Wanderings: Archie and the Great White North

When I was growing up, my father worked for the railway which meant moving around a fair amount. Until I was nine, we moved frequently – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The longest we spent in one place when I was little was two years in a place called Elsas. Located in northern Ontario, Elsas is 115 kilometres west of Timmins as-the-crow-flies and the town still exists. Google it.

To get to Elsas you had to drive to Foleyet, park the car, and hop on the train for the final 30 kilometre trek, which took about an hour. You could fly in as well if you had access to a float plane. We did not.

In the summertime, the town had around 250 residents. The shoreline of Kapuskasing Lake was dotted with cottages, and fishing and hunting camps. In the wintertime however, there were seven people living in Elsas. My family was three of those seven people.

To get groceries, you had to call on the party line to Charette’s grocery store in Foleyet. The staff there would package up your groceries and ship them to you via the baggage car on the passenger train that passed through. Parcels would also arrive in the mail, by train of course.

School (Grades 1 and 2) was taught by correspondence from our kitchen table. Work would be mailed from the school board in Sudbury monthly. Completed work mailed back to be marked.
Given that this was the early 1980’s, there was no internet or cell phones. Our multi-channel universe was CBC and CTV – two channels. Our computer was a Commodore 64. While our family was an early adopter to the computer world, we didn’t have any other families around to compare to.

My favourite connection to the outside world was Archie Comics. The antics of Archie Andrews and Jughead Jones went everywhere with me during that time. On the boat fishing, riding the train to and from home, a sunny day outside avoiding black flies the size of soccer balls. I was never without a comic book in hand. Every time we went in to Timmins, returning with me would be another stack of Archie comics.

Compare that to now. Groceries can be delivered to your car with the push of a button on an app, or a phone call to the store. E-schooling is rolling out so kids are not without school work during the time off. Any TV show and video game is available at nearly the snap of your fingers. Video chatting with friends down the street or across the country is a common occurrence.

We all have to stay at home as much as possible right now, but we also have far more access to things than ever before. But at least we can read old Archie comics online now too.

Please note that while I sound like a grumpy old-timer writing this column, I never had to walk to-and-from school uphill both ways in my bare feet.

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