by John Thompson.
Geir Thordon was born in Iceland in 1904. He immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1926. Here, he worked as a farm labourer and at various other jobs. That year he met up with a fellow countryman by the name of Halli Freeman. Halli operated a fish camp on Burnt Island at Dore Lake. In the winter season of 1926-27, Geir arrived in Dore Lake to help Mr Freeman fish. The following summer he met Einar Bergothson, an old Icelander, who had a fish camp on Camp Four Island. Geir bought Eniar's outfit, sight unseen, for a small down payment. From 1927, until 1944, Geir resided on the island during the winter fishing season. In 1944 he moved to Dore Lake permanently when summer fishing first began.
During the summer seasons, Geir worked as a farm labourer and at several jobs in southern Saskatchewan. Geir often found employment with the Erickson Brothers (Erick and Tony), who had a cement contracting company in Saskatoon. He became a very good cement finisher and did most of the cement finishing on the R.C.A.F. hangars, located in Dafoe, Saskatchewan during the 1940s.
While harvesting in the fall of 1927, he met a young fellow by the name of Frank Clinton. Frank had a good deal of experience in winter fishing, so Geir hired him to fish for him in the winter of 1927-28. With Frank's extra knowledge; the pair had a very good catch that season.
Geir also fished on Kingsmere, Cree and Stoney Lakes. In 1949, he began mink ranching on his island and continued this operation until six years before his death. On December 26, 1976, at the age of seventy-four, Geir Thordon froze to death at his home. Camp Four Island was renamed Geir's Island in his honour.
The first time I saw Dore Lake was on January 20th, 1930. I was on my way to Big River from Buffalo Narrows with two loads of fish. I spent the night at Anderson's stopping place. This was my first trip on the freight road. I worked on the freight road driving horses for several years hauling Hudson Bay Company freight north and returning with fish to Big River. Sometimes the weather was very cold and often we had to camp out.
The first time I came to stay on Dore Lake, I resided with Verner Johnson. I stayed there for five years, summer and winter. In the summer we cut hay for the horses and cattle and built a few fish camps at different places on the Lake.
There were no summer roads at that time and everything had to be brought in on the freight run in the wintertime.
There was a mail service from Prince Albert every two weeks. This mail was brought in by plane.
I also worked in Beauval for Erick Erickson. He operated a sawmill on the Beaver River for several years, and then finally moved to Meadow Lake and opened a box factory. He also bought a farm. I moved to Dore permanently, when Waite Fisheries built the filleting plant in 1945.
Emanuel Wynn fishing.
halfway between Potato Island and Moose Island
Standing on a low-water reef. Middle 1930's.
Emanuel with teacher Mildred Hill.
by Mrs. Marion Goliath
The seven years of my life at Dore Lake, with my late husband, and our children were very happy; the best of my life. We lived on Camp Four Island. A young Hungarian, Mr Joe Schindle, lived with us at that time. Our next-door neighbour was Mr Geir Thordon. Across the bay lived Mr George Mirasty with his daughter Amelia. She used to stay with us while her dad went on his trapline. We soon had new friends. Mirasty sold his place to Ole and Mary Skivik; they made it into the best stopping place far and wide. About two miles from us on the Dog Island lived a fisherman, Fritz Rothweiler. We became very good friends with the Skiviks and enjoyed the summers very much.
My husband, a fisherman and trapper, made enough money for a few groceries. You couldn't go on a shopping spree, but we lived good. We had the fish and ducks from the Lake, meat in the bush and all kinds of berries to preserve. We used one-gallon wine jugs to preserve the berries; they kept very good. We also made a big garden. We kept busy and enjoyed the Lake and the people we met.
In 1932, we were looking forward to our first child. Not taking chances of something going wrong; my husband took me to Big River on a three-day sleigh ride. It was very cold. We had a son named Reinhold. Our ride home, amongst swarms of mosquitoes and flies with a baby, was no picnic.
While in town we talked to old Voiks Zeigler. He said it would be much better for us to live on Michel Point. This is where they lived before they retired. They still had their cabin there. So we moved to Michel Point and Joe Schindle moved to Spruce Point to live with a young German, Mr Robert Kochendorfer. Our new friends, the Johnsons, lived across the point. Ida Johnson became my very best friend. They had the Post Office. We got the mail once a week by plane in the summer. Getting the mail gave us a chance to meet the rest of the Lake's residents: such as Johnny Thompson and a few more.
In 1935, we had a daughter named Gertrude. She was born in Johnson's house. Ida Johnson was my nurse. We had lots of work to do now. My husband built on another room to the cabin and made the rest of the cabin livable. He also built a chicken house. He made hay and chopped wood for the winter. He also ran the fishing outfit and kept the traps in shape. We also had dogs for a team. We did not visit very much, as we did not have a motorboat as yet, and rowing the boat was hard work. We bought a cow and some chickens and managed fine with just shopping twice a year. In 1937, I had a son at home named Henry. Mrs Fanny Roy was my nurse. Mrs Johnson used to walk over often; it was about a mile across the point. I will never forget such a friend as Ida Johnson.
