Emil Zinovich, by Vivian Zinovich
and Helen Vik.
Emil came to Canada from Russia in 1928. After working in Alberta for a couple of years, he came to Saskatchewan where he considered Big River his base. From 1930 to 1934 he fished at Keeley Lake for Kai Hansen. In 1934, he worked for Harold Eldridge, moving on to Verner Johnson's for whom he fished in 1935 and 1936. In the spring of 1937, Emil bought a fish camp from Ole Skivik, which was located on the west shore of Dore Lake. In the summer of 1937, he worked for Verner Johnson and then in the fall, he went to his own camp and fixed it up. He was very happy here, as this was his first real home in Canada. He made pole bunks with straw mattresses for him and his men to sleep on. He hired two men, one of whom was Louis Smith, and in that fishing season, he made more money than he had made in the three consecutive years before.
In 1938, besides his two men, Emil hired a cook who was Mr Mirasty's daughter, Mrs Van Dyke. She had two little boys, who passed their time driving nails into stumps.
In November of 1939, Emil went fishing to Dore Lake with Louis Smith and his newly hired man, Jake Doerksen, who worked for him for fifteen years.
In November of 1940, Emil went to Dore Lake to his camp, taking Louis Smith and Louis Kogiash with him. After Christmas, he hired a cook, who was George Mirasty's daughter, Amelia.
Emil's friend Harry Husak who had recently married, was looking for a companion and helpmate for his wife, Mary. In the spring of 1941, Emil found out through Walter Glowaski, that Mike Shinkaruk of the Bodmin area had many daughters. It was in this way that he met Alexandra. When she agreed to this job, Emil arranged transportation for her to Dore Lake. On November 7 of this same year, Emil and Alexandra were married. Alexandra cooked for Emil's camp, which included Max Wilson and Jake Doerksen. She built fish boxes in her spare time.
In the fall of 1942, Emil and Alexandra returned to Dore Lake along with the hired man, Victor Bond, of Mont Nebo for another season of fishing.
On July 2, 1943, their first child, Helen, was born in Prince Albert. When the fishing season came along, Alexandra decided to stay home in Big River after Helen, only five months old, developed pneumonia and both were flown to Big River by George Greening in November. Emil went fishing with five hired men: Jake Doerksen, John and Dave Heppner, a man from Green Lake, and the cook, Joe Syers. Emil remembered this as his best fishing year. A good day would yield 2,000 pounds.
On October 30, 1944, their second child, Leonard, was born in Prince Albert. This curtailed Alexandra's chances of returning to help out at the fish camp. This time Emil took with him Jake Doerksen, John Heppner, and a Norwegian fellow, Julius Johnson. Fishing was only fair compared to the year before.
In the spring of 1945, Emil built a fishing boat and went fishing with Harry Husak as a partner. Harry's hired man was Andrew Boychuk. That summer Emil's family came to visit by plane with George Greening. That fall Emil's hired men were Jake Doerksen, Mr Van de Veen of Mount Nebo, and Pete Sawitsky.
In February of 1946, Emil, with the help of Jake Doerksen, built a second boat, which was thirty-eight feet long. At the beginning of June, J. K. Johnson took it by tractor and wagon to Sled Lake and then it was taken by water to Dore Lake. John and Dave Aubichon from Sled Lake were hired to help take the boat through the channel. The boat got stuck in rapids. The channel was the width of the boat. The water rose, while the boat was wedged, thereby freeing it. George Lyon, Sam Lyon's nephew, was hired to help with the summer fishing. Fishing that summer took place at Murry's Point. Living accommodations was a tent. George quit after one month, at which time Emil Ethier was hired. When he quit shortly after, Jim Milligan was hired and he stayed until the end of the season. In the fall of that year, Emil and Jake resumed fishing at the winter camp.
From May until September of 1947, Emil fished with Bernard Johnson and Russell St. Jean, Mrs Einer Anderson's nephew. In the fall Emil became discouraged because of low fish prices and many expenses. He pulled his boat out at Verner Johnson's and decided not to continue that season. He and Alexandra went to Vancouver for a short vacation by train. That winter Emil and Jake went fishing for the winter season.
From 1948 through 1955, Emil and Jake continued to fish the winter seasons together.
On May 20, 1950, their third and youngest child Kenneth, was born in the Big River Hospital.
Eventually, when Emil's sons were old enough they would help with the fishing during the Christmas school holidays, along with hired men. Some of the hired men during this period were: Walter Lofstrom and Walter Berg of Canwood, Peter, Wilfred, and Allan Mirasty of Sled Lake, Fred Billinger, Glen Bickert, Wilfred Anderson, George Arcand, Lawrence LaFontaine, Reggie Bovill, Ivor Fonos, and Ernie Smith all of Big River and surrounding area.
In the 1960s, Emil abandoned his lease on the west shore, built a cabin at Co-op Point with Leonard's help, and continued his fishing from there until his retirement. To retain his fishing right, and more so for sheer pleasure, Emil would return to fishing for a short time each winter.
In 1974 because of a slight heart attack, Emil was not able to go fishing. This was the first year he had missed since 1930.
