Hodge Podge by Charlie Hodge – Ginger Goodwin

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What does it take to become a martyr? In the case  of 31-year-old Albert Ginger Goodwin all it took was a single bullet.Canadians seem to assume as a nation we have a dull history. We often look south of the border for exceeding tales of desperados, heroes, and personality superstars. However, we do not have to look far to find such characters. Many of them are simply tucked away in our history books or stuffed in the corner of our museums.One such character, which various levels of government in Canada would apparently rather us forget, was Goodwin. I only recently learned of Ginger because he plays an intricate part in a historical fiction book I am writing.Ginger was just 31 when he died alone and scared on a mountainside on Vancouver Island. His death remains shrouded in mystery and irony almost 100 years after his murder most foul. A murder that many say was put into motion by corporate suits and pissed off politicians.When Ginger died at such a young age he’d already spent more than half his life trying to survive in coal mines. A Yorkshire man by birth, Ginger (something about his red hair) followed his father into the mines when he was 12, driving pit ponies that hauled carts of coal to the surface. Work conditions were incredibly dangerous in British coal mines and the harsh day to day lifestyle was not much better.Like many young men Goodwin decided to seek his fame and fortune in the new country of Canada which had been advertising safer and richer work conditions for young miners. At 19 Goodwin found employment near Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.Tragically, conditions in the promised land were just as horrendous as those back in England. Poisonous gas, cave-ins, explosions, black lung disease… the list of challenges to survive went on and on – not to mention 10-hour days, seven days a week.By 1909 disgruntled miners had enough and a bitter strike took place. Goodwin, like others, began to speak out and support unions struggling to improve work conditions. Soon after the strike began Ginger was blacklisted for his efforts and sent packing.This time he crossed the vast new nation to work in the coal mines of Cumberland on Vancouver Island. Life expectancy at Cumberland was not good – the death toll mounted week by week. Dangerous methane gas often resulted in explosions and fires when not simply poisoning the men. More than 290 miners had died in the company’s operations over the years.Frustrated again by horrid work conditions Goodwin started demanding changes and finally in 1912 convinced Island workers to walk off the job. Once again Goodwin was blacklisted and sent packing.Eventually he made his way to the smelter at Trail. It was the beginning of his end.Shortly after procuring work Ginger once again fell into the habit of agitating coworkers. Intentional or not he’d become an activist and proved to be a powerful speaker and inspirational leader. Soon after his arrival Ginger was elected secretary of the union, vice-president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, and president of the Trail labour council. In fact, during the tumultuous  1916 provincial election, Goodwin ran for MLA as a member of the  Socialist Party. However the dragging on of the first world war and the dramatic costs of lives inspired the Canadian government to institute conscription in 1917, an unpopular decision designed to bolster the ranks of young men to help the Allied cause overseas. A pacifist and Socialist Goodwin would refuse to fight and was suddenly caught between a rock and a hard place.When first tested his health was so poor (black lung disease) he qualified as a category D ‘unacceptable for enlistment’ in the Army ironic. Ironically just 11 days after spearheading yet another strike in late 1917, Goodwin was ordered to retake the test. This time his health rating jumped to an A.No one questioned the dramatic change in status as a setup by the Trail smelter company to get rid of Goodwin. Many suspected the company led by Selwyn Blaylock were responsible. Regardless Goodwin was not about to go to war and within weeks fled back to friends and safety in Cumberland.The Dominion Police force was organized and ordered to track down such cowards as Goodwin and his cohorts.It is still unclear what happened next in the hills above Cumberland. The only witness was the only other person involved aside from Goodwin.Disgraced former police officer Dan Campbell, a crack shot and skilled woodsman, was hired as a posse member to help track down Goodwin. So it was on July 27, 1918 that Campbell while hiking a trail on Alone Mountain found Goodwin shot him dead.A single shot through the throat silenced any further protests by the fiery redhead.Campbell later testified he fired in self defense but Campbell’s friends and coworkers never believed that story.Soon after the shooting two justice of the peace officers reviewed information and sent it forward to a grand jury, however the grand jury ruled no court case would be held. Campbell was never charged.Union leaders on the west coast called a one-day general strike, and 5,500 walked off the job. It became a day of violence when returning soldiers opposed to the strike argued and fought with union members and branded the strikers as traitors. A national strike resulted.And Ginger Goodwin, a red-headed miner from Yorkshire became a larger than life symbol of workers’ struggles in British Columbia.

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Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.

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