Gitchigoomi 1957-1975

 

I was born in Port Arthur, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior.

Crawled, bawled and took my first steps on the Precambrian shield. Bedrock and fresh water. Boreal forest, ten thousand lakes, rivers and streams. Twenty-five below in February. Plastic bread bags in our boots. Scarves, toques and breath-frosted balaclavas. Skidoo mitts. Skidoo boots. Skidoo suits. Skidoos that barely ever ran. But man, the outfits brought a new age of warmth. Snowshoes, cross-country skis and downhill at Mount Baldy.

Black flies and mosquitoes come summer. Canoes, campfires, canvas tents, Coleman lanterns, Mitchell reels and fishing rods. Hank Storm strumming his guitar. We had camper trailers by then. Singsongs and fish-fries. Northern Pike and Pickerel. Always an aluminum boat pulled up or tied up. Slow leak and an ancient hit n’miss Viking outboard. Dirt logging roads. Gravel highways. Tote roads, orange vests, a pocket full of 22 shells and partridge hunting up near Dorian and Ouimet Canyon.

Hicks Lake.

Land of the Sleeping Giant. Nanabijou. Pulp mills, grain elevators. And the union. Twenty bucks an hour sweeping floors. Or so they said. Or so I remember. Devote Catholic school boy. Corpus Christi. Altar boy and nun’s favourite. Not an athlete like my friends, but an actor and artist. Caught drinking beer before a dance and kicked out of school in grade ten. Chairman of the Students Council. Dime bags of pot. Driving the Dodge Dart. Bag boy at Safeway laughing with the moms, carrying on and carrying out their groceries.

In 1975 I boarded a plane for the first time. Standby to Ottawa. Greyhound to Kingston. And I was away. The great lake Gitchigoomie splashing in my veins.

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Gitchigoomi 1957-1975

    • Robert, you are clearly familiar with the landscape of my youth! Despite all of my travels, the north shore of Lake Superior is still among the most beautiful places in the world. Thanks for your comment!

  1. Dear Chris,
    This morning I learnt that Gitchigoomie is the Obijiwa Indian word for Lake Superior. I discovered Nanabijou for the first time. And a tote road and a Viking outboard.
    The world as familiar to you as the back of your palm opened up a brand new world of geology and landscape. Of a time and a place stored within the pages of your life’s early chapters.
    I loved the pleasure that remembrance brought you. Of everyday adventures and a life full of possibilities. Who we are and where we come from warm in our veins.
    Thank you so much. It was an absolute delight to walk home with you.
    Sharon

    • What a great comment Sharon! After writing the post, it occurred to me that many of the places and things mentioned would be entirely foreign to the blog’s community and international audience. That you took the time to explore some of the details is wonderful. Thank you for that.
      I may have mentioned to you in a first or early comment, that Thunder Bay (which Port Arthur became) is home to the largest population of Finnish people outside of Finland. I’ve also been told many times that the landscape of Northwestern Ontario is very similar to that of Finland. Jorma Saharinen was my best friend growing up. Connections.

      Cheers, Chris

  2. This was a great way to get to know you a bit better. Sounds like you had a wonderful youth. Makes me wonder why you were eager to get away… and what you chased after then. Really enjoyed this post.

  3. Hi Shimon,
    I certainly did have a wonderful youth. In fact I wasn’t necessarily eager to get away, it simply happened that way. But I have never regretted leaving.

    We returned at one point and stayed for 13 years. Essentially our children’s early formative years. We lived about an hour out of the city. I built our house myself, a starving artist at the time. The first years we lived without electricity or water (or money really). There are stories… like the night I chased the bear out of our compost with a chainsaw. Or traipsing through the woods with a bunch of children, looking for water during a very dry summer (a game I made up for a birthday party). One of the boys found a wet spot that became a spring that served us for years… and so on. My Northwestern Ontario roots run very deep and nourish much of who I am, but I have been happy to live my life wherever circumstances have led.

    Recently my son (after reading the post Lovestruck) asked if I would ever consider writing an autobiography… I told him, I thought I was.

    Enjoy your weekend Shimon.

    Chris

    • Thanks Linda! It certainly was a great part of the world to grow up in. Interesting to see that we’ve both ended up on ocean (albeit on different sides of the continent). Thanks for dropping by and for following the blog. I look forward to reading more from you as well.

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