work, road building, was mostly back from the camp up in the hills
along the route where the bottom leg of the Trans-Canada Highway
is now #17. A lot of the boys spent most of the winter shoveling
gravel onto trucks. The largest pit had seven trucks with five
boys to each truck. Loading trucks by hand with mostly frozen
gravel was slow tedious work. The temperature during the day seldom
rose above zero F, and at night it dropped to anywhere from zero
to 48 below [-18 to -45 Celsius], which was the coldest. One truck
driver had told me that it gets so cold up there that your breath
freezes and turns into hoary frost before it hits the ground.
I had considered that a tall tale, but I found out it was true.”
boys cut firewood up in the bush and hauled it down for heating
the camps. A lot of it was birch, spruce, pine and some maple.
Surveyors would go ahead on snowshoes and stake out the course
of the road. After the end of February it was almost impossible
to get around any other way where no trail was made.”
springtime our work had taken us four miles from camp into the
unknown. It was all uphill from the camp and about the halfway
mark there was a place we called the rock pile. Here the road
curved around a small mountain almost too deep to travel at first.
An air compressor was set up here to operate jack hammers. They
drilled holes ranging from three to thirty feet in depth on a
steep slope. Two hundred or more of these holes were loaded with
dynamite and wired together to a charger at a safe distance. One
big BOOM sent the whole mountainside crashing down the slope.
Maple trees were sheared off like matchsticks. Large chunks of
rock were split with stone hammers, loaded onto wheelbarrows and
dumped further down the slope.”
small group of boys were assigned to build culverts with peeled
cedar logs in some deep ravines. First they had to clear away
snow which was often four to six feet [1.2 – 1.8 m] deep. Then
they would dig in two rows of posts about five feet apart with
cross members over the top. The sides and top were built like
log cabins and later covered with fill."
always had in mind that if I ever got back to that area, I would
try to locate one of those culverts and see how they withstood
the elements. Last fall on a trip to Wisconsin we stopped in at
Montreal River . It was early in the morning and everything was
wet, which was not the most desirable conditions, but I found
that I had no idea where to look for one of the culverts. When
we returned home, a friend told me that the highway was at its
third setting already, so I imagine those culverts are all buried.”
[ASM , 94-106]
lot of hard work went into building roads, but the COs also built
trails. David Jantzi shares how at the time he thought this
was unimportant but has since changed his mind.