Memories of the Whisky Pit

Campers lament government's decision to clear out their 'home away from home'

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on November 18, 2009
Lillian Murphy spent 36 years camping at the Whisky Pit on Salmonier Line. She says she's "disgusted" by the vandalism and garbage that has accumulated since campers were forced to evacuate. - Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

The Whisky Pit on the Salmonier Line looks like it's just come off a serious bender.

Rusting blue buses are strewn, along with old trucks and campers, with garbage strewn between them.

Behind one of the buses, a pair of large freezers have been dumped, with their rancid contents spilling out.

The Whisky Pit on the Salmonier Line looks like it's just come off a serious bender.

Rusting blue buses are strewn, along with old trucks and campers, with garbage strewn between them.

Behind one of the buses, a pair of large freezers have been dumped, with their rancid contents spilling out.

Lillian Murphy said she knew it would come to this as soon as the government served them with eviction notices from the gravel pit on June 10.

"Once the notices went on them trailers, we said, 'Just you watch, they'll start coming in throwing garbage around,' and we were right," she said. "It's heartbreaking to come in and see all the garbage coming around."

Murphy and her husband had a trailer in the pit for 36 years - "This here is home away from home," she said - but all that's left now is four pruned shrubs and an empty patch of gravel.

Just over the hill from where the now-empty pit sits, there are a couple of legal cabins, and Ted Garland has often left a spare set of keys with Murphy.

"I had a lot of friends there, and they were all a very fine bunch" Garland said.

Environment Minister Charlene Johnson said in an e-mail that contractors have been hired to clear the site and work is expected to start next week.

But by the time they get there, the site will be very thoroughly picked over.

Murphy said as soon as the eviction notices went up in June, people started coming around checking out the site.

"They were basically just coming in and slowing down and looking," she said. "We kind of figured then that something was going to take place, that they were going to start scrapping the old buses."

One of the first things to go was the Murphys' 100-pound propane tank - stolen when the padlock was cut.

Over the summer, campers would come on the weekends to find things cut apart and taken.

One camper was cut off its chassis with a torch and tipped on its side.

On Labour Day, the campers cut their losses and left; normally, they'd stay until Thanksgiving.

As she walks around the former campsite, Murphy's anger is clearly directed at Johnson.

"If she had kept her nose to herself, all this garbage that's thrown around up here, and all the windows that's beat out of the buses up here ... it wouldn't be," she said.

Even though she can't stay there anymore, Murphy still comes up to Salmonier Line most weekends, just to check on her "home away from home."

"We'll keep coming up here now every weekend until the snow comes in the pit that we can't get in," she said. "But then we'll come up and stop down by the road and basically look up and have a look around."

jmcleod@thetelegram.com