Category: life

Connie                                                                                                                                                                                                        Connie of Manila BBQ

Like the TV series, ‘Cheers’, for those of you who remember, ‘where everyone knows your name’, this constantly helpful, bubbly proprietor who readily welcomes you by name, once she knows it; as opposed to you being, just another customer intrigued me. I had to know more about this atypical businesswoman named Connie, so I decided to ask.

Born into a middle class family with three other siblings (two brothers and one sister for which Connie was the 3 in line of accession) in *Quezon City, a suburb of Manila in the Philippines she (Connie) counted herself as having been, ‘greatly blessed’ compared to most when growing up. “The class system in the Philippines, unlike Canada”, she commented, “is very distinct and life can be extremely hard, even for the middle class.”

With an almost musical laugh and a twinkle in her eye, she reminisced of growing up in a rice store, which also served as home and where her parents still reside and maintain the store to date. It was a two-story building she explained, with the store on the main floor and living accommodations on the second level.  However, she pointed out, unlike here (in Canada) there was no furniture due to affordability factors. She recalls how beds, the family couch and even the table and chairs were sacks of rice, which, as she pointed out, were very comfortable based on the fact you were able to shape them to fit your body contours.

Living in such a manner, she explained, taught her at an early age to appreciate having your own business as it enabled you to sustain a livelihood to care for you and your family. More so when compared to North American standards, for in the Philippines there is no welfare or unemployment insurance or even a retirement pension option, you survive solely on what you can generate for an income.

Because of this and the inability of many individuals to find work in their home country, many individuals (called OFW’s = Overseas Filipino Workers) have no other option but to leave spouses and children behind to seek a livelihood elsewhere in the world. In doing so, it enables them to provide their families the basics: food, shelter, and clothing and where possible an education and medical needs.  Most times they work in extremely abusive circumstances depending on the employer and the country, they work in for which they are under contract for up to two or three years at a time and often with long hours and no days off. It is that or imminent starvation for both them and their family.  Those fortunate enough to open their own business or able to obtain an education and skills for a specialized trade stay, if they can.

Education in the Philippines is not free, meaning unless you or your family can pay for an education you do not obtain one because the Government does not provide any form of assistance for the public schools. Cash is king and schools will not allow you to register or even proceed into each new semester once you have enrolled unless the required fess have been paid. The same rules apply when writing your exams, which are an additional fee per exam, is the norm.

Here again she, as well as her two brothers and her sister were blessed not only with the fact they were a middle class family but that their parents had a family run business that provided not only an income, but also an education, which was not only a priority for future survival, but also an attainable option. (In Connie’s case, she graduated from University of the Philippines Los Baños with a marketing degree…)

After graduation, she applied and worked on a cruise ship as an activity staff member, a position she held for three-(3) years after which time she tired of the constant travel and returned home to the Philippines.

After returning home, she became a sales representative for a cosmetics ingredients supplier for which her position entailed her to meet and sell chemicals/products to cosmetic manufacturing companies. It was during this period that she learned to drive out of necessity for her job, for which as she gleefully put it, “I learned to drive Filipino style”. She goes on to state, “I was a little rowdy driver…”

“I really enjoyed the job”, she informed me based on not only the flexible hours but also the fact she had to talk to people. “I am a people person”, she commented.

“That”, she continued, “is what I feel was my strong point when I eventually opened my own business in Canada, the love of talking to people”.

Now married with two children, a son and daughter, she explained she and her husband met, courted and married in the Philippines. Her eldest child, Chloe, was born a year after her arrival in Canada.

“Courting in the Philippines”, she commented, “unlike in Canada, is not that long.” Soon after they were married, her then husband made the decision to re-locate to Canada for which he would sponsor her once he was established.

“When we separated”, she reminisced with a sad tone in her voice, “We really did not know each other as we had not been married that long”. “Unlike in a normal relationship where you court, get married and live together”, she continued, “You are with each other each day after day and get to know each others  likes and dislikes and learn the truth about each other.” “Long distance does not allow for that,” she stated.

Not being, as she put it, the jealous type and having faith that they would one day be together again for good helped make the year bearable. That and the telephone and Skype communications to each other. “Trust was the number one factor”, she stated.

During the temporary separation, she stayed with her parents and helped with the store to help time pass more quickly.

When asked about her initial thoughts when she knew she would be leaving home and moving to a new country (Canada) her reply was, “Scared!”

“Life in the Philippines for me was very different, “she explained. She had her own job, her own income, which for a girl made life easy, as she put it.

“Coming to Canada was hard with no family not to mention it was more expensive,” she explained, “especially for girly things such as a manicure and pedicure”.   However, when asked what she missed most about home she very pointedly stated, “Family!”

When asked if she ever contemplated returning to the Philippines when she retired, as an example, her reply was a resounding, “NO! Absolutely NO!” “I would go back to visit only” she continues, “my children were born in Canada and would, I am sure, appreciate a vacation there, but not to live”.

