Construction Work History
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You know…..as a labourer…..a Labourer becomes a Skilled Labourer either soon or he quits as the pay is never good and never good enough to save up and pay for tools to fake his way as a carpenter or plumber or some other kind of tradesman. In the day i grew up you never or rarely even got a chance to do the construction type of work unless your Dad or some member of the family, like an uncle or cousin let you come and work for them. Whether or not you got paid was another question, and if you did….how much was another question altogether. You only became a Tradesman if….well, again if your Dad or family member…or close friend of the family who was a Tradesman ‘desperately’ needed some help. “if” you knew a few things and could be helpful to him, he would let you work for him…..and I say “let” because money was hard to come by, families were growing and kids needed to be fed: everyday. And….work wasn’t “always plentiful”, no matter how much the so-called experts will tell you. On the other hand, years later, you find out that the “work” i.e. the contracts were primarily held by the Masons……they were usually English, or Scottish and sometimes German and sometimes French or Italian. If you didn’t go and join the Masons, or weren’t invited to go and join them..then it was a hodge-podge good luck sitting in the pub…..which is where you got news of a job…..then you went and got it, and did the work. In those days, a lot of guys….most guys drank and drank too much. I was a two bottle a day beer drinker guy. I stopped drinking hard alcohol when i was fourteen after one year of it. I smoked six cigarettes a day in my teens while in junior and senior high school, then as soon as school was finished, smoked fifteen a day, then by twenty-one smoked a pack of twenty a day. As a young man, i wasn’t interested in making “money”. As a secondary goal, my goal every day was to practice the work ethic. One thing i did do, was learn to do what i was told. That lesson came from my wrestling coach, a particular guy to learn from.
The coach was coming in everyday to the school for the summer…..to do things! As a special invitation, because our family lived close to the school, just before the school year ended, he asked me if i wanted to come in and work out in the mornings in the summer if i wasn’t working. The only criteria was to be “on time” . I agreed. I was late five or ten minutes one time, then again the same thing. On the third time a couple weeks later while going out to the track field, he cornered me against the school wall building and threatened to punch my head completely in if i ever came in late again. I think that was the only time i was frightened of him…no, no.. frightened “by him”. When he let me go after his rant, i got really pissed off at him and ran my anger out running……it took an extra four or five miles. I knew his rant was “done!”, so continued my workout. Start at 8:30 and continue till 12:00, then go home. Even though i had done a lot of favours for him…..and he had done some important ones for me…….i still wasn’t immune from his rants or fits of anger. Coach was the archetypal ‘dress you down type of Sargent kind of guy’……you never escaped ‘his discipline sense’ for a moment and he never hesitated even a moment to corner you against a wall or in the middle of the gym or a hallway and ‘drill you down’ no matter ‘what was going on and who was there’. If you “survived” without breaking into pieces…..well ‘good on you’, that was like a miracle ‘that time!’ Next time may not go so good. I didn’t realize it at the time, but getting ‘chewed up’ by the coach helped me put my attention on the words a person was saying, rather than the way the person was saying it.
Coach’s perspective was to ‘get the most out of you’…..to get you to go to your “limits”, and then: beyond that. He was on you all the time for that, whether it was when he was teaching his gym class or the wrestlers or the football team guys. You could choose to quit, but nobody did. Some didn’t show up for awhile, but no one quit the team. He was a harsh teacher, a hard task master…….but on the other hand if you pushed yourself…..he would give ‘you’ more to do. He would set the next challenge he thought you should do, and discuss it with you. Then watched you as you fulfilled the plan. For me, i had never weight lifted so he had me go to the weight room after wrestling practice everyday. The first time he showed me how to put the weights on the barbells then what to do. Two weeks later he came back to watch what i was doing. I was 112 pounds. He wanted to see how much i could bench press and how much i could jerk. I loaded the barbell then walked over and clean jerked it lifting it straight clear over the head with no problem…..then did it again and again. Then started adding a few pounds to it. The first lift was 160 pounds, and eventually got up to 167. It was the same with the bench press, but i was disappointed in him because he couldn’t tell me why i couldn’t lift more and only got to 167 no matter what i did. Dead lift was 404 pounds, and no more. All the rest was circuit training, repetition. After that session, he made me act as instructor in the weight room, but few came because everyone was worn out from the wrestling class.
