Lake of the Woods Museum Newsletter
Vol. 16 No. 3 – Summer 2006

by Peggy O’Flaherty


My parents moved to Kenora in 1948 when Dad bought the Bentz Brewery, renamed Lake of the Woods Brewing Company. When the brewery folded he opened Pat’s Stationary and Novelty Shop on Second Street. He could have moved to many cities as a brewmaster, but he felt he had found paradise and refused to leave. For a few years, he went out to Yellow Girl and stayed in an old camp on the Martin’s property. He loved the “Lake” and spent as much time as he could fishing and hunting. He bought a log cabin from the estate of an old German recluse called Klasu on Redcliff Bay. Both Mom and Dad enjoyed their time at Redcliff, but it was Dad’s Passion.

At breakup they would fly out, wait for the lake to open up and bring their big utility boat back in to Kenora. In 1966 they followed this plan, but the weather turned and they were stranded. Mother wrote a journal to send to my sister and I – a glimpse of bush life – as follows:

Redcliff Bay – April 12th, 1966

My dear Ev, Peg and all the family

At last I managed to get out here yesterday morning before 9:30 am. It was nice and sunny with very little wind and we flew very low, low enough to see the homes on the islands quite plainly. Dad and Skipper were waiting for me and there was a good fire in the Cabin. Dad was glad to see me, as he was very doubtful about me coming out. I saw stretches and stretches of open water so perhaps breakup isn’t too far away. We had coffee and a chat and Dad got back to work bringing logs out of the bush. You should see the contraption he uses – something in the kind of a sleigh – made by old man Klaus. I got busy cleaning – first the outside refrigerator so that I could put all the supplies away and then the drawers. As usual the mice had been in every one. However we hadn’t left anything much in them – we use a couple of tin containers for woollens. In the early evening the Martins came over. I was just putting supper on the table. They had eaten so had coffee. They say Texas Gulf are still staking out here. Art is hired by them at $40.00 a day. $20.00 for him and $20.00 for the windjammer. They tried to get extra men in Kenora and no one would come out. So Johnnie is going to work for them. The story is that “Copper was found, buckets of it,” this side of French Narrows. And now the whole area is being staked, except two islands by Shore Island and the Wismer and Martin properties. They are staking the water as well…They are staying in cabins at Yellow Girl so it is a sort of Bonanza for the boys and they deserve it. I took a hot water bottle to bed with me last night and thought I felt it leaking so half asleep I pitched it out and slept the remainder of the night with my knees up. This morning Dad informed me I threw it on top of his pants and that it continued to leak. Dad was up at 6am but I didn’t hear him and slept until 7:30. The place was good and warm when I did get up and my girdle hanging over the stove. It wasn’t really cold – just 27 degrees but too cold to get into a cold girdle.

Wednesday 13th

Yesterday was uneventful. We were both quite busy. Dad hauled wood out of the bush until his sleigh finally gave up and he spent the remainder of the day trying to fix it. By the time he got it ready the snow was too soft. Smokey Fadden and his son from Sioux Narrows stopped in for coffee. They had a few large beaver – not a bad day’s work. They get $26.00 a skin for large ones. Today we really worked hard – the kitchen walls are painted + windows and cupboards cleaned. Smokey is going to bring some gloss paint from Sioux Narrows to do the doors. Art and John came over after supper. Halleluia!! They brought five lovely Pickerel caught in their nets. Dad filleted them right away. He is now lying down and I am ready for bed. It is 9:30 and I was up at 6:30 this morning.

Besides the dog barked twice in the night and woke us up. Dad got up but he couldn’t see anything – not even the moon. We saw our first Robin today and a hawk and this evening heard an Owl. There are ducks and Sea Gulls close by. We can hear them and see them fly over but we haven’t any open water in the Bay as yet. As Red Skeleton says, “Good night and God Bless!!!!”

