You get the medicine
from the bush. Sometimes your legs are sore, well you get some red willow,
you know the red willow. Well you take the bark and boil it and you wash yourself
with that. You'll cure it."
Gabriel Ducharme: "One time I cut my tongue almost in
half. I took that white poplar
and I chewed it and it stopped right away."
Q: "Do you use magic?"
Gabriel Ducharme: "Yeah... No, I can't cure myself. I
tried and I can't. Some
people learned me what to do. Some people just forget it. A lot of people come
to see me. From all over. I had a working shop, making paddles and stuff like that.
I had a little bed and a little stove, and I sleep there in the wintertime. Two of them
come from 412, close to Churchill. One of my daughters says 'there are two women
that come to see you.' I said, 'Yeah?' 'Okay' I said, 'Send them over'. I asked them,
'What's your trouble?' She said, 'I quit having kids, but I sure would like to have
some more. 'Yeah? Okay.' They didn't even lay down. I just put their gown like this,
and I just touched them like this (demonstrates). I said, 'Go back and send the other one'.
The other one, same thing, same sickness, she wants kids... Next spring I heard, they
send me a word, both of them had one kid each! See? They didn't pay me very much,
just one bottle of whiskey. (laughter) Yeah, but I don't drink."
Gabriel Ducharme: "My hand is medicine. They come to me,
she had a daughter about
16 that couldn't talk. There were two special doctors from Winnipeg, they couldn't do
nothing. 'Anna can't talk'. Talk and it was just like full of water in her mouth. I say,
'Come here', and I just touch her like this, and in 5 minutes she started talking just like us.
See how quick I do it? I can do it to anything."
Gabriel Ducharme: "Another woman came and said, 'I can't
tell the truth'. I said,
'Give me a cigarette', and I touched her like this and in about 100 yards she started
talking the same thing. See how quickly I do it?"
Hilda Fitzner sitting in a chair by a lake. In the foreground
are flowers, in the far
distance is the headframe of the mine. Hilda is a gentle woman that smiles frequently.
Hilda Fitzner: "My name is Hilda Fitzner, I've lived here
all my life, practically all my life,
in this spot."
Hilda Fitzner: "I started making doughnuts a few years
ago. I would get my boys to
sell them for five cents a piece. When we first started we made twenty dollars a day.
We later raised it to twenty cents a doughnut. I still make doughnuts when I have time.
I used to work at the hotel. I've had 16 children, 8 boys and 8 girls. I've lost three boys.
I've got 18 grandchildren I guess."
Q: "Any great-grandchildren?"
Hilda Fitzner: "No, not yet."
Three young boys sitting on an overturned canoe by the lake
describing how they catch
fish with a snare. They lake is quite wavy from the wind.
Hilda and some of her children in a group picture by a tent.
Larry McIvor, manager of the Freshwater Fish Processing Plant.
He is standing
outside the Plant surrounded by stacks of empty blue plastic fish boxes.
Larry McIvor: "Fish is received here on a loose basis.
We pack it in ice in 60 pound
containers. Fishermen get paid out of The Pas. We put it on pallets and ship it out to Winnipeg.
We've had fish come in from 130 miles away."
Larry McIvor: "I'm Larry McIvor, manager of Wabowden plant,
a fishing co-op.
The fish is weighed, packed in ice, stored in a cooler and shipped to Winnipeg
every two days. I've been here for six summers. The plant started six years ago."
There is footage of the entire process inside the plant; sorting,
and cleaning the tubs. People loading fish into the back of a white truck.
Larry McIvor: "Plastic tubs are easier to handle, and
cleaner. They can be washed
and used over and over again. I guess most of the fishermen like to use them.
In Wabowden an average of 900,000 pounds of fish go through here in a summer season,
from June 1st to October 31st.
Raymond Meade with young eagle: "I got it at Setting Lake.
I got her young.
Adopted them. This one is about one and a half months old. This is a bald headed eagle."
Train coming into the station.
Bags of beer being loaded onto the train. School desks.
Baggage man: "Where do you want those greasy drums?"
Camera crew boards train.
Interviews with passengers on board train:
Bob Morrison: "We are going to Churchill. We planned the
trip for about a year.
Seen a lot of trees so far. We got off in 'The Paz', and some other town.
There are so many towns that you never heard of before. We hope to charter
a plane to see the barren grounds."
Bambi: "My name is Bambi. I'm from Holland. I am going
to Churchill to see the
barren grounds. I've been in Canada three weeks. I am studying to be a teacher of
arts and crafts. I have seen so many interesting things, I don't know what I can expect."
Warren Beau: "My name is Warren Beau from Iowa City, Iowa.
We are going to Churchill.
We want to see what's up north. We want to look around the town, see a few polar bears,
and hopefully see them loading grain."
Gordon Thompson: "Gordon Thompson from Carmen Alberta.
I am going to Churchill
with my wife Mable. Mable has been studying the north for some time.
Mable: "I read about it, believe it or not, in history in school. I hope to see a polar bear
but not really meet one."
Shots of town and surrounding area from the forestry tower.
Various shots of buildings in town, the old log store, a Bombardier,
down the road, riding bikes.
Ben Larson (Elder trapper standing near the garden. He has
a small greenhouse in his yard.
