REPORTING · 2nd June 2011
Seniors, historians and hangers on gathered at the Kitimat Snowflake Seniors Society. Telling a tale of Kitimat’s past was Walter Schmidt who was an immigrant to Canada during the construction of Kemano. As he had a skill set which could be used, he was recruited by the RCMP to go undercover into Kemano and discover the reason for missing dynamite at the camp.
Schmidt told the story about how he went into Kemano and grew close to the quartermaster of the day through playing chess. He was put in charge of a group from Quebec which did not speak English well.
He watched the behaviour and discovered the nails in the boxes of dynamite his crew was looking after were loose. He also discovered the nails in the boxes being shipped into Kemano were similarly loose.
An attempt was made on Schmidt’s life. He was given a last second warning to rocks which were being blasted. If he had stopped when he did, he probably would have been crushed under rock.
He was extracted from Kemano. He was later told dynamite which the RCMP was looking for was later found in a warehouse in Vancouver. He was also congratulated for not breaking his cover and he was the third person they sent in. When he asked when they quit, the RCMP officer grew silent for a minute, and simply said: “They didn’t quit.”
If the story is true or not does not matter. The tale he spun also shared a piece of Canadian history. Schmidt was able to give us a glimpse into the history of Kemano as well as our community of Kitimat. While his story was about finding the dynamite, he also shared details about the camp at Kemano during its construction period.