Yakabuski reminisces at train station anniversary

Minister Yakabuski recalls Barry’s Bay Station history

At the Station Keepers’ 125th Anniversary celebration yesterday, MPP John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, entertained the crowd with a personal story about Station history. (photo above)

“One of my proudest moments took place probably just over there beside the tracks [pointing]. I was in Grade 2 and on my way home from school. Jackie Beach was the Station master and telegraph operator. Not sure I knew what a telegram was. Jackie Beach stops me and says, “You’re a Yakabuski, right?” Because I was always in trouble and anybody who knows me knows I was, I said, “Yeah … why?” “I’ve got a telegram here for you.” And I just took off and yelled back [over my shoulder] “I’ll tell my father and he’ll come and get it” and I ran home.

“Of course my dad came up and got the telegram. It was a telegram for my brother Jamie and I on our eighth birthday from the former prime minister at that time John George Diefenbaker. Now what was interesting was three days earlier Diefenbaker had stopped at our house. In those days children didn’t stick their noses in when adults were speaking. It just didn’t happen. But we did see my dad talking over with Mr. Diefenbaker. He pulled up in a Buick, he had a driver, and they were having a conversation. Dad actually took us over there and introduced Jamie and I to Mr. Diefenbaker. So three days later on our birthday we got a telegram from Mr. Diefenbaker.

“And that [telegram] was lost. I saw it many times and after my dad died, I couldn’t find the telegram. My brother Martin, who had taken a whole lot of stuff and put it in storage after dad died [in] 1987, came to our place last summer with that telegram — framed. I had wondered if it was ever going to be found again. It hangs in my office in Toronto.

“But for those of you who don’t know, my brother Jamie and I were born on the 14th of June 1957. Diefenbaker was elected on the 10th of June. I was actually named after Diefenbaker and my brother James was named after Jim Baskin who also had won the riding of Renfrew South. Politics is mixed into everything. Now most people in good, Catholic, Christian Barry’s Bay assumed that we were named after the Apostles, John and James, and my father being an astute politician never did anything to dissuade them from that. But those of you who knew me growing up also know that there was no way that I was one of the apostles.

“Just one of the stories about history in front of this station: I was 8 years old, some 54 years ago, right about where that picnic table is — one of the moments I’ll never forget. And I thought that moment had been lost in history until my brother Martin presented me with that telegram last summer.

“Anything you can do to keep this history going. It’s amazing to have it standing here the way it is. I want to thank all of those people who put so much heart and soul into keeping it this way and anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.”



  1. Gerry Beanish

    Great story John. I can verify that he was not an apostle. There was that hockey game, not sure if it was Fort Coulonge or Shawville, but let’s say it was a hostile environment.

  2. Joanne Olsen

    Thank you to John for supporting the StationKeepers and our efforts. The certificate received will be shared with the Community in the Station. John’s sharing of his personal Station story is precisely what the Station is all about…..a place to meet, share our stories and then meet again.

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