In 1928, a devastating forest fire had swept a large part of the old town built of logs and wood. I asked my mother to tell me how she came to work in Cranberry Portage, Manitoba in 1930, just two years after the big fire.
She told me: "jobs just seemed to land in my lap, one after another".
One day she was walking down the street with a friend in Winnipegosis and saw a "Help Wanted" notice in a store window. A woman was looking for a person to come to Cranberry Portage with her family to help cook and look after their three children. Her husband worked at a gravel pit while the woman had a job cooking for a camp of men who worked along the railway track outside of Cranberry Portage. Mom couldn’t remember if it was a mining camp or a lumber camp. Most likely it was a camp for C.N.R. workers who were laying eighty-seven miles of railroad track to a wilderness tent town of Flin Flon. Mrs. Anderson, Mom recalled, was a woman of Polish and Icelandic descent. While Mom worked for her for about a month, they lived in a tent which was actually a temporary frame building with a canvas roof tied on top.
|Mrs. Harry Anderson|
Cranberry Portage, MB
When Mrs. Anderson no longer needed Mom, she was offered a job at the Redwing Café Store Bakery as a waitress and helper, replacing a Swedish nineteen year old boy who had gone home for a month. After a month, Mom was asked to stay on, and the other hired girl left to help relatives who had just come to town to open a restaurant.
|My mother, Jean Zaretsky far right, Petersen/Schamerhorn family,|
owners of Redwing Cafe Store Bakery, Cranberry Portage, MB
"Hutch" and his family owned the café. His wife was Norwegian or Swedish from Seattle, Washington and his mother also lived with them. Mom recalls she worked there for three or four months. She knows for sure she was there for her seventeenth birthday on October 23rd. Likely she went for the summer season in June or July and left in November.
|Jean Zaretsky age 17|
Cranberry Portage, MB
When I think about what I was doing at age sixteen or seventeen, or what my children and grandchildren are doing, I think my mother was courageous to take a job so far from her home in Sclater, Manitoba and go to a northern town full of mostly men of a hundred different nationalities. She set the adventure bar high for all of us and we are so grateful. Happy Birthday, Mom.
Copyright © 2010, Ruth Zaryski Jackson