Tag Archives: Renovations

If they don’t find you handsome…

They should find you smart? Reliable? Funny? Come Dave, tell us! What, you couldn’t think of any other adjectives? I’ll give you a hint; it’s from a TV show. Still stuck? Maybe you aren’t Canadian, because most people who live in the top half of North America would know it. Need another clue? The guy who quoted it was the King of Plaid, the man who introduced duct tape as the handy-man’s secret weapon. If you didn’t recognize Red Green from The Red Green Show, you need to watch some syndicated TV. The program was a parody of other shows, notably home improvement ones, and the most memorable quote from Red himself was, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy!” Consider yourself educated.

So here we are in May; it’s kinda one of those good thing bad thing situations, this year anyway. Why what do you mean Dave? Well, I’m very happy that it is now May and we’re that much closer to summer, but that also means my leave is going by very quickly. Sigh. Thankfully I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.

Now, one of the things that has brought immense joy to me is the weather. I know I gripe a lot about it, but when you have as long as a winter as we do, I think there is a good excuse. Anyway, conditions have done a complete one-eighty since my last post; it’s like someone finally remember to flick the switch and turn the heat on. The snow went away very quickly, the ice has left the lakes and the grass is starting to turn green. Hallelujah!

April 2016.

April 2016.

The only blemish on this otherwise great situation is my health. No, I’m not dying, but there was a point that I felt like I was. What is ironic is that you often have a short memory; it was at this time last year I was complaining how sick I was. Thanks to our friends at Facebook and their handy “You have memories to look back on” feature, I looked at my post from April 2015 and read about how awfully afflicted I was. Talk about déjà vu!

One thing that has me feeling better though is the fact that our school trip to Europe is less than a year away. Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s coming up that fast! While there has been some ongoing planning, things will start to get more hectic in the fall. I know I have been on similar trips twice already, but this is the big one. The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge will be one of the most important events in recent Canadian history. Estimates put the number of people who will be attending in the 10,000 plus range. It will be an amazing experience.

Despite being somewhat handicapped by whatever plague I mean virus I contracted, I have not stopped making effective use of my time off. There are a lot of projects that need to be completed around the house and there is a ton of work to do out at camp. The ones at camp will have to wait until we get closer to summer, but we did get a bit of a head start last week. Meanwhile at home, a lot of my efforts have been dedicated to completing our basement office.

Camp, April 2016.

Camp, April 2016.

Back in March, Jo-Anne and I finally installed some bookshelves we ordered from Ikea, which allowed us to empty some boxes of books that had been in storage for many years. The next step was to try and hide two big, ugly filing cabinets that need to be in the room; some spray paint and some fancy wheeled platforms I whipped up took care of that while still allowed them to be moved around. The desk was going to be another story.

My wife spends time browsing Pintrest for ideas (shocking), and she came up with the plan of using kitchen cabinets and a simple countertop to make a desk. We were going to buy pre-finished cabinets, but then we came across a truckload sale of unfinished ones at Home Depot. The trick was that I now had to add panels to the sides and then stain and seal them. I really enjoy carpentry, and I’m getting pretty decent with fine detail work (except baseboards…I flipping HATE baseboards and trim). Anyway, things went great until it came time to stain. So I’ve learned that staining wood a very dark black-brown colour is not easy; it made me want to drink. I’ve put off the varnishing until I’m back from Toronto…I think I had enough stress for a while.

So with all of this time spent trying to be the next Bob Villa, I have not had a lot of time to work on any railway stuff. I also learned a long time ago that it is important to step away at times, take a break and come back refreshed. My last foray was about three weeks ago, when I made my last trip to the Thunder Bay Museum. While I did not uncover a whole lot of material, the quality made up for the lack of quantity; in actuality, my discovery was a game-changer.

Back about a month and half ago when I was transcribing letters from the Arpin Papers, I came across references to a “Camp 8,” which by all appearances was situated along the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad. It is commonly known that the principal camp of the Pigeon River Lumber Company was Camp 4, located on the southwest shore of Gunflint Lake. I wasn’t really sure what to think until a couple of things fell into place.

On my visit to Duluth during March break, I had chance to sit down with Lee Johnson, whom I’ve known for a number of years now. Lee is the head archaeologist for the Superior National Forest and during the course of our conversation, Lee described a site he located while battling the Ham Lake Fire in 2007. It sounded a lot like a camp of some sorts. The second piece came while searching the newspapers at the museum; I found an article that described “Camp 8” in the Gunflint Lake area. Hopefully I’ll be able to confirm a location in the next few months.

This week I’ll be departing from my brothers wedding in Toronto. I do have some research time scheduled for Thursday morning when I will be visiting the Archives of Ontario. I have three things to take a look at; one related to the PRLC and the two others are of the PAD&W. I’ll provide a full re-cap in my next post.

Anyway, I should get rolling…I need to finish packing and I have a busy day ahead. I’ll be back soon enough with the latest news. Until then…


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Posted by on May 3, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Travel


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March break already?

Wow, we’re a week away from the break and it feels like the semester just started. The last four weeks have flown by! I guess like the saying says “time flies when you’re having fun.” I wouldn’t say that it has been all fun, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the last month. My classes are settling in and hopefully this one absence per week craziness will abate.

I’m certainly looking forward to the break and I know my boys are very excited. Our usual March break routine involves a trip to the States, with stops in Minneapolis and Duluth. Last year we tried driving through to Minnie from home on Friday after work, which is a tiring 6 hour slog. However the trade-off is well worth it, leaving us more time in Minneapolis to shop and have fun. I know the boys are pumped to visit the Lego store in the Mall of America, since there are new sets to be had. I must admit that Dad is excited to check-out the new X-Wing and Y-Wing too! We have to throw in some stops for mom at the Albertville Outlet and every Kohl`s we can find, as well as celebrating Ethan`s 7th birthday at the Rainforest Café. Then it`s off to Duluth for a few days before heading home.

