By in Personal

My Pioneer Days

While growing up, two years was the longest I lived anywhere, and the first time that happened was when we moved to Thompson, Manitoba, just short of the tundra line and marked by a subarctic climate. Brrrrr!

We arrived by train, right after Christmas. I had turned 12 the month before. Somehow the tracks on the way there had been cleared of the mountains of snow all around. My mom, Auntie Alice and I were joining my dad and Uncle Lawrence who had already been there for months, getting the nickel mine constructed. Now parts of it were ready for workers (the “camp men”) to arrive and start the mining in earnest. Ours was one of the first couple of dozen houses built and ready to be occupied by the families of the construction men and miners. And we were one of the first five families to occupy them. A town was being born. And we were its pioneers. By the time school started in February, I was one of five seventh graders.

Two of the houses were set aside for schooling and one for a bank. A two-story house became our Hudson Bay store with a catalogue-ordering counter. The market section consisted of canned goods, pastries and breads - not much more. Most other perishable food had to be shipped in by train, ordered by individual families. We had a giant crate outside our front door crammed with a whole cow’s worth of beef cuts, chickens, lamb and pork cuts. In the mornings there were often wolf tracks all around it, with paw scrapes through the inevitable snow on top. Occasionally we would see them and moose ranging along the edge of the woods not all that far from our back door.

I had a wonderful time there, skating every day/night as well as engaging in other winter sports, including tobogganing and curling. Sometimes I even skated to and from the schoolhouse when the snow was hard-packed enough and friendly house builders would pour water over paths we took. Most of the school year it was dark both when we started and when we ended our day. On weekends we blissfully skated in daylight.

Almost immediately a town rink was formed, with a little heating hut nearby where we could go sit and thaw our frostbite. After a wooden wall was built with a little platform along the top, some of us would perch there, watching the snapping, crackling Northern Lights whipping over the sky in blazing color - before school or after.

Early mornings, before it was time for the men to go to the mine, bulldozers plowed snow from the roads so they could be picked up by vans. Our car was parked in the driveway, a yellow 57 Plymouth with giant fins, completely buried under snow.

Springtime brought hordes of gnats, then mosquitos, so we stunk of some kind of DDT lotion. And that’s when the perma-frost melted. A few times I sunk into the thick mire up to my hips, often just one leg going all the way down. A couple of friends or a passing camp man would have to pull me out, the result always being that one or two of my rubber boots would be sucked away from my feet. This was commonplace, especially with kids, and evidently, years later when the ground was being excavated for new buildings, countless boots were unearthed. I’m sure at least a few pair were mine!

In the warm summer, we had beautiful nearby rivers and lakes and waterfalls to play in and around. A nature lover’s paradise! By the time we left, soon after I turned fourteen, it was a burgeoning town with primary, elementary, junior and high schools! Supposedly it was the fastest growing town in North America! By the late sixties it was deemed the most modern town on the continent!

I’ll never forget my time there and have been thrilled that via Facebook and the Internet, people from those days have found me, some who even still live there!

The photo is of a crayon drawing I did not too long after we moved to Thompson. (I was the blonde in brown.) The fence around the rink still had not been erected.

Image Credit » image by BodieMor

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MelissaE wrote on February 18, 2015, 7:36 PM

Oh my gosh. This is one of the best pieces. Can I print it and share with my students?

BodieMor wrote on February 18, 2015, 7:47 PM

Of course! I am honored!

bestwriter wrote on February 18, 2015, 7:50 PM

You seem to have great memories of your past. Good to be that way. How different my childhood was but a happy one too.

maxeen wrote on February 18, 2015, 7:50 PM

I love that picture ,what a keepsake ..lovely story..

BodieMor wrote on February 18, 2015, 7:58 PM

My past is encapsulated into sections. By education's end I had attended 22 schools! I'm glad you recall your childhood as happy. So many don't. Mine had its ups and downs, but mostly ups!

BodieMor wrote on February 18, 2015, 7:59 PM

Thanks so much. I discovered it a few years ago amongst a portfolio of old art pieces.

carolscash wrote on February 18, 2015, 8:11 PM

Great memories of a time gone past

BodieMor wrote on February 18, 2015, 8:13 PM

Long past, I'm afraid. I just spent some time on Wikipedia checking out the place as it is now...

cheri wrote on February 18, 2015, 11:06 PM

What a very detailed masterpiece! I love the way you put things in details.

snerfu wrote on February 18, 2015, 11:52 PM

It must have been very exciting to be one of the new kids on the block. I liked the detailed description of your neighborhood including the wasps and mire.

Telynor wrote on February 19, 2015, 12:36 AM

Being shifted about as a child tends to be pretty awful, and really does create a sense of uncertainty. It was only when I left home that I was able to have anything close to stablity in my life. I lived for a time in Yellowknife, and oh, that Great White Cold can be a challenge!

iamshane487 wrote on February 19, 2015, 12:42 AM

I thought you have taken the portrait from the sites that provide free images ! Wow it is very beautiful !
I love the beauty of nature.I'm a nature lover and missed the things when me and my peers used to get to river after the class, to the farm, falls, hills and spring and we played there just like what you did with your friends. How I wish I could skate too but I'm in tripped to try .