As our children reached school age it was time to move. My husband bought a house at Ladder Lake. We moved in the spring of 1938. My husband worked on the road that summer and hired a man in the fall to help with the fishing.
In 1939, Disaster struck. A fatal hunting accident occurred before fishing and left me a widow. I had a son named Ernest and it took a lot of will power to go on living.
I was born on March 12, 1910, the third child of Christian Hoehn and Eleanor Wuschke, at Canora, Saskatchewan on a farm two miles north of town. I worked on the farm till 1929 and struck out for The Pas, Manitoba in the spring. In November of that year, I went to Winnipeg and enrolled in Musker's Engineering Institute. The great Wall Street Crash came in 1929.
I watched several demonstrations and clashes, between police on horseback with clubs, and the unemployed. I was promised a job at a garage in the city, but when the day arrived for work he shamefully told me a relative of his had shown up and he had to give him the job.
I applied for a farm job at $20.00 a month and board, at Rosser, Manitoba. I managed the farm for two years, but disagreements arose. I had good crops and had instituted management procedures learned in Manitoba, but father was not convinced and I left again.
I caught the freight train at Canora and the police wanted to put my friend, Bill Baer, and I off at the "Y". There were quite several hobos or men looking for work like me. I remember us running alongside the train after it stopped and catching the last car. We would climb on top and run the full length of the train on top and then curl up on the tender of the locomotive, where the steam pipes gave off some heat. This was early spring and it was cold. We rode inside a boxcar, into Winnipeg and covered ourselves with paper to keep warm.
I bought a model T Ford at Yorkton for $50.00, which had been used to haul cream.
After spring work, I drove to Prince Albert, where a friend Bill Crawford, lived. He advised me to file on a homestead. He worked for Saskatchewan Telephones and had been up to Big River working on the line.
I moved to Big River in October 1934, in the Model T. I had purchased a swede saw, axe, coal oil lantern, blankets, dishes, frying pans, and some grub. The land purchased for homesteading was one and a half miles from Big River. A 14' by 16' cabin was erected that fall.
I was told that here you worked in the winter and put in your time on the homestead in the summer when you could clear land. I decided to go north fishing and Cliff Kemp decided to go also. The wages were $35.00 per month and board. We had to supply our mitts, (twelve pair of wool mitts) Parka, sleeping bag and socks, etc. This could be obtained on credit, as not much cash was used in those days.
I was living in my shelter alongside the Model T and it was getting cold. The fishing season normally opened December 1, but this year, 1934, it opened on November 19th. We left by freight teams going north.
We arrived at Joe Shepherd's stopping place on DeLaronde Lake in the evening and stayed over-night. Next morning the freighters said the ice was not thick enough for the freight teams, so they would have to go by Egg Lake Meadows, breaking trail through the muskegs. However, Burt Pruden was taking a pony up the lake for Geir Thordon, who was at the narrows, where he had another horse and sleigh. We started by carrying our bedrolls and walked with moccasins on hard ice. My one arch was getting sore. Finally, we decided to tie the bedrolls together and hang them over the horse, which was much better. We followed the shore on DeLaronde to Johnny Olsen's stopping place at the narrows and stayed overnight. There were about eight of us in the party and one man, who got a stiff leg, was allowed to ride in the sleigh. We followed the west shoreline and the portage onshore, as the north end is deep, does not freeze for a long time. We got to Willie Tung's place, at the north end, that evening. Next day we took the portage to Rabbit Hill, then onto Sled Lake, and then Dore Lake. Geir's camp was on the east shore of Dore Lake, and from here we walked carrying our bedrolls. Most of the men stayed at Verner Johnson's camp. I and one man had to continue alone.
I was hired out to Joe Shingle, on Spruce Point. I was told to go across the ice to Rocky Island and then continue to Joseph's Point, where John Thompson had a camp. From there I could follow the shore to Spruce Point.
You can imagine two greenhorns, who before this trip had never travelled over ice more than one mile across, crossing six miles of ice with only one small island between shores. We carried a pole in case we broke through. We took our first deep breath on the island, where we rested a few minutes. We found John Thompson lifting a net near Joseph's Point. He invited us to stay for supper and the night. His wife, Grace, was with him and he tells me now, that they were so isolated, they were really glad to see someone. He said I talked a lot, which they enjoyed. We were happy to have crossed this ice safely.
It was so strange to me to hear the conversations at the stopping places. "Hi, Joe. What are you going to do this winter?" Joe would say, "I'm going north trapping; maybe Snake Lake, or Clear Lake on Churchill River." Finally, I said, "I thought we were north. Where in "Hell" is this north anyway." They assured me there was lots of north, north of here.
Next morning I left and arrived at Joe Single's camp. They did not know the season was open and were not prepared for fishing. Robert Kochendorfer was staying with Joe, Cliff and I, in the same camp. We had to put leads and floats on the nets and set them in the water. Two men with one pony and a ski sleigh would leave before daylight. They set and lifted the nets. If you got lots in the morning, you had daylight coming on to get straightened out. It was better to get home early, as it would be dangerous to be lost in the fog or a storm, where visibility was zero.
