Just Another Job

Just Another Job: A Short Documentary of George Jackett’s Memories of Digging the Fenelon Lock

Sixty years ago this summer, Fenelon Falls celebrated the opening of a new lock that connected Cameron Lake to Sturgeon Lake. The original Fenelon locks were built between 1882 and 1887. They were not actually functional until 1894, because of litigation between the Grand Trunk Railway and the Canadian Government, over who should pay to convert the existing fixed railway bridge into the swing bridge that stands to this day. Originally Fenelon Falls had two connected locks to overcome the height of the falls. It also required a swing bridge on the village’s main street, because the water level was high enough that boats could not pass with it closed—which created a bottleneck for busy summer traffic.

By the 1960s, with the availability of steel lock gates and concrete, it was feasible to construct a single lock that could raise boats from the height of Sturgeon Lake to Cameron Lake. Just to reconstruct the lock was a huge undertaking. At the same time, the Federal Government decided to radically redesign Fenelon’s Island. Many private and government buildings had been constructed on a 99-year lease, but when it expired, the Federal Government decided not to renew it. Instead, it was redeveloped as greenspace, with a new, larger lock station on the opposite side of the canal. In a little over a decade, almost everything that had been situated on the island ceased to exist—at the community’s focal point.

When the federal government rebuilt the Fenelon Lock, Wilf Jackett was subcontracted to do the excavation. Over two winters, his son, George, and Garnet Harrison excavated the lock pit, as the company hauled load after load of material from the lock put, driving their trucks up an aggregate ramp. After countless hours of work, George and Garnet dug out the lock, which allowed the new locks to be constructed. In this short documentary, George Jackett, now 86, but still operating heavy equipment every day, recalls his experiences of digging the Fenelon Lock. George can remember larger excavation jobs, but excavating the Fenelon Lock was in a very public location. While it seemed like everyone else was taking an interest in the spectacular job he was doing, to George (true to his honest, hard-working nature), it was Just Another Job.

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