So the decision was made to leave LaBelle Province The back seat of the car was removed and replaced with plywood and foam. It was a wonderful place for Jonathan and Michelle to travel. (no pesky car seats) I can still remember the excitement and anticipation I experienced that August 1 morning . We loaded the 1965 Dodge, with a 9×9 tent, and gear in preparation for the trip “west. We hauled a portable welding machine behind. . The three hundred dollars got us there. I know we had no credit card. We understood there was work for welders but we had no idea how much in demand Sandy would be
. After we stayed the weekend with my dear friend and second cousin Margaret (Grove) and Roger Stutzman on their farm near Tofield, Alex bought a Edmonton Journal and discovered lists of jobs for welders.(those were the days)
We camped in a 2 week free campground, on Highway 14 east of Edmonton. An outhouse, a pump with good water,(amazing for that part of Alberta) good fire pits and picnic tables at every campsite. All we needed.!
I will never forget the sunny, dry days, the prairie grasses, the Magpies, sunsets and smell of poplar wood smoke from the fire.
Alex got a job the first day for $12.00 an hour, four times what it was in the East. I would heat a large galvanized pail of water for him to wash with when he got home after his long days of welding on the south side of Edmonton. What simple pleasures they were.
Needless to say we loved it, decided to spend the summer, go back and pack up and become western Canadians.
Next we wanted to push west to the Pacific, through the mountains , with a camping trip to British Columbia
Travelling through the Rockies, was quite a thrill. I recall trying to get Jonathan and Shelly to look out the window to see the scenery, but their books and toys took their attention. We enjoyed visiting Herb and Verna Reesor, who had not been in Vancouver long. After the Vancouver trip we kept the rented tent trailer and went and camped by the Athabasca River, while Alex worked a few weeks, welding at the large Fox Creek plant. I remember one morning we awoke to a light skiff of snow over the river rocks where we made camp. So by Thanksgiving we were back in Eastern Canada and moving on our mind.
Now, the plan was to get a welding truck, so he could be a contract welder in Alberta. So with the children and I back in the Quebec house, he put together a basic truck with a Lincoln welding machine on the back. Several young men , including Real (Bob) DeRapp went with him heeding the “go West young man” suggestion.
When they arrived in Edmonton, they found acquaintances, Dan and Jan Byer, who had just recently married and were living in an apartment on the North Side of Edmonton.
Now it was of utmost importance to secure a job after sticking his neck out. One evening, he felt he should remove himself and the young men that traveled with him, out of Dan and Jan’s apartment. They went to a movie, something we just didn’t much of at that time.
In the theater, the folks in front of him, were discussing a fatal explosion at a gas plant north of town, where a welder lost his life.
“Excuse me, where did you say this happened?” queried Alex.
They told him and I am sure you know what he did, he called that gas plant the next morning and found out they were indeed looking for a welder.
“Get down to the government testing place and get your Alberta B Pressure ticket and head up here and Oh Yes, DO NOT BRING ANY HAND TOOLS” were the instructions he received. The lack of hand tools had been a concern for Alex, arriving at a job with only a welding machine? But now he had the instruction to not bring any. He called the testing place and they said
“come right away, because we only test on Mondays, and if you don’t make it today you will need to wait another week.” He made it there in time and found out because he had a Ontario Provincial license he was allowed to take the Alberta Test, which would allow him to earn a lot more money. He passed it, but it cost him his last $10. I don’t remember being without back in Quebec, but now he didn’t have enough gas to get to this gas plant several hours away. This was in the day we didn’t have credit cards, or e-transfers.Do most folks start out on a trip with no money and not enough gas? NO! But Alex wasn’t most people!! He drove out of town and there was a hitchhiker, whom he stopped to pick up.
Alex had more times than I can tell you, picked up hitch hikers, but never had an offer like this.
“If you take me to Whitecourt, which I know is farther for you, I will buy you a tank of gas”, said this special hitchhiker.
Alex agreed to this, and arrived at his destination with the needle sinking toward empty.
He checked in and they said , “have you eaten, just go into the dinning room and they will throw some steaks on the grill for you.”. He had not eaten that day.
“First, go and load up your truck with supplies” they said, which he happily did. Although he had proved by this time, to be an exceptionally skilled fabricator and welder, he had never been able to buy his own tools, so this was nearly unbelievable to be able to pick up grinders and every kind of hand tool needed to weld pipe etc.
Alberta was looking very good. Camp life left lots to be desired, even though the food was exceptional.
By Christmas he flew back from Edmonton to Montreal, Air Canada for $99. That was the first air trip he had ever taken, and it did seem a little over the top to Harold, I think.
Now, next thing to conquer, was how to get us all moved out to Edmonton?
No problem he said “I’ll just build a horse trailer, to pull behind our very powerful 1965 Dodge.” Which he did over the holiday, with Harold’s help, finding parts and pieces in various junkyards. Never was he happier than when something had to be designed and built from nothing. His mother told me, she cannot remember a day since a young boy that he didn’t have a building project on the go in their basement. He remembers when he was making a “stage coach” at a very young age, and dragged his project down to a local shop that had a welder who fashioned a piece for him. He recalled at that time, thinking” if I could weld, I could make anything”!!
We arrived safely in Edmonton in January 1972, a very dubious time of year to travel across Canada, which gave us cause for gratitude. Sure enough, after the furniture was unpacked we advertised the horse trailer for sale. It paid for our move.
Thus began our life in the “West”
Our son Jonathan, has told this story to men on his construction sites how his Dad got into contract oilfield welding, and one fellow responded with, “Jon, that is a blankety blank MIRACLE.” It is one of Jon and Tim’s favorite stories about their Dad.
It was an exhilarating way to live, but we had youth on our side. I did not have a set idea of how I wished to live, so I was a willing participant.
I still look for the synchronicity and miracles, in my life.
Timing is so important, but it requires being free of fear and anxiety.