Pilgrimage to Winnipeg, Published 5 January 1943When the Conservatives decided they wanted to hold a convention to elect Hon. John Bracken as the leader of their party. I went along for the ride. But. lest you think this is Just to chronicle a round trip to Winnipeg, let me perhaps persuade you to read a little further into this series by indicating that after we have verbally hovcrcd over this in-the-bag affair, wc shall move on to Minneapolis, ride gloriously down the Mississippi a hundred miles an hour on the Burlington Zephyr, see the paradox of a meatless Chicago in wartime, and then defy space on the Mercury to Detroit. Then back to Canada where you can still buy lamb chops in the dining car, and so on to Montreal.
Thus you find me. among the Scribes and Pharisees at Windsor Station. Winnipeg bound aboard Canadian Pacific No. 7. In the observation car on the way up I met a chap who said he had helped elect George Mcllraith, Ottawa West M.P. and I made a note to check on this with George. Then we rolled in to Ottawa, and I forsook engine 2858 for the second section of train No. 7 and engine 2229.
There is a certain thrill going through Ottawa instead of getting off and staying, as I so often do. I particularly get a kick out of the rear or north view of the Parliament Buildings, where all the press gallery windows are yellow-orange Gothic glares of light, in contrast to the almost blacked out character of the rest of the building at that time of night. I then looked at the window opposite my press gallery desk, and wondered if as usual Dillon O'Leary had dribbled his cigarct makings on it in my absence, and also if finybody had disturbed the time tables I left on my desk. Then it was Hull, then Ottawa again. How few people realize you can miss the Vancouver train at the Union depot, and catch it long afterwards at Ottawa West, always provided you can find the station at Ottawa West.
I woke in the morning long enough to see people going to work in the dark at Sudbury, and with street cars rumbling by. crowded with people. Then as we cleared the immediate visual obstructions, the oriflamme of day lit the eastern sky with a brilliant orange for a minute, and next thing I knew, we were swirling through a snowstorm
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. . . . During the day's run around the North Shore we were in the Canadian Facific solarium car, but we could see none of the grand scenery just outside our window. We were snaking our way along the granite ledges of Lake Superior, but we might as well have been inside a tunnel, for all we could see.
Much later that evening, the world suddenly seemed to be full of lights. I joked with members in the car that the war must be over, so profuse was the illumination. These lights of course were at Port Arthur and Fort William, where no baleful but necessary dictum from Electricity Controller Symington gives us a main street dim out and puts one light in four or five out in our suburban streets. For here in the Twin Cities, they have power to burn and do. . . .
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When day broke on the second morning the most entrancing moon in its dying phase I ever saw, hung like a glittering scimitar in the sky. Poets rave about a new moon, but I have yet to read a screed about a waning moon. Even Omar talks of "moon of my delight that knows no wane." But right now I want to asseverate that this moon in the very last minutes of the last quarter, hanging like a painted nail filing iridescently in the sky and competing with its still-shining rays the glory of the advancing dawn, was one of the most beautiful celestial spectacles these double-windowed eyes of mine have ever seen.
My sentimental frame of soul was in no wise diminished when I saw the lamplight glowing in the kitchens of humble little shacks, as harassed housewives rustled about in a thawing-out kitchen to get breakfast. I recall how I used to get up before the dawn, in my prairie years. I can still recall putting on my outer overalls I slept with one pair on and how with frozen hands I used to break the ice on top of the water barrels so my team could drink. Next, with those same numbed fingers I would take the frosty bits of the horses, and warm them enough so that the horses would take them in their mouths. Then after the team was hitched, and the chores done. It would only be just showing a faint orange in the eastern sky as one had breakfast by lamp light. This all came back to me. as in the luxury of sleeper Saugeen, with air-cooled sumptuousness. I viewed the frost-bitten hardships out the window, and I contrasted the magnificence of my ham and eggs in the diner with the rough and ready breakfasts in the old threshing caboose. Those harvesting days are interesting to look baclc upon, but I would not want to go through them again. Winnipeg bobbed up a few minutes later, and I soon was ensconced in the Roynl Alexandria Hotel.