When a buddy and i went to Australia when we were 19….in 1968 to find work, i became head labourer in the car park we were building. I had $34 dollars in my pocket and we needed to get working right away. First, we were dog men….that means guiding the big blue concrete bucket to exactly where the concrete was to be unloaded. One of us would pull the bucket handle and the concrete would drop into the form work. Some spillage meant quickly shoveling the concrete down into the formwork and then someone would have to grab the vibrator, stick it in and evenly vibrate the concrete so it would set evenly and properly. It was tricky because the scaffold around the formwork was up high about fifteen feet and only two feet wide or less of board plank to be able to maneuver on. The concrete blue bucket by itself weighed about 500 pounds and when full it weighed about 2500 pounds. One little, wrong mistake and it could knock you off the scaffold over the edge, or worse yet, into the formwork pylon and into the concrete. Sometimes there were would be four, five or six of us shoveling the spilled concrete in. In a sense it was the most important part of the work that was going on. If you had good balance and a good strong back you could shovel everything in, just in time for the next load. The big, blue concrete bucket came all day, day after day. When someone didn’t show up for work, you had to work harder to make up the difference. When some couldn’t take it anymore and quit the job you had more yet to do. I found if you spread your legs like a wrestler does, and worked from a low position, you had more strength to shovel with, could get the job done quicker and not get tired or get a sore back. When the other four or five or six guys got worn out and could only bear the strength to stand there, from time to time i did the work for all of us so they could get their wind back. Because i had a guy show me once how to do the vibrating right, i was also the chosen vibrator, so did that as well.
One day, an Italian contractor came to prepare the soil for the entrance to the underground parking level. He asked if he could ‘borrow a labourer’, i was selected by the Supervisor to help him out. The Italian boss was kindly spoken and told what he needed done saying he would come tomorrow with more help. It was still morning, i didn’t know why he said that and started working…..and shoveled the slant level of the driveway before the end of the day. The next day when he returned, he told the Supervisor this was a three day job and would take two men to do it in a day and a half. After that the Supervisor made me head labourer. He told the rest of the crew and put me in charge of the carpenters and the form workers, meaning to tell me things the Supervisor should know, while my primary responsibility was to be the main dog crane man, loading the rebar and guiding it to the proper location, untying the steel cable and hooks and guiding the crane operator to where the big blue bucket was exactly to go to, and being in charge of the discharge of the concrete and shoveling. I was also in charge of hiring and firing. Two guys came together looking for work one day, one was about forty years old and the other was an old man. I hired them both, then told the Supervisor that they didn’t have anything to eat and needed to work and get paid right away. A couple days later, the older guy, Oscar, didn’t look well and told him to sit upstairs in the shade until i called him. I told the Supervisor he wasn’t going to make it to the end of the month, but asked him to keep him on anyway and whatever work he was supposed to do i would do it for him. I had respect for the Supervisor and for some reason he had respect for me, so at times when he found Oscar sitting on the boards in the shade everyday, he said nothing. About two weeks later, poor Oscar was found passed away laying down on those boards. Kind, old Oscar was now gone. After he left, i used to go and sit in his place when there was ‘nothing to do’. First i sat, then i layed down, first a few minutes, then a half hour, then an hour. I was avoiding responsibility in the sense of not doing more, but when things are done and are in ‘a lull’, i wasn’t the guy to stand around and chat on and on. Many times i would wonder about Oscar, how far he came from…somewhere in Ireland, how hard he must have worked to get so old by then. Its true there was plenty of work in Australia: twenty-two pages of classified ads, everyday! But an old guy cannot work like a young guy even for one day or it would give him a heart attack……and if he doesn’t support himself he won’t have money to eat or a place to stay that he can call his. Oscar had no place that was his, suffered from long time poor nutrition and no one was taking care of him. Its not true that in Australia there were places for old guys like that, but in those days there were such dignity in these old guys you didn’t always know who they were even if you were talking with them. The other guys, the Finns i thought were men as men should be men. They came from Finland, 25, 30, 35 years of age……strong and powerful, five or six of them. They were the Form workers. Easily, as if it was a biscuit, they would lift a 3/4″ inch thick piece of 4 x 8 plywood sheet, position it, hold it with one hand and with the other hand get a 3 1/2″ spike from their pouch , fit it in the palm of their hand then drive it right through the plywood sheet, a one, two, palm punch and the spike secured the plywood there……this is how they nailed the ceiling of the form work together most of the day, but always when doing overhead work. They were extremely competent and i was ‘extremely bored’ in this job. When it came time to do the rebar work, the Supervisor gave me directions as to how to lay the re-bar out in the pattern for the floor and the pylons and was given a pair of tongs and wire, shown how to tie the rebar together and with a couple other guys layed out the entire main floor for the car park and the next level pylons. Carrying a long 14 ft or 16 ft or 22 ft piece of 1 inch thick piece of steel is tricky when carrying one at a time and is easier if you carry two, or three at a time if you can manage it. One piece is usually a hundred pounds or more….and you get quite used to that when you do it all day. I had good balance. As a kid i used to play soccer, taught some guys…..and baseball and football. I also had good hand skills as to catch and pitch and hit the ball so the coach had me teach the guys on the team. My cousin, who was four years older than me……i talked him into helping me practice pitching while he acted as catcher. Practicing every day after school ‘at the same time of the day!!’