Lögberg-Heimskringla - 01.08.1981, Blaðsíða 8

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 01.08.1981, Blaðsíða 8
8-WINNIPEG, HÁTÍÐARBLAÐ 1981 Icelanders - Ukrainians By Einar Arnason Number 404 snaked its way along the winding railway tracks in North Western Ontario, the box cars swayed individually reflecting unevenness of the road bed. This was the fast through freight that made its daily journey from coast to coast. The locomotive, a coal con- suming steam engine, belched out cinder laden black smoke that lay over the train enshrouding it with a layer of gritty dust, frequently let- ting out clouds of steam as the whis- tle sounded warnings of this fast ap- proaching steel monster. It was "The Nineteen Hundred and Thirty Fourth Year of Our Lord", a low mark in the economic depression that plagued our country and the world during the Thirties. On board were four "Knights of the Road" hitching a free ride without permission, heading East towards Sioux Lookout, a common practice during that era, reluctantly accepted by the railways as thousands of unemployed moved back and froth across the country, seeking evasive employment oppor- tunities no matter how menial or back breaking. Mostly they surviv- ed on handouts by kind citizens and municipal soup kitchens, operated by cities that relieved hunger but limited their hospitality to several days, when the individual would have to hop the next freight out of town. We clung to the flat car that bounced up and down, tilting first one way then the other as we went around the curves that had the outer rail raised to a higher level so as to overcome the centrifugal forces that pulled on the railway cars, which were changing direction of momen- tum as we snaked our way through the rocky terrain. Our personal comfort was at a minimum as the fine gritty dust of the belching coal consuming steam engine lodged under our eyelids and the cold of an early May Sunday penetrated our thinly clad bodies and our stomachs kept sending signals which reminded us that our last meal had been consumed a good many hours ago. My newly found companion, OIi, was from Sprague, Manitoba. He had been on the road for a month without luck while his family hopefully waited to hear that he had landed a job. He was heading for a railway gang which had recently been sent out towards Sioux Lookout. The foreman was an ac- quaintance and he felt optimistic about obtaining a job. I had teamed up with Oli for several reasons: he was Norwegian, a family man seriously looking for work, he knew the fine art of hitching rides on freight trains and was intelligent. I met him at Reddit, Ont., during the middle of the night as I was prowl- ing around the railway yard looking over the lay of the land. He'was flat broke, I had five dollars. We savoured the coffee and doughnuts A rare evening respite for Ex- tra Gang Workers as they banter and good-naturedly pit their per- sonal strengths. served at the railway restaurant. The other two were packing homebrew for sale to the railway gangs. Aside from being civil Oli and I kept our distance, we had other interests, bootlegging by recently released offenders was not one of them. The beauty of Northern Ontario escaped us in our rather miserable physical circumstances. The green forests, the varied shapes of the Precambrian Shield with many land locked lakes in their original state, held no interest for us. What we wanted was a slowing down of the freight, with heaps of gravel along the Right of Way and men leaning on shovels dispassionately observ- ing the freight train roll by, as they obtained a brief respite from the ar- duous toil that was their lot. After many hours our hoped for slow down came as the steam locomotive ceased to belch forth rythmic puffs from the smoke stack and the long line of bpx cars that trailed in its wake began to coast at a decelerating rate. We were reward- ed by the sight of a railway gang spaced out along the Right of Way. The question was, whether this was the gang I wanted to reach or if it was Oli's. We descended to the last rung on the railway car ladder and deciding that we could make it, let go with óur feet going as fast as they could until our bodily momentum had dissipated and come to a halt. Back we went a few yards to pick up our personal belongings that we had cast off prior to leaving No. 404 Canadian National Railways fast freight on its eastward journey. Our host transportation disap- peared quickly as it negotiated the next curve and finally was hidden by the rocky terrain of the Precam- brian Shield. We continued our eastward journey on foot carefully Box cars on the left house the Railway Extra Gang in front of a lake that was greatly ap- preciated. searching for a face that we knew.-I was lucky I found my University pal Mike, knee deep in wet clay, shovel- ling the muck out of the ditch in a rock cut through which the railway Right of Way passed. Mike had his mind made up, aspiring to become a mining engineer. He had not reach- ed that exalted position but his philosophy was that you may as well look like one. There he stood with his knee high leather boots and breeches covered with clay, manipulating a shovel that would eventually be replaced by a mining engineer's transit, when his future task would be to determine the ore body, locate the shafts and underground tunnels tabulating the mine survey data. He was not happy and advised me to proceed to the bunk cars on a siding two miles fur- ther on. Oli and I headed for the diner, a converted box car. The cook gave us a meal for 25 cents each which he pocketed that further depleted my financial resources. The C.N.R. was the loser as they would hardly be reimbursed by the cook who had no particular feeling of obligation towards the bureaucratic con- glomerate that our Federal Govern- ment had acquired, as numerous í-ailways had bankruoted themselves and become apart of our National Railway. Oli was unlucky, this was not the gang he had hoped to find. The last I saw of him was his lonely figure walking slowly east along the railway tracks to wait for the next freight train. His acquaintance was a memorable 12 hour experience. He deserved a better fate. I was entering a new world of the Railway Extra Gang made up of casual labour to carry out railway track repairs during the summer months. The personnel were mainly recent arrivals from the Ukraine. They were hard working, never complaining no matter how strenuous their task or trying the weather, that could be cold sleet or burning hot with the sun beating down raising temperatures to 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the shade. For many the English language was difficult or next to im- possible and as the gang was almost completely Ukrainian their language dominated. Mike, like Continued on page 12 Greetings ... GIMLI CREDIT UNION LTD. Phone 642-5135 A. Remillard, Mgr. H. P. TERGESEN & SONS GENERAL STORE Established 1899 ; Phone 642-5958 Gimli, Manitoba Complimentsof CENTRAL BAKERY Pastries, Wedding and Birthday Cakes Home Made Bread RON and LORNA FLETT Phone 642-5544 CENTRESTREETand 3rd AVE. GIMLI, MAN. GREETINGS TO ALL OUR ICELANDIC FRIENDS ON THIS THEIR NATIONAL HOLIDAY Typecasting Machine Service SIG ELIASSON Phone 256-4233 and Repairs PHILELIASSON 12 St. ThomasRoad

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