Stories | Add a story

Down Memory Lane - Sesekinika

by: Lloyd McGregor

I came to Sesekinika in the early thirties, I think it was 1934 but I could be out a year either way, I had purchased the Marina from Chris Sornson who had owned it for many years. The building was on, what was known then as Boys Scout Point on the south side of the track where Tony and Joan Heikkila eventually moved.


The downstairs part of the building contained a workshop where motors were repaired and woodworking was done to repair boats.  At the back of the workshop was a single room where Sam Ivers lived. Sam worked for Chris and I kept him on.


Sam owned the little white house that I now have and rented it to Chris. The upstairs had a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms; it was nice and bright and was a nice place to live.  At the back of the building was a large shed where boats were stored through the winter.


The local village people were not too friendly to me when I first arrived.  I was just a kid and an outsider.


There were six passenger trains through the village each day. About nine each morning was the local that went south to Englehart, with one car dropped off in Swastika that went to Kirkland Lake, Larder Lake and on to Rouyn and then Noranda. Because it was faster and the Kirkland Station was so far from down town, most people used the bus from Swastika to Kirkland.  This train returned through Sesekinika just before five in the afternoon. You had the best part of the day to shop or do business.


In the afternoon, trains 46 and 47, also known as the mail trains went through the village.  The train from the south came in around two.  There was a mail catcher post beside the track where our outgoing mail would hang.  An arm on the mail car would catch the bag off the post and the postal clerk on the mail car would pull it in.  Mail for Sesekinika was thrown out on the platform at the station and was picked up for the postmaster.  The postal clerk on the train would sort our mail immediately and even if a letter was going to Burks it would likely be put in the bag in time for the Burks drop off.  Our mail from the south could be sorted in about twenty minutes and could be picked up the post office, across from the station. A train going south went through around four.  If you had a letter to answer off the train going north, you could answer it and have it on the train going south where it would be delivered in Toronto or Ottawa the next morning.


Many of the local people went to the station when the south train came through, it was on one of these occasions where I first met Mr. Westigard. Unlike the rest of the villagers he was very friendly.  He seemed very intelligent and well read and could be depended on to be at the station the day the Family Herald and Weekly Star came in (this was a family type paper with Canadian and world news, farm news, stories and articles on industry and farm. I believe it was published in Winnipeg).


The four trains I have mentioned could all be stopped in Sesekinika by waving a flag.  There was the Northland that gave overnight service to or from Toronto/ it would stop if you were going to North Bay or beyond but you had to phone the dispatcher at Burks or Swastika to arrange a stop.  The phone was an ONR phone in a box outside the store in front of the post office.


It was the second spring I was here, that I got to know Mr. Westigard a little better and found out more about him. He was a "homesteader". The government would give you 160 acres of land if you cleared 10 acres, seeded it and lived on the property for at least 6 months out of the year. Westigard had done all this and was living there the year round. Westigard had a good barn, had quite a few cows, and his own bull. He drove a car and had a nice market garden. When his land was ready for planting in the spring the suckers were running. He would spear suckers with a manure fork, and heave them out on to his garden. He would put the suckers underneath his rows and use them for fertilizer. His farm was right beside Kapakita creek, on the side next to the Village. The cows he milked by hand and separated the cream by letting it rise in the bottle and the pouring it off. He made butter and used a lot of cream himself.


He had whiskers like Santa Claus and his skin was shiny and smooth like a bowling ball. People thought it was the cream that made his skin so smooth and shiny. I guess he kept hens too. In any case he made weekly trips to town with his produce to supply his steady customers. On one occasion I had to go to his house. After being in it, it was difficult to call it a house. The outside walls sat on timbers lying on the ground. Tongue and groove lumber was nailed to 2 by 4 studs which were not covered on the inside; there was no ceiling and just a dirt floor. A large stove sat in the middle of the building. That was all one big room. There may have been a pipe through the roof at one time but when I was there, there was no pipe. The stovepipe went up to the rafters; the smoke circled around till it found a hole in the roof and went out.


The Westside of the house must have heaved with the frost or the Southside sank, because 2 large poles were propped against the Eastside to help keep it standing. The place was scantily furnished with just the bare necessities but around the walls were piles of copies of "The Family Herald" and the "Weekly Star" which served as a library and insulation.


One of Westie's better customers in town was Walter Little our local member of Parliament. One weekend the Littles ran out of butter. It was a lovely day and Walter and his wife Hannah decided to drive out and get some. He saw them coming and met them before they got to the house. But according to Walter he certainly did not look like the gentleman he was when he went to town. The Littles got the butter that day, when Westie pulled it out of the creek, where he kept it cool. But it went to the garbage when they got back to town. The Littles continued to buy from him until he quit delivering, but never ate any more butter.


