Monthly Archives: December 2011

What exactly is Boxing Day?

I’ve always wondered what Boxing Day was; I had to turn to our friends at Google for the answer. I guess the traditional meaning has long since gone as I certainly don’t have any servants! For those of you not in Canada and unfamiliar with the holiday, Boxing Day is our version of Black Friday. People get up at ridiculous hours to stand in line (apparently the line at Futureshop was 1000+) and try to get some good deals. I hate crowds, especially for shopping, so I never partake in the event. Besides, I’m on vacation and as much of a morning person I am, getting up at some obscene hour to go shopping is not in my plans. However, I may have picked something up during the Christmas Eve online sale, but I won’t spill the beans until it gets here!

I certainly had a good Christmas, though it seems that the day goes by ever more quickly the older I get. Thankfully I did not emerge as bloated and stuffed this year as I normally do, which is perfect for my future diet 🙂 As a parent though, I think that Christmas is more about my kids’ enjoyment. My boys certainly had a great day as Santa brought the Lego they were looking for; the Millennium Falcon for Ethan and Plo Koon’s Starfighter for Noah. There were lots of other presents as well, so they (and dad) have been kept busy playing and building Lego sets. You don’t realize how long it takes it assemble a 1200 piece Coreillan freighter!

Since Christmas has now passed, and today is drawing to a close, it makes me reflect a bit on the next event. Tomorrow is my birthday; it’s funny how when I was younger I was so anxious for the day to arrive and now it’s become such an anti-climactic thing. I suppose that in my less follicly challenged days it was about catching up to my friends, but now it just reminds me that I’m drawing another year closer to 40. However, I must say that I don’t dwell on this or feel old. As my wife’s “boyfriend” Jon Bon would say, I’m “not old, just older!”

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been taking a bit of a break from railway related matters. Last week I did finish reading the Ole Paulson book, which turned up some really good information. There was also some interesting material on Ole’s emigration from Norway and his experiences in Minnesota. Anyway, although it would not hold up in court, I think I’ve been able to fill in all the pieces of John Paulson’s life. I’ll get back into some research in a few days once things settle down. Next week I’m hoping to get together with Lee in Duluth and then I will be able to resume working on the article.

Until next time.


Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dear Santa…

All I want for Christmas is a marking elf and a research assistant! Sincerely, Dave.

Did I really write to Santa? No I didn’t, but I wish I could! Now, you’re probably wondering why a grown man, a few years removed from his fourth decade, would be doing such a thing? Well, it certainly is a weird request, but boy could I use that elf! There’s only a few days left before Christmas holidays but I’m struggling to clear up a huge back-log of marking that has been accumulating for a while. It’s kinda of a never-ending battle; well, it sort of does end, but that’s usually at the end of a semester.My biggest priority is to return my Grade 12 History Independent Studies, which I promised to have done before the break. I should have them for Thursday. The research assistant is a story for another paragraph.

Speaking of Christmas vacation, it can’t come soon enough; I’m pooped! It has been a crazy last couple of weeks. On top of the marking, I’m still trying to do some railway stuff and plan the trip to Europe. Tonight is the first traveller/parent meeting, and that means I’m a step closer to making the leap across the pond! So I’m really looking forward to the two-week break and a bit of a rest. It’s going to be nice to relax and spend some time with the family, especially with my boys Ethan and Noah. They are getting particularly excited for Santa’s arrival on Sunday; hopefully he brings the Lego they are hoping for!

The railway has been the railway; the usual cycle of research, reading and a bit of writing has continued. Last week I spent some time gleaning the web pages of Google Books for information on the Port Arthur, Duluth and Western. I was able to find quite a bit of new material, particularly on the early history of the railway (1885-1890). I also turned up a bunch of stuff on iron mining and the whole Minnesota connection. It seems as if any free books seem to end at 1890; I don’t know if that is a mandated date because of copyright or what. I’m also curious if there would be more material available if I lived in the US, since Google just launched their whole ebook store here in Canada just over a month ago. There are times where all you get is a “snippet” view, which is like a tantalizing little morsel that leaves you dying to see the rest of the information. Maybe it’s a big conspiracy by Google to tease people like me!

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Ole Paulson’s book which I had been told contained some tidbits of information regarding his brother, John Paulson. It arrived via inter-library loan from St. Olaf College, which was a pleasant surprise since I was told that books could not come from the States. This is not the original book, which was written in Norwegian, but rather a translation that was done in 1981. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book (it’s not very big, and I’ve skipped over parts), and there are some really interesting sections. The book has also helped to confirm some details in the life of Paulson, whose life story is slowly starting to come together.

