So This Is the Wilderness!

JAMES A. COWAN October 1 1927

So This Is the Wilderness!

JAMES A. COWAN October 1 1927

So This Is the Wilderness!


RECENTLY there was well-defined movement on foot to shanghai a selected group of writers and imprison them in a Pullman car. Once safely stowed away, they were to be carried into the great north, there to live and learn.

This, at least, was the general scheme, as outlined in the lobby of a Sudbury hotel by an exasperated citizen of Iroquois Falls, Ontario. He had, in his hand, a Brooklyn paper containing a descriptive article on his own home town. The editor of the periodical in question, so it was subsequently reported, had discovered from a casual survey of trade and commerce statistics that his United States was importing a staggering amount of manufactured newsprint from Northern Ontario, a state of affairs which he considered remarkable in view of his impression that that portion of the Dominion of Canada was wilderness. At any rate, a lady journalist arrived to find out how such industrial operations could be and her published report was the basic cause of the exasperation.

The writer knew her Brooklyn public-either that or some expert in joshing saw her coming. She told of her touching farewell with the conductor on the main line of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway as she branched off to penetrate, alone and unsupported, the wild country in which Iroquois Falls was situated. She had been warned. She had her revolver loaded and ready. She was prepared to meet life in the raw, her gun in one hand and her life in the other.

0? all the northern municipalities which could be selected as examples of the primitive community, Iroquois Falls is possibly the funniest. A model town, built, from start to finish, according to specifications, it is the pride of the tow-planning expert. Even the rooms in the modest houses are laid out according to the proved theories of high-priced architects. Per acre, it has more evidences of thought for the Civic future thar. many a metropolis has per square mi.e. It is the creation of a group of industrial leaders who sought to make their dream of near-perfect living conditions for their employees come true._ But this is news to few Canadians.'

But to the writer from Brooklyn, city of occasional slums, Iroquois Falls was a simply charming example of the crude, the new and the uncivilized. She qualified her researches, however, by noting that she had found,surprisingly enough, persons of quite noticeable intelligence and education. In short, she added insult to injury.

This case is extreme but certainly interesting. As synopsized by the irate northerner, it seemed justifiable cause for kidnapping. He noted, in addition, that the Brooklyn exhibit was not the only one. A considerable array of other articles had preceded it and not all of them, by any manner of means, were American. He declared that there was, in many news references to the north, an undertone which tended to paint it as the slightly-settled hinterland, rough but not quite ready for the man who insists on the many comforts of so-called civilization.

Similar sets of opinions may easily be secured in practically any part of north Ontario. Accurate as they seem to be, this state of affairs is, at least, partly pardonable.

Only a few years ago, even the most rabid apostles of the new north in Ontario were prompt to declare that the country was in its extreme infancy.. Suddenly it has grown up. The undeveloped unknown has started to come into its own so swiftly that most of us are not yet completely readjusted to the altered situation.

Northern Ontario’s area is in the neighborhood of 330,000 square miles. According to figures considered accurate in 1921, its population was 296,000. There are no exact statistics on its population to-day.

“But, as closely as we can estimate it,” an official of the Ontario Government said, a few days ago, “400,000 was a more accurate figure at the end of last year.”

The backwoods of a decade and a half ago has not only been partly settled and thickly settled in parts but portions of it also have been highly industrialized.

Cyril T. Young, superintendent of development of the Canadian National Railways, has expressed the opinion that if the industrial advances which parts of the Canadian northland have recently registered, had been performed in any other country in the world, our own newspapers would have been full of it. Canadians, he feels, have been suffering from ingrowing modesty and in matters of power, pulp, paper, timber and minerals particularly, there are any number of statistics to offer which are nothing short of astounding.

As 120 is so 173,000.000

THIRTY-SIX years ago, to quote Mr. Young, Canada exported $120 worth of pulp and paper. Last year, our exports were $173,000,000 and we supplied half of the three million tons the United States requires annually. Quebec and Manitoba, as well as older Ontario, loom largely in the pulp and paper industry, of course, but northern Ontario's mammoth new mills were an important factor in putting the Dominion so far ahead of the rest of the world in this line of endeavor that she has no real competitors.

