Thursday, 21 March 2013


When last we were with Tom and his friends they had just landed at Kasabonika and the sun was still high in the sky.  This is the conclusion of Tom Jeffery's plane trip in June 1974 into Northern Ontario delivering the Election documents and boxes to the fly-in communities.
From the Nipigon Historical Museum Archives with permission of his son we continue:

""Bill's contact man there was also the Hudson's Bay Store manager, and postmaster. The voting would be done in a part of the store. The store was a rather old log building, and i was told that they were to build a new modern one in the next year. I did notice (for sale) fresh tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and carrots, and i have forgotten the prices, but at the time they did not seem too expensive considering the distance they had to be transported, and no refrigeration.

"There was a lovely big, new school, and one of the teachers was from Niagara Falls, and the other from Fort Frances.

" Bill was only a short time completing his business, leaving the election kit and giving necessary instructions and we departed Kasabonika at six-ten P.M. and headed for our next stop, which was Angling Lake.

"As soon as we were in the air, Dennis served Northern Fried Chicken, and ham sandwiches. Bill had put his teeth back in his mouth. I was sure they would get worn out just from handling.

"It was at this time that the door suddenly came open slightly, and Dennis went back to close it. I informed him that if he fell out, he had about a seventy-five percent chance of survival, all he had to do was land in the water, which consisted of seventy-five percent of the area.

"It was a very short flight to Angling Lake and we circled it several times to find the best place to land. The landing area was very shallow, and after we came down on the water, we had quite a distance to get to the dock. I opened the door above the cockpit and stood halfway out, watching for hidden boulders in the water. We stirred up plenty of mud with the pontoons.

" The sun was shining and a beautiful evening when we pulled up at the dock. There were about one hundred and forty people in Angling Lake and it was a typical Indian Settlement.

" A ball game was in progress and after watching for awhile, Dennis and I played catch with a couple of small Indian boys. They were quite shy, but seemed quick to overcome this.

" We looked the place over and went into a small building which was in the process of being built into a store and restaurant. It took only a short time for several women to produce some lovely Indian crafts and leather goods, each one being quite polite, but also trying to sell us some of their lovely articles. Each of us bought something. I bought my wife a lovely pair of beaded mukluks.

"At Angling Lake we met the man and wife team, whose name was Mr. and Mrs. Krasaukas. They were teaching forty children from Kindergarten to Grade Eight. After finishing business, we returned to the plane and found it had been invaded by a horde of fierce and hungry mosquitoes and it took some time to chase them out.

"At seven-twenty P.M. we left Angling Lake and it was a most beautiful evening, with the sun shining and a perfectly clear sky. We were on our way to the next stop which was Bearskin, and on the way we had to pass over Big Trout Lake. The lake was soon in sight and on the left we noticed a heavy fog bank. As we approached the lake, we found it to be completely frozen over as fast as we could see. (Remember, this was the third of June). I had to warn Dennis to try and not fall out in this area, as it would be rather difficult to make a soft landing.

" We passed straight across Big Trout Lake and arrived at Bearskin Lake at seven-fifty P.M. We landed at a dock and had to walk about two hundred yards to get to the main part of the village. I was not impressed with Bearskin as everything seemed neglected and dirty, even the huge school had doors and windows broken. There was a large church and it didn't seem to be in any better condition than the school. There were five teachers at the school. The village seemed quite scare of trees and was situated on quite a hill up from the lake. I though how it must be terribly cold in winter when the wind blows off the lake. We spent almost one hour at Bearskin, and Bill having completed his business, and Mr. Weiben making some business contacts, we were in the air again at eight-forty P.M. and landed at the Air Base at Big Trout Lake at Nine-ten P.M.

" Mr. Weiben had a main Air Base at Big Trout, with office and living quarters in a quite roomy  Nisson hut. The kitchen was quite well-stocked with food, so after unloading the plane, we packed what baggage we had , up to the hut, and then made supper.