Later, he plants potatoes from a bucket): "There was a big forest fire went through here
at one time. What you see green now, was black."
Ben Larson: "People have it too easy these days. If it
was hard times like it used to,
people would have a garden. All the people around here used to have a garden.
There are different types of soil. Some good for tilling potatoes. You put fish in it for fertilizer."
Ben Larson: "A lot of settlements up in this part of the
country could have greenhouses,
but Kistigam is the only one besides me. Country grown right here. They are trying to
get the kids interested in growing things. Kids today don't know about plants. They are
not interested in their work, they are just interested in their pay cheque. You can't be
afraid of work. There was a Bread Line in The Pas during the Hungry Thirties. We are
not going on the Bread Line, we are going to make our living from the bush. That's why
we came up to this part of the country. When I was working on the Prairies I was getting
paid five dollars a month. I said, 'To hell with that, I'm going to go to the bush.
Heard there was a lot of rats up here." (Looking at his snow mobile.)
Ben Larson: "Government handouts, getting subsidized for
trapping, Jesus Christ, that
goes against my grain. They could set up a sawmill in here and saw lumber."
Ben leans down to slap the side of his dog (Blacky): "Look
at the fat dog eh? That's right,
do a little bit of talking. It's the only one that's left now. (Slapping the dog) Is that good now?"
(Swatting at mosquitoes) "Doesn't matter what kind of dope you put on, they'll still be after you."
Ben Larson: "You could improve trapping on the lake by
raising the level of the lake.
Local people wanted it done. They can build onto it you know? Good Pickerel, good fish.
The only pollution the lake is getting is from the town itself."
Ben Larson: "I've been prospecting all around here. I sent rock samples to Winnipeg and Colorado."
Ben Larson: " That log building was a store and post office.
Johnson's store. His health went
bad and he went to Winnipeg. More houses are being built, the way the population is growing.
Kids and dogs. Last population count was around 300. Not much work in Thicket Portage.
I wouldn't stay here if I was a young man. I would go somewhere and get a job."
Ben Larson: "At one time the caribou were so thick that
they pulled up all the traps that you set.
Caribou meat was bad in the later part, parasites, you couldn't get decent meat. Wolves followed
them. They were here for 5 or 6 years. Came down in the fall, went north in the spring.
Civilization doesn't stop them. If they want to go, they go. They're good swimmers.
Whole herds of caribou, that's the time to have a camera. Then you will have nice pictures."
Caterpillar driving by along the tracks.
Baseball game. Various comments from the crowd and laughter.
Dogs barking and birds in the background.
Bob McLeverte (Mayor of Thicket Portage sitting on a bench.):
"This bench I am sitting on
is a Young Canada Works project. The project consists of teams of eight young people at a time.
They work for seven weeks on different projects, practical skills, carpentry and painting.
Houses for old people, renovations, work programs for young people."
Commercial greenhouses in open field and large piles of brush.
George Ponask (Manager of Kistigam project, sitting on his
farm tractor near several
long greenhouses): "Kistigam began about four years back as an experiment with greenhouse
tunnels. We started out with six people. The first year and the second year a LEAP grant
created employment. I had in mind a farm garden because there wasn't much going on around here.
During the 3rd year we started raising bedding plants in addition to an outdoor garden.
This is nothing new really. I needed some kind of employment. (Names various kinds of plants
and vegetables) Woolworth and Canadian Tire handle some of our bedding plants and flowers.
We grow 6,000 bedding plants, 9 plants to a pack, and 15,000 vegetables. Several varieties
are transplanted outside to a field. It took us two years to clear what you see behind us here.
The soil is fair, but it takes awhile to develop it. What you see in the background was all done
by manual labour."
Bob McLeverte racing down the hill to the lake on his dune
buggy: "Oh my goodness!"
Standing beside the lake: "One of the things the townspeople wanted was to raise the lake
by 18 inches. The water came up a little too high! Now I'm talking to Federal and Provincial
agencies to have the dock raised. There is quite a few commercial fishermen in Thicket Portage.
Good fish are brought in but the fishermen seem to get very little for his product."
Bob McLeverte on dune buggy races up the hill.
Frogs croaking. Sound of rototiller in the garden.
Young people painting a house. Another is painting a desk outside.
A record player is playing.
Kids sing along with the record; 'Where do butterflies go when it rains'
Children (Derek and Cyril Pronteau) near the tracks waiting
for the train. They are singing;
"Row, row, row your boat gently down the street." (They say 'street' instead of 'stream').
Kids hear the train coming: "Ah toot, toot!"
Beautiful shot of train coming in. Horn, bells, crossing lights, squealing wheels.
Activity loading, unloading boxcar on the train. Voice calls
out: "Bob's (McLeverte)
coming as usual, down the hill!" Bob arrives on his dune buggy.
People in front of a house and on the back of a truck watching the train activity.
Bob McLeverte watches train leave the station. Train whistle in the distance then the sound of children.
Sound of schoolbell. Morning ambient sound: generator, birds,
child riding on a bicycle.
Children playing on merry-go-round. (Charles Duncan, Wesley Mercredi, Evelyn Mercredi
Monica Duncan). Children on the swings (Nicholas Parenteau)
Dogs in front of the school as children file in.