In December 1975, Emil, his son Kenneth, Geir Thordon, and Peter Hrycan helped each other to pull their nets. After one week, Emil experienced the first symptoms of his stroke. Kenneth stopped at Geir's on their way to the Hospital in Big River. Emil's parting words to Geir were: "I don't care if I die right here on Dore Lake." Emil died on December 29, 1975, in Prince Albert, ending a forty-year fishing career on Dore Lake.
During these years spent at fishing on Dore Lake, Emil would come home for Christmas for one day. Each summer he did a lot of carpentry work in the Big River area except during the 1930s, when he did carpentry work in North Battleford, Prince Albert, Waskesiu, Ile-A-La Crosse, Dore Lake, and Glaslyn. Later he also farmed two-quarters of land just north of Big River.
Emil Zinovich fishing at Verner Johnson's place.
1941, Emil and Alexandra Zinovich heading out to Big River
at the end of the winter season. The nets were left out to dry
and collected just prior to break-up.
1942, Alexandra (left) Emil (middle)
and Victor Bond (right).
Emil Zinovich (left) and son, Leonard (right)
pulling a net in the winter of December, 1964.
In 1938, I was working as a carpenter at the Brewery in Prince Albert. There, I became acquainted with an Icelander, Geir Thorden, who was working on the stucco gang. He was also a fisherman by trade and fished for many years on Dore Lake. He convinced me to travel up to Dore Lake after freeze up and fish with him that fall. I landed in Big River. As Geir was not down yet, I worked for a while with Big River Fisheries. I had my tools with me, so I was okay till Geir came down from Dore Lake. When Geir arrived, we stayed at the hotel for a few days and bent our elbows a few times.
Finally, the day of departure to Dore Lake arrived. We left in the afternoon and our destination was a stopping place a few miles from town, operated by Joe Shepherd. I remember there was a freighter, Harry McRae, who travelled with us. When we arrived at Joe Shepherd's place, Harry went to feed the horses. When he was out, one of the boys put two or three pieces of hay on his oatmeal. Shepherd came along when Harry came and sat down and said, "Well Harry, you are taking a little hay with your oats."
We left after breakfast and everything was going along fine. I had my toolbox on the rear end of the fish rack when the rear bobsleigh and I went through the ice. I was in up to my neck in ice-cold water. One man came along to aid me, but he went through also. He lost his sleigh load and his horses. These belonged to Verner Johnson. Finally, one of the boys grabbed my parka and pulled me out. "Get my toolbox", I yelled. I had a bag of clothes on the team up front, so we went ashore, built a fire and I changed my clothes. For the remainder of the course, we followed the shoreline, where we came to a stopping place operated by the Olson's. We spent the night there.
Next morning, we started north with two teams. Geir was walking ahead. Suddenly he yelled, "Stop". We ran into the muskeg, which wasn't frozen. The trail we were on was very narrow. So rather than cut a bunch of trees down, we unloaded both sleighs, turned them around by hand, loaded up and went back to the stopping place. We had just left! Glorious North!
Next morning we started again. We went as far as Sled Lake and camped. Next morning was good sleighing. From Sled Lake we travelled to Dore, continually trekking through muskeg. The muskeg got worse as we travelled, so we had to throw off the hay and oats we carried for the horses. Finally, we had to throw off our bedrolls and the fish rack, to further lighten the load. Eventually, we arrived at Husak's, on Dore Lake. Harry was very hospitable. He had a really good bunkhouse and stable and also a very good cook shack. Harry was and still is, a very hospitable and obliging man. I got to know Harry good over the years. I know he went through extreme trouble to himself, to help others out.
The next morning, Geir and Joe took the teams and sleighs and everything else back to Big River. So much for my first trip North. I said to Geir before he left, that I would never make the same trip again. Geir said, "When you drink water from Dore Lake, you always came back". Which was true.
When Geir and Joe left the rest of us went to Geir's camp, which was called, Camp Four Island. We had everything in shape when he returned. One morning four or five of us and two teams headed for Big Island, which is another place where Geir had two fishing camps. We had to follow the shore because the ice was poor. It started to rain. The ice was like glass and ducks were flying all around. We landed safely and took half a day to cut wood. We stayed there till after Christmas.
In those days in the North, it was the custom not to work on Christmas Day. But we went to bed with the idea of working. We weren't sleeping long when Geir let out a, "Whoa!" We celebrated all night long. Christmas morning Jack got up and started cooking. Geir wouldn't get up, so I got the .303 rifle and loaded it. I told him to get up, or I would shoot. He said, "Go ahead"; I shot about a foot above his head. He said, "You nearly hit me". I told him the next one would be closer. He rolled out of bed and we continued to celebrate the day. "Good old times, what say?" Good old North, eh!"
We fished our quota, I believe and hit Big River New Year's Day. Stayed around a few days to get the kinks out of my bones, then went to Prince Albert and waited for spring and carpenter work again.
I worked work as a carpenter in Prince Albert for a while, then spent one year in the army with 44th Battery. I then went back to Dore Lake around 1944, to look for Geir. He was then working as a carpenter for Waite's Fisheries. Together, we built the filleting and cold storage plant, blacksmith shop and four cabins, which was located on Murry's Point.
Stan Campbell with a deer killed by timber wolves,
close to his camp.