Canada Vacation and Steamship Keewatin, 1946

Christine (Szerejko) Shenette Aboard the Steamship Keewatin
( Digital Images.  Photographs Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2016 Cynthia Shenette) Well, it's vacation time again!  At least it was back in August when I started this post.  Alas, it's only taken me four months to write it, but better late than never I guess.

Once again I am dipping into my mom's vacation photo album from the 1940s.  Three years ago I found my mom's vacation album, and I've posted her vacation photos annually since. Her photos from her Canada trip will make this the fourth year running.  I have to admit, I look forward to writing my annual vacation post--it's my favorite post of the year!  I guess it's kind of like going on vacation.  You wait for it for so long, and then it's over in the blink of an eye.

After going to the Tumbleweed Guest Ranch in the Catskills for three years in a row--1943, 1944, 1945--my mom, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, and her sister, Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, decided to branch out and and take a cruise through the Great Lakes to Canada on the Canadian Pacific steamship Keewatin with a couple of friends.

The back of a lunch menu from the steamship Keewatin
Their trip took them from Niagara Falls in Ontario, through Lake Huron, the Sault (shortened and anglicized so as to be pronounced Soo) Sainte Marie locks between the twin cities of Sault Sainte Marie in Ontario and Saulte Sainte Marie in Michigan, through Lake Superior to the Kakabeka Falls near Port Arthur / Fort William, now Thunder Bay.

"The 'Kee' "
According to a lunch menu from the Keewatin, the Kee was Clyde Built, 3880 gross tons, 350 in length, 43 feet 8 inches in breadth, with a depth of 26 fee 9 inches and traveled at a speed of 15 knots. The crew at the time was Joseph Bishop, Commander (1941-1946); W.F. Irvine, Chief Engineer; William H. Kirwood, First Officer; William A. Paxton, Purser; George H. Fisk, Chief Steward; and Alvin Gallagher, Superintendent.

According to Wikipedia, the Keewatin was launched 6 July 1906, ran almost continuously for 60 seasons and was retired in 1966.  For the last 20 years of her existence the Kee ran under strict regulations for wooden cabin steamships.  In 1949 (three years after my mother's trip on the Keewatin) another ship on the line, the Noronic, burned, resulting in the loss of 118 lives.  You can read the Wikipedia article on the Noronic disaster here.  My mother saved a souvenir booklet from her trip that shows the other ships on the line--the S.S. Huronic, the S.S. Assiniboia (the Keewatin's sister ship), the S.S. Manitoba, and the S.S. Noronic.

Luncheon Menu from the Keewatin, 1946
I love the lunch menu!  Sardines on toast, green onions, puree of green peas, fried lake fish tartare, luncheon tongue, with raisin pie and cream cheese for dessert!  Yum!  What to have, what to have?  I suspect mom more likely leaned toward the lettuce, cucumber or tomato salads with French dressing, the hot dishes of braised lamb with vegetables or grilled loin steak and potatoes, and probably the cake or ice cream for dessert.

"Dining Saloon ss. Keewatin"
The dining saloon looks lovely!  While the Keewatin was retired from service in 1966 it has been preserved as a museum ship in Port McNicoll, Ontario Canada.  You can see photos of the way is currently looks here, including photos of the restored dining saloon.

"Formal Gardens
 Niagra (sic) Falls
From what I can tell my mom's vacation started out in Niagara Falls.  I remember she told me that she and her friends stayed at an old hotel there that had questionable fire safety measures.  Apparently, the fire escape was a long rope bolted to the floor in their hotel room.  My mom said she and her friends dropped the rope out the window to see how far it would go, and the rope didn't even get close to the ground!  I think of how things were back then, especially in relation to the Noronic disaster, and while things aren't perfect we are lucky to have the safety measures we do.

The photo looks to have been taken at Oaks Garden Theatre.  There is a lovely contemporary shot here.

"Our favorite crew
'nautical but nice' "  
I did a little newspaper research on the Keewatin and found a number of articles written around the time my mom took her trip.  According to a Boston Globe article the cruise took "two water-born nights and most of two days between Port McNicoll and the Lakehead, at rail fare plus $20 for an outside cabin and meals."  Deluxe accommodations were available and automobiles could be transported as well.