Pete Busch and Albert Dumat were fishing from Robert Kochendorfer's camp and catching very well. Since the limit was on the whole lake, it was usual to keep it a secret if you found the fish. Some large outfits would have a dog team to travel with, to find where the men were catching. They would then move in and circle them with nets. However, you can't keep fish hidden and we moved over to Robert's camp and caught better.
I did not smoke. Having tested the weed at Canora at age thirteen and when Herman got deathly sick, it scared us good. We did not let on it was tobacco. I quit then and did not start again. However, I was told that up north you had to smoke. There was no other way to combat isolation. Cliff Kemp's can of tobacco soon ran out, and Joe and Robert had none. At first, I teased them saying, this was the last place to smoke, as it was so far from stores. They swept the camp clean looking for butts. The mood was such, that I dared not taunt them anymore. Cliff had a can of tobacco at Skivaks and they sent him down, with the pony to get it. This can soon run out with three smokers and they were short again before the freight swings got to our camp. I never found it necessary to smoke.
Joe had injured his hand in the fall. After fishing a few times it got sore and looked like a boil. He was confined to camp and cooked for us. Sourdough flapjacks were standard in this country and bread was brought in from Big River when available. One day Joe baked some baking powder biscuits, which tasted very good. Cliff noticed that the spots in the biscuits were not raisins. We found mice had been in the flour. However, we made do by picking out the raisins.
Fishing lasted one and a half months. After New Year's we headed back to Big River, with fish freighter Gus Swanson. We left the south end of Dore Lake and got as far as the south end of Sled Lake, where Roy had the stopping place. The next day the teamster made eight miles to Rabbit Hill. It was cold and the sleighs growled like they were pulling on gravel. They needed rests quite often and Gus decided it was a day to rest the horses. Since we had to pay our way down, Cliff and I left our bedrolls with Gus Swanson and after a meal proceeded on foot to the north end of DeLaronde. The road was well driven now and good for walking on. At the stopping places, you got a bunk with hay on it and supplied your own blankets. There was a good snow ploughed road on the lake and we decided to go by moonlight, to the narrows, arriving at about 11:30 at night. Here, John Olsen gave us lunch and some blankets. Next day, after breakfast, we hit the road again. We caught a ride near the south end of town. Cliff's legs were stiff from the long walk, but mine was not too bad. We met Tom Reed on the road going north with freight, and he invited us to stay at his place. After about a week I got a job with J. K. Johnson cutting logs in the bush.
This would be the pattern for a few years; fishing in the first part of the winter, cutting logs for the balance of the year, and working in the sawmill in Big River, after the logs were floated down. When not working for someone else I would clear land around Big River.
I fished for Eddie Zeigler on Dore, at his camp in Smith's Bay. Between the camp and Smith's Island, we were catching mainly pickerel. Harold Frederick-son had a camp on the south end of the bay and we would get some hay from him. He fished by himself and his wife was with him. They lived there the year-round. They had some odd pets. One year it was a calf moose. The moose was full-grown and would come to the cookshack for pancakes. When strangers came she would run into the bush. One day the moose took a liking to fish fins and started to chew up the fish. Mrs Frederickson tried to chase her away, but the calf put up her mane and came for Mrs Frederickson. It took a good hard knock on the nose with a frozen fish to put her to route.
In the fall of 1940, Nels Edson asked me if I would fish for him. He had purchased Ed Zeigler's camp on Smith's Bay. He would hire us for $75.00 per month and board to run this camp. Nels Edson had a caboose for his wife Bernice. Minnie, my wife, and Bernice loved to ride in it. I remember one muskeg between DeLaronde and Sled Lake was not frozen. One horse fell and we had difficulty getting him out. We had to lead the horses near the ridge and pull the sleigh by hand to get across. Once the snow is packed the muskegs freeze. Minnie can remember water following the sleigh tracks on the lake and how scared she was. This was her first and last trip to the north.
One year I flew in by Norseman on open water to 'get the camp ready. With no boat, we were completely isolated. I had three men and myself that winter and did reasonably well. We were catching from sixty to eighty pickerel in a net and they are slow to fish. I remember when John Swanson's men came into the Bay that year. We fished every day from before daylight, till late at night; washing mitts every evening and hanging them around the heater to dry. Boxes were packed up in bundles and we would have to make them up at night. We sometimes packed fish by gas lantern at night. There was no radio or other entertainment. Christmas was the one day we stopped. The only news we got, was when the freighters came up and brought the mail and told us of local happenings.
There is a saying that "all liars aren't fishermen, but all fishermen are liars." This probably originated at Dore Lake.
From left to right: Cliff Kemp, John Hoehn and Joe Single, 1934.
Lunch on the ice.
Ed Zeigler's camp at Smiths Bay.
John Hoenh at the boxes.
Bill Kaese driving.
Ed Zeigler and children at Smiths Bay.