My father and grandfather spent twelve years in New Waterford, mining coal. My grandfather always wanted to go west. One day they took the train heading west and when the train stopped in Canmore for coal, my grandfather looked out and said,We're home, boys.
When I was about eighteen and halfway through Grade 12, I thought it was a good idea to quit school. I was sick and tired of that place. I thought it would be a good idea to take the summer off but my old man had different ideas. Within three days, I was working at Continental Lime at Exshaw. I soon quit that place and the next thing I knew I was working down the mine. That was 1962. Dad didn't believe in anybody sitting around the house, looking out the window.
They put me up at No. 3 Mine packing timbers.They gave me the toughest job in the mine. My dad told them to work me because he wanted me to go back to school but I liked it.
I got married when I was twenty-one. Before I was twenty-two, I had my fireboss papers. My old school principal helped me study to pass my fireboss exams. I was one of the youngest guys around to have my fireboss papers. But I wouldn't go firebossing because you couldn't make as much money as a contract miner.
In the No. 5 Mine, me and my buddy were working on a steep pitch and had just finished drilling the coal prior to blasting. In the top part of the coal seam was a large piece of petrified stump. It let loose and hit my partner in the back, breaking his back, shoulder and leg.The stump just missed me but got my partner. After that, I was ready to start working as a fireboss. That was my turning point as a contract miner.
I was at Canmore for a year after the mine shut down. I was there to help with security because I was one of the officials.The mine closing bothered some guys.You could see the writing on the wall long before it actually closed in 1979, you could see it coming. When they shut the mine down, I was thirty-six years old. I was not worried about the future and started a small construction company.