……i learned how to do it, then acted as catcher for him and taught him how to do it. I made the second string all star pitching position in the league, but was the last guy cut from the team that went to the world championships and won. My cousin got so good as a Babe Ruth pitcher, he was spotted by a scout from United States who wanted him to try out for the National Baseball League; his mother wouldn’t let him go and i often wonder what would have happened if she had. He called me forty-five years later to tell me he thought i was the one who taught him how to pitch and to thank me for it as it was the most amazing experience for him in his childhood…..he referred to it as his ‘waking up’. Ha! I thought! He only needed to pay attention. Once he saw that as the catcher i wouldn’t move the glove ‘until the last moment to move it to where the ball was coming to’…..that once he paid “attention” to exactly where and how he was throwing it and paid attention to when i said ‘now’….which meant let go of the throw now…..and paid attention to connect the dots as to what he was doing…..he became virtually perfect! and it was he who was from then on “always on time, right after school”…..yah…waiting to pitch!. And it was “he” who knew how to throw the slider, the inside curve, the outside wide curve and the slow ball. And me, well, I got to see a perfect pitcher…..pitch perfect every time. That is what was amazing! My uncle paid for me for some Judo classes when i was fifteen. Learning balance technique….foot placement and foot strategy, foot sweeps and trips, the Instructor told my uncle he could not teach me anymore at that time and to come back later because neither his assistant nor he could upset my balance and do a hip throw or arm wing throw, or foot sweep or trip to get me down. They were quite frustrated with me. And quite often it was i who countered and got them down. They said they could not teach me anymore because the other things that were next to be shown for me were choke holds and arm locks, and i was too young to be shown them, i only had a white belt and that was for only for coloured belt and no competitions were coming up to upgrade to another belt. Actually, as a kid when not playing sports we used to practice play wrestling and learned all the leg and arm locks by ourselves….it was just that you didn’t do them as they were too dangerous and could break an arm or wrist……or leg, or even snap the neck or chock them unconscious. We never broke a bone, but sure got a lot of pain and very carefully got someone into unconsciousness….we called it “blacked out”. We took turns and did it to each other….so we knew what it meant. Eventually, though you forget how to do these things if you don’t repeat doing them. I always say the wonderful thing i learned in Judo was the fall to the ground with the Judo slap…..to break the fall so you don’t get hurt. If you don’t know what it is, if you are falling there is a good chance you get hurt, especially your back or your head. My cousin somehow learned boxing, but used to have dreams that scared him so i was asked to stay overnight with him. He was an only kid, so his mother bought him an extra bed so i could stay there. He used to box me……in “fun”, attack me, beat me up seriously if i didn’t fight back. Every time we used to put on the boxing gloves and he would beat on me. He had the strong hard punch, but i don’t think he knew it till later in his life. The only advantage i had was that when he tired out i could get him and get on him ‘bad’ for how bad he beat me! By the end of the end we would get to bed……glad. He was always good…..he let me beat him up too! He became a framer…..later, I framed two houses with him. As a student of wrestling, i remembered that essentially i remained unbeatable even when encountering the heavyweights. Always, the balance was important. So, when you carry 300 pounds on your one shoulder while stepping across with long lengths of steel where you only have one foot square to balance your foot in, you must depend on good balance technique. At one point i worked with two Mauri guys building a new swimming pool. It was all rebar work. You use a channel to bend the steel and a torch to cut it to the length you need, then tie it together. Then we mixed the mud and plastered it, and the decking. Mauri guys like to work and they like to sing when they work. They all think they are Englehart Humperdink…..you know the guy from New Zealand. They had a friend who was desperate for help jack hammering some spilt concrete and asked me to help him for a few days. I agreed to help him so went there and was given a 45 lb. jackhammer to go at it. It was powered by a large diesel generator which used to break down, so i had to fix it from time to time. He returned about 10 days later….that 10th day i quit because neither did he help himself out by coming around and doing any of the work when he had the time, and he certainly had some time he could have done that….plus he was late in bringing the cheque three days and not being