Wednesday, 18 January 2012


By L.M.Buzz" Lein 
April 5, 1976

They lived in Nipigon half of 1906 - 1907 and part of 1908. Their father was Daniel Johnson who was the assistant store manager of Revillon Freres in Nipigon. He was transferred to a Revillon Store in Matheson, Ontario.

Lawrence Johnson describes an incident that took place in Nipigon about 1907.

"About 1907, Claud Barker and I were playing around an old steamship storage building that had been dismantled or partly dismantled, and among the things we discovered, was a big iron sheet under which we found -oh -, maybe one hundred detonators or dynamite caps. We took them outside; examined them closely - we didn't know what they were. We lit a little fire with some waste from a freight car grease box, and by taking the nitro glycerin out of the caps and throwing it on the fire we got purple, green and blue colours. We finally got a cap right into the flame.  She blew and that is what happened to my hand."

"We were alongside the C.P.R. tracks on the town side, close to the water tank but opposite it, we were fooling with this cap and it exploded. We hustled back into town; over a couple of high fences. I don't know how I got there but I got home. Dr. Bryan was the doctor who originally fixed the hand up, bandaged and so forth. He said, "Take the train to Port Arthur tonight. Go in and see a doctor and that finger may not have to be sacrificed."

"My father wasn't home - he was in Matheson. Our family hadn't moved, we still lived in Nipigon. "

In response to a question "What did your Mother have to say about all this?"  Johnson replied, "Oh. That was sad."

Lawrence stumbled into the kitchen, all bloody-handed bleeding.

"It was my mother's "receiving day," said his sister Margaret Tracy. "Jean Alexander and I were sitting in the kitchen playing with our dolls and being very quiet. We didn't dare speak on Mother's "receiving day". Lawrence came in, holding his hand. He went to the sitting room door. I went over to see what he was doing. He knocked at the door. It looked as if he had a whole handful of strawberries. And I said, " What have you got there?"

"I hurt myself," was his reply.

So that was it. I knocked on the door and mother came.

"Lawrence hurt himself, " I explained.

"Get some warm water from the reservoir on the stove", she said, "and put his hand in it."

"Which we did and as soon as his hand touched that warm water, well, it was just dreadful. He just screeched, the poor kid."

"The ladies in the sitting room all came rushing out. Mrs. Lothian had been a nurse so she and Mrs. McKirdy and Mrs. _ . They sent for Dr. Bryan but he was out on a case and couldn't come right away. I remember Mrs. Lothian taking some sheeting or some kind of bandaging, wrapping up his hand. Then they sent out for Dr. Bryan who came about three quarters of an hour later. Then as Lawrence said, this was when the Doctor advised going to Port Arthur."

Lawrence Johnson was about 12 years old in 1907 and his sister was 9.

The custom of using calling cards to arrange visits was in use in Nipigon at this time. There were probably not more than 400 people in town. Allowing four people for a family, would result in 100 families. Out of these only about 15 families would be involved with this formality.

"Everybody had their calling cards - the men and the women," said Margaret, "and each family had their "receiving day". My Mother's was the first and third Thursday of every month. You only visited on the day set for it. If you were going to visit, you called around prior to visiting and left your card." If your husband was coming too, you left his card along with your own. If he wasn't you left two of his." Each card was marked with the "receiving day" of the card's owner. " Being quite young, I can't really remember how many there would be on calling, but there would be twelve to fourteen possibly."

" Close friends and neighbours visited anytime, but receiving day was formal and an excellent excuse for formality in an area that knew little about this. It also was a formal way to ensure that everyone in the "card" circuit got to have a tea party twice a month."

"When you went to one of these, you went to the house, knocked on the door and were admitted by your hostess. You went in. And you left your calling card in a silver dish that was there in the hallway for this purpose." Since the hostess, by this system, knew who was coming, the cards merely served as a reminder.

The guests merely sat around the sitting room or drawing room, drank tea, probably ate small sandwiches and talked. Like a modern afternoon tea.

" I recall the names of some of the people my Mother used to visit," Margaret continued, " There was Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald, he was the manager of Revillon Freres; and Mr. and Mrs. Barker, he was the manager of the Hudson's Bay Store; and Mr. and Mrs. W. McKirdy; Mr. and Mrs, Krumm, of (Transcontinental Railway); Mr. and Mrs. Lothian; Mr. and Mrs. Alexander, (Lighthouse Keeper, Lamb Island); Mr. and Mrs. Hogan, he either owned or ran the International Hotel. He later moved to Port Arthur and bought the Marriagi Hotel."

When asked if he knew what the Alexanders worked at, Larry replied, " There were two boys and two girls in the family. The boys helped their father who operated a lighthouse on an island in Lake Superior where there was need of such warning. As far as I know that was all Alexander Sr. worked at."

The Johnson children went to school in Nipigon. The school was on the same street as the Anglican Church on the side nearer the C.P.R. tracks.

The Johnson's must have had a piano because , "Miss Sarah McLean who was a school teacher was also  a wonderful music teacher, and had Lawrence to the point where he was a very very good pianist. After the accident with dynamite cap, his musical career came to an end because a nerve was cut in his index finger and he couldn't use it any more for piano playing." explained his sister.

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