Wednesday, November 30, 2016


    In my teaching there were many times a day I said , "Are there any questions?"

    Well, that's what I'm going to ask in this post. Do you have any questions about the north and experiences I had. 

    I've been down this road before and I can never cover all the details. I've talked to groups or just sat around with friends and relatives talking. I could talk all night. I could get off the topic many times.

   I talk to myself about my experience. I go over what happened many times and with reflection I learn new things all these many years after.

   I won't guaranty the I will or can answer all questions. I'm sure I will get some very interesting questions. Some questions will show me what I left out. Some questions will bring on another post.

    So try me. as I always told my classes there are no dumb questions.

No there's a fish story for you!

Monday, November 28, 2016


      Now it took quite a while until I was involved in what I came for. But finally I did get to the school, classroom and most importantly the students.

     Inuvik was a new town. They started building it in the early 50's and it was opened in 1957. So the school was a very new building. It was a large building and at the time we had about 1000 students. Now this wasn't a large brick structure but built completely with wood. The building was on pilings put into the permafrost. There would be lots of shifting with the building so it had to be flexible. The building was two story , had a large gym, shop , home ec. and typing for high school options. There was not a music or drama program. It was a divided into an A wing and B wing. The B wing was used for the separate or Catholic students. The A wing was for the public school. there was a a small high school of about 4o students. This was a first for housing the two school systems in the same building. It worked well and we thought of each other as being on the same staff.

Image result for inuvik

    Of the 1000 students a third were Eskimo, another third Indian and then other. 600 of the kids came from outside the town and lived in the hostels or dormitories. 400 kids were town residents.

     I have mentioned the hostels before. The hostels were run by the churches as a development from the time when the churches were the only ones running a school. The Catholic hostel had 250 kids and the Anglican hostel had 350 kids.

    So most of the students were in the gr 1 -8 category with a higher number in the primary grades.

    Aboriginals in this area had a pretty good handle on the English language. They'd been exposed to traders, churches and there was some education. The Dew line was built in the early 50's and many of the men worked on construction so there was more exposure to English. I never heard any native language spoken when I was a there. Native languages were spoken but it was when they were together.

    As a result most of the kids entering school had some English.

    Now in 1963 the philosophy was still make the aboriginals into white guys. So in schools and hostels the aboriginal language was discouraged. We taught very much as we would in a southern school. As I look back on it we were more than naive. These kids did not have the background to process the material we presented. Dick and Jane didn't go over very well with kids who were nomadic and had different clothes and  food. Similar things happened in the whole school program.

    We had little kids in the hostel who were 1000 miles from home. Imagine letting go of your six year old for 10 months of the year. It was criminal. The kids went back to their parents and found it hard to live in tents and eat country food.(fish, caribou, seal). We now know what harm has been done to the aboriginal people. We should have known at that time that it was not a good plan.

     We had a staff of about 50 teachers. They came from every province in Canada. There were also British , Australian and Americans. I was exposed to many different systems of teacher education. The learning curve was steep. I feel fortunate to have taught in a school with such a variation of teachers. I learned much from them.

    For me there was all kinds of overload. I lived in a completely different environment. I was exposed to a different culture. There were always new things to learn.

   The situation was challenging but I learned so much and I always say that it changed my life forever.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


    The challenges I've described in previous posts all happened within 10 days. However, they got me to the location where I was going to teach.

    I had to face one more challenge but this one took a little longer. I looked forward to my first paycheck. It didn't come. I was sure I'd get a paycheck in October. Nothing doing. I got my first paycheck at the end of November. I forget if I got all three months at once or if it was messed up and I got back pay. I didn't really need money except at that time I smoked. 

    Now there had to be an explanation for all the problems we faced. I was not the only one who had problems. All the new teachers experienced the same challenges. Some of them got checks in Sept. Some got checks in early Dec.

    At the time the Northwest Territories were governed by a council of 15 members. They operated out of Ottawa . Most members of the council had never been in the territories and some could have cared less . These councillors were political appointees. Ottawa is 4107 miles from Inuvik. There were no telephone lines out of the territories to the "outside". There were no roads. Govt. administration staff was very small. There were no scheduled flights to anywhere. All flights were charters. As you can see there was a formidable challenge for the administration to get their work done. There was some intermittent radio contact especially to the more isolated staff. Staff in smaller settlements were dropped off in Sept. and there usually was only one or two flights in during the year. So they got mail a couple of times a year.

    Inuvik had an all weather airstrip and a modern terminal. Pacific Western Airline started scheduled flights the first year I was there. There were to be two flights a week. However we went two weeks without flights several times. Transportation and communication improved rapidly after I got there. A telephone line was constructed to the outside world. I could phone home to mother!