Inside school. Children talking, doors slamming, sound of children
playing piano and recorders:
'Mary had a Little Lamb'.
Children in the classroom: Ricky Pronteau, Tommy Brightnose, Joanne Pronteau, Lorretta Dorian,
Margarette Evans, Robert Pronteau Jr., Stanley Mercredi, Ernest Bittern.
Rose Akuworo (Principle): "Okay, open your reading books. Face me."
Shuffling of chairs. Giggling.
Rose: "I would like you to take note of the words on the blackboard. While we are doing this,
we are going to do a poem. Ricky stop eating. Don't worry about your holes! Later you will
write your own. We are going to read two long ones and two short ones. (Knock on the door.)
Ricky: "Can we copy them?"
Rose reads the poem: 'When Jane Goes to Market' ~
'Where the wind blows, it sows, it sows.
Scatter seeds (scatter) scatter grass (grows)
Life starts, water flows.
Polly's cheek is like a rose.'
Various close-ups of children reading and reacting to the teacher.
Beaver Airplane landing at the lake. Two pilots talking: "Flew
out of North Knife Lake
this morning. Fishing trip. Sightseeing charter at Churchill to fly out of there."
Airplane starts up, taxies, takes off and flies away.
Conservation officer meeting with the fishermen near the station
when the train has departed:
Harry Pronteau: "I'm going to fish free this time."
Conservation officer (CO): Harry Pronteau, Joe Bittern. Your name is Joe Bittern?
Okay, Joe's signature. Okay your ten dollars Joe. Michael's fishing in Wintering, okay?"
Harry: "Everyone goes on Landing Lake first, then when the limit's caught we move to Wintering."
CO: "S.I.N. number for freight assistance. This all you caught all year Joe. Your quota.
Joe: "I got all my receipts."
CO: "Marcel, what's your last name?"
CO: "So these should all be Landing Lake you say? Shit."
Harry: "That's right. What's going on here?"
CO: "I was in a week ago."
Harry: "You seem to be throwing everything away as long as you get the ten dollars. I'm the president."
CO: "Before they fish they have to have a license. There's nothing to fight about. Would you
turn that camera off?"
Harry: "It's okay, leave it on. There's lots to fight about. Transportation of fish and boxes.
If our fish boxes are no good, we have to use plastic boxes. When our wooden ones run out that's it."
CO: "Well do you want to fish or not?"
Harry: "I'm telling the boys."
CO: "Well I'm not going to fight about it."
Harry: "Who's going to take the loss?"
CO: "The Federal Government handles fish quality."
Harry: "When the wooden boxes run out that's going to be the end."
CO: "Can you buy them?"
CO: "I'm not going to argue about that because I have nothing to do with it."
Harry: "Aren't you a Conservation Officer?
Harry: "You should give me the information. You should phone me. About our fish, if we go
down to Lucky Bay and our fish spoils, who is going to be responsible? I know you're going
to be landing there."
CO: "I don't work for Freshwater Fish."
Harry: "I would like to know what is going on."
CO: "Use plastic tubs."
Harry: "When the weather closes in and we can't get the fish out for three days,
who is going to be responsible?"
CO: "The fishermen. Freshwater Fish says you have to use plastic tubs because there
is too much bacteria in wooden ones, right? Fish quality."
Harry: "I have been fishing up in this north for nearly 40 years."
Lady working as radio operator inside the small train station:
"That's the way you work
it around here. You have to. People help each other load the train.
Train coming into the station. Sounds and voices inside the
"He's got to get a ticket... There's a couple of motors held up"
Train leaving station. Voice of dispatcher on radio in station:
"Number 91 arrived 12:26.
Out at 12:30. That's it. You just give them the time in and the time out."
Oscar Olsen drinking tea at kitchen table in his house.
[sound of clock in the background. Clock chimes for 4 o'clock]
"I'm 75 years old. 17 December 1965 I saw the light first."
Q: "Why did you first come up to Pikwitonei?"
O.O.: "I was building country elevators in Strasbourg,
I decided to quit and go up to The Pas. I took out a homestead. I thought it was wild here
but there were a lot of people. The railway stopped here. There were a lot of Swedes here.
Q: "Did you go trapping right away?"
O.O.: "Yes, we went out after one week. We bought a canoe.
5th of October went to Tea Lake.
My partner, Helmer Hansen had trapped before, but I hadn't. He was about 10 years older
than I was. (Shows a photograph of them at the time). He loved trapping.
I gave half of my time to prospecting.
Q: "How did you learn about prospecting?"
O.O.: "Bit by bit. Mr. Garr got me interested. About 1930
I staked my first claim.
We used to work for Mr. Garr."
Q: "Who was Mr. Garr?"
O.O.: "He was a Yankee, First World War Major."
Q: "What was he doing up here?"
Oscar Olsen: "He came up for his health. He was well-off.
The natives loved him.
He did a lot of good for them. He gave away pots and tents."
Q: "He gave you some parts for a radio?"
O.O.: "I was on the other side of Split Lake, down by
Gull Rapids doing some prospecting.
When I came back he gave me a windmill, so I had electricity out in my cabin in the early 30s.
I had light anyway."
Q: "How did you do with prospecting?"
