top of page

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

Son Floyd left British Columbia and married a gal from Chisholm, while daughter Elnora left for her old job in Fort Frances, Ontario. She later came back, stayed a short while, then she went out to Regina, Saskatchewan, where she went to work in the Regina Grey Nuns Hospital. It rained so much in the winter the things that Violet and Orrah had brought out to B.C. with them started to deteriorate. Orrah Jr. rescued the steel traps because they were sitting out in the open on the bluff above the ocean, but even some of those were ruined from the salt air. Orrah welded the sections of the Ironsides back together, put a full length cabin on it and turned it into a barge to be towed on up to Ketchikan, Alaska with all their stuff in it.

The last winter that they were living in B.C. son Frank and Orrah were drawing One-Hundred and Fifty dollars a month in unemployment insurance, it just kept the family going. According to Violet son Frank started listening to an elderly lady who had emigrated from from Nazi Germany during the war about how much cheaper he could live if he lived on his own boat. She told him that he should get away from his family. Violet painted her as a “regular Nazi” and thought that she hated both the United States and Canada. Violet just couldn’t understand why she just didn’t stay in Germany. Frank moved to his little boat which had a bunk and an oil cook-stove for heat, it took every bit of his monthly unemployment insurance just to eat and keep warm. After his insurance ran out Frank decided to come back home and take his place back in the bunkhouse with his brothers. Frank philosophized “Home is where you grumble the most and get treated the best”.

As per Violet all Orrah did for years and years was talk about moving to Alaska. It was his prime reason for moving to Prince Rupert as it was only ninety miles to Ketchikan. In the spring of 1959, they applied for visas and pass ports to enter the United States, but they were surprised to find out that five of their children didn’t have birth certificates. Violet knew that she had registered all five at one time, she then was told that the edifice where she had registered the kids had burned down leaving no evidence. It took some letter writing to the authorities in Fort Frances, but she received sworn affidavits for each child.

Violet testified that one morning she had an “awful phenomenon”; she went to call the boys for breakfast and she found Frankie’s bed empty. She knew that Frank used to go out to Poachers Island or go hunting but this time “a fear came over her”. Where was Frank? Violet later learned that Frank had gotten out of bed real early and went back to Mine Center, Ontario, where his brother Floyd had been staying, never even “saying goodbye”. Frank was very lonely for his brother and was caught between his brother and the rest of the family. He thought that if he went to Alaska it would stop him from ever seeing Floyd again.

The boys loaded the Ironsides with, as Violet put it, “all their conglomeration of paraphernalia”. They put the piano, along with their big gate leg round table, sewing machine, traps, furniture and canoes on the barge. Both Wes and Orrah Jr. had boats with cabins on them to troll commercially, the boys helped Orrah cut enough wood for the S.S. Clipper to tow the barge to Ketchikan. Orrah didn’t have condensers to convert saltwater to freshwater so they steamed her on up to Ketchikan using saltwater in the boiler while the boys drove their fish boats. It was May 1959, the Mounties traveled along with them for a few miles. Violet thought that they hated to see Canadian citizens leave, a few days later they arrived in Ketchikan.

Violet still didn’t have a visa to enter the United States, but Orrah by virtue of birth was a U.S. citizen, and after living in Canada for forty years was considered an “honorary Canadian citizen”. All Wes and Orrah Jr. had to do was go to the Immigration Office and swear allegiance to the United States of America, it didn’t go so well for Violet.

Next up, does Violet get her visa or did they do as Orrah suggested, “I’m willing to go back”?

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page