VILLAGE OF KEEWAYDIN
Post Office 1932-1946
By Brian A. Back
I had hints about the existence of a post office during interviews for the first book. Not a letter drop, but a branch of the Canadian Post Office Department under the authority of the Postmaster General. The donation of a 1939 letter (below) with the imprint of the Keewaydin post office's frank confirmed its existence. Unfortunately, it came after The Keewaydin Way went to press in 1983. This summer I finally got a chance to dig into Canada's National Archives in Ottawa and fill in the blanks.
| Keewaydin post office
frank August 15, 1939 — frank cancels the stamps. It is enlarged at the
top of the page.
Five-cent letter Princesses Elizabeth (the future queen) and Margaret are on the green one-cent stamps. The brown two-cent stamp shows the National Memorial in Ottawa.
Robert Lochead,* the camp bookkeeper, was the postmaster. You couldn't operate a post office without the appointment of a postmaster. He was responsible for all matters relating to the post office, including its construction and furnishings. And, of course, lastly, it was his job to make sure the mail got through on the daily steamer Belle of Temagami that stopped at the main dock. The post office operated from 1932 until his death after the 1946 season.
In 1932, mail was the world's primary method of long-distance communication. The postmaster had stature in the community and you knew that person by sight, if not personally. The lake had three other post offices: Temagami village, Hudson's Bay Post on Bear Island and Wabi-Kon.**
With its inauguration, the Keewaydin Post Office became the local post office for the northern lake. If you were expecting a letter while at your cabin, you had it sent to the Keewaydin PO for general delivery, and made sure to get over to the island after the steamer arrived. Maybe, while you were there, you'd buy a loaf of bread, fresh out of the bread oven, baked by Caroline Brown, the head cook. If you met the steamer, you might get some news of the outside world from a passenger or the captain. Keewaydin, in those days, was much more than a camp.
* Bob Lochead had a cabin on island 1182, which was sold after his death to Phyllis (Peter and Caroline Brown's daughter) and Alan McMillen.
** Later Camp Wanapitei, Camp Temagami, Camp Metagami, Camp Chimo, Timagami Lodge, and Camp White Bear would open post offices.
Caroline and Peter Brown are standing on the right side of the bread oven in 1942. The steamer Belle at the main dock in 1944. It always drew a crowd from on the island, and off. Photos: Keewaydin archives
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