Lefty header.

Hugh Boswell "Lefty" McLeod

Page Two of Six

The flying career of Lefty McLeod
in Northern Saskatchewan.

Aircraft Line.


Webmaster's Note.

The following webpage information has been transcribed to text from 10 audio tapes created by the late Lefty Mcleod. When Lefty recorded the tapes, he did not do it in a chronological order, as a result, there may be a certain amount of repetition in his story. Some information has also been gleaned from various newspaper articles, books and photographs of the time.

While every effort has been made to transcribe the information as accurately as possible, there may be errors and the names of some individuals and locations may not be correct, or spelled incorrectly. The transcription software created a lot of errors and some information was inaccurate, unreadable, or missing, leading to a certain amount of guesswork and research.

I would like to acknowledge the help I have had from Les Oystryk and Lefty's son, Bruce McLeod, who gave me assistance to compile these webpages. They made a tough job much easier!!

Unfortunately, all of Lefty's original family photographs have apparently been lost and only scanned copies exist and they are not of good scanning quality. Lefty's flight log books also exist and an effort is being made to obtain them, but that effort may not be successful. If anyone has any information that will help improve the accuracy of these webpages:


Please contact me - webmaster@jkcc.com

Aircraft Line.

Lefty's Audio Button

You can click on the above graphic audio link to listen to Lefty's McLeod's story from his original tape recordings, that were converted into 10 audio CDs. There are breaks between each CD, as Lefty belatedly wrestled with his tape recorders and some of his narrative may be a bit garbled. However, it gives us a fascinating insight into his flying career in the Air Force, as a bush pilot and the time period in which he was active.


Aircraft Line.

"Lefty" McLeod's Story Starts Here.

When they closed down Nisto Mine, Charlie Bloom became the caretaker there and he was the guy that had his stove up on a stage in his cabin on Snowbird Lake because he had forgotten to bring his stovepipes. An added feature of his cabin was the fact that it was lined with caribou skins with the hair on the inside to insulate it, as you know, log cabins do develop leaks and so on. But I guess it was a good fix, but every step that you took in the cabin, there were clouds of caribou hair, flying all over everything.


Snowbird Lake, NWT.
Snowbird Lake, NWT.

I had been as far as Cambridge Bay, but all we could see was the top of the Loran Mast sticking out of the fog. The next time we went up there, I guess I must have been hoodooed or something, because the field was all fogged in again. That was my leg to fly too, so I wasn't too happy about that and we had we'd gone in direct from Yellowknife on what appeared to be a good weather report and forecast, but just before we got there, some sea fog moved in.

So, there was one open place within reach it was a place called Jenny Lind Island, which is another Dew Line site farther to the east. So we went over there and landed and stayed there until about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning when they came and woke us up and said that Cambridge was open again.

We were trying to do a great deal of work up there on that particular trip. So we took off about 3:30 AM and got into Cambridge and refueled and then went up to Resolute Bay and on up to Isaacson on Axel Heiberg Island and from there to Resolute Bay. We loaded some barrels of fuel because they told us there wasn't any gas at Isaacson.


Jenny Lind Island.
Jenny Lind Island.

We also loaded a whole bunch of groceries in metal containers, they'd done them all up and bound them all up in galvanized iron and then soldered them all shut so that the lemmings or arctic foxes wouldn't chew them all up. We left them at Isaacson, and then another guy took them out and cached them at various places around the islands where they were going to have their camps.

Cambridge was all fogged in when we got there. We took a couple of instrument approaches at it, but couldn't get in there. So we went down the Dew Line to a place called Jenny Lind Island, which is just a little patch in the middle of the ocean but it had a radar site on it, a Dew Line station.

We were able to stop in there and find accommodation and meals and so on they treated us well, we went back in there the following morning, quite early, about 2:00 in the morning. When the fog cleared out, we just got up and departed we refueled there and we were on our way to Resolute Bay actually and Isaacson on Axel Heiberg Island.

We get into a Resolute Bay and took on a load of fuel for our return trip, plus a whole load of groceries that we want to take on up and drop them at Isaacson for one of our surface parties that were going to work there. Very interestingly, we never saw any open water and that was in Jewett I stood on the hood of our D8 cat on the main drag in Resolute Bay, all you can see is the end of the street buried behind the snowdrift. They hadn't seen out of the windows on the main buildings all winter because they'd been snowed under. This of course was in June, the sun never went down anyway, so we managed to get in an awful lot of work in a very short time.


Resolute Bay.
Resolute Bay, N.W.T.

We're going on up to Alert Bay which is the farthest north continuously occupied station in the world. Of course, it is manned by RCAF and the Department of Transport guys. The weather closed in at Alert, so we had to cancel out, but we got as far as Ward Hunt Island. That's where all the polar land and sea expeditions started from, Peary and Amundsen, and all those guys that were running around up there.

I took a guy from Prince Albert to Churchill one time and the only available plane was a Stinson, which wasn't a very long-range, sort of an airplane. So we flew across to Flin Flon and I refueled there, the guy took advantage of the stop to rush downtown and get a case of beer and it was so smoky from forest fires that I followed the railroad track every inch of the way without any qualms whatsoever.

All the way up to Churchill he drank the beer and threw the empties out the window. When we got to Churchill, he had finished the beer, but he also had to go to the bathroom pretty bad. Well, the weather was closing in when we got to Churchill and I had never been there before.

I didn't know the lay of the land, but I was told not to land in the river because it was tidal and when I was ready to leave, I might find the airplane 100 yards from the water. So I landed in a lake fairly close to the airport and taxied into a little shack that was there. Meanwhile, my passenger got out and was busy, relieving himself in the lake.

At the same time, there is a guy on shore jumping up and down tearing his hair out by the roots. When we got there, he said you can't land here and I said, well, I'm here and the weather is so damn bad I'm not going anywhere else. I said, why can't I land here? It's a good Lake and it's halfway between the airport and town.

He said well mainly because it's the drinking water supply for the airport. So true, they had some additives to the lake that they may or may not have known about.


Churchill, Manitoba.
Churchill, Manitoba.

Churchill is a dismal place, but it was very interesting to me because I sat on the beach and watched a couple of gigantic freighter canoes, full of Eskimos, catching beluga whales. That was sure interesting to me because the belugas were about twice as big as the canoes.

We had some pretty interesting days and nights there, we got awfully tired except about once every three days and then you just fall down and nothing on earth could wake you up again. I got on some interesting ferry flights, I ferried a Fairchild 71 from Ottawa to Moose Factory for Levin's Brothers when I had just got back from being discharged from the Air Force.


CF-DAP.
Fairchild 71 aircraft.

Waite Fisheries asked me to ferry the Norseman, that they had just bought, from Winnipeg to Prince Albert and nobody had been checked out on a Norseman, except myself so it was a good deal. I went down and met Lynn and Len Waite and somebody else down in Winnipeg, Jim Barber, I guess.

I flew back non-stop from Winnipeg to Prince Albert and on the way, Len Waite, who had been whooping it up in Winnipeg, was kind of caught short as there were no facilities of any kind in the airplane, the Norseman had been stripped naked. Leonard had bought a brand new Stetson hat while he was in Winnipeg and the Stetson hat ultimately became the toilet and the smell of course was terrific. We had all the windows in the airplane open for quite a while.

Jim Barber was a kind of a rough little guy. I remember one time, he and George Greening and I were having a few beers in their room in the hotel in Big River. Don Brownfield, his mother owned the hotel, he was a great big amiable sort of a goof, stuck his head in the door as a joke and said all right, you guys got to settle down.

Jim Barber was sitting in a chair behind the door and he just reached up one foot and he kicked the doorknob and the door slammed shut on Brownfield's head. He went down as though, he was hit with an axe. Mrs. Brownfield came bounding up the stairs and threw the whole bunch of us out of the hotel.


Jim Barber.
Jim Barber - Bush Pilot.

Jim Barber bomber crew.
Jim Barber, fourth from left, with his Lancaster bomber crew during WWII. Photo taken after 33 operational sorties without any injury to the crew. Photograph courtesy of Heather Crowdis.

So we had to go down and sleep in the fish plant that night much to everybody's disappointment. We threatened to lock Barber up in the freezer and turn him into a totem pole, but between one thing and another, he got away with it.

One time Jim Barber was changing the seal on a propeller in Buffalo Narrows and there was this big mean Indian by the name of Cheechuk. Cheechuck was featured in one of these other little anecdotes. He got uptight about something, some kind of dealings with Waite Fisheries and he and Len Waite took to pounding on one another out in front of the hotel.

Cheechuk had Len Waite down on the ground and was choking him, George Greening just came sailing through the Chinaman's kitchen (Derr Tom's) and picked up a big cast iron frying pan and laid it across Cheechuck's head. It just sounded like a bell ringing, there was a beautiful clear note and old Cheechuck went down for the count and they just left him there. He eventually staggered to his feet and rambled off. I guess he didn't remember what had happened or anything.


Derr Tom's Cafe.
Derr Tom's Cafe and hotel in Buffalo Narrows.

But this one day, he came pestering Jim Barber when Jim was changing a prop seal on the motor. His skull must have been made of solid ivory because he kept jiggling Barber and jiggling Barber and come on Barber when are you going to get that finished? When are you going to take me to La Loche? Come on, Barber? Hurry up and he kept pushing.

Jim Barber had a small cotter key in his hand, which was necessary to insert so two blades of the prop would stay in coarse pitch and one would go into a fine pitch. It had to be done properly, and it was a rather delicate job in the winter standing, on a gas drum, freezing, your fingers and trying to get it through a little tiny hole.

So after dropping a couple of them, Barber turned around and said, Cheechuck bugger off or I'm going to hit you with this prop bar, which was just like a hunk of a crowbar. Cheechuk kept bothering him so Barber slid the prop bar out of the prop wrench and dropped it across Cheechuk's head and that was the end of that argument. Cheechuck eventually died of a heart attack, he certainly didn't die of a skull fracture anyway. He was one of the strange guys up there.

There is another crop of guys Gordon Carruthers, Ed Cody, Cliff Graham. Ed Cody and Cliff Graham had two old boats. They were almost like twins except they were painted differently. I can't remember what Graham's boat was called, but Cody's was called the Bearcat II and it was painted white and red and had a covered wagon top on it.

Cliff Graham's was painted, dark gray, and also had a covered wagon top on it. They had living quarters under the tent sort of thing. Mother discovered that she and Ed were related and oh boy, he was jumping through a hoop like a team that lost it. He was a tall scrawny old guy about 75 or so with snow-white hair. A real nice old guy a lot of fun.


Lefty and Gordon Carruthers.
Lefty McLeod and Gordon Carruthers with dog team, Feb. 1950.

Gordon Carruthers was a Mulatto. He ran the pool hall and anything else that he could make a buck out of. I rented my cabin from him the first year that I was at Goldfields, which was handy. It was right behind the restaurant and I used to be able to duck out the door of my place and into the back door of the restaurant.

The McCaskill's who were friends of the Stephens, Doug and Ann Stephens, at one time had a schooner on Lake Athabasca and they used to freight with the schooner from Fort Chipewyan up to Stony Rapids. Julian Mills, of course, you probably met, I'm not sure whether you did or not.

He was the captain, the riverboat captain that used to come around and visit when we lived in Edmonton and he was a real good guy. His brother was an engineer with MacKenzie Airway and Ernie one time got his engineers license, or got his pilot's license as well as his engineers license. They had a Wings party for him in Yellowknife and everybody was needling him about not being able to fly the Fairchild 82 that he was working on at the time.


Fairchild 82.
Fairchild 82 CF-AXE.

