Chapter 28 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part II

Peter’s Immersion into the English Language

Looking across the Ottawa River into Gatineau QC

Heading west our first goal was Ottawa. On a secondary road following the densely populated St. Lawrence valley, we drove quite slowly. The leisurely pace allowed me to take a closer look at the landscape near the river. Hundreds of islands were glowing in the evening sun. Many a romantically inclined individual had built his dream cabin on a treed retreat surrounded by water away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby City of Montreal. The properties on the mainland were generously large, where people had built their homes according to their fancy. Some dwellings were constructed entirely out of wood, others were stone buildings, some were imposing castle-like mansions, but most were simple and of modern design. Adolf must have noticed my admiring glances and remarked that in contrast to the Old Country – he always referred to Germany as the Old Country – hard working people from all walks of life could afford to live in their own house with a bit of help with a mortgage from a financial institution. His remarks swept away any remaining doubts and worries about the plans I had made with Biene earlier this year. Now I was almost certain that barring any unforeseeable adverse circumstances there was no turning back. It was here in Canada where I wanted to put my roots down. Looking at the setting sun that flooded the valley and immersed it into liquid gold, I felt energized, optimistic, and adventurous all at once. I also realized that the obstacles ‘Fate’ would throw into my path would be there to test my resolve to stay. It was almost dark when Adolf pulled up at a roadside motel, where for $6.00 we spent a restful night in comfortable beds somewhere between Montreal and Ottawa.

Adolf and Peter Studying a Road Map

The next morning at a nearby coffee shop I had my first Canadian breakfast, which consisted of two eggs fried over easy, two strips of crisp bacon, hash browns with plenty of ketchup, four slices of toast, all sorts of jam in tiny plastic cups and the standard not-so-strong coffee. Hunger is the best sauce, as the English proverb asserts. So for me this simple meal was a culinary delight. With Adolf switching to English only conversation, my English immersion program began, when he explained the difference between eggs over easy and eggs sunny side up. Obviously such fine details about the different ways of frying eggs had not been part of our English curriculum at the German high school. But there was much more to learn, especially in the use of idiomatic expressions. The waitress came by our table and asked me whether I wanted her to warm up my coffee. I replied a little taken aback by this seemingly silly question, “No thanks, my coffee is still warm!”

Fortunately, my strong German accent made it clear to her that I had not understood what she offered and that it had not been my intention to insult her. With a shrug she moved on to another table and asked the same question. “You idiot”, Adolf scolded me. “All she wanted was to give you a refill!”

My brother and his buddy Waldemar enjoying a beer

Having received my first English lesson under somewhat embarrassing circumstances, we traveled to Ottawa and then crossed the Royal Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River into Hull now better known as Gatineau. There my brother had a friend by the name of Waldemar Klein from Rohrdorf, who immigrated with him to Canada in 1953. His house looked like it was in need of repairs on the outside, downright ugly from a critical perspective. In Germany a residence including its surrounding hedge or fence and even the lawn had to be prim and proper. Much later I found out that some property owners deliberately keep the exterior of the house unfinished with unsightly tar paper nailed to the walls in an attempt to keep the property taxes low. This was obviously the case with Waldemar’s home. However, the inside presented an entirely different view. It seemed to me that every spare dollar was invested into making their home feel more comfortable, cozier and more beautiful. The modern kitchen was equipped with the latest appliances to make life easy for Waldemar and his wife. She spoke mostly French and very little English, which made communication almost impossible. Obviously, she did not like strangers to enter her home. When she had at last comprehended that Adolf was her husband’s old buddy form Germany, she invited us in for coffee and called Waldemar from work. He was making good money as an independent contractor installing windows in the new federal office buildings that were popping up like mushrooms all around the city center. When he showed up shortly after the call, the joy of seeing his friend Adolf was great. Over a case of beer they revived old memories and exchanged the latest information on the Klopp and Klein families. Then it was time to move on.

Chapter 28 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part I


 Cross Country Canada


My dream is for people around the world to look up and to see Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent.

