ALGONQUIN DEFINING MOMENTS
Living Alone in Algonquin -Gertrude Baskerville‘s Experience

Living Alone in Algonquin -Gertrude Baskerville‘s Experience

August 29, 2021

In the spring of 1941, Gertrude Baskerville set out from the Kitchener area with her ailing husband Ted and 16-year old son Ed to join her brother Charles and his family in establishing a new life on the shores of  South Tea Lake in Algonquin. Within a  year her husband had died from his injuries received in the trenches during WWI. Her son was immediately shipped overseas to fight in WWII and her brother had decided that a better opportunity lay for him and his family to move to British Columbia. Gertie, as she was called by everyone was totally alone.  Alas, Algonquin had captured  her heart and soul, so rather than return to Kitchener, she decided to stay and see if she could carve out a life for herself in the Algonquin wilderness.  This podcast is her story,  as recounted to me by her son Ed and his wife Marge in the late 1990s. It’s about the 35 years that Gertie lived alone in Algonquin  Park near the Smoke Creek Bridge making a living by renting out a few cabins and hooking rugs of Tom Thomson paintings that she sold to visitors who stopped by.   

Musical contribution is from the Wakami  Wailers a frequent visitor and entertainment at the annual Logger’s Day celebrations. To hear more of their songs of the Canadian landscape check out www.wakamiwailers.com

 

Episode 19: Tom Thomson  as a  Myth and Legend

Episode 19: Tom Thomson as a Myth and Legend

August 15, 2021

This is the last of a three-part series on the life, the body, and the legend of Canada’s artist icon Tom Thomson.  In this episode, I will focus on the mythology that that evolved around Thomson from the 1940s to today. Then, I’ll try to address the legend by assembling the thoughts on the subject by three great writers Roy MacGregor, Sherrill Grace, and Gregory Klages.  The idea is to try to understand why our imaginations and reinventions of who he was have become such a part of the Canadian national identity. Lastly, I’ll share, as a long-time Canoe Lake resident with a wink and a nudge, my ‘Inventing Thomson' contribution. In addition are a few more Thomson-related musical interludes from the talented Ian Tamblyn’s CD Walking in the Footsteps - Celebrating the Group of Seven. Don’t forget to check out his website at www.iantamblyn.com.

Episode 18: Artist Tom Thomson’s Mysterious Death in Algonquin Park

Episode 18: Artist Tom Thomson’s Mysterious Death in Algonquin Park

July 29, 2021

On Tuesday, July 16th a little over 104 years ago, after almost a week of fruitless searches, the body of Tom Thomson was found on Canoe Lake just east offshore from Little Wapomeo Island.  Over the next few days, chaos and confusion seemed to have reined on Canoe  Lake. This is the second of a three-part series on the life, the body, and the legend of Canada’s artistic icon Tom Thomson.  In Part 1, I focused mostly on Thomson’s time in Algonquin Park, some of the people he met, and his journey as an artist. In this second part, I will share what happened to his body after it rose to the surface of Canoe Lake on July 16th, 1917. In Part 3, I will focus on the mystery and mythology that has grown up around him since the 1940s and discuss why he has become such a part of the Canadian national identity. Below is the list of biographical and musical references used as the research basis for this series. Note that If you are interested in listening to more of Ian Tamblyn’s  CD Walking in the Footsteps - Celebrating the Group of Seven check out his website at www.iantamblyn.com.

Biographical References

  • Roy MacGregor’s 2011 Northern Light
  • Gregory Klages’s 2016 The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson and Death on a Painted Lake website https://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/thomson/home/indexen.html
  • Sherrill Grace’s Inventing Tom Thomson
  • Blodwen Davies 1967 reprint of Tom Thomson: The Story of a Man who Looked for Beauty and Truth in the Wilderness (plus discussions of her 1935 version by Grace and Klages)
  • Ottelyn Addison and Elizabeth Harwood’s 1969 Tom Thomson: The Algonquin Years
  • William Little’s 1970 The Tom Thomson Mystery
  • Bernard Shaw’s 2003 Third Edition of Canoe Lake Algonquin Park, Tom Thomson and other Mysteries
  • Discussions of Joan Murray’s contributions in Klages and Grace’s books
  • Neil Lehto’s 2005 Algonquin Elegy
  • Mary Garland’s 2015 Algonquin Park’s Mowat- Little Town of Big Dreams
  • Harold Town and David Wilcox’s 1977 Tom Thomson: The Silence and the Storm
  • Art Gallery of Ontario’s  2002 Tom Thomson, Edited by Dennis Reid
Episode  17: Tom Thomson’s Art and his Introduction to Algonquin Park