So in the middle of the night, they all go down trooping down to the dock and Ernie starts up the 82 and took off in the dark. He'd never flown the plane before and got up and did some astonishing aerial maneuvers and wound up piling the plane up in the middle of the lake and almost drowning himself. They went and fished him out and he lost his pilot's license before he ever really had a chance to use it and went back to being an air engineer.

He ultimately got into the booze to the point where he suffered from extreme depression and he committed suicide. It was quite a blow for Julian and the other brother, who was a traffic manager for Canadian Pacific air in Honolulu. We didn't see much of him, the three brothers were called, Hooly, Catsy, and Ernie. Catsy was the Canadian Pacific guy, Ernie of course, McKenzie Airways, and Hooly was the river pilot.

There was another guy up there by the name of Ernie Scarret, who was a really weird little character. He flew for Burt Bure and Burt and I used to leave each other's customers alone. We didn't try and muscle in on what the other guy was doing because he had things that he could handle and I had things that I could handle. There was just enough for both of us and neither one of us was going to put the other another out of business, nor even try.

But this Ernie Scarret, Burt hired him and he immediately decided he was going to take over all my camps. Well, he got into smaller and smaller lakes, I was flying a Beaver, and he was flying a Stinson, which is a notoriously long runner on takeoff. So I kept moving my camps into smaller and smaller lakes until I was just really cutting washers getting in and out of the damn lakes myself. I finally got Ernie lured into one that he couldn't get out of and then I went and told Burke what was going on and I said, now he's going to be able to get out of there when the wind changes, but he's going to be there until it does.

I said, I'm not going to bring him out of there he's going to have to stay there and he's not too popular right now. So you better give him a little talking to when he comes out. Well, ultimately, the wind changed and he was able to claw his way out of this little Lake. So Burt gave him a lecture about trying to teach an old dog new tricks and stuff like that and getting caught with his finger in the cookie jar. After that, everything worked out pretty well.

He had an accident over at Nicholson Mine, there was a great big groundswell on the lake one day and it was impossible to see, you had to experience it. It would hit one way and the airplane would bounce like you wouldn't believe, the Stinson didn't have a very substantial undercarriage and he collapsed a couple of struts on it, but the thing was still operational.

So what he did was he took the struts off and he cut down a birch tree and he jacked the airplane back into, more or less into taxiing position. He taxied it 11 miles from Nicholson Mine around through a whole bunch of islands and around a couple of long points and eventually wound up in Goldfields with it, which had some facilities.


Nicholson mine.
Headframe construction at the Nicholson Mine in 1949. Credit: Glenbow Museum Archives.

We had all kinds of tools between the two of us and Burt and I, we always helped one another, if possible. So when he got in there, Burt just brought up a couple more struts and we all pitched in and had them on in a couple of hours.

It looked kind of funny to see Ernie taxiing in, with his big log of a birch tree with leaves and branches and everything else. He didn't trim it off very efficiently and all the birch bark and everything was still on. But it was holding the airplane in place that was the main thing but it looked sort of funny.

Goldfield's had a lot of funny things going for it. One time before the uranium boom Bill ???? and I used to go in there with the Norseman. All the time when I was flying out of Goldfields, I flew the Beaver, but when we went in there on the mail run, usually we went in to take either Cliff Graham across to his camp, or Gordon Carruthers down to his camp on the McFarland River in the fall when they went out onto their trap lines. Gordon had a family of about six, so he generally had two loads and we were taking the first load out on time.

The bay at Goldfields was a kind of a kidney-shaped place with a very narrow entrance that you had to make about a 90-degree turn as you're going through the entrance to get out into the main lake. There is a little island on one side, where the Indians used to keep their dogs and a little wooded point, on the other side where the Indians used to camp. It was a good setup because the dogs didn't bother them and they didn't have to tie them up or anything like that. They would paddle across and feed them once a day or so.

So we were taxiing out through the gap with a load of Gordon's stuff, it was a real big jag of a load, so we didn't have enough room to get off on the inside bay. We had to taxi out towards the main Lake and so as we were starting our 90-degree turn which was a long curve, I heard a little bit of a thump. I said to Bill, did you see that piece of driftwood? he said, no I didn't see anything, when I looked out the window I didn't notice anything.

We kept getting the notion that we could hear some other kind of noise, over the noise of the engine I glanced ashore and there's an Indian on the shore jumping up and down, waving and pointing. So I chopped the engine and climbed out on the float to see what was going on.

What had happened was two girls had started to paddle from the island to the mainland where the Indian camp was in front of us. Their rate of progress was equal to ours and we didn't see them and the propeller didn't touch them, but it turned the canoe over.

The two girls grabbed the spreader bar between the floats and we were dragging them along. What we could hear in the background from the engine was these girls screaming and yelling for us to stop. By the time we got them to the shore, of course, the whole Indian camp was just in hysterics, they got a very large laugh out of that.

Burt eventually bought a Seabee, which is a little, retractable gear, single-engine amphibian aircraft.What his idea was, was to meet the CP Air flight on the airstrip at McMurray and take right off from there, and fly the fresh meat and stuff into the camps so that they get same-day delivery from Edmonton right through to the camps at Goldfields.

It was a good idea except the Seabees had a nasty habit of kneeling down on you when they had the wheels down. Occasionally, you'd have to get out your shovel and dig holes to get the gear back down and make sure it was locked down and then taxi it out of there and take it someplace where you could work on it. So every so often Burt would land and the wheels would fold up on him and he had quite a time with the darn thing, he eventually abandoned it anyway.


Seabee Amphibious Aircraft.
Seabee Amphibian Aircraft.

He hired another guy by the name of Don McKay and Don was a kind of an innocent. He had spent most of his time instructing at an airport and hadn't been into the bush too much. At that time I had landed a contract for a fuel haul, that had to be completed within a certain time for diamond drills, and the season was getting shorter, and I wanted to get all that plus all my other work done.

So, Rene Baudais came up to help me and we got our trips timed so that as I was landing at Goldfields to load, they were only about 15-minute trips, 15 or 20 minutes. As I was landing at Goldfields, Rene would be taking off and it was an ideal time of the year because there was no wind. So I could be landing towards the dock and Rene would start up at the dock and be taking off, and poor old Don McKay was caught in the middle.

He didn't know whether we were all crazy at Goldfields are not, but he would mill around there and mill around there and he wouldn't know what was happening half the time.

The Hudson Bay guys were great up there, they, the Steven's and the Garbutt's, the Black's, Nicholson's, Smith's, Gray's, McKinney's, Peterson's, McDonald's, Johnson's. They were all good to us, very hospitable always had something on for us to eat and always offered us overnight accommodations and so on.

Mom and I were driving down the highway from Prince George to Vancouver and going through McLeod Lake, we saw the Hudson Bay store there. So we wandered in and gosh, there's Bob and Nancy Middleton who invited us for afternoon tea. We went back there again and Hudson's Bay had sold out and Bob had bought the whole works. The third time we dropped by, they had gone, they'd sold out and they went away.

I always visit the Stevens and Bill and Rene Garbutt in Victoria, the Blacks, Nicholson's, Smith's, Gray's, McKinney's, and so on are scattered to the four winds. Mr. McDonald's wife, Mrs. McDonald lives at Christopher Lake, the Johnson's, I don't know where they went. Bill Cobb retired, Ben Hunter was the Hudson Bay guy, he got the post at Aklavik for a while and those are about the only ones that I know the location of.


Bill Garbutt.
At Brochet, C.1950. From the left: Charlie Klein, Clerk at Brochet, Bill Garbutt, H.M Ross and an unidentified pilot.

Herb Gratias was one of the pilots with S.G.A., he came just as I was leaving and he left and was flying, the treaty flight, and used to go around to the various settlements paying treaty money. Herb got very, very intoxicated one day, everybody claimed they'd overnighted in Flin Flon. Next day everybody had climbed into the airplane and started North they're going to Southend on Reindeer Lake first and then to Brochet and then across to Wollaston Lake and so on.

The usual circuit that the treaty flight did, I don't know who the Mountie was that was aboard this time. He was one of the Mountie's from Flin Flon and he had just got his pilot's license.

One of the unique things about getting your pilot's license at Flin Flon was the fact that you never got on wheels. You might have got on skis if it was in the wintertime, but in the summertime was the preferred time to get your license, you did all your flying on floats, which is kind of interesting.


Herb Gratias.
Left to Right - Herb Gratias (SGA Pilot), Dave Chorney, Jean Doidge (of Northern News fame) and George Horne (SGA Pilot), at Beaver Lake Fish Plant dock, Denare Beach. Circa 1955, Photo Credit - Bernice Stene.

Paying treaty money.
Paying treaty at Shamatawa, 1949. Source: Bruce Noton.

So the Mountie was clued up on floats anyway and the pilot Gratias passed out at the controls. This Mountie took over the controls and flew the Norseman back to Flin Flon and landed and the company fired Gratias on the spot and sent somebody else out to look after things.

It was a very good deal that somebody on board that had a little experience. Herb finally died like a dog in a back alley in Prince Albert. He was weaving home stone drunk and passed out and froze to death, it was 50 below or something like that. Nobody found him until the next morning and you could lay him down as a railroad tie by that time he was frozen stiff, anyhow, that's the way things go.


Herb Gratias.
Herb and Rose Gratias Headstone
Kinistino Cemetery.

Early waterbombing aircraft.
De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver CF-GCU Saskatchewan Government Airways (Saskair) La Ronge, Saskatchewan. Water bombing roll tanks. Photo Credit: Don Magnussun Photos.

Early water bombing equipment on SaskAir aircraft.
De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver CF-GCU Saskatchewan Government Airways (Saskair) La Ronge, Saskatchewan. Water bombing roll tanks. Photo Credit: Don Magnussun Photos.

About that period just when I was leaving, there was some high fun and entertainment around because they started fitting the Beavers and Otters with water bombing equipment. It was very primitive stuff in those days and it consisted of a snorkel set up where you could fill the things with water while you were taxiing. They were just like long tanks mounted on top of the floats, open at the top and you could see when they'd filled up with the snorkel and when you want to empty them, you pulled a handle in the cockpit and they rotated and just dumped. Well, I never got in on any of this much to my regret because it had all kinds of interesting possibilities.

I can remember the guy that became the crafty character on the water bombing run, Sam McKnight, a sawed-off little guy who's a real good head. He and George Greening, now this is when I was working for El Dorado, but I had stopped in a La Ronge for some supplies because we had a few parties that were working north of Foster Lake and our main summer camp was up there.


Foster Lake.
Foster Lake, Saskatchewan.

So I was tied up to the dock and I was sitting gassing with these guys, Sam and George and a couple of other guys and George was giving Sam the gears about his ability as a water bomber pilot. You couldn't hit the side of a barn door with a bucket full of water if you were leaning against the door and all this kind of stuff, Sam was just soaking it all up and not saying an awful lot.

So Sam had a trip to make so he took off and disappeared and George said, well, I better go down gas up my airplane. I started to walk up to the radio station and I heard a faint whispering sound I looked up and Sam's Otter was just sailing over the trees with everything shut down and just gliding across aimed right for the end of the dock.

I turned around and George spotted him coming, but it was too late to do anything about it. He was kneeling on the center section of the Norseman with his hands clasped in an attitude of supplication, screaming no, no, Sam, I take it all back. I didn't mean it, but Sam was merciless and he dumped the whole works and it all landed right on George. So it was a very entertaining little interlude, watching George hanging on so he wouldn't get washed off the top of the airplane, but we had a lot of fun like that from time to time.

