1930's Diary of an Isle Royale Winter

November 10, 1932

Today was one of those discouraging days when everything was muddy, wet, smelly—the youngsters fidgety and knowing even less than usual. And after school, Bob, Kenny and the other boys got into a fight and there was much yelling and hollering—I was so darn discouraged and so sick of having a commotion all the time that I had a nice little weep all alone—when the Winyah blew her whistle unexpectedly and we went down to the dock to get welcome letters. Our radio set arrived! Now I am anxious to get it going—and feel much better!

November 11, 1932

It snowed most all day. Mr. Johnson and I set up the shortwave and it works. I could hear Houghton as well as many other stations. It is a fine-looking, very neat and compact job and I’m beginning to get much interested in operating it. We are to have a schedule with Houghton Wednesday. Here’s hoping he can read me and I him!

The children had a very nice little Armistice Day program and I dismissed them a little early. Bob stayed here and we cleaned house—then listened to the radio. After supper we sewed and enjoyed our favorite March of Time and Little Theatre. Togo had a moose up on the hill—they are coming closer to our houses every day but are no longer so vicious—their antlers are beginning to fall off now.

November 14, 1932

The Winyah arrived early (10:30)—only two letters and two packages today. We are grateful indeed. The Winyah will make two more trips. The Rock Harbor men came down this afternoon and all are pleased with the radio set. Listened to several good programs tonight—sewed, wrote several letters and articles. We are watching for the comet.

November 16, 1932

The lake was frozen over and when I went out behind the schoolhouse to empty the “pot” (about 8 a.m.) I met a huge bull moose face to face. Dropped “pot” contents and all, and fled precipitously to the schoolhouse! But I ventured out on the porch to take a picture of the gentleman.

Tried to get W9YX at noon but couldn’t raise him. I know our antenna has to be shifted—also, the “lost comet” seems to be a disturbing element, atmospherically speaking. We’ll try for W9YX tomorrow. Came up to bed early—read and started a “boat book” for Bob for Christmas.

November 19, 1932

Radio signals from everywhere except Houghton. Oh, well, I had time to get acquainted with the set anyway! Listened to the Michigan-Minnesota game and it was a dandy, ending 3-0 for Michigan! Spent the evening getting ready for our last batch of mail for 1932, for tomorrow Winyah will make her last trip. Temperature is rising now and snow is falling softly, Wonder whatever happened to that famous comet?!!

November 21, 1932

The Winyah arrived at 11 a.m. on her last trip and brought us many letters and packages, but no word from the Chicago folks and not the radio licenses. They blew five whistles and departed at 11:30—to return April 1, or thereabouts, 1933. Bob and I watched her out of sight and took pictures of her, realizing that we are now indeed isolated. But I didn’t feel nearly so let down as I had expected, for with a broadcast receiver and a shortwave set, we do not lack contact with the outer world entirely. And at 1:00, I had a good conversation with operator Cook at Michigan Tech, so feel much better. Our licenses are there, so it is safe to operate now.

November 22, 1932

The world was a mass of swirling white flakes this morning and we had to break trail over to breakfast. All day the storm raged and we heard at noon of shipwrecks on the south shore of Lake Superior. I tried to get W9YX this noon but could not raise him. Guess this weather simply nullifies radio signals as far as we are concerned.

Bob and I went over to supper in a setting mysterious, living and yet almost threatening. For the first time we seemed to realize that we are indeed isolated on this block of snow and ice, with its threatening, fir-crowned cliffs and howling wolves, its frozen stars and frosty moon, surrounded by nothing but a seething turbulency that men call Lake Superior. Our only link with friends and family—a little black box whose thin, querulous voice sent out through frosted skies will let the rest of the world know either of our safety, or our distress. I cannot help but wonder what the winter may bring us—eleven people apart—with only a radio and Providence to aid us should we need aid. I shudder as the wind howls about this exceedingly frail shelter which we must, for over five months, continue to call our home, and wonder that I had the temerity to so tempt Providence by bringing Bob, and myself, to this place, awful and majestic in its stand against nature’s onslaught.

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