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.

Author: Patricia Sandberg

A former mining and securities lawyer, Patricia relied on her family’s history and interviews of over 150 people to write about the Cold War uranium mining town in Northern Canada that residents said was ‘the best place they ever lived’. She is now working on a novel. Sun Dogs and Yellowcake has won two international awards, was shortlisted for the Canadian Authors Fred Kerner award, and was finalist for Whistler Independent Book Awards 2017.

14 thoughts on “I Used to Live in Gunnar”

  1. Sorta reminds me of my law school dreams where-in I’m rushing around trying to find the right room to write exams in and then stop in my tracks and realize I don’t need to worry about it b/c I withdrew from law school 3 months ago and have just been going to classes ’cause I couldn’t break that habit.

    1. My lawyer dream is worse. I suddenly realize that I have been working for months after I quit and haven’t even asked to be paid. And I know that it is now too late to ask! Thanks for the comment.

  2. I have dreams about Prince George quite regularly…schools, streets, people…these memories of childhood seem more cemented in my brain than what I did last week. Great post Pat!

  3. Was there twice once in the summer of 1973 and once in winter of 1974.A friend of ours who was an RCMP member took us from Uranium City to Gunnar on the police boat.On our way back that day we came across a capsized cabin cruiser boat.Turned out all aboard had been rescued before we arrived.The other time I was there in the winter we plowed a road from Bushel Inlet to Gunnar to get fuel hauled across the ice,as there was still a watchman there at the time.He showed us through all the buildings that were left.One I remember was the mall where there was a bowling alley and a bank,and don’t recall what else there was but it was a good sized building.There was a calendar on the wall from 1961.There were a number of shops still there then too.

    1. Hi Ray, thanks for your stories about Gunnar’s post-closing days. Gunnar was a popular destination for many people over the years. It is kind of sad now to think that there is nothing left. Patricia

  4. Hi All just found this page. I am wondering in the research if anyone found records of immigrants working in the mines in around 1956/57 /58 from Liverpool England also from Dublin Ireland. Have been searching for a James Purcell. love to be able to trace him or any other Purcell around that time. Thank you in advance. Rosanna

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