We had some odd country to cover once in a while. There's a watercourse between Mason and Engman Lake west of Clear Lake. In the spring, the upper lake, are on two different levels and they're both quite large lakes.

They're pretty fair sizes, maybe three or four miles long and a mile wide maybe and there is a little creek that joins them together on the north end. In the spring, the runoff progresses from the upper lake to the lower lake quite naturally. Except that the creek, you can watch the water in the creek two-thirds of the way then it disappears underground.

In the summertime, it reappears downstream as a creek and into Mason Lake, but in the very early spring, when there's lots of runoff, there's a water spout, there is a drop, it's an underground waterfall, I guess is how you might describe it. It appears from the air that the water shoots up about eight feet high when there is a real good run off like a fountain almost, which is one of the strangest things.

Then, down where Gordon Carruthers camp was, was another strange part of the country, it had a very peculiar geological formation. I couldn't figure out what it was and eventually, a friend of mine identified it as a drumlin, which is a glacial deposit. The odd thing about it was that they were all roughly the same shape and the same size, maybe a quarter of a mile long, they were sloped at each end, 45 degrees.

They were long and narrow, the sides were 45 degrees and the ends were 45 degrees, rivers were running back and forth between them. They were all interconnected like, inter-woven, no interlocking maybe, but at the base of them, the rivers ran back and forth and there were also eskers running in and out of them and it was a very amazing looking sight.

It looked like the mountains of the moon sort of when you get into bad weather or anything like that. All these great big humps and some of them were three or four hundred feet high, but they're all made of gravel and sand and there's an awful lot of caribou down in there in the wintertime.


Drumlin.
Arctic Drumlin.

At the Gordon Carruthers camp, one time, we counted 29 timberwolves going by the house the night that I stayed there. That was when the caribou migration was on, of course, and these wolves were following the caribou herds.

I caution you guys to take care of yourselves when you're young because this is a good example of how stupid people can be. I include myself and I don't exclude, you guys either, but, in Port Radium in the spring, we used to land on Sawmill Bay and land in the bay in front of the mine and the rest of the lake would be 40 miles of solid ice. Once in a while, if there was a wind that came up, it filled either one or the other of the bays with ice.


Sawmill Bay.
Sawmill Bay, N.W.T.

Sawmill Bay.
Sawmill Bay, N.W.T.

At Sawmill Bay, we were trying to take as big loads as possible, so we had our fuel cut down to a minimum. If we got over there and found out that the bay was full of ice, there is usually a patch big enough for us to land and take off on near the mouth of the bay. The only drawback was that we had to load all the stuff onto a truck and haul it out to the open water area where we parked the airplane.

Well, usually the shoreline out there was so darn shallow that we had to have the airplane beached out about 300 yards from shore, or maybe not that far, but certainly held down by the anchor so that we could get the load on board. We would have to carry the darn stuff out until we were waist-deep in the water and pile it on the floats and then climb in and load it in the cabin and this with cakes of ice floating around there.

I suspected that's one of the reasons why I've got such a heck of a shot of arthritis in my knees now as a result of that kind of nonsense. Anyhow, we used to do that occasionally, sometimes we'd get back to the mine and find that the mine bay was all full of ice.

There was another one to the south called Glacier Bay, that had a big overflow patch on it that used to have ice on it almost all summer. It was in a shady place and only in about the end of August, would the ice disappear just about in time to start making more ice for the next year, but it was generally open.

If we had to land in there, they would send the lake boat around to break the ice for us. The trick was to stay right in behind them as close as you could so that the ice didn't have a chance to come back together again behind the hull of the boat.


Glacier Bay.
Glacier Bay, N.W.T.

This one time, however, they ran the boat over a great big ice pan that didn't break and we were in close enough to the boat that the ice pan was still submerged when we got over the edge of it. When it came to the surface it just lifted airplane, load, people and everything else like that, completely out of the water so we were sitting on top of a great big sheet of ice. It happened right in front of the mine so everybody had the benefit of a big laugh.

Somebody has a picture of us all running around on the ice looking at the airplane, sitting on floats, on top of a big raft of ice. I fired up the plane and skated off into some open water and we got away with it all right.

Dennis Kelly was the guy that was the Reeve at Lewis, he's a nice guy, he's a little nervous, a reformed alcoholic so he's got a right to be a little bit nervous I guess. He and Minister Ted Bowerman, and a guy by the name of Jeep McKay were some of the smokejumpers. He had an interesting technique, they would drop drift chutes and figured out the bail-out and Dennis Kelly was wiry a little guy and he knew his business pretty well.


Dennis Kelly.
Dennis Kelly standing front.

Dennis Kelly.
Dennis Kelly sitting on top of Canso CF-SAT aircraft 1950. Location unknown, person in front unidentified.

I gave both Joan and Berna their first flying lessons up at Contact Lake when they used to take turns going into La Ronge to shop for supplies for the camp. That model of the Beaver that I've got, Joan gave to me when I left S.G.A. I remember one time they spilled paint on the floor of their cabin up there instead of mopping it up, they just spread it around on the floor until it was a picture of a Norseman on floats. I thought that was a clever fix.

Berna and Joan Studer began flying lessons in the 1950s, Joan earned her commercial pilot's license in 1958 and spent her holidays and weekends building up flying hours and visiting around the north with her sister. Joan became one of a handful of women in Canada to work as a bush pilot.

She moved to Nipawin and started flying for Nipawin Air Services in 1967. She flew for the company for ten years, often flying Norseman CF-SAM to fishing lodges, mineral properties, and communities in northeast Saskatchewan. She was a careful pilot and was always attentive to changing weather patterns. She always kept in mind veteran bush pilot Lefty McLeod's words: "You bend down to pick up a stone and, when you straighten up, the weather has changed."


She flies the frozen Northwest Barrens.
Berna Studer, She flies the frozen Northwest Barrens.

Vital Statistics: Attractive, 30 years old, 124 lbs., five-foot-1 (...with nerves of steel!)

Her name is Berna Studer and she earns $600 monthly doing a big man's job - flying for a bush airline in -50 degrees below at the 56th parallel. She will fly you where the toughest of Indians can't reach.


Berna's headstone.
Berna Studer's Beautiful Headstone.

Studer Family.
The Studer home at Sulphide Lake. Circa 1956. From L to R: Vernon Studer, Len McArthur, Adolph Suder and Bert Lien. Credit Saskatchewan Archives Board, Photograph no. RA 9334(2).

At that time, we had an S-58 helicopter, the first one in Canada that worked for us at one of our camps. It was a heck of a big powerful helicopter compared to the other ones that we used to have. So we loaned them the helicopter for a day or so.

They dismantled the Otter took the wings off and the tail off and so on and stuffed everything inside, that would go there part of the undercarriage that was torn off and so forth. They picked it up with the helicopter in a sling and flew it into Fort Nelson, it was no problem at all, but they had a hell of a time with the wings.

They had the wings lash together back-to-back with tires in between them, so they wouldn't get marred, or damaged, or anything like that and helicopter picked them up and they acted like one of those funny maple seeds. They just spun around and around and almost to the point where they were getting the helicopter out of control.

So they tried about three different systems, finally, they went to what they should have done in the first place and crated them and they came out just as meek as kittens after they were created. But it was a kind of a good thing to know because the next time something like that happens, somebody's going to know, all the answers.


S-58 Helicopter.
S-58 Helicopter.

There was a Mooney Might aircraft at Regina airport a little tiny airplane, and we were admiring it one day when I was over there relieving somebody, Don Knox, I guess. He was the base pilot at Regina at the time for Imperial Oil and I was relieving him. I was walking around the airplane one Saturday at noontime, I guess we're out there having lunch at the Flying Club before going on a trip.

This guy came along and he said, do you like it? I said it sure is cute, he said, would you like to fly, it is mine? So I said yeah, that sounds like a heck of a good idea, if you don't mind, I'd sure appreciate the chance. So he said well take it he said, go and fly it, it's just great he said, it leaves the ground at such and such a speed and you do the approach at such-and-such a speed.

Here are the flaps, here's the undercarriage, here's the throttle, I wedged myself into it and I will tell you I had to press fit to get into the cockpit, you didn't have room enough to do anything once you got in there. It had a mechanical, or manually raised undercarriage, it had a handle, just like a brake handle in one of the old cars and you just pull that back as far as it would go and that pulls the wheels up.

The only trouble was the cockpit was so cramped that you could only pull it halfway and then you had to reach over with your other hand and steady it, while you change the position of your first hand and made the last move with it. So, it was quite a dinky little thing and the stick was about the size of a carpenter's pencil.

Well in all it was a very strange little airplane but it is a cute little thing and it was interesting to get a hold of something like that. I think at that time, it was the smallest licensed type of aircraft in Canada.

I came back and landed anyway and taxied as a matter of fact, I shot a couple of landings just out of curiosity and taxied back into the airport. I went looking for the guy and he had taken off for lunch, so he had more faith in me than he should have had, but I left him a note.

I had to leave on my trip and so I had to left him a note and when I came back, he was gone. I don't know where he came from, where he went, or anything, I don't even know his name, and I can't remember the registration of the airplane. Have no record of it in my logbook or anything, I just had one of those little fantasies that you get involved in that come true once in a while, that was all there was to it.


Mooney M-18C for FSX.
Mooney M-18C for FSX.

All I can remember is it was yellow with red trim and had red letters and the only other one I ever saw around the country belonged to a girl by the name of Vera Strodl, who was an instructor at the Edmonton Flying Club for a while. She was quite a remarkable person too, she was a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness, something like that, but she used to take off and fly all over the doggone country in this Mooney Might.

Hay River, Yellowknife, Fort Simpson, good grief, you know, it was just a tinkertoy sort of a thing and you wouldn't expect it to be doing trips like that. Vera was a remarkable person, she had ferried, Lancaster's, Spitfires, Mosquitoes, and what not during the war for the ATS in Britain.

She had about 20 types in her logbook, which is pretty darn good. Then, of course, she was like a lot of the other girls, there was a whole raft of them around the country at one time. Verna Scooter and Molly Riley, who was really, I think the outstanding one of the whole bunch.

She was a little runt that looked sort of like a Cocker Spaniel, she had very sad brown eyes, a nice little girl. She was an absolute artist with a DC-3 and well, there's a herd of other girls Gretchen McCarthy, McCallum, or something like that, Marion Orr.

Quite a herd of them running around the country for a while there and all of them pretty good heads. Molly Riley flew a DC3 from Edmonton up into the Arctic, Mould Bay and Cambridge which is pretty demanding and more doggone power to her, she just died fairly recently of cancer.


Mould Bay.
Mould Bay, NWT.

Air Transport Auxiliary.
Vera Strodl, third row from the front, on the left.

When we were at the Elementary School at Prince Albert, we had a spare airport down at and east of St. Louis called Hagen, straight south of Prince Albert. We used to do a lot of practice flying down at Hagen so that the main airport at P.A. wouldn't become too congested.

Occasionally, when the weather had piled up the number of flights of students that we had, to the extent that night flying was interfering with different courses. We used to take the senior course down to Hagen to do their night flying there. The junior course would do their's at Prince Albert were we couldn't lose sight of the city and you can't get confused or anything like that. So we used to go down to Hagen and put out a flare path and so on.


Hagen, Saskatchewan.
Hagen, Saskatchewan, now a virtual ghost town. All traces of the RCAF Base have vanished.

One night down there, the practice was when you finished your particular batch of students and did what you came down there for. You could wing at home with whichever student you chose to ride with you and the others had to come back by truck, but the airplanes left individually.


Lefty with a student pilot.
Lefty Mcleod (front seat) with a student pilot at Hagen Base.

