May 12, 1938

c/o C. M. & S. Co. Ltd.

Yellowknife, N. W. T.

May 12th, 1938.

Dear Mother:

We are expecting our first plane in any time after approximately the 23rd but there is a good chance that one of the planes here may go out long before that.  There is still a lot office here—really no open water except in the “Narrows” which is a channel between town and an island and it is from this point that the plane would leave.  Harry Haytes, M. A. S. pilot is directing blasting operations to move the ice a little faster.

Again we are running a sweepstake though this time it is much longer due to the length of the days.  There are prizes on the first three planes being respectively 200, 100 and 40 dollars if all tickets are sold.  But there are over one hundred left and there is little hope of selling more.  Doug. and I managed to sell 20 over town but as the town has its own $300 sweep there is little hope of selling more in that quarter.

We found the ice excellent to walk on (this was on the 10th) despite numerous warnings to carry a board.  The worst place was getting on to the ice at this end where it is somewhat treacherous for fifty yards or so.  Intermittent rain the last two days will have weakened the ice a lot and there will be no more trips to town via the ice for me.

For a while the ice made a wonderful softball ground and a few of us were out there every night practising and on Sundays we would have pick up games accenting the staff against the miners.  The miners seemed to have the edge on us.  The latest craze is pitching horseshoes and this goes on every night after supper.  A tournament started tonight.  There is too little variety to the game to interest me very much.

I have had a few games of chess lately with the chief mechanic who is just about the same as I so we have some good games.  One of the muckers has challenged me to a game.  He is a Swede and can’t talk English very fluently but I think he is going to be to [sic] good for me.

The Rycon mine has been temporarily closed down until we get some more oil and the miners’ are concentrating on the Con shaft.  They are working four or five drifts and crosscuts here and have hit the gold vein on the 125’ crosscut.  So now we have started an ore dump ready for when the mill starts, probably around August.

The surface crew have been having a very unfortunate time enlarging the old dock.  Three log cribs, correctly contoured to the bottom of the lake were sunk through the ice and then filled with rocks.  Then the stringers were put on and there were many comments on this admirable piece of work.  The next day everything was topsy turvy.  One crib had sunk over two feet in one corner.  It was subsequently found that there was about eight feet of quicksand underneath a rock-like crust.  Now most of the rocks have been removed and poles are being driven around the cribs with a Heath Robinson-like pile driver.  But whatever it is like when finished it will never attain the precise nature of the original.  The whole project seemed fraught with bad luck.  The strawboss in charge must have fallen in the lake about five times.  Even our supt. got half a ducking when looking over the work.

All the snow has gone form the hills now and wherever there isn’t rock there is either very wet muskeg or mud so it is not practical to take walks around the country as it was during freezeup.  It is rather a muddy dirty camp that we have here now that the mantle of snow is gone.  Of course it is much worse over town with empty cans everywhere but our doctor is ;urging a cleanup program which is having some success.

We have taken on about twenty men lately which has decreased the Yellowknife unemployment situation considerably.  Just before breakup Canadian Airways were urging men to come in and a bunch of ten paid almost their last cent to do so expecting to find in Yellowknife the end of the rainbow.  This was in March and until now most of them have had no work.  They hadn’t got enough money to get out again but they had brought a 12 x 14 tent in which they all lived somehow and by pooling all their resources they figured they could last until after breakup.

Bill Jewitt was the last man to fly south from here.  He was in here for a few days last week and left on the morning of the eighth.  Commercial mail was still coming in to
Goldfields long after we were getting it here and as my “Posts” always come via Goldfields and hence Bill Jewitt my latest issue is the 30th whereas my latest issue of “Life” is the Apr. 11th.  C. A. L. and M. A. S. pulled their planes off the ice on the 10th but a Mining Corp. plane was still flying yesterday.

Our payroll has recently been switched over from the Goldfields to the local bank and I have been made one of the signing officers.  So far the biggest cheque I have signed is a little over six thousand dollars.

We are not very busy in the office at present and we are keeping only a 7½ hour day.  It is going to be hard to start the long hours again when the boats start operating.

May 20th

Well Harry Hayter made good his boast and took his plane out of the narrows on Thursday morning to the surprise of everyone out here.  More surprising than that, at 6:17½  p.m. on the same day (yesterday) a different M. A. S. plane came in from Edmonton, its welcome only slightly damaged by the realization that it carried only second class mail.  (So now I am very busy catching up with my “Lifes” and “Couriers”).  First plane in last year was on the 24th so to get in on the 19th is an achievment [sic] worthy of merit.  It was generally considered that this season was later than last year.

Incidentally all the tickets were eventually sold—mostly in the camp.  Doug. Wilmot and I made another campaign—southward this time—and sold what became the winning ticket in a camp nearly two miles away (Rex Yellowknife Gold Mines.)  While there I sold a ticket to a man that I was almost sure I recognised but could not place even by the name.  When I got home I racked my brains for a long time and reached the conclusion that I must have met him in Stettler where he worked in Mr. Sharpe’s store.

Two days before the plane came in somebody started a $60 minute pool.  You chose your minutes (of the one’s unsold) and it was good any hour, any day.  This is the principal of the Yukon sweepstakes and perhaps the pilot guessed there might be something like this and having a sense of humour put down 17½ in his log.  Who do you think should get the $60.00?  Actually it was split to avoid argument but I think 17½ would be approximated at 18 although the doctor thinks 17 runs from 17.0 to 17.99+.

The ice has melted a terrific amount today and there is almost a clear passage to the new dock and the island.  Our softball bases which are sacks filled with sawdust have kept the ice from melting underneath and have taken on the appearance of a short-stemmed, but still grotesque toadstool.

The three main prospectors camps are equipped with radios and every night our radio operator gives a five minute talk on any news of interest around our camp.  Sometimes he has a difficult time getting any news but fortunately any radio operator can talk on the radio even if he has nothing to say.  One night the man in charge of the nearest camp which is only ten miles away came in by dog team and he and the radio operator put on a subtle entertainment for the other two camp [sic]. The prospector pretended he had just got a phone transmitter which he was testing.  The radio op would say “Hello Joe, hello Joe!  Have you got the transmitter working yet? etc etc.  and after a while—“Hello, Bill—can you hear me?  I think I have the set tuned now” and then a lot of cross-jargon about R-7’s, beat oscillators etc etc.  If the show rang true the other camps would be consumed with jealousy especially as their more isolated position would increase the necessity of a two-way system.

May 21.  This is our half-holiday so I am going to walk over to town and get this letter away.  If the mail comes in today it should go out right away.

With best love


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