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Survival in a Northern Wilderness: A Mother's Story--Part XXXII

The Fort Frances Times reported that The S.S.Clipper was towed to the Falls River by a large boat after it had hit a reef in the Ranier Rapids and in the process had torn the keel off. Once home she was hauled out and over a summers time a new keel was hewed from a large Tamarack tree, and was treated with several coats of creosote and put back into the water. According to Violet she was as good as new and “floated like a gull on water”. Ever since they had finished the repairs they never towed the houseboat to town anymore because they could haul several tons of groceries and supplies in the newly repaired steamboat, and per Violet, they even hauled a ton of hay for the horse.

In the winter of 1955, Orrah took the cutter pulled by their horse Toby to Mine Center planning to take the train to Fort Frances. Orrah loaded a bale of hay on the back that was where Violet and Elnora would sit but Orrah never seemed to have the same control over Toby that their son Wes had. Old Toby took off described as “like a bolt of lightening” which then saw them both with a bundle in their arms running after the cutter hollering “wait for me” and after a few hundred yards he finally stopped. Elnora and Violet finally got a chance to stay away from home and visit some friends near Mine Center for an entire week. Elnora was nearing twenty years old then.

Every time that Violet or the children decided to make changes and build to see progress Orrah would say, “that is enough of that”, “we are going to move to Alaska”, or he would say “we have an objective to live up too and that is moving to Alaska”. Some of the children could see that they were just wasting their time and not making any improvements for themselves. He said that the children could go to school or attend night school when they moved to Alaska but the kids were beginning to get idea’s of their own. Violet knew that they felt that they had their own lives to live.

In the spring of 1955, Violet helped Elnora get ready and sent her to Kettle Falls and catch the fish boat “The Danny” to Fort Frances so she could see about writing her grade eight exams, she did good but became so lonely she came back to the Falls River, but was also starting to feel restless. She wanted to get more education. Violet thought that Elnora felt that as long as she was at Falls River everything she did was futile. She had been deprived of many things she wanted to do, so Violet helped plan her “escape”, and when the S.S. Clipper made a trip to Fort Frances she went to the Laverandery Hospital, which was in walking distance from where the steamboat was docked, and asked if they had anything she could work at. They gave her a job in the laundry, her pay was only $2.50 a day and she had to pay $20 a month for a room right next to the Hospital. She worked six and half days a week and Violet knew that she hated to see the S.S. Clipper pull away without her on it. Elnora would never have to cut fire wood for the Falls River home again.

Orrah’s plan began, he took Frank with him and headed out to British Columbia where they both got jobs working at a sawmill. The pay tripled the eighty cents an hour what they could get in Northwestern Ontario. Come mid-summer Orrah sent for Violet and Wes to come to Terrace, B.C., telling her that Wes could have his job and he and Violet would continue on up to Ketchikan, Alaska. They were three days and four nights on the train that she described as “a long ride”. Violet iterated that she was still so young looking that folks thought Wes was her husband instead of her son, she was flattered and so was Wes to think he had such a young looking mom. Orrah and Frank met them at the station.

A few days later they left Wes and Frank, and took the train to Prince Rupert where they caught the S.S. Queen of the North to Ketchikan, Alaska.

Next up, how long did they stay and what sort of plan did Orrah have?

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