   The council that governed us was changed from Ottawa to Yellowknife which was in the Territories. Six members of the council had to be northern residents. 

    Changes came rapidly with improved transportation and communication. It was a rough ride at the beginning but improvements were made.

    My teacher followers are wondering about the school so that comes next.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016


    At the end of my last post I got to my apartment but there was no food.

    Now I have to go back in history a bit to make sense out of the food situation. Remember that I was employed by the Canadian government and it was 1963. I became a civil servant and so took and oath was not allowed to vote.

    The Canadian government had left the Northwest Territories to themselves until after the Second world war. Missionaries had been in the Arctic for a 100 years but they were a very small group but had managed to convert most of the aboriginals. A few traders had been in the Arctic for a 100 years. A few policemen were stationed at a few places. The Canadian government had spent next to nothing in the territories. There was a minor transportation system where barges brought freight down the Mackenzie river. Lone bush pilots had done some charter work.

    After WW II the Canadian government decided to become active in the territories. There had been some Army activity in the territories during the war but very little.

    After the war the government decided to set up schools, hospitals and administration. They also decoded to build airports. Before that could happen the cold war dictated that two DEW lines(radar) would be built. There was major construction so building supplies had to be brought in. Before the Dew lines were finished a number of schools had been built.

   Now logistics had to be in place. People had to be brought in and looked after. Housing, transportation and food had to be supplied.

    Did I say food? Yes. They developed a system that they called rations. They had devised a system to provide a year's supply of food. The ration consisted of canned, dried materials and basic food products. So canned meat, vegetables, milk ...everything that could be canned, powdered milk,  tins of cookies and cakes, powdered potatoes and more, 200 lb of flour. These people were in places without stores and they had to bake their own bread. So there were basics, salt, pepper, tea, coffee, sugar, jam, butter, cereals, spices, I could go on.

    So after two days a crew  brought my ration to my apartment. This was 1000 lb of food. I had a locker to store my food so spent a day putting my food away.

   The North is full of friendly people. People from the apartments looked after me well and saw that I didn't got hungry. They also gave me lots of advice and friendship. there was no being lonely there.

   So like it or not I had 1000 lb of food to play with. I think all the soup was gone by the end of Sept. and then I started on the pork and beans.

   This was still fun but it got more funner later on!

Monday, November 21, 2016


     In my last post I just landed at the Inuvik airport.

     Now remember, this was 1963. Things were very different back then.

    Remember the stairs are pushed out to the airplane and people come down to the tarmac and walk into the waiting room.

    Inuvik was new and the airport facilities were new and shiny. So at 12:30 AM I walked into the terminal to find it busy and a smiling principal there to greet me.  This was a surprise. More than that the superintendent was also there.

    Now the superintendent walked over and handed me a key to my apartment! What? I told him that I was supposed to stay in the hostel. Well, he said an apartment came available. Well, how do you argue with the boss at 1:00 AM?

    We finally go our luggage and got into the big suburban and off we went to town. The airport was nine miles out of town. They dropped me off at my apartment and saw that I got in. They said goodnight and I was on my own. Another teacher was on the plane with me and he was going on in the morning. He had asked if he could stay overnight with me.

    The apartments were known as single staff. They were really a bed sitting room. The couch rolled out into a bed. the kitchen had a half sink , 2 burner stove and small fridge under the counter. They really meant things to be for single staff.

   So there I was looking around in an apartment with all my stuff. So at 2:00 AM all I wanted to do was go to bed. We found bedding and made a bed and tucked in .  I was so wired from the past 24 hours I slept very little.

    Next morning came early. What will I have for breakfast? There was no food in the apartment. I think we went to the hotel for breakfast.

   Now I was very fortunate that they placed me in the settlement they did. There was a restaurant, laundry, Hudson Bay store and more. So for somebody who didn't wash clothes the laundry was a goldmine.

    Now in the next post will I eat or go hungry.

    This was the hostel  I was to stay in along with 350 kids and staff.

Image result for inuvik nwt

Saturday, November 19, 2016


    In my last post I got to Ft Smith NWT which is less than halfway to where I was going.

    But first I have to go back to where I started to set up the next step.

     As you could see from my last post I did not really have any solid goals and not a realistic view of what I was getting myself into. I'm  a born optimist so thought that everything would work out.

     I had been teaching in a 12 teacher school for three years. The kids were had workers and well behaved . The parents were very supportive. It was a very comfortable situation. However, things were just going to continue and after three years it was boring. There was a problem. there were no girls! High school girls were off limits. Half the girls left when they finished high school and half were already connect to a local guy.

