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Interview with May Round Tyson

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his article was published in parts in the September, 2004 edition of The Nakina News. It summarizes an interview conducted by Matt Robison with May Round Tyson and her daughter Pam.

Recently I spoke to May Round Tyson and her daughter Pam about May's recollections of growing up in Nakina in the early 20th century. May's recollections will be interesting both to Nakinains who remember her family and to those who are newer to the area.

May was born in 1912 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. She came to this area in 1921, before the town of Nakina existed.

May's father, John Round, emigrated from England to Canada in 1909, and her mother followed in 1911. May's parents were married in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and May was born there in 1912. Her father worked there until 1921, when May was nine. John Round took a job with the CNR to help move the town of Grant nineteen miles to the west, where it would become Nakina. According to May, the Rounds were the first white family in the area. They settled in an empty cabin near what is now called Round Lake. The Vanderbeck family, who were featured in the book Trap-Lines North, arrived the next year. They built a cabin about a half-mile from where the Rounds lived. Soon afterward, the town began to develop. May remembers that the first school in town was set up in 1922 in a passenger coach. Soon after, a tar paper shack was put up and the school was moved to it.

May remembers going to school with the Vanderbeck children, Irene, Ida, Mary, James, and Lindsay Jr., and playing with them in their cabin. She recalls looking at boxes of their family photographs and the wonderful doughnuts their mother Maude baked.

Nakina had two general stores, a Chinese laundry, Chinese restaurant, pool hall, and one hotel, which was run by Fred Ellis. Howard Collins was the town's Postmaster. When May was eighteen, she worked for him in the small post office which was set up in a corner of Daneffs' store.

For entertainment, the people of Nakina skied, swam, snow-shoed, canoed, and fished. As the town developed, there were Christmas dances, Easter dances, and Christmas concerts at the school. Eventually, there was a movie theater in Nakina, showing silent, black and white films. May remembers Mitch Young, who played the piano during the show. Mays parents played cards with neighbors. May and her friends took a handcar out to the Twin Lakes and back They had to watch for trains coming, and pull it off the tracks if one came along. Townspeople would often gather at the train station during the evening to watch the train come in and to see who what had arrived.

May remembers a knock on the cabin door the first Christmas Eve in the Rounds' new home. They opened the door to see a man with a long beard covered with frost standing in front of a dog team. May's younger brother Ron hid behind their mother and asked if it was Santa Clause. The bearded man was a Norwegian trapper named Hans Hansen* who had built the cabin the Rounds were living in. He had since moved on, but saw the smoke from the chimney while passing by on his way to town. "I'm so glad someone is living in my shack," he told them. Hans came by several times that winter on his way to town to sell furs, sometimes staying overnight with them. He was accompanied at times by a native woman, who sat on the floor smoking a pipe while Hans sat at the table with May's parents. During one visit, the woman began to cry. When May's mother asked Hans what was wrong, he replied that she had just seen her son's rifle hanging on the wall. The rifle had been on the wall when the Rounds moved into the cabin. The woman's son had died in the bush and seeing the rifle reminded her of him. May's mother took the rifle down, and gave it to her.

* [Editor's note: According to family members, the trapper's name was Herman, and they did not know his last name.]

May's mother Florence Round went home to England for what was intended to be a short visit. However, when World War I broke out she was forced to stay there, and could not return until the war ended. During that time, May met Charles Tyson in Nakina and they were married. They soon left Nakina for Geraldton, where he went to work as a miner. When May was 27, they left Geraldton for Toronto for better work. In 1957 Charles and May moved their family once again to Winnipeg, where they remained.

She returned to Nakina in 1993 for the town's 70th anniversary celebration, staying at Cordingley Lake. She says Nakina had changed quite a bit. She came back again four years later with her family, and they all stayed in cabins at Wild Goose Lake. May's oldest sister, Marg, wanted to see where she was born. They located the old family homestead. It is where the Nakina pump house is now located. The house itself was gone, sunken into the ground. They trekked through the bush to Round Lake. There they found the stove lids and old stove door parts that May's mother used to do her washing on the shore of the lake. They also found some old ink bottles, half-buried in the ground. May's daughter Pam found the trip fascinating. She said her grandmother must have been an amazing woman to come all the way from England to start a new life in the bush of northern Ontario. She'd had to learn to skin and cook rabbits. She'd also had to get used to chasing snakes out of the cabin and to deal with the black flies and mosquitoes. It took May's mother many years to make the found cabin into a comfortable home, but she had done it.

I asked May if it had been hard for her to leave Nakina. She said it was not hard at the time. She was young and had small children. However, she misses it very much now, and thinks those were the best times of her life. She would like to have her ashes placed at the Nakina cemetery near where her father was buried around 1935.



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