Do lawyers hate history?

23 Jan

So, yet another enigmatic title huh Dave…well, if the shoe fits. Now you’re probably looking for an explanation, but you’ll have to wait, as I usually save the railway related babble for the second half of the blog.

This past week was the last full week of classes before the start of exams, which is certainly a relief. While they mark the midway point of the year, exams are also a reminder that the new semester will soon be starting and with it a new set of students; some fresh blood so to speak. Not that I don’t like my current students, but after five months it is time to change things up with some new faces and new ideas. I’ve finally cleared up most of the backlog of marking that I had, which will certainly leave me more time to for other pursuits. There will be a brief flurry of marking because of exams and culminating projects, but I’m usually able to finish those off fairly quickly, especially since marks are normally due soon after the completion of exams.

Now some of the things that I “need” to get to are projects around the house. My wife and I are nearing the end (finally) of our three-year project to finish our basement. One of the last pieces of the puzzle is to install the laminate floor, which I am hoping comes in this week. When we ordered it in mid-December we were told it was on backorder until January 23rd or so, which would allow me to get it done this coming weekend. I’ve never installed a floor before, but I’m fairly handy so I don’t think it will be too much trouble (fingers crossed). I’d really like to have it ready since Superbowl is approaching soon, and I host an annual party for my friends; a new floor makes it feel finished.

Aside from some prep-work in the basement, this past week was fairly uneventful. We experienced a cold snap last week, so the temperatures prevented any cross-country skiing or trips up the mountain (on Saturday it was still -19C at noon). It gave me some extra time to work on railway-related matters (not yet…) and also do some planning for a few upcoming events. The trip to Europe is going in 71ish days, and we just got approved to attend the Glazier Football Clinic in Minneapolis from February 16-19. We try to get to this event every two to three years as it is a fantastic opportunity to learn and connect, drawing coaches from Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, northern Ontario and Manitoba. Glazier is one of the largest football clinics in the states, and they bring in some of the top high school, college and pro coaches. Really looking forward to it and for the first time I’m going to do some tweets from the sessions; I know everyone will be excited to hear about zone blitzing and the 3-3-5!

I did get a chance to do a bit more writing last week on the article, focussing on silver mining and its role in the construction of the railway. I’m sure I’ll write more this week, and that will only increase as the new semester starts. My “railway” time was also consumed with some additional research, which I feel at times will never end. Each time I type something into Google it reveals some new information or a new lead. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly qualifies my previous statement. I had an interesting exchange with a contact on Twitter last week and her suggestion was to get this “done” sooner than later. I spent some time pondering that statement as I had the same comment made to me at last year’s Gunflint Green-up presentation. I would love to dedicate my time to this project but as a husband, father and teacher there are other priorities in my life. Maybe I need my wife to hurry up and win that lottery she plays every week! More realistically though, I will be submitting the paperwork for a deferred salary leave this week (in 4 or 5 years…I haven’t decided), which will give me the time to travel to research and do some writing.

Alright, I guess I’ve kept the suspense going long enough. So what’s with the title? Well, it ties in with my railway research from last week. I was examining the material on the sale of the railway in 1899 again and it gave me an idea. In 1890 the Canadian Bank of Commerce loaned the PAD&W funds for construction totalling $1.5 million dollars, I think. I thought the best way to clarify this would be to contact CIBC Archives and see if they possibly had any information. I sent an email request on Wednesday and received a reply on Thursday. The contents of that response inspired the title of this blog.

Okay, so what did it say? Unfortunately, the answer was one that I had received before and made me extremely frustrated. Last year I wrote to TD Bank Archives for information on the Toronto General Trusts Company interest in the railway. While the archivist was very helpful, my efforts were thwarted by the “legal department.” In both requests, I was informed that the material I was looking for might be found in executive council minutes; for reasons of confidentially however, these records are permanently closed to the public. Arrrggghhhh! So, the bank lawyers are worried that someone might sue over financial information regarding companies that are long since gone and people who have been dead for nearly 100 years. While I can understand their concern, since everyone sues today, as a historian it is extremely frustrating and disappointing. Why are these records kept if no one can look at them? And unlike publicly held information, I cannot use access to information to get it. Damn you lawyers! Obviously a little tongue-in-cheek here, since I’m sure lawyers don’t hate history, but hopefully it explains the title. Make sense now?

Anyway, ’til next week.


Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Do lawyers hate history?

  1. Robert Schloot

    January 28, 2012 at 14:37

    I have enjoyed your efforts in regards to the railway & it’s history…. I have been going to Gunflint Lake since 1956, (5 yrs. old), Borderland Lodge. My parents loved it so much that they built a home in 1964 (Dave Clark Builder)… Mother passed in 1985, father 2000… My two brothers Bill & John and myself inherited the home and continue to go up in the summer time..My father owned a camera & hi-fi shop in Wabash Indiana and we have a treasure trove of pictures of the area… I believe we also have 8mm movies of the North Lake Station… It was cetainly intact in the 1960’s when Horald Bishop lived on the lake.. I have no idea who would destroy it….My brothers both worked on Gunflint lake in the summer…My younger brother John, in the last few years bought Moosehorn Lodge(formerly Borderland Land) and has renamed it Cross River Lodge… Extensive remodeling has taken place.. Really enjoyed the picture of the trestle, Gunflint into Magnetic lake..You really need to contact John thru Cross river Lodge…. He knows the history of the area very well… Again thanks for your efforts. Bob Schloot … PS I played football for Ball State University…. Have to admit though . my first love was basketball… If you have wached the movie Hoosiers, I think you can understand the love of basketball that Indiana people have …..

    • Padwrr

      January 28, 2012 at 15:06

      Thanks for your comments. The North-Gunflint Lake area is probably my favourite outdoor place to visit. Friends of my parents bought the Bishop’s place in 1990 and that’s how I became interested in the railway. I’d love to see the video of the station. I’ve heard a bunch of different versions of what happened to the station; one was that it fell down and last year Bruce Kerfoot told me that Harold was paid to take it down as it was a hazard. The remains are still there (videos on YouTube as is the coal bunker, though it was heavily damaged in the ’99 blowdown. I haven’t put up the photos from last summer’s trip to the area on Google yet, but they are on Facebook (
      I’m planning to be at Gunflint this summer again for field work and Chik-Wauk has also asked me to do a presentation. I don’t have a date yet, but I’ll post it as soon as I know and maybe you can attend.


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