Bud Tillotson, Hal Burr and Lefty.
Hal Ruff, Bud Tillotson and Lefty McLeod.

Hal Ruff, Bud Tillotson and Lefty.
Bud Tillotson, Hal Burr (killed at #6) and Lefty.

Hammie Hamilton, Lefty and Doug Anderson in the Lily Plain Flight Office.
Hammie Hamilton, Lefty and Doug Anderson in the Lily Plain, Saskatchewan, "Flight Office".

Lefty and Tiger Moth at Lily Plain, Sask.
Lefty and Tiger Moth at Lily Plain, Saskatchewan.

Hammie, Lefty and Ruffie in Hessie, Waskesiu, Saskatchewan.
Hammie, Lefty (driving) and Ruffie in Hessie. Waskesiu, Saskatchewan.

Peg (left) Don Lawrence and Lefty (right).
Peg (left) Don Lawrence and Lefty (right) at the Greening residence,
Prince Albert, Sask. March 1945.

This one particular night the weather wasn't too bad you know, it was an odd sort of a night because the stars were out and the moon was out and everything like that, but there was a ground fog beginning to roll in and develop. The guys that got away first landed at Prince Albert all right, because of the fog, I landed out in a stubble field way out northeast of Prince Albert, near Spruce Home.

One of the guy's is another McLeod, Doc McLeod, who was last at getting away and he flew all over the place trying to find an open spot and finally located Melfort. The Melfort racetrack appeared to be open so Doc landed, well, he tried to land on the racetrack and it was too short but he got a real good look at the highway.

So he tried the highway and he was doing pretty well and he got it down alright, and he was rolling down the highway when he hooked a wing in a road sign and it hauled him off into the ditch. Well of course, when he hit the ditch the prop hub, hit a telephone or a power line pole dead center.


Tiger Moths at Prince Albert Airport.
#20 Tiger Moth left foreground involved in fatal crash, described here.

Then the airplane dropped nose down into the ditch and the tail came up and hit the overhead wires. There was a big flash and it blew the circuit breakers back in the powerhouse in Melfort. So when everything was settled down, the airplane had sunk back down a little bit with the tail clear of the power line, the student always rode in the back seat.

So he was able to get his canopy top open and he got out on the wing root and jumped down to the ground, when he did the tail came up and hit the power line again, but of course, the power was off and Doc was struggling with his coupe top and trying to get the darn thing open. It was jammed as a result of the crash and the kid decided to climb back up on the wing and give him a hand. Just as he got a hold of the trailing edge of the wing, the guy in the powerhouse threw the switch and he got about 33,000 volts I think, which finished him off right then and there.

So that was a kind of a bizarre accident and a very sad one too, you know because we hated to lose any of our kids. We had an excellent record at Prince Albert and we like to keep it that way. But anyhow, it was more unpleasant for Doc because this kid's mother kept phoning him up and it wasn't doing his morale much good, but that was just one of the sad things that happened down there.

One night I was in charge of the night flying down there and we used to knock off about midnight or maybe 1:00 AM and have hot chocolate or coffee and sandwiches and stuff like that were sent down by the mess hall from Prince Albert. So we're all sitting in there, a little bit of an office halfways in control tower, which was never used as much and so we all used to cluster in there and it was in the fairly late fall.

There was no snow or anything like that it was a nice crisp night and so on. We are sitting in their lapping up our lunch and I heard an airplane startup out on the line and I thought, oh well mechanics, there used to be two or three mechanics coming down with the truckload of students. I guessed they were running up an airplane, trying to iron out a snag or something like that.

But after a while, it taxied out, and by the time I got to the window he was taking off on the flare path. So I thought my gosh what the heck is going on now and I went steaming out to the line and nobody knew anything out there. I thought to myself that just probably that damn George Greening, as you're probably aware I had been giving him a lot of flying lessons and he was getting pretty good.

So I took the jeep, which was part of the airport equipment there and I started cruising around the outskirts like the perimeter of the airport. I figured I would find something and sure enough, there's one little clump of bushes and there was Greening's car parked, with Mrs. Greening in it.

She was tickled as blazes watching the night flying going on and as innocent as a babe, I said, what's going on Mom and she said, George decided he was going to take Pop for a night flight tonight. I'll be darned if George hadn't taken his father, loaded him into the airplane and they were flying round and round in a circuit.


George Greenings Mother.
Lefty's wife Peg, Mom Greening, Lefty and Jim Chappele
with a 1929 DeSoto in 1943.

Well, he was one of the crew chiefs at the airport and I figured he would lose his job if it ever got out. So I just really tore a strip off George and never reported it, I don't know whether I should have or not, I guess I should have but I just didn't have the heart to. George was a terrible reprobate and he hasn't changed a heck of a lot either, he has slowed down a little bit, but he's getting old now as we all are but we had a lot of fun there anyway.

One of the interesting things that we ran into one time, you know, we were always speculating on the Northern Lights. We were hoping that they wouldn't show up because when they did they interfered with our radio reception something terrible and made a difficult job 10 times more difficult as far as flying in the Arctic was concerned.

But one day we were going to Resolute Bay, I think we're going direct from Edmonton, if I'm not mistaken and you wander over some pretty desolate country in that part of the Arctic Ocean. As we were approaching the coast, we can see a beautiful display of northern lights ahead of us in the vicinity of Bathurst Inlet.

After a while, we're plowing along and I realize that there is no Northern Lights that they had all gone out or something. Just out of curiosity, I glanced back and we had flown through them or under them, I guess and we were now north of them and it's the only time that I ever had that experience. We actually flew through and beyond the Northern Lights and we're up into the end of the clear air there again.


Northern Lights.
Northern lights in the arctic.

That clear air gave me a bad turn one night, Cliff Labey and I were going to Mokka Fjord, which is just across the Eureka Sound from the Eureka airstrip and weather station on Ellesmere Island. We're chugging along and we had a little three Fleet Power Radio Beacon at Mokka Fjord, which you could pick up when you got within maybe 50 or 60 miles of the place.

As long as you go to Resolute Bay heading in the right direction, you'd generally come within 50 miles of it anyway and you could grope your way in. So we had landed at Resolute to unload a bunch of stuff and pick up some fuel and took off and started for Mokka fjord.


On the waay to Mokka Fjord.
Imperial Oil Ltd. Lockheed L-188 Electra CF-IJR Over Axel Heiberg Island, NWT. Enroute to Mokka Fiord - May 1973.

Mokka Fjord.
Topographic Map of Mokka Fjord.

I was tinkering around with the radio and finally, I picked up and positively identified it, because each one of those beacons had its letters that they used to transmit once a minute or once every 30 seconds depending on how exotic your equipment was. I positively identified this thing as Mokka Fjord, but there was something wrong with the heading, there was something wrong with the stars and there was something wrong with what little you could see of the islands beneath us.

Cliff Labey was flying nice and I said are you happy with this? He says, oh sure he said I can't see anything wrong at all and I said, well, there sure as hell is something wrong and I just don't know what it is. After we had gone, what I took to be about 3/4 of the way to Mokka Fjord. I had a notion to tinker around with the radio again.

I started moving it around a little bit more and all of a sudden I got Mokka Fiord, just banging right in and the needle pulled over about 45 degrees on the automatic direction finder. I said, well this is sure as hell Mokka Fjord that I got on here now and that looks a little more reasonable. So Cliff turned and we started for that one and it was indeed the place we were looking for.


Cliff Labey.
Cliff Labey, S.G.A. pilot on the left, Frank Clinton, Conservation Officer (stationed at Kinoosao) in the middle and Harold Bruning, Co-Op Store manager on the right. Photo was likely taken at Wollaston at the old original Co-Op Store - Fish Plant location in either 1956-57. That is where Bruning managed the store.

While we were sitting on the ground at Mokka Fiord, I asked the radio operator to turn off the beacon and I turned on the ADF in the airplane again and started fooling around with it. I picked up this same station and gave our identifier and it was only about one kilocycle off our frequency which is absolute murder.

So, we got back to Edmonton about 10:30, or 11:00 at night and I phoned the Department of Transport Radio Branch man in charge of the radio branch, and he was incensed that I'd got him out of bed to report a thing like this. I said well, you just better take a look at your hole card because this is the kind of stuff that you're being paid to look after. I said, we could have lost a four-engine airplane and bunch of freight and about 20 people as a result of this.

Now whether it's a result of you guys not monitoring what's going on and if that's the case, you're not doing your job. Anyhow, he got on it and we got home all right and I went to bed. The next morning I got a phone call from Gooding about 8:30 in the morning. Whatever had I been doing with the D.O.T.

So I explained the whole story to him and he said that's a little different kettle of fish so he hung up. That afternoon I went down to the office to see what was going on and he told me what had happened.

They had discovered that this station that was using our frequency and our call sign was a temporary weather observation or, geophysical observation station on the northernmost tip of Greenland. Had we continued the way we were going we would have run out of fuel somewhere over the Greenland Sea or the Davis Strait, someplace like that.

It didn't make us too happy and it was very fortunate that we just stumbled on the answer as we did. The D.O.T. guy I saw a month later he was very apologetic about it of course, particularly about his attitude. Well, I said, that's only half of the way I felt, because I was very upset about the whole thing and the fact that we could have just gone blundering off into the darkness and nobody ever would have known what had happened. I don't know what the follow-up on it was, but they certainly must have monitored things a little more carefully after that.

We covered a vast area with Imperial Oil, we were in every state except Hawaii, every state that was known at that time because Hawaii wasn't a state then and nor was Alaska, we included Alaska. So ultimately, it wound up that we have been everywhere except Hawaii with the airplane, as well as within sight of Greenland, we damn near got to Greenland on one trip, Mexico and Nassau, and almost to Cuba.

One trip down to Venezuela, MacKinnon and Gooding grabbed the trip that went down to Rio De Janeiro much to everybody's annoyance and envy. We had a lot of very interesting trips. So I think one of the ones that I heard about, but didn't get on was after I had retired.

Carlyle had a piece of exotic drilling equipment for Newfoundland that he had to pick up in San Francisco, or Los Angeles and forget which I think it was sent from San Fransisco and no, Los Angeles and he loaded it wasn't exceptionally heavy. It was just very large and awkward and desperately needed.

So they packed it into the Lockheed and loaded the Lockheed full of fuel and climbed up to about 28,000 feet and hammered across the United States and into Eastern Canada and made it non-stop from point A to St. John's Newfoundland which would be Gander, that is the airstrip there. I would like to have been on that because it was some kind of a little record-breaking trip for Imperial oil.


Lockheed Electra
Lockheed L-188 Electra CF-IJR Imperial Oil Ltd. Edmonton, Alberta. Photo: taken by H.B. "Lefty" McLeod.

We ran into a lot of funny guys around the country, Rene Baudais was a real good guy and I had the greatest respect for his ability and his sagacity and also the fact that he had a damn good sense of humor and would work like a horse.

We had a fuel contract at Goldfields that I mentioned before and they were going to send somebody up to help me and they suggested one name and I said no way. If you can't send Baudais, we'll never get the job done. So they sent Baudais up with another Beaver and we managed to complete the job just about freeze up.

Every morning we had to shovel and scrape snow and ice off the airplanes and so on. But we got it finished just before the whole thing closed on us and if I had anybody else to help me we would never have done it. He was a real joker, the funniest thing I saw him do one time was a Reindeer Lake or Brochet and the water up there was as clear as crystal.

There's no pollution or anything like that and he had, I was occupying, the dock along with another airplane and so there's no place for him to tie up. So he nosed his machine onshore down the beach, a little ways from the dock and he didn't have much to unload.

