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Killer cold! That’s sure the message all over TV and across Canada this week. Some ‘good-old-days’ experiences are often great…

Killer cold!

That’s sure the message all over TV and across Canada this week.

Some ‘good-old-days’ experiences are often great but we can do without a copy of winter ’47. We had enough cold weather yarns to fill an encyclopedia come spring.

Undoubtedly all those folks south of 60 getting a feel of old fashioned north of 60 weather will be spinning yarns forever and a day too.

“My car door handle snapped off in my hand,” Max reminisced. “And then there was frozen gas lines, square tires, Herman Nelson heaters….

“Oh say, one fellow’s wife thought Herman Nelson was new guy in camp — well we thought it was funny. I guess you had to be there.”

“We developed a lot of cold weather tricks to keep our cars going, but they weren’t all foolproof. Technology has sure improved most machines.

“There was one good thing about bush camp life though, we had no worries about the cold really. Our shacks weren’t ‘modern,’ and we followed the Boy Scout motto.

“A big wood pile, two years dried, water in a barrel behind the kitchen door; our cupboards were never bare, there was snow aplenty if we ran dry, and green trees by the million all around us. OK, the outhouse was a bother.

“We were independent of everybody. Course we had no choice being up to 100 miles from the nearest town, and 75 miles of that bush road, where the only help if you got stuck was you, and a hand cranked field phone.

“It had to be flung over the two telephone/teletype wires strung on a pole line in the bush — after you found them. That was a challenge because those fellows building the telephone line preferred straight lines, the road builders preferred curves every quarter mile, so seldom the two did meet.”

Max was a fellow radio operator at Snag, one of those Northwest Staging Route stations which established the first radio air navigation airway into the North.

The department of Transport built them in the Second World War. They opened the line, stretching from Edmonton to Fairbanks in 1941, a year before the Alcan was built.

In the winter of ‘47 we hunkered inside talking weather. Most of us on the Staging Route saw from 50 to 70-some below but Snag became the king of the cold weather castle that year, for the whole continent, and is still the title holder even though the radio/met station is long gone. [They did it on 3 February 1947 at 7:20 a.m. minus 82.3 degrees F. (minus 63C)].

Pretty well every one of us was won over by cold curiosity — throwing a glass of water high into that frigid air, that was pretty neat on a midnight shift.

The droplets grabbed the light from the radio room and looked like tiny flashing diamonds, startling most us when they became marbles bouncing along the wooden sidewalk.

Brass monkeys were out of their league in this cold.

One of the radio operators at Snag put this tale on the radio circuits claiming it actually happened in their record-breaking cold.

“We were staying close to barracks enjoying ourselves, playing cards, pool, writing letters and generally talking, when one of the boys thought it might be a good time to hunt moose, as they wouldn’t be moving very fast in the cold and might be easily spotted by their vapour trails.

“He put on skis, took his rifle and started out. Sure enough he spotted s this moose’s vapour trail which was frozen in the air. He climbed up on the vapour trail and started skiing toward the moose with his rifle ready for the kill. He was so engrossed in his hunt, he didn’t know the moose had spotted him coming.

“This moose was pretty smart, and just as our hunter thought he was going to bring back the bacon, the moose stopped breathing, leaving quite a break in the vapour trail, and the would-be hunter fell through the hole and broke his arm. ”

Tall tales and reality seldom meet, but they sure came close that time.

A tip of the hat to Transport Canada’s and Yukon Flight Service’s station radio and weather men and women still providing aviation services to the aviators of today.

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