Back to Life at Camp Page
camp at Montreal River, near Sault St. Marie, Ontario, was one of
the first alternative service camps. Their primary task was to clear
bush and build roads. Their efforts contributed to the building
of the Trans-Canada Highway, which today stretches across Canada
from coast to coast. They chopped down trees and hauled away brush.
They blasted rocks and leveled the roadbed.
their day of work was done, they returned to camp. After only a
short time in the camp, a number of men had the idea to start a
newsletter about camp life. They called it The Northern Beacon.
When John Fretz wrote an early history of the paper in 1943, he
listed the purpose of the paper in seven points.
to furnish a worthwhile enterprise for the Conchie [CO] boys,
whereby their leisure time may be spent profitably; second, for
the convenience of the Conchie boys mailing a newsletter home
or to some friends; third, to enlighten the outside world with
the activities of Camp Montreal River; fourth, to help the boys
of the camp to become acquainted with one another; fifth, to deepen
the spirit of friendship already manifest in the camp; sixth,
to promote enthusiasm for new projects through which the camp
may benefit; and seventh, to meet the demand by interested parties
concerned in the camp.” [Vol. 4, no. 1]
paper sold for five cents a copy. The first issue came out on 3
January 1942. In July, after only six months of existence, The
Northern Beacon published its last issue. The editor, Wesley
Brown, and many of the other men in the camp, had been transferred
to other alternative service camps in British Columbia.
after arriving, the Northern Beacon was reborn as The
Beacon. British Columbia had
25 camps in total. The camps were often in isolated locations, and
The Beacon soon became
a popular form of inter-camp
communication. They had articles like
“Kewthree Krumms,” from Camp Q3
“Q7 Roundup,” from Camp Q7
“Bits from Bowser,” from Camp Q5 at Bowser, BC
“Who's Who at Q6,” from Camp Q6
“Horne Lake High Spots,” from Horne Lake
“Koksilah Crumbs,” from Camp C-3
“Nanaimo Narrator,” from Nanaimo Camp, C-5
from each of these camps would write a short article, often a humourous
one, telling what had happened in the past month. The COs wrote,
edited, and printed the paper in their spare time because they found
it enjoyable and rewarding. For the friends and families of COs,
the newspaper was a good way of staying in touch.
there were men from all different backgrounds in the CO camps, not
just Mennonites, the paper's
approach was interdenominational. It also stayed away from political
the 1943, the Beacon had a circulation of 1,250, and prices
had gone up to ten cents per issue. It continued to report on CO
news and events until the end of the war.
Back to Life at Camp Page