I can't remember whether he was delivering two or three people, or something like that. But anyhow, they jumped from the nose of the float to shore and we're gone and he said, well, see you later over at Wollaston Lake. I said, oh yeah sure.

He undid his rope coiled it up and was floating back away from shore. He figured that he wasn't moving fast enough so, he got out his paddle and he went to shove it into the bottom of the lake to push himself back further. By this time he was in about six feet of water and he just toppled head first into the lake, which was very cold and in the bargain, there was a whole bunch of screaming and yelling and so forth. His engineer bounded up and started the engine and poke the airplane back into shore again, but by this time Baudais was soaking wet.


Rene Baudais.

He and I had landing competitions too. If one guy was coming in, when the other guy was there, you'd stand on the shore watching him very carefully and he knew you were watching him and that put you off. The minute you made a mistake, of course, all hell broke loose and you heard about it for days afterward. It happened to me and it happened to him and so on and I thought I'd got myself pretty well hardened to this sort of treatment.

One day I was landing at Ile-a-la-Crosse, it was a kind of a strange place. There was a very long flat low point for the few houses on it and the Church and the Mission at one end and so on. A very difficult place to land, the perspective, and your depth perception was all shot there for some odd reason so if the water was glassy, you had to be careful.

I was booming in there, one day, and Baudais was down at the Mission dock I saw his airplane tied up down there and didn't give it any further thought. I got myself set up on a real nice descent with the idea of crossing the end of the mission Dock and then hitting the water maybe a hundred yards beyond for a real expert-type landing.

So I had it all set up and I had my rate of descent all set up and everything like that was just working out fine and as I approached the mission dock, here comes Baudais galloping down the dock waving a blanket. The whole purpose of the exercise was to throw me off on my landing and he sure succeeded, gosh, it was terrible and of course, I took the usual beating from him when we got to have supper together.

Burke Bray, well, many stories about Burke. He was a real good guy, he and I ran opposition to one another at Goldfields and it was on a very up-and-up basis. I passed jobs to him that I figured he could use and he passed jobs to me. He was flying Stinson's and I was flying a Beaver.

So there are quite a few jobs that he couldn't handle with a Stinson that he passed to me. So it was an excellent relationship and I've always had the highest regard for old Burkie, he was a very fine guy and a real gentleman. His boys both work for Imperial oil and they turned out to be excellent operators as well.

Yanik, was Burke's sidekick up at Goldfield's. Yanik rebuilt and opened the Goldfields hotel, which turned out to be a real watering hole that they could drink dry. They drank a half a barge load of beer in about three and a half days. When the miners heard that there was beer there, what with what they drank and what with carrying it home. well, they did drink the whole house dry.


Goldfields Hotel.
Goldfields Hotel and Steve's (Yanik) Restaurant. Credit Saskatchewan Archives Board, Photograph no. RA 1403.

Beer Barge.
Beer barge arriving 1945.

Yeah, I was saying about the opening of the Goldfield hotel. When the boat arrived half of the barge was groceries, and the other half was beer. Normally the traders would pay a dollar, an hour to help unload the groceries. But they didn't stand a chance when they found out that half the barge was loaded with beer.

Everybody in the camp turned out and they had a human chain from the dock to the front of the hotel and they were packing it in the windows and they were stacking it in the basement of the hotel as fast as it came in the windows and they unloaded that half barge in a remarkable short length of time. As the last case went in the window, Yanik stepped out on the front porch of the hotel with a foaming bottle of beer in each hand and there was just a howl that went up From the mob. It was a terrifying sound and everybody charged for the door and they got going there and man, I'll tell you it was indescribable.

Subsequently, they did got the groceries off after about a three day delay. They finally found enough guys that were too broke to buy beer to pack groceries up to McIver's and the barge finally got away, but they were kind of displeased about things.

When they moved the barge from in front of the hotel, Burke tied up his Stinson's there. I had my dock, a little farther on down and the guys would come staggering down with cases of beer. They'd be blasted out of their minds and carrying sometimes, two 24 bottle cases of beer and climb into the airplane and want to go to El Dorado.

So, I'd fly them over there, and push them out the door and onto the beach, and sometimes as they were trying to climb into the airplane they'd fall on the float and drop their beer into the lake, which is just too bad. I would bet you there are two feet of full, capped bottles with the labels, washed off the lying on the bottom of the Goldfields Bay right now in front of the dock at the old hotel.

Finally, they pulled it off its foundation and dragged it across the ice to Gunner. It was the first office building that they had at Gunner until they got the mining camp built there. So it saw triple duty, it was the Goldfield Hotel originally, and then during the ghost town period, it just sat there, and then subsequently it became the Goldfields Hotel again.



Buildings being moved.
Buildings being moved from Goldfields to Gunner.

Yanik was a big burly guy. One of the things that he and Burke used to do, and Burke was strong as a horse, they used to twist wrists. Boy, I'll tell you it was something to watch some of these competitions. Burke had a little motto about the money that he was making off his charter service. Everything I make I throw it in the air, what comes down is mine, and I always thought it was very appropriate. A fellow should follow that line of thought as often as possible.

Once when they were first starting to explore the possibilities of the Dew line. There was a Beech 18 aircraft that left Churchill for, I guess, Winnipeg or The Pas anyway, for sure. It was an American Beech and the guy went down the wrong leg of the radio range, which as you probably know is roughly in the form of a cross, and each leg has got a specific heading. Instead of taking the one that pointed to The Pas, he took one that pointed to nowhere, and nowhere happened to be north of Foster Lake.


Beech 18.
SGA Beech 18 aircraft.

I started with the whole radio transmitter setup for Stony Rapids, we were finally going to get a two-way radio up there and it occupied the whole damn cabin. We had two little girls as passengers that we were taken from La Ronge to Foster Lake. They were the Mahoney's little girls. They were just going back from school and we managed to squeeze them in.

We landed at Foster Lake and Mahoney said, gee, there's sure been a lot of air activity around here. I don't know what the hell's going on, but he says a big four-engine airplane is flying around and everything. We took off from there and right on our track we found the Beech 18 in the bush. We were about 15 miles, south of it, and a Lancaster crossed in front of us quite low, and all of a sudden he started to circle. Well, we came along right after that and we crossed right where he was circling and the Beech was sitting in the bush and everybody alive and all that kind of stuff.


Lancaster Rescue.
Lancaster rescue aircraft.

So the Lancaster started dropping supplies and so on and we managed to get them on the emergency frequency, and he said they would take care of everything. They didn't need an airplane on floats as yet, that they would probably bring in a Canso and that was at High Rock Lake, which is the next large lake north of Foster Lake.

So we missed our chance there Alec Peneroski, one of the trappers up there got the tail wheel off of it and made a wheelbarrow out of it. Mahoney took the navigation lights off, the green and the red glass for his little kids and that was about as much salvaging as was done.

Baudais and I got the starters and the generators off it for SGA. Eventually, once it froze up there, we went in with a Beaver into a little ice patch beside the crash got it off. About two weeks later, somebody went back to get something else, some of the instruments or something like that. They found that the salvage crew had gone in there and just dropped a thermite bomb in the middle of the cabin and just burnt the whole thing right out so that it couldn't be salvaged, so we lost a couple of good engines that went up the spout that way.

Anyhow about Mahoney, we went in one time, we had a guy onboard one time that was a real freak. I still don't know what he was doing up there. I think he was a newspaper reporter, but I'm not sure if he was, he sure got enough material to write the biggest fairy tale of his life.

Because he was one of those guys that's a natural mark for practical, joking, and horsing around with. He wore a fedora hat during 30 below weather, a fedora hat and earmuffs, I think. He had a plastic cover on his fedora hat in case it snowed, so we size them up for what he was a real mark on the way up there.

Of course, he was quizzing us about this and that and we're giving him all sorts of fanciful stories about problems and so forth and including all the odd loads that we had to haul.

On the way back, one of our stops was at Foster Lake and Mahoney came down and he said, My brother-in-law's brother, like he was married to an Indian girl, and his brother-in-law was Antoine McKenzie. Antoine's brother Francis, had cashed in, he had pneumonia or something like that out on the trapline.

So they brought his body into Foster Lake to try and get it aboard to take it down to La Ronge for burial and he said, well, Antoine and his wife want to go along with it and come back. So this kind of fell in line with some of the fables that we'd been palming off on this weird tourist type reporter, or whatever he was.

We loaded the toboggan in first because it was the most awkward piece of equipment and I said, okay, where's Francis? Antoine says that's him over there and I looked, and it just looked like a bundle of tent poles that have been wrapped in a tent leaning against the wall of Harold's cabin. It was Francis and he was stiffer than a plank there was no two ways about that and they had him rolled up in a tarpaulin. We hauled him down and stuffed him into the airplane.

We had the seats folded up on one side and all his load was going on the other side. The guy from the south was sitting in the front seat the curl on the toboggan was up there, right beside him and the corpse lay on the toboggan. But while we're loading him in, we kind of disarranged the tarpaulin a little bit, and when the guy turned around, here's this guy looking back at him.

He had hoar frost all over his face and snow in his hair and his eyeballs were all covered with frost and everything was a real gruesome-looking sight. The guy just about fainted, he had to sit and keep this guy company into La Ronge, anyway, he was most disturbed about the whole thing.

He got off at La Ronge and rode in with the fish truck, the rest the way he wouldn't go with us. So I don't know whether he figured that we had done this on purpose or not, but it turned out very well and it got guy off the hook as far as getting a ride out anyway.

There was another funny thing that we got involved with was with Ptarmigan. During one period of our existence, we had two hunting camps at Missy Lake and I was in charge of one. We had a very successful winter, we had quite a few hunters in there and they all got their animals, one of them happened to be the game commissioner from the state of Michigan.

I don't know whether you've ever heard of Isle Royale, it's in the northern part of Michigan. It is very close to Canadian territory, and it's an island that the Department of Wildlife in Michigan, is trying to keep natural.

They have a bunch of timber wolves there and moose and all kinds of wildlife, and so forth. They're letting nature balance the whole deal out, and it's working out very well and is of great interest to environmentalists. They go in and study all this baloney that's going on, they have several observation points in there.


Isle Royale
Isle Royale.

Well, he saw all the Ptarmigan flying around at Missy Lake and wondered whether they would be of any use on Isle Royale. He thought it would be kind of nice to transplant them there, so he sent a guy up by the name of Andy Ammond, who was an ornithologist, biologist, or whatever.

He was a heck of a nice guy and he traveled the area around Prince Albert and trapped Ptarmigan just outside of Prince Albert if you can believe it. He was bringing them in and then he wanted to go farther north and we took him up to Lake Athabasca where you know, you could catch them with a butterfly net practically and he used to wing shoot Ptarmigan with a bow and arrow.

He had some special spines of piano wire sticking out of the head at right angles to the shaft and he had the feathers on the stern end attached in such a manner that the arrow used to spin like a top. The arrow had a terrific rate of rotation after it left the bow and all he had to do was to come close to a flying bird with one of these things and the piano wire would knock it down.


Ptarmagan
Ptarmagan at Isle Royale.

So that way mind you he trapped a lot of them, but the odd one he shot in the air and what he was doing mainly was checking out to see what they had been eating and find out whether the undergrowth at Isle Royale would support them. So they eventually discovered that everything was great. So they sent us a bunch of chick boxes with a request to try and live trap Ptarmigan at Stony Rapids, or wherever, so we could get them and pack them in the chick boxes. The boxes were divided into four sections and you could put four birds in each of the four sections so that was sixteen birds to the box and we brought out about 12 boxes I think, in two loads.