completely true to his word he would come around and help out…..i wasn’t sure he would not just completely disappear and never show up to pay me. Immediately thereafter with jack hammering skill in mind, a guy told me of a company that needed a whole pile of jack hammerers. I went there. This company had a huge hole in the ground, some three or four levels deep and had mistakenly poured a glut of concrete in the shoring wall that was way too thick, i.e. the wall of the building that was going to be built was supposed to fit in there….so the shoring had to be cut back. It was a big mistake, costly mistake. Guys would come and last a day or two…..if you lasted a week it was unusual. You stood on a wooden plank scaffold and worked your section from the top down to the ground. You held the big mothers of the jack hammer 90 pounds and zinged it into the wall forever and ever then moved it some square inches away and did it all day! In Australia, you worked pretty much like a Serf slave as in the days of old England did, 10-12 hours a day, five days a week and half a day on Saturdays. At the end of the day you were exhausted. Overtime meant all day Saturday and maybe Sunday too. I lasted three weeks until i thought my body was vibrating on its own without the jack hammer in my hands and thought i had gone deaf because of all the noise around me. This hole in the ground was about an entire square block long and square. About two hundreds guys worked on it daily. The job was basically done when i left. Plenty of guys there to finish it off. It became a get your check and go kind of lifestyle. All hard work. Worked for awhile right on Manly Beach which is where we lived. A guy was renovating a six or eight? suite apartment block…..the job was to smash it down and rebuild it with new brick. Learned some bricklaying there, got good with the mason’s tool, mixing mud…..same at the swimming pool with the Mauri’s doing the deck.
My Dad was a carpenter, he built houses. He was half German, half French Canadian. He worked mostly with a Dutch guy. When he got enough money he built the family house. I helped him……well, did what i could and what he told me to do. He gave me a claw hammer and a steel wrecking bar and showed me how to pull nails from the wood, then straighten the nails out. He didn’t say i did bad at it, so it must’ve been pretty good. He taught me how to hold a level and tell if a board was out of line when it was standing straight up…….and which part was low if it was laying on its side. And a string level too. And how to snap a chalk line. Measure the board and cut it with a hand saw in a straight line, and space nails for things like headers and cripples for doorways and windows. He let me knock in the nails on the studs when making the wall on the floor. He got me to put water in the spinner when the concrete was being made, haul it over for the foundation and to how dump it evenly, then take the shovel or rake to jiggle it, then a smoother to smooth it out . Then we dug a trench with a shovel and a pick for the plumbing and put sand in then gravel rock, then concrete tile on the rock. For the floor, we carried the big boards and nailed them in, he showed me where the plywood sheets were to go and how far apart the nails were supposed to nailed in, then the same for the roof. After the framing was done, we would put the tar paper on the outside walls and hit it with a fancy stapler. He would hold up the piece of siding and i would put in a nail, he would nail the other end, then i would nail the siding to the wall. We start from the bottom so the next piece overlaps, just like the tar paper. He did the eaves cause i was too small to be up on the ladder and reach that high. When it came time for the roof, he laid out the sheets and my sisters and i took one sheet at a time and nailed as fast as we could. He would lay out the shingles and showed me how to use a roofing hatchet and nail the small nails in the shingles. Mostly ashphalt shingles were used at that time like they were on our house. To catch the rain, he nailed long pieces of wood with long spikes at the edge of the roof. Then we put up some aluminum pipes to drain the water into the plumbing. Inside, he drilled holes in the wood for the electrical wire then put it in and the boxes for the fittings for the plugs and showed me how to do it. Then he got some brown paper insulation, showed me how to cut it and put it in the walls. After that he put up the drywall or cut sheets of it and nailed it in. What he didn’t nail, i had to do. Each nail could go only so far in. Then he showed us how the drywall mud was made and to put it on and how to smooth it between the sheets and in the corners. You had to do a lot of sanding and when i wasn’t sanding drywall he gave me a lot of little pieces of sandpaper and mostly small pieces of wood then told me to figure out what kind of sandpaper to use so they would fit together correctly to make a tool box. If it was too much to sand, he said to use the planer which he then showed how to use. I got good at sanding because for some reason i paid attention to it. When the drywall was up he installed the cupboards and countertop and did the plumbing, put in the ducts and the heater. My job was to cut and put in and nail the rest of the studs in the small walls in the basement, then drill the holes for the wire with the driller and put the wire in. Then we painted all the rooms. After that he showed me how to level the dirt in the yard, but he had to show me three times and still i did not get it well enough, so he had to do most of it. I thought i wasn’t tall enough to see the dirt far enough to understand what he meant, but what did i know? When he and Bill, the Dutch guy went to West Vancouver to build some houses he took me along to nail the plywood on the roof. First i had to sort the lumber and straighten the