Breaking New Ground—Stories from Defence Construction Breaking_new_ground - Page 24

Joining DCL About the same time that DCL was being established, a young engineer named Joe Bland was working with a buddy in Cornwall after having graduated from Queen’s University. One day, the buddy made a comment that for two bits he’d drop the whole thing and head to Europe. I laid a quarter on the seat between us and a month later we were on a freighter working our way to Europe, Joe Bland recalled in a 2007 interview. I washed dishes and cleaned up in the kitchen. We were about 19 days on the ocean, and then had a marvelous trip on a motorcycle through Europe for about six months. We’d made such an impression on the trip over that they took us back on board—we took the SS Seaboard Star to St. John’s, right up the St. Lawrence to Montreal. It was a great life experience—living with someone else, even a good friend, there’s always going to be differences. You have to live through those with an open mind. Joe Bland would take this spirit of adventure and coop- eration far within DCL. First, however, needing money for Christmas, he signed on with CMHC, which was advertising for engineers for the Defence Construction Program. He went to Rockcliffe Airport first, and after a year in the field took a Head Office job. National Defence was responsible for the designs and what was to be built; we hired at their request consulting engineers and architects where they needed them. When the contract documents were ready, we would get a request for a tender call—that’s the way we operated. 14 Coming of age In mid-January 1952, DCL and the Minister of Defence Production reached a new agreement and, in April, signed a separate management contract with CMHC. The company now existed as a Crown corporation with its own management, its own agreements with govern- ment departments, and formal and informal relationships with other government agencies. It was on its way, at a time marked by constant advancement in weapons technologies and both peacetime and wartime threats. President Dick Johnson recalled the pace of the 1950s: In our early days there was a shortage of construction materials and we were faced for a time with a number of holes in the ground and little on-site activity. That changed quickly as the seriousness of the Defence Construction Program became generally recognized. It changed so quickly that in the fiscal year 1952–53, we put in place $220 million worth of work across Canada… so you will understand why my memories go back to that masterpiece of timber construction, the everlasting No. 4 Temporary Building, with its intermi- nable meetings, staffs working far into the night and over weekends. Crisis followed crisis. All solved quickly, of course! The dedication was fantastic. For his part, Joe Bland believed that the course the company took into the future was set down in those early years, largely through the influence of people such as Dick Johnson. The result was DCL’s very practical, industry-oriented approach to contracts. BREAKING NEW GROUND DEFENCE CONSTRUCTION CANADA