Lit match could have burned down restaurant

From our October 2012 issue

By Abe Giesbrecht – Swift Current, Sask.

Back in 1946 my cousin, Pete, and I answered an ad in the Winnipeg Free Press from Abitibi Pulp & Paper Company.

We got a free trip to Nipigon, Ont. for cutting cordwood. We stayed at the army barracks that had been used for WWII prisoners of war.

The work was good and the food was good, but a bunch of young men means a lot of horseplay, which cost us our jobs. Thus, we had to find our own way back home.

I remember hitchhiking. With the temperature -25, it wasn’t much fun. Besides, in the 1940s, we didn’t have the traffic we have today.

I don’t remember exactly how we got to Fort William (now Thunder Bay). There, we sought out a boxcar in the railyard. We took some packing out of the wheel bearing boxes and lit it in the car to keep us warm. When we realized the floor started burning, we had to put it out.

I had carried a small axe with me and found a piece of wood. I made a wedge and pounded it between the floor and the boxcar door so it wouldn’t slam shut while driving, as they would be impossible to open from inside. How we managed to pick a westbound train, I don’t know. The train moved west and we ended up in Portage La Prairie, Man., where we stayed in a hotel.

The next morning, we went for breakfast in a cafe. After we were finished eating, we both lit up a cigarette, and my cousin suddenly said, “Go pay the bill, and let’s get out of here.”

I did, and outside he told me that he stuck the lit match in a hole in the wall, not realizing it was stuffed full of napkins. It started a fire. We went back to our hotel. Not a good choice.

After a little while we went to buy our tickets. We had enough money for the rest of the way home. When we walked by the cafe on the opposite side of the street, they noticed us and called us over.

The staff and a fireman and equipment were outside. Did we get a tongue-lashing! I thought we were fortunate to get off that easily.

After that, we bought our tickets and got to Swift Current. From there, we got a ride on the back of a truck to Wymark, then rode a horse and sleigh back to the farm. When I got home, they were just getting ready to go to the Christmas concert. We took that in.

Wow! What an eventful month we had!