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My Old 1928 Johnson Outboard Motor
Saturday, November 01, 2014 by Ed Zaruk


 In 1928 my grandfather was working for the Canadian Pacific Railway.  The stock market crash of 1929 was still over a year off and he felt comfortable shelling out $165.00 for a brand new Johnson outboard engine.  The Caucutt family were lake people, great-grandfather Charlie having owned a 31 foot, mahogany, long-deck launch the family used to regularly visit his camp (as cottages are called on Lake of the Woods.)  

This outboard motor, a Johnson OK-40 model, would eventually find itself on the transom of a Peterborough cedar strip boat.  By the time I came on the scene and was old enough to crank it, the motor had sat in the shed for almost ten years.  

   My grandmother used to buy old used wooden punts that were seaworthy but on their last years.  They usually lasted 2 to 3 years before she found a bargain and bought one in a little better shape.  At first I was allowed to run my aunt's 1½ hp canoe motor on these boats.  I swear my brother and I could row faster.  In due course the Johnson was attached to the back. With 7.15 hp this moved the boat along fast enough to leave a respectable wake.

  Starting this thing was an exercise in un-technical know how.  Open the gas tank.  Turn the needle valve 3/4 turn open.  Hold down the float until gas spilled into the boat.  Set the choke full on, then advance the spark.  This was tricky- Too little spark and you pulled until your arms were sore.  Too much and the thing would start backwards, the starter rope sucking your hand into the flywheel resulting in bloody and sore knuckles.  Get it right, two to three pulls and away it went.

 A few doors down lived the Johnston sisters.  Being our age we all hung around together for the summer and trips to Coney Island were a regular feature.  I used to cut across the sand bar between Safety and Coney islands.  (This is the same sandbar that Fraser Jansen landed on when he collided with Keith Parsons while they were both landing Norseman airplanes at Kenora.  For a complete account of that event, see the book Ontario Central Airlines - The Kenora Years.) I never did advance to running anything bigger than this outboard.

  I was living in Quesnel when my grandmother died and inherited this motor along with her fiber glass boat.  The accompanying picture shows my oldest son running this same old Johnson outboard. After that it sat in my shed for over twenty years before I dug it out and refurbished it this spring.  

 There can be modern fishing boats, runabouts and fancy party barges sitting unattended at the dock, but my 1928 Johnson will always draw a crowd.

Ed's award winning book ALTAR AND THRONE is available here at Haakon Publishing.


E-mail me at



Slide on Ice and Snow
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by Ed Zaruk

United States Air Force testing program -

Slide on Ice and Snow (S.O.I.A.S.)


Video- March 10, 1951 - View USAF video footage at Critical Past


The USAF was there both in 1951 and 1952.  (Possibly the second time to check out snow conditions closer to breakup.)

Northrop YC-125B Raider:   This was a three engine cargo aircraft with STOL capabilities.  Designed to carry five tons of cargo, or 36 passengers.  Powered by three 1200 hp Wright R-1820-99 Cyclone radial engines, it had reversible propellers.  The USAF ordered 23 of them, 10 designated as the 'B' model, were for search an rescue work.  On March 10, 1951, the Untied States Air force arrived in Kenora, Ontario with what was the largest ski equipped aircraft to land at Lakeside to date.  Accompanied by two Navions to carry out testing of various types and configurations of skis.


North American Aviation Navion:

North American's P-51 Mustang design greatly influenced this four place tricycle landing gear aircraft. Over 1,100 of them were built with a 185hp Continental engine between 1946 and 1947.  The design was sold to Ryan, (the fellow who put Lindberg's Spirit of Saint Louis together) and this company went on to build more than a thousand, many with Continental 205 and 260 hp engines, from 1948 to the early 50s.


Kenora was chosen not only because of the different types of snow conditions in the frozen lakes and rivers north of town, but also because considerable information could be gained by observing the extensive operations by Canadian bush pilots in this area. Ontario Central Airlines provided services and facilities to the test group at its winter base at Lakeside.  

The test group took particular interest in the bush operations of both Parsons Airways and Ontario Central Airlines.  Although the venerable old Fox Moth caught their eye, it was the Forestry's de Havillan Beaver that drew their attention as the Army and USAF were using them under the L-20 designation.

 OCA's Norseman came in for some serious investigation as this airplane had been used by the US Army Air Forces during World War Two and was known as the UC-64.  It was employed extensively for winter search and rescue missions in the Yukon.  Although the test group brought with them various ski designs, they showed particular interest in OCA's Elliott Brothers skis.  (see my article at


Vultee L-13:

A US Military utility aircraft first flown in 1945.  It was a conventional high-wing tail wheel monoplane powered by 250 hp (187 kW) O-452-9 Franklin engine used for observation, liaison, and air ambulance duties. The L-13B was a conversion for cold weather operation, capable of operating from wheel, skis, or floats.