The Abitibi mills, for instance, turn out enough paper every day to stretch in a five-foot strip from Montreal to Winnipeg—550 tons. At Spanish River, the output is 720 tons a day. A new mill at Kapuskasing represents a $25,000,000 investment. These are three very excellent examples of what has been happening.

In the section directly north of

Toronto, alone, the total production of minerals runs into such a colossal sum that it would be necessary to attend a course of lectures on the subject to get even an adequate idea of the mining achievements. Sudbury district, which produces eightyfive per cent, of the world’s nickel, has already paid a hundred million dollars in dividends.

The smelter of the International Nickel Company has a daily capacity of 5,000 tons and the Mond smelter at Coniston,

1,500 tons. In 1926, the dividends of International totalled $3,881,524 and in 1927 the Mond dividends reached $1,875,000. Porcupine, though admittedly in its youth, is now hailed as the the world’s greatest gold camp. Hollinger, McIntyre and Dome are members of its group of producers. Kirkland Lake, quite nearby, usually is linked with Porcupine, though, literally, it is minting millions on its own. The production of its Lakeshore Mine runs to a quarter million a month and so does Wright-Hargreaves. One fact, at least, has been fairly definitely established. This belt contains ore of a richness which can be found in no other country in the world.

These, too, are merely scattered figures from the whole volume of statistics which might be presented.

The north has quietly and effectively harnessed such portions of its rivers as are required to supply all the power needed for this whole array of enterprises. Nipigon at Cameron Falls, to pick a solitary but interesting example, is now being increased to its full production of 75,000 horsepower. This, by the way, involves feats of engineering and construction which might prove to be even more startling bits of information to the informed citizens of Brooklyn than the story of the wild bush which some of them already know.

The wails which rose heavenward from many of those in the alleged know, when the construction of a transcontinental line which would cross with considerable directness from Ottawa to Winnipeg, was commenced, are far from forgotten. These outcries were even surpassed in anguish by the expressions of sorrow which came forth when the Dominion of Canada made preparations to take over this portion of road along with the rest of the National lines.

In view of the very acute grief felt by many onlookers on these two occasions, they will be delighted to hear that, last year, this section of the Transcontinental, east and west of Cochrane, the section which was heralded as such a notable white elephant, earned ninety-seven cents on every dollar of its operating charges almost entirely from local traffic.

This one minor fact proves, in a flash, that the upper reaches of Ontario are not what they used to be, that the present becomes the past in

those parts with excessive rapidity, that one of the important products of that region is industrial history, that data about the north secured five years ago might, in many cases, just as well have been secured during the reign of Elizabeth as far as its accuracy is concerned and that this comparatively new Ontario is much older than any territory of its years is ever expected to be.

Where North Is South

THE dividing line between nor¿h and south is moving toward the top of the map with a speed that often surprises the northerner himself. Should you set out, very early some afternoon, from a point on the CanadianAmerican border in the neighborhood of Niagara Falls, make use of the excellent railroad facilities which are available and head north, you would travel forthe balance of that day, and the entire night following, in

order to arrive in the city of North Bay in plenty of time for breakfast. You would no doubt feel, at the end of the ride, that you were entitled to consider yourself in the north.

Quite recently, in the smoker of a north-bound train making this trip, two merchants of North Bay, returning home were discussing their civic government. A third occupant broke into the conversation.

“I’m very interested in what you’re saying,” he commented, “though I don’t know a great deal of the actual facts. I’m a northerner myself.”

The two conversationalists were admittedly somewhat surprised to find their municipality described as a southern one though it was obviously not the first time they had heard similar sentiments.

“Where are you located?” asked one.

“Up in Woman Lake,” was the answer.

As far as the rest of the Dominion is concerned, the history of that particular district can practically be computed in months. Woman Lake is in the bush north of the National Transcontinental near the Manitoba line. Though his term of residence in the district had been brief, this blown-in-the-glass northerner had been a dweller in the more remote places for years. He and his son had gone to Woman Lake by air. He mentioned this casually, as a matter of course and of no particular interest. He assumed that the fact w’as definitely established. When moving from one place to another in sections where the railways are not yet, he expected one naturally flew.