She then laughs with a twinkle in her eye as she commented, “I was raised there (the Philippines) but I think of myself as a Canadian now”.

Asked why she chose Manila BBQ as her choice of employment she said, “While I had no knowledge of the remittance end of the business, I did have a retail background living and working in my parents’ small grocery store in the Philippines”.  “Remittance” she stated, “is not easy to deal with as you inform customers what they have to expect, good or bad”. “Remittance is about trust”, she continued, “Not an easy sell”.

“It is easy to have this kind of business in the Philippines”, she commented, “Just fulfill government requirements”. “It is much easier dealing with government requirements here in Canada”, she stated.

It has been four-(4) years since she took over proprietorship of Manila BBQ and as she informed me, “Every day I am still learning”. “Each day is different people and different problems, it is a lot of work running a money remittance and grocery store.” She continues, “But I never contemplate giving up”.

As she explained, “The disadvantages are not being able to shut the business out of your mind at the end of the day”. “However, the advantages are being you own boss”.

When asked if knowing what she does now would she still take over ownership of the Manila BBQ, she replied, “I worked at ICBC for three-(3) years then stayed at home for one-(1) year with only the walls and the kids to talk too. Manila BBQ gives me the opportunity to be there for my children while allowing me adult interaction so my answer is, YES!”  “Each day”, she continued, “is interesting, with new challenges and the daily interaction of my clients who keep coming back, something I missed from when I was in sales prior and always wanted”.

Because of her love of interacting with people, she noted that she would love to once again work on the cruise ships but as she is now married with children that is no longer an option. “If it was not for Manila BBQ”, she commented, “I would love to work at Canada Place to greet the visitors from the cruise ships or the Airport at one of the Airline check in/departure terminals”.  Asked why, “I love talking to people”, was her instantaneous reply.

When asked about how she marketed Manila BBQ, without hesitation she exclaimed, “Word of mouth!” “Ninety-(90) percent of my customer base is Filipino,” she continued, “with the remainder from other nationalities who come mainly for the food”. “I do have a web site but still, word of mouth serves me the best”, she stated.  “More so since New Westminster has a large Filipino working class community who desire not only affordable living space but the shopping convenience as well as the local transportation system that makes it easy to get around”, she advised me.  “But,” she stated, “my customer base is not just regulated to New Westminster, I also have customers from South Burnaby, Coquitlam and even a few from Vancouver which keeps me very busy”.

During the interview I observed, which I was informed, one of her customers assisting in managing the store for which Connie never hesitated to patiently guide her when she had questions.  She (Connie) informed me the assistant was a longtime customer who was temporarily laid off so she (Connie) hired her just to help her out until she was able to return to her regular job.  I also noted that whenever a customer came into the store with their children Connie again would give not only the customer, but the children as well her undivided attention as she communicated with each by name.

Having known Connie for about two years now as a customer via my wife who is also Filipino I now call her Kapatid (meaning sister in Tagalog) because she makes me feel like family when I am there. Despite the latter, I did not really know that much about her personal life, until now.

In conclusion, I came away with not only an even greater respect for not only Connie the businesswoman, but Connie the person   For truly she has created a business where your shopping experience and money remittance needs are taken to new heights. Connie, once she knows your name and, or your face and even if she does not yet know you and your name,  greets you with a cheery hello and a smile and I like to think inwardly that, she is welcoming you home.




*Quezon City, Philippines is the sister city to New Westminster, BC Canada.


Life As I See It

Life as I see it can and does vary with each individual depending on one’s personal outlook and circumstance.  In many instances, our lot in life is not by choice but purely by where we were born and to whom. It can be a life of subjective poverty, middle class or of great wealth.  However, despite our lot in life there are some things that each of us can attain if we but try, using what we have to the best of our advantage and that is inner peace and honest gratitude for what we have in life no matter how little we may have monetarily…  Something I honestly did not learn over night because like most I grew up wanting what I did not have based on desire and not need.

I am thinking, as I write, about life and what is termed here as the Great Canadian Dream, a dream that many Canadians, in my opinion, will never even have the hope of attaining based on pure greed of politicians and top-heavy corporations.  That same said greed has forced many businesses to move much of their product production to third world countries in order to compete as labour continues to demand wages and benefits that most companies and more so the small mom and pop operations can ill afford.   I say most because while in the same breath our government allows outside interest to exploit our natural resources and commodities while unionized labour forces the wages up for its members and the non-unionized Canadian is left scrambling to just to have the basic needs in life as prices continually climb. Added to the mix is the international ability of large corporations and their CEO’s to exploit 3rd world citizens a with sub-standard wages and living accommodations to increase profit margins to levels that are attainable in countries where they were held accountable for their actions.

Two Thousand and eleven(2011) saw British Columbia’s Union wages in the Government sector frozen, yet the politicians of the day decided that those wage savings would better suit their personal needs as opposed to assisting the non-union working class as they allotted themselves a 10% plus wage increase depending on their position held.   In addition, now thanks to the now infamous past Liberal *Premier, Gordon Campbell again showing his contempt for the public at large as a whole minimum wage has finally increased in British Columbia by the new Premier Christy Clark ; albeit the cost of living in BC had all but eaten it up before it even came into effect.

