Bob Bushalak - Former Fireboss, Canmore, AB

I was born in Stellarton, Nova Scotia in 1932. Both my grandfather and father were coal miners. My father had more than fifty years in the Stellarton mines, the Allan Shaft and the McBean Colliery. He lasted about two years after he retired because he had no hobbies. He came to this country when he was twelve years old, all alone.

I was sixteen and I lied about my age. I started in the Allan Shaft, right on Front Street in Stellarton. That was in 1948. I missed the big explosion in 1950 by a half hour.They shut the mine shortly after that because they were scared there was going to be a big explosion like the one in 1918 when eighty-eight men and boys were killed.

I got itchy feet and joined the army. I spent three years there then got out in 1955 and started at the McBean Colliery. It closed in 1969.

I got a chance to go to Canmore through the employment office there. I was looking for a job that would provide a future for my three boys and my girl. I liked it when I got here in 1969. I got my fireboss papers here. I was always careful about the gas underground in Canmore. I didn't feel like going to hillbilly heaven. I knew the mine was going to close in 1979 so I took my holidays. I could see it coming. After the mine closed, I stayed for nearly a year doing security. Then I got a job at Exshaw.

After the mine closed, I didn't return to Nova Scotia because it would be like going back in time. Out here, we're chasing the dollar. In Nova Scotia, there's no dollar to chase.

You know what I do? I go to the school every year on Heritage Day and talk mining. I give every kid a bag with a briquette in it and tell them it was made here and don't throw it away.