They asked us to get these birds for them and when we were hunting them, the Ptarmigan would run down the path in front of you and we used to knock them off with a couple of sticks of wood. They would speed up, if you sped up and they would slow down if you slowed down, but they're really stupid you thought.


Chickbox
Chickbox for Ptarmagan transportation.

We would pack them up in the chick boxes, and take them to Regina that evening we would get in there in time to put them on Air Canada. >Air Canada would deliver them in about eight hours to Fort William, as it was known as in those days, at which point, to Michigan. So they were enclosed for the whole journey and then turned loose on Isle Royale and apparently, they thrived there. They were all banded before being released, so you know they could keep track of what they were doing.

About three years after that, a little incident took place, an Indian kid came into the RCMP at Stony Rapids with a Ptarmigan with a band on its leg. It was one of the Stony Rapids Ptarmigans that had been released on Isle Royale and he'd come home, Now figure that one out. That's super navigating and if you could ever solve the mysteries of some of that stuff, you would have a good deal.

We had a lot of fun around Stony Rapids, there were strange people there, Chris Timson had a young wife, he was an old tall scrawny Swede. He had a young wife by the name of Julia who of course, he called Yulia and Yulia was all muscle.

She admired my wife Peggy immensely, she figured Peg was just the greatest thing since the pocket on a shirt. So she named one of her little papeece, Peggy, much to Peggy's amazement, because she wasn't just sure that was actually why she did it, the nurse at the hospital told me.

One time we took them out to the trapline with their supplies, dogs and stuff and getting them out on the second load with the way the weather was we had to drop her at a sand dune. It was not on the side of the lake where the camp was because of the high winds and so on.

So we tied up to this dune and we unloaded and we helped her pack their load to the top of the dune. I'm telling you, she was carrying twice as much as either Bill or I up that loose sand, like a 50-pound Clinton can under one arm and a 100-pound bag of flour over the other shoulder. I was carrying a bag of raisins and Bill was carrying a sleeping bag or something like that, she sure had the muscle.

There were some of those trappers who were nuts and it kind of rubbed off on the rest of us a bit from time to time. I remember one day that we arrived in Stony Rapids on a beautiful fall afternoon. The Caribou hadn't started migrating or anything like that, but we couldn't find anybody in the settlement.


Natives meeting plane at Stony Rapids.
Natives meeting SGA Norseman aircraft at Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan.

The problem was just absolutely nobody is showing up. We couldn't figure out what was going on, so we found the Indian clerk from the store and he opened the store up so that we could put the mail inside. We took our pack sacks and our sleeping bags and walked ???? Well, there's nobody home there either. So we started back towards the airplane and figured to get them to open the store again and we would shove all the freight in.

Coming downhill, there was a terrible commotion and three guys and that was three of the trappers and they were just absolutely gassed. They were going for more supplies somewhere and they greeted us hilariously and told us that there was a big party up at the hospital.

So they jumped into the canoe and shoved off and of course, the canoe went out about six feet into the river and the mooring line tightened up and snatched them back to shore. They all fell down in the canoe, so one guy gets out and lays the rope very carefully across the bottom of another canoe that was overturned the on the beach.

He reached into his canoe and got out an axe and he was just on the backswing and I said, Jimmy, you get in the canoe and I'll push you off. So I untied them and pushed them off, otherwise, the other guy would add a big slash in the bottom of his canoe.

Sure enough, the hospital sounded like an ammunition dump blowing up and everybody, that was anybody in the settlement was up there. What had transpired was that Myrtle Pierce, the old nurse that ran the hospital and she was old, she was about 62 in those days, had decided to uncork one of her containers of hospital alcohol and she was serving cocktails.

Well hospital alcohol is very vicious stuff, it's a pure straight grain alcohol and goes very well with orange, or grapefruit juice. That commonly was known locally as torpedo juice and it would torpedo anybody drinking it. It was a very entertaining bash, I don't recall too many of the particulars of that party at all.

I remember Ron Hook was one of the guys that was there and we were just talking about it the other night, how Steve, Bill and myself all started downhill from the hospital through the bush. Somehow we all got separated on the way down and we all wound up in Steve's backyard at the same time.

We were coming in through every little odd pathway and somewhere along the line, somebody had caught somebody's loose dog that was in heat and threw it into Emil Tromberg's, dog corral. That started the damnedest dogfight that you ever heard in your life, by that time, we were all tittering off through the brush and the man never did know who would pull that off on him.

Emil's kids, Emil was married to an Indian lady too, Emil's kids didn't do too bad, Don was the Mounted Police Special Constable for a while and he's living in Prince Albert now and George became a Hudson Bay Post manager. He was in charge of Fort Simpson at one time, I ran into him there, and when he was at La Ronge as well and I don't know where he went from there, I don't know what became of the girls.

The first time I met Chris Timson, we arrived in Stony Rapids on the boat day. The boat came in twice a year, so this was a big occasion and everybody was down at the boat unloading or stooping to see what came in and so on.

What came in was; Duffy was the mountie at that time, was Duffy's supply of booze and some linoleum and office furniture for the Detachment, the government and so on. We always used to stay with Duffy as well, so we're sitting there half gassed with the first of his supply, there was all sorts of yelling and pounding and stuff.

He had a little root cellar that was about four feet square and the linoleum was brand new linoleum and was laid all over the living room it look good. But the hatch for the basement was covered and I said well, where is it? Well, he said we couldn't figure out by the time we got the stuff all down there.

We covered up where the trap door was, so we rolled it back and I put Chris Timson down there with a knife so old, Chris was down there, but the candle was blown out and he had no match. Anyway, after we'd arrived he found a match and got the candle lit and finding the crack in the floor with the butcher knife, started its movement across the floor. So that is how they got the hatch open, it struck us as a very original way of solving the problem.

One time in La Ronge, this was at the fish plant, the only other guy in town was Clark Reddy, who was flying for M and C at the time. There were no accommodations in town for him, so we got him a spot bunking with Clark.

We were the only guys that were there at the time and so there was a little bit of wine and a little bit of rum, and a little bit of something else. We poured it all into a pitcher and we decided to have a little cocktail party amongst ourselves.

There was just enough to give us a gentle sort of a glow, but I had a very eerie experience that time we were sitting in the kitchen and Clark went into the living room to get something out of his bag. I made some remark to him and as I glanced into the living room, he was in the dark.

The only light was coming from the kitchen and he glanced up to answer me and his eyes lit up like a cat's in the dark. Now, I always read that human beings eyes don't do that, but there was the devil who was looking back at me. Instead of being bright green, or what you usually get, when you see animals eyes in the dark, his eyes were dark red.

It gave me a hell of a turn for a minute or two, we began discussing it and we tried to duplicate it again two or three times, but never even got a flicker. But it was a rather unnerving sort of a situation and we were suspect when we repeated this story, the blacksmith as well saw it.

So I couldn't think that I was hallucinating or anything like that, but of course, repeating a story like that, you get accused of all kinds of wild-eyed reporting of facts. So I don't think I ever really convinced anybody, but it was an interesting sort of a thing anyway.

The biggest load I've ever had I took out of Snake Lake (now Pinehouse) was for Thunder Mountain during a forest fire. I carried 11 men and a dog and a radio in a Beaver aircraft. I had all the seats out of the Beaver and I had the first guy leaning with his back against the instrument panel.

Then after that, I had them all nested, just like dishes with their backs to the engine and somebody said Gee, I forgot my dog and someone flung his little dog it was just a little mutt about half the size of ours. Someone said you better take the radio, so they threw the radio in too and then they loaded Hartley up with a Norseman load of ??????

I was talking about a wild ride that we had from Edmonton to Vancouver and Victoria with the Lockheed. We were going to Edmonton and picked up a whole load of marketing guys who are all cantering around and frolicking back and forth and all full of piss and vinegar and so on.


Imperial Oil Lockheed Aiircraft.
Imperial Oil Lockheed Aircraft - Photo credit: Don Magnussun.

We took off from Edmonton in the face of an oncoming, very heavy warm front and over the mountains, we took a heck of a beating. It took us 2 hours and 10 minutes to go over to Vancouver from Edmonton, which is just terrible because we had a terrific high headwind, and en route, we encountered very heavy icing and extreme turbulence.

We landed in Vancouver after a certain amount of difficulty because when they started, when they give us our letdown clearance, we had to do it slowly. After all, we didn't want to build up too much speed in the extreme turbulence or we would have bent something.

As it was, we gathered so much ice on the antenna that one leg of it snapped off and was dragging on the ground. We landed and of course, nothing would do, but one of the passengers had to gallop up just when I was on final approach telling me that something was hanging from the side of the airplane and so on. Well that's rather disconcerting, so he didn't a cordial response because we already knew about it anyway, we landed and got the thing kind of back together again.

Then we whipped across to Victoria, well we went that distance so fast that we didn't even bother pulling the gear up. We just took off and by the time I got leveled off and the power pulled back we were just about on final for Victoria, it's a very short jump.

When we got there, we found out that the wind had been so strong that Air Canada had canceled out with their Viscount and it was sitting on the ramp and the props were spinning to beat the band. The high winds had pushed the props past the brakes, like there are propeller brakes on those Dart engines so that you can get them stopped, so that people don't walk into them. The wind got the props turning past the brakes and presumably had burnt the brakes out because all four of them were just whaling away to beat the band.

We got in there with no trouble at all and your Uncle Harry and Aunt Marion came out for a visit and grand tour around the inside of the big flying barn, which didn't amount to a heck of a lot. But anyhow, it gave them a little outing, we took off from there and it took us 35 minutes from Victoria to get back into Calgary with that wind, boy oh boy, where we ever screaming along.

That was my main experience over the mountains with that kind of stuff it didn't impress me. I sure would have preferred to be in a Lockheed anyway at 20,000 feet than in a Norseman trying to grope my way through it and in VFR conditions. There were all kinds of airplanes damaged in that storm, both Victoria and Vancouver had airplanes piled on top airplanes and turned over on their backs and so on.


Aircraft damaged by high winds.
Aircraft damaged by high winds.

Anyway, there is also a guy there by the name of, a big Indian that was almost as big as Dave Lachasseur, his name was Gaspar Morin. For some reason or other, he took a terrific shine to me and he was always coming up, you know, he would be smashed right out of his mind and on Saturday afternoons.

If he intercepted me downtown, he would always makes a big fuss and throw his arms around my shoulders and call me his Bruder, that's my brother. Fortunately, for us, the dock that we used to tie the airplane up to was right in front of his cabin, on the river at Meadow Lake so he kept an eye on it for us.

So I was used to catering to him a little bit and by him the odd beer and so on. He always chased the kids off that they were tinkering around with the airplane.

One time he missed though, I don't know where he was, but I had the Waco docked there and I came down and found some kids had been climbing up and using the bottom wing as a diving board and the fabric was torn and one of the ribs was broken.

So I fashioned another rib out of a piece of apple box and got that in place, but we didn't have fabric and I didn't have any dope. I used to, when I went away from base for any length of time, I had a little kit I used to throw in the airplane that had dope, thread, the needle, and linen thread for patching fabric and stuff like that.

So, I went down to talk to Alf and I said what the blazes can we do? He said, well I got some collodium here which is super solvent. So we went downtown we bought about a dozen celluloid combs and toothbrushes and we melted them all down with collodium and boy, we made some dandy airplane dope.


Collodium.
Collodium.

We went down to the office and got some blueprint linen and Alf's wife washed all the stuff out of it, but I don't want it treated with but it's some kind of sensitized starch or some damn thing. Anyhow, when it was washed out and rinsed it was a real nice piece of linen, so we went down and I cut it and I sewed it properly and we laid this patch on and got back to base in Prince Albert about 10 days later and it hadn't budged.

