By Reg Taylor
Lefty McLeod - 3rd from left and the Studer family
at Contact lake in 1952. The children are Peter and Forrest.
The two men on the left are unidentified.
Lefty McLeod on the pontoons of the first
Beaver aircraft - 1948.
Lefty McLeod on the pontoons of an aircraft.
Person on the right is unidentified.
"So long - see you in two weeks." Is the stock phrase of "Lefty McLeod", a Saskatchewan Government Airways pilot on the Lake Athabasca settlements run.The airways operate a fortnightly service to these far northern settlements via La Ronge and Wollaston Lake and Lefty is an ambassador of goodwill on every trip he makes.
His popularity among the northern settlers is unbounded and native and white alike greet him with yells of "Hi! Lefty" and a grin as his plane glides to a stop at every settlement. He knows every white, Indian, and half-breed by name as they cluster around his plane, and his promise, "so long - see you in two weeks," seems to be something they all live and look forward to.
The plane service symbolized by Lefty's comings and goings, mean much to these northern settlers. Previously they were fortunate if they got mail twice a year, now they get it every two weeks except for the break-up of ice in the spring and freeze-up period in the fall. They can get in supplies and the plane carries a queer assortment of freight as well as passengers, at almost every trip.
However, it is Lefty's cheerfulness and his willingness to do errands in Prince Albert, or any little chore between settlements that make life a little easier for the settlers, which enhances his popularity. It's a rugged life these northern settlers lead and the plane trip into that territory is in tune with it.
Any passengers are only sure of a proper seat if the freight does not overwhelm the seating accommodation. It is said that after the freeze-up and breakup delays they stow all the mail and freight, then lay the passengers on top near the roof. Residents and visitors to the north country accept these conditions cheerfully, they are glad of the service and know it could not be operated any other way.
Lefty Mcleod knows the north country like the palm of his hand, he has been flying over it since 1934 except for a period with the R.C.A.F. during the recent war. He can name all the lakes and rivers as they pass under his plane and knows where the trappers and prospectors are in the territory - he has to drop down to service them once in a while.
He has to be prepared to have the scheduled trip interrupted and the plane chartered at Goldfields for any one of a variety of purposes. These charter trips sometimes take him hundreds of miles further north of the Lake Athabasca settlements and he may have to set down a prospecting party on some almost unknown lake or river in the arctic regions.
Lefty has a partner on all northern flights and to him must go some of the kudos for the service. However, taciturn Al Melena, the engineer, would never seek them. He consistently and silently does a good job and those who know planes say he is tops as an engineer. He is also a good electrician and has a commercial flying license, so could take over the "stick" in an emergency.
There's quite a trick to getting an aircraft engine started in -30 below weather after it has been in the open all night at Stony Rapids, or Goldfields and especially, if a 30 - mile an hour wind is blowing snow right down into the manifold. Al does not talk much, but he gets those twin engines started and keeps them purring in all kinds of weather. Lefty and Al up front in the cockpit of an aircraft are a combination that is be hard to beat.
SGA CF-SAN loading up on the ice.
Lefty Mcleod Quits Govt. Post.
Special to the Star Phoenix.
Prince Albert, Oct 4, 1951.
After being with Saskatchewan Government Airways since its inception four years ago. H. B. (Lefty) McLeod has left the crown corporation to fly for Eldorado Mines, 450 miles north of here. Mr. McLeod. who received his training with the R.C.A.F. during the war, joined the government airways prior to the formation the Saskatchewan Airways Corporation.
Winnipeg Tribune 26 Oct 1946
70-Year - Old "Mercy" Nurse in Hospital.
Evadne Cotter Flown From the North
(Special to The Winnipeg Tribune)
THE PAS, Oct. 26 - One of the best-loved figures in the north, who has completed scores of mercy, trips by dog team, canoe, and aircraft during 20 years of nursing service in the north, Evadne Cotter, 70, was herself the patient in a mercy flight to The Pas Thursday, from her home at Cumberland House. The Saskatchewan government's department of mines and natural resources' Norseman landed here only a few minutes before a blizzard swept down from the north and blanketed the skies.
Pilot Lefty McLeod had some difficulty landing on the Saskatchewan River at Cumberland House, but the trading settlement was, fortunately, a "dead" spot in a snow storm. Pilot H. B. "Lefty" McLeod and air engineer William Horley, both of Prince Albert, heaved sighs of relief as they touched down on Grace Lake Airbase and watched an ambulance take nurse Cotter to St. Anthony's hospital.