Episode 17: Tom Thomson’s Art and his Introduction to Algonquin Park

July 11, 2021

On Sunday July 8th a little over 104 years ago, Tom Thomson was wearing 'khaki trousers, white canvas shoes, a lumberman’s grey woolen shirt and no hat' as he headed off south down Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. According to the Algonquin Park weather station, the average temperature that day was 16.4 degrees Celsius and about a centimeter and a half of rain had fallen.

As all good outdoorsmen do, Tom likely had checked to make sure his spare portaging paddle and a little food were properly tied in place, his tackle box and his sketching outfit were beside him and his trolling line set before he pushed off the dock that dull and wet day. Unfortunately, that would be the last time that Tom Thomson was ever seen or heard from again.

This is the first of a three-part series on the life, the body and the legend of Canada’s artistic icon Tom Thomson.  In Part 1, I focus mostly on his time in Algonquin Park, some of the people he met, mostly on his journey as an artist. Part 2 will be mostly about what happened to his body after it rose to the surface of Canoe Lake on July 16th 1917. In Part 3, I will focus on the mystery and mythology that has grown up around him since the late 1960s and discuss why he has become such a part of the Canadian national identity. Note thatIf you are interested in listening to more of Ian Tamblyn’s  Group of Seven music check out his website at www.iantamblyn.com.

Biographical References

  • Roy MacGregor’s 2011 Northern Light
  • Gregory Klages’s 2016 The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson and Death on a Painted Lake website https://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/thomson/home/indexen.html
  • Sherrill Grace’s Inventing Tom Thomson
  • Blodwen Davies 1967 reprint of Tom Thomson: The Story of a Man who Looked for Beauty and Truth in the Wilderness (plus discussions of her 1935 version by Grace and Klages)
  • Ottelyn Addison and Elizabeth Harwood’s 1969 Tom Thomson: The Algonquin Years
  • William Little’s 1970 The Tom Thomson Mystery
  • Bernard Shaw’s 2003 Third Edition of Canoe Lake Algonquin Park, Tom Thomson and other Mysteries
  • Discussions of Joan Murray’s contributions in Klages and Grace’s books
  • Neil Lehto’s 2005 Algonquin Elegy
  • Mary Garland’s 2015 Algonquin Park’s Mowat- Little Town of Big Dreams
  • Harold Town and David Wilcox’s 1977 Tom Thomson: The Silence and the Storm
  • And last but not least Art Gallery of Ontario’s  2002 Tom Thomson, Edited by Dennis Reid
Episode 16: A Chat with Sven Miglin from Canoe Lake’s Portage Store in Algonquin Park

Episode 16: A Chat with Sven Miglin from Canoe Lake’s Portage Store in Algonquin Park

June 29, 2021

The Portage Store has always had a special place in my heart. This is because for many years my family had a lease on Canoe Lake, and as a kid, it was often the local hangout for ice cream and people watching. I’m delighted that in this episode to be joined by Sven Miglin, whom with many members of his family, has been the heart and soul behind the Portage Store since 1976. In this episode, Sven shares with me how this venerable Algonquin Park institution has changed over the last 40+ years and some of the secrets of their success in bringing the joys of Algonquin to Canadians from all walks of life.

Episode 15: The Origins of Canoe Lake’s Portage Store (1935-1975)

Episode 15: The Origins of Canoe Lake’s Portage Store (1935-1975)

June 11, 2021

In this episode with the help of an old memoir from my Canoe Lake neighbour, Isabel Cowie who with 3 friends once ran it in the 1950s, I’m going to share all that I have researched and can remember about the origins of the Portage Store from 1935 to 1975 and its role as the social centre of Canoe Lake.