Mommyjen wrote on February 19, 2015, 4:29 AM

The way you described your place, it reminded me of the village I and my family used to live.

crowntower wrote on February 19, 2015, 5:27 AM

I think this is one of the best memory ever! I hope time and places like this can be freeze for future generations. Lol for all the boots! Living in a town that is starting to grow is a very peaceful and exciting place to grow. God bless.

louisechackett wrote on February 19, 2015, 6:41 AM

Wow! I have lived in the same town my entire life. I do wish I had travelled more.

GemOfAGirl wrote on February 19, 2015, 7:02 AM

Awesome piece - I just had a flashback of reading "On the Shores of Silver Lake" by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

BodieMor wrote on February 19, 2015, 3:03 PM

Thanks so much! Been writing YA novels with &selen3 (none submitted as yet) and have to curb my penchant for details, lol!

BodieMor wrote on February 19, 2015, 3:05 PM

Thank you! And it was such a part of my life that the worst I experienced was a very nervous stomach (multiple bathroom trips!) every morning that I started a new school!

BodieMor wrote on February 19, 2015, 3:13 PM

Yellowknife would be a similar experience to mine, I'm guessing! However, since my father was hired by the big construction company when I was a toddler, I was used to it and actually okay with moving with my family. I felt sorry for the kids whose dads left their families at a home base and only visited them every month or so. I think their lives were more disrupted than mine. Also, the circumstances were not good for the parents' marriages. And teachers tended to give me extra help to catch up, resulting in my skipping a grade and graduating high school at sixteen. My stability was our little family.

BodieMor wrote on February 19, 2015, 3:18 PM

Thank you, Shane! My husband grew up close to nature in Southern Ontario with all that you describe! Our son has grown up in a Los Angeles suburb. Thankfully, he has nature close by - a short bike ride into the Santa Monica mountains, though it is certainly different from the lush greenery we grew up with. Still beautiful, though... And he goes snowboarding every year to Big Bear Mountain, a couple of hours from here.

BodieMor wrote on February 19, 2015, 3:21 PM

I'm sure many people grew up this way! In earlier years we moved to different towns and villages in Québec and the Canadian Maritimes, which also offered winters of heavy snow and summers of gnats and mosquitos, lol, all include in the outdoor fun for children!

BodieMor wrote on February 19, 2015, 3:26 PM

How kind of you to say so. Our family pioneered another town, as well -- Murdochville, Québec, in the Gaspé peninsula. I was only 5 there, so it didn't have the same developmental impact on my life.

BodieMor wrote on February 19, 2015, 3:27 PM

My husband lived in the same town all his life and is filled with precious growing-up memories - as I'm sure you are.

Last Edited: February 19, 2015, 3:28 PM

BodieMor wrote on February 19, 2015, 3:28 PM

Wow -- what a compliment! Thank you!

BarbRad wrote on February 19, 2015, 11:00 PM

That's a great drawing. It's wonderful you got to participate in this pioneering adventure. It sounds as though you were very happy in it.

BodieMor wrote on February 20, 2015, 12:05 AM

Thank you! It was a wonderful and memorable time in my life!

arthurchappell wrote on February 20, 2015, 2:22 AM

how fantastic to be a witness to the birth and formative years of a town and community like that

WordChazer wrote on February 20, 2015, 1:35 PM

That sounds like a piece of paradise for me! One of my greatest wishes is to be able to go up that neck of the woods and overwinter there.

BodieMor wrote on February 20, 2015, 3:08 PM

Happened twice in my life - the first being Murdochville, Québec, on the Gaspé peninsula when I was five! Maybe I will tell that story, too...

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 6:27 PM

Really? At my age I am not longer a big fan of winter, though I loved the snow as a child.

WordChazer wrote on February 21, 2015, 7:03 PM

Really. I think it's the 'getting away from the rest of the world' thing. Internet for my writing connections and books, walking and wintersport, wildlife and nature. That'd do me. No need to keep up with the latest 'slebritee' doings, soap operas, sport, crap TV, news, politics, humanity's latest attempts to wipe each other out... I went to Churchill, Manitoba in the mid-90s on a polar bear watching holiday. Even back then I had the idea of a blog or a book about the place. Since then I have read Frontier Sports blog by BBC reporter Ollie Williams, An Arctic Man by Ernie Lyall and Champagne and Polar Bears by Marie Tieche. Now I am convinced that I could write at least a blog out of just being there and doing everyday stuff, in the way that you did in your childhood.

BodieMor wrote on February 21, 2015, 8:20 PM

I look forward to reading it! And I too have little interest in most of the things you mentioned, but I do love warmth and sunshine!