nails, then bring the lumber to them…..then when time was rushing along and i didn’t have to do anything else that had to be done, i climbed up onto the roof and began nailing the plywood. I was having a tough time because for some reason without a chalk line i had trouble imagining exactly where the middle of the rafter was. At the end of the day, when he came up to check and do the rest of it….it turned out i had missed the rafters a lot so he got angry and fired me. I never worked for him again for two years. At that time he took me painting. He found a barn somewhere outside of Medicine Hat, Alberta and showed me how to paint it. I started just past dawn and finished just before dark. He brought me lunch and supper. It took a week. He came and corrected my mistakes i.e. spots missed or not enough paint on which was considered being a miss, but i painted the whole thing. Must have been fifty feet high and seventy feet long on the wall. A gallon of paint in one hand and a big square brush in the other….on the ladder all day in the beginning. It was the only time he did not give me heck.
I decided to head out to Western Australia. Coming from a stint in Tasmania, from Hobart where i janitored a restaurant and then for a month was the manager of a hamburger grill ice cream road side stop drive-in. My parents had owned two restaurants and my dad had built one of them, and while i was never the great cook in those days, following my mother’s good example, great tasting hamburgers were always available at this road side stop. I’m not into taking too much sarcastic talk, so when a group of bikers starting coming by every other day, i thought it was time to leave before trouble started. Its always best to avoid a fight if possible, isn’t it? Specially when you got eight or nine mean guys against you. Once on the mainland, i hitch hiked to Perth. On the way, i slept on the side of the road in the night. Carrying a blanket light sleeping bag, which was too hot in if you got in it as the nights were sweaty except for an hour and a half chill in the early morning night. You only sleep an hour or two, really. People said i should not sleep outside because there are snakes so i looked for rides with the truckers that continued through the night, or could sleep in or on their truck. Adders and funnel web spiders are frequent causes of death in Australia. One day at a truck stop, i saw the most unusual thing. It had bicycle wheels with a coffin on top, and was being hauled by a bicycle. Sitting there in the parking lot of the truck stop gas station. Eventually an old man came out, got on the bike, rode it onto the highway and away he went. I was in awe. I wondered why this old Englishman was doing this. I was in awe because the stickers on it said he came all the way from Sydney and here we were in the desert thousands of miles away at the crossroads to Kalgoorlie. I suppose he expected either to die on the way or die trying to get wherever he was going and was ready to die. You see all sorts of strange things in Australia.
I got to Perth and looked up a friend from high school who had been out here for a month. He had an apartment somewhere. He had just packed, he had changed his mind about staying there, was waiting to give the keys to me and ready to return to Sydney to meet a Canadian girl he felt in love with. (Later he married her and she is still his wife). So, he left the keys with me and i had a place to stay for just over a week. I went to a neighborhood pub the next day looking for work and met a Canadian guy, saw his little flag on his knapsack. We talked and he got a job for us painting the fence around the pub. Dave……should never forget this guy. An artist, from Toronto. Tall, dark hair. Reminded me of a Dutch folk singer at Hyde Park i kind of was a buddy with in Sydney. He would stand in the park somewhere, pull out his guitar and sing some Bob Dylan, some Beattles songs, some other songs and then one day it was as if God got a hold of him and he sang “Maria”. It was as if the world stood still for the whole song. He was about six foot five, long dark hair, handsome, skinny but muscular, good looking with dark, kind, penetrating eyes. He put his head back in a peculiar way and it was as if celestial music come down upon into him as sang in a booming voice the beautiful song of Maria. Everyone around went silent, completely silent and when the song was finished everyone was still silent, in astoundment, in an awe when suddenly a long half minute later simultaneous spontaneous clapping and whistling started and went on and on and on and on. Wonderful, should never forget it. Probably in that moment he was the best singer on earth, singing the fullhearted way the way God likes singing to be done. Dave, the painter looked a lot like him in a certain way. Same size, same good looks. Same sense of humility. and kindness. I asked him what kind of painter he was.”Oh….a canvas painter”. What’s that? I asked. “That’s when you get frames of wood and put canvas stretched out on it and pin or nail it tight……then paint on it all night. For weeks, sometime months”. I wasn’t envious of him, but admired his passion for what he liked to do and thought him lucky to know what he likes to do, especially that it is art. I wondered if he ever thought of God in the night like that, so asked him the next day. No, he said. I prodded him and asked what do you think He would do if you stayed up all night thinking of Him? I don’t know, he said, I have no idea, but maybe i will try it sometime. I know what you mean, just haven’t done it. That afternoon he got a call from a friend and had to leave Perth, i stayed painting the fence then when it was done made a call to a Kiwi guy i met that was going to a mining camp who said to contact him if i wanted a job there. With God on my mind, i began hitchhiking on the highway to Port Headland.
