By B. A. McKelvie
Daily Province Staff Correspondent.
VICTORIA, July 8.--Denial by officials of salvage waste on the Alaska Highway does not alter facts.
I had not been in Fort John many hours when I was told about what was termed "criminal dumping" of perfectly good material that was not required longer on the road.
The first individual upon whom I called greeted me with "I hope you can do something to call attention to the awful waste and destruction of perfectly good - and lots of them unused - things that is going on about here."
I asked what was meant by "things," and was told that stoves and ranges - and these most essential household utilities are uppermost in the minds of a people who live in a country where the winters are long - sleeping bags, blankets and similar articles were destroyed.
My friend took me to meet a prominent man. "He got a fine new stove off the dump," was added to the introduction "Yes," replied the man, "but it is a crime. I don't wonder at people going 'red' when they see such waste." My companions then fell to discussing a "brand new kitchen range" that another family had salvaged.
I called on several other prominent citizens. All had something to say about the destruction of property.
That afternoon I went to Dawson Creek and the following morning to Pouce Coupe. In the bus passengers were talking about the waste and burning that was going on.
"AFRAID TO WRITE."
Returning to Dawson Creek that night I was driven about the district by a friend. "I hope you will write something about it," he said. "No one here dare write to the papers telling what is going on." He added that one protest was met with the suggestive reply, "You'd better keep your mouth shut."
We passed a big heap of tile pipes. I remarked upon the size of the pile.
"Too bad, he declared, "that stuff like that has to be broken up."
We drove to the top of a hill. Looking back I saw a fire blazing and asked if it was a burning building. I was told that it was a consuming fire on a dump, and that it was burning night and day.
We drove back that way and the flames were fingering 25 feet into the dusk of a gray evening.
"What kind of stuff?" I questioned my companion. "Well," he replied, "I'll give you an example; a friend of mine was standing on this road the other day when a big truck load of stuff for this fire came along.
He called to the man sitting on the pile, 'Kick one of those bundles off.' Whether the man did kick it off, or whether it fell from the truck I can't say, but, anyway, he got the bundle, and in it were three new blankets."
My friend had also heard of the story that I had first heard at Fort St. John that a few days previously 600 pounds of sugar had been destroyed. He had no personal knowledge of it but the report was current.
On Sunday morning I talked with several men. One of them had formerly been a trucker on the road. His stories of waste and extravagance during construction were astounding, while his indignation at the continued waste in salvage operations was emphatic.
Others in the group agreed that it was "criminal" to waste what so many people could use.
JOINS CHURCH GROUP.
That evening I joined a group after church. These good people were also condemnatory of what was going on about them.
Returning to Fort St. John I secured a car and with two friends visited two of the dumps. I understand that there was a third, but I did not see it.
In the afternoon we drove to the edge of the high plateau that stands 800 feet above the flat on which the original Fort St. John of fur trading days was located.
The top of the dump, which one of my friends estimated to be about 600 feet long, was littered with cans, debris and decaying food. He explained that heavier articles rolled down the slope and if I cared to climb down I would probably find something worth while there. Time would not permit the 800-foot descent.
VISITS SECOND DUMP.
That evening we drove out to the other dump. It is just above the point on the opposite shore where the Moberley River enters the Peace. We estimated the width of it to be roughly 1000 feet and the descent to a fringe of poplar trees 200 feet. The top of the hill was fringed with people, while the foot of the dump had the appearance of an active ant hill as men and women worked and sorted over the material.
It was here that I met a triumphant farmer who proudly exhibited a big barrel heater that was in brand new condition, and a patent water heater that he had recovered. He pointed out other stoves that could be seen among the poplars below.
In answer to a question as to whether he was going to bring up another, he replied that he was satisfied; the stove he had on his wagon would last him for ten years, but he announced to the group of admiring and envious people around him. "I'll bring up another stove for anyone for $10.
Whether or not his offer was accepted I do not know, as I moved off.
One of my friends went down to the bottom at the dump, when he returned I pointed out what appeared from the top to be numerous truck tires, and asked if they were usable.
"They are not tires," he said. "I thought they were at first,
but they are hot-air chambers for furnaces. The rotten thing is that every one has been hit with a sledge hammer and the cast iron has been broken before chucking them over this dump."
As we left the dump my other friend picked up a big porcelain cup, such as is used in construction camp mess halls. There was not a crack in it, nor was the glaze even chipped. He remarked, "Well, this will be a souvenir of this terrible waste."
Today at Victoria I was informed by an official that a colleague who had recently returned from the Peace area "tells me the same thing. What's the use of trying to deny the waste, too many people know about it."