Chief engineer Bill Francis at that time, was madder than hell at me because when they went to pick the thing off, they couldn't melt it with ordinary dope solvent. I wasn't there at the time when this happened, but anyhow, they got one end raised a little bit and he gave a mighty heave on it and he ripped the whole panel off the wing. So they had to replace the whole panel and dope it over with about 10 coats to match it with the balance of the wing, but it was a very successful patch.

I did that once up at Goldfields to where I got upside down inside a Beaver float, well, almost all of the way inside, just my legs sticking out. I was a lot skinnier then and patched a hole in the float that hit a piece of drifting ice with when I was taking off.

I helped George Greening patch the Waco BBQ at Waite Fisheries with sugar bags and a willow wingtip that we peeled off and bent and then lashed and screwed into place. We then pulled the sugar bags and we trimmed them so that they would fit onto the wingtip and we put them on there and then we just froze them on with water. It was really cold and he hightailed it back to Big River where the supplies were and that you could do the job with properly.

I just looked at the last National Geographic magazine and there's a remarkable picture of Aklavik in it. Now they've got a runway, but they used to break up and freeze up. Mike Zupko used to fly off the main street that ran south from the Anglican Church. It looks like they have a regular good size runway there now from the picture, but gee, it's a terrific picture of the old settlement shows the mission or, both of the missions.


Aklavik, NWT.
Aklavik, NWT.

I was in there one time when Aklavik was flooded completely, somebody showed me a picture one time they'd taken of me with the airplane tied to the veranda of the Hudson Bay. I tied it up on floats to the front porch of the Hudson Bay store and there was some guy was just paddling out of the store in a canoe. The whole settlement was submerged not very deep, but deep enough, really a tough thing to clean up.

One more little thing that there was in some of my stuff here, if you ever go poking through it. There's a Canadian Aviation magazine with a picture of an Anson, with wingtips sawed off.

One of the guys with Associated Airways ran into the riverbank at Fort McKay with it and tore off a chunk of the wing. When they went up to salvage it they found out that the Anson wing was built right into the airplane, if you took the wing out, there was nothing left but the fuselage. It was all one piece, a great, big box wing structure that ran right through the cabin.


Tommy Fox.
Tommy Fox, Owner of Associated Airways.

So it was almost impossible to fix out in the bush, Tommy Fox, the guy that owned Associated Airways went out to have a look at it and figured that they could cut the wing off just outside of the middle hinge then they had covered that with fabric and clear dope. They sawed a matching piece of the other wingtip and took off from Fort McKay and he flew it into Edmonton stayed at about full throttle it was going like a dingbat.

It is was burning up an awful lot of fuel so they stopped at Fort McMurray and loaded up with fuel. At one time the long runway approach used to go right by the old depart and so on, it's since been torn down and they have other quarters. But with everything howling and screaming and just, you know, staying in need of the hangar, the D.O.T. guys were there with the handcuffs waiting for him just about.

It hit the newspapers, and there's a picture and an article on it in old Canadian Aviation magazine also some material in there on Saskatchewan Government, including two or three pictures of myself.

The first DC-3 that landed at Inuvik was CF-ESO by myself. We were about three-quarters of an hour ahead of Shell's Al Hartley. I was stopped and he was the second twin-engine airplane to land there.

We started from Edmonton to Norman Wells with supplies on board, including the head Wells????, the weather wasn't too good and we continued to Inuvik and we couldn't land, so we get into Tuktoyaktuk with perishables on board. We kept the aircraft warmed up, you know we kept the hanger heated so it kept everything from freezing.


Saskatchewan Government DC-3 Aircraft.
The Saskatchewan Route DC-3, not the DC-3 that Lefty flew to Inuvik.

Later on in the evening it appeared as though the weather was improving at Inuvik. So we hauled the aircraft out and got away for Inuvik and by the time we got there, it was socked in again solid and so was Tuk. so we started for Norman Wells, which they said that they had workable weather.

You know just about the time that we were on final at Norman Wells, the radio operator must have finished his comic book or something like that, by this time we are getting kind of low on fuel and I was holding the bag.

So The only thing we could do is start for Wrigley and Wrigley used to close their radio down, so there's no radio contact with them. They left the radio beacon on of course, but the radio was off.

The radio operator went off duty because there was only one of them and it would be off the air for 12 hours. The only thing we could do is start for Wrigley and see what the weather was like, kept at a minimum en route altitude and all the power way back.

So It was going to take us a long time to get to Wrigley, but at least we were going to get there with a little fuel left over. Well fortunately for us, the weather at Wrigley was workable and instead of bothering with any formalities or anything like that. I just started my approach from way up the river, we came over the fence and it was with a great feeling of relief that we touched down there.


Wrigley Station in a 1948 photo.
Wrigley Station in a 1948 photo.

Burt Sechrist and I had stashed a dozen barrels of fuel there at one time just for emergencies like that, we could only find ten of them. Somebody had walked away with two of them, but it was enough to get us to Fort Nelson anyway, so the D.O.T. who was very kind, dug out the barrels and dragged them over with the cat to the airplane.

So we decided to go back to Edmonton and the head of the seismic outfit was kind of disconcerted because he was pushing this trip although we advised him that it might not materialize the way he wanted it.

However, some of those guys, you couldn't tell anything to them anyway, but it was a tense evening.

They were uptight the last few miles into Wrigley and if we had to go on to Fort Simpson, I don't know whether we would have made it or not, I doubt it very much. I think we'd have probably been on the ice somewhere on the Mackenzie, but anyhow, we made it in that was the main thing.

I flew a cement mixer in a tiger moth on floats one time from Prince Albert to Cumberland House. They needed it there for some construction they were doing, it was a little, one of those little tinker toy cement mixers. I had to take the whole frame apart to get it into the airplane and then go into the cockpit. So I just stuck the narrow end in and put a rope around it and right around the whole fuselage of the airplane to hold it in place all the way to Cumberland House.

When I was flying for Imperial Oil one spring, probably 1956, they had something going north of Nipawin somewhere. They'd got a lead on some kind of mineral, it was a real cloak and dagger operation anyway.

They had hired a bunch of guys and kept them incommunicado in a motel in Regina. We flew them out nine at a time to Nipawin, where they were picked up by a vehicle and hauled out to the North.

We generally took off from Regina about four in the morning, disappeared over the horizon at a low altitude, and altered course after we were out south of the city. There was no way anybody could tell where we were going exactly, but we left before the job was completed. After that they got the guys out by bus, I guess.


Lefty Mcleod.
"Lefty"" Mcleod, pilot for Saskatchewan Gov't Airway, Circa 1949. Photo from the E.F. Partridge Collection.

Sometime during the operation they decided that they wanted some aerial pictures in the vicinity of White Fox and Choiceland. Since we had the airplane rigged with a camera mount and with a hatch in the floor, we wired Calgary for the camera. They always sent the operator, they had a professional cameraman, so all we had to do was fly the grid that he laid out on the map.

So I was trying to do it by compass and a peculiarity developed, apparently, as all the lines were dented in a certain area. Since Imperial Oil had a lot of very brainy guys in the office, they sized this all up to mean something else. I believe if I'm not mistaken, they discovered some kind of a heavy iron deposit in that area.

It was affecting the compass and consequently affected my lines of flight making it look like some rube had been doing the flying. Milt MacDougall and his wife were in the vicinity at that time, nobody knew what it was all about. How come Milt and Margaret got in on this when everything has been so hush-hush?

I think that the MacDougalls were staking at the time, but our guys were working somewhere else entirely. I'm sure they were not looking specifically for any iron deposit, it was an interesting kind of an experience.

Hundreds of claims were staked by dozens of people, both south of Choiceland and at nearby Kelsey Lake. Vicki Nemanishen who lived at Meath Park, had her interest aroused in prospecting as a result of the Choiceland discovery. It was her first adventure into the business, but not her last.

My first experience was at Kelsey Lake, when MacDougall found the iron at Choiceland in 1955. When I heard about this staking rush close to my home in Meath Park, I went to the Mineral Resources Office and got help from them. They gave me maps and the report, and from then on I was gone prospecting, that was my first prospecting trip.

The Choiceland iron deposit still lies there, untouched, 2000 feet below the surface. There are known to be other deposits in the area, at Kelsey Lake and to the east. Some day, when a greatly increased population in Western Canada and the northwestern United States provides a market, they probably will be developed.

On CF-SAN, Bill Harley and I used to make tea and we always had a bag of dried meat in there too, So if we got hungry, we would eat some dried meat.

Up in that country too we were flying down the lake from Stony Rapids to ???? There was a couple of wolves running around on the ice so I thought now if I face them, maybe I can hit them. So we took about four or five passes there, it was a hilarious sort of time and all the passengers were given me the gears. Ted Knudsen, the mounted policeman was one and another I think was Ron Hook.


CF-SAN with Lefty and Passengers.
Passenger loading on CF-SAN, Pilot Lefty Mcleod, right with back turned to camera.

Up in Goldfields there is an old fella, well there were two old guys. One was Ed Cody, who is a Finn they had similar boats, Cody's was white and Cliff's was grey with a green water line and canvas top, they're different colors. They picked up Cliff's boat six weeks later he had washed ashore and he had a camp on the south shore of Lake Athabasca, near rivers, all full of sand bars and stuff like that.

So we went in there to pick up Cliff's stuff and it was a beautiful night out under the stars and there were no mosquitoes, and we had a little grub with us and so on. So we got in there okay and we load it up, it's just about pitch-dark no moon, just stars and flat calm.

We're sitting around chewing the fat in the kind of a half sleepy fashion. I kept hearing something and I couldn't figure out what the blazes it was, or anything like that.

There were no waves breaking on the beach, my partner said what the heck are you doing lying down there? I said, well come on lie down and just listen, we found out later that they were having dinner music at ????? If you're standing up, but you could get quite a bit of it if you're lying down, right beside the water I will have to figure out what that is.

One time, I was up at 25,000 feet and I turned on the DMA and tuned it to the Namayo station. That station, or specific station that you have it tuned to.

So I was watching the thing, with digital the numbers will run back and forth like crazy, like a bunch of ants until the signal is strong enough to pin them down. I glanced away from it and I looked up and just in time to decide that I was looking at the glow of Edmonton in the very far distance.

Just at that moment a rotating beacon swept around, I don't know whether it was Namayo or whether it was Edmonton Municipal industrial or not. It certainly wasn't the one south of town.

They were in the Namayo, or the one in town, and it was a rotating beacon and I definitely identified what I was looking at was Edmonton. I glanced back at the DME and it was just coming to a stop at 198 nautical miles, which was interesting to me and it may not mean a damn thing to you.

The surveyor up there was George Langford, a guy that's living at Spruce Home now, just north between here and P.A. He was the guy that built the road from Bushell Inlet on Lake Athabasca, through Cinch Lake and Martin Lake. The present site of Uranium City and on through to El Dorado, El Dorado had only built the road is far as Johnny Nesbitt's camp on BeaverLodge Lake but, George completed all the rest of it.

Initially when they were getting started, I had to fly their meat and mail and you know, their perishable stuff for their commissary in to them. I would drop them a message and tell them that I was on my way in to land at their little dock there. Somebody would come out with a caterpillar and pick it up there, they are pretty good at Beaver Lodge.

I had a forced landing on Beaver Lodge Lake once, oh boy, what the heck were they doing? Anyway, they were all from ?????, I'm flying them somewhere, anyhow the engine quit and I had to land, very reluctantly, at an old power line camp and drop them off there. They had been working our power line and they could get on the radio and call for another airplane.