O.O.: " A couple of claims. Everyone out here was a prospector
in his own right. We had a
Chinaman out here, Bob Long, who used to run a store, and he was just as interested in
rocks as anyone else. He had a display case in his restaurant full of rocks there. Samples.
Q: "How did you get around on your trapline in the early days?"
O.O: "Snowshoes. Steady walking. We'd build cabins so
we could spend a week, make some
Sourdough bread. We stayed on the trapline all winter. We came in for New Years 1928 and
got to meet some people. There was only one train a week then, and that was on a Friday.
So you could look back on the calendar to find out when we came out.
O.O.: "We had quite a few fur traders here. Thompson wasn't invented yet."
Q: "You knew Walter Johnson."
O.O.: "There was Harry Howell and some others prospecting
around Mystery Lake.
They found some high-grade nickel samples right on the surface. Inco built Thompson
right on the trapline of Walter Johnson. He got $600,000 for that. Now I heard he has passed away."
Q: "When were you last out trapping?"
O.O.: "In 1952 I decided to go to Churchill. We built
a building for the Harbour Board.
I forgot about trapping after that. I became a carpenter for RC Engineering."
O.O.: "There have been a lot of changes over the years.
The way people live. There was
more white people in those days who worked for the railway. The natives came in for
trading in those days. More part-time trappers now. I've lived here for 50 years and
I can't speak a word of Cree. My English isn't that good, maybe that's why they understand me.
I used to be a shopkeeper here.
Shots of Cordell's store. Girl with skipping rope. Fishermen
mending their nets. Gas barrels.
Saw horse and Swede saw.
Joe Thorne standing in front of antlers mounted on a pole:
(off-screen comments from his wife; Ella Thorne: "If you pulled your collar up you wouldn't
have those bites around your neck.)
Q: "So when did you get these horns?"
Joe Thorne: "About ten years ago. It was a big animal,
you couldn't put your arms around its neck.
You could barely touch your fingers like this on the neck. Cecil was about 12 at the time.
You couldn't drag it on the ground. Couldn't lift the head or the quarters or anything."
Joe and Ella Thorne standing in front of the 'white house':
"Sergeant Rose used to live here. Sergeant Rose used to be the Mountie all the way from The Pas.
That's where he stayed. He used to have his family here. He'd go up to Churchill, and out to
South Indian Lake by dog team. The house was built about 50 years ago I guess. I still use it
as a fur house for stretching furs when I'm trapping.
Joes walks across yard with a dog following him.
Bear head with army helmet on outboard motor in yard.
Joe and Ella standing beside a bear hide nailed to the outside wall of a shed.
Joe is holding a can of 'Off' in his hand. (CU)
Joe: "I get one almost every spring like this."
CU of the bear's head with flies walking near the eye holes.
Shots around Pikwitonei ~ Children and people walking by the
[general ambience in the background: generator hum in distance, dogs barking,
children singing and blowing on grass, occasional frogs, lots of mosquitoes]
CN gas gar driving along the tracks over the bridge in the distance.
Pontoon plane landing on the river. Children by plane at the
Pilot: "Can you move this right here? Don't go there, watch for the propeller."
Plane starts up and children shout as the plane taxies on the river: "Hey Henry,
hang on there and get a free ride to Thompson."
Issiah Dick and his mother Mary, pose for a group portrait
with several young children.
Issiah: "I've lived here for 45 years now."
Issiah and Mary unroll a moose hide in the yard. The mother steps on it to flatten it.
Issiah: "See what she puts on there to make it softer. That's oatmeal she's got there.
To tan a moose hide you have to take all the hair off it, well, you got to go kill it first (laughs).
She takes the meat off it, when she finishes that she scrapes it. It takes one week, tanned smoked,
and everything. The oatmeal softens the hide. She soaks it in water for a day or so, then pulls
it back and forth. She sews it up on the tripod over there. A rotten willow smudge gives it a
brown colour. Then it's ready for use as material. She mostly makes mukluks, sometimes
she uses it for jackets. There is a factory in Winnipeg that makes it, but that is mostly cow hide."
Issiah makes the dog jump up onto a school desk, then onto
the roof of a shed, then come
back down several times. Issiah: "Up again, down again." When it gets tired he says:
"You're a bad dog."
Issiah (leaning on staff): "Quite a change in 20 years.
There used to be a lot of trapping.
Not much work. The section crew for the railway, a few commercial fishermen.
Right now it's mostly housing. The train comes in pretty early. It takes a couple of weeks
to get stuff from Thompson. They are talking about a road, but I don't think it will be in my lifetime."
Ella Thorne standing on the tracks near the top of the bridge
with the town in the background:
"Joe came ahead and started trapping and we came about two years later. About 1949.
We've lived here ever since. Most of the time, sometime I would go out to the farm in Saskatchewan.
Q: "You used to be mayor at one time."
Ella: "Yeah, up until about a year ago in July. I got about 6 or 7 years in, I don't exactly remember
Ella putting up clothes on the line. Lots of clothes. Quite a breeze blowing.
Alex Hall (sitting on snow mobile in his yard): "We came
from Manitou Rapids.
There was nothing here when we first came here. There was a roundhouse over here
up on the hill. There was a Chinese restaurant. Bob Long and Louis Long. One went
back to China and the other one died here (laughs)."
Family portrait of Hall family. Interesting collection of items
on his work bench.
