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Lots of stuff goes on in this shop, located in Lorette, Manitoba.

Primarily it's the building and repair of classic wood & canvas canoes, and the making of premium canoe paddles. I also do custom boat building, composite fabrication, and special projects. A growing passion of mine is the making of classical guitars, I'll post about that, too.

I want to be able to share with my clients the progress of their commissioned work. Later I started thinking that there might be other people who are interested in what goes on inside a wooden canoe shop operated by an artist and a recovering teacher.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by email, phone, or by post. My mailing address is:

Red River Canoe & Paddle
24249 River Rd
Lorette, Manitoba
R5K 0Z6

Friday 13 November 2009

I chance meeting on an internet guitar building forum, a local man who has an interest in building classical guitars happened to work at the Kildonan Canoe Company. He didn't work there for very long, just one day, but that one day happened to be the day that an electrical fire burn the whole place down.

He was gracious enough to write down his memories of that day. Here's is his story:

"In early June of 1964, after my first year at University, I got a summer a job at The Kildonan Canoe Company. I worked there for one eventful day - the day the building and all its contents burned to the ground. As it happens, because of "the butterfly effect", it was a key day in my life, as I will explain.

Although I really don't remember much about the company, little details stick in my mind from that day, like hearing Barbara Streisand sing "People", maybe when I was getting off the bus that day to go to work. And I bumped into an old friend while watching the blaze out on the street - the kid who had broken my arm, explained the facts of life to me, and nearly got me into all kinds of trouble eight years earlier.

The Kildonan Canoe Company was located just off Main Street, on Leila. My recollection is that it was a two-story wooden building located on the south side of the street, and that it was probably immediately behind whatever store or business was located on the corner of Main and Leila. The yard was located at the western end of the property. In my mind's eye, I recall a mezannine level at the eastern end of the shop, although it could have been a full second story. There was a big door - probably double doors or a garage-type door on the western side of the shop, leading out to the yard. When I was first shown around, I must have seen some canoes, but I was surprised to find that most of the operation seemed to be in building motorboats. I remember drums of resin in the shop and I think I saw fibreglass being applied to hulls. But my job was to fasten screws into the boat we were working on, on the main floor at the eastern end of the building. Having no experience with using an electric drill as a screwdriver, I was good at stripping screw heads but not so good at sinking the screws.

But I still had a job when the end of the day rolled around - 4PM or 5PM - and I had been asked to work overtime that evening. I was looking forward to a couple of extra dollars, when somebody called out "Fire!. A fire had broken out in the wall to the right of the big doors leading to the yard. I heard later that it was an electrical fire. My first thought was to get the boats and canoes out of the building (I had probably been watching too many movies), but the fellow I was working with knew better, and said to just get out of the building. Since the fire was so near the door, I don't know how much time we would have had to get the boats and canoes out of the building, had we tried.

The next thing I can remember is standing out on the corner by Main Street watching a huge fire. I guess with all that wood and resin, it was a tinder keg. I left before the fire was extinguished, but from what I remember of the size of the fire, the building would have been razed to the ground, and the efforts of the fire department might have been to save nearby properties.

I never got my overtime, and my $10 pay cheque for the day never arrived in the mail. But my Dad later picked up my cheque at Kildonan's new offices somewhere on or near Pembina Highway. So much for my professional woodworking career. But my next summer job was in operating computers at the telephone company - and that sparked my interest in computing, which was my occupation for the rest of my career, and led to my marriage and kids. So that little electrical fire wasn't a bad thing at all, from my point of view."

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