"After supper, Dennis and i took a walk around, to look the village over. Big Trout Lake is quite a large community and this is where the Department of Transport maintains their weather station. We talked to one chap who worked there and he had been in Big Trout Lake for five years. His wife was one of the teachers. He also told us that the fishing around there was unbelievable.

"I was quite impressed with the huge church and cemetery situated on top of the hill in the centre of the community. The graves were separately fenced with a picket fence which was kept brightly painted with red and white paint. In one spot, there were seven graves inside one picket fence. I learned that they were the father and mother and five children, all killed in the same place by lightning. I also learned that nearly all of the churches in these Indian villages are of the Anglican faith.

"It was by now almost eleven o'clock at night and it was just starting to get  dark. Looking at the map, I could see that we really were not too great a distance from the shores of Hudson's Bay. (Possibly about two hundred miles by air.)

"We wandered back to our free hotel room at the Air Base, and having a few beers left, we played cribbage for a couple hours, but in no way could my partner "O.J" and myself win any games from Bill and Dennis.

"We sorted out beds and crawled in about one A.M., or rather should I say we crawled on the beds, as we found that there were no blankets and we did not bring any sleeping bags.

"O.J" being more experienced to this type of life, did have a lovely (but well  used) sleeping bag and of course, this being his house, he got the best bed. As no one would sleep with Bill, we allotted him the single bed and gave him a rather thin blanket that was on one of the beds. Dennis and I collected what coats, et cetera that we could find and curled up in the double bed that seemed to have a sag to one side of the mattress. The oil stove kept things fairly warm and it wasn't long before Bill was snoring and the rest of us being rather disturbed by the extreme noise. Due to previous threat to make Dennis and I walk home, we dared no wake him.

"We finally managed to get to sleep, only to be awakened shortly by what we thought to be a moose blowing and snorting somewhere close by. After partly waking up, we found that this noise was coming from Bill, it was a combination of snorts, coughs, wheezes, and escaping air. Then he went into a sort of tantrum until he could find a cigarette. The same tantrum got worse because he could not find matches to light the cigarette. Well, that cigarette was just like giving him a shot of morphine. He calmed right down and soon went back to sleep.

" By this time, it was about five A.M. and we were wide awake, thanks to Bill. That is , Dennis and I were awake, and "O.J" had completely disappeared in the safety of his sleeping bag. Dennis and I got up from what I must term as the shortest night's sleep I had ever experienced. I had previously been told that the nights in the North were short, but certainly did not think they were that short.

" We made coffee, toast, et cetera, and upon looking outside we found that we were completely fogged in with a visible ceiling of fog about forty feet above us. Naturally, I was most disappointed, as I was really looking forward to our trip that morning to Fort Severn on the shore of Hudson's Bay. Dennis, Bill, and "O J" had of course been up there previously. However, it was still early in the morning and there was the possibility of the weather clearing.

"By eight A.M. it was raining quite heavy and showing no sign of the fog lifting. We were within two hours flight of Fort Severn, but it was beginning to look as though we were not going to be able to make the trip. Apparently it is a difficult area to land  even in good weather.

"We spent all day lying around in the hut, playing cards, sleeping, and referring to Dennis and Bill telling lies.

" By four P.M. the rain stopped and the fog lifted, but it was too late to proceed to Fort Severn and our radio contact informed us that it was still foggy in that area. We packed up our baggage, refuelled the plane, and shortly after four, we were on our way to Kingfisher. We arrived there at four forty-five P.M. and it was a beautiful afternoon. The sun was shining. What a change in the weather!

"Kingfisher is a lovely Indian community situated on Kingfisher Lake. The homes are nice, and there was a nice big, new school, which I made a tour of. It was kept neat and clean and what I saw of the school work was excellent.

"Shortly after, we boarded the plane and were on our way home. It was fairly uneventful, aside from Bill taking over the controls. At that point I was ready to get out and walk home. I should point out that he did have his teeth in his mouth while he navigated the Twin Engine Beechcraft.

"I thank my good friends Bill, Dennis, and Orval who took me on this adventure. I will never forget my trip to "Indian Country".


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