Marie Lake: A Final Farewell – Chapter 11 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 28th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Picnic on Marie Lake

Photo (by Mom): Mr. Goodrich (L), Louise, Dad (C) and I prepare for lunch while Dad and Mr. Goodrich were doing some work along the lake. It would be our last summer in that idyllic setting.

Link to Next Post: Old School House (The start of Part IV)
Link to Last Post: Winter Trip to Cold Lake
Link to Family Stories Index

Early Spring, 1949

On the final day, as we were about to leave in the boat, a small seaplane circled lazily overhead. Then, to our surprise, it landed in front of our home and taxied in. While I had seen a few seaplanes around Cold Lake, none had ever landed at Marie Lake and I had never been close to one. 

Cessna 140The pilot of the small two-seater, Don Hamilton, (see photo in the footer) said he was just passing by and decided on the spur of the moment to land and say hello. Dad and mom knew him from their time in and around Cold Lake as Don used to work with Charlie Pinsky, a local fish buyer to whom dad had often sold fish.

Photo: This Cessna 140 on floats is similar to that flown by Don Hamilton.  His aeroplane, of course, had Canadian call letters (CF-???)

Everyone stood around the dock chatting for a few minutes and dad told Don we were just moving. When Mr. Hamilton was ready to go he asked Dad if it would be OK if I flew with him back to Cold Lake. Of course, neither dad nor mom had any objections.

I suppose, in a way, the anticipation of taking my first aeroplane ride helped to overcome at least some of the deep anguish I felt about leaving Marie Lake. It had only been two years, but they were two years that had left a deep and lasting impression on my very being; Mom and dad, Mr. Goodrich, the dual wheeled wagon, wolves in the wilderness, my pet mink, the smell of fresh sawdust at the mill, hauling rotting manure and logs with Louise, building the playhouse; the anguish Louise and I felt when we thought we had lost our mother, then our father, and the joy of learning they would live, can only be experienced.

Photo: An early spring picnic on the shores of Marie Lake below Mr. Goodrich’s cabin. Mr. Goodrich and Louise work over the fire while Dad and I look on. A few short weeks after this picnic we left Marie Lake for a whole new way of life.

As I climbed aboard the aeroplane, I looked at Shep sitting beside Louise on the dock with his head cocked and ears flopping forward.  I mouthed: “See ya soon good buddy.” His knowing look as he turned away said this would be our final farewell. Mr. Goodrich, with tears in his eyes, waved, then turned and with Shep close by his side, walked off the dock toward his bachelor cabin and away from the two children and the family with whom he had shared so much of his life and love over the previous two years.

Harold McNeill

Link to Next Post: Old School House (The start of Part IV)
Link to Last Post: Winter Trip to Cold Lake
Link to Family Stories Index

Cessna 120

Photo (from Web, Summer, 2014):  Don Hamilton and his first aeroplane, a Cessna 120 taken at some airport.  It was this aeroplane, on floats of course, in which I took my very first aeroplane ride. This was to be the first of many aeroplanes Don would own on his way to building an Edmonton based company called Flying Firemen.  In later years, Aaron Pinsky and I used to fly various planes owned by Don as we hauled fish and fishermen around lakes in Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Don Hamilton arrives in Cold Lake (Link):

In 1948 Don heard of an opportunity transporting fish from lakes to nearby processing plants in Northern Alberta. He ended up in Cold Lake where he quickly earned the reputation of being a pilot willing to help in any situation. To this end, Don was involved in numerous search and rescue missions in the North and flying polio patients from Cold Lake to the hospital in Edmonton.

In 1949 Don saw the opportunity for flying passengers between Cold Lake and Edmonton on a routine basis. Using a Cessna 195 and a 12 passenger Anson purchased from Canadian Pacific Airlines Don started the “Cold Lake Air Service”.

In 1950 Don was approached by the Department of Transport to fly personnel around Alberta to locate a site for a new military base. Don suggested the Cold Lake area as being a suitable choice and based on Don’s recommendation the Cold Lake air base was built. The airline turned out to be a great success flying passengers working on the construction of the base between Edmonton.

It operated until 1954 when Don headed further north to help with the construction of the Distant Early Warning Radar Line (“DEW Line”) in the Arctic and later flew as an executive pilot for Chevron Standard flying Anson, Lockheed Loadstar and Beaver aircraft.

Don Hamilton Book:  Flying Overloaded (Indigo Books)

Don Hamilton can readily be called a pioneer Ice Pilot. His over fifty-year career spans a historical period of development in the Canadian North. Don flew a wide variety of aircraft, from Fleet Canucks to AT-6’s to DC-3’s to Gulfstreams and from Piper J-3’s to Cessna 206’s – from wheels to skis to floats. From growing up in southern Canada to living on the Arctic frontier, Don not only lived history, he helped create it.

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Comments (2)

  • October 29, 2021 at 9:55 am |

    The Cessna 140 , Goliath was my plane in the early 80s , called her Goliath , she well deserved her name . I sold her in winter haven FLA at that time . She could tell some great tales – just listen .

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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.