Ken Westeen, Aerial, AB

Author's Note: When in 1995 I was introduced to Ken, he modestly agreed to a photograph. We decided that later we would sit down and talk about his mining days, but he passed away before that could happen. The following information about Ken, a coal miner and the son of a coal miner, has been provided by a daughter.

Born in 1929 and raised in the coal mining village of Aerial as part of a large family, Ken quit school at 15, as did most other boys in the Valley. His first job was in the Rosedale Collieries where he worked between layoffs until 1951. During one layoff period, he took work at the smelter in Trail, B.C. During another spring layoff, he, his father and brother got work at the Kananaskis Coal Mine. All three worked there until the fall, then returned to the Rosedale Mine. They also worked together at the Western Gem in Cambria. Other mines in the Valley where Ken worked included the Hy-Grade Mine in north Drumheller, the Star Mine in Aerial and in East Coulee, the Crown and Atlas mines.

In 1969, when most of the mines were shut down, it was time to quit mining or leave the Valley. Ken's brother Bernard ended up in Grande Cache as an underground miner, but Ken continued to live in the original family house in Aerial and hold a variety of jobs.

Ken's father, Nels Westeen, was a mining family patriarch. Born in Sweden in 1891, he immigrated to Minnesota for a job in the iron mines. Jobs in logging and farming eventually brought Nels to the Hanna area, where he bought a homestead. He farmed from 1919 to 1922 when the lack of water, and the area's persistent and menacing winds, finally broke him. He married a girl from Hanna and they moved to Rosedale in the booming Drumheller Valley. He got a job in a small mine, The Yoho (Robin Hood), in Rosedale, then worked various Valley mines until 1956 – a period of more than 30 years.

When Nels was 88 years old, his daughter asked him about his life. He said that, thinking back, everything was "squashed" in his mind: his home in Sweden, the ore mines in Minnesota, hard work on the Hanna homestead, logging camps, the coal mines in the Valley. "At one time, I used to think I wanted to return to Sweden, but I had a large family and I made my choice years ago. I hated and feared the coal mines and the whole Valley at first, but it rather gets in your blood.

"The Valley became a part of me after all these years. You could say we were one of the early pioneers of this province."