Discussion and Reading, White Rock Library

Join Patricia and other authors for a reading and discussion of their books.

Join Patricia and other authors in the White Rock Library for an afternoon of reading and discussion of the books they have written. Questions are welcome and attendees will have the opportunity to talk to the authors after the presentations.

Patricia will talk about her book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake, a book that weaves personal stories of people in an isolated northern mining town into the history of Canada’s production of uranium for World War II and the Cold War.

Dressed in our Sunday best. Copyright Sandberg family

Nesbitt-LaBine Uranium Mines

Trespassers may be prosecuted

In the early 1950s, uranium mining was a highly secretive operation and the warning sign in the above photo warns prospective visitors.

The Nesbitt-LaBine ore body, discovered in 1950, was a hope and a promise that did not last. Investor interest was high as Gilbert LaBine, who had made Canada’s first discovery of uranium on Great Bear Lake, was a major owner. His partner in the venture was Johnnie Nesbitt, a daring and accomplished bush pilot. The mine was nestled beside Eagle Lake near Uranium City, in the famed Beaverlodge District at Lake Athabasca.

As he had done at the Port Radium, Beresford Lake and Long Lake mines run by Gilbert and Charles LaBine, my grandfather was overseeing the construction and my father working as part of the crew. In December 1951, my mother took me, at the tender age of three months, from a warm house in southern Saskatchewan to join my father where we would all live in a tent house.

My uncle Don Sandberg with Prince. Don’s tent house in background. Photo courtesy Ollie Sandberg

Forecasts for a home-run were high but neither the Eagle Lake deposit nor other small deposits found by Nesbitt-LaBine yielded much ore and the mine closed in 1956. The partnership between LaBine and Nesbitt would fizzle even earlier, over a controversy involving a new prospect on the Crackingstone Peninsula. A controversy? Of course – it was a mining deal. The new prospect? Gunnar Mines.

Progress… on publishing

So who knew, certainly not I, just how long and how much work it takes to write and publish a book! But things are shaping up for the publication of Sun Dogs and Yellowcake in early September. My very detail-oriented editor Naomi Pauls has put me through a rigorous review, giving me  a new-found and hard-earned respect for the editorial role. The uber-talented Bill Glasgow is shaping the physical design of the book and Neil Klassen has lent his fine creative eye to produce three fabulous maps. And of course, the perfect cover photo is courtesy of artist and photographer Robbie Craig

Woven into the context of the Cold War and post-war immigration, and set against a backdrop of pristine Lake Athabasca with its First Nations and Métis communities, life in an isolated uranium mining town unfolds. Stories of love, loss, and adventure, with much joy and laughter.

If you would like to keep informed of news, please consider following this blog.

The photo is of me in the early days of Gunnar Mines, Saskatchewan – and in my early days too, of course.

img642 sm

Sun Dogs and Yellowcake, a new book by Patricia Sandberg

Patricia Sandberg-COVER

Gilbert LaBine’s first uranium mine helped end the Second World War. His next fed the Cold War. Immigrants fleeing post-war Europe and job-seeking southerners came to Gunnar Mines in northern Saskatchewan, joining the area’s First Nations and Métis. They found adventure, romance, tragedy, and a freedom never again to be equaled. Meanwhile, lamps made of uranium drill core sat in their homes and their children played at the tailings pond. Sun Dogs and Yellowcake is their story.
The beautiful cover image is based on a photograph by the very talented Robbie Craig.
I am thrilled to announce that Sun Dogs and Yellowcake will be available this September. Stay tuned.

I Used to Live in Gunnar

I sat up in bed, grabbed a pen and paper off the table and began to write:

It was all vaguely the same and yet different. A glorious sunny day that felt like spring because there was a warmth to the air and the only snow huddled in crevices on the ground.

I walked past the mine buildings that were jumbled together like some crazy puzzle, but still standing. It seemed that people still might be living there because the town didn’t look deserted. I went downhill, then along the road uphill again to the community centre. There was a convention of sorts going on in the community centre and hundreds of people were sitting in the big hall listening. At the end of the session, people were exiting into the main part of the building and I was trying to stop them, trying to find someone who knew anything about Gunnar.

I kept saying to people, “I used to live in Gunnar.” Finally one woman stopped and I tried to write down my email address for her on a piece of paper but the ink was running out. The words kept changing their size and wouldn’t fit in the space. The ones that were on the page were illegible.

I moved on to a man who was there with his family and I asked what brought him to Gunnar. He said that he and his brother were looking to buy the mill and maybe move it somewhere else. He started walking away and I turned in the other direction. Then I thought, “Oh great, I didn’t get his business card with his contact information,” and I turned back but couldn’t see him or his wife and kids. I went running down one of the hallways (there were many more in the dream than in reality) but one corner was very recognizable because I skidded around it on the slippery floor.

After much searching I gave up and went outside. I walked to where there was a small bay. There were many people around. A flying craft buzzed overhead and came to an abrupt landing mere feet in front of me. It didn’t taxi in, just dropped down. It looked more like some fantastic mechanical flying insect than a plane. All its paint was gone and its fuselage was a dull brown as if covered with dry mud.

The pilot jumped down. It was a woman dressed head to toe in a flying suit of the same dull brown colour. She was wearing one of those old war-time airman’s hats with its brim low over her forehead and the flaps pulled down over her ears.

I said to her, trying to make conversation and also because I was curious, “What kind of a plane is that?”

She looked briefly, scornfully, at me and said, “Does that look like any kind of a plane to you?” Then she turned her back to me, pulled a flask out of her hip pocket, took a swig and offered it to someone who she obviously knew and who had been standing behind her.

Aside from being fodder for a bored psychoanalyst, this is when you know that maybe you have been working too hard on your project. Or, just perhaps, Gunnar does live on.