Items in his yard. Girls looking through the window. Close-up shots of Alec. Girls jumping rope.
Joe walking through the bush, the camera follows him down a trail through poplars and pines.
Beartrap _ large pile of brush (taller than Joe) with an opening
on the front and two
snares in the entrance. Joe is standing near the opening with a small dog on a leash
explaining how the bear trap works: "You set the snares not too big or too small,
well then you'll catch him on this size. A big bear you'll get him by the neck, a
small bear by the waist too. You put them on tight, and he will pull them down
then you will get him. There are two snares. If you don't get him on the first one,
you will get him on the second one.
CU of snare.
Joe: "They are pretty wise. He'll sit here and he'll check
this and even take a stick like
this to try it to see how solid you got it. (demonstrates) Sometimes he takes a whack at
it but then he gets caught by the arm, on the leg you know. I get one almost every spring.
I got one this spring too. The boys went out and shot it. I come behind. I said, 'What did you do?
Did you shoot a bear?' Well I said, 'It's alive!' Just kidding them, you know.
'No', they said they shot it four times to make sure it was dead."
"Timber wolves go in there sometime. That's trapping when you catch them like that."
Joe standing on the small dam he made holding the leash of
his dog: "I just do a bit of work
in my spare time. Use this in case there is fire, drinking water. Skating rink or swimming pool."
Joe Thorne standing in a grove of poplars, partially illuminated
and partially obscured in
thin shadows cast by the trees. As he tells the bear story he gets excited and sometimes a
little mixed-up during his enthusiasm: "The bear was to the windows trying to sneak up
on the dog. I was sleeping that time and the dog growled because something was outside.
So I run out there and there was a bear made a dive at the dog on the platform between the
two houses. I didn't have my rifle loaded or anything. I put the flashlight on the bear.
I couldn't see it at the time. I was watching the bear. I had one eye on the dog and I was
trying to load my rifle. I had my hands full because I was still holding onto the flashlight.
Then the screech came. I never heard a screech from a bear, and the claws, there were marks
on the platform the next day. The bear come out at full power and jumped from behind the
clothes line. There was lots of clothes flying. Quite a breeze blowing. And it made a great big roar
ROAAAR He missed the dog and the dog took for the woodpile under and came around
trying to fight back with the bear and the bear was trying to fight. So I took a shot with my rifle,
but I didn't want to shoot too low in case I hit the dog. I missed the bear, but it took off when
I shone my flashlight on it. It was pretty close to me, only about twenty feet away. We got him
out that night anyway"
Train rolling into Pikwitonei from behind camera. Clear sunny
day late afternoon. Red truck
parked at railway crossing. People are gathered waiting for the train. Two young girls in the
foreground blow on grass to make a whistling sound. The train answers with the sound of its
loud horn. The train comes to a stop with the squeal of its wheels and cars shunting.
The sound of steam escaping from the cars.
People unloading train. Loading trucks with watermelons, paddles
and guns from boxcar.
"Oh, oh, be careful this gun is loaded."
"214 it says."
"It says express. It all comes off here John."
"One dollar boy."
"Got two tobaccos to sign for. Do you grow any marijuana here? It is supposed to grow good
on the hill here. That Columbian stuff."
"That's enough boy."
Train whistle and train leaving drown out voices at station.
Trucks starting. Walking sounds.
Train whistle in the distance.
Percy and Martha Laubmann near the store.
Percy: "Trappers, fishermen and welfare people."
Martha: "He's not a big shot. He buys fur."
Percy: "Me, I'm a fur buyer. I've lived here all my life. I've got another house in Thompson..
I was doing all kinds of work here, now I'm going to stay with CN until I retire."
Martha: "We got married after he left the Forces."
Percy: "I was in Korea, Vietnam, the remote areas of China. I've been all over the world.
But not beautiful like here.
Martha: "Yes, it's a beautiful place here in Pikwitonei"
Pan of town from top of railway bridge. Boys are fishing from
a boat beneath the bridge.
'Billy Don't Be a Hero' is playing from radio in boat.
View straight down on boy fishing with a tin can from trestle.
Girls on top of the bridge look down on the boy and giggle.
Joe Thorne driving boat. Camera is in the boat with him. Joe
drives under the bridge and
we see the town from water level. A boy is fishing from the trestle of the bridge.
Joe: "Sure a nice day anyway."
Pan of shoreline and houses along the shore.
Freight train coming into town over railway bridge. Camera
view from down below.
There are quite a few mobile homes being hauled by the train.
Freight train stops at the station. People talking. Caboose engine idling.
Camera crew climb onto the Weigh Freight. Baggage man's voice.
Kids run alongside the train as it leaves town: "Byebye... bye"
Kids running faster and faster: "Bye bye" (Bernice Dick)
Inside the passenger section of the Weigh Freight.
Shots out the door of the baggage car.
Shots of the track and the train rounding a curve.
Shots of burnt forest.
Train crossing the high bridge over the Nelson River gorge.
Train slows down but does not stop to drop off box at Mile 256.
The box tumbles and a man waves.
