Cambria Publishing
mining songs, music, photographs Lawrence Chrismas Photography
Canmore Miners Gallery
Page 41
Mike Okapiec
Retired Underground Coal Miner

You know, when you go in that dirty hole and you start working, you get used to it. It doesn't bother you, especially when there's machinery and you don't have to shovel. Shovelling is hard work. When you work on the pitch, you don't shovel too much. And when you come out, you forget you were working.

From 1937 to 1946, I served in the Polish army. The Russian Army made me a prisoner from 1939 to 1942 - I was awarded a variety of medals for that.

After the war, I chose to come to Canada because the climate was the same as it was in Poland. I worked two years on a farm - that was the rule - then I decided to work in a coal mine because the money was better and nobody bothers you Saturday and Sunday.

So, in 1948, I started underground coal mining as a timber packer at the Alberta Mine. Then I worked at the Ribbon Creek Mine in Kananaskis until it closed. In 1952, I started at Canmore Mines and worked as an underground miner until 1978. For 30 years, I was a coal miner in Canmore.

I've always had a garden with carrots, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, sunflowers, raspberries and strawberries.