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The Final Countdown

You and I know exactly what you’re doing right now…there’s no use denying it. As you’re reading this, the opening bars to the song by the Swedish band Europe are coursing through your head. Yes, no, maybe? Not a rocker? Could you be thinking about F-14 Tomcats screaming through the sky in the 1980 movie starring a grizzled Kirk Douglas and the USS Nimitz? No? Okay, I guess you’re stumped then. You’ll just have to read on…

So here we are in a new year, 2016. It’s hard to believe that Christmas was a month ago; time continues to whip by. The passing of the holiday season also marked another birthday for me…I’m officially one year older. In my mind I don’t really feel 42, but I’m starting to wonder about my body. It feels as if I’m falling apart at times. I know I’ve written about it before, but it’s as if it’s gotten worse. Aches and pains, a nagging tennis elbow…I’m wondering what else will “break” in the near future.

With January rapidly coming to an end, it means that the current school semester has almost run its course. That, as you should be well aware, brings with it some great news. When this school semester is done, so am I! Words cannot express how excited I am to be on sabbatical until next September. I have a lot planned, both on my own and with my family. My goal is to make each day count as I probably won’t have an opportunity to do this again.

Since I brought up my sabbatical, I guess I should talk about a little about what I’ll be doing while I’m off work. My whole intention when I took this leave was to spend most of it working on railway stuff. I do have a few other things on the agenda, such as a nice cruise with my family, but the majority of my time will be dedicated to that pursuit. I have had to modify some of my plans, particularly scrapping a trip to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, but that’s the way things go.

Well, what exactly will you be doing Dave? Now that you asked, there’s quite a number of things on my list, but I’ll stick to stuff in the immediate future. Since February is pretty booked up with a football clinic in Minneapolis, a football tackling clinic and our cruise, I’m mostly focused on research. I’ll be visiting the Lakehead University Archives, the Thunder Bay Museum and the Thunder Bay Public Library.

I also have a whole bunch of organizing to do, as there’s a pile of copies that need to be filed in their appropriate folder. I’ve managed to get a little investigating in over the last month and that has led to quite a bit of new information accumulating. If you missed it, I also managed to get a few new videos up on YouTube, the first in more than a year. You can check them out here and here.

To be filed, January 2016.

To be filed, January 2016.

At some point next month I’ll begin work on a project that has been kicking around for a few years. Back in 2014 I was contacted by a professor at Minnesota State University who was interested in the life of John Paulson, the mysterious man behind the iron mine near Gunflint Lake. We spoke about possibly doing a paper, and that has also morphed into a presentation at the Northern Great Plains History Conference in St. Cloud, MN in September. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, since the conference is smack in the middle of my busiest time of the year; I’ll have to do some creative maneuvering for sure.

Anyway, I should wrap things up. For the record, the final countdown is 7 days folks! I’ll be back soon enough with more news. Until then…

 

 

 

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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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Who came up with that one?

So I actually Googled Auld Lang Syne as for years I’ve always wondered what the heck it meant. “Old long since” or “long, long ago”…who would have thunk it? I didn’t know it was based on a Robbie Burns poem either. Then again I’m not up on my 18th century Scottish literature; I should get on that. While I’m at it, I’ll finish all those books on my reading list and write a bunch of history articles!

All kidding aside, it is a new year. Welcome to 2013! Let’s hope that the thirteenth year of this new millennium is a good one. I know that I have a lot to be thankful for and I really want this to be another great year. However, like everyone else out there, my first big challenge for the next few weeks is going to be not writing the date “2012” on everything!

Once again my New Years was low-key, but that’s to be expected with young kids in the house. We had some friends and their kids over, ate the traditional Chinese food dinner and let the kids stay up to 10 o’clock. Certainly makes for some nicely wired children! It’s all good though; I can barely make it to midnight, let alone party the night away like when I was 21. After just celebrating my (ugh) 39th birthday, I’ll have to content myself with little victories!

The past week has been very relaxing and enjoyable. I forgot how nice it is not to go to work! Christmas Day was a bit chaotic, but that’s to be expected. The kids tried to wake up at 5am, so we had to remind them that 7:00 was the approved time; too bad I couldn’t fall back asleep after that. My wife and I usually don’t exchange gifts for Christmas, but fortunately the boys had some things that I could play with too. We decided to buy them an Xbox Kinect this year as we thought it was a system that would get them moving and was family friendly. It is funny how sore you can get playing interactive boxing against a 5 year old!

The only sour note has been the weather. It was so mild before Christmas that this little cold snap we’ve been experiencing is a bit disconcerting. I must be getting soft though, because it wasn’t even that cold; minus 20 is not really that cold! The biggest problem is that the cold temperatures, coupled with the lack of snow, really takes away a lot of outdoor options. We wanted to go tobogganing yesterday afternoon, but it was just way too cold with the wind chill. Things are supposed to warm up a bit (-6ish) in the next few days and we’re supposed to get some more snow. I really hope it happens so we can start doing our traditional weekend walks up the mountain.

Trail, Norwester Mountains, December 2012.

Trail, Norwester Mountains, December 2012.