Tommy Douglas – 7th Premier of Saskatchewan

Late Start in Montreal

It was almost noon when after hours of waiting we finally got our turn to go through Canada customs. The officials were friendly and efficient. The long delay was due primarily to the large number of passengers whose innumerable suitcases, boxes and crates that needed to be checked. Afterwards we locked away our stuff in rental lockers and took a taxi to the City of Montreal. Our sister had already said good-bye to us, as she was going to board the next available train to Calgary. So Adolf and I were on our own in search of a car dealer. My brother needed a vehicle that would carry us across the North American continent.


Queen Elizabeth Hotel at Montreal – May 1965

Near the city center we got off the taxi and decided to make use of the much cheaper transit system or cheaper and healthier yet to just walk. Now I had a chance to take a few photos of the new office buildings that were popping up everywhere like mushrooms after a heavy rain. I found that the Elisabeth Hotel towering over a much smaller church building was especially interesting, as the structures symbolized the transformation of Quebec from a church dominated province to a secular society. I was getting a little worried, while Adolf dragged me from one car dealer to another. He had not yet found, what he had in mind and was already talking about taking the train as well.


Typical Outside Staircases in a Residential Area

As we were roaming through the streets of a residential area searching for another car dealership, I noticed the peculiar construction of most of the houses. In order to gain more living space, they had no interior staircases but had metal stairs leading up to the entrance doors at the second and even third floor. I was thinking of the densely populated cities back in Germany, where floor space for renters was at a premium. How much more apartment space could be generated with this typical French-Canadian building concept.


Proud Owner Adolf of Used Pontiac

Finally Adolf had found a good, used 8-cylinder Pontiac at an equally good price of $2,500. The manager, apparently very pleased with my courageous attempt to communicate in French with him, made an arrangement with Adolf that quickly consolidated the sale. It happened exactly the way my brother had once explained to me on our summer wine tour to Trier. He paid the full amount in cash. In return M. Gagé allowed him to travel with the dealer’s license plates to Alberta to save him the high provincial sales tax. Those were the days when business transactions were concluded with a handshake based on mutual trust. M. Gagé expected Adolf to mail back the plates to Montreal.

I had never sat in the such comfort of a huge and powerful American car before. It was even equipped with automatic transmission quite rare in Germany during the mid 60’s. I really enjoyed the ride back to the storage facilities, where we picked up our suitcases and wooden crates with all our belongings. It was already getting late in the afternoon, when our cross-country Canada trip began.

Chapter 27 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part VII

First Impressions

Picturesque Quebec City – May 1965

Now we were at liberty to visit Quebec City. Adolf, who as Canadian citizen did not have to go through the immigration procedure, joined us to explore the only walled city in all of North America. We took a taxi to the city centre. We traveled past wooden houses painted in bright, sometimes garish-looking colors offering a bewildering sight for the new immigrants from the Old Country. When my sister and I noticed the ugly power poles often leaning at a precarious angle in the back alleys with wires seemingly helter-skelter stretching out in all directions, we broke out in irreverent fits of laughter. Adolf was quite annoyed, as we had touched a sensitive nerve. After all it was his home country that we were insulting with our disrespectful conduct.

City Hall Quebec City

We got out of the taxi at the statue of Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer, founder and first governor of Quebec. There Adolf and I decided to separate from Erika and her companion Beate, as they were more interested in shopping. We two brothers, however, wanted to have a good look at the ramparts and fortifications of this historically rich city. So we took a tour of the classical 17th century defense systems with its mighty walls, which unfortunately in the end did not prevent the British redcoats from taking over all the French colonial possessions in North America.

