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Birch Lake – The Blizzard of ’41 – Chapter 1 of 4

Written by Harold McNeill on January 18th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Blizzard of 41

Photo (Farm Life): In the early years of living on the farm in Saskatchewan, winter blizzards could arrive suddenly and last for days. Travelling in such such weather was a dangerous affair.

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Deep Winter, 1941: Northern Saskatchewan

It was just after 10:00 am when the pain struck causing the soon to be mother to double over. She grabbed the kitchen table to keep from falling as the pain slowly eased. Home alone and two miles from the nearest neighbour, ten miles from the village of Glaslyn, and forty-five from the hospital in Edam, she was frightened as she had no idea what time her husband might return. Outside, the bone-chilling cold of the January blizzard continued to dominate everything in its path.

Map: Open in a new window for full size.

The high winds rolling off the southwest shore of Birch Lake pounded their log cabin and although partially sheltered by a thick of caraganas and grove of poplar, the wind treated these barriers as minor annoyances. Each time a gust hit, it felt like her little home might be shaken from its foundation.

To make matters worse, the wind created a forlorn howling sound as it whipped through the trees around the house. Those sounds seemed to the expectant mother to be among the most lonesome in the world, right up there with wolves howling in the wilderness or a loon calling across a dead calm lake at dusk. What would she do if the baby could not wait?

While the temperature had remained steady near -20F, Laura noted that later in the morning it started to drop and was now nearing -25. Over the past few winters, it was not uncommon to see the temperature drop to -50 or -60F during a cold snap. It was always hard to tell the exact temperature as the mercury froze at -40. Add to that the wind chill and exposed skin would freeze within seconds and breathing super cold air could damage lungs so quickly that, in her condition, walking to a neighbouring farm would be a risky, perhaps deadly proposition. She knew of people who become lost in such storms and froze to death.  No, her best bet was to sit tight and wait for her husband. If the baby came she would just make due. It would be a January blizzard forever etched in her mind.

Years later when telling the story, she still shuddered at the memory:

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Big Kinosoo: The Rush is On – Legend Becomes Reality – Chapter 3 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on January 10th, 2010. Posted in Adventure


Frank's Marina

Photo: Copy of framed photo in the dining room at the home of my sister Louise and her husband Frank Yochim. This is Franks Cold Lake Marina as it looked in the late 1960s after being moved to the Main Dock. For thirty years my brother-in-law, along with members of the family operated the Marina and following his retirement, his son Lorin Yochim took over for several years before heading out to explore the world.

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Big Kinosoo:   First Half of the 1900s

Photos: Mr. Labatt, left, and Mr. Z.A. Lefebvre, with three monster trout caught in Cold Lake between 1915 and 1918. It is not hard to imagine there were, and still are, fish larger than these in Cold Lake.  Pictures were copied from “Treasured Scales of the Kinosoo”, a compilation of the history of Cold Lake by Laura Dean Skarsen.

Labatt and Lefebvre

The Rush is On

Many who arrived in Cold Lake early in the 20th Century to take up the search for the Big Kinosoo, decided to stay. Many became trappers, loggers, farmers, cattlemen, while others opened businesses in order to raise money to continue their search for the big fish. In their search they caught many other big fish, but never the Big Kinosoo. He was, by all accounts, one very elusive fish. By the middle of the century, many new residents were taking jobs building the new Canadian Forces Air Base west of town. Still later, hundreds of these workers accepted more permanent positions when the base became operational.

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    February 16, 2020 |

    […] Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation. Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change Part III, The past as a guide to the future Part IV The integration of police services […]

  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    January 5, 2020 |

    […] 28. The past as a guide to the future (Part III): Over the past 60 years, many activities the police once performed as a natural part of their daily duty, eventually became incompatible with achieving their basic goals. What happened? (August 2019) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories Why I stand with science? - McNeill Life Stories

    November 11, 2019 |

    […] During the Ice Age, the Earth’s average temperature was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is today. That was enough to keep snow from melting during the summers in northern regions. As snow fell on the snow, glaciers formed. (NASA Earth Observatory) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories How to Game an Election - McNeill Life Stories

    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]

  • Harold McNeill

    August 21, 2019 |

    For those who followed the earlier post about the cost of ICBC Auto insurance coverage in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (linked in comments) here is another follow-up article.

    This article again confirms earlier assertions that public-private insurers such as that which ICBC provides, is among the best in Canada in terms of rates and coverage. A link is provided in the original story.

  • Harold McNeill

    August 16, 2019 |

    Many thanks for reviewing the article Elizabeth. There are so many areas of our society in which populism carries the day, although I think what is happening with the ICBC is that groups having a vested interest in private insurance would dearly love to dislodge ICBC from their preferred position. That being said, I think was a good move to have only portions of the insurance coverage in BC being held by ICBC and other portions being made available through private enterprise.

  • Elizabeth Mary McInnes, CAIB

    August 15, 2019 |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resident of British Columbia look to review all the facts over believing what is reported in the news or just following along with the negative stigma of the masses. Your article truly showcases that with a little reform to ICBC’s provincial system – British Columbia could be a true leader for other provinces in Canada. Very well written article!

  • Harold McNeill

    August 13, 2019 |

    August 13, 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a private enterprise group not unlike the Fraser Institute, is again on the campaign trail. They state ICBC rates are the highest in Canada, but, thankfully, Global BC inserted a section indicating the Insurance Bureau cherry-picked the highest number in BC and the lowest numbers in AB, ON and other Eastern Provinces. If you take a few minutes to check reliable sources you will find BC rates, are the lowest in Canada.