His whole attitude was a magnificent commentary on the differences between pioneering, new and old styles. As a matter of course, his home W’ould be a place which he and his son could build with little trouble and loss of time. As a matter of course, his household goods and personal belongings could be carted around, with great ease, on a push-cart. As a matter of course, the cornerstore never entered into his scheme of things and such comparatively complicated methods of retailing as the chain-store were approximately myths. He traveled, whenever convenient, by a means of transportation with which the cosmopolitan New’ Yorker is still unfamiliar. When he talked of industries, he talked of mills employing hundreds, costing millions and paying fortunes annually in dividends. When the word, power, was mentioned, he thought of hydro-electric enterprises dealing in thousands of horsepower. As a matter of course, the collar and tie was an affectation, though a necessary evil in sections where cities were thick. On railroad journeys, he travelled Pullman or parlor car for the simple reason that they were more comfortable.

Continued on page 56

Continued from page 7

This is by no means intended as a composite picture of the average northerner. There is not even any guarantee that this type of man forms a large percentage of the population but his curious blend of characteristics is far from uncommon and his work is one of the chief reasons why a glimpse at the growth of the north is a glimpse at a noteworthy spectacle. A new-and-up-to-date edition of the pioneer, he has apparently been produced by the country itself. It is highly improbable that his counterpart can be found anywhere else on earth. He is the modern replica of the pioneer of all the ages plus an inoculation of big business. He seems particularly Canadian for no better reason than the vague one that he at once impresses you with the impossibility of his being anything else.

The Poetry of Ruggedness

'“PHE country is full of seeming inconsistencies and apparent paradoxes. It is either stark ugliness or gripping magnificence. Few varieties of views can be more dreary than some aspects of northern Ontario and few have more scenic thrill than great numbers of other glimpses of it. The prairie, at its barest and blank-

est, is not so desolate as the fire-scarred tract of the north with its clutter of useless rock and its skeletons of flamestripped timber. Poets have become lyrical and rapturous over lakes which are puddles in the mud compared to any one of a hundred sheets of blue to silver which shimmer on and sparkle away in the north without attracting more than occasional attention. Mountains may have majesty but their regular ruggedness of the north has a virility and a power which mere height and bulk could never achieve. It is never pretty. Prettiness implies daintiness and dainty it is not. It is rough but it is often superb.

It is a country which the human race will never be able to tame and completely subdue but from which a comparatively small group of leaders, well versed in the business of blasting away obstacles, is able to extract millions a month.

The fact that many of its citizens live under most primitive conditions, with few comforts and conveniences, often without even adequate roads, far from their nearest neighbors and that some may have no regular means of communicating with the rest of the world, has been well advertised. The fact that a section of the population, which outnumbers the

first by some thousands, enjoys advantages which are at least the equal of those offered by other municipalities nearly a hundred years older, has escaped with a great deal less notice.

The people themselves are responsible. In the first place, they are in the north by choice and through no force of circumstances, in eleven cases out of a dozen. By the same token, they intend to remain there. It is not a case of coming up to get money and get out. There is a fascination about it all which holds them. The north has left its mark on them and they are determined, therefore, to leave their mark on the north.

Even the earliest settlers must have sworn, silently and unanimously, that they were bent on securing not only the necessities of life but also a fair share of the luxuries. The type of community for which they laid the foundations shows it. Where huge ore reserves were discovered, they made preparations not for a big mining camp but for the building of a city. They wanted comfort for themselves and their families, educational facilities for their children, the best opportunities for enjoying their leisure hours and almost everything that is usually lumped under the heading of modern improvements. They went directly after these and got them.

The town of Timmins is an excellent example. Officially, it is a town. Actually, its population is approximately fifteen thousand. The heart and hub of the Porcupine gold area, it is a full days’ journey north of North Bay and about 550 miles north of Toronto.

Fifteen years ago, the 740 acres on which it has been built were practically bush. The task of turning this stretch of typical north country into a thoroughly modern city in the same space of time required to give any average child a good education, was a staggering one. If it had not been such an impossible task on the face of it, if it had not roused the town’s founders to exert a remarkable degree of perseverance and bulldog determination, it would, very likely, never have been done so well.

