History and Highway Connect in Greenstone

Darren Bananish stands in the bed of Creelman Creek. Behind him the culvert upgrade project proceeds apace.
Darren Bananish stands in the bed of Creelman Creek. Behind him the culvert upgrade project proceeds apace.

Darren Bananish stands in the bed of Creelman Creek.  Behind him the culvert upgrade project proceeds apace.
Darren Bananish stands in the bed of Creelman Creek. Behind him the culvert upgrade project proceeds apace.

Greenstone Construction Melds with History

GERALDTON – NEWS – “I was almost born here,” says Darren Bananish as he stands in the middle of Creelman Creek.

Darren works for Aecon, the company that is upgrading the culverts on Hwy. 11 just west of Geraldton, less than a mile from the Lavoie home. He had spotted me taking photos, sauntered over to where I stood on a boulder in the creek, and recognized me.

“Mr. Lavoie,” he says, “there’s a lot of history here.”

.  A one-lane bypass, controlled by traffic lights, permits traffic to cross the construction zone.
. A one-lane bypass, controlled by traffic lights, permits traffic to cross the construction zone.

I found it significant that he has brought up the subject of history, not me. We haven’t spoken since he left high school perhaps a quarter century ago. I have the idea of making a photographic record of this project, for history’s sake. But Darren has lived it; I merely record it, a remnant of it.

“There’s an old cabin just over there,” he says, “pointing downstream to the left bank. “Nothing left now.” It was the cabin of his grandfather, Joe Bananish. One day his pregnant mother was visiting, and suddenly it was time. Joe ran out onto the highway and flagged down an OPP cruiser.

View looking downstream.  A supervisor checks the level of the newly laid No. 1 stone.  Between him and the camera, some ancient wooden bridge timbers poke out of the bank.
View looking downstream. A supervisor checks the level of the newly laid No. 1 stone. Between him and the camera, some ancient wooden bridge timbers poke out of the bank.

“That was 1969,” says Darren, “the year the astronauts landed on the moon.”

Darren remembers the creek full of spawning pickerel in the springtime. He remembers the stories his grandfather told him, of wintering up here, using that shack, hunting and trapping, and in the summertime, travelling down to Lake Superior.

Darren is a member of Long Lake #58 Reserve near Longlac. He has just completed his training in construction work in Thunder Bay, and expects to be working on this project — or the one down the road at Magnet Creek — till October.

We look down at the water flowing leisurely past us. I could step across the creek now. A far cry from the flood last May.

View looking downstream.  On May 10, the spring flood overflows the banks.
View looking downstream. On May 10, the spring flood overflows the banks.

Aecon has installed filtering mats on the upstream side of the culvert, some on the downstream. A lot of soil has been disturbed, and the mats prevent particles from migrating to places they don’t naturally belong.

I want to talk to the foreman, so I move into the construction zone. I snap a picture of the remnants of the first bridge built over the creek at the end of the 1930s — a wooden bridge — before I am escorted away from the action. Trucks are dumping gravel into the excavation and a huge backhoe is creating a level bed on which will rest the platform for the new culverts, not yet on site.

“Here’s the big boss,” says Darren. A white hat pulls up in a pickup. I introduce myself. When is the project scheduled for completion? I ask. He tells me. May I quote him? No, sorry. But he is pleasant enough about it.

When the project is finished, I will record it. The fish will run again next spring, the creek will no doubt flood again, and at some point I will look up that old cabin. My own history extends back to the time it was still standing, on the point of collapse.

Perhaps a story will be born there.

It worked for Darren.

[E.J. Lavoie is a writer and historian based in Greenstone. The article comes from his blog at ejlavoie.wordpress.com.]