Her condition was not serious, but she had been ill for some time and had taken a turn for the worse. Radio messages were sent from Cumberland House, where Nurse Cotter's sister, Ada, resides. Although she has been living in retirement for the past few years, Miss Cotter will always be known as "Nurse" Cotter in the north.
Up until her retirement, she traveled throughout the north by dog team and canoe. She served overseas and was decorated during the First Great War. Nurse Cotter received acclaim in 1928 when she nursed back to health 14 men suffering from typhoid in snowbound railway cars near Churchill. The hospital cars were bringing the sick construction employees to the hospital at Gillam (Mile 327), on the uncompleted railway when the train was snowbound on the barren lands near Churchill.
Nurse Evadne Cotter's home.
Regina Leader-Post 23, Dec 1946, page 11
Special curriculum for pupils.
Schoolhouse up north
The Saskatchewan Government's, Department of Natural Resources operates planes north of Prince Albert. It was in one of these, a Norseman, that, sitting amid a stack of freight and baggage, I flew over the forest belt and into the lake, rock and muskeg winter home of the caribou to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.
The other passenger out of Prince Albert was Olie Olson, retired prairie farmer and carpenter, who has been persuaded to leave his rail ticket to Vancouver in his wallet, and go north to the fur trade centre of Stony Rapids, there to help build the community's first hospital.
It was Olie's first time in the air. We sat on a bedroll and sheepskin coat, a couch-like affair on top of cartons of canned goods. At our back was more freight piled to the roof, so we could not see our pilot and engineer.
Penetrating the vibrating roar, I shouted. "How do you like it?" "It's grand." called back Olie. "Is it like you thought it would be?" "Oh, I don't know," shaking his head and laughing; "it's grand!" We came down at Candle Lake and picked up Nels Lindberg. The Viking whiskered boss carpenter, who had to leave his sack of potatoes on the dock as the plane was already loaded beyond capacity.
Before Nels climbed in, Olie had told "Lefty" McLeod, the pilot, to "Tell Nels Olie Olson backed out of coming." So then grey-haired Olie Olson had hidden among the boxes in the plane. Nel's expression didn't change, he remarked about his potatoes again, "Vell, ve have to get them next time." He got in, saw Olie's long legs sticking out of the baggage, tugged at them, Olie sat up laughing. Nels said, "I knew you weren't backing out, Olie."
At Lac La Ronge we unloaded freight, ate a good dinner of lake trout in the Government fish plant dining room. Here C. H. Piercy joined us, north country enthusiast, "Chet" Piercy, Administrator of Education of Northern Saskatchewan. He was the man who had persuaded Olie Olson to fold his railway ticket to the soft winter climate of Canada's Pacific coast.
At Stony Rapids, a little community on the Fond-du-Lac River that flows west into Lake Athabasca and the Mackenzie system, Nels and Olie went to work on the building already in the scantling stage.
Nearby, on a rocky jackpine rise overlooking the stony rapids of the river, is the new Government-built community school neat, one-room, equipped with modern individual desks, sloping blackboard, full north view windows. For this and other Northland schools, including several in the blueprint stage, Saskatchewan's Department of Education prepares a special subject's curriculum.
White, Indian, and "mixed" children learn to care for dogs and fur, boatbuilding, maintenance of internal combustion engines. They learn how to spot and test the rock of the great pre-Cambrian shield for mineral content. They have practical lessons from itinerant prospectors who stop off in these pinpoint communities for supplies and transportation.
Most of the students are dark-eyed, though they range from the whiter skins of Scandinavian and British background through in-between shades to the darker complexions of the Cree and Chipewyan.
The school secretary is weathered, keen-eyed Joe Tilden, J. P., who walks with a slight stoop and a bear-like stride. "For 10 years, every year," Joe Tilden told me, "I wrote to the Government at Regina asking them for a school. They'd write back to say yes, they were considering it, it wasn't until this C.C.F. Government got in that we got our school."
As our Norseman circled south beneath shreddy clouds, I looked down at the cluster of red and green roofs. The dock with its inevitable gasoline drums, the people still standing there to see us up, and felt I would be seeing Stony Rapids folks again.
- Jim Wright in The Christian Science Monitor.