 The following year (1952) the USAF returned to Kenora, only this time according to Keith Parson, with a DC-3, the Navions and a Consolidated Vultee L-13.  By this time Barney was becoming a part owner of Ontario Central Airlines as well as still operating Ball Lake Transportation.  It appears that this year Barney was the center piece of the operation and opened the lodge at Ball Lake for this test group.  The DC-3, Navions, and Vultee conducted ski tests on Ball and Maynard Lakes.  The pilot of the Vultee, Colonel Bill Elliott had a girlfriend in Red Lake.   This airplane was either stationed in Red Lake or used as a supply plane for the Ball Lake group.  Don't seem to have much on the DC-3 being at Lakeside in 1952.


Rescue of Fraser Jansen

 Fraser started out flying fish in a Fox Moth for George Green in January of 1952.  Later George bought a 1934 Cessna AirMaster powered by a 145-hp (108-kW) Warner Super Scarab (SS-50) 7 cylinder radial piston engine.  Toward the end of the season this engine which wasn't reliable at the best of times,  began giving trouble and Fraser told George it was going to pack up.  George told him to keep flying it, which he did until April 13th when it died and Fraser made an emergency landing in a swamp.

One of the USAF people with the SOIAS test group stationed at Red Lake was Colonel Bill Elliott.  When it was confirmed that Fraser was missing, he, and his girl friend climbed into the Air Force's Vultee L-13 and went looking for him.  They spotted him but were unable to land.  Later Barney Lamm and Phil Mostow flew out in Ball Lake Transportation's Piper PA-12 to get him.  As they couldn't land in the swamp, they dropped a note telling Fraser to hike out to the nearest lake, which he did.  When he got there, Barney, true to his style, said, "What the hell?  You've been walking so slow we were afraid the ice might melt before you got here."  After that Fraser went to work for Barney at Ontario Central Airlines.

(See Fraser's story in the book, Ontario Central Airlines - The Kenora Years available from Haakon Publishing)  




 The scenes in this first video are at the OCA Kenora winter base in QK, (Lakeside).  The Norseman in this first video is CF-BTH. It was based in QK when I first arrived in July, 1950.  It died in Red Lake in 1951* while I was back in Regina finishing my Commercial licence. I think. I got back to QK in Dec 1951 on my way back from the "Horse Haul" to Thunder Bay. But you know about its ending more accurately than I do from your previous investigating.

The thumping around on the ski was done by Gord Hollinsworth, and it looks like Steve (last name evaporated), a pilot for OCA, married Fern Jackson who dispatched from our summer base in 1950, and left to go east to fly in PQ.  The local Lake scenery brings back fond views.

Fraser Jansen

*Ontario Central Airlines - The Kenora Years p. 40


I remember the YC125, a big three engine airplane.  They would park it each night beside the boathouse just down from the fish hatchery.  Over night, the weight of the airplane would depress the ice and in the morning a definite one foot sag could be seen under it.  Many of the old-timers wondered why it never broke through the ice.

The second year they were there they had a DC-3, a couple Navions and a Vultee L-13.  I also remember them bringing in a Grumman Albatross with a single ski on the belly and one on each float.

Keith Parsons (Parsons Airways, Kenora)

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Tags: USAF, Kenora, Ontario Central Airlines

Original Way of Making Pemmican
Thursday, December 12, 2013 by Ed Zaruk

Original Way of Making Pemmican


Before steel rails cut lines across the American and Canadian prairies, buffalo roamed the plains in herds large enough to stretch beyond the horizon.  These furnished an endless supply of meat for the plains Indians.  Preserving the meat for later use was accomplished by making pemmican.

This description of the method used to make pemmican came to me from the writings of Egerton Ryerson Young, a missionary who served at Norway House in northern Manitoba before the Hudson&rsquos Bay Company sold out to Canada. (1870)  "When the Indians or half-breed hunters succeeded in killing large numbers of buffaloes, after being skinned the meat was skilfully cut into great thin flakes and strips.  These were placed on a frame staging.  Utilizing the warmth of the sun above, and a small, steady fire of buffalo chips below, these thin sheets of meat were soon as dry as they could be.  The next step in the process was to pound this dry meat as fine and small as possible.  Large bags, capable of holding from one to three bushels, were made by the squaws out of the fresh buffalo hides, with the fur side out.  Into these green hide-bags this pounded dry meat was packed.  To aid in the packing down an Indian, in his dirty moccasined feet, would frequently jump into the bag and stamp and dance around in it as it was held up by two other strong, sturdy fellows, while a fourth kept shovelling in additional meat until no more could be packed in.  Then the melted buffalo tallow was poured in until it permeated the whole mass.  The top of the bag was then skilfully sewed together with sinew, and was ready for use.  If well prepared, it would keep for years.  This pemmican was the most nourishing food I ever ate, but a little would go a long way for it often smelled like rotten soap grease."