Man on Weigh Freight: "I've lived in Gillam for three
years. It was a railway town, now it's a
Hydro town. Hydro is changing more, adjusting to a regular routine. Two weeks on, two
weeks off. In the north it's bureaucrats and government jobs. I'm a Senior storekeeper for
Sound on walkie-talkie: "We are just getting into Ilford
Pan of town from baggage car as train pulls into Ilford.
Shunting of boxcars in Ilford. List of things going by on the
train: "Meat, grain,
Hydro parts, fuel"
Men hammering shingles onto roof of house.
Ebben (the dog) breathing loudly.
Loading boxes of chips and pop from a truck into Walenberg's store.
Plane landing on Moose Nose Lake
Shot of Horace Morris by plane loading for Laliberty
Horace: "I was born in Split Lake, 25 miles north of here. I worked on the railway for 30 years.
Q: "What did you do on the railway?"
Horace: "Tamping ties, shovelling gravel, sliding again,
put them up again. That's what I do.
But after awhile I take a foremen job then I take it a little bit easy. Give a chance for younger
fellows to work. Now I am pensioned off. I had an accident on the railway. Fell down off a
motorcar, jigger. Today I come down here to relax."
Tells a few things about his life. About working since he was 14. About his time in Chesterfield Inlet.
Horace sitting in picnic shelter with woman friend.
Playing harmonica, singing. Feet dancing under the table.
'One White man goes paddling in a boat. It sounds like this.'
Plays for awhile then says: "Don't shoot me." Keeps playing.
Horace: "Oh yeah, 'Rabbit Head' (Harmonica tune) "Smoking time boys. Rest time."
Horace: 'I can tell you what I have been doing from the time
my daddy died and my mother
was living only, from a small boy. My sister was living but she don't help me nothing.
I just grew up like that, just eating bannock and that's all. My mother would go fishing to
catch fish. No welfare, no pension, no family allowance that time. By the time I was 14
I was moving around and I can work."
"I started work with the fishing, with the Icelanders
over here in Ilford. Then I look after
myself with the only job I can get. 'No eggs, no oranges that time'. I finished with the fishing,
then they called me to work at Churchill one time."
(Woman off-screen speaking Cree to Horace.)
Horace: "I was young when I first come here. What I see
when I first come here was the
horses in town. It was around 1930, I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. I see the
horses standing there. There was no machines. No tractors or stuff like that. I see the horses
and I was scared to go out. I thought they would hurt me."
Two shot ~ Woman speaks Cree and Horace translates: "She
says we never ate eggs that time,
just the fish. You had to go hunting to snare a rabbit.
Sound of airplane flies overhead.
Horrace: "Another plane coming in."
"I want you to hear that Ilford Waltz. I made this one
up myself. It sounds like this."
Horace plays the song while the camera explores various views of the town.
The town is hilly. The roads are dusty. The children are playing around the tractor train that is
parked on the road by the hotel. Another girl is carrying a bucket of water down the road.
Men are on the roof of a house putting on shingles. The sounds of hammering occasionally.
Two boys, one holding a tiny puppy.
Q: "What's your dog's name?"
Horace playing 'Little Brown Jug'
"I'm 66 years old when I play and still I'm blowing."
Dave Goertzen (Teacher at Julie Lindal Elemetary School) and
his wife sitting at the kitchen table
in their home. They are looking out a large window at the evening twilight. While they are
discussing activities of students in his classroom, the sound of the train gets louder.
Soon the headlight of the train comes into view and the lights of the rail cars pass by on the
nearby tracks. They wave at the people on the train. When it has gone, Dave says: "Well
that's the excitement in Ilford for another week."
Northern Radio broadcast. Weather forecast for the north country
names a few locations.
The hot spot is Gillam with a high of 26 degrees. Sarah Ross's Cree Hymn dedicated to
'Edward Harper in Wesugemak'.
Daytime. Windy. Paper blowing in the breeze. Sound of hammering.
Post mistress, Arlene,
sitting on the steps of the small post office with a few children. Trees and grass are blowing.
Piece of tin banging on mobile trailer. Clothes flapping in the wind. Church.
Grain train rolls through Ilford.
Adam Dick ~ (First Chief of War Lake Band) at the kitchen table
in his house: "My name is
Adam Dick. I come from Split Lake. I was born in 1897. January 15. When I was 5 years old
I went with my dad. We went 4 miles, when we get there we made a fire. I watched the kettle
to make some tea. I pulled the net. 'Pull, pull, pull', he says. I couldn't pull anymore, so he
pulled himself. That's what I've been doing here. When I was eight, you go yourself, bow
and arrow and wood snowshoes. He told me where to hunt. My first hunt, next day, seven
Spruce hens, one mink and one rabbit. You don't shoot very far with your arrow.
I learned how to hunt with arrows."
Adam Dick: "There were many people that time of the first
treaty. About 100 people that time in
Split Lake. The treaty came up by boat in 1908, Norway House, the Nelson River by canoe.
When we signed the treaty that time I was 12 years old. We went to the post at 4 o'clock,
we made a wigwam, so after we finished, the old man came, everybody out for the meeting,
so I went with my dad. I just followed him."
Adam Dick: "You're the Chief. You're the boss. You are
going to get reserves square like
that table, and if any white men come in and bother you, you can call the government.