Wednesday 21st

Another week has gone by and what a week!! Nothing eventful really only the weather! Who would have thought there would be such a change. For the past week temperatures have gone down to 15 and 20 degrees below normal and the open spaces on the lake that were open are now covered over with ice and about 6 inches of new snow. We have been very comfortable and have played a lot of cribbage and I have done a lot of reading. The trouble with me is that the weather has postponed the breakup. I feel as though I won’t to get out of here before July 1st. I think I told you Dad bought a wooden boat. It is about 2 ft longer than the “Crestliner” and wider. He has spent hours scraping the varnish off it and is now ready to paint and varnish if we can get some warm weather. He said it reminded him of the days when he used to scrape the wooden tanks at Fort Garry Brewery and of how he hated it but I guess this has been a labor of love. He is going to put the new motor on this boat – we will get a smoother ride and it is in very good shape.

I have had a feeling this year that we were not quite so isolated, as the Martins are staying at Yellow Girl and the mining men are there too. Art took one of them to Sioux Narrows on Saturday in the windjammer and it broke down on the way back. Art was alone and had to spend the night on an Island – it went down to 15. They went to look for him the next morning. Smokey was in on Tuesday and had called in at Yellow Girl and brought us three lovely big smoked whitefish. He picked up his traps for the season so we won’t be seeing him any more this trip. I had just baked bread and biscuits and sent some over to Martins. They were going to stay there over night and take the boys to the windjammer to see if they could get it started again. We haven’t heard it going and the boys have not been over but the men were working all around here, staking, and our dog nearly barked his head off so one of them called to say who was there. Will continue later.

Tuesday, April 26th

Am I ever frustrated!! The blooming lake is frozen over again. 20 degrees last night and wasn’t above 30 all day with a north wind at 18 miles gusting to 25 miles an hour. We have had another week of below normal weather. We are really very comfortable and Dad is as busy and as happy as can be, considering I keep bitching because the ice isn’t going out fast enough. It was his birthday Saturday and not too bad a day. The Martins came over – the first time since last Friday. They were out of coffee and we were out of bread. I had been baking and was almost out of flour. John said the next time they came it would be by boat. However they did arrive today by windjammer bringing four loaves of bread and some flour. And smoked Whitefish. Reminds me of the Bible story of the loaves and fishes. The Coffeemate is all gone and I opened the last tin of Carnation today. And the worst of all we have no butter. Dad has about 1/2 lb of marg. left. We have plenty of Jam, Marmalade, & Honey so it won’t take any harm as we have Bacon, eggs, meat and canned goods. I hope the ice goes out before Neil arrives. I wonder if everything is all right at the house and how the girls are making out – and if they are watering my plants. And if there is any mail from you! The prospectors have all left and the boys moved back to the Fish Camp so all is quiet except for our barking dog and he wakes us at least four times every night. In the day time he chases the Partridge and ran all the way along the shore to chase some ducks off an open spot on the Lake. He nearly goes crazy after the Beaver. He is just a Puppy and everything is new to him. Last night it was the loons in the Back Bay…

Dad has finished his boat and it looks pretty good. He is going to put his new motor on it and let the O’Flahertys use the “Crestliner.” No wet feet this summer, Peggy. He is now making a runway to take his boats out of the water. I would be painting if I had some paint and some ambition. All I do is put wood on the stove and take out the ashes.

And bring in water. The system isn’t working yet. We still have to break ice on the rain barrel. I had a bath on Saturday. It’s a long time since I used a tub in front of the stove. I started to keep track of our Cribbage games. To date I have won 52 games and 6 skunks and Dad 44 and six skunks. I guess we will be playing plenty more before we leave.

Wednesday, April 27th

The wind blew all night and rattling chimney wakened me periodicially. This morning we got up to find on the ground about 6″ of snow and still snowing. Dad cleaned the porch out and nailed cartons over the screens to keep out the blowing snow. The radio weather forecast is for the same for 36 hours – up to 10 inches of snow and temperatures to 25 degrees. Winds gusting to 40 miles an hour. Roads are mostly blocked and they are announcing cancellations of meetings, etc. We are nice and cosy – thank Goodness! Pity the poor birds that came back too soon. Our dog loves it and is frollicking in the snow up to his belly. I just caught a glimpse of Father over at the shed. I am not going to write any more until I get to town. All I do is complain of the weather…. I have got to the point where I am talking to myself and might as well put it down on paper.