For those unaware, on a typical weekend during the heat of the summer, hundreds of visitors pass through and admire Canoe Lake from the vantage point of Portage Bay. For the really adventurous, it's to collect their rented canoe and equipment from the outfitting shop in order to venture off north or south into Algonquin Park's interior for a well-deserved respite from the chaos of their daily lives. For local residents, it’s the place to get gas and oil for the motorboat, ice for the fridge or propane ice-box, check-in with the world by picking up a daily newspaper, or grab a well-deserved ice cream cone after a hard day of cottage chores. For tourists passing through the Park on their way to Toronto or Ottawa along Highway 60, it's to stop for gas or a meal at the Portage Store restaurant with a quick visit to the second-floor gift shop. For another type of adventurer, it’s an opportunity in relative safety to indulge in one of Canada’s most endearing past-times, that of renting a canoe and going for a paddle.

Shanty Life Wrap Up and 2008’s Last Squared-Timber Crib Run

Shanty Life Wrap Up and 2008’s Last Squared-Timber Crib Run

May 31, 2021

I had originally thought that three episodes would cover just about all there was to say about the history of logging in Algonquin Park. But when going back over my notes, I realized that I wasn’t quite done. There were a few more amusing shanty life stories that I still wanted to share and a few more shanty songs that needed a hearing. In addition, I realized that another missing link was to share something about the last crib river run that Ron Corbett wrote so eloquently about in 2008 in his book One Last River Run.  So you‘ll have to bear with me, as this episode is a bit more of a hodge-podge of different things. Hopefully, you’ll find it fun and interesting.

 

Episode 13: The Merry but Risky Lives of Skidders, Teamsters and River Drivers

Episode 13: The Merry but Risky Lives of Skidders, Teamsters and River Drivers

May 17, 2021

This third of three episodes on the history of logging  in Algonquin Park and the Ottawa Valley shares details as to how the cut logs and square-timber were hauled out of the bush, driven down the rivers that led to the Otttawa River and eventually  conveyed to saw mills or floated by the raft to Quebec City. It includes insight into  what the life of skidders,  teamsters  and river drivers were like including a few shanty songs uncovered on an internet archive site. In addition, I’ll share insights into the history of the controversy over logging in the Park, how the logging industry has evolved in the 20th Century and  a few thoughts  as to the challenges that still exist with achieving the multifaceted objectives of today’s Algonquin Park.

Episode 12: An Interview on Life in a 19th Century Camboose Shanty

Episode 12: An Interview on Life in a 19th Century Camboose Shanty

April 30, 2021

This second of three episodes on logging in Algonquin Park shares anecdotes as to what life in the logging camboose shanties of the 19th Century was all about.  I decided to go directly to the source and is an interview with Roderick MacKay (known as Rory) a subject matter expert on the camboose shanty both as a historian, archeologist, and as the resident blacksmith at Algonquin Park’s annual Logging  Days event at the Logging Museum, hosted by the Friends of Algonquin Park.

Logging in Algonquin Park - The 19th C Experience

Logging in Algonquin Park - The 19th C Experience

April 14, 2021

Controversy over logging in Algonquin Park is almost as old as the Park itself, though truth be known, public attention on the issue didn’t really start until the 1930’s and major antagonism didn’t happen until the late 1960s early 1970s. The funny thing is that when Algonquin Park was created in 1893, the conventional wisdom was that logging would stop when the pine were all gone. In addition, was the view that forest fires destroyed far more of the forest than lumbering ever did.

This first of three episodes on the topic starts with the early days, in the 19th Century, of square timber cutting of red and white pine for Britain’s Royal Navy. This includes how and where it took place, insights into Philomen Wright, John Egan, and J. R. Booth who were major players in the Ottawa Valley, and of course a few stories about the ‘shantymen’ themselves who worked in the bush from November to April each winter. 

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