Star-Phoenix - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada)
22 Mar 1948, Mon, Page 7
Logger Injured Prince Albert.
A Saskatchewan government airplane piloted by "Lefty" Mcleod, brought in Roy Hornseth from the north end of Montreal lake late Friday.
He was seriously injured by a pile driver mill in a local hospital here.
The Province, (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
15 Feb 1949, Tue., Page 3
Prince Albert, Sask.
Word is awaited here on the outcome of a rescue flight by a Saskatchewan Government Airways plane to Snow Bird Lake in the Northwest Territories, 650 miles north of here. Call for the plane was radioed to Prince Albert from Stony Rapids, 400 miles north, where the distress message had been brought overland. Poor flying weather is delaying the flight, which got underway from Prince Albert last Friday. The pilot of the aircraft is "Lefty" McLeod of Prince Albert.
The Leader-Post Regina, Saskatchewan,
16 Feb 1949, Wed., Page 2
Prince Albert Mercy flights.
A Saskatchewan government airways plane returned here Tuesday with three mercy flight patients from Snow Bird lake, an Indian settlement in the northwest territories 650 miles north. At the same time, it was disclosed that the pilot, "Lefty" McLeod, had conducted a mercy-flight - within-a-mercy - flight.
He flew from Stony Rapids, 400 miles north to Wapta lake, 50 miles distant, to pick up Bernadette Hayazie who was left in hospital at Stony Rapids and will be brought to Prince Albert in a few days. The three persons taken here from Snow Bird lake were John Baptiste, 16, suffering from badly frozen feet; Emily Broussie, 14; and Eli Youya. The girl was taken to the sanatorium for treatment. The reason for bringing Youya was not disclosed.
Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,
29 Dec 1949, Thu., Page 14.
Mining Companies Keep Eagle Eye on
Stony Rapids Trading Centre.
Mushrooming, but Cost of Living High.
Lac La Ronge - Great activity in mining and the staking of several "important" claims in the area adjacent to Stony Rapids, a settlement of 100 persons on the eastern tip of Lake Athabasca, is reported by Oliver Shaw, a farthest northern field officer with the Department of Natural Resources. Mr Shaw recently returned to his post by airplane and was interviewed here.
Stony Rapids, which thrives mainly through the fur trade and the ever-present Hudson's Bay post, has caught the eye of International Mining Co., Arctic Yellowknife, Nicholson Mines, Eldorado, Athona Mines, Dee Exploration, and Nisto Mines. All of which companies keep men in the field on exploration work, from spring break-up time to well on into the winter months, according to Mr Shaw.
One of the centres of great importance is the Charlebois Lake area and recently Mr Eric Partridge, a veteran prospector from Prince Albert, sold a valuable property in the Stony Rapids area, Mr Shaw said. In telling of Stony Rapids, Mr Shaw related how up-to-date the settlement is.
It has a telephone system connecting the hospital, RCMP headquarters, Hudson's Bay Company, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Indian Affairs, and the Joe Tilden home. Mr Tilden is a caretaker at the hospital and school, the school at present has 30 pupils.
The teacher, William Hancheroof, is a newcomer to Stony Rapids and is carrying on the work of Isabel Erickson, who is teaching at Lake Harbour, Baffin Island at present. The outpost hospital is operated by Miss Pierce, R.N., Department of Public Health.
Mr Shaw said housewives in the southern part of the province should consider themselves "very lucky" when comparing the consumer prices on goods such as bacon at $1.25 a pound, coffee at $1.00, and potatoes at $1.25 a pound. He said that although the area is wooded, it costs $14.00 a cord for firewood, as the only mode of transportation is by dog-sled.
Goods are transported into Stony from outside twice a year by the "Pelley Lake," owned by the Hudson's Bay Transportation Co. This boat carries Hudson's Bay goods mainly, but accommodates all outposts on the route from Waterways, Alberta, which is its home port.
The lifeblood of the native population of this settlement is caribou. This animal provides food and warm garments to the hunters who live on the southern fringe of the barren lands. Mr Shaw was the first to sight the caribou this year, early in October when he was making a patrol of his area.
75 CARIBOU PER FAMILY
A conservative estimate of the average amount of caribou consumed per family is estimated at 75 per season. This year's migration took three weeks to a month to pass the settlement every hunter and his family is well supplied with meat and hides. Last year the caribou, by some queer twist of fate, did not come near Stony Rapids and a near-crisis existed for many months. He stated that he had not witnessed the great herds of caribou, as are mentioned in the writings of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who Mr Shaw visited personally last year, but the herds do run into the thousands.
