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For people who loved nature, enjoyed being alone, and valued the work of fire spotting, the job was ideal.

His name is Bill Doucette, and he weighs 120 pounds of real value. His job is the Griffin Lake Tower, north of Sault Ste Marie. This tower is at the highest point in the 412,000 square miles which is Ontario. Elevation 2,100 feet. The tower points another 80 feet into space.

Towernam Billy DoucetteBill was educated (Grade X) in Hamilton. He served in Europe with the 4th Canadian Battalion, and came to the Department of Lands and Forests in 1931. That is a quarter of a century ago.

For the last 21 years Bill and the Griffin Lake Tower have been partners. Keeping watch. It takes Bill 45 minutes to climb the hill from his cabin on the lakeshore to the foot of the tower. Sometimes a little longer if there happens to be a cranky bear on the trail. The telephone is not in the cabin; it is at the top of the tower, and never yet has Bill failed to answer when the Chief Ranger called. He stays there from early light to dark, and then goes to the cabin, where he cooks a hot supper and turns in to the strains of the best music he can tune in on the radio. Occasionally, if the hazard is high, he takes a blanket and two or three days’ rations and stays in the tower until the emergency passes.

Bill’s judgment is uncanny in reporting accurate facts. The happiest day of his season is when the plane lands him in the spring, and the saddest when he departs in the fall. He seldom sees a visitor, unless the visitor makes the long climb to the tower where Bill spends his days, including Sundays and holidays. Forest fires won’t wait.

A casual observer might think it a lonesome life for a man once rated high in semi-pro baseball. Not so – Bill’s friends include the creatures of the forest. Music is spiritual food for him. He loves the job and the job is proud of him.

Thompson, J. B. “The Tower Men.” Your Lands and Forests Review. Vol. 12 No.3 (1956)
Photo Credit:
Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre [Towernam Billy Doucette]
Facility Rentals Northern Nature Trading Bushplane Productions Our Aircraft Ontario Provincial Air Service
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