When the Hollinger and other gold strikes which have now grown into a worldfamous group of mines, were first made, it was obvious that something in the nature of a municipality was bound to come. When the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway made the spot the terminus of a branch from Porquis Junction, it was even more evident.

These mines are only to-day commencing to hit their real production speed, yet, in the meantime, here are a few of the things that have taken place.

The town has 400 places of business and 1,425 residences. Its assessment is six million dollars. The citizens have paved all their main streets. They have electrical street lighting at every necessary point.

They went into the subject of public utilities with extreme thoroughness. A duplicate high-pressure waterworks system was built. They solved the problem of sewage by spending $50,000 on an up-todate sludge disposal plant. They added $35,000 more for an incinerator for garbage disposal. For fire protection, they added the latest type of electrical alarm system, built up an efficient fire brigade system and purchased motor equipment for it.

On the care of the rising generation, they spread themselves. Their educational system cost them a million dollars to create. Just at the moment, they are about to add a technical school to the standard high school and the council has under consideration, ambitious plans for supervised playgrounds. The public library is almost a venerable institution as such things go in Timmins. So much for the child. The adult also is well looked after.

As far as residential sections are concerned, there is evidence not only of considerable expenditure but of the exercise of taste and the expression of indivduality.

“From what I have seen,” a Winnipeg apartment-house owner said, “the average home, in the towns in this part of the Dominion, is furnished on a style which, in my home city, would indicate a residence costing eight to ten times as much to construct.”

There is a good nine-hole golf course with an excellent clubhouse. There is a bevy of fine clay tennis courts. In fact, golf courses and tennis courts laid out in expert and scientific fashion are spotted all over the north.

In matters of sport, the northerner shows a streak of independence. He know what he likes and will go to no little trouble to gratify his inclinations, though he cares little or nothing at all for what may happen to be the current fad. Hence, along with the sight of a golf course which is figuratively carved out among the quartz veins, there is a roller skating rink running full blast. If there is a lull, he is almost certain to step out and create something new in the line of entertainment. Thus, though the dog races and winter carnival are usually the high points in the winter season, a new record in popular enthusiasm was attained recently during the hectic course of a civic whiskergrowing contest which produced luxuriant results and brought jealous comments from bearded wonders in scattered sections of the globe.

Spectacular activities, however, like the race of the whiskers, overshadow other things which are really more unusual. A concert manager, only a short time ago, booked a string quartet for a recital in Timmins. The musicians played to an audience four times as large as the one which, this past season, came to hear a certain internationally-famous violinist in Massey Hall, Toronto. The Timmins audience showed real musical understanding and at least one musical magazine in the United States commented on the affair in polite amazement. It need not have. Timmins has been a musical centre for some years. Distance making it impossible to import stars from metropolitan centres, they put a great deal of effort into a whole-hearted attempt to produce their own. They like music. A prosperous group of musical studios is one proof. The existence of a creditable band, organized to play and not primarily to lead parades, is another. The flourishing condition of one orchestra in particular —and by the word orchestra is meant an orchestra and not a jazz band—is a third. A local lad in his ’teens showed all the earmarks of a coming violin virtuoso. His parents found it impossible to finance his musical education. A public fund was promptly raised to do it. And this is proof number four.

This district centre with its thousands of permanent citizens, fire-proof officebuildings, wholesale houses, five hospitals, five banks as well as all the communal assets already listed, is Timmins, the mining camp. It will be years yet before the first babe born within its borders reaches the age of twenty-one so that Timmins presents the spectacle of a community growing up faster than its rising generation.

But like all northern communities where the transformation from bush to a business section took place in less time than it would take the legendary Rip Van Winkle to achieve a nap, there are plenty of evidences of it. In the construction of the residential sections, the handiwork of the registered architect is missing. Authentic log cabins are to be found on main street corners. Tar-paper was extensively used as building material. Homes were erected on the simplest possible plan. Roominess was generally sacrificed to the exigencies of speed. To the visitor out taking a constitutional, too, the town has a distressing way of suddenly coming to an end in certain directions.

These things are nothing at all to the discredit of the civic fathers or the citi-

Continued on page 60

Continued from page 58

zens. They are the inevitable and certain results of swift growth.