They gave us promises, you understand, for as long as the river runs, the sun shines,
and the grass grows. Now the Chief is going to England to meet the Queen. We're going to
discuss this in Thompson. Lots of Chiefs, lots of reserves all over. Four or five hundred I think."
Adam Dick: "I am trying to start a reserve here. We have
115 Treaty people here. We have
been living here for 25 or 30 years. Seven miles from here, two nice lakes, good water,
Hydro can't do anything to them. You can't hunt in Split Lake because of the flooding.
More people will come. When we started, these people were running two Councils.
So I was elected Chief. 3 years now I've been fighting to get a reserve. I've got a bunch of letters.
4 or 5 boxes of mail. I'm still going, still trying to get a reserve. Treaty Day is on Friday.
Five times now. People are here together to get more names. Pay the Treaty people.
George Ouskun comes over for a visit: "I was born in Split
Lake about 30 years ago. I started
working for CN. I got a steady job that will last me until I get married. I'm still single. I am
going to have to find a wife. That's it right there."
(Some hammering sounds in the background)
Kip Thompson hammering on a fence: "Yes sir?"
Q: "Do you mind if we film you?"
Kip Thompson: "As long as you don't turn it in to the RCMP."
(In reference to the tractor of a 'cat train' parked on the main street of Ilford): "That machine
operated out of Ilford in 1932 when the God's Lake gold field was in operation. I came here in 1961.
I couldn't stand your white society or the crap that goes on in southern Manitoba." (Hammers really
hard) "I raised six boys here. I imagine that some of them will come back. I ran that yard for
some time. Companies have a hard time up here. That winter we did all this work and employed
sixty-five people from the area."
Q: "What do you do now?"
Kip Thompson: "Repair other people's fences. We own the hotel. My son will probably run
the hotel here for a year or so. I will probably die here. My main interest is in winter freighting.
I maintain 200 miles of winter roads for the province. We are looking for freight now, trying to
keep the company together for another year. It depends on the whim of the politicians really.
Either they support us or they don't."
Kip Thompson: "This community is dead. There should be
some things happening here.
There are two full-time fishermen and two part-time fishermen. You always relate fishing to
wheat fields. There should be a processing plant in Thompson. That way it would be more
viable to go out on the lakes. Without commercial fishing we're dead. Trapping last year
wasn't bad. Some of the guys made some money. Prices were good."
Kip Thompson: "Building winter roads is a costly job.
If we could coordinate freight it would
be a better situation. What we have to do is buy a permit which costs one dollar a mile.
When you build a winter road you build it to haul freight as a business."
Kids inside Linn tractor of cat train pretending to drive:
"Where do you want to go? Thompson!
Hmmmm, okay we're in Thompson. Let's go to Winnipeg. Hmmm Okay, we're in Winnipeg.
Let's go to Mexico. Riding on a buffalo."
Girl carrying water on the road, Ira J. Noel (Principal of
Julie Lindal Elemetary School)
walks by and pats the girl on the head.
Songs from Split Lake recorded from an eight-track tape.
Ed Wallenburg gets out of his truck and walks inside his small
fish hatchery on the shore of
Moosenose Lake. The sign on the door reads 'Flight Dispatcher'.
Ed siphoning off white eggs from a tray: "I get the eggs
from California. I have about 300,000 here.
It takes about 10 days to raise them from the eggs, put them into troughs, and bring them up to a
stage where they can fend for themselves. I will seed the esker lakes that I have. There are about
12,000 eggs per tray. About eight hours a day of picking dead eggs off. They have to be picked
out or they'll fungus and destroy the other eggs. I want to raise them similar to the way a farmer
raises chickens; raise them from the eggs then sell them as a finished product."
Ed Wallenburg sitting in the pilot seat of his plane: "I
just got this plane a few days ago. I use the
Beaver to haul groceries to my other store in York Landing. I've had the store for five years.
I make one trip a day with 1500 pounds of groceries to keep them going. I also plan to use it to
haul my fingerlings out to my lakes, then haul the fish out as they are harvested."
Ed is climbs out of the small door of the plane onto the wharf, then slams the door.
Hissing steam from the train in the morning on the longest
day of the year. Various shots of the
train with sunrise streaming across the tundra to illuminate the steam like fire.
People sitting on the steps of their home watching the train.
David Massan picks up a box from
near railway and carries it away.
Train pulls into the distance across the flat land. The trees are only about 5 or 6 feet tall.
Mist rising from a small lake. The sound of geese.
David Massan pushes canoe across grass to the edge of Owl River.
Throws in large rock for weight.
Two small dogs jump in. "Sit down", he says to the dogs, then laughs.
He paddles against the rapidly flowing current to a nearby net submerged beneath the stream,
and pulls up a few fish snared in its web.
Camera in canoe. David Massan: "Paddling rather than motors.
Lots of hard work.
I paddle to York Factory when it's warm. Lots of mosquitoes.
David Massan paddles back to the shore and gets out of canoe.
There are a few fish in the bottom:
"Suckers, for my dogs. No good fish. I don't know, pretty shallow."
Q: "How old are you?"
David Massan: "August I'll be 64. 3 of August.
David Massan: "Nothing down here. Big fires, no tent, cold. Long time."
Q: "Do you sleep in the snow in the winter?"
David Massan: "Yes, maybe five days, ten days. Trout Lake. Big fire, that's all. Rabbit skin is warm.
