January 14th, 2009

Nobody Remembers The Strange Doukhobors

Going through some old notebooks, I found a few scribbles about an assignment of mine in Trail, British Columbia, in the early 70s. My notes are sketchy, but I recall that my editor had sent me up there to do a story about a lumber mill that produced liquid pulp for paper manufacturers in the US. This of course was a totally and absolutely BOR-ing subject, but since he was paying me a rather generous salary, I aimed to give him precisely what he wanted.

After interviewing a mill superintendent, he invited me to a garden party at the mansion of one of Trail’s bigwigs. I recall a three storey white house with gray trim and a sloping lawn with a magnificent view of the glistening dark blue Kettle River, a tributary of the Columbia. I struck up a conversation with a white-haired bent-backed old man in a black suit, vest, white shirt and black tie. In my notebook was this enigmatic, hurried scrawl:

“Old geezer sez nobody remembers the strange Doukhobors.”

When I got back from that assignment I never looked up Doukhobors to find out who or what they were. Until this morning. With ever-handy Google I learned that “Trail had been an "important center of Doukhobor activity in the 1920's and 1930's….”

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