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Project 9

January 31, 2011

A play about the Bomb


Trail is still dominated by the massive smoke stacks of the smelter now owned by Teck Cominco


It is the spring of 1945. The war will end in Europe in early May. In the small city of Trail, B.C., families mourn the loss of their loved ones and await the return of survivors. More women than men populate the city on the Columbia River near the American border. About 2,000 of them have been doing jobs traditionally reserved for men at the powerful Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company. They are among the local workforce of 5,000 producing fertilizer, lead, zinc and other materials needed for the war effort.

In 1943, Harvey Murphy, legendary union organizer and life-long communist, was named western director of Mine Mill. Not long out of jail for his left-wing politics and union activism in Crow’s Nest mining communities, Murphy’s first task is to negotiate a fair settlement for the workers. From 1943-45 he was locked in a battle of wits and words with the patriarchal ruler of the smelter and the city, Selwyn G. Blaylock.

Negotiations are deadlocked. The soldiers are starting to return home from the killing fields of Europe. The women, who have been earning better than average wages at the CM&S company, will have to return to their earlier roles as housewives, mothers, girlfriends and homemakers.

The war in the Pacific will carry on until early August when American President Harry Truman drops the “Bomb” on Japan. As the play opens, the workers of Trail don’t know it, but Blaylock has committed them and the company to winning the war in a way that could jeopardize the safety of every living soul in the city. Its secret code name is Project 9.

The action is set in Trail, B.C., in the spring of 1945. The war in Europe will end in May and soon the surviving local soldiers, many of them employees of the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Ltd., will start to come home. After years of negotiations, a contract has not yet been signed between the Mine Mill and Smelter Workers’ International Union, which had been revived in the area in the late 1930s, and the C.M. & S. Company. Company president Selwyn G. Blaylock and union leader Harvey Murphy are deadlocked. As the play opens, we are introduced to three of the female workers and they set the scene for what follows.


Although some of the characters and events presented in the play are based on real persons and actual events, this is a work of fiction and therefore not intended to represent fully those individuals or events.


The play is dedicated to the memory of my father Mike Verzuh and to the memory of Mine Mill, my first trade union.

The characters

Harvey Murphy: Chief negotiator for the International Union of Mine, M ill and Smelter Workers.

Selwyn G. Blaylock: President of the Consolidated Mining & Smelting Co. of Canada.

Emily: A company nurse.

Elsie: A worker of Norwegian decent replaces one a soldier.

Rosa: A worker of Italian descent also replaces a soldier.

Vito ‘the Ital’: An Italian immigrant working in one of the factory plants.

‘Little’ Arnie: An older male worker. 

‘Slagpot’ Bill: A young male worker with a disability.

Pete ‘the Douk’: A Doukhobor handyman.

Radio announcer: Voice only (should sound like Lorne Greene or Norman Depoe) 

Sample scene

A giant aerial image of the “Hill” (the C.M. & S. Co. smelter) slowly appears out of the polluting smoke and serves as a domineering backdrop. Three worker/housewives are hanging their laundry in the Gulch, a community with a largely immigrant population, especially Italians. They wear their hair in buns and wrapped in a white cloth, have long skirts covered by aprons and coats. They are not old but their clothing is of the times, so they look older than they are. They sway to the strains of a popular tune by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians that is pouring from a radio tuned to CJAT, the local radio station. Children play at the side of the stage.



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