Samuel Champlain – French Explorer and First Governor of Quebec

When hunger pangs reminded us that it was time to have lunch, we dropped in at one of the many restaurants catering to the tourists that were flocking to Quebec City by the tens of thousands every year. We ordered steaks, large enough to fill out the entire plate and at $2.00 a bargain even at the then current dismal German Canadian currency exchange rate of four marks to one dollar. I had trouble communicating with the waiter with my Parisian school French. So I could not figure out, why they could not serve us any beer, which would have complemented nicely the fabulous meat dish. To quench our thirst, it felt odd that we had to move on in search of a beer parlor. To call it a pub would have definitely been a misnomer. The place was filled with dense cigarette smoke wafting above oversized round tables, the jabbering of hundreds of people echoing from the bare walls gave more the impression of a large waiting hall at a German railroad station than that of a cozy inn, like the one where Biene and I had spent a romantic afternoon on Mount Vogelsberg. These beer parlors had been built based on the mistaken belief that their grotesque ugliness would deter people from gathering and drinking beer. Great was my amazement to watch the clients order half a dozen glasses of beer all at once, not caring about their drink getting stale. Some even sprinkled salt on their brew or ate heavily salted peanuts to increase their thirst for more. Adolf was quite used to this custom, which seemed to me a relic of the past. It was a bit of a culture shock to me and I was happy when we returned to the Ryndam, where we enjoyed the sumptuous farewell dinner that the cooks had prepared for us, truly a culinary experience par excellence.

Cannons and Fortifications – My Brother Adolf on the Left

There were many last times on this floating hotel and entertainment centre that had safely carried us across the Atlantic, the last dinner with our table companions, the last game of chess with a Yugoslav doctor, the last card game of Mau Mau, the last visit to the bar, the last time I climbed up to my upper bunk, a last glance from above on Biene’s portrait on the cabin’s tiny desk, the last time the little room bell tinkled and called us for the last breakfast on board of the Ryndam. My heart filled with a sense of nostalgia and bittersweet feelings of regret. I had to leave this wonderful ship with her dedicated staff behind. I felt sad that I had not been able to share all these memorable experiences of the eight days on board with Biene.


Chapter 27 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part VI

         Arriving in Canada in our Sleep

Iceberg – Photo Credit:

In the meantime on board of the Ryndam we could tell that we were approaching Canada’s territorial waters. The storm that had been stirring up the ocean moved on eastward and made room for sunny sky and calm conditions. The temperature plunged to 2° C. On deck we had to wrap ourselves in woolen blankets to enjoy a short sunbathing session in the cold air. The Ryndam seemed to have reduced her speed although there were hardly any waves. Suddenly we heard a message over the intercom speakers to alert us to an iceberg that was floating by less than one km to the right. As we were coming closer, we marvelled at the beauty of the mountainous object that glittered in the bright sunshine like a diamond of gigantic size. Knowing that ninety percent of an iceberg is submerged and invisibly spreads into all directions, we now understood why the captain had decided on a slower pace. Fifty-five years ago about the same time and in the same waters a single iceberg had sent the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic in less than three hours to the bottom of the sea.

The First Seagulls

The next morning three fishing vessels were slowly passing by on starboard, a sure sign that we were not far from land. Seagulls suddenly appeared as if from nowhere and trailed our ship at the stern expecting to find scraps of food that someone might have thrown overboard. Then the first offshore islands emerged from the hazy horizon. They looked desolate and uninhabited. They were all covered in snow. The icebergs, the snow on the islands and the chill in the air made us feel that spring had not yet come in this part of Canada.

The First Off-Shore Islands

My sister suffered from a sore throat and decided not to accompany us in the car to travel across the continent, but to take the train instead. In the evening Adolf and I went into the bar that was more crowded than usual to say good-bye to our friends and table companions. At three in the morning, I am not sure after how many shots of whiskey and how many glasses of beer, we were finally done with saying our good-byes. After getting only a few winks of sleep, we awoke this time not by the familiar tinkling of the breakfast bell, but by an eerie quietness. Still groggy from all the partying the night before we however managed to jump into our clothes at lightning speed and rushed on board. We were anxious to find out what kind of calamity the Ryndam had gotten itself into. Perhaps the engines had broken down. Or did those dreadful icebergs surround us? What a pleasant surprise was unfolding before our eyes! The Ryndam peacefully lay securely tied to the pier posts at the Quebec Harbor. What a shame! While sleeping we had arrived in Canada.

