November 14, 1937

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

Yellowknife, N. W. T.

Nov. 14th /37.

Dear Mother:

It seems ages since the last plane went out and yet it may be another ten days before we can expect a plane.  It has not begun to get cold yet—the low mark so far being around ten below.  It is about twenty-five tonight.  And yet the bay is frozen as far as you can see with three inches of ice.  There has been about five inches of snow—most of it coming before the ice foze so that skating is not too bad although in places it is rough.

Since the last plane left we have had every Saturday afternoon and Sunday free and I have taken several long walks around here and over to town.  There is very little to see but the exercise is certainly needed.

Yesterday some of us skated over to Giant.  It was the furthest I have ever skated—I think my ankles will agree on this—but it was well worth it.  When we got there we walked the 1¾ miles back into the hills to see the Giant shaft which is down about 80 feet now.  The country around Giant seemed more interesting than here.  It is more mountainous and the trees appear to be taller.  This visit to Giant is my second and—I imagine my last.  We have orders to cease operations at Giant, almost immediately I believe.  It looks as if C. M. & S. lost the law suit and hence Giant for good.  On our return from the shaft we stopped in at the Giant cookhouse whose cook—still the most renowned culinary artist in these parts—fed us on tea, cake and shortbread.  He also entertained us with his cat, the first one I have ever seen that could do tricks.  To sit up and beg like a dog or shake hands was nothing for it.  It would even jump over a broomstick held table height when commanded.

I have set myself quite a task in attempting to put captions in my photograph album.  I have a diary covering moat of 1934-1935 but before that it is going to be very difficult to get the correct dates.  Fortunately there aren’t very many before then.

Nov. 20th

Yesterday a radiogram brought the news that a mail plane was leaving Edmonton today.  With good flying conditions, then, it should arrive tomorrow.  This makes it almost imperative to get this letter finished today.  I am wishing now that I had written it from day to day somewhat in diary form as I believe it would be more interesting.

Eric and I have arranged a $200 sweepstake on the time of arrival of the first plane shown by the pilot’s log book.  Tickets cover one week (and are good in any week).  There are 29 a day, that is one every fifteen minutes from 9:30 to 4:30.  I have taken two but but both are out of the running unless the plane is held up.  We went over town last night to sell the remaining 19 tickets which went quickly enough.  One man took five.  The first three he drew were duds but the last two were around noon tomorrow which is about the best time to have them.

I was surprised at the development over town.  There are now two stores, a barber shop, an hotel, a poolroom and two radio stations.  A café is in the course of construction and is supposed to be opened this year.  An attempt was made to put a dance on last night (I think there are only three or four women in town) but it was not successful and the date has been postponed until Wednesday.

The ice is about three inches thick now.  Not yet strong enough for a tractor and so during the last three days we have had six dog teams hauling food and dynamite from Giant.  The drivers are paid by the trip and so it really amounts to a dog derby.  An overtown driver is in the lead now with a couple of Indians trying for second place.  The Indians are rather cruel drivers and whip their dogs or throw blocks of wood at them to get them started.  Each team has five dogs and pulls over 500 pounds.

We now have hot and cold water in the staff-house and the shower was completed a few days ago.  I should say we have hot water because you have to let the tap run about ten minutes before it is cold enough to wash.  This is because the cold water pipes runs [sic] along the steam pipe.  All pipes are of necessity above ground and insulated from the cold by wooden covers packed with the moss.  If the steam happened to go off for some time however I imagine the other pipes would freeze.

I am very disappointed in the radio reception.  It seems impossible to eliminate the static set up by the generator.  Overtown the reception is perfect.

Two new buildings have gone up since I last wrote, in the camp.  One is the prospector’s warehouse and the other is the water tower.  This water tower is thirty feet high with the tank on top, and looks much taller being built on higher ground than the rest of the camp.  A few small structures have been built also such as a meat-house, garage for the tractors and a mobile nose warmer for the aeroplanes.