A Reservoir of New Wealth

rT'HE topic of Timmins has been dealt -*■ with in detail because it is a good and handy example of what new northern towns are or will be, but any one of a group of other municipalities might have been used instead. Along with Cochrane, it is the most northern of Ontario’s business centres. Side by side, farther south, are Haileybury and New Liskeard. Many a commercial traveler will tell you that his idea of real civic beauty is a distant view of these two communities from the lake, but if there is any Canadian who is not at least partially aware of the honors which Haileybury should receive, this is not the time to mention it. It is only a very few years ago that newspapers the world over told in flaming headlines, the story of its partial devastation by forest fire. Spectacular, as a news story as this was, the tale of the comeback was almost equally so.

What the average wealth per capita is, throughout northern Ontario, is anybody’s guess. The average annual earnings are also unknown but they are high. That much is sure. Here is one section of the Dominion where the problem of emigration to the United States is not acute. The drain is almost negligible. The young man is far from convinced that he would be as well off financially on the other side, let alone better off. So he stays.

Mines and mills pay well. Nor are their immediate employees, in the latter case, the only ones to benefit directly. When the new pulp mill near Kapuskasing commences operations, with the Abitibi and Metagami mills running as they are at present, settlers in the Cochrane district will garner in four million dollars a year for their pulpwood alone. Bank clearings in Timmins last year reached a figure usually set as a good average for a city of 60,000 population. In Kirkland Lake, Cochrane, Cobalt, Sudbury and Timmins especially, but elsewhere as well you see dozens of workers, lunch-pails under their arms, on their way home, dropping into the brokers’ offices to see the latest quotations. Nearly all these men are investors—or speculators, as you wish. They don’t care. These things are more than straws which show in which direction the wind is blowing. They are rather accurate gauges. They indicate money, wealth and general prosperity. To the man of business, they mean buying power.

The New North Grows Older

rT''HERE is only one effective way to *. get a thorough understanding of upnorth affairs and that is to go and see for yourself. Tackle the matter by any other method and you must either concentrate on one aspect to the neglect of the rest or else merely scratch the surface. It is concerning conditions in the towns, rather than in the more sparsely-settled districts that the most errors in information are reported. Tabulated herewith are a few facts, disconnected, unimportant, incidental and some of them semi-frivolous. It is an interesting test to try and fit them into your own pattern of what the north of Ontario and the northern Ontarian are like.

1. On the average, it is possible to travel from North Bay to Porquis Junction, a point on the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway, well on the way to James Bay, with more comfort than the usual trip from Buffalo to New York. However, if you are anxious to secure a pullman drawing room and happened to plan a trip south when the traffic is heavy, it would be wise to reserve it at least a week in advance. In fact, during a recent holiday rush, the drawingrooms on one week-end train were sold ten days in advance.

2. A now-famous moving picture suc-

cess, still playing on Broadway at two dollar seat prices, played in Iroquois Falls, Ontario, months ago. It was given what is known as a road-show presentation, accompanied by an imported symphony orchestra.

3. Exactly the same models in women’s spring coats which were on sale this March in a New York department store within three minutes of Fifth Avenue were also on sale in Haileybury, Ontario.

4. A Toronto firm handling men’s semi-ready clothes has one special line which is sold, almost exclusively, in certain sections of northern Ontario. The retail price, which runs from seventy to eighty dollars, is too high for other sections of the Dominion with which this firm does business.

5. Kapuskasing, Ontario, attained fame during the war years as the site of a detention camp for enemy aliens. It was

reputed to be escape-proof. If a prisoner did get away, there was nowhere he could go. He either had to come back to the camp or starve. Early this summer, a young man from Kapuskasing was in Ottawa on business. He is a retail merchant with an occasional side interest. He came to Kapuskaski^ shortly after the end of the war with only a very limited capital. His net Income for last year, so he stated, was $7,300. He declares that he expects, very shortly, to start making real money.

Forecasting the future according to what has happened in the immediate past, an amusing occupation for some dull day in 1932 would be to dig up all the old statistics on northern Ontario for 1927 or thereabouts and note how old-fashioned and inaccurate they turned out to be after five years more of steady employment.