Beaver Lodge lake.
Beaver Lodge lake, Saskatchewan.

I thought if it will start, I'll taxi down to the shop there and Ernie Mills, Julian Mill's brother who was the mechanic. We got it started again and we taxied down to the end of the dock to the trees and tied it up there and then went up to the radio shack. We found that the connecting rod when it went, it shot the piston up, and on out of the crankcase, but there is just absolutely no hope and we had to have a new engine at the other end.

Albert Malena was my engineer, and we started slinging the engine off with a tripod and had the engine off by the time, the new one came, so we were not tied up for very long.

We overhauled a ???? in the hangar in 1946, I guess, gee, we did a beautiful job it was all really nice. So we were ready to go for the summer, rolled it outside on floats and parked 2 hours, I think it was at various engine speeds and it was right under the Floyd Glass's window. So he came along and he said, do you do this all the time?

So we moved it down to the river and he came down and said, well, you might as well put it in water and tie up at the other end. He taxiis it out and the load was all there so I loaded it up and doggone it anyway we headed to Ile-a-la-crosse. The engine was throwing so goldarn much oil and I couldn't figure where all the oil was coming from, it was passing under the cowling.

When I got to Ile-a-la-Crosse, I had one-gallon cans in the airplane so I was able to drain the oil out and hang it on ropes. I tied the airplane up there and I phoned, wired the office and I said that the engine is kaput and I'm not going to fly it anywhere from here.

So anyhow, he sends Stu Miller up to fly it out and he climbed to 9,000 feet over La Ronge, before he started south and I guess he just squeezed into the river at P.A. George Monroe told me afterward, he was our chief engineer, that every cylinder that he took off every ring, on every piston was broken in half a dozen places at least. It was a direct result of not running the engine in properly. Oh, well, that's the way things were in those days I guess.

Sometimes we used to get home in the dark and land on the Saskatchewan River in the lights along River Street or reflection, in the water in P.A.


River Street.
River Street in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

In the wintertime, you could make it fine because the lakes were all white with snow and the bush was all black and it was just like reading a black and white map. We usually came down Montreal Lake, so that if anything happened you wouldn't have to go looking for something big enough to get into and across Bittern Lake to the south. Bittern Lake at the south end of it had a fire tower, just a short fire tower, but had a slash in the bush, a meridian line or some darn thing that pointed straight for Prince Albert.


Montreal and Bittern Lakes.
Montreal and Bittern Lakes.

So you get on that white line through the black bush then come hammering home and the first thing you know, that one just south of Northside, but at P.A. and of course, there was no problem getting into the airport because was just was all packed and rolled for landing on it.

We started one time from there with an Anson and landed ????? that had a patient on board. So I turned around and went back and loaded the patient on and started for P.A. It was blacker than ink and it was snowing to beat the band by the time we get down to Prince, Albert, but we groped our way into the airport in the darkness and managed to find the place alright.

I think well, last Christmas was the first Christmas that we haven't spent at home where we spent with Bruce and Roxy at Melville. I missed one Christmas when I was instructing down at Ottawa, but I was very fortunate and having every other Christmas at home since Mom and I were married, one time of course it didn't look like I was going to make it.

I started for about a week before Christmas with three weeks worth of work to do but, by dint of flying at night and tearing around all over the country and not stopping for anything. I managed to get it done and Christmas Eve I was on my way, seems to me that I left there 5:30 or 6:00 o'clock in the evening and snowing and blowing taxied up to the hangar.

I climbed out of it and I got my sleeping bag and my packsack, the caretaker says, aren't you going to put it inside? I said the hell with it, somebody else can do it. I got it here and left it, didn't drain the oil, or put the engine tent on or a blasted thing.

I was so glad to get home and we were living in the Bliss Block at that time. You might remember that John and I went down there and Grandpa and Grandma were there and Mom and we had an entertaining evening and a lot of fun. That was before you were born I guess John, but you would remember living in the Bliss Block. possibly.


Bliss Block, P.A.
Red arrow - Bliss Block at 35 - 11th St East - Gone now.
Blue arrow - Monarch Motors the Ford dealer - Gone now.
Green arrow - Old Wesley United Church, replaced
with new Wesley United Church.
Purple arrow - old city police station - Gone now.
Pink arrow - Lutheran Church I believe - Gone now.
Black arrow - old Minto Arena - Gone now.
Photo Credit: George Bliss

Bliss Block on fire, P.A.
Bliss Block burning, March 16, 1996, Prince Albert. Photo Credit: George Bliss

I think I told you about being test pilot at Weyburn and I used to have a lot of fun with guys like Don Brownridge, because he considered himself to be one of the high-ranking officers in the Air Force. He was a wing commander, I think, or something like that, no, he wasn't he was a squadron leader.

But anyhow, one time, he caught me on the wrong side of the fence and he was sounding off about what he used to do as a squadron leader. He turned to me and he said, what did you do in the war, besides being an instructor? I said just before I retired, I was C.O. at the station at Weyburn, boy I'll tell you that's a real conversation stopper because it was a big station, but I didn't tell him that there is only 28 guys there.

The only reason that I was the CEO was because I was wearing Wings. It was a flying station and it had to have a flying officer as the in-charge and I was the only guy in the station that they had, in short, it was a desperate move on the Air Force's part.



SASKATCHEWAN GOVERNMENT AIRWAYS.

P.O. Box 609
Head Office
Airport, Prince Albert

January 12th, 1948.
Mr. J. Gray
Resident Director
Saskatchewan Lakes and Forests.

January 12th., 1948.
Puchase of Canso Aircraft
To - The Directors,
Saskatchewan Government Airways.

Dear Sirs;

Re: Purchase Price of Canso Aircraft for Freighting
Fish in Northern, Saskatchewan.

The matter of purchasing a large aircraft for freighting fresh fish out of Northern saskatchewan during the summer months has been contemplated for some time. Considerable thought and study has been given to it and I am pleased to submit herewith an outline of the type of machine that can be purchased, including the price, as well as an outline of a system which would have to be inaugurated to successfully carry out such an operation.

The most desirable operation for the Airways would be on a mileage toll, or hourly toll and I would recommend the rates be set in this manner. If the Fish Board were to charter a machine under one of these conditions, it would be to their advantage to keep the aircraft fully loaded at all times.

A good possibility exists that a certain amount of freight can be flown into the north for a company like Hudson's Bay Company. Naturally, a company like this would not like to pay more for their freight than they are now paying, but indications are that they would prefer to have it flown at a price not in excess of what they now pay.

Such a plan would mean revenue for trips going into the north, as well as return trips loaded with fish. If the Fish Board were to contract for so much flying at a price which would pay for the round trip, an arrangement could be made to credit them for freight carried in.

Therefore, under contract price the Fish Board would know exactly what the flying costs of such a machine would be provided they kept it loaded to capacity, and any revenue for freight going into the north that would be credited to there would result in higher profits to them for their fish.

For example: if a Canso were operating between Wollaston and Lac la Ronge, a distance of 240 miles or 480 miles round trip, at a cost of $1.00 per mile or 130.00 per hour the probable payload of 10,000 gross would cost 4.8 cents per pound of fish loaded one way only.

The Airways would, of course, have to have a certain volume of freight toward the purchase of such a machine. It is estimated that a minimum of 600 hours flying time per annum would be required at a price of $1.00 mile or 130.00 per hour. This would represent approximately $78,000.00 turnover.

The total cost of operating this machine for this amount of flying would be approximately $60,000.00, leaving a net profit of $18,000.00. The cost of such an aircraft at Prince Albert according to the best quotations to hand, is $43,000.00 plus $2,500.00 for ferrying, etc.

Delivery can be made within two months on this particular machine at this price. This means the machine would be paid for within three years if operated under similar conditions each year. Replacement price of such a machines would probably run around $200,000.00 in five or six years time.

Transportation of fish or cargo in large quantities could be done cheaply with such a machine, however, a good deal of organization would be required at the lakes where the fish would be taken on. Organization of fishermen, icing facilities, warehouse, large boats, docks, and numerous points would have to be attended to well in advance.

It would be necessary to have two or three large lakes conducting fishing operations at one time and a rotation pickup arranged by the plane. A suggested plan would be a system whereby one trip to Wollaston Lake per day and one trip, and occasionally two, to Reindeer Lake per day be made.

If there was a full load for 100 trips to Reindeer lake (representing one million pounds of fish) and 75 trips to Wollaston Lake (representing three-quarters of a million pounds of fish) made in one season the total time flown by the machine would be in excess of 500 hours. This, of course, would be profitable for the Airways and should be profitable for the fishermen and the Fish Board.

If such a plan is to be adopted an order should be placed for the machine at once and the organization of the fishing facilities be effected at once.


Yours very truly,
Saskatchewan Government Airways
F. R. Glass,
Manager.
Dictated by Mr. Glass/TS



SASKATCHWAN ARCHIVES BOARD:

For Research Or Private Study Only. Circulation or publication without permission prohibited. Use of copy for purposes other than research or private study may require authorization of copyright owner.

We had a lot of fun with the old Canso flying boat. They started hauling fish with it, but they never took into consideration the fact that it was going to gradually acquire, a real bouquet of fish slime and stuff like that. They were originally hauling the fish in sacks so all the slime drained down into the bilges and after a while, you couldn't get near the damned airplane for flies.


Canso Flying Boat.
Fish being loaded on the Canso Flying Boat. Photo taken by Cecil McCullock in 1948.

Canso Flying Boat.
Canso Flying Boat. Photo taken by Cecil McCullock in 1948.

They anchored it offshore and to take a look at it, you could just see a great cloud of flies with a wingtip sticking out of either side of it. So they brought it to shore and they cleaned it, pulled up all the floorboards and they pumped it all out and then they sunk the darn thing practically at the dock.

They filled it half full of water and they sank and practically at the dock, and filled it full of fresh water and they pumped all that out, or something like that and water into it and scrubbed it with brushes and it looked lot better than what it had been in a very checkered career.

One time in high waves on Wollaston Lake, they hit the nose, going down into the water instead of coming up and it got him and bent both the props and broke both the front ????, they sheared the starter drive on it, on one engine. They also knocked the wing tip off the wing.


Canso Flying Boat.
Canso Flying Boat. Photo taken by Cecil McCullock in 1948.

So they decided if they trimmed it all up, primed it all up, pulled the things through ??????, there was a loop of rope over one of the doors, he went running down the wing, with the rope, over his shoulder, and a loop on the end of it, except he was looking back, waiting for the rope to tighten up and his beautiful dive trajectory from the end of the wing, yelling all the way down to the water. There were the most hysterical Indians that I've ever seen in my life watching, they had he had a terrific laugh at it.

Louis Benoni had a Peterborough motorboat and one of the crew walked out to the wing tip. They lifted the wing with the help of the motor boat until they were ready for takeoff, and then they started off down the lake and managed to hold the Canso level until it was into the air. The Air Force used to fly it with a 16 man crew.

A message was relayed to us from Fort McMurray that they'd received a message to help these guys up at Spitfire lake. We got to Spitfire Lake and these nuts had crash landed their Canso out in the middle of the lake and the guys had made it to shore on an island.

All they had was a freshwater kit, they had gallons and gallons of water, and no food, they had quite a bunch of guys there and they said the Air Force is going to look after us. So we left in a huff, and waited to see what happened then and see if made our bargaining position any stronger. The captain was just about having apoplexy, he was racing up and down on the beach yelling, you can't buck Department of Natural National Defense and ultimately it was paid out when I saw this same crew a little later on in the fall.


Aircraft Line.


Aircraft Line.

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