Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful.

If it's bad, it's experience.

- Victoria Holt

A KERNAL

OF WISDOM

Chapter 9:

Let's Haul Propane

With the new 1972 NH3 truck, Mother, we could haul propane. We got a contract with Gene Moser at Cigas. We hired a driver for the weekdays, and Roger and I worked the weekends. The main hauling we did was to two large mobile trailer parks. We had it down to a system. My job was to drag the 100-foot propane hose into the backyard and hook it up. Roger would put the meter ticket in and run the truck. Some customers were on COD. One day, a COD customer asked for just $50 worth and said he'd have the cash for us when we were done. Just as I was unhooking, I saw a taxi pull up. The customer jumped in and was gone, along with our $50. Oh well. He would eventually run out again and we would get the money first next time.

I also recall that we had our share of very cold, miserable days filling propane tanks, and a few breakdowns. One very, very miserable late night, a power steering hose broke. We went back to

Roger's farm and took one off his grain truck (which was the same type of truck as Mother) and fixed it. The big treat at the end of the day was to go to the Klondike Inn and get a hamburger and milkshake. They had the greatest hamburgers.

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I would take the boys (Doug and Ron) with me to Roger and Merelyn's. They had two boys, Mike and Gerry, about the same age. The boys started with bikes, and then motorbikes, and then we bought them old VWs, about $100 or $200 each. They would work on them for hours, changing motors and transmissions to make one out of many. They all had one that ran sometimes. They roared around Big Lake in the winter and summer every chance they got. Merelyn was a great cook and fed our boys many, many times. She was also the nurse when necessary. This was a great blessing for both families. The boys had no time to get into serious trouble. They were too busy having fun, and Roger and I could work or haul propane. At this time, we were still living in Fort Saskatchewan. On Saturdays we went to Roger's, Sunday morning to church then Sunday afternoon back to Roger's. We did this all winter for four years

until we moved to St. Albert in 1976. We bought a new house, which I didn't like, but which was the only one on the edge of town, allowing the boys to ride their motorbikes in the summer and their John Deere snow machines cross-country out to Henrys' in the winter. They burnt so much gas that we had our own 300-gallon bulk fuel tank at the Henrys' farm.

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For several years, even after we moved to the new plant in 1977, our men drove NH3 delivery trucks and hauled propane in the winter. At one time, we had four or five trucks hauling propane. Of our present staff, Doug and Darrell both hauled propane. One winter a fence fell on Doug and broke his foot.

 

Don Warren also hauled propane for a few years, but finally Cigas wouldn't let him haul to any of their customers because Don was delivering twice as much propane as their larger truck with

Two union drivers. By the time they got to work and took all their coffee and lunch breaks, Don would have scooped half their fills. Needless to say, Don was being paid by gallons delivered, and the union boys by the hour.

The drivers all endured cold weather, and getting stuck was common. Late one night, I got an emergency call from a lady with small children on an acreage. She was out of propane. Rather than call someone back to work, I decided I would go. I found the place, but it was about a quarter-mile in off the road, and the snowplow hadn't opened her lane. I thought I could kind of see about where the road went, but halfway in I got stuck. Two hours and a lot of shovelling later, I got to her tank. She then told me she only wanted $20 worth. I got home at 2 a.m. Our commission for delivering $20 worth of propane was about $2.

 

One of our biggest contracts was to haul propane to the Redwater Esso plant during the construction of the phosphate expansion. There were about 35 1,000-gallon propane tanks supplying construction heaters. Doug was 19 and working full-time for SVF. He was planning to get married the next summer so needed the money. From early fall to late spring, Doug hauled at least two loads a day, every day, seven days a week, with one day off (Christmas Day). I would often go with him on weekends to help a little and visit a lot.

One day, a big shot from Esso saw our truck with the big Sherritt logo on It. He left word at the gate that we were not allowed in his plant. Sherritt and Esso were competitors, not friends, so we quickly covered the Sherritt logo with a big Canwest logo. All was well. There are a lot of stories I could tell about the rivalry between Esso and Sherritt. When the Redwater area was eligible for government grants to encourage industrial development, Esso applied to build a nitrogen plant and a phosphate plant. They received a grant for $10 million for each plant. This was supposed to make the town of Redwater boom again. But with the new Vinka Bridge, it was just as close to live in Fort Saskatchewan, which was considerably closer to Edmonton and a nicer town. So just a few houses were built in Redwater, and Fort Saskatchewan got the boom. Now at that time, it was a Sherritt town. Sherritt paid for the new swimming pool, which was now full of Esso people, as was the golf course and everything else. Sherritt people were nice, friendly hometown people. Esso people, for the most part, thought they were God's gift to the business world. It was a gratifying day when Sherritt actually bought out the Esso plant. Esso people said the janitor bought them out.