The M.S. Goldfield at harbour on Lake Winnipeg
In 1950 our family became the operators of the Booth Fisheries Whitefish Station on George Island, in the north basin of Lake Winnipeg. (Although the charts list it as George Island, it was always called George’s Island.) After high school was finished for the year, I was to board the M.S. Goldfield for the 200 mile trip to George’s to work as a junior shore-hand. My first time making the trip on my own.
With a stop at Rabbit Point, it would normally take a day and a night to reach the island, so the trip was like a relaxing cruise. Captain Albertson and the crew of eight knew my family well and they weren’t above playing a little trick on me. Shortly after boarding, The Captain called me over and said very seriously that the “Key to the Keelson” was missing. As the crew was busy at their various tasks, would I help them find this important item? Being young and eager to please, I readily agreed.
The Captain dead-panned that some member of the crew must have The Key. So off I went looking. But the whole ship, save for me, was in on the game. They had played this stunt many times on green horns before me and they had their acting parts down to a science. One by one I dutifully searched out all the crew members, asking if they knew the whereabouts of this missing key. Each one shook their heads solemnly.
Seeing my frustration and fearing I would give up after searching for so long, one of the crew said that the Engineer must have it. The problem was he was off watch and sleeping in his room. But on the ship, the Captain’s word was law and so I gingerly opened the door to the Engineer’s room.
As quietly as possible, I explained my mission. Grumpily he arose from his bunk and with a stream of complaints about the frequent disappearance of the key, he searched his cabin while a 14-year-old boy stood shaking at attention. Sadly, no key could be found. In despair I made my way to the wheel house to report to the Captain my inability to find the elusive key. By now it was almost suppertime and the crew had gathered for the meal. The smiles on their faces should have tipped me off. As I approached, they all said in unison, “Gotcha!”