Iqaluit’s first postmaster remembers Frobisher Bay as it was
“You’re away, where most people have never been”
Joseph Maingot remembers dodging pools of water while travelling across the sea ice in a qamutik attached to 10 dogs in the middle of the summer 56 years ago.
“By the time we got back, we were just soaking wet,” Maingot said.
Maingot, now 81, was Iqaluit’s first postmaster, working to save money for law school in Toronto, and was hired by the RCMP in 1956 and 1957 to run the post office, which was a little shack attached to the RCMP station.
He was the only worker at the post office. The RCMP had hired him to relieve them of duties they generally carried out.
The long hours of daylight didn’t bother him, because as a student it gave him “plenty of time to read,” but there were kids playing outside as late as midnight or 1 a.m., he said.
So far, he’s been impressed with the architecture and spent time in Apex to “recall fond memories” where he once hung out at the Hudson’s Bay store and the garage.
“It was exciting to be here, [so] far away,” he said.
There were fewer people in Frobisher Bay then and Maingot worked twice a week at the post office, the rest of the time working as an assistant carpenter and labourer.
He helped to build roads and because he had finished a previous degree in commerce, was also in charge of payroll for the post office,.
Normally the days were slow, with mail going out three times weekly and coming in once a week.
Everyone used the post office, but people from Newfoundland would often send money home, he said.
“It was a funny change of pace.”
The 25 year-old Maingot also witnessed the first sittings of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories.
There were four adoption cases and an incest case that he observed.
One of his friends back then was Pauta Saila, a carver from Cape Dorset, who “walked with a great regal bearing.”
The pick-up truck Maingot drove was often full of people in the back.
“I wasn’t as mature then,” he said.
The mosquitoes were just as bad then as they are now, but still, Maingot considers himself lucky to have come to Iqaluit.
Maingot is on his way to Pond Inlet, Resolute Bay, and Grise Fiord.
He will be dropping off his latest book, “Politicians Above The Law” on parliamentary inviolability.
“I’ve always had a wanderlust,” Maingot said.
In 2003, he walked 800 kilometres over the Camino de Santiago de Compostela route in Spain.
He also travelled part of the Canterbury to Rome walk, as well as walking to Vimy Ridge to pay homage to his father, in 2007.
“My wife wasn’t happy with my taking off,” he said.
But being in Apex in the late 1950s felt even more special than it does now, he said.
“You’re away where most people have never been,” Maingot said.
Though he wasn’t very good with Inuktitut phrases, Maingot has always valued geography and meeting people.
“I met some wonderful people here,” he said.
Later on, he found himself working in asbestos mine in northern British Columbia.
During his time in Frobisher Bay, Maingot visited two DEW line sites along the east coast of Baffin Island.
Maingot is bringing copies of his book to the communities he is visiting.
“I wanted to come back. I always wanted to come back,” he said.
In his life, Maingot has provided advice on parliamentary matters in Canada, Yemen, the Kyrgyz Republic and East Timor as a former law clerk, parliamentary counsel at the House of Commons, and as a former member of the Law Reform Commission of Canada.