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J. Thiessen also worked at Pickle Crow gold mines. He came from
the forestry camps in BC to try something new, and he quickly showed
Christmas holidays,] Pete Berg and I decided to work in the Pickle
Crow gold mine. At that time there was no road and we flew to
the mine 200 km or so north from Sioux Lookout in northern Ontario
. After a month Pete decided to go back to camp but I stayed till
almost the end of March. I rather enjoyed my work and the management
did try very hard to get me to stay. They gave me a course in
mining by giving me a teacher who was a fully qualified mining
engineer and a very nice pureblood Native. After six weeks I passed
all the necessary tests.” [ASM, 42]
so, he decided to return to the forestry camps in BC when his time
in the mine was up.
was even more important than gold to the Canadian economy. Coal
from Saskatchewan was vital to Canadian society. It was used to
heat homes during Canada's long, cold winters and to generate electricity.
Even today, seventy percent of Saskatchewan's electrical energy
comes from coal-powered plants. Since many miners had joined the
army, the coal mines were in desperate need of workers. Justice
Embury, a judge who worked with COs, even encouraged
them to work in the mines.
mining companies in Saskatchewan had both underground mines and
surface mines. Henry H. Funk worked in an underground coal mine
even before he got his call for military service..
June, 1942, I had graduated from the Altona high School. That
summer was spent helping on the farm. That fall we were recruited
for the coal mines. There was a big labour shortage in the nation.
Many young farm boys were idle at home during the winter. Now
employment people came to southern Manitoba to seek our help for
the winter months for the coal mines in southern Saskatchewan.
This was an essential industry. We were assured that our draft
would be postponed until we got back – and it was. There were
perhaps a couple of dozen fellows from Gretna, Altona, Rosenfeld,
Plum Coulee, and Winkler who responded. We were taken by train
on the Deloraine line, west to Melita and then on a different
line to the Estevan/Bienfait area in Saskatchewan. Here we were
picked up by truck and taken to Taylerton, the production site
of the Western Dominion coal mine.”
due time we were outfitted with work clothing including rubber
boots, coveralls, hard hats fitted with carbide lamps, etc. Soon
the hoist dropped us 160 feet [49 m] down the shaft into the bowels
of the earth and we were coal miners…. Our roles varied. Since
this was a mechanized mine there was little traditional pick and
shovel work. At home I was teased that my work was to pick up
the little pieces…. I had only a slight build and at that time
I was quite slim. They could not picture me as a tough, robust
actual job was to be a “trip-rider” – switch man for the underground
railway. The whole mine was equipped with a rail system and all
the heavy equipment moved on rails, driven by electricity from
a heavy trolley line attached to the ceiling of the tunnels. I
was assigned as a switch man to one of the heavy electric engines
which were used to pull/push the coal cars around. These were
open box cars that could hold 4 tons of coal each.”
was some danger there. During our four months two men died in
industrial accidents. Some of us had close calls but we were young.
Living with the situation on a daily basis we did not see the
other miners looked out for these newcomers.
regular miners were good to us youngsters. Many of them… were
fine people! Some of them were more crusty and tough. One old
miner claimed he could swear for five minutes without repeating
himself once. We never timed him but he sure knew how. A few of
our boys felt the need to salt their language with profanity too.
But we soon found out that even the tough miners did not respect
that. They accepted us better if we [acted] straight.” [ASM,
surface mining was different, but equally difficult. George Schmidt
worked as a coal loader.
the fall work was completed on the ranch he applied to work in
one of the strip mines south of Tofield during the winter. The
deep layer of earth 20'-25' [50-64 cm], was removed by caterpillar,
ripper and scraper. The 8-foot [2.4 m] seam of
soft coal was then mined by teams of four men each, filling rail
cars by wheelbarrow, using a ramp. Each crew was expected to fill
a forty ton rail car daily. Under normal circumstances, if the
seam came apart easily and there was no snow on the ramp they
could finish by early afternoon. Most of the coal was used in
the domestic market. Since mining was deemed an essential service,
men were freed from war service to do mining in the winter time.”
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