Friday, June 7, 2013

Jack the Miner

I was looking again at some old photos of Jack and Ollie Smith, taken when they lived up north near Timmins in the mid-1930s. The pictures are in my mother, Betty Smith’s red photo album, which I wrote about in the first post in this blog. (The entire album is available here at Flickr.)

I looked up the pictures to send to an old friend of Jack’s, and mine, Mike Marlatt. Mike and I were surveyor’s assistants with Jack in the summers of 1969 and 1970. When I went off to university in the fall of 1969, Mike, who had decided on a career in surveying, stayed on. He and Jack became friends and kept in touch for several years after Mike moved away to pursue his career. 

Anyway, Mike got in touch recently and sent me a couple of old photos from those summers at the County of Middlesex. I wanted to return the favour but didn’t have any pictures from that period. So I sent him this great one of his old buddy and Ollie and some friends at home in the north.

The picture is remarkable for many reasons, not least that Jack has hair – wild hair at that! I also like the way the writing on the back shows through the burnt out sections of the background. The picture is pasted solidly onto the album page so I daren’t try to remove it to read the back, and the writing is illegible as it is.

The photo appears on a page in the album headed, “Be it ever so humble - the home of the JL's, Fall and Winter 1936.” Here’s another from a different page, showing Jack in his miner’s gear, presumably near the mine where he worked. The label reads, “Jack the miner background right.”

Jack, if I remember the story correctly, went up north and basically squatted on some land where he built a cabin. He and Ollie lived there while he worked in the mines. Cousin Bob Smith will be able to correct and augment this account. Here’s a picture that may show the cabin Jack built. Maybe some antique car expert could identify the vehicle in the foreground.

And here's one more picture from this period in Jack and Ollie's lives, showing a group of friends near one of their cabins in winter. They look a rough and ready crew. Jack and Ollie far right.

And finally, here’s one of the hilarious pictures Mike Marlatt sent me. That’s yours truly on the left in, I believe, a pith helmet! Note the hipster jeans. By 1969, we were all in bell bottoms, so I’m assuming these were old jeans suitable only for work. The other guy is Don Caddy.

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