*Now the obviously corrupt Gordon Campbell is (who had during his political career been charged with drinking and driving in Hawaii) is now once again being pampered as he climbed the political ladder to further abuse his position of power and bring further shame to the good people of Canada as the High Commissioner of Canada.  It pays to be a politician.  Where else can the employee tell the employer what they pay level they want and get it and benefits including extremely bloated pensions when they retire and get it?

That is not to say that all political parties and their often-questionable practices are totally at fault, after all we the populace elect them in the first place then fail to keep them in check as we put on our blinders and grumble and complain until the next election. Then, having forgotten what we were complaining about for a brief period of bind insanity, we make the same mistakes all over again as we vote without either rationally thinking or demanding change prior to electing anyone to protect ourselves from further damage. In retrospect, we are the employer and the politicians the employees yet we the employer in this scenario, are being told what to do by the employee.   Alternatively, if you like, the tail (politicians) is wagging the dog (taxpayer) and not the dog wagging the tail)…  Go figure

In retrospect, Canadians are just as much to blame for our demise as those that lead us as we make the choice to refuse jobs based on the low pay, location, or both and in many instances we would rather collect welfare as opposed to working period.  Yet, when individuals from outside our realm elect to make the sacrifice of leaving their homelands and often family we object saying they are taking away our jobs.  In most cases they are not as they are taking jobs, we refuse to do for reasons as noted prior based on location and level of pay.  While Canadian living standards are high and most positions unless you are skilled labour are indeed low paying, there are those from other countries who define our low paying positions we tend to decline as golden manna compared to their homeland.

I talked recently with a fellow from Czechoslovakia who informed me that what we term as skilled labour here in Canada, carpenters for instance, are the poorer paid positions in his homeland. In Canada and the USA, as an example, we are guaranteed a base hourly rate and more depending on your skill set and place of employment.  In his homeland your wages, as he informed me, can be increased or decreased monthly, depending on the disposition of the company you are employed by and yet we as Canadians complain.

My finance and I for example have decided that although we love Canada, when we retire we desire to move to the Philippines. An opposite of Filipinos who leave their country to seek employment and send money back home to help feed their families due to poor and often non-existent jobs with a higher cost of living then we face here at home.   Here we have welfare, Unemployment Insurance and Pensions where there as in other 3rd world countries there is no such option available.

We have concluded that to stay in this land of milk and honey we would have to use the greater amount of our combined monthly pension income to pay rent, maybe a little food and definitely little to no travel options even with the monies we are able to save in RRSP’s.  On the other hand moving to the Philippines, where the love of my life is from originally, while contributing to the Filipino culture we can easily live very well, using just half my pension alone.  The remaining along with her pension can be used to travel back to Canada to visit family here and other worldly destinations, help family there in the Philippines and be economically secure and happy in our senior years. A no brainer as we see it…  That includes potentially buying a home, which here is unattainable even with both of us working…  My eldest son and his wife are Mexico bound in the future and have already started purchasing a home there as for them they have plenty options not financially available here financially and otherwise.  My second eldest is looking at the east coast of Canada as a potential option for his future due cheap land and good paying job options and due to the fact British Columbia is truly living up to its name (British Columbia or BC means bring cash and plenty of it if you want to stay…)

It seems as we look at the world as a whole, in many instances it is a hole and not in a good way, but then again it all depends what we make of it. One man’s misery is another man’s fortune for which can be taken many ways, but in the instance that I am alluding to, where an individual may be in poor country finding a way of leaving for another and taking what is considered menial work in another is by far a greater benefit for that individual.  As a Canadian, for example, I am taking my hard-earned dollars and pension and moving to a 3rd, world country to retire is my beneficial escape and happiness.

I am reminded of story my Eldest son told me about a fellow he worked with many years ago when he (my son) first entered the job force.  The fellow he worked with at that time was an ex-policeman from the Philippines.  Now you know that working in a car wash in Canada is minimum wage at best… Well this fellow informed my son that working in a car wash in Canada allowed him a far better life style for him and his family then he enjoyed as a police officer in the Philippines, and yet we as Canadians complain…

The biggest problem I see as a Canadian is that we, due to our obsessive greed, out price ourselves to the point we can ill afford the basics of life let alone the greater desires to own an automobile, a home and to travel in later years when the children have left the roost.  We demand higher wages, charge more for home-grown and manufactured goods then we charge outside customers, sell all our business off to outside investors and allow our governments to sell control of public sector business ventures such as BC Gas, BC Transit etc., as an example, to American investors.  They in return bring their own business practices with them that are often just as shoddy or worse than they are at home and attempt to pay American wages to Canadian employees who live in a higher cost of living bracket than their American counterparts.  I have enjoyed, in the past, more spending power as a Canadian then I do now with a wage that is over 4 times as much as I used to make.