    In those days young men "boarded" In other words you stayed in a house where the landlady did everything: cook ,clean, wash your clothes. The landlady I had the last two years was a sweety. She spoiled me rotten. She had arthritis so it was difficult for her to get around. She would phone her grocery order to the store and I would pick it up. I had her post box key and got her mail everyday. I took her check to the town office to pay her taxes. It was a very comfortable arrangement.

    However, in practical terms I was not ready to look after myself. I couldn't cook. I couldn't wash clothes. I had no idea of keeping a place clean.

    So there I was with a great new job and an apartment to live in. The apartment was completely furnished with dishes bedding and linen. I was set up with everything but didn't know what to do with it. However, later they told me they were short of apartments but that I would be given a room in the student hostel. Well this would be super. I'd get meals and laundry again.

   Okay, The purpose of stopping at Ft. Smith for a week was for orientation. About 30 new teachers were oriented to teaching in Canada's north. At the end of the week teachers were flown to their  communities.

    Well you know what's coming next. There wasn't room for me on the airplane! They would fly me in the next day. Now by this time I was okay with delays. Girls , couples and families needed to get to Inuvik before I did.

   Well, the next evening there was a ride for me. It was on a freight aircraft. The airplane was loaded with freight and there were 4 canvas seats. Cruising speed was a little over 200 mph. There were four passengers. One of the passengers was a woman who had been in Inuvik for two years. She answered questions and gave me tips on how to live. She was helpful. Most of it went over my head but it cut down some of the stress for me.

    Off we went for the four hour flight in the lumbering beast. For most of the flight I got to be in the cockpit. We left about 8:00 PM on Aug. 30 and flew northwest. Days were still quite long in August. What I looked at for the four hour flight was a constant twilight. It's a sight that I would love to see over and over again.

    We touched down in Inuvik about midnight and as soon as you were on the ground it was dark.

   The learning curve was steep for the previous ten days.

   What could happen next?

Image result for inuvik nwt


Thursday, November 17, 2016


    In 1963 I as 23 years old and had been teaching for 4 years. I was at a crossroads. I had to either go back to school or leave the territory. I couldn't make up my mind. I didn't want to leave teaching but I didn't have any other option that jumped out at me.

    I had noticed an ad in the paper to teach in canada's northland. I thought maybe I should try this and if it's exciting I can continue and go back to school or just leave. A package of information came with an application form. I thought I might as well apply and see what happens. Since it was a government position the application was detailed.

    A few weeks later I got a letter asking me to come for an interview. I'd never been interviewed before. However, I thought what have a got to lose, I'll go to the interview. A few weeks after the interview I was offered a position. Now what do I do? Well, I thought it sounded exciting and what have I got to lose. The pay was very good! I accepted the position to teach gr. 8 in Inuvik NWT. This was a large school with 50 teachers. I was excited but nervous.

    More information was sent about what I needed for living in that location. They also sent instructions as to travel. I was to got to Edmonton Alberta on Aug 23, check in with the airline and fly north the next day. They assured me that my ticket would be there.I phoned the airline. They had never heard of me and claimed the government had made no plans for my transportation. However, they said come down tomorrow and we'll see what we can do.

   I went to the airport and checked in. They definitely told me there was no seat for me. I was told to come back tomorrow so back to the hotel I went.

   I went out the next day and they said they didn't have a seat. I was very discouraged by this time. Before I picked up my bag to go back to the hotel I asked what happens next. They said wait a minute. Well ten minutes later they said there's one seat, give us your baggage and go out to the plane. Wow!

    Now I had never flown before. After all this I was a little stressed out. I had seen pictures of people in passenger airplanes and they were dressed up. I had my best jacket on. But when I looked around not many people were dressed like I was. Most of them looked like construction workers. What was going on?

    The airplane was a very elderly DC4 which is an aircraft from the 1940's. they were used in WW II. The airline I flew on was Pacific Western and they maybe had 2 or 3  DC  4's so I could well have flown on this one.

Image result for dc 4 airplane
     Off we went. About half way we ran into some violent thunder storms. The plane was tossed around. So this wasn't quite the thrill I had bargained for. After about 20 minutes a leak started right over me. Well, I was sure I was a goner. This old bird was falling apart and my adventure would be over. They moved me to a seat where there wasn't a leak. We got out of the thunderstorm and soon landed.

    I really hadn't thought that there would be this much adventure to get to my northern teaching position. I was only halfway there so I lots more flying was ahead of me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


    I was bragging the last two posts about having clear skies so that I could see the supermoon.

