Part 13 – [Geraldton : An Alternative History]

View of Geraldton “downtown” in July 1936 looking southeast, with smoke from Geraldton Fire. On the L, the Presbyterian Church and Murphy’s Lunch (soon renamed Geraldton Tea Room) are prominent. Note the open sewer ditches and ramps spanning them. No side streets yet graded. On the R, the Goldfield Taxi (Mascotto bros. garage). The bulk of the townsite is out of frame, consisting of Geraldton North (area north of the tracks), and farther south, the Johnsonville/Jonesville townsite on the north shore of Barton Bay, Kenogamisis Lake. All photos from Greenstone History Collection.


Geraldton was nearly wiped out by fire in the summer of ’36
shortly after the townsite was founded. The dry weather of
June caused the fire hazard[,] and July 4[,] the first fire
was reported about a half mile from the southwest end of Little
Long Lac. This fire was put out. About two hours later the second
fire started and by afternoon the third . These two later fires[,]
one to the north, the other just south of town[,] eventually burned
12,000 acres of land in [an 8-square-mile] area.

All the buildings at Hardrock Station were consumed and the
people evacuated to Geraldton. The CNR had a train ready and
waiting to evacuate Geraldton. All the important papers of the
town[,] including several safes[,] were put aboard. An empty box
car was available for people to store their furnishing in should
evacuation be necessary. Many people did and all must have
been honest, because, when the fire was out and each had
picked up their belongings[,] there was one lonely mattress left.

View of Second Avenue Southeast in July 1936 looking east, with smoke from Geraldton Fire. Out of frame to the L is Dreamland Dance Hall. Note the log buildings with tarpaper roofs. The ungraded street features stumps.

The people living at the various mine townsites treated the
emergency different. Some [buried] their valuables by digging
holes in the ground, then took refuge underground. At Little
Long Lac[,] the mine provided the scow and people carried their
furniture down to the [wharf]and loaded it on the scow. One funny
thing happened that eventful day. Alice Budd was struggling along
the path with her beautiful large [Victrola] (record player)[.
When] she was [too] tired to make it all the way to the scow[,] she
set it down[, put] on a record and wound up the machine. The
balance of the furniture was loaded on the scow to the great
[Scottish] music of Sir Harry Lauder. Each person returning to
from the scow stopped to crank the machine to keep it going.

View of Little Long Lac mine in 1936 from the bridge over Barton Bay looking southwest. The mine has been operating since 1934. Hydro infrastructure in place. From L to R, two bunkhouses, the huge mill, headframe, water tower, and on the lakeshore, an office/staff house (square, two-storey building). The bridge accesses Mine Road all the way to MacLeod/Hardrock mines, and the Bankfield Highway (Arena Road).

The fully loaded scow along with many people from Little Long
Lac townsite [were] then towed out into the middle of Lake Kenogamisis.
There it sat all the long [smoky] day until the fire subsided
at sunset. Some of the people from Little Long Lac were
able to get to the Jonesville and Pineridge areas of town ,where
fire protection was made available with pumps and water hoses
from the lake.

The people at [MacLeod] mine [dismantled] the bunks from the
bunk houses and submerged them in the lake. They carefully laid
the [mattresses] on boards at the shore. The bunks survived the
soaking to be used again, but, alas[,] the mattresses were all

The wind changed and the homes at the townsites were safe[,]
but the fire was proceeding towards Jonesville. The people from
Jonesville journeyed to Little Long Lac Townsite to visit their
friends who had so recently stayed with them during a crisis.
Eventually the rains came and the fire was stopped[. It] was
[July 24,1936,] twenty days from the start of the fire.

There was a great building boom at the various townsites
as the miners rebuilt their meager (sic) homes. A house in those days
was more or less four walls and a roof. With so many people
building[,] there was a shortage of lumber and many houses were
occupied [before] there was [sufficient] lumber available to put
in a floor. As the family size increased[,] the owner added another
room .

A sidebar . . .

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