I recall a farmer in Paris Ontario want to purchase a Massey Ferguson tractor for his farm, which then was manufactured just thirty miles away in Brantford Ontario. He eventually did purchase a tractor manufactured in Brantford, but he did so by flying to England, purchasing the Canadian made tractor there and shipping it back to Canada and his farm plus his own travel expenses in the process. He did all of that and still save himself $500, 00  He paid less than he would have if he had paid for the same tractor just thirty miles away and enjoyed a vacation while he was there.

In my opinion, we need to say NO to the Unions that have become what they once fought against; we need to stand up and say NO to the corrupt politicians who are fleecing us daily.  We need to say NO to the governments selling off our land and public corporations (BC ferries was a prime example) and other big business who are raping our economy even as you read this. We need to say NO to those over paid CEO`s of Public corporations and to the banks who invest our money and giving us a pittance in return while giving it to the CEO`s for who without us, the working class they would have nothing… Moreover, you perhaps question my motives for retiring to a 3rd world country… because I cannot afford to live here in my senior years and because I do not want to give up my right to retire when I feel my body says so, not when my government says I can.  I would stay if I had the outlandish pensions our elected politicians enjoy for just a few years’ service, but I don`t and I won`t…  I am going to attempt to move to my self-proclaimed land of milk and honey and enjoying life, as it should be in my final years…

Memories of my youth come to mind as I view this image. Memories of carefree days communing with nature, the feel of the tall grass. A warm summers breeze which are now just distant memories of times past…. #TAGSTAGRAM.APP #landscape #lan

Originally uploaded by cvm_inc / Allan Herman

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Earl, The Autobiography

(God Heard My Mothers Prayers)

The place was Cargill Ont. The year was 1920. The month was a lovely October, and the date Saturday the 23rd.

The time I do not recall as I can`t recall seeing a time piece of any description in the room when I first was introduced to planet earth.The midwife attending my mother, whose name I believe my mother spoke too was a Mrs. Colwell. And I have a feeling as she held me for the first time and spoke to my MOTHER and said `Annie`, he sure is a fine looking boy`,  (course could be she said that about all the boy`s she helped deliver.)

Time started to march on, and undoubtedly there was times my crying for the want of attention gave the rest of the family sleepless nights or days or as Archie  Bunker would say, (whatever). Family of course included five half sisters and four half brothers, as both my father and mother had been previously married, as their former spouses were taken in death.

Our house was across from the village railroad station, and as I began to walk, stood at the window and watched the daily trains come in, one up an done return. The train consisted of maybe a combination of one passenger and mail car and possibly a coal car, and a stock or goods car.  And from the village was shipped flour and livestock. Such excitement.

Cargill itself was I suppose a sleepy little village to most people, but for my first eight years of life, provided me with all the adventures a little tyke needed. There was a damn (which almost claimed my life) and a river ran through the middle of town (which incidentally did claim the life of a brother of the boy who saved mine.)

On one side of the river was– one side; bank, funeral parlor and furniture store combined; a variety store for tobacco, soft drinks etc.  A combination grocer and clothing store which also housed the telephone exchange.  A butcher shop, the Catholic church, and last of all the grist mill on the dam.  On the other side a small hotel and a general store. East side of the river was a molding shop and garage, which was run by mu father at this time.  A blacksmith shop, a creamery, the village hall, two churches.  As a postscript there was a barber shop and of course the village school on the first mentioned part of the village on River street if I recall correctly.

Birthdays passed and then to celebrate my fifth one, I got to go to school. October 23rd was the day, so I was starting the term a little late.

What a day! The school was a two story building. Catholics up and Protestants down, with grades running from 1 to 8 or at that time from first to senior  fourth.  First of all I had the urge to talk to pupils around me and the teacher warned me once that it was not allowed.  She was pulling my leg of course, and the the voices kept coming from my mouth.  So at recess I was taken outside with the teacher who held a strap, and on the steps as a stage and the other children looking on the drama began; five slaps fell on each hand, which had an effect on my eyes as a number of tears flowed from them. After recess Teacher began to write on the board, `pack up your troubles in your old kit bag`, and of course it ran through my mind that maybe school was all finished and she was letting us know to pick up and leave.

Mistake no. 2 and yours truly was well on the way of not being the teachers pet, although no more strapping’s from her for me.  But it was used many times on other children and I recall it seems that one boy, `Harold Litt`,  received punishment from it at least once a week.

By the end of the second week I was fairly well acquainted all the other pupils and surroundings. The toilets were outside. A large four holer, partitioned in the middle to separate the sexes,  but that partition had many viewing holes carved in it from sharp pocket knives, and there wasn`t very much privacy.

Fall soon passed away, then winter came and went, and then spring.  And with spring like weather the sap began to run in the trees.Cargill was blessed with many maple bushes and each farmer made syrup, so it was a joy to visit two or three places for taffy pulls, and to ride on the sleighs in gathering of the sap which fell into containers on each tree was dumped into the tank, drawn to the shanty and boiled down either in large iron pots or vats.