If you have ever seen the flat horizon on a sea, you realize what heaven distance is….but when on the other side of the sea, you see the flat horizon on a desert, you wonder where you are. I got a ride on a double train semi-trailer hauling a huge bulldozer on its back. It was flat everywhere. My seat was in the captain’s seat in the bulldozer all the way to Port Headland. That was after a day of hitchhiking getting short rides to the nearby small towns. Gratefully, i was able to got a ride with a guy who owned a small camping trailer and next to him was a middle aged lady who had her own trailer. She was a writer, enjoying her solitude, beaming a wide smile as she said that. I was happy for her, however, with her Australian accent and all, i must admit i had difficulty in understanding her and to this day do not recall what she was talking about. Another traveller came by and i got a ride with him to the Australian whatcha’m’callit….Observatory. For goodness sakes…….way, way out here in the desert was a gigantic absolutely gigantic telescopic radiowave catcher, the size of about six stories high in diameter. The guy worked there, but said that the entrance was as far as he could take me. It was night time and i said that’s fine with me. I had no intention on sleeping and stayed sitting up cross legged as if in meditation…….waiting, expecting to be aware should i hear sound or message from way out there. Australia, in the night in a clear sky is full of stars…….and before morning i was certain there is life in outer space as every sense in me said so. God is in all the stars, and somewhere else He also exists and the direction is “upward” and that’s why, i suppose meditation is done inward and upward…..meaning in the head. How to do it was the question? In the morning i made my way to the highway, got the ride on the bulldozer and arrived in Port Headland. It just so happened the place we stopped at needed their Boiler Room painted and it would pay for my plane fare to Gove, in the Gulf of Carpentenia, just a couple of hundred miles southeast of Darwin where my Kiwi friend was working. Let me tell you, you don’t want to paint a boiler room in the heat of the Australian summertime if you can help it. I’m not sure what this boiler room powered but twenty four feet in diameter boilers……four of them, with all the different pipes and of course the walls behind them is a lot of painting. Took a full week, actually nine days.
Gove, Australia, is in the Gulf of Carpentenia. It is a gulf….edged by beautiful, enchanting golden beaches…..as least where Gove is, and nearby. It is tropical, hot, humid and sweltering hot. Gove is a mining town, a bauxite mining town….aluminum is made from bauxite. Bauxite is red soil when you see it. It had 5,000 men and we say 50 women living there. My first job was as the first official Yard Man of the city. The location of the Yard Area was empty, just a piece of allocated land. When equipment was to be brought there, my job was to organize it and list it, repair it if it needed repairing. My Kiwi friend showed me how to repair pumps and generators and replace the shovel and pick handles and that kind of thing. I had had some experience in Sydney working for the City of Sydney repairing various small machines, pumps and tools…picks, shovels, etcetera…..and did landscaping and garbage pickup too….and did nothing too….so i quit because it was boring. Here as the Yard Man only big blue tarps were brought……i became the expert who folded big blue tarps…….after two weeks, i told my friend who got me the job, i had to do more than this so he got me another job doing rebar and a carpenter’s formwork assistant, a carpenter’s helper. The project was to build the cement floor and cement walls to a building which would later become a company’s headquarters. The carpenter i worked with was named Chris. I introduced myself and said whatever he needs help with, tell me what to do. He was from England, about 33 and was bald already. I asked him where he learned carpentry. He laughed and said he was not a carpenter….that he just bullshitted his way into the job because he needed money after coming across Europe and Asia and India. How do you know what to do? i asked? “Mostly, i don’t! he said, almost shouting…..I just figure it out as it comes”. He gave me a pouch, nails, a hammer and a tape and a square and a knife…..we measured a lot of plywood sheets, snapped a chalk line on them and cut them with a skill saw. They were all company tools. He was smart so we worked quickly. “All the tools are for right handers…..so if you are left handed like me, yo have to get good with the right hand”. “It doesn’t matter, I’m ambidextrous”. He’s everything i thought, but mostly funny! “If you are so smart why are you here?” “Well”, he said, “I am thinking of being a carpenter and its a good place to save some money,…pretty simply, that’s it. There is a Swiss guy here, he’s a Nuclear Physicist…..quite fed up with the world he says. He’s a pretty good fellow, very bright and the one thing he said was that no matter where you are, you should study….take a course, even if it is a correspondence course……so, I got to thinking to being a carpenter”. I did too.
