‘Ottawa’ Capital Voices: ‘I’m Always Thinking About Welding’
In anticipation of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations, the Citizen’s Bruce Deachman has been out in search of Ottawans — 150 of them — to learn their stories of life and death, hope and love, obsession and fear. From Feb. 2 until Canada Day, we’ll share one person’s story every day.
“I’m always thinking about welding. At least when I’m awake. When I’m in bed sleeping I think of all kinds of things. But I spend from eight o’clock in the morning until six o’clock, six days a week, here in the shop, so the welding does kind of stick in my mind, no pun intended.
“I started welding when I graduated from high school, but I didn’t learn it there. I learned it here, from my dad, Romeo. He opened this shop in 1963, and I was his helper. Eleven years old. ‘Give me this, give me that.’ But I learned about metal.
“He passed away in ’74. Aug. 11. He was 54 years old. The plane he was flying crashed into the river at Aylmer. I had just got a job that day in the west end, at Loucon Metal. So I quit my job. I worked there for three hours and then I came home and took over the shop. They phoned me at Loucon three weeks later to see if I was coming back, but I told them my mom’s living next door and I’ve got to try to make a go of this. My dad wanted me to take over the shop. It was a promise that I made to him, so I have to fulfil that promise. He taught me everything I know. He was a pipe welder up in the mines. That’s where it started.
“My first bead was in Hanmer, near Sudbury. I was five years old and the old man put the mask on me; it was about half my size. The gloves went up almost to my shoulders. And my mom took a picture of me welding my first bead. I thought it was like fireworks. The sparks and the smoke and the smell of the welding, it stuck in my mind. When I was 13, 14 and 15, my dad used to let me open on Saturdays. He’d say, ‘You do some work and take the money; it’s yours.’
“I’ve welded the case that holds the Grey Cup. And the car flag poles for the governor general, and ladders and stairs at the NRC wind tunnel. And a bracket that was used in building the CN Tower, holding the restaurant up. I welded the framework for the Tin House Courtyard in the market. And beams for the bridge on Highway 17 across the dam at Madawaska.
“I think it’s in my blood, and I swear to God the old man is still here, somewhere. I think he’s here, guiding me.”
— Denis Corriveau. Corriveau Welding, McArthur Avenue, Aug. 18, 2016.