The ship set sail every Wednesday and Saturday from early June through mid September.  I know my mom took her vacation 1946, but I didn't exactly know when, but now I know it was probably sometime between June and mid September.  Given the clothes that she and her traveling companions were wearing it was kind of hard to tell.  I figured it could have been any time from spring through early fall. Return trips left Fort William on Saturdays and Tuesdays and arrived back in Port McNicoll early on Mondays and Thursdays.

"K. {Kakabeka] Falls
Helene + Kris."
Kakabeka Falls is located in the village of Kakabeka Falls in Ontario 19 miles west of Thunder Bay. You can read more about the falls here.

"Shuffle board (or a
reasonable facsimile thereof)"
Shipboard  life was similar to that of an ocean voyage.  Passengers could relax or participate in a variety of on-board activities.  There were deck activities, such as shuffleboard, bull board, deck quoits, and sunbathing, as well as table tennis inside.  The Kee also boasted a spacious dancing saloon.  Passengers enjoyed meals in the dining saloon, as well as morning bouillon, afternoon tea, impromptu parties and midnight snacks.  A barber, a hairdresser, and valet service were available.

"Up -- for a
sniff of fresh air."
My mom took a lot of photos of their trip.  Clearly, the war and the film shortage of the previous year's vacation was over.  In 1945 they only had enough film to take one photograph to remember their vacation.  My mom's travelling companion, Phyl also has a camera on this trip.

"Kris, Laura, Helene, Phyl.
at the 'sharp end'
of the boat"
I don't know who Laura and Phyl [Phyllis] are.  I know Phyl is in some of my mom's other photos from the 1940s, so clearly they were good friends.  I looked through my mother's yearbook for the Class of 1940 from the High School of Commerce in Worcester, MA to see if I could find photos of either Laura or Phyl, but no luck.  If you recognize Laura or Phyl I'd love to hear from you!

'Miss North Pole of 1946' "
According to the Globe articles I read, one night of the voyage was spent crossing Lake Huron to St. Mary's River, for a 55 mile trip up the river. When the ship reached Sault Ste. Marie it went through the locks which lifted the ship up 18 feet from Lake Huron to Lake Superior.The ship's voyage took them across Lake Superior, and the world's largest inland waterways. The ship traveled close to some of the 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay.  The route traveled near the Bruce Peninsula and the Christian Islands.  From one end to the other the the ship traveled 544 miles.

"Ve yust come over"
If my post and the presentation of the photographs seems a bit disjointed it's because I am presenting the photos in the order in which they appeared in my mother's album.  I'm trying to preserve the original order of the images to present her story in context.  I am also using her captions which show her sense of humor and the language they used, like calling the Keewatin, the Kee.

The photo above kind of cracks me up, but also makes me a bit sad.  Given that it was 1946 I bet they saw way too many people coming to the States from the old country.  My aunt Helen Bulak worked with an organization to help Polish refugees once they got to Worcester, so I bet my mom and her sister saw way too many people, especially women wearing babushkas, saying, "Ve yust come over."

"Jerry + Helen
(Gerald Allen Fullerton)"
According to articles from the Boston Globe special boat trains provided connections from Toronto to Fort McNicoll to serve  the ship on sailing and arrival days.  Passengers stepped from the train aboard the ship.  In the photo above, my mom's sister Helene is standing next to a train.  Before I read the newspaper article I wondered how they got from the train to the ship.  I could tell the young man pictured above, Gerald Allen Fullerton, was from the Kee because of his uniform, but I couldn't figure out how he would also be at the train.  Now I know!

"Bill + Kris
(William Murry Doyle)"
I love that my mom took the time to write the names of some of the crew in her album.  Besides Gerald Allen Fullerton in the photo above with Helene, my mom is standing with a young man named William Murray Doyle.  If you are related to either Jerry or Bill I would love to hear from you!  I'd love to hear about their experiences on the Keewatin.

"Smoke stack Lou Lou
(I don't want to set the world on fire, I just want to set a flame in your heart)"
Well, another vacation has come to a close.  This is the last vacation covered in my mom's album.  I do have more of her vacation pictures from the 1940s and 1950s in slides, so one of my projects next year, maybe over the winter, is to organize the slides to see if I can put together a story about where she traveled and what she did in 1947.

It's been a long journey across the lakes, and time to say goodbye for now.  The boat train is waiting at the station, and I'm ready to go home,

Bon Voyage, until next year!

Other Posts You Might Like:

Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1945
Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1944
Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, August 1943
An Interview with My Grandmother