Small Frye Episodes

Small Frye’s Pipeline - Part Four

Leonard Lea Frazer

Mike attends a party in the “Blue Room,” builds a house in Kamloops, finds romance, leaves his landlady behind and gets a surveying job on the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Alberta.

We finished that stretch of pipeline without too much flack from the contractor and I even left him as a friend. At the end of the job, we all held a big celebration.

Everyone donated and we had the Blue Room reserved to hold it in. This was the best room in the hotel and was always used as an area for conventions or weddings. With plenty of room for us all and lots of good things to eat, it was a grand occasion. However, wherever a bunch of men are celebrating, a fight of some sort is sure to break out, and so, around ten at night, myself and my girlfriend took off to leave the others to get into all the trouble they wanted to. We always found more interesting things to do than fight!

Now that the job had come to an end, I at once thought of finding some other work, as I very well knew if I was laying around with nothing to do, I would just spend what I had made all year and possibly get into trouble. So, when I went down to the office the next morning, I found out that I had well over a years' pay coming to me. All the overtime I had put in represented five percent of my entire pay for the year or more. That’s how long I had been employed by Bechtel. This was my last cheque and my holiday pay and was a huge sum; more money than I had ever had at one time in my life!

I was glad that I had put in all the overtime. I had not missed a day, including Christmas, for over a year! As I was sort of a loner, I had nothing to do but work and I had volunteered for any extra hours that came up. This really paid off! I was surprised at my final cheque. I had enjoyed every day of it, even in the rain, and all the bad country we had fought to get that line through.

Small Frye’s  Pipeline - Part Four

(Note the gum-boots and no hard hats)  In October of 1953 the Trans Mountain pipeline began shipping oil with an initial capacity of 150,000 barrels per day. The project featured four pump stations along its 1,150-kilometre route and a marine dock that connects loading facilities on the east side of Edmonton with ocean tankers in Burnaby, B.C.

I enjoyed seeing things getting done and, most of all, seeing the huge machinery as it ground through mud, snow and swamps and finally getting the last survey done and the ground levelled off as well as we could.

I was hoping to be transferred to some new project but, at the time, they had nothing for me. I was still on their list as a prospective employee and would be called as soon as they could place me. Till then, I could do as I felt like. So, I went to Kamloops and built a beautiful home in North Kamloops, fished the surrounding lakes and travelled all over the Cariboo country. I spent a very busy and happy year doing just as I wanted to. As I was separated from my second wife, I had no responsibility toward her, though I paid $400 a month toward the keep of my daughter. I felt I owed no one anything and could do what I wanted to with any money I had.

I had rented a lovely little suite while building my home and in the next suite to me was my landlord, a lovely lady. I found out that she talked my language and loved to live and enjoy all she could get out of life as she went along. What I liked about her; she knew all the ins and outs of life.

Now, as it happened, quite often her stove would balk on her and I had a good cook stove and I was also a good cook and she knew it. So, I often asked her to have supper with me. She jumped at the chance and it was not long before she asked me if she could board with me as she said, "Cooking was not in her line." She had no trouble convincing me and I took her up at once. Of course, I was well paid!

Although she was not a cook, she could fish and knew all the good spots. We spent most of our time fishing and some days just drifting along in some lonely, secluded lake in the hot sun. In a canoe we would troll for Kamloops Trout and sort of hoped that no trout would bite!

We never went to the lakes that were fished by the public as we wanted solitude and to be on our own. Here we could dress as we wished and most of the time our bathing suits were all we needed so we could enjoy the sun. I did most of the paddling, but at times, watching her sitting at the other end of the canoe, my mind would stray and she enjoyed this!

As time passed, I knew I would have to leave this bit of heaven on earth and go back to work. Sooner or later my money would run out. And one thing that was very odd, at this time. The lovely lady that I was looking for all my life was delivering milk next door to me. The One Woman; my present wife. What a deal fate can hand you! And, I could not get acquainted with her during that time!

However, the time came when one morning the phone rang and Mike Boyle asked me if I would care to take a job in Alberta as an Assistant Surveying Engineer. Now, as much as I hated to leave my present surroundings and having finished my new home without even getting to live in it, I jumped at the chance to go back to work for Canadian Bechtel. I would get a big jump in pay with all expenses covered and I was going to work on the biggest pipeline ever built in Canada at the time. A thirty-two inch line! This would be a challenge for me. And, again, I took the job.