    Well this evening I have this!

    A front went through this afternoon and evening and dropped 3-4 cm(1 1/2 -2 in) of heavy wet snow!

    I can also give a heads up to Far Side of Fifty that snow is coming her way and that she got her snow stick set up just in time.

Monday, November 14, 2016


      Last night I took some moon  shots because it was very clear here. I was worried if I waited until tonight we might have some cloud. Well, it's a very clear evening so I took a shot just to show you how lucky I am.  Now it's not a good photo as my camera and the operator are limited. 

      I hope all of you get some shots tonight or tomorrow.

     This makes up for the last three weeks when I wanted to see northern lights and we had nothing but cloud.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


     The sun is just rising when I get up these days. I noticed on a couple of days that there was a pretty colorful sky. I tried. I took photos out of the window. Excuse? I would have to go a long way before I'd find a better shot.

     Now we are at a special time for the moon. It's closer to the earth since about 70 years ago. the next time it's this close will be 2034. I took these tonight because it might be cloudy if I wait until tomorrow.

Friday, November 11, 2016


    I've always been a fan of Leonard Cohen. It was always hard to believe that Leonard was growing old as he kept on writing and making music. It was a shock to learn of his death this week.

    It was also a shock for me to realize that he was well known in many parts of the world. I had always thought Leonard was mainly known in Canada.

    Leonard wrote about religion, politics, isolation ,sexuality, personal relations and much more. His words kept on smoothly flowing until he had said what he wanted to say.

    Leonard was a master when it came to music. First of all, he had the voice that everyone recognized. The voice could change from time to time. There was the usual low haunting whisper that he is well known for. Then he jazzed it up for closing time and other tunes. I wish he'd sung harmony more as in Mary Anne. He used back up singers extremely well as in closing time. He played a number of instruments. He used different instruments to great effect. He touched jazz, rock and roll, folk and more.

      So thanks to Leonard for all his poetry, songs and music. I will listen to the music until my closing time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


      I've written about being fortunate in finding a new family doc.  Now don't worry. I still go to the guy and every time I visit him I'm more impressed. He's at a walk in clinic and sometimes there's a long wait. However, he told me I could make appointments. There are 4 to 7 physicians in the clinic.

     Sometimes the wait at the walk in clinic was two hours. I noticed that many of the patients were pregnant women. I also noticed that there were many women checking in with brand new babies. I didn't think anything about the people I saw in the waiting room.

    Then I noticed that the pregnant women and infants were all going to my doctor.

    Still nothing twigged.

     Then one day I noticed that some of the  letters behind my doc's name were an indication that he had some extra training in obstetrics!

     Wow! How did I become this guy's patient?

     My doc practises as a general physician first. I think he must be very good at obstetrics and so has many patients. He's also very good at looking after an elderly man. He's bright, knows his stuff and is a good communicator.

     However, I did wonder for a little while how I got to have a doc with training in obstetrics.

    Well, I guess this situation could only happen to me. Okay, he has  other men for patients!

Monday, November 7, 2016


     Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you get extremely lucky. I got extremely lucky a week ago Sunday but didn't realize it until Saturday. No I didn't win the lottery.

     I had gone out to a viewing deck looking out over a small shallow oxbow lake. It was late afternoon. I was facing south and the bright sun was causing a big problem with trying to see things. Mainly the problem was to focus my camera. I couldn't see much on my camera. I accidentally clicked the shutter as I was trying to see what was in the viewfinder. I deleted the shot. I fussed around some more. About 300 meters out I saw white birds and was sure they were gulls. I tried to get a good look at them with the zoom but gave up.

    So Saturday I had more pictures and downloaded them. What's this? A picture of the lake? How did that happen? So I guess I accidentally hit the shutter again. This time I got a good shot of the lake ...or at least I think it's a good shot. I didn't see this in my camera and didn't see it as I was looking for some birds on the lake.

    I was on the second floor of the viewing deck. It makes me feel as if I'm coming in for a landing on a float plane. I have very calm water for a landing.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


    Saying hello to people you don't know brings all kinds of questions, but does it have a purpose in our  society?

    Saying hello to strangers is regulated to some degree by cultural customs. Some cultures have hard and fast rules about when and how you greet a stranger. Here we have different customs depending on what part of North America we live in. It also depends on whether you live in a large urban area or smaller cities and rural areas. The location and situation you are in also dictates whether you greet strangers. 

    In larger cities people stare ahead and try to get where they're going as fast as possible. They behave as if you weren't on the street. In some areas safety is an issue. We don't know if someone will take offense to our greeting. Some people seem want to be protected in their own space.