May passed and the strawberry season was at hand. Between our house and the village proper, was a house where lived a bachelor by the name of GEO. REYBOURN. Right next to the sidewalk of his place was a fence to keep animals and I suppose kids out. Between the the fence and the house was this strawberry patch, and skipping along the sidewalk this day with my bro. Lloyd (who incidentally was a year and a half older then me, and six months later became two and a half years older as I gave him one of my birthdays.) Well anyway as we were progressing past this strawberry patch , right next to the fence were these beautiful tempting berries.  Needless to say little fingers followed by arms went through the fence  and began to pick, and boy were they good.  About six berries later a shadow fell over us and there was Geo. In a quiet voice he said, “are the berries good buys?”  Sure they are?  But the best ones are near the house.  Come through the gate and help yourselves. So he ushered us in an disappeared, and do you know, those berries all at once became sour and we too disappeared as fast as our legs could carry us. And Geo. was probably looking out the window chuckling to himself.  (Thank you Geo. for a lesson well learned.)

As the year rolled by we were to see a bit more of Geo. and to hear tales.  Geo. would take us to the lake in his model T ford.  But the stories about him I suppose were mostly far fetched. Like when we asked the village about his wife, (which he didn’t have, as stated previously he was a bachelor.)  Well anyway years ago a lot of houses had a trap door in the kitchen or living room that opened up to a stairway in the cellar. And of course Geo’s. house was like that. So the story was told that Geo. kept his wife under that trap door.

Geo. was a thrifty fellow and his motto was a penny saved was a penny earned. Like when he bought a pair of shoe’s one time.  He kept one shoe polished all the time and the other one unkempt.  He wanted to know which shoe would last the longest. He said the polished shoe lasted ten minutes longer then the other.   Too it was Geo. that invented the, “Doggie bag. ”  He would go to church socials and carry enough home to last at  least a week. May you rest in peace Geo.

Summer holidays rolled around and during same the school was broken into and from my recollection only the strap was missing. Dad was the sheriff as well as school trustee at the time and he had to solve the crime.  Two culprits were caught, and one of them was my oldest half brother Edwin on my dad’s side.  When school commenced that Sept, Edwin and his friend were marched to the front of the class and with tears running down their faces had to apologize and return the strap.  My memory fails me at this point as to whether they got a licking or not.

In January of that year my sister May was born., and in the spring and summer my brother Lloyd and I had the job of pushing her around outside in the baby carriage which had wheels on it so large that it raised the sleeping portion so high that my short little body almost needed a periscope to see to push.

The tragedy struck late in the summer when our house was destroyed by fire and except for a few belongings our neighbours saved everything was lost; with very little insurance, and the depression was beginning to take hold of the economy at that time.  However we were able to rent a house on River St. next to the school and near my grandfather Brownscombe’s house.

Grandpa has a small barn at the end of the street, and the yard was fenced in which he kept grey rock chickens, one of which was a big rooster, a vicious bird I learned of when I was dared by a couple of playmates to enter the yard.  On opening the gate, that rooster came through like a horse from a starting gate at a race. It was quite a sight to see this barefoot six year old boy racing down the street with this rooster, neck outstretched in hot pursuit pecking at my legs.

About this time school was beginning to appeal to me somewhat.  Most of the children brought lunches and ate them by the furnace in the basement.  One girl named Dorothy used to like to strip  and run around nude. Then there was the time a boy named Roy asked to be excused to go to the bathroom, but was refused. Well he had to go somewhere, and in those days an inkwell graced the upper right had corner of each desk.  Roy proceeded to fill his. He was never refused again.

When I was about seven, we moved again to the south west part of the village bordering a fairly large acreage, and on the property was a number of vacant buildings that housed the machinery that was once used in a sawmill operation.  Also a huge stable that at one time was kept the horses, feed etc. for the mill operation. Then the mill pond or dam and mill race from which power was derived for making electricity  and to run the flour mill.  Many a good time was had exploring the buildings and playing by the pond.

The pond of course was used in summer for swimming and paddle boating, and my brother Edwin had one.  Then in the winter it was used for skating and ice cutting for winter storage.

I ran free as a bird, and as I found out in later years, it was my mother’s prayers that she prayed for us from the time we were born, until her own death and our dear Lord who honoured those prayers that  ever survived. Thank you mother, thank you Lord.

On the property we rented was a small barn, and kept a few chickens and a caw.  In summer the cow was pastured on our lot near the railroad station, and it was my brother Lloyd s and my chore to bring that cow home every day for milking.

When I was eight, excitement ran through the village. Silverwoods dairy started a sideline of killing and plucking chickens, and good money could be made as a chicken plucker. Three cents a bird was the going wage.  Yours truly decided to get in on the big money.  So after school this day I hired on, and by five o’clock when I had to get the cow, the first bird was only half plucked, which I left, and never did go back.

