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

Violet’s son Wesley returned from British Columbia and after spending a few weeks at home he took a job cutting pulp. Violet and Orrah went to visit him and were, according to Violet, “shocked” that his living conditions were very bad. He was living in an old shed made up of weather beaten boards, there was only a dirt floor, and the walls were all open with big cracks. He bought and cooked his own meals on a small barrel stove.

In the spring of 1956, Elnora took the summer off from her job at the Fort Frances Hospital to help pack, as they had made the decision; they were moving to Prince Rupert, B.C. on the west coast. Orrah and Violet had skiffs and canoes, each boy had his own canoe and some had skiffs and some had inboard boats. There was the piano to be crated, furniture, beds, traps and as per Violet “you name it, we had it”. The boys made crates for the piano, the washing machine and the furniture, crates had to made for hundreds of home processed canned meats, vegetables and fruits. They made crates for three of the sled dogs Brownie, Blacky and Sandy. Brownie was the last descendant of the dog team they ran when Orrah and Violet had eloped. Years before Orrah had a dog he called Old Jim, and he sired Jim, when Jim was twelve years old he sired Brownie. Blacky half Labrador and half Collie was Orrah’s lead dog. He left his remaining dogs with the folks who bought his trap ground. Orrah had sold his trap ground along with the houseboat for what she (Violet) called a “meager” $2,000; it had taken them ten years for the family to save $8,000. Altogether they had $10,000 and that would have to cover two railroad boxcars and two railroad flat-cars, and the price of the tickets.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle it was Baby Billy’s fourth birthday. Among his presents were six or seven dollars, and when Violet asked him what he wanted to spend it on, he showed her a little red wagon in the Easton’s Catalog. Violet sent for it and Billy would sit in it and go “to beat the band” downhill near their garden plot; he had a great time with it. One day after a noon meal, he told his dad to watch how fast he could go. The family gathered but Elnora just knew that little good could come of it, and protested to Orrah that Billy risked a bath in the river. Orrah said “be quiet” and let him go, so down the hill Billy raced right out into the water, wagon and all. Billy sat there with the water up around his waist and he proclaimed, “this wagon is no good, I want my money back!”

Orrah rented a big barge from the Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company then, with block and tackle, pulley’s and winches, and with help from the boys loaded the barge. They loaded the dry-back steam boiler that was used to operate the Stanley car engine that pulled the big circle-saw on the sawmill and the gristmill, and two small other steam engines. They led their horse Toby up the gangplank as they had decided to give him back to his original owner, and they finally left their Falls River home for good as they towed the barge and everything else with the S.S. Clipper. They also had a mahogany cruiser to put on the flatcar along with the Ironsides, Orrah and the boys had cut the Ironsides into sections in order for it to fit on the rail car. The family had a potluck dinner with Granddad, Grandma, and Orrah’s three brothers. Violet expressed sadness now that they were all packed and ready to go, but there was no turning back, the trapping grounds were gone.

Orrah stopped at Pithers Point by the Ranier Bridge and pitched two large army tents to camp in while they waited for their freight to be loaded. Orrah, Wesley and Orrah Jr. worked long hours loading the boxcars and they hired the O and M Pulp and Paper crane to lift the sections of the Ironsides onto flatcars, along with two out-board skiffs and the cruiser. They steamed the S.S. Clipper along the shoreline and added it to the flatcar. As a side note, Violet reported that the crane cost $50 an hour.

On August 31st, 1956, the International Falls Daily Journal headlined “KIELCZEWSKI FAMILY PULLS ANCHOR FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA”.

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