Mr. Young was also familiar with the settlements of six to eleven thousand Metis strung along the banks of the Red River from Pembina to the Hudson's Bay post of Fort Gary.  Prior to his arrival at Winnipeg in 1868 and before the railroad crossed Canada, huge herds of buffalo roamed the Canadian prairies.  Hunted and slaughtered incessantly by the white man, they were driven north and west into the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.  To quote Mr. Young, "It does seem a pity that the strong arms of the United States or Canadian governments were not stretched out for protection from extermination of these really valuable animals."

During the time that great herds of them still roamed over the western prairies, Mr Young writes of the Metis hunt: "The hunting was done on horseback, and the well-trained horses thoroughly entered into the excitement of the sport...  How admirably the men are dressed for such exciting work! Everything about them, and also the accouterments of their horses, are exactly suited for the hour.  Their little saddles made of deerskin, strong and enduring, yet soft as flannel.  Under it is the far-famed saddle-cloth, extending beyond the saddle on every side and beautifully ornamented with bead or silk-thread work by the fond wife or bright-eyed sweetheart."

The Metis hunt was well organized with an appointed leader or president.  Under him trusted men acted as captains and the rest of the men were considered constables.  The entire hunting party was governed by rigid laws.  No gun was allowed to be fired until the leader had given the word.  Mr. Young's description of the what follows is something out of the movie Dances with Wolves.  "Then they dash forward with a deafening yell.  The great herds of buffaloes, bewildered and excited, rapidly rush away, but are speedily overtaken by the swift runners.  Pell-mell into the heard of wild animals dash the horsemen, and at once there is the greatest rivalry among these hunters...  All are firing and trying to hit buffalo and not one another....  Bullets are flying everywhere for some of the fiery horses have carried their riders so far into the herd that they turn on their saddles and shoot at the maddening, excited crowd of animals behind them.  Then frequently some old bulls, maddened by wounds and the presence of the hunters, and excited by the smell of blood, suddenly turn and, with lowered heads and fearful roars, charge the too adventurous hunters.  Well it is for them their well-trained chargers are quick of eye and nibble on their feet."

After the hunt the women would remove the hides and the business of making pemmican began.  Not only were thousands of pounds of pemmican put up, but also great quantities of buffalo tallow were melted down into large cakes and carefully preserved.  When this was all completed everything was loaded into Red River carts for the trip back home.  Slowly but surely the great buffalo hunts came to an end as civilization in the form of the iron horse closed of the vast prairies and settlers plowed up the land.  One irony is that Winnipeg continued to be a centre of Metis culture yet at the same time established itself as the centre of Canada's wheat industry, the very thing that destroyed much it.

Above quotes were first published in London, England in 1893    


E-mail me at  Ed Zaruk    


Tags: pemmican, plains Indians, Norway House

Tribute to Don Watson
Saturday, April 06, 2013 by Ed zaruk

The Passing of an Aviation Legend

 Don Watson

 Don stepped onto the aviation scene in 1938 when he was a teenagerworking for Konnie Johannesson before going across the airport to work for Canadian Airways in Winnipeg.  He served during the war with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.  Later, along with Keith Malcolm, was instrumental in establishing Saskatchewan Government Air Ambulance Service.  Hired by Rex Kiteley in 1949, he became General Manager of Ontario Central Airlines after Barney Lamm bought the operation in 1952.  Russ Baker offered him a job in British Columbia and in 1958 he started a career at Pacific Western Airlines that would see him rise to become President and CEO.  Later Don offered his services in a consultant capacity to various industries, but his heart was never far from the airline business.  Later years saw him at the weekly Sunday morning breakfast at Boundary Bay Airport reminiscing old times with retired airline pilots.