This brings me to the second part of my Santa request. As much as I love researching the railway and making discoveries, it would be nice to have someone helping out occasionally. I’ve mentioned before that this has been a particularly busy year and I feel somewhat overwhelmed at times. The process of finding information can be very tedious and time-consuming; I can’t imagine how many hours I’ve spent doing this over the past 17 years. During the break, my wife and I are planning to complete the basement project that we began more than two years ago. The last major task is to install the laminate floor, which should not be too difficult (I hope; I’ve never done it before!) but will limit the time I have to do any railway-related stuff.

Anyway, it’s time to wrap-up this latest ramble. I most likely will post again after Christmas; maybe Santa will visit…though it would be disturbing to see an elf and some person under my tree in the morning. Merry Christmas!

1 Comment

Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Polar Express meets LMFAO

What does a children’s book about a train that takes kids to the North Pole on Christmas have to do with an electro pop band from California? Well, nothing really. Talk about two completely unrelated topics; however, they are the things that are currently on my mind. Surely you jest Dave! No, I haven’t started reading kids books on a whim, nor have I changed my musical tastes (LMFAO is not at the top of my playlist on my Ipod or Blackberry). I’ll explain.

The football highlight video finally made it on to the web (for all of an hour) after I made a few tweaks this weekend that were wholeheartedly embraced by the players. This year, the team (or at least the offensive pretty boys…can you tell I coach defence?) adopted the LMFAO song “Sexy and I Know It” as their motto. They even named our offensive spread package after a line in the song, “Wiggle Wiggle.” So, at the behest of the coaches, I added this song to the end of the video. The words have been stuck in my head since. Unfortunately all my efforts have come to naught; when I uploaded the video, the audio was disabled because of a copyright issue. So I deleted it and I’m back to the drawingboard looking for new music.

As for the Polar Express, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the images in the book that I saw while I was reading it to my son Ethan one night. The picture was of the train, pulled by a steam engine, passing through a forest of conifers as it picks up children on its way to the North Pole. It was snowing and dark, and it had an almost mystical sense to it. That image made me think of the railway, and something I seldom envisioned. Most of my exploration of the PD has taken place in the summer, mostly because it makes it a lot more difficult to see things with snow on the ground. I’ve often found myself picturing what it would have looked like in the area that I am exploring when the trains were still running. The image from the book made me think of a forested and remote place, and my mind was immediately drawn to the boundary waters of North and Gunflint Lakes. I visualized a train, similar to the one in the book, gliding along the snow-covered tracks in those early years (1893-94ish) in what was a very lonely, but probably beautiful and breathtaking place. It must have been an amazing sight and I would have loved to see that!

Speaking of the railway, things having been plugging along. The research continues unabated, though nothing substantive in the last few days. Last week my investigation on Alexander McEwen (yes, apparently this is the spelling of his name) continued. I did find some bio material of his life in a June 1891 obituary, but I’m amazed that there is not more information out there on a man who is supposed to have been such a big investor. I posted on Ancestry looking for help, which netted the following response; “type Alexander McEwen 1831-1891 photographs into Google and you’ll get tons of hits.” Ah, thanks, but I posted because I couldn’t find anything on the net! Well, hopefully my plea turns up something.

As for the article, I’ve started clicking a few keys;  I’m officially up to a whopping 128 words! I must say it was a bit of a struggle. I guess I need to spend some time refining my outline to make it more specific. Maybe that will help me focus my thoughts since I have little wiggle room with the word count. It’s really tough trying to figure out what I NEED to include and what I can leave out. Makes for some tough decisions. Hopefully I’ll have time this week to write a bit more.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Google books and the countdown to Christmas

According to the calendar, there’s only 19 more days until Christmas; hopefully I’ll get there! No, this isn’t 2012 on the Mayan calendar, nor do I expect to suddenly keel over at some point in the next few weeks (or at least I hope not). This is more a comment on the current state of things, which is usual given this time of year. September to December in the school year is a long haul, especially with all the things going on ie. football. By this point I’m getting a little burned out, and so are the kids; everyone needs a little break to re-charge the batteries! So, yes I will make it, but three weeks does seem like a long way to go!