Q: "You just roll up in it?"
David Massan: "Yes. Always take a dog. A good dog and a toboggan."
Q: "do you use a skidoo?"
David Massan: "No. Not in the old days."
David Massan standing near his shed with two red fox furs and
a pair of snowshoes.
Inside is a pot-belly stove. Mosquitoes.
Q: "What kind of fur?
David Massan: "Beaver, muskrat, foxes"
Q: "How many beaver?"
David Massan: "23 beaver last winter. 6 mink. One otter, $150. Good price."
Q: "Have you got a gun?"
David Massan: "Yes." (Lists them)
Q: "How far is the coast?"
David Massan: "Far aways off. Maybe 90 miles. Go hunting to the coast for geese, 2 nights, 3 days."
Q: "Are there rapids?"
David Massan: "Yes, lots of rapids."
Q: "Do you shoot polar bears?"
David Massan: "No, I didn't shoot polar bears. Moose. I took one shot to get a moose."
David Massan strings the fish through a willow stem and carries them toward his house.
David Massan standing near his small house with his dog.
Q: "Did you build that house?"
David Massan: "Yes, that's where I'm living."
Q: "Are you going to stay here this winter?"
David Massan: "Yes, all the time."
David Massan standing in a forest on a hill pensively looking
at small graveyard.
Sound of mosquitos. The paint on the wooden crosses has faded. David looks toward
the bridge over the railway in the distance.
Shot of two young guys working on the railway, tamping ties
near the railway bridge over
the Owl River.
Sound of record skipping from the speakers outside a nearby
house as men form a bucket
brigade to transfer water from barrels on gas car to several big galvanized barrels on a
platform in the tiny settlement. Herchmer consists of seven houses in a row along the
tracks and a small railway shed.
Gas car driving away. Camera on gas car drives through the settlement toward the railway bridge.
People waiting for the train. Boy balances as he walks along
the rail. Dogs bark as the train
comes in. Camera crew gets on the train and runs into Horace Morris: "Lots of mosquitoes out there."
Conductor approaches: "Who's got the ticket?"
Brian Ladoon sitting in chair on dock at Camp Nanuk: "I'm
Brian Ladoon. We own an Arctic
exploration company. Every month is a different tour. Our business is aimed at photographers
and scientists. I breed Eskimo Husky dogs, and take teams of 15 out on the land and sea ice.
We could organize an expedition to the North Pole with 2 or 3 years notice."
Brian Ladoon: "There are various types of tours, five
to ten days. Dog team, small airplane,
freighter canoes, tent camp facilities. Knight's Hill and Cape Churchill are just like high arctic tundra.
You can see snow geese, caribou and polar bear in the fall. We do local and long-distance dog tours.
The number of days depend on the number of people. We are called Aurora Expeditions.
We are an arctic safari company."
In the Dining Room on board the Niko Maru. Crew and government
eating sushi, noodles and fish with chopsticks.
Teofeld Lauzon (Harbour manager) standing in dining room with the captain of the ship.
Theo Lauzon: "Gentlemen, may I have your attention. That
occasion has arrived once again
when we welcome the first ship of the season, Captain, thank you for this fantastic meal which
we have all enjoyed. Your ship is 100 tons short of being the largest ship to ever call at the
Port of Churchill, and it is the first ship to call on the port during the 50th Anniversary.
Today is a special day for our town, our port, and the three Prairie provinces. Captain,
the painting I would like to present to you was painted by a ship engineer. I had him paint
a picture of the very first ship to load grain in the port, and that was the Farnsworth. I'll have
to put on my glasses to read the plaque. 'Filing of the Farnsworth' presented to Captain
Giniche Matsuta, Master of the MV Niko Maru, the first ship to arrive in the port of Churchill,
5oth year. August 9th, 1979. Congratulations."
Captain: "This is an honour for me and my crew, this portrait entity. Thank you."
Various shots of loading grain and the crew working on the
deck. Grain falling from the
spout into the hold. Shoveling grain. Fort Prince of Wales in the distance.
Theo Lauzon behind the desk in his Harbour Masters' office
(Excerpts): "The first ship of the
season was of Japanese registry, it arrived at 4:00 am The shipping season in Churchill runs
from July 15 to October 31st, and is limited by Lloyd's of London Insurance The MV Arctic
is reinforced so she could come in as late as December The only import is Venezuelan oil for
heating and fuel The main cargo is grain. Export is limited by economics. Port is only
operational for three months, thus storage problems for the other nine months Tramps are
chartered ships stevedors come from Saskatchewan, Winnipegosis region as well as local people."
Theo Lauzon: "Western farmers were looking for an alternative
route, so they organized a railway
from the prairies out to the bay. You are probably finding out about the sacrifice it took to build
this railway, and I think it has served Canada West well. Having an alternative is a good idea.
Yet more money and more commitment needs to continue to be made, because it was built in
1929, and now needs upgrading. Having the port makes for a stronger province. And stronger
provinces make for a stronger Canada."
Tidal pool at Bird Cove. The tide is coming in. Sound of shore
Light waves rolling in near the wreck of The Ithaca (grounded in September 1961).
Shots along the rocky shoreline with dwarfed trees that have branches on only one side because
of the constant wind from the ocean.