Portage Heritage Museum

Caribou Bill Anger

Photo by Carl Mackenzie: Alan MacKenzie, Carl's son, recalls often visiting Caribou Bill when he and his father passed through Cranberry Portage travelling from Flin Flon. The boy in the picture is Alan.

The first museum at Cranberry Portage was run by a colourful character known as Caribou Bill. Caribou Bill was a man of many talents, and he truly shone when he was sharing his love of the North with anyone and everyone who chose to stop and pay him a visit. Many a tourist remarked that the long and in those days an arduous trip which brought them to Cranberry was well worth it just to have met and spent time with Bill, and, over a fresh cup of coffee, listen to the tales, his own exploits and those of others. He always knew where the fishing was best and was more than willing to give pointers as to how to approach these fishing spots to ensure a great catch. He wore a ready smile along with his own idea of dress code for such a venture. Young and old looked forward to spending time with Caribou Bill.

The following newspaper article Bill Anger "Caribou Bill', written by Tom Dobson and assisted by Ted Tadda appeared in March 2003.

Bill Anger ran a museum at Cranberry Portage and later at Prospector, north of The Pas, which was well-known not only by local residents but by the hundreds of tourists who visited him each summer. His was a unique operation and he was a unique man. His collection, colourful dress and storytelling were known and enjoyed by people from coast to coast and far down into the United States.

Bill Anger came to Canada from England early in this century. He was a very young man and his first job was as a chainman on a survey along the Canada-U.S. border. Following this he worked in the circulation department of the Winnipeg Tribune and his first trip into the north was in connection with newspaper work. This followed a return to Europe where he served in the first great war. He went to Churchill to assist a cameraman covering the return of the lost MacAlpine party. He was always proud of that he piggybacked MacAlpine from the rescue plane to the land party.

On the way south, he stopped off in The Pas and helped set up the first paper in the then frontier town. He fell in love with the north and spend the rest of his life between The Pas, Cranberry Portage and Flin Flon.

Although he had a number of winter jobs in both The Pas and Flin Flon and at one time worked for the local Community Club, his first love was a summer museum and information center he operated at Cranberry Portage for 15 years and 11 miles north of The Pas since 1965. As a self-appointed ambassador of goodwill, Caribou Bill was regarded for his promotional work when he received a Golden Boy award a number of years ago and was also named the Man of the Year from Manitoba by the Winnipeg Tribune.

It was his colourful dress and museum that attracted the visitors. He had many curios and artifacts, some humorous and others serious and it was seldom a tourist visited him that he did not pose with for a picture.He was photographed standing in front of his museum flanked by skins, traps, snowshoes and many other objects interest.

Many with movie cameras had him walking around, shaking hands and generally putting action into the film. He never tired of having his picture taken and telling his friends his photo that spread all over the world.

Although he sold a few postcards, coffee, doughnuts and small souvenirs there were many who wondered how he was able to survive on the small amount he received. His coffee usually was offered as a friendly gesture. He used to say, "Coffee is on the house, hospitality of the north, you know."

Always an enthusiastic champion of tourism, Caribou Bill did much to promote the industry around Cranberry Portage in the early years.

Because of the stories he would tell the visiting tourists, some branded him as a phony. However, this was not true. He never told a fake story. Stretch some of the address the always said with a chuckle, that is what they wanted to hear and now they got away happy.

Caribou Bill tried many stunts in his younger years. He did the wheels of a bicycle in the Atlantic Ocean Halifax and never stopped peddling until he slipped into the Pacific at Vancouver. He traveled across Canada in a log cabin mounted in the back of the truck. Well in this area he once drove golf ball away from Cranberry Portage to Flin Flon.

Caribou Bill spent the summer of 2002 at his location north of The Pas and late this fall he said goodbye to the last tourist of the many thousand he had met. Just who the last one was will probably never been known but unfortunately for tourism in the north it was the last one.

Read another article by Ted Tadda about Alec Moodie