Don looked back on a satisfying life and passed away quietly with his wife Gisela and family members at his side.   We are all indebted to him not only for letting many of us into his memories, but also for freely sharing them with all who stopped by to listen.  
His legacy lives on in Canada&rsquos Aviation Hall of Fame of which he was a founding member.  Although Don will be missed, the ground work he and other aviation pioneers laid is now travelled by a new generation.  That&rsquos the way he would have wanted it.
Donald Netterville Watson September 21, 1923 - January 30, 2013


Here is the link to the Pacific Western Airlines Alumni obituary



Canadian Bush Pilots - Doug Cameron Part 2
Friday, February 08, 2013 by

 Doug Cameron  Part 2


In 1937, Wings Ltd. took on a contract to fly 35 to 40 men and 30+ tons of diamond drill equipment, fuel, camp gear and grub from Churchill to Rankin Inlet.  Just under 300 miles one way.  This was to be done during late February, March and April.  We were told this was the first contract of its kind in the Barrens in the winter.  We started the flights near the end, of February and were finished near the beginning of May.  This was several years before the Army and Air Force moved into Churc­hill and built the big airfield they now have and there was no road to Farnsworth Lake that they now use for the float and ski operations.  There was no Range Station or radio and our only communication was our company radio on aircraft and base at Churchill and which, due to a very bad magnetic storm affecting radio conditions around the world, we had no radio contact for the first month and more we were there.

        We soon found out you just could not fly without instruments in the real bad snowstorms. Impossible to navigate in a sea of white, not able to tell lake from land.  We had two Fairchilds, an 82 and a 71.  My partner on the 71 was Al Hollingsworth, a fine pilot and air engineer. Sadly, he passed away, several years after many years with the Algoma Steel Company's flying division.

        As the days got longer, we could finally fly from 3 a.m. to 10 p.m. which helped to make up for the bad days.  As we took off from Churchill on our return south, the left ski pedestal sheared off just below the axel allowing the slip stream to push the ski, still attached to the aircraft by the check cables, fore and aft, as far as it could go away from the machine and then rush back, slamming up against the under gear which was intact.  It did this three times, the last ended wedged on the gear at about 45°fore and aft.  Our other machine flying alongside gave us this information.  Our cruising speed was down to 85 mph, due to the skis resistance, so we decided to land at Ilford rather than Clearwater Lake near The Pas, and our original destination, and only safe ice that far south, our reduced speed put it out of our range.  Canadian Airways had pulled out of Ilford seven days before on account of deteriorating ice, so we weren't too comfortable not knowing the ice conditions and having awful load and better, 2000 lbs. of gear and men aboard.

         However, by holding the aircraft off of the left side on landing, it ran a distance on the right ski, finally settled level and bounced back on one ski and ran a ways, finally settled down and dug into the bare ice, did half a ground loop and slid backwards.  We were all out of the aircraft before it stopped, all shaking hands, and just "shaking".  No damage at all.  With the big crowd there to watch our landing we had help to lift the left side/up and put on a wheel, and the same to the right side, removing the ski and installing the wheel. The wheels we had as part of the load.  We took off very early next a.m. and landed at Stevenson Field at Winnipeg before noon. I had thought I knew quite a bit about the flying game but I was certainly a much more experienced pilot after the end of this contract.      

One of my real close shaves happened in a Wacco  place biplane.  I was dropping a grub order off at Long Legged Lake at the Commercial fish camp on my way to Red Lake with a load of beer and whiskey mostly.  This was before the Red Lake road was built.  It was too rough to land where we usually did on account of a strong west wind and high waves.  Also visibility was about 1/2 mile in heavy smoke from bad fires.  I attempted to land behind a point towards the fish camp with just enough room to make a moderately short landing.  As I came over a fairly high shoreline at about 200 feet above the water,, a gust of wind hit me from about 45° from the back of the aircraft turning the machine within a few degrees of completely upside-down.  I had the control full left to try and right the machine and could not react fast enough to bring it level, when it did come back past level at which time the left float hit the water. I made a terrible bounce and then landed O.K.  As we came off the step the machine weather-cocked violently into an 80-mile wind. I don't know why it didn't upset. 

          What had happened was we were hit by the front of a severe storm coming from the NE while landing west and unseen on account of the smoke.  Lorne Horan, our agent at Kenora was in the front right hand seat and wound up with a case of beer in his lap.  How it got there without touching us in a mystery as there was no more room between the front seats than in a Cessna 170.  Am sure the Lord was with us or we would not be here today.  We were both really shook up. 


It has been my great fortune to have flown with some of the finest bush pilots in the country.  Trying to follow men like Rex Kitely, Rex Clibbery, Barney Lamm, Bud Parsons, Ed Walter and Milt Ashton certainly left me hanging on the ropes. There are many other fine pilots and air engineers who made our flying possible by keeping the aircraft in Al shape.  It was always such a pleasure to be with them.  Many feats were performed that maybe better left unexplained, DOT, now MOT, wise.


                                        Doug Cameron

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