Surveying

In the summer of 1941, the Canadian government published a little booklet with a long name. It was called the Manual of Instruction for Camps Providing Work for Mennonites and Conscientious Objectors under the Alternative Service Work Camps. This manual covered everything from the organization and establishment of camps to supervision and discipline to religious services, recreation, and special training. Without this manual, the alternative service work program would have been chaotic and confused. It provided a broad structure and plan for the conscientious objector.

Each camp also needed a more specific plan. The manual could not anticipate the different circumstances in each camp. Instead, it gave the camp supervisors a general direction. A more detailed plan was needed for day-to-day work. It would not have worked to just tell the COs to spend 8 hours a day doing something useful. What would they have done?

Surveyors helped daily operations to run smoothly. Their job was to survey the land beforehand so the workers would know where to work. Surveyors were especially important in road building. In the Montreal River camp, for example, the COs worked on the Trans Canada Highway. Surveyors needed to take precise measurements of where the road would go before the COs would start working.

Surveyors also worked in the forestry camps. They helped ensure that the tree planters did not miss any areas and did not plant too many trees in one section.

S.D. Ramer recalls the surveyors were also important when the COs were logging.

Our work consisted mainly in cutting down and burning diseased pine trees. Alfred High, Jim Greenwood, Ed Hoover, and another man made up the surveyors' crew. About four or five miles [6 – 8 km] down the highway the surveyors started up the side of the mountain and put a stake every 100 feet [30 m], then descended, again putting in a stake every hundred feet, creating numerous 100 square foot blocks. Then a gang of four men easily spotted the diseased trees, cut them down, and burned them. Even the bark from the stumps was chopped off and burned. [ASM, 201]

Erwin Bartel worked on the same project, removing diseased trees.

The major work at our camp for the winter was to be clearing out bug-infested trees on the mountainside in our area. At the right time in their life cycle, these bugs would land on the trees at a certain height from the ground, bore through the bark, then tunnel upwards laying their eggs as they went along. In spring these eggs would develop into larvae and would feed in a horizontal direction on the sap carrying layer, cutting off the sap flow to the rest of the tree. This tree would then die and become a fire hazard. Under a well-planned method, survey groups were formed to mark the infested trees. Other groups followed to cut down these marked trees along with any dry trees and burn them. This was in wintertime and fires could safely be started. Any of those trees that were along fire trails or roads, were brought into camp for fire wood. [ASM, 203-204]

Not only did the surveyors help the men to work more efficiently, but they also made the work much safer. By laying out blocks of land for crew to work, the surveyors allowed the men to work without fear of another crew's tree falling on them. A little bit of advance planning by the surveyors allowed all the men to work safely and effectively.