Development at the mine is much more marked and I imagine construction will be over early in the new year.  The power house is practically finished and one diesel is going already.  It is driving a small temporary generator but its main purpose is to supply compressed air for the drills and later the hoist.  Alongside the power house is a water tank identical in size and height to the one here.  The water supply is a small lake about ¼ mile away.  It will be a wonder if this pipe doesn’t freeze.  Between the mill and the headframe adjoining the mill is another new building ⅔ the height of the mill.  It will house the course ore bin and the jaw crusher.

I don’t know whether I told you a second shaft had been commenced on the Ryan property bought by C. M. & S.  Anyway they got down about twenty feet in the solid rock before the big shots in Trail who decide where to sink the shaft decided they were drilling in the wrong place.  It seems rather a costly mistake on somebody’s part.  However they have now started another shaft.  Our own shaft must be nearing the hundred mark.  There is a station at the 40 foot level.  I think this is the point where they start one of the horizontal tunnels or crosscuts.

I have not played much chess as I can’t find anybody who plays.  I have tried with only intermediate success to get Eric interested.  However we have had a fair amount of bridge lately.

Tony made the chessboard in a high school woodworking class.

The enclosed picture of the camp was taken by someone sometime in August and so is not very up to date.  It gives a very good impression of the layout of the camp though.  I took one from the same point yesterday which you will be able to compare later.  Incidentally the picture is taken from a small island.  None of the other pictures were taken by myself either.  They are all printed here by one of the boys.  I got him to reprint some of mine also but they turned out badly as he did six at a time and they take different times to come out properly.

I wear moccasins all the time now.  It is the warmest and most comfortable type of footwear there is and it will probably be tough to ever wear shoes again.  I have also bought a parka which I had trimmed with wolf fur for a dollar.  It is made of extremely light gabardine and is only warm because it is practically windproof.  I think I will buy a Siwash sweater from Fort Smith and then my winter ensemble will be complete.

Nov 24th

No plane yet but it shouldn’t be long now.  The mail plane from Edmonton reached Fort Smith a couple of days ago.  There was considerable excitement over the sweepstake today as weather conditions were perfect here and it was reported by radio that the plane had left at 9:30 and in which case the plane should have been in by noon.  However it turned out that the Fort Smith radio operator had blundered and the plane hadn’t left at all due to fog.  If the same conditions can prevail tomorrow my ticket which is Friday 12:15 12:29 will be very much in the running.  Here’s hoping!

The dog teams are still hauling supplies from Giant.  Today they brought down a powder magazine which is a building slightly smaller than the “dairy”.  It took ten dogs to haul it and one behind the other as they were it made quite an imposing sight.

The thermometer has reached a new low of 18 below.  Still not very cold, on the other hand we cannot expect anything much warmer than this for a long time to come.

Lately an attempt has been made to soak up the water tank but this has not been very successful and it leaks badly.  Consequently the whole tower looks as if it was almost built of ice.  The bottom of the tower had been built into a small warehouse and soon the roof began to leak like a sieve.  Our poor warehouseman got absolutely soaked in the icy water when he was hurriedly removing the stores.

Nov 25.  Still the plane has not arrived and now we know it is not going to.  Instead a plane from here is going down to pick the mail up.  This means that the sweepstake won’t be decided for perhaps another week.  I can’t think why the mail was not flown out today as planes are flying from here to Gordon lakes about fifty miles north all the time.  However it is fortunate that it didn’t as this letter would have missed the post.  I am going to walk over to town after supper and post it.  I don’t expect to find the post-master in a very good humour as he was instructed to get the mail ready to go out at 9:30 this morning.  However since it didn’t go he will have to stamp it all again and there must be stacks of it by now.

I wonder if you would ship my skiis [sic] and ski-boots (I will get ski-poles from Edmonton) as before to me, Con Property. c/o E. Demers, Ft. McMurray, Alta.  There are no good skiing hills here but it will be a lot of trekking about the country.  I think my ski harness is in my boots and they should be in the cupboard in the den.  I would like Archie to screw some L-shaped brass protective strips onto the soles of the boots were [sic] the toe clamps are badly cutting the boots.  It might be possible to buy them as they are almost a standard attachment when this type of harness is used.  Well, it is time I started for town

With best love to you all


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