T.C.A., TBAY + Dominion Day Trout

Canada Day is upon us!

For many of us, this celebration equals camp, fireworks, raiding the LCBO (like it’s the apocalypse) and savouring the first long weekend of the summer.

Prior to “Canada Day”, up until 1982, Canadians used to celebrate “Dominion Day”. In an article from 1894, Dominion Day is eloquently described as:

Canada’s fourth of July, although the causes for celebration are dramatically different – the one country celebrating the unity and the other the dismemberment of the British Empire on this continent. In every city, town and hamlet of the broad Dominion, the Union Jack was unfurled, and strong, self-reliant young Canada on the anniversary exulted in her possession, of untrammeled institutions, free government and healthy, happy people.

The Ottawa Journal – Buffalo Express

This description amazes me, as it is fairly accurate today… minus the flag and name change (The holiday was renamed by an Act of Parliament on October 27, 1982).

In 1947, the people of Fort William and Port Arthur triumphantly celebrated Dominion Day by sending Prime Minster William Lyon Mackenzie King, speckled trout.

Yep. You read that right. They sent the Prime Minister of Canada, Fish.

Before I get ahead of myself, I should be a bit more specific. Prior to 1947, the Lakehead Cities were unable to travel via air, really anywhere without either having to go through the states, or connect through Armstrong or Kapuskasing. Essentially flights of any sort that we take for granted (here to Toronto) would essentially take 8 hours of travel time.

Lockheed 14-H2 aircraft CF-TCK of Trans-Canada Air Lines, Winnipeg, Man., c. 1939. VIA Post Office Department / Library and Archives Canada

In March of 1947, Trans-Canada Air lines (now, Air Canada) announced a new flight route, specific to the residents of the Great Lakes, which would be called “The Great Lakes Airway”. This new route would also have brand new, four engine North Star Planes, AND Air Mail!

TCA Air Mail vintage ad

This was a game changer for Fort William and Port Arthur, along with Sault St. Marie, Winnipeg and Edmonton residents.

While everyone was out celebrating the 80th anniversary of Confederation (let’s be honest, they were probably partying Downtown Port Arthur), the Thunder Bay Fish and Gaming Association were out catching lake and speckled trout (which is ALSO very Tbay).

In humble gratitude of newly accommodated travel, The Fishing and Gaming Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the Flying Club, loaded four boxes of trout onto the inaugural direct flight to Toronto. The precious cargo was then transferred to fight no. 6 direct to Ottawa.

the launch of a new Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) plane at what is now Thunder Bay International Airport on Canada Day, 1947.  VIA Thunder Bay Museum

The fish were gifted to Prime Minister King, Mayor Stanley Lewis, President of the Ottawa Board of Trade, A.A. Crawley and W.H. Van Allen, Department of Transport.

Ensuring the shipment was duly delivered was Mrs. Howe, prominent resident of Court Street (Port Arthur) and wife of Minister of Transport, C.D. Howe.

It’s been said the note on each box read: “The enclosed fish slept last night in a Northern Ontario lake”.

How ’bout them apples fish?

Unloading of mail from Lockheed 14-H2 aircraft CF-TCK of Trans-Canada Air Lines, Winnipeg, Man

In a telegram addressed to Secretary Manager, Don Murie (Fort William Chamber) the Prime Minister thanked the cities for their gift. He expressed hope and success with the new airline services. He also bid them many best fishes.

No, I’m kidding. He didn’t say that.
BUT now you have a random Canada Day story to tell your friends and family while you eat, drink and be merry!

??Happy Canada Day, friends! ??

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