This is the story of the 2010 Olympics as I saw them.
In February of 2006, Fanny Albo was in the hospital in Trail in the last stages of congestive heart failure. Her husband Alfie was also in the hospital after hurting his back dragging a big 1 inch drive drill out from under his work bench. On Friday the 17th of February, Jim, their son had just left after visiting them, and when he got to the parking lot he realized he had forgotten something in Alfie’s room, so he went back up. When he got there he found Fanny being wheeled into Alfie’s room on her bed, and they were telling him to say goodbye to Fanny because she was being transferred. Jim said they couldn’t do that, he had just been assured that she could not be transferred without her doctor’s permission, who wouldn’t be back until Monday. They said they had gotten permission from a locum over the phone, and off she went to Grand Forks, an hour’s drive over a mountain pass. Even though they knew her end was near they would not find a bed for her in Trail. We later found out that there was an empty bed, designated female, in Poplar Ridge Pavillion, the long term care wing at the Trail Hospital. It was exactly the bed she needed.
Early on Sunday she died alone, the victim of a government who wouldn’t give her two last days with her family. Eleven days later Alfie, heartbroken over what they did to Fanny, lay down and quietly slipped away. The biggest mistake we all make is thinking we’re not affected … sooner or later we all are. It’s bitter yolks they’ve left the folks who built this land for them. My thanks yo the Albo family, a wonderful legacy of two of the finest folks you could ever hope to know.
In the early hours of the 2nd of March, 2006, I lay awake thinking of Fanny, who had passed away on the 19th of February. Unable to sleep, and with Fanny’s voice in my head. I got up and began the song “Fanny’s Gift”. Later that morning, as I was working on the song, Alfie, missing his wife of 70 years terribly, passed on. Jerome, their other son, called me and told me Alfie had passed, and then picked me up and took me to the hospital to say goodbye. It was a shock to us all, Alfie had just done his exercises on the steps in preparation for going home and said he wanted to take a nap … he never woke up.
Born in 1909, he died as he’d lived his life … on his own terms. During his life he saw the first automobiles in town. Twice he saw Haley’s Comet … on his first birthday and on his 77th birthday. As a child he took violin lessons 1400 feet underground in the Mine. As a young man in the 1920s he played violin in the silent movies. In the 1930s he played dances in the Miners Hall, on the same stage that’s there to this day. He shot his last moose at the age of 81. Right to the end he had the best memory of anyone I’ve ever known. He could put a picture in your mind of what life was like 100 years ago. He was truly uplifting … and he was my dear friend.
You can listen to “Fanny’s Gift” here … Fanny’s Gift … and then scroll down to find the song
In April, Colin called from Emil Anderson and told me he wanted me up at Whistler, and so on the 1st of May I went to Blackcomb for the Olympic projects. We had the Luge-Bobsled Venue at Blackcomb, and the Nordic Competition Venue in the Callaghan Valley, about thirteen kilometres from Whistler down Hwy 99 and then up the Callaghan Valley. One Saturday in June Collin came to see me and said he needed me down in the Callaghan on a cat at the ski jump project, which sounded pretty good until he told me it would be on the steady graveyard shift starting Monday night. I said I wasn’t really interested in working nights. He said I’d be doing him a big favour, he had a new foreman there, a young guy with no experience and he needed someone to keep an eye on him and make things work for him … and the young foreman was the son of the project manager on the Blackcomb job. Well for various reasons I was less than impressed with the show at Blackcomb, and truth be told I’d much rather be working for Colin, so to Callaghan I went.
Now those guys running VANOC weren’t really hired for their expertise … it wasn’t like a Hydro or a Highways job, or even a mining job, those guys at VANOC were hired for their political connections. At the top of the ski jump there was a rock face we had drilled and pre-sheared (blasted to a vertical face). VANOC decided that 1 metre more room was needed so we had to get air tracks back up there to drill and blast again … at cost-plus of course (work outside of the contract where the owner pays the contractor all their expenses plus a markup … it’s like the gravy on most jobs, except in this case, instead of a file folder of cost-plus, there was boxes of file folders). After we did that, VANOC decided that yet another metre was required so we did it all over again … more cost-plus ! I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was a daily occurrence with VANOC, but often enough to fill boxes.
In November I went home for the winter, spent a couple days on a train wreck in April, and then at the beginning of May I went to a Highways job at Garcia Lake on Hwy 1 near Merritt.
I spent 5 weeks at Garcia Lake, and then Colin phoned me on a Friday and said he needed me back at the ski jump. I told him that I’d done my turn at nightshift last year and wasn’t going to do it again. He laughed and said it would be dayshift, he needed me on the D8 winch cat on the ski hill. I asked how long it would be. He said two or three weeks. I said probably six weeks then. He said if you’re there in six weeks you’ll be by yourself … Colin was quick-witted, and made me really laugh at times. I would have laughed even harder if I knew it was going to be four months. So I said I’d take tomorrow (Saturday) off and go home and get some things, and be at Whistler for Monday.
At the top there was a concrete water reservoir to feed the snow makers. It was ready for the pump but when the pump came it didn’t match the one in the design … it was oriented 90° the wrong way and was 6 inch instead of 8 inch (or vice versa, I can’t remember). VANOC asked us what the number was on the design plan we were using … they told us it had been changed … except they neglected to tell anybody. So now the reservoir had to be modified and all the piping changed … gotta love that cost-plus !