With all the free time I’ve had over the break I was able to get a lot of railway related work done. I even did some research! I can’t remember what I was looking for, but I happened to come across an old map which has been a great source of information. I written on many occasions how the digitization of information has transformed historical research and I cannot say enough good things about it.

The information on the website stated it was from 1926, but on the date on the map was 1917. It shows the area of Lake and Cook Counties in northeastern Minnesota, as well as portions of the Canadian border area, so it is of huge value to me. I was able get some great information from it, both for my research and for my efforts with the Silver Mountain Historical Society.

This map is part of the collection held at the Cook County Historical Museum in Grand Marais, Minnesota. The museum is one of the institutions that has been very helpful to me over the years. My first contact with the CCHM was back in 1997 and then director Pat Zankman. Pat and I spent a lot of time pouring over old documents and sharing information. I had not been to the museum in over ten years when I met Pat there this past July; it was great to catch up with her and see what was new in their collections and displays. I would certainly recommend a visit next time you’re through Grand Marais.

Cook County Museum, July 2012.

Cook County Museum, July 2012.

Most of my railway time however was devoted to work on my Leeblain article. I actually was able to do a lot of writing…I’ve very proud of myself. Even though I still have quite a bit to go, I added another four and a half pages of information and I’m up to about 3400 words! The biggest challenge by far has been to decide what to include and what to leave out, as this is just an essay and not a book. It is very tough though, as you want to make sure everything makes sense. In any case I am getting a ton of experience with writing, formatting and documenting historic papers; it will certainly serve me well in the future. Now I have to figure out how to make a cool looking homemade map!

Anyway, I think it’s time to wrap things up…I have an article to finish! I’m going to try and enjoy the rest of the week before its back to work next week. Until then…Happy New Years!

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Hiking, History, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing

 

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Hockey, Legos, Railways and Ghost Towns

Happy New Year! My New Years was low-key, as it has been for the last number of years; tough to do much with a 6 year old and a 4 year old at home. For the best anyway…hangovers suck!

So we’re a few days into the new year, and here I am in a hotel in Duluth, typing away on a little keyboard while my boys sleep. I guess at this point you have two questions: 1. why are you in Duluth and 2. what’s with the little keyboard? We’ll I’ll tell ya. I’m in Duluth for a few reasons, mostly because this year the Christmas break left us a whole week after New Years off and it was a good excuse for a little holiday and shopping. Ya, you’re probably thinking “those teachers have it so rough” (my wife and I are both teachers). Hey, that’s the way it goes I guess. The price for the hotel was good, so why not (my wife doesn’t need a lot of arm twisting if a trip to Kohl’s is involved). I also figured that while I’m there I could meet up with Lee to discuss the article we’re working on.

So that brings me to the second question about the small keyboard (which is a bit tricky to get use to, especially since I’m not a super-proficient typer). In my previous post I mentioned that I had bought something on the Christmas Eve pre-Boxing Day sale. Well, it’s here…sort of. I bought a Blackberry Playbook from Futureshop as a present for my wife and the boys (she claims that I’ll be the one using it the most, which is probably true). The sort of part is that I got it in a roundabout way. I was ticked off that it didn’t ship until the evening of the 28th, and then it didn’t show up on the 30th as Canadapost claimed it would. We went into the Futureshop on the 31st and after finding out I could return the web order in store, I bought one right there. I even upgraded to the 32gb version. This way I could bring it with me instead of the laptop.

Now, I’ve probably raised yet another question; why a Playbook? Aren’t all the cool kids using iPads (my wife asked the same thing)? Well, it was a combination of things, but mostly the price. This wasn’t a must have purchase, so shelling out $600+ for an iPad did not appeal to me. The $350 discount on the Playbook did. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is awesome, especially the apps, but I had heard some good things about the Playbook so I decided to try it out. My brother has an iPad and he really likes it, but the lack of Flash is annoying. The Playbook links to my BB Torch and the OS update coming out soon will allow the downloading of Android apps, so I think it will be okay.

Now as for the railway, I haven’t done much work since before Christmas, mainly because of the craziness of the season. I spent a lot of time putting together Lego sets after Santa’s visit, and I’ve also tried to take in some of the World Junior Hockey Championship, which is one of the few hockey things I make a point of watching (yes, seems weird for a Canadian-I’m more of a football guy). I did however have a chance to catch up with Lee tonight, so I think the article is back on track. I’m planning on getting to the library on Thursday, so that should constitute my research quota for the week.

While I’m on the topic of the railway, tomorrow marks an important date in the history of the Port Arthur, Duluth and Western. January 4, 1893 was when the railway was completed, sort of. Well, I should clarify; there is no definitive date for its completion, but on January 4th there was a tour given to investors and dignitaries. They rode the line to North Lake, Gunflint Lake and crossed the border to the Paulson Mine. John Paulson himself led a tour of the mine site and the work being done. While they were there, the dignitaries christened the city of Leeblain on Gunflint Lake. Leeblain was intended to be the railway’s major terminal point outside of Port Arthur. It was named after two important Toronto investors, Arthur B. Lee and Hugh Blain. So a big day to say the least.

Anyway, enough for this week and this little keyboard. I’ll have more to say next time.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing

 

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