It was at the shop which my dad ran that I experienced the first taste of a cigarette.  One of my playmates was able to procure a small packet, so hidden behind an outbuilding at the shop where we were sure we wouldn’t be seen, lit up.  Dad came out of the shop a few times for materiel, and we sat there blowing smoke in air and feeling dizzy. At the table that night during the evening meal. dad said, “did you enjoy the cigarette Earl?  Of course yours truly denied it.  Well to shorten the story and to end the suspense I was let to finish my last meal of the day, and which became tasteless, was spanked severely, once for smoking, and again for lying.

Back of the damn was a large thimble-berry and raspberry patch where a few of the villagers picked berries in the summer, and our family (at least those living at home and old enough) spent many hours in the patch.  Then too in the summer, many hours was spent wading in the river, trying to catch red fin mullets, a type of carp or sucker.

The along came the great depression.  Although dad had ample work installing pumps, repairing windmills (which some he had installed earlier) repairing machinery etc., at the foundry, nobody had any cash to pay him, and so he had to give up the shop. And just previous to the closing, my sister Jean was born, an extra burden, but I guess she was worth it.

About this time dad answered an ad in the paper for a moulder at the New Idea furnace company in Ingersoll for 50¢ an hour, and was given the job.  I’m telling you, it sounded to my nine year old ears, like we were about to become millionaires.  Just imagine 50¢ an hour.

So a moving truck was hired from Woodstock (Bigham the Mover it was) and all our belongings that had not been previously sold was stacked on that little open truck, with our pet duck in a cage on top (with a quack quack here and a quack quack there).  If you have ever seen the T.V. episode of the “Beverly Hillbillies” this was it.  a car was sent along to carry the family.

We arrived in Ingersoll in the late afternoon on an rented house and about 12 acres of land and a small barn.  For all in all many enjoyable hours was spent there with the neighbours.  I believe it was the end of June when we moved there and I played with a girl all summer before I knew she was a girl even though her name was Jean as she wore boys clothes and acted like a boy.  It was the first day of school that fall when this girl, which I believed to be a boy showed up to show us the way to school and she was wearing a dress.  As previously stated her name was Jean and why my brain didn’t tell me sooner with a name like Jean and me with a sister with the same name.  Dumb?

That fall at school went by without too much to say for it, and that Dec. another sister was born; and she was called Helen.  Also should mention that the huge wage of 50¢ an hour that dad had been promised, that I figured would have put us on easy street didn’t last.  Dad had to take a cut in pay and hours and not even assured of any time.  So at this point he was able to find a job at “Coles furniture factory”  which at this time was in the casket making business.  He earned about 22¢ an hour, ten hours a day and for the most part six days a week.

This was a time of real depression and hard times.  Well we had a cow, a few chickens and a garden, and so long as the $25 a month rent was paid, things were not too bad.

But getting back to myself.  The next term at school with hand me down clothes, six sizes to big;  a neighbor man with a waist size of about 40 died and his pants and shirts were given to mother to re-do for me.  She done her best but they still were baggy.  A real conversation piece for the rest of the kids at school.

Also during this term at school I was strapped again.  For what misdemeanor?  For not chewing gum  That’s right!  For not chewing gum. Several students were caught chewing gum (no gum chewing or eating of candy in class) and were marched to the front of the class to deposit same in the waste paper basket.  Now I didn’t want to be left out, but I had no gum, so pretended to chew, not wanting to be seen by Miss Peck our teacher, but by the students, so they would think I was a somebody who could afford gum.  Well Miss Peck did see me ad asked me what I had in my  mouth.


Nothing Miss Peck

Miss Peck —Earl, would you please put your gum in the waste basket.

Earl — I don’t have any gum Miss Peck.

Miss Peck — What do you have in your mouth?

Earl — Nothing Miss Peck.

Miss Peck — For the last time what have you in your mouth?

Earl — well if you must know, my tongue and my teeth.

With this the teacher exploded and with the class in an uproar, grabbed the strap and proceeded to my desk.  About three on each hand and tears in my eyes i was sure sorry I had ever started anything.

After a couple of years living on this twelve acre lot and having to help hoe the enormous garden etc, we were on the move again.  I don’t think I was happy to do so, as even with all the work to do, there was always fun to be had with the numerous children in the neighbourhood as well as with my brothers and sisters.  But move we did, in a house at the edge of town, nest to a farm on Victoria St.  On that farm was a large family like our own and matching ages of our own.  So many happy hours when they were not too busy on the farm was shared, playing cowboys and Indians, (using their horses).  also corn roasts, swimming at the bare  swimming hole, and in winter, tobogganing on the steep hills on the farm; or bob sledding down Mckeand Street hill.

Should explain the bare swimming hole, for that is what it was.  It was on the Thames river a quarter of a mile from the house, and with a sandy bank was very popular part of the river in the summer time. When only boys were present, we usually did swim bare, and sometimes the girls did too, when they thought they were alone.  But there were a few surprises.

There were sad times to at this house, (which was called the red brick house) a square type solid red brick, where in the winter the frost hung on the inside walls, with the kitchen stove so hot the lids would sometimes glow from the heat  Sitting near it your face would be hot, but chills would run up your back.