Now speaking of travel, the calendar tells me that we leave for Europe and Vimy Ridge in 29 days! It`s hard to believe that it`s coming up so fast…kinda makes me a bit nervous. I think that I`m taking care of things as they come up, but there`s always that bit of the fear of the unknown. Things will be fine, but I want to make sure it`s all done right.

I know that I`m very pumped to go and I`m sure the kids are equally excited. Our slick jackets arrived on Friday, black for me and red for the kids; I think that we will certainly look good if anything else. I`ve definitely made up my mind to take the Playbook with me to blog, which I will hopefully do on a daily basis. Camera, video camera, Blackberry, tablet…I`ll having everything covered in detail for sure!

Last week I did spend quite a bit of time working on the article. I’m now up to 1800 words, which is just short of the limit for my portion. I think that I’m going to have to do a bit of trimming when all is said and done to stay below 2500 words. I actually pretty excited up for this article since it will be my first published work and it will allow me to say that I’m a “historian.” The most important part however, is the valuable experience it will provide me with in the area of historical writing.

It’s also great that I’m re-visiting some of the research that I did many years ago. There is so much information associated with this project there are many things that I had forgotten; it almost like I am relearning the material all over again. It is certainly helping me understand the history of the railway in a completely new perspective. Maybe historical research, like life, is about maturity. The older and more experienced you get, the more things make sense. In a few years I’ll really be smart!

Obviously the writing left little time for research, and I doubt I’ll get much done this week. A break is good too, time to recharge and refocus. Makes me think of how many hats one has to wear when doing investigation of this nature. I really want to get to that High Court of Justice file at the Archives of Ontario because it contains a plethora of information. However I feel as if I need a lawyer to help me interpret some of the material! I guess you can’t be an expert at everything, but one can try. I’m not a civil engineer, nor have I ever built a railway, but comprehending the intricacies of it is critical. Therefore my current bedtime reading is a book on how to construct a railway…its scandalous!

Anyway, time to go. Next week’s blog will be on location in Minneapolis.

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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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The Alberta Clipper Strikes Back!

So I awoke this morning to a winter wonderland. We had the pleasure of being hit by an Alberta Clipper yesterday, which is a very fast-moving weather system that packs quite the punch (follow the link if you don’t trust me). The clipper apparently dumped 32cm snow according to the media, which unfortunately was not enough to close the schools. The trend lately is to cancel the busing, but leave the schools open. The side effect, in high schools at least, is that hardly anyone shows up.

So after clearing a path at the end of the driveway to get out, I drove to work with the truck in 4×4 (always fun). I had a meeting for part of the morning at

My front yard after the Clipper, Feb 2012.

the board office, but then I spent the rest of the day marking. I guess that was okay, but I would have rather been at home. There’s still hope though; forecasts are calling for another possible dump in a few days. Maybe they’ll call in the army like they did in Toronto in 1999!

Now in case you’re wondering (again) why the title, I was trying to think of something clever to do with the weather. This weekend my boys watched a couple of Star Wars movies while my wife and I worked on the basement and it just popped into my head. Now speaking of the basement, there was no trip up the mountain this weekend because we finally got around to installing the laminate floor. Jo-Anne and I started this basement reno (really a completion since we didn’t have it finished when we built the house) in 2009 and we’re now approaching the end. All that is left after this is the baseboard and trim around the windows (in the rec room only-office needs furniture and the bathroom is unfinished).

I’d never installed laminate floor before, so this was quite the learning experience. It took us almost 3 hours on Saturday just to get the pad down, but once that was done things moved fairly quickly. There were lots of cuts to make, especially angled cuts, which was a bit tedious. My wife really flexed her handy-lady skills, laying the boards while I did the cutting. We managed to get the rec room done by last night; now we just have to do the office and stairs and the floor is in. The only downside of this whole process is that I am extremely sore today-I guess I used a lot of muscles that I don’t normally do. The hour of snow blowing after school didn’t loosen them up either!

You would think that with all of these things going on that there was very little railway work, but I did manage to make time for that too. I spent a few hours working on the article in the middle of the week and I made good headway. I am now up to 1300 words, which is more than halfway through my portion of the article. It’s also a perfect spot, since it gives me a lot of room to write about the building of railway. There is still the struggle about what to include and what to leave out, but I am feeling a lot better regarding the directions things are headed in. In the end this process will give me some excellent experience writing for a historical audience and maybe it will lead to more opportunities in the future.

I’m hoping to have a rough draft ready for Lee to take a look at in a few weeks as I know that I will be busy as spring approaches. The calendar tells me that I depart with the students for Europe and Vimy Ridge in 36 days. It’s hard to believe that the date is so close; I think that I am on top of everything but I still feel apprehensive. My jitters probably stem from my lack of experience and that I want to make sure everything is done properly. I did decide that I would like to take my Playbook with me so I can blog along the way; almost like a travelling journal (Playbook OS 2.0 is pretty awesome btw). I’ll be sure to confirm if the tablet will make the trip for sure before I leave. I definitely will have my phone with me so I can post to my Twitter wherever we are ( @Padwrr ).

With my limited time I also accomplished my usual spat of research, probing whatever ideas jumped into my head. This week it was information about efforts to link the railway to Duluth during the Canadian Northern years prior to WWI. I also dug-up a few articles on the planned reconstruction of the abandoned rail line to the Paulson Mine in 1921. It seems as though there is always something new to discover. What will this week hold?

Anyway, guess I should wrap things up. Until next week…

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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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Do lawyers hate history?

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


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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!

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


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