    When I ride my bike on the trails I say hello to everybody I meet. Most people return my greeting. The odd one ignores my greeting. When I'm in the mall or a large store I don't greet anybody. Today I took nine birders on a 5 km (3 mi) trail. There were many other walkers. All of us greeted one another and quite a few conversations took place. It was pleasant to talk to strangers. Some were interested in what we were doing.

    Now I happen to think there is value in greeting one another. It affirms our existence. It must be difficult to go about your daily business and be ignored by people. We have to have some confidence to greet strangers. It's a pleasure to get a positive response.

    My father loved to talk to strangers. He had many stories to tell about the interesting people he met. Being a farmer in the country he talked to anybody who was around.

    I had a strange encounter that I'll not forget for a long time. A young fellow was sitting on a bench beside the trail staring out across the small valley. I stopped because I wondered what he was looking at. I greeted him but got no reaction whatsoever. I waited. I started to wonder about the wisdom of talking to this guy. Finally he replied. I responded and it was a long time before I got a reply. I was about ready to get out of there when he offered a comment that wasn't a response. He told me that he had lived in the area as a child and knew the area well as he'd played in these woods.
. Now my ears pricked up. If you were a kid in that area , I probably taught you. The conversation now quickened, I had taught this guy about 25 years ago and knew his folks well. Why was he so sluggish in his reply. He had obviously found some very good weed and had just finished a smoke.

    So there is some risk in approaching people.

    So what do you do? Do you greet strangers? Do you talk to strangers?


Thursday, November 3, 2016


      Cell phones have become a huge problem in schools!

      I finished teaching in 1997. The big problem was kids wearing baseball caps in school. One of our administrators insisted kids didn't wear their caps in class. So I did my duty and made sure kids didn't wear baseball caps in class. Most kids followed the rule. If kids were wearing a cap, a discreet hand signal got the cap off. There were few protests or defiant students. Once in awhile somebody's cap returned to a head and then the cap had to be placed in a special drawer in the filing cabinet. The honor system was used and the kid picked his cap up on the way out. Many caps were forgotten so over the year I accumulated a few caps. Now there was no way to make baseball caps into a learning situation. Caps were completely a style statement.

     Okay I got of the topic. Today every kid has a cell phone. Not only do kids have cell phones but the policing of their use is a major hassle. Kids think that  every message is of crucial importance. Some parents want to be able to contact their kids at any time. Kids want to use their smart phones to look things up on the Internet. The whole issue boils down to a big headache.

     Some schools completely ban cell phones. Others let kids carry phones but are not allowed to use them. Some schools allow a certain time for cell phones.

     Then some schools use cell phones for instructional purposes. So learning activities are set up where the cell phone has to be used. 

    School policies on cell phones vary widely. Policies are vigorously defended. 

    Looking into the future doesn't give answers. We know the technology is changing rapidly.

     So for an old guy whose biggest problem was kids wearing caps to kids carrying and using cell phones is a great leap. 

    At the present time most schools don't know what to do. Technology is changing faster than most schools. Schools are going to have to make some rapid changes  to either take advantage of the technology or find some way to control cell phone use.

     What are your thoughts on cell phones in schools?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


     Now one way to get ripped off is when there is a specific plan to deliberately take advantage of you. There's always the guy who wants to make your computer run better. Just send him our pass word. There's a notice that says you won a prize and you will received it when you pay a $40.00 fee. The other way is when something is so poorly designed that it's not what it seems to be. The people have made a horrible mistake in the design.

     We  recently ran into something that was poorly designed. There was an ad in our paper for a Home Show. They advertised a coupon to get $2.00 off the admission charge. It looked like the coupon was in the ad. A careful look at the ad told you to go to a website and print off a coupon. Well, we went to the website but there was no place to copy and print a coupon. 

    So phone the beggars and ask them what's up. Where do I get my coupon for $2.00 off the admission. The micro manager talked to the person in charge of the offer. First the manager thought the coupon was in the ad. With one look she realized the coupon was not in the ad. Then she went to the website and looked and had to admit that there was no way you could copy a coupon.

    The person was very apologetic and sent two coupons to us by email.

    It's still not the end of the mess. We are seniors. The coupon was only $2.00 off for regular admission. Seniors didn't get anything off.

   Admission was $5.00 for adults and $4.00 for seniors. We're not talking about big bucks here. So the micro manager's power of deduction told her that it was a better deal to go as an adult and get the $2.00 off than to go as a senior for $4.00 admission.

    What a comedy of errors!