Life Aboard the Meteor

Life Aboard the Meteor

The Temiskaming Navigation Company’s 1908 newspaper advertisement noted that “The METEOR is a first-class Passenger Steamer, and is equipped with all modern conveniences to ensure comfort to passengers. Meals and Refreshments served on board. State Rooms can be had on application.” By this time the Meteor was the best-known and most comfortable steamer on Lake Temiskaming and was variously nicknamed “The Queen of the Lake,” and the “Palace Steamer.”

After the 1897 remodeling the main deck was enclosed, the second deck was expanded, and the entire ship was repainted white. First and second class dining rooms on the main deck served meals for .75 cents and .25 cents respectively. The second deck sported a piano lounge with a red velvet sofa, card and sitting rooms, and an observation area. Passengers who could not afford one of the staterooms slept on deck. The Meteor was the first steamboat on the lake with electric lights and electric candelabra hang from ceiling supports. Grey-painted canvas protected the polished hardwood floor on the outside decks and the railings were made of varnished teak-wood.

According to a member of the steamer’s galley staff in 1917, “the breakfast menu consisted of crêpes, bacon and eggs and potatoes. Lunch featured ham, bacon, chops, or roast beef, with cake or pie for dessert. Dinner consisted of pork stew or chicken and vegetables, with cake for dessert. Fruits were also served, but only in the first-class dining room…. All the food was supplied from a store in Ville-Marie. The atmosphere in the first-class dining room was very sedate, but second class, which was usually full of boatmen and newly arriving colons [colonists] and their families, was invariably noisy. One of the girls on staff looked after each of the dining rooms, including dishwashing, while the third attended to the staterooms on the upper deck — for $25 a month plus room and board.”Licensed to carry 305 passengers, the Meteor supported a crew of eleven, including three waitresses who doubled as chambermaids.

At times, boarding and disembarking the Meteor could be difficult. Lacking a dam at the south end of Lake Temiskaming, water levels varied dramatically. In the nineteenth century, the Haileybury and New Liskeard waterfronts left much to be desired – the former’s wharf was too exposed to the winds for safety; and since the Wabi River was often too shallow for unloading, passengers disembarked at Sharpe’s Bay or at Dawson Point, two kilometres distant. The Meteor thus often anchored offshore and unloaded passengers and freight into scows and small boats. Livestock might be required to swim to shore. When water was high and the Meteor could enter the mouth of the Wabi River, the crew lowered a gangplank over the muddy bank of the river. This problem was alleviated in 1903 when the government dredged the mouth of the Wabi River allowing the Meteor to dock safely.

Dr. Clifford Hugh Smylie arrived in Temiskaming in 1901. He wrote in his memoirs:
“There must have been a few misgivings, especially among the women, wondering what lay ahead. But the lake was calm, the sky clear, and the sunset beautiful, we anchored outside what became known as Sharp’s Cove. There was no dock, but two men in a large red ‘pointer’ or bateau about thirty feet long and four to six feet wide, with two sets of oars, made a good many trips to bring the people and freight ashore, I remember my concern for the little cow when she was pushed overboard and had to swim ashore. There were horses and lumber wagons with gravel boxes and boards for seats, waiting to take us to what was to become New Liskeard, It was dark now, and we were tired.”