Everything went well with my business. The first summer, with the help of my father and a great friend, Bill Klick, and Mary Ann Cloutier's Dad, we added 10 docks and 10 lofters, which gave us a total of 20. The lofters were used for storing boat cushions, fishing tackle, paddles, oars etc., in some cases even outboard motors.


The second summer I bought 10 rowboats and 5 outboard motors. There was a good passenger boat with the business, when I bought it, but eventually I bought 2 more.


We thought up fancy names for all the good fishing places on the lake. We would take fishermen there to fish from the shore. The fishing was good. Pike would average 6 lbs and pickerel 3. It was not uncommon to see 12 lbs pike or 6 lbs pickerel.


The lake was cottaged by people from Englehart, Iroquois Falls, Timmins, Kirkland Lake and Americans, mostly from Ohio. They mostly traveled by train. The cottages, we found, had sports clubs in them and they would ask the Lands and Forest to restock the lake and for some reason they would. Growing fish is like growing potatoes: you can only grow so many pounds per acre. As time went by you might catch more fish, but they keep getting smaller and smaller, till they are down to the size you catch today.


Things did not go so well with Mr. Westigard. I don't know whether he got old or lazy but he gave up cutting so much hay and had difficulty carrying on through the winter.

His car had given up and he ended up with 2 bulls, which he harnessed to do his farm work. He still kept a lot of cows, but in winter started cutting down on their feed. Each week he would give them a little less and by spring, before they went out on grass, he was giving them hay by the handful. He said he had shrunk their stomachs.


One spring, after heavy snow all winter, it started snowing again, and Westie was completely out of hay. With great difficulty, with 2 burlap bags over his shoulder, he walked, out and bought a small stack of hay that was in Vie McGregor's backyard. (Vie was no relation of mine}. He went back home and fed the hay to the bulls. The next day he hitched the bull to the sleigh, intending to get out to the stack, but the snow was just too heavy and he could not make it.


He walked out again himself and carried more hay back. The next morning he brought out one bull, with extra burlap bags. He let it eat at the stack, while he filled the bags, tied the bags to hang over the bull's back, got back home and fed a little hay to all the cows.

The next day he drove all the cows out to the stack and let them eat before driving them back home. By this time the trail was getting a little packed down.


Then he made a trip with the empty sleigh, maybe 2 and finally was able to move the whole stack. Even with the extra hay he lost several cows from starvation. Westie himself started the winter with 2 burlap bags filled with rolled oats that he had shipped in from the manufacturer. Unless the weather was good and the trail was good, he seldom came out during the wintertime, but lived with his milk, cream and rolled oats.


Another personality I most mention in these flashbacks is Lillian Ashly. When I arrived in Sesekinika she was the Postmistress and had her office and living-quarters behind Ollie Olson's store, across from the station. She was a good-looking woman, very energetic, quite talkative and friendly if a bit on the gushy side.


In the summer she had flowers growing on the North and East side of the building. Her flowers were lovely; she always had a bouquet or 2 in the Post Office. When the Mail train came in from the South, the men with their wives would go over to cross the lake, the women would go first to the General Store for provisions and the men would go in to pick up their mail.


Lillian would start right in to get you to admire the flowers. Then she would actually put the flowers in your hand as if she were giving them to you and saying how much your wife would love to have them. After getting your mail and telling her how much you appreciated the flowers and were about to leave, she would say:

"That will be $1 or 75 cents." (Or whatever).


I think every married man in the district got hooked at least once with these flowers.

There was no power or telephone on the lake till after the war. For refrigeration people used ice. At the back of Ollie’s building was a large ice house. In the late fall the icehouse would be cleared out to get ready for the next "crop".


Out in front of the station the water would be tested and if Okayed the ice would be kept cleaned off like a skating rink until there was about 12 inches of blue ice; this would generally be a couple of weeks before Christmas. With a hand-operated ice saw, blocks were cut about 24 inches long, 12 inches wide, with a depth of 12 inches. These blocks were taken to the ice house and packed in, keeping them 18 inches from the walls. When they were all in, 18 inches of sawdust was put around the walls and on top. When the ice was sold, the 24" length was cut in two, which gave you a block 12 by 12 by 12, which would nicely fit into the icebox in the house or cottage.


There was no sign of melting and sometimes the blocks would even freeze together and had to be split apart. When enough ice was taken out to fill the ice house behind Ollie's store, Lillian, the Post Mistress, would come down to the lake in a sexy bathing suit and a towel, jump in and have a swim, crawl back on the ice and go back home. She seemed to enjoy it.  But I could never understand why.

Taken from the Sesekinika BoorkWorm


  Powered by BrickHost