Since I’ve now completely finished the football highlight video (going to YouTube next Sunday), I can now concentrate on some railway related matters (if I don’t get sidetracked with other things that is). I’m supposed to be starting to write the article, but the aforementioned tangent has already started. Last Friday I found myself on the internet scrolling through Google books. The net has really revolutionized researching with all the digital content that can now be accessed. While not everything is free or available, it really gives you a lot of direction as to where to look. The amount of scanned books and newspapers is simply astounding; makes it so much easier to find information that otherwise would be inaccessible. Anyway (see, it’s happening again!), I was searching for references to the railway in Google books which turned up some great material. In the 1887 Volume 13 of “Railway World,” I came across a very interesting development regarding the first aborted attempt to build the railway in the fall of that year.

One of the news items describes the commencement of construction, and lists Sir Alexander GaltThomas Marks and a “Alexander McEwin” as promoters. I was already familiar with Galt and Marks, but this was the first I had heard of McEwin, or rather McEwan. Turns out, while biographical facts are sketchy, that Alexander McEwan was some sort of promoter/financier. I haven’t narrowed down a place or date of birth, but working out of London, it seems he was extensively involved in railway and mining projects around North America (Grand Trunk, Reading Railroad). There were a few from the Thunder Bay area, such as Silver Islet, the Huronian Mine and the Jarvis Mine. He apparently died in 1891 in New York, but that’s as far as I’ve got. We’ll see what else I can dig up, as this is quite the interesting and intriguing discovery.

So maybe I will get to that article soon as I attempt to survive the next few weeks. I’ve got a pile of marking to clear up (ugh!) and tomorrow marks the start of winter football work-outs…didn’t the season just end? The more time I have, the more things I have to do! Anyway, hopefully I’ll have a word count at my next update; stay tuned.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , ,

December already?

Remember when you were a kid and time seemed to drag? Summer vacation used to last forever and it would take an eternity to get to Christmas; now you blink and it’s gone! That’s how I feel right now. The past three months have been a blur…that probably has more to do with the fact it has been the busiest fall of my life (work, football, kids activities) than anything else. I just remarked to my Grade 11’s that there is only three weeks until Christmas and a few more when we get back; then the semester is done-wow! It gets faster and faster every year. Is it because I’m getting older and older? Second semester always goes by more quickly, especially since the days get longer and the weather gets nicer. This year I’ll also be in Europe for 8 days, so I’m sure that will help expedite things.

Speaking of Europe, I am in the process of organizing the first parent meeting for the trip. I can’t believe that the trip is in about 120 days; April seems so far away, but it will fly by! There is so much planning to do, and unfortunately I am doing it by myself. I do have the benefit of working with teachers our sister school who are travelling with along with us, but since this is my first experience in this type of activity, I am a bit intimidated by the whole process. Oh well, it is a learning curve right now, but I guess I’ll know exactly what to expect when Vimy 2017 rolls around!

On the football front, I’ve almost finished putting together the football highlight video. Well, I should clarify; I’ve pretty much chosen the clips that I want to use for the video, which is about 80% of the job. It does take some time to sort through eight games worth of tape and pick what I’d like to use. Now all I have to is plunk the clips in some sort of order and add some music. I should have it ready to go for next week’s coaches wrap-up.

With that almost out-of-the-way, I can start working on the article. Surprisingly I feel somewhat calm about the whole thing (although part of me is completely petrified). Even though I’ve come up with a rough outline of where I want to go with it, I still need to work out the finer details. I think part of my difficulty might stem from the fact that this article will be written for a non-Canadian publication. There is a certain bit of Canadiana and northern nuances that go along with this railway that our friends south of the border may not understand. Trying to explain that in the limited space of the article might be a bit of an issue, but I guess that will hopefully work itself out.

On the research front, I’ve spent some of my spare time looking up a hodgepodge of things, from newspaper articles to Minnesota individuals. Yesterday I started off looking up Kristian Kortgaard and then somehow ended up on Matthew Walsh. On the positive side, I think I’ve tracked down a photo of Walsh. That would mean I’ve collected photographs of all the promoters of the Paulson Mine and the PAD&W of Minnesota. Now to get my butt in gear and start banging off some book chapters; I think the best place to start (after I write the article) is with silver mining. This is one of the few sections where I think I’ve completed all the necessary research. Should be an interesting Christmas break with the writing and some home renos on tap…I’m sure they will find their way into my musings.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,