Arriving at Canada’s West Coast, 1950

So I quit and bought a train ticket for Vancouver, arriving there on March the 12 in a snowstorm and nearly broke.

On the train to Vancouver I had met a young Alberta cowboy who was going to the city for knee surgery. He was on crutches and needed a little help now and then. We found a cheap old hotel and roomed together to save us both some money.

The next day, while he went to the hospital, I went to the employment office where I showed my passport and immigration papers as well as my qualification papers in agriculture.

I had wanted a job on a more modern farm than the prairie farm where I had been working at which was a hundred years behind the times. However, they completely ignored what I wanted and gave me a ticket to Ocean Falls, a company town with a pulp mill. Once again I realized that the fancy advertising in the Danish papers was phony and that all Canada wanted was as much cheap labour as they could get.

I was running out of money and lived on bread, milk and honey, the cheapest energy I could find, thus I was in Paradise?

Ocean Falls Pulp.

In my hotel I met an old Dane who was living there for the winter. He had been  had working up coast in the summer and before I boarded my ship to Ocean Falls he lent me five bucks to help me make it through the next few weeks. After my first paycheque l sent him back his five bucks.Dad's painting of a whale (acrylic)On the trip with the coastal steamship I saw my first killer whales in the distance. That was the only excitement.

At Ocean Falls we were taken to bunkhouses located on log floats beneath a steep mountainside. Years later I read about a rockslide there killing seven workers on that same spot.

At Ocean Falls the rent and cost of food was taken off our paycheques. We were some twenty-five newcomers and apparently that was the turnover of workers every week.

Company towns like you for their dirtiest work but otherwise you are not welcome. There is a hierarchy of established higher-wage workers and newcomers always remain the ‘other’; that is the way of all industrial countries.

My work was in the wood grinder where rows of workers stuffed blocks of wood up to a hundred pounds a piece into grinding machines. It was steamy and hot like being in a perpetual steam bath.

After two months and only the occasional sunshine, along with 250 inches of rain, I quit together along with about twenty-five others.

While going back to Vancouver on the steamship I witnessed some vandalism. When dark fell, five young men in their twenties ripped loose everything they could and cast it overboard.

I felt their anger had to do with life in a company town, the monotonous work in a factory, isolation and resentment. I remembered seeing something the same in Sweden, another industrial country.

Below is my view of the country. When it is not all manmade, pretty, isn’t it?Dad's painting of Ocean Falls in 1950

Note from Editor/Daughter: From here my dad traveled back to Vancouver and then headed out to a logging job at Kelsey Bay.

2 responses to “Arriving at Canada’s West Coast, 1950

  1. Pingback: Saskatchewan in the Winter Time, 1949 | Albatz Travel Adventures·

  2. Pingback: Driftnetting in Canada’s West Coast Forest, 1950 | Albatz Travel Adventures·

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