Guide Book Issued for 1939 Royal Tour Includes Northern Ontario Sites – Gary Peck

Today when many travel often, it is with an array of brochures outlining the  points of interest one should note during the trip. Certainly, this is not a new phenomenon. In 1939, Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth traveled across Canada. For the use of the Royal visitors, their entourage and others, Canada’s two transcontinental railways compiled a guide book. Extracts from the account are of interest for a variety of reasons including the way in which sites along the route were described.

On May 23, it was anticipated the train would pass “through a land of great rock hills and tall pines, the railway wanders through deep cuts on its approach to Romford, seven miles east of Sudbury, on the main transcontinental line, and the train, on arrival at Sudbury, has traversed one of the finest sporting regions of Canada”. Suffice to say, the sporting regions described in glowing terms were, among others. Parry Sound, Point au Baril and French River.

The visitors learned that Sudbury had been founded as a result of the building of the Canadian Pacific. The beauty of the area, the labor and expense of laying the rail and the general history of it was extolled. On the return trip, the train would stop at Sudbury.

After passing through Azilda, the account noted that “the line, steadily climbing, runs through Chelmsford and Larchwood, in an unexpectedly rich agricultural belt, then swings over the high falls of the Vermillion River, foaming far below and reaches Levack, whence a spur gains the Mond Levack mine, containing over 5,000,000 tons of nickel and copper ore.”

Cartier, it was noted, was the eastern terminal for the “dental car”. The cars, “donated and hauled by the railways, contain a dental clinic and living quarters for a dentist in charge.” Equipped by the Rosedale chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, they had been maintained and operated by the department of health of the provincial government since 1931.

The program provided for free dental treatment to those children in Northern Ontario who might otherwise have not received any treatment. The route for the dental car covered 1100 miles on an itinerary requiring approximately two years. During the year prior to the Royal Visit, the dentist attended to 1,364 patients with the ages ranging from three to 16 years.

Having passed Geneva, Benny, Pogomasing and Metagama and other stops, Biscotasing was the next location to be described in some detail. It was noted that Biscotasing, meaning “a narrow filled with waterlilies, connecting two lakes”, had been a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post prior to the arrival of the railway. Early importance of Biscotasing was that it was “the jumping-off place for the canoe route to Flying Post, James Bay and Hudson Bay – a route used since earliest times by the Indians on primitive expeditions, then on journeys to the scene of Canadian Pacific construction – where they made their first contact with civilization outside the trading-posts.”

On May 31, the Royal Couple would return from the West Coast having taken from May 15 to the end of May to traverse the country from Quebec City, West. By June 5, Sudbury would be reached.

 Gary Peck is a retired Sudbury high-school teacher with a passion for history.