Friday, May 4, 2012

Found Foote #9: The Mechanic's Club

Winnipeg's Johanna Effler and her mother, M. Marie McGrath (nee Bolton), compiled this article about their relative, which includes several Foote photos, including this one, damaged in the 1950s flood.

Johanna was kind enough to share it with us:

"The Mechanic’s Club was a group of eight gentlemen who worked together in the construction industry. They jointly owned a cabin at the end of North Cross Lake, in Cross Lakes, Manitoba, which was situated on parkland leased from the Province of Manitoba.

The gentlemen in the accompanying picture are:

Alonzo Simpson, a builder;

Alec McLennan, an engineer and foreman who worked for Bolton Construction and a close Bolton family friend;

Mr. Clarke
, builder – electrician;

R. E. (Ed) Wright, President, Principle, and Owner of Wright Painting and Decorating, and the shortest member of The Mechanic’s Club;

Vernon Ferris Bolton
, Principle, President and Owner of Bolton Construction (also known as Grandpa);

Keith Hopwood, the youngest member of The Mechanic’s Club and the only one who actually did do repair work on cars and trucks, owned his own garage and dealership.

The gentlemen were some of the members who had chosen to go on the annual post-construction season, two-week hunting trip, which took place towards the end of November each year. The one room cabin, or more correctly, the one-room hunting lodge, was known at that time as the Mechanic’s Club.

The Mechanic’s Club cabin was located at the end of North Cross Lake in Manitoba.

To get to it spring through fall, you had to take the train to Caddy Lake and then take a small boat or canoe for the remaining approximately eight to ten mile long trip over two of the chain lakes. The boat trip took one through two train tunnels, the first a Canadian Pacific Rail tunnel at the north end of Caddy Lake leading into South Cross Lake, and the second a Canadian National Railways tunnel located at the north end of South Cross Lake, at a point where it narrows down to about river width, and leads into North Cross Lake. Both tunnels were blasted out of solid rock. In late summer and fall the tunnels had such reduced water flow, that Marie McGrath (nee Bolton) remembers having to get out of the boat, and in bare feet, in the small trickle of water that remained, help to push the boat over the rocks and through the tunnels. In spring the water can be so high, that you had to crouch down in your boat to avoid hitting the roof of the tunnel. In the wintertime, the hunters would take the train and then make the long cold journey, hiking to the cabin, through the snow and over the ice of Nason Lake. It may sound like getting to the cabin was a hardship and as if the conditions were much too harsh to ever be enjoyable, but Vernon Bolton absolutely loved the cabin and the companionship of the other members, and made the journey to it as often as he could.

Only Alonzo Simpson and Vernon Bolton brought their families up to the cabin for little vacations or respites in the spring, summer and/or fall. They were also the ones who took care of most of the furnishing of the cabin and the cabin as well, as they used it the most. When both families happened to be there at the same time, they would hang a blanket up between the four beds – separating then into roomettes of two and two, males on one side and females on the other, to allow for some privacy for the family members.

When the members of The Mechanic’s Club went to the cabin on their hunting trips, they always set times for which they would return to the cabin from their hunting forays. This was simply a matter of security for the members. When a member was overdue, those members already at the cabin, would go outside and fire their guns up into the air to let the missing member or members know where they and the cabin were. The missing member or members were then able to follow the sound of the guns back to the cabin. Conversely, if a member found himself lost or at least puzzled as to his location in relation to the cabin, he would simply fire his gun into the air, and wait for replying volley of gunfire from those already at or near the cabin. Again, he would then just follow the sound back to the cabin, his fellow hunters and friends. Despite the remote location, The Mechanic’s Club never lost a member."

* * *

If you're wondering what the Foote connection was, Johanna explains it like this:

"As I recall, my mother explained that Mr. Foote met my grandfather and his friends when my grandfather’s construction company won the contract to basically start the building of a large portion of Thompson, Manitoba. Foote was the photographer who took the pictures. They all became friends and on at least one occasion, possibly more, he accompanied them on their annual fall hunt."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this great posting! I spent most of my teenage summers in this part of the Whiteshell. I wondered about the history of that cabin since I first saw it as a young boy. With my unanswered questions, I have passed it dozens and dozens of times in the intervening decades. This was a welcome little history lesson!


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