It only took two weeks to build the formwork and another week to put in the rebar…..then both of us were out of a job. He got another one the next day, lying again as usual….but i could not say i was a carpenter because a carpenter is “supposed to read plans” not just do what he is told to do. And i couldn’t read blueprints if my life depended on it……didn’t know the questions to ask and didn’t know what the diagrams meant nor the symbols. They say it takes two months to be shown how to read blueprints properly. Chris never knew how to read them either, but the difference between he and me was he was always ready to have it explained what he was to do and conceptually said he understood what the job was. That was true it seemed…..the provision was that another carpenter had to be there who continually throughout the day told him what to do next. Each concept he understood and did what was required. So, he was right in a way…..and because he did the work satisfactorily, he deserved to be paid. And he was a good teacher too because everything he showed me to do, I did it.
The next job was to repair and paint the water tower. A timber cross-beam structure about 40 feet high, holding a half dome large metal container on top of it. Some of the timber needed replacing or re-inforcing, caulked and then the whole thing painted…..including a horizontal pipe at the top, about 60 feet high…..it dangled about 20ft out from the top of the water tower, with a round metal ball on the end of it. We called it the flag pipe. I turned out to be a pretty good painter and once i found that the pipe for the flag was safe, shimmied out to the end of it with a paint can and brush, painted and shimmied my way back section by section till it was done. This was the first coat. If i thought i had balance…..well, i had to think again when Howie got hired, got up there right away on that flag pipe and with paint can and brush walked out to the end of it, squatted down and painted what was there, straddled it and got the underside….got on his feet again, walked back a bit, did the same thing section by section till it was done. Howie, was literally 5 ft 2….built like a Mr. Universe, and was a gymnast. Nothing fizzed him or fazed him, he was brave as hell. He was Kiwi too. Quiet. Silent. Nice guy. Wanted to go home.
Next job was repairing formwork all over the town. Certain sections had been prepared and were being re-checked to prepare for proper foundation work. We were driven in a truck by the foreman of the town’s main General Contractor. We worked in teams of two guys. The work was basic grunge work……climbing down into shafts, getting a pump or two in there and pumping the rain water out…..then stabilizing the timber beams or wood so the sand wall would not cave in….a lot of shoveling and moving the sand around. A couple days later, my partner and i, were left at a job, it was just about noon, our second job of the day….I went down there first…to check it out, two stories deep…the other guy was preparing the pump with the rope getting ready to lower it down. Both the timber structure and the cross wood stabilizing them were insufficient, the sand was wet “everywhere” and enough of it had already tumbled down from near the top. I saw right away you didn’t are touch the sand wall as it would cause the sand to crumble…….i went down further near the bottom, then got right the hell out of there. The foreman came back three hours later, with the tools and equipment still up at the ground level, he could see we had done nothing, and became immediately pissed, threatening to punch our heads in for wasting time. My partner and i knew this would happen….some foremen are like that. My partner was quite a big bigger than i was, but no match for the foreman….and therefore a bit shy. I had had my time with the basketball players in high school…..the 6 ft 6 guys, they wanted to challenge me because they were not so sure how good they were…..matches were on concrete floor, but still i took them down and kept them there. I told my partner i would speak with the foreman and just allow me a minute before saying anything himself. He agreed. I interrupted the foreman, raising the volume of my voice just enough to get his attention and said “We’ve already been down there —and it isn’t safe. If you don’t think go down there yourself…….go take a look! If you want, i’ll help you get down there…..but if the walls and the wood caves in that’s up to you, i might not be able to get you out!” He went and stood there taking a look. Then i added ” You’ll need four or five guys and a lot different equipment and do a lot of thinking before anybody gets down there again! You better tell your boss this spot is unsafe or get him here and get him to go down”. He looked at me, then said to load the truck up. On the way back, he became calm and softened up, turned to me and said “Sorry for coming at you the way i did.” “That’s okay,” i said, “at least you were able to listen….a lot of guys don’t want to listen no matter what’s said.”
