Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Workday Wednesday: Maurice Belair, Bushworker

1945 List of Electors
Rural Preliminary List of Electors, 1945 (Ancestry)

I knew that my late father, Maurice Belair, worked in bush camps as a young man, but I didn’t know the details. I recently called my Aunt Joan (Dad’s younger sister) to see if she could fill in the blanks for me. We had a nice, long chat that lasted about an hour. Aunt Joan remembered how, during the summer school holidays, Dad used to follow his father Fred into the camps to work. When Dad left school (I think it was grade 7 or 8) about 1940-1941, he started to work full-time in the bush. Before he left home, his mother Julie prepared him a ‘goodie’ bag (sort of like what a hobo carries on a stick) to take with him. Dad was only 13 years old.

In the spring of 1945, Dad appeared on a voters’ list as “M. Belair”. He was a bushworker in Camp 49 in the township of Cumming near Kapuskasing, in northern Ontario, Canada. [1] He’s no. 3 on the list of mostly French-Canadian men. (Dad was only 17½ years old at the time, so I’m not sure if he should have been on that voting list.) I had a vague idea of what ‘bushworker’ meant, but Aunt Joan told me that Dad did a young man’s work: he drove horses and cut wood.


Maurice Belair in 1945
Maurice Belair (1945)

Dad must have been a thrifty fellow when he worked in the bush camps. In the above photo, taken in the winter of 1945, he’s dressed in good winter clothes that he bought with his wages.


For the next few years, Dad worked in logging camps, in mills and in mines in places like Matheson, Kirkland Lake and Haileybury in northeastern Ontario. He eventually became a welder after he moved to Blue Water, near Sarnia in southwestern Ontario in the early 1950s. (I’ve written about that occupation in Workday Wednesday: Maurice Belair, Welder.)

Source:

1. “Voters Lists, 1935-1980”, digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 3 March 2016), entry for M. Belair (written as M. Belair, indexed as M Bushworkcr Belair), bushworker, 1945 Rural Preliminary List of Electors, Electoral District of Cochrane, Rural Polling Division No. 210, Camp 35 [and] 49, Township of Cumming, stamped p. 1228; citing Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935–1980, R1003-6-3-E (RG113-B), Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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