Quebec Harbor – May 1965

After breakfast Erika and I with all the other immigrants walked over the gangway past large cargo and shipping facilities to the federal office building. There a friendly bilingual customs and immigration official greeted us and carefully examined our passports and the flimsy unassuming piece of paper we had received from the Canadian embassy in Cologne. The terrorists of today would be laughing at the simple document of fifty years ago. A photocopy on ordinary paper would have sufficed to let them slip by our border checkpoints. While we were waiting to get our documents stamped and approved, a charitable organization offered us our first cup of coffee on Canadian soil. It turned out to be a typical brew as offered then in most American coffee shops, so weak and bland you could be drinking it all day without any adverse effect, as some people were in the habit of doing. A Catholic priest asked us about our plans and provided us with useful information on Alberta, British Columbia and the other provinces of Canada. Then quite relieved that we had successfully jumped the first hurdle and had officially become a member of the Canadian society with all its rights and responsibilities except for the right to vote, we returned to our ship to reconnect with Adolf. The French-Canadian officials at the pier smiled, when I played the German folk song ‘Muss i denn, muss i denn zum Städtele hinaus’ on the harmonica. Elvis Presley sang this lovely tune while with the American Armed Forces in Germany. Wooden Heart was its English title. The sentimental Germans who themselves were beginning to forget and to neglect their very own folk songs liked the Elvis version so much that the song maintained the number one position on the German record charts for several weeks in a row.

STEEP AND CROOKED … by Late Writer, Artist & Castle Builder Bill Laux





Phoenix BC at the Height of the Mining Boom – Photo Credit: Global News

          Today the Boundary Bonanzas are nearly forgotten except in Republic where miners still extract the low grade deposits of Cooke Mountain.   The Burlington Northern has cut back its Republic line to the sawmill at San Poil Lake.   A weekly freight makes the run from Kettle Falls to Republic picking up loads of lumber and abrasives from the industries at Grand Forks and lumber from the San Poil mill.

          Phoenix is utterly gone.   Only the WWI cenotaph with its list of the fallen of 1914 – 18 stands at the rim of an abandoned pit a half mile across and 400 feet deep, where the town once roared with life.   The graveyard, a mile down the road, had no copper under it, and has survived, visited by curious tourists each summer.

            Rossland continues a vibrant city, a bedroom community for the smelter workers commuting to Trail each day.   The mines have been leveled and sealed. The huge dumps of waste rock have been hauled away to fill the gulches that once fingered through the town.   And excellent museum and underground tour of the Black Bear workings give visitors a sampling of Rossland’s glory days.   Red Mountain today is renowned for its ski hill and the champions who got their start there.

            The great smelter at Trail roars night and day, processing the ores of the Sullivan mine at Kimberley and the Red Dog mine in Alaska.   The sulfurous fumes that once kept Trail children indoors on bad days are now collected and converted into sulfuric acid from which fertilizer is made at the Warfield plant.   Each morning a pair of diesel locomotives with three or four cars of chemicals crawls up the 4.6 percent grade from the smelter to Warfield and the fertilizer plant.

            At Northport the smelter has long since been demolished, and a sawmill operates on its site.   The great railroad bridge is gone, but the Burlington Northern trains still run up Dan Corbin’s Spokane Falls and Northern tracks to Sayward, Fruitvale and Salmo.

            In Grand Forks Shelley Dahl and Mario Savaia pilot their switch engine down the fragment of the Hot Air Line that has outlasted the mighty CPR in the Boundary, and the Canadian traffic goes out on the Burlington Northern.   The CPR which rushed into the Boundary District in a panic in 1900, abandoned it in another irrational panic in 1995 and Jim Hill’s line, under the old Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern charter, remains, still hauling Boundary products to Spokane

            Of the men and women who found and developed the Boundary Bonanzas, only photographs of those confident, Nineteenth Century faces remain.   Joe Moris lived out his long life in Rossland under the slopes of the mountain that made him famous.   Joe Bourgeois went on to discover the Sullivan mine in the East Kootenay, now, after a hundred years of exploitation, nearing exhaustion.