It was here in 1933 that my brother Arnott and sister Enid were born, twin s they were.  But death took them from us a couple months later.  About this time too, my sister May (about eight years old) nearly passed away also.

The Doctor was given permission to remove her tonsils, and he took it upon himself to remove her adenoids as well.  Consequently she almost bled to death.  The Doctor sent her home  sent her home from the hospital, as he said, ‘to die’.  This was the first time in my life I believe that I got down on my knees and really pled with God to restore her health, and praise His HOLY NAME, He did.  Now I am sure there were other prayers for he as well, but I like to think that God honoured mine the most.

Going back to the bare swimming hole.  Bordering the railroad tracks which ran alongside of the river was this sand bank about eight feet high. Then between it ans the river was this ten of fifteen feet high of fairly level sand.  Well some of the fellows and myself dug a hole in the sand bank to crawl in out of the sun.  This day I was laying in the hole, with my feet stuck out, when a cave in occurred.  Lucky for me that out Lord had honoured my mother`s prayers for my protection for somehow there was this air pocket over my head and so I was kept alive and was dug out.

Finishing grade school in June before my 13th birthday, had no notion of going on further, but by the end of September that year, the town authorities persuaded me to go onto high school; which I did until February the next year, when o make ends meet in the financial situation at home., I hired to the farmer next door, who had taken over from the family we had enjoined so much companionship with. About 30 ¢ a day or 2 1/2 ¢ an hour and two meals a day was the wage to start, but by the end of the first year, 12 dollars a month.  It was fairly enjoyable work; hand milking cows, cleaning stables, seeding and harvesting, taking the milk to Bordens daily though town by horse and wagon.  Jim, a fair sized dapple grey, was usually my horse power.  It was Jim who incidentally was my near source of death  the following year but again GOD honoured my mother`s prayers.

It was haying time and Jim pulled the dump rake for me which was about eight feet wide, five feet high wheels, curved tangs of steel for gathering the hay into windrows for easy loading onto wagons.   This particular day, Alex, my boss, took Jim’s bridal and bit as the chin strap on one of the other horses was broken, so that left me with the broken one.  Well anyway, midway of the barn was the gateway of the field we were haying from this day, and the gate was just large enough for the rake to go though.   Finishing enough raking for a load, I pitched it on the wagon, leaving Jim standing and feeding.  we had just finished backing the load against the barn to unload, when Jim slipped his bridal and bolted, and now was a runaway.

Did you ever see a boy trying to stop a runaway horse pulling a rake?

I run to the the gate to try to stop him, but those big hooves just kept coming with the rake dragging behind. He came through the gate and into the orchard behind the barn where harness, rake and all was left tangled around a tree.

Now how did he get past me?  I’ll never know for sure,a s one second he’s coming right for me, the next he’s past.  My only explanation is that GOD had an angel protecting me which you will see, (if you care to read further).

Angels have protected me many times. Thank you LORD.

Spring of 1937 rolled around, and after a winter of loafing around at home and bugging my younger sisters, went back to work for Alex.  Home was on the flats of  McKeand St., Ingersoll (Ontario)between the railroad tracks and the river.  And that old man river knocked on our doors every time his banks overflowed.  This year of 1937 was no exception, except it was higher and forced evacuation.

Seeding had gotten underway on the farm when one Saturday and Sunday  it rained heavily.  Monday morning I took the milk to Bordens as usual.  Crossing over the Thames St. bridge the water was deepening  under the bridge, but nothing to be alarmed about.  But coming back an hour later — no bridge.   It had shifted about 20 to 25 feet and lay at the bottom of the river.  What to do?  I had to get back to the farm.

This time I was driving “Old Blackie” with the wagon, a fearless horse with many years experience.  We went to another bridge east of town, which too was under water, and for a few hundred yards north of it was  expanse of water.

Coaxing Old Blackie on, he partially swam and partially with a foot hold on the road, we landed on dry ground on the home side of the river.

Later that fall, my brother Lloyd and I purchased a four door Model A Ford.  We used to play hide and seek) with a couple of other young bucks who had cars.

This particular night with me at the wheel, and four of us in our car, was seeking Stan in his Roadster.  He evaded us for a time on the north side of the double track C.N.R railroad, in Ingersoll.  Seeing him cross over the tracks, we took off after him in hot pursuit.  But alas, just as we approached the tracks, a fright (train) hit the crossing going east.  Well it seemed like an unseen hand turned the wheels of the car, and we headed west on the other tracks.  And again, thank you Lord for answering my mothers prayers.

Spring of 1938 rolled around,, and this year I hired out with Frank Pirie.  My brother was on a farm across the road and friend Cecil was on another farm nearby and another friend Art across the road from him.  We used to like to go to town some evenings.

Piries chores always had to be done by six or six thirty.  Cecil`s chores never seemed to get done.  well anyway this evening I called on Cecil and he was going to be another half hour or so before we could go, this fairly large Holstein bull which was in the pasture had to be brought in.  he looked so gentle standing there beside a small creek, that yours truly volunteered to bring him in.