Field Officer Shaw's district extends from the Alberta border to the Manitoba border and north to the Northwest Territories. He covers the area mainly by aircraft and his local patrols are done by canoe in the summer and dogsled in the winter. He works closely with Cpl. Stevenson of the RCMP, also stationed there.
At Camsell Portage, teacher Bob Peters does some work for Mr Shaw as does Father Gamache in the settlement of Fond du Lac. Last year temperature dropped to -60 degrees below zero and thus far in the season, he reports 40 below zero weather and at least two feet of snow.
Mr Shaw joined the Department of Natural Resources in October 1945, after his discharge from the armed forces. He worked in the Emmeline - Swan Game Preserve which lies to the (southwest of the settlement of Lac la Ronge. On October 19, 1946, he was transferred to the settlement of Pelican Narrows, where he took over a field officer's district.
After setting up conservation blocks there he was transferred to Stony Rapids on October 12, 1948, this fall Mr Shaw married and his wife is the fifth white woman in the settlement. The aircraft carrying Mr Shaw to his post, some 300 miles north of Prince Albert, was piloted by H. B. "Lefty" McLeod, a veteran of the Athabasca run, accompanied by Ted Ball, a flight engineer. Other passengers included Inspector Prime, RCMP, Nurse Walz, Department of Public Health; Harry Waugh, northern administrator for the Department of Education, and Mrs E. Lafferty and daughter, residents of Stony Rapids.
Edmonton Journal, 5 Nov 1959.
Airlift Pays Off: Finds Gas
A record-breaking eight-month airlift to a drilling site 106 miles southwest of Edmonton has paid off in a potential gas producer for four oil exploration companies. Aircraft from Imperial Oil Ltd., the firm which drilled the 2/12 mile probe, completed 573 round trips to the drill site in the Brazeau River district, most of them originating from Drayton Valley.
The airlift started eight months ago after the drilling rig, Imperial's largest, ran into unexpected difficulties, and supplies hauled in earlier over frozen ground ran out before the drilling was completed. Muskeg, and the wet summer, prevented replenishing supplies by ground.
Imperial drilled the well under terms of an earned acreage agreement among Imperial, Mobil Oil, Shell, and British-American, Mobil Oil split the cost of drilling. The air ferry carried 1,478,900 pounds of freight and 870 passengers, mostly members of the drilling crew, in the largest airlift in Canadian oil history total flying time was more than 618 hours.
Most of the flights were made by Don Fraser, a 35-year-old former RAF pilot who began flying in the Canadian bush in 1951. On some days, he piloted an Imperial Otter to the isolated airstrip at the well site 12 times, at the peak of the airlift, two other aircraft and a helicopter joined in.
Mr Fraser was spelled off by another Imperial bush pilot, H. B. "Lefty" McLeod of Calgary. Some of the flights were made from Edmonton; others from Buck Creek, 42 miles south, and Edson, 56 miles northwest, the Drayton Valley airstrip is 37 miles east.
In a sort of "coals to Newcastle" paradox, much of the cargo consisted of drilling mud, diesel fuel was hauled in a specially-built tank for the Otter. Twenty-two tons of fuel were flown in for toolpusher L. W. "Ginty" Woolridge and his 25-man crew. For the crew, the Otter also meant new reels for the camp projector, and a ride out to visit families in Edmonton one week of every four.
Star-Phoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,
04 May 1951, Fri - Page 16
Aircraft Return To Prince Albert.
LAC LA RONGE - Saskatchewan Government Airways concluded the winter flying season on May 1, when four planes took off in unison from the ice-covered bay here, bound for their home base at Prince Albert. Pilots H. B. (Lefty) McLeod, Red Francis, Stuart Millar, and Rene Baudais together with engineer John Sinclair took two aircraft, one Norseman and a Stinson back to home base for conversion to floats. All of these men are former R.C.A.F. pilots who have logged a considerable time and built up a substantial record for themselves in bush flying. Red Francis, a newly acquired pilot, comes from the North Battleford region.
Saskatchewan Govt. Airways Anson Aircraft at
Halvor Ausland's mink ranch at Deep River.
SAG Fairchild Aircraft.