            Colonel Topping never did find his “Second Le Roi,” although he spent most of his fortune looking for it in Oregon, Washington and northern B.C.   After Frank Hanna’s death in Texas, he and Mary Jane were married in Rossland in September, 1906.   They moved to Victoria to live out their lives in retirement.   Colonel Topping died January 17, 1917, at the age of 73.   Mary Jane moved to Ventura, California to live with her daughter, Estella.

            Fritz Heinze died in New York in 1914 of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 45, surrounded, as he had been all his life, by a cloud of litigation.   He and his brothers had held off the established Eastern financial community until the panic of 1907 when he was driven from his bank.   In the end, worn out, sick and perhaps unfairly discredited, he died in disgrace.

            Jay Graves was caught up in the Interurban Railway boom of the Teens and Twenties.   With his profits from Granby, he built a 117 mile electric line from Spokane to Colfax, Washington and Moscow, Idaho, and a hydroelectric plant of the Spokane River to furnish its power.   His Inland Empire Railway was a pioneer of 25 cycle, single phase, alternating current for electric traction and his electric locomotives were the most advanced of the day.   Unfortunately, the building of his interurban railway came at the beginning of the automobile revolution.   As all season roads were built, patronage dwindled and his line slid into bankruptcy in the 1920s.   He was able to sell it as a steam operated freight line to the Great Northern, which held most of its debt.

            Jay Graves invested what funds remained to him in a series of unsuccessful mining ventures.   Like Colonel Topping seeking another Le Roi, Graves counted on a second Knob Hill.   He never found it, dying in retirement in California in 1948, leaving his widow $45,000 and the worthless stock of six mining companies.   In a curious irony, eighteen years later, the International Nickel Company opened a glory hole on Jay Grave’s old California mine ground on Red Mountain and mined molybdenum from it until 1972.

            The pompous Charles Mackintosh remained Rossland’s resident “Guinea Pig,” the nominal head of the BAC company, until its mines passed to Cominco.   He and his wife than bought the Halcyon Hot Springs on Upper Arrow Lake, built a spa and hotel, and bottled the springs’ lithia water for sale in England.

            James J. Hill died of infected hemorrhoids in 1916.   With his passing, the great railway war subsided.   His son, Louis, took over the Great Northern, and free from his father’s obsession with the CPR, suspended work on the “Third Main Line” (Spokane to Vancouver).   Hill’s incursions into southern British Columbia are barely mentioned in his biographies and are given only cursory mention in Great Northern Railway histories.   Hill’s total investment in his Canadian subsidiaries exceeded $38.5 million.   Of these lines, only the Crowsnest Southern ever paid a dividend.   The rest were, in the words of Hidy, Hidy, Scott & Hofsommer”s recent history, The Great Northern Railway, “costly failures.”   The reason cited by American railroad historians for building these B.C. lines, was to offset the Soo Line’s rate making advantage from Minnesota and North Dakota to the West Coast.   If that were truly the case, the Canadian expenditures were wasted.   The Soo was not defeated.   Hill never obtained control over it.   It flourishes today as the successor to the Milwaukee Road’s Midwest lines.

            William Cornelius Van Horne resigned from the presidency of the Canadian Pacific on June 15, 1899, frustrated and worn out from his long struggle with J.J. Hill and the machinations of George Stephen.   After his departure he built railroads in Cuba, even selling four shares worth $200,000 to Jim Hill.  In his retirement he collected French Impressionist paintings and divided his time between Cuba and his summer home in New Brunswick.   He died on September 15, 1915.

            Thomas Shaugnessy took over the CPR from Van Horne, and held the presidency until 1918, when he turned the position over to Edward Beatty, the first Canadian to become CPR president.   Shaugnessy died in 1923, grief stricken at the death of his son, Fred, in the Great War.

            Tracy Holland became an unpopular mayor of Grand Forks, probably owing to the unusual method that put him into office without a vote.   He had to face at least one public meeting calling for his resignation.   At the conclusion of his term he moved to Vancouver and disappears from the record.

