This will be a series of blogs that I should have started January 1st. By sheer luck, I happen to have the diary that my maternal grandfather kept while he worked for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad. He made an entry every day during the year 1913. That’s right; the diary is exactly 100 years old. It was written in pencil as a bottle of ink for an ink pen would have frozen in a heartbeat in Northwest Canada in the winter! What follows is as close to an accurate transcription that I can produce, warts and all!
His handwriting leaves a great deal to be desired, but it’s function rather than form here that’s important to me. Truthfully, the entries are, by and large, extremely boring. But every once in a while, something is written that piques my interest. I’ll let you be the judge.
Clement Alexis Dickson was born in Williamstown, Glengarry County, Ontario in 1888. As a young man, he went off to help build the Grand Truck Pacific Railroad. It is reputed to have been the most expensive section of a railroad ever built in North America at $112,000 per mile which roughly converts to $2,600,000 in today’s dollars. It was built from 2 directions: Winnipeg, Manitoba west and Prince Rupert, British Columbia east.
To get us up to date, here’s 01 JAN 1913 through 06 JAN 1913:
Wednesday January 1, 1913
This being the first day of the new year. We went into Edmonton Cullerne, Steve and I. Had dinner at the Royal George then took in a show at the Empire. Mr Cullerne bought the three tickets. Then had the pleasure to walk home two miles after the show. The weather was very mild.
Thursday January 2, 1913
We went out to work at 1030 A.M. to get plus (sic) of the oil house. In the afternoon, L. St V. went to town about 1.30. About 4.30 I went in on the train to have a skate that night. I got in about 5.30 went to the rink and had my skates sharpen (sic). I found out that there was a bunch of the caps going out to prac(tice) at 6.30 so I went out with them and had some time with them. Got home about 130 A.M.
Friday, January 3, 1913
This morning we had to get up a (sic) 6 oclock much against our will. We went over town to run levels on a drain for Jan is on over at Strathcona. We had to work till 1.30 took dinner at Strathcona came over to the city. Alvin Cullerne let us do as we like on $2.00 but we got ( ) and he will know the rent. We came home on the 10 oclock train. Cullerne stayed in town with a cold.
Saturday, January 4, 1913
Got up at 10 oclock this morning, went over to Johns to breakfast, then came back and had a little sleep till 1 oclock then went over to dinner and the same thing this afternoon. Mr Cullerne still in town with a cold.
Sunday, January 5, 1913
Got up at 9 oclock had breakfast. The first thing on sunday is washing day had a big washing stang (sic) out side door on 7 spot in the afternoon 20 below. After super (sic) we stayed in the car at north yards all evening. I wrote three letters one home the other two L. J. A. D.
Monday, January 6, 1913
The weather is about the same maybe a little colder. We did nothing but stayed in the 7 spot. About 4.30 I got the train and went to Edmonton for a skate had a little workout with Esk. From 630 to 7.30. Then met Cullerne and we got all the instruments and came out to the north yard at 10 oclock