Breaking New Ground—Stories from Defence Construction Breaking_new_ground - Page 35

During the Cold War, Canada and the United States strung a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line consisting of a system of radar stations across the Arctic, including this one at Cambridge Bay, then part of the Northwest Territories, in 1960. Following a brief stint as a pile inspector, something I did not take to (ensuring the piles were belled out at the bottom), I was posted to Churchill, where I arrived by train on a cold day in May of 1954. Churchill was a bit like an old western movie, what with the old-style station and board walk… My principal job was to prepare rock quantities removed by blasting for the Utilidors that carried the services to the buildings. Churchill (which at the time was establishing the Churchill Rocket Research Range) was a joint U.S. and Canadian Army camp and I was assigned to building F-25, attached to the Sergeant’s mess and bar where we were royally fed and the majority drank. Not a great thing for a 19-year-old with no other facilities to hold his interest… In those days we were paid a Northern Allowance, which in my case amounted to one hundred dollars above my normal wage, which seemed like a lot of money at the time; unfortunately, most of it wound up in the cash register of the bar… It was an experience that I would not recommend to other youngsters, but one that I’m glad I had. BREAKING NEW GROUND DEFENCE CONSTRUCTION CANADA During the winter of 1954, we had an opportunity to stay with CMHC or transfer to the new Defence Construction (1951) Limited. I believe the majority of us went to DCL. I had the opportunity to return to Churchill in 1988 as Chairman of the Manitoba Housing Authority. The railway station was still the same… but the base is completely gone. What once was a thriving community of several hundred souls was no more, just a barren site overlooking the Bay. I can still hear the clinking of glasses. After a posting to Fort Osborne Barracks Site One in Winnipeg, part of the Home Station Development Programme for the Canadian army—where he was responsible for the inspection of site service work, the roads, sewer and water services and the steam lines that served the buildings—Neil Wither left DCL in 1956 for Red River Construction, of which he was president from 1964 until his retirement in December 2005. He was also instrumental in the formation of Trip Canada (The Road Information Program) and a founding member of The Coalition to Renew Canada’s Infrastructure. 25