Wednesdays with Walter: The Hasty Honeymoon, Part I

Followers of Exploring may have caught a personal reference in a previous blog post when I mentioned a July camping trip with my husband-to-be in connection with introducing historical photographs of Itasca State Park. In a recent honeymoon brainstorming session, inspired by the negatives in the Bell Museum collection and the autobiography of former museum director and preparator Walter J. Breckenridge, I made the following suggestion:

Well, we could accompany a work colleague to a remote area of northern Canada to study disease transferal from animals to humans?

This scenario just so happens to be the honeymoon tale of Walter Breckenridge and his bride Dorothy Shogren. In this edition of Wednesdays with Walter, images from the Bell Museum negatives will illustrate the narration of both Walter and Dorothy, who jointly describe their marriage and honeymoon in Walter’s autobiography, My Life in Natural History.

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(l) Walter J. Breckenridge standing at tent, Cormorant Lake, August 10, 1933
(r) Mrs. Breckenridge bringing water, Cormorant Lake, August 10, 1933

Dorothy,“… Breck had been planning for months to go on a seven week expedition to Churchill, Manitoba on Hudson Bay with Dr. and Mrs. Robert Green, both bacteriologists at the University of Minnesota. They were to study tularemia, a disease of humans transmitted by ticks on rabbits and grouse. Breck and Dr. Green would collect the specimens in the field. The Greens would then pick off any ticks found and send them back to the University. Then Breck would skin the specimens for the Museum and some of the meat we would eat. You see we were genuine conservationists even in those early days…”

Dr. and Mrs. R.G. Green eating lunch, Cormorant Lake, August 8, 1933

As Dorothy told it, on the evening of July 25, 1933 she held a farewell dinner for her fiancĂ©. In conversation with her dinner guests, Dorothy recalled, “At the dinner I made the casual remark that I had met Dr. and Mrs. Green the night before and they had said it was too bad they hadn’t known that Breck had a girlfriend and I could have gone on the trip too.” A dinner guest confirmed that it was a great idea for a honeymoon. Dorothy continued, “I said I had a job and Breck was leaving in less than 24 hours.

The next morning, July 26, (the day of Walter’s departure for Churchill) Dorothy went to work at the Crossways Tea Room in the First National Bank in St. Paul. Meanwhile, a guest at the farewell dinner from the night before, who happened to be an interim minister at a local church, “took care of” the five-day waiting law for a marriage license. Walter requested and received permission from his boss, Thomas Sadler Roberts, for Dorothy to come along on the trip. Dorothy recalled, “I then quit my job during the noon rush; drew money at the bank, stopped at Montgomery Ward to buy long underwear, flannel pajamas and an air mattress.

The engaged couple met each other later that afternoon, bought a wedding ring, and orchestrated a wedding ceremony through the help of Dorothy’s mother, sister, the minister from the farewell party, and Thomas Sadler Roberts, who served as best man. Dorothy concluded, “We were married at 4:30p.m. and left on the train at 5:30 p.m. July 26, 1933.

Churchill33-una440904.jpgThe train route took them to Winnipeg where they stopped for a day and visited James Ford Bell’s Duck Hatchery and lodge on Lake Manitoba. Back on the train the following day, they traveled to a town called The Pas, toured the city, and secured the supplies that they needed for the rest of their trip. Before departing for Churchill, they made one more stop:

Walter, “Dr. Green had made previous arrangements for us to stop at Cormorant Lake, Mile 42, to collect a few grouse and rabbits for ticks to check for tularemia’s possible occurrence here, at a point part way to Churchill. Here we occupied a cabin under the auspices of the Forestry Department. “

Forestry buildings at Cormorant Lake, August 10, 1933

Mrs. Breckenridge with moose horns, Cormorant Lake, August 8, 1933

Walter J. Breckenridge in the laboratory, Cormorant Lake, August 8, 1933

“We collected locally for a couple days, then went by canoe with Mr. Cowan to his cabin at the north end of Cormorant Lake to add a few specimens from that area to our research. Later we contacted Bill McKenzie who took us south to Moose Lake to add spruce grouse to our collections.”

Bill McKenzie in boat, August 10, 1933

“After returning from the Moose Lake trip we did more local collecting for a couple of days before packing up for the 400-mile train ride to Churchill.”

Tune in tomorrow when we continue to travel with Mr. and Mrs. Breckenridge to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada on their hasty honeymoon…

The Hasty Honeymoon, Part II (posted 2/13/14)