Now vision this bull standing there, as this stupid teenager approached him.  You can almost see him scratching his head with a look of unbelief.  Well anyway I walked up to him to put the leading stick in the ring of his nose, when wham, I was caught between his horns and was propelled through the air and across the creek.   Coming down and feet doing their duty I headed for a fence with the bull in pursuit.  Thank you Lord for the speed you gave me.

A month later after seeing hobos riding the rails past the farm day after day, while In was seating in the fields, and hearing of big money to be made in western Canada, talked it over with a friend named Dick, and we decided to ride the rails to the west.

For a few years I had played around with the tracks and rode on railroad cars going past our place, and too was familiar with the life of  a hobo, as just along the river from us there were usually a half dozen or so camping there overnight during the summer months after getting off a train, and quit often we fed many who came to our door.

Well anyway the morning arrived when we took off.  No money in our pockets and only the clothes we had (as the old expression goes) on our backs.  a freight had stopped in Ingersoll heading west.  we climbed in an empty car and were soon in London.  getting off there, a couple of other hobos (or men of the road) told us we had to go to Toronto and then around the lake head.  Soon we were able to catch one heading towards Toronto, and again with several other hobos, seated ourselves in an open door of a car, feet dangling out.  What a life!  At 12:15 in the afternoon the train crept across the crossing at Ingersoll and there waiting for the train to pass was a couple of my sisters and neighbor children on the way to school.  What a surprise they got.

Arriving in Toronto, the rail road detectives chased us but we were able to avoid them.  But what train to catch now for the north?  We had jumped on one moving in what direction we knew not, and landed in Niagara Falls.  Spending a day there and mooching for food we landed in Hamilton.  a day was spent there also, and hunger pangs led us to a garden, where we dug some potatoes and picked a few green tomatoes.  Such fare!  The the next afternoon we decided, like the “prodigal son”, to return home.

A long freight of about a hundred cars was sitting on the outskirts of Hamilton, looking west, and all the cars were closed, and all box cars.  Then with three engines pulling and a shunter pushing, it started up the steep grade.  By the time it started to pass us, it was going about 10 or 15 miles an hour.  about the eight car, I asked Dick to catch hold, which he did, and then he lost his grip.  So by the time he got up his nerve, the rear end of the train was coming in sight.   So we wee about 20 cars from the rear of the train before settling down on top.   Near the caboose were four or five other hobos.  Getting near Brantford and the sun going down, these other riders started towards us.  We didn’t like the looks of them so we headed for the front end, which wasn’t something to be done with ease, as the train was going about 60 miles an hour and the cars swaying somewhat, the 18 inch walkway on top, seemed a little bit narrow.  They chased us until we were near the engines and crossing over the trestle over the grand River in Paris.  By this time it was dark, and the train was moving slowly so we dropped off on the banks of the Grand, and ran and hid in an empty box car in the shunting yards at Paris.  For an hour we could hear those fellows looking for us, for what we never did find out, and a couple of times with us holding our breathes and flattening ourselves against the corner wall; one of them looked in and we hear him say, “They have got to be hear somewhere”.

Well finally things got quiet, so we scooted for the highway and walked from Paris to Woodstock, where we met friends and were able to get a ride to Ingersoll.  It is something I wouldn’t want to do again, but something I am glad we did, for it was a bit of a “thrill of a lifetime”.

June 1940 rolls around, and world war two had been going on nine months and Hitler was running rough shod as it were over other countries, trying to rule the world.   Well I thought that he had to be put in his place, so I joined the Canadian Armed Forces as an infantry soldier.  Not liking to march all day carrying a pack sack etc., got a transfer to the service corps and drove instead.

On November 12/41 sailed for England.  Many minor incidents happened, but the most outstanding one happened a few months after landing in England.  For awhile I hauled petrol or in Canadian language, “gasoline” in flimsy four gallon containers (and there always seemed to be a few that leaked) to service our transport company.  On this particular night with about 800 gallons on the truck, was heading for camp, when along the road, heading in the same direction but walking (after a couple of hours at the pub) was four of my friends.  I stopped to pick them up, and a short distance later, one of them sitting on top of the load decided to light a cigarette.  Now as you know, gas fumes or raw gas and fire do not normally agree.  well praise the Lord, he was still honouring my mothers prayers.

In October 1943 to celebrate my 23rd birthday, was on my way to the battle front in Sicily.  Now I am sure this enemy had manufactured many types of ammunition with my name on them, but do you know, the LORD must have confused the senders, as they all seemed to go to another address, right up to the time I left Italy in 1945.  Then it was back to England again. then to Holland for a couple of months, then back home.

Mother is gone now, but her prayers linger on.  Amen and thank you Lord.

Earl W. Crawford

(all material transcribed from the original documents typed by my Uncle Earl)

Gods Eye

Gods Eye

Originally uploaded by cvm_inc / Allan Herman