Manitoba Historical Society
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"And There Was Light"

by Barbara Johnstone

Manitoba Pageant, September 1957, Volume 3, Number 1

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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On Hecla Island, in Lake Winnipeg, the people long depended on oil lamps for their lighting. Just to the west, on the mainland, their neighbors in Riverton and the surrounding countryside had light and power. So the people of Hecla Island sent their representatives to see the Manitoba Power Commission authorities to see if they could have power too.

The Commission, wanted to give them power very much, but the ice and great waves in The Narrows in early spring would snap the power poles.

Now most of the Hecla Islanders were grandchildren of the early Icelandic settlers. They were used to hardships and to working together. From house to house the talk went around ... "what can we do?"

At last they hit upon an idea, and Doctor Thompson, their member in the provincial legislature, went to speak to the Commission for them. If the people of Hecla were to build a test crib in the east narrows, and it stood against the ice for two years, would the Power Commission then bring light to Hecla?

So the Commission agreed and supplied the long poles, bolts, and preserving material. Then the people of Hecla got to work on their first power pole crib (which you see in the picture). The poles stood! Now they had to build another two cribs and cut the brush along the roadside to make way for the power lines. Every able male person over the age of sixteen on Hecla Island gave an average ,of four days work to the project, and some gave cash to pay for rock hauling. The job was done - "and there was light"!

Was this long before you were born? Oh no ... it happened just a few years ago. It shows you how a democratic community, unafraid of work, and full of that spark of life and initiative better their lives ... and make history!

Page revised: 30 June 2009

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