Saturday, May 16, 2009

PDP #41: Main Street Moosonee

"So how far north have you been?" Joe asked, after I acknowledged that, yes, I have in fact left the Eastern time zone. I didn't have to think for long. The north tends to be memorable in its own way.

"Moosonee," I said.


Moosonee is, and has been for the last three eight* years, a town near the shore of James Bay in the far northern marches of Ontario - before then, it was a Development Area, the only one in the province. It's still one of the most isolated significant communities in Ontario. For most of the year, the only real access is by a five-hour rail ride from Cochrane via the Polar Bear Express train, run by Ontario Northland.

My grandfather and I rode the rails up there in July 1989, taking first the Northlander north from Barrie - well before the city government, in an absolutely genius maneuver, tore up the tracks at Allandale station - to Cochrane, well up north itself, and then the Polar Bear Express the rest of the way. Particularly in 1989, when cell phones were just starting to come on the market and the World Wide Web would not even be invented for another two years, Moosonee's isolation made it seem, to six-year-old me, almost like some weird other world.

What really struck me as odd, and which is the subject of today's photograph - taken on July 31, 1989 - is that the streets were unpaved and a lot of the cars seemed to lack license plates.

I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible, I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

* Thanks to commenter Paull for setting me straight on the issue of when Moosonee became a town.


  1. The streets are still unpaved, although the street you photographed was paved, for a time. Unfortunately for motorists, the provincial government decided to start enforcing the Highway Traffic Act in the 1990s and all of a sudden people had to have drivers' licences, auto insurance and certified vehicles. No more 12 year old taxi drivers.
    Not too long after your picture was taken the store in the picture (brown and dark brown metal sided building) was burned down and replaced with a new one (Northern Stores formerly the Hudson Bay Company). The wooden buildings in the mid right of your shot are now part of the parking lot.
    The Town of Moosonee came into being on January 1, 2001.

  2. Thanks for the comment! I guess I read the Wikipedia article not particularly closely enough. I wouldn't mind going back to Moosonee at some point with a proper digital camera - in '89, it was just with a film job, and in the handful of hours between the train's arrival and departure.

    I picked the title just because I thought it flowed well - is this actually a main street?

  3. This is First Street, the main street, at one point they did pave it but you could hardly tell today.

    I couldn't find a shot that exactly duplicated yours but here is one from the same general area, more showing the other side of the street.
    this shows First Street from the air in 2005
    finally an enlarged scan from 1988 showing First Street