            Volcanic Brown lived to see four railroads running from Grand Forks to the Cardinal Points.   He was among a group of prospectors who located the great Sunset Copper mine near Princeton, B.C.   He sold his interest in it for $45,000 and had a dentist make him a set of solid gold false teeth.   Thereafter, children on the streets of Grand Forks would beg him to smile for them, which he obligingly did. Brown died a prospector’s death in 1930.   At the age of 82, the unstoppable Volcanic Brown went up the Pitt River alone, searching for John Slumach’s gold discovery.   When he did not return a search party went in to look for him. They found his abandoned camp and a screw top glass jar with 11 ounces of coarse gold on pieces of quartz.   His body was never found, nor to this day, the source of that gold. .

            The Boundary Bonanzas demonstrated in the space of ten years, a single pattern of economic development, three times repeated.   A rich mineral strike was followed by both an American and a Canadian railroad making their steep and crooked way to the mines.   A period of fierce rate competition ensued, with each of the lines intent on monopolizing the traffic.   In each case, as soon as the ores were exhausted, the foreign railroad withdrew at once, leaving the domestic line to furnish government mandated service until abandonment could be granted.

            It might be thought that the construction of these duplicate lines was wasteful and unnecessary.   Paradoxically, the opposite was true.   The savage competition reduced haulage rates to “bare cost” or below.   This in turn made the low grade ores commercial and permitted the processing of many thousands of tons of ore which would have been left in the ground if only one rail line, making its own rates, had served the mines.

            This mining beyond normal returns by artificially low haulage rates, extended the life of the mines, and supported with substantial payrolls, the growth of the cities of Rossland, Trail, Phoenix, Greenwood, and the town of Republic.   Equally important, an agriculture was initiated in these districts otherwise remote from markets, to feed the thousands of miners and related workers.   Although fewer than one in a hundred mining claims made a mine, and fewer than one mine in twenty made money, it was the “wasted” investments in unsuccessful mines that made the boom.   “Wasted investments employed miners, created retail businesses, established farms and ranches, built railroads, set up banks, and started lumbering and saw milling that exists to this day.   Capital does not always move rationally; “wasted” money is never wholly lost.

            Although by 1912, the Roaring Days of Rossland were over with the mines consolidated into one enterprise and the town settled into a normal course of life, the wild days of gold and glory were fondly remembered in Spokane.   For those who had been there in ‘94 and ‘95, the experience had been unforgettable.   The intensity of life in a bonanza mining camp was like nothing else on earth.   Poor men were made rich overnight.   Substantial investors were fleeced of their very boots.   Wages were the highest in North America, and were spent with careless extravagance.   It was a roaring, woman-less town of three thousand with forty-two saloons, seventeen law offices, and five dance halls.   Men worked harder than they ever had in their lives before; more money passed through their hands than they had ever seen.   Optimism was not just the pervading spirit, it was the only spirit, and it infected everyone.   And then, slowly, the bankers took control, the mines consolidated, and it was all over.

            The American Mining Congress met in Spokane in 1912.   To entertain the delegates, local mining men constructed a replica Rossland, called “Spokane Diggin’s” in a hockey rink.   The intent was to recreate those gaudy days on Red Mountain with a saloon, gambling tables and a dance hall.

            The “Diggin’s” were a huge success with the public who were delighted to celebrate those days of gold and unreason.   By the second night, 5000 people crowded into the “Diggin’s” to relive an exotic past.   The evening was climaxed by a dance hall girl stripping nude on the stage and scampering off to the whistles and stamping of an enthusiastic audience.

            This slightly scandalous recreation of Rossland’s notorious International Dance Hall brought out the Spokane clergy, its women’s groups, even, curiously, its Socialists, to indulge themselves in a public display of moral indignation.   There were some aspects of the past, they felt, that ought not to evoke nostalgia.

            This early Theme Park demonstrated the public hunger for a nostalgic re-creation of the Roaring Days of but a few years before.   That wild intensity of life, which was a bonanza camp, seems available to us now only in the chemical bonanza of drugs. The rest of us pay to have our past slicked up and served to us in a thousand theme parks and Hollywood fantasies.   We are today much too cynical, much too timid, to pick up a shovel and begin digging furiously on a wild hope. The real bonanzas are out of bounds for us now.