It was Sunday when I got the letter and I was to report to Syd Wright at Edmonton on the next Monday. He had sent me a cheque for all my expenses and had a room reserved at one of the better hotels in Edmonton for me. He knew I would not fail him.

So, now I had to settle things at Kamloops and move to Alberta. I was sitting on the porch when my landlady came out of her door from the room next to me. She sat down and said, "You know Mike, I dreamed you were getting tired of me and what a nightmare it was! You wouldn't do that would you?"

I looked at her and thought how nice it would be to have her with me on this new job as she really knew how to take care of me and even though she was no heck as a cook, she sure had other qualities. "How would you like to close up here and go with me on a new venture?" I asked her. I then told her about the letter and showed her the cheque.

Her lips dropped and she looked at me with tears in her eyes, "I knew it Mike. You are going to leave me. Although you are not a big man, you know how to treat a woman and I can say I've never enjoyed anyone so much. You now have your new home built. You could rent it and live here with me and we could continue to enjoy life together. Please reconsider it, we could make a good living here."

I must admit, I was tempted to take her up on the offer, but fate took a hand. I was so excited to see new country and the challenge was too great for me to turn down. So, I

took her in my arms and spoke to her, brushing her lovely auburn hair, "No, Darleen, I must go. I am called, and the challenge is too great for me to pass up. I must go, but why can't you go with me? We would sure have a good life?"

"No Mike, I can't go. Kamloops is my home and here I stay. As much as I would like to, I can't go with you."

There was no point in arguing with her. We had as much fun as we could the rest of that week. Though I had spent all my money on the new home, I turned it over to my second wife and took off for Edmonton and a new and exciting job on the pipeline.

I would be stationed at Edson, but first I had to travel to Edmonton to sign up and I also had to be bonded by an insurance company. So, I took the train to Edmonton and I left my most charming landlady at Kamloops. I had no idea who was waiting for me at the station at Edmonton.

As I stepped off the train, I saw the most delightful lady standing on the station platform. I knew her at once. It was my lovely lady friend from Vavenby, the boss’s daughter, my Marie!

This was a joyful reunion! I gave her a big hug and asked, "Oh Marie, what a coincidence. What are you doing here in Edmonton? I thought you were back in Vancouver going to school?"

She looked at me with those captivating eyes, "Well Mike, I have kept track of you for some time and found out you were going to work here so I just up and left school." Then, lowering her eyes, she continued, "I sort of liked your company at Vavenby and Wire Cache. We had some very enjoyable times together back then and I would like some more of the same. I am working for Canadian Bechtel as your receptionist at Edson and came to meet you, although I found out that you have not been true to me. I do hope we can start where we left off so many years ago." Then, with her most provocative smile, "I will sure try to make up for lost time." And, over a period of time, she did just that!

I was very happy with my new job and found out, to my delight, that many of my old pipeline pals were working on the same job.

Marie and I registered at the Edmonton office, then I was issued a new truck and she and I drove to Edson where we had rooms reserved in the hotel. Here, we got acquainted with the rest of the crew. Marie took over her new office and I celebrated my good luck with my pals. I was ready to go to work the next day. I found out that I would be working with an advance crew of surveyors.

After looking over my work schedule, I discovered that we were to start at a point near Carrot Creek and survey a temporary line on up Old Man Creek to another point around twenty miles through virgin country where we found plenty of swamps and muskeg.

To start with, we had a helicopter trip over the country we were to run the line and, as we went along, I dropped surveyor's ribbon along the proposed route. As I looked down on that country, I found out it was going to be a challenge. The only road we had to use was several seismograph lines that had been put in many years before. These were just "cat roads" that ran for miles through swamps and jack pine country built by the men prospecting for oil. It was not a deluxe highway, I can tell you!  Just a place where the cats ran through, running right over timber and brush.

But, we had a good four-wheel drive. We would use it to go as far as we could then take an “Odwell.” This was a huge machine that could go just about any place. We sure took it through some rough country!

We had sixteen men in our crew and Syd Wright and I took the lead. Drawing up our route the day before, we did our best to follow it as we went along. We surveyed the pipeline route as directly as we could, but at times had to go around some really bad swamps.


To be continued . . .