Friday, April 29th

Well the forecast was right. We had three days of snow and wind. Today is sunny and very cold, down to 15 during the night. We haven’t taken any harm. The thing that worried me most was the fear of fire. We had to keep a good fire on and when the wind gusted it sure shook those old stove pipes. Two nights I got up after Dad was asleep to see everything was alright and vowed I would never come here again unless there was transportation. The Martins are back at the Fish Camp and can’t use the windjammer on account of the deep snow. There was a lovely moon last night and with the new snow it was like day light. The cribbage now stands at Mom 61 – Pop 54. I brought out what wild bird seed I had left and have been feeding the birds since the snow. There have been a couple of dozen feeding at one time and I keep my bird book handy. The only ones I haven’t seen since the snow are my poor Robins. Dad has his runway finished and it is really something. The rollers are like those on a ringer. He cut green poles in the bush and put iron rods through them and they run on ball bearings. It has taken hours of labor. Now that Dad has all his projects completed I think he too is ready to go to town.

Tuesday, May 3rd

Sunday was the first day of May and I made up my mind to look on the bright side and be thankful instead of “bitching” about the circumstances that can’t be helped. I guess the soldiers in Vietnam would like to go home too. This is the first day in ten we haven’t had snow and the temp was 22 this morning. However a warming trend is on its way but we will be here for some time yet. Sunday we had our last bacon + eggs although we have two slices of bacon Dad is saving to cook his pancakes as we are all out of lard – also butter + mar. – also coffeemate and any kinds of milk or milk powder. We had a stew on Sunday and I saved half of it for tonight so we wouldn’t get tired of pork + beans which we had last night and will have to eat again tomorrow night. Thank goodness for the few loaves and flour the Martins brought. I baked biscuits with a few raisins in, to save the bread. Last night we had dry toast without pork + beans and jello and this morning we had porridge without milk, dry toast and black coffee. At noon dry toast and I had some smoked whitefish and Dad had honey on his toast. I can hardly wait for supper time for the stew. Tonight we will listen to the Hockey Game. The Martins are at the fish camp and can’t come over because there is too much snow on the lake. Thank goodness we both kept well. Dad takes his gun and his dog and goes through the bush to Long Bay every day, he just called me out to see a nice big Deer grazing near the point where we throw the fish refuse. He doesn’t know how he missed it because he and skipper were over there a little while ago.

Sunday – Mother’s Day

We are on a salt free diet – no salt!!! things were really getting grim. God knows when the ice will go out. I opened a tin of Ham Thursday and Dad went fishing Friday and caught one small Pickerel which we shared for dinner along with a Kraft dinner I had saved. Of course we had to make the Kraft dinner spin out of Saturday too and ration the Ham. At noon today Dad heard someone hollering on the point and it was Art + John. They had walked through bush from Yellow Girl. They moved from the fish Camp last Thursday because John had to see the final hockey game on T.V. and their lighting plant broke down so they moved T.V. and bag + baggage back to Yellow Girl because it is going to be easier to get to town from there. John brought 14 huge Pickerel fillets. I will have to bake them – no grease. They had lunch with us. We shared the rest of our ham and I had cooked some Creamettes and had half a tin of tomato paste and we had homemade bread and black coffee. When those prospectors were here they stayed at Rips Camp and told the boys they had left some canned goods there so Dad and the Martins have gone to get what there is, if anything. It is going to be some job getting through – they took long pike poles to break ice and I saw they had trouble getting out of this bay. They are so short of “grub” they are going to try to make it to town as soon as they can. Once they get by French Narrows it is open and I told them to send a plane out here for me. If Dad wants to stay and come by boat it is up to him. However we shall see. Today is Kathleen’s birthday or was it yesterday – I am really mixed up.

Monday (later)

They made it all right by skirting Skeads Island and keeping to the shore line but there is a lot of ice yet and it will be some time before we can get out. We shared the food giving the boys most. We got salt, lard, 1/2lb butter, small can Carnation, 1 can fruit and two of meat. And I gave John a loaf of homemade bread and we kept a couple of loaves of stale bread which I can toast. The Martins sure are good neighbours. Four weeks today since I came out. If I had only known what was ahead!!!

Redcliff is still a part of our lives. It is owned by my nephew. He has built a new cabin but the peace and serenity of nature is still there where my parents enjoyed it.

Did you know?

The name “Kenora” is a portmanteau of the names of local towns Keewatin, Norman, and Rat Portage— KE from Keewatin,  NO from Norman, and RA from Rat Portage.

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