Lefty McLeod changing the CF-BBQ
over from skis to wheels.
The aircraft were changed from skis to wheels in the morning and as this work took place, a heavy overcast sky gave intermittent showers, causing the ice to candle rapidly. A thick heavy piercing mist rolled across the bay as the planes were being readied for takeoff.
Star-Phoenix, 5 Jan 1950, p - 14
Tons of Mail Goes North By Aircraft.
LAC LA RONGE. - This year the north saw Santa Claus work in reverse. Literally tons of mail left Prince Albert for various settlements in the north by aircraft during the pre-Christmas season. On Tuesday, December 20 the Lac La Ronge postmistress, Mrs Agnes Hegland, was swamped with 117 bags of northern mail 3 arriving by bus.
Mrs Hegland worked into the small hours of the night to get this mail ready for the next day's distribution through the settlement. Besides this, mail was prepared for the settlements of Snake Lake, Patuanak, Ile a la Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, and Portage la Loche.
The following morning it was necessary to press two Anson aircraft into service to carry mail to the settlements on the west run of the Saskatchewan Government Airways. Pilot Fred McLellan lifted his Anson aircraft, which is normally used for freight and fish hauls, 11 to Buffalo Narrows with more than 1,500 pounds of mail aboard. He was followed by the regular pilot on this run, Rene Baudais, who took the remainder of the mail for these settlements.
On other runs, mail was equally as heavy, the north run to the Athabaska region was flown by Lefty McLeod, carrying several hundred pounds of Christmas greetings to the far northerners. Don Brownridge took the east side runs to Island Falls, Pelican Narrows, and Stanley.
The last pilot to carry Yuletide greetings was Al Hartley, who piloted his Beaver aircraft to the Reindeer Lake region, delivered 155 pounds of mail to Postmaster Bill Smith of the Hudson Bay Company at Southend. Al Hartley arrived back at Lac la Ronge, before departing for his own Christmas on Saturday, December 24.
Star-Phoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
03 Mar 1951, Sat., Page 6
Speed North's Air Service, Special to the Star-Phoenix.
Prince Albert, March 3.
Air service time into Saskatchewan's northland was cut by two hours Friday. Two return trips, totalling 1,152 miles, from Lac la Ronge to Black Lake, were made by Lefty McLeod, piloting a Government Airways "Anson" aircraft. According to natural resources officials, this "inaugurated the 1951 wheeled airlift into the Athabaska country" and was possible because of landing strips on the ice at both points.
At least 50 miles an hour was added to the speed of the aircraft as the wheels are retracted, eliminating air resistance present when skis are used. Because of the cut in flying time, lower rates for air freight will be possible.
Regina Leader-Post, 7 Dec., 1959, p. 19
End Of Airlift:
Winter has ended one of the largest airlift operations in the history of Western Canada gas explorations. For more than eight months Imperial Oil Limited flew in supplies and men to operate its deepest natural gas probe, a 2/12 mile-deep hole just north of the Brazeau River about 106 miles southwest of Edmonton.
Former, RAF pilot Don Fraser, shown here in the cockpit of his plane talking to Jim Archibald, a worker at the well, teamed up with H. B. Lefty McLeod of Calgary to fly 517 flights to the site. Together they logged more than 818 hours in the air and carried 1,478,000 tons of freight and 870 passengers.
Pilot Don Fraser talking to Jim Archibald
A worker at the well.
Some supplies were flown from Edmonton but most came from Drayton Valley, Buck Creek, and Edson, located on the inset map. About three-quarters of the supply tonnage flown to the site was "mud" - a manufactured substance needed to lubricate and seal the walls of the drill hole. Drilling at the site began more than a year ago, but summer turned the ice-hard trails through the bush to muck. Then the aircraft took over, but now winter has made the trails usable by trucks.
Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada)
28 Feb 1976, Sat, Page 30
McCurdy - The Funeral Service of Mrs Helena Bertha McCurdy who died on Feb. 23rd was held from the Chapel of McKague's Funeral Home on Feb.27th at 3:30 P.M. Conducted by Pastor Glen Bahsler. Honorary Pallbearers were: Jim Smith, Lefty McLeod, Arnold Naeurauter, Bernard Keller. Active Pallbearers were Ken Bindle, Bob Richardt, Wally Collins, Ted Pichard. Interment was made In the Hillcrest Memorial Gardens.