That’s the trouble with foremen guys like that guy. At that time, almost every day in the newspapers out of Sydney you heard of someone getting killed in construction. Unusual, but common was the crane operator getting killed because either he or someone was not paying attention to the load weight when someone should have, or the crane was not set up right in the beginning, or some mechanical or hydraulic part wasn’t working properly……and he was under the gun to get the job done! Loads would drop and someone would get killed, crushed……even one flying 2 x 4 stud can kill you when dropping from 50 or 100 feet. On the job site, its not just the Supervisor’s responsibility, its every carpenter and even every labourer’s responsibility to stop the work….refuse the job….and have the authority to do so…..not just the Foreman, or report to the Foreman. Forget the Foreman…..so many of them are so stressed out or mean or careless and care less……and many of them are hired to be just that way, besides being given the go ahead and bully the hell out of anyone under their chain of authority. Screw the General Contractor or the owner…..and the investor or shareholder of the company…..when someone’s life is in danger…..or danger of grave and serious injury…..even any injury. Every job can be done safe if you think about it. Sure, there will be risks…..but all risks should be safe enough for a good skilled guy to get in there and do the job that needs to be done without wrecking himself. The best foreman is the foreman who protects his workers….in every unquestionable way. I’ve met many. Every time i get near a foreman such as this guy, i either talk to him and tell him what’s going on, what the danger is and if he doesn’t do something about it i report it to the Supervisor and if both of them do nothing, like right away or if it is safe enough for an hour to two or whatever to slip away, that’s okay, but if it is not attended to, i walk off the job and tell the other guys to think about and do the same. Later, Downtown Vancouver working on the high rises, it got so bad that i would case out the work floors before consider applying for the job……if i saw it would be unsafe, i would report it to the General Contractor and then check it out a few days or week later. If no changes were unmade, it would be easy to predict someone would die, particularly from loads crashing due to excess weight on the elevators…..or where heavy loads are being transferred where certainly a load at one time or another would drop onto a plywood or glass structure cover which had pedestrians walking under all day. Exactly what happened, deaths absolutely occurred with everyone or almost everyone working there aware of the circumstances and there was no excuse for any of it. Blood money for the investor, i call it. Bad money for the General Contractor, the Supervisors and Foremen. Thanks to a lot of people speaking up, rules and regulations have improved things, but still many jobs put people unnecessarily in jeopardy and still every year people are getting killed. And forget WCB, that’s a whole other subject.
A dollar made, a bit more made. Another job came up that was paying $1.29, so i left that Foreman and his company. Apparently some Lebanese guys went back home, so there was a spot available. It was just a shoveling of sand job….onto a conveyor belt with little buckets like the front of a miniature bulldozer….which let up and into a large rotating round cylinder which spun the sand around and dried it. Paint mixture e.g. zinc went into the cylinder……so, essentially this was a paint manufacturing company that provided the sand and mineral basis for proper paint. A dump truck would come, back up as close as he could to the conveyor belt, and dump his load. My job was to get a shovel full and throw it into the little conveyor bucket….if done right it would take the entire shovelful. As the pile of dumped sand diminished getting the shovelful and throwing it into the bucket got to be a relatively long distance e.g. 20 ft to 30 ft to throw to it accurately. Minimal skill required, but doable. Just when the pile was done, the dump truck would come and dump a new load of sand and the process was repeated.About a month later, a guy came by, said Hi and asked if so and so was there? I didn’t know who he was asking about as no one except the dump truck driver and the boss who always sat in his trailer just around the corner of the building. “Well”, the guy continued, “You are not going to tell me you are the only one working here!?” “Yes”, I said, “that’s right”. “No, that’s not right, this job is done by three guys…..three guys, they were Lebanese guys and before them were three other guys”. “You mean to tell me, i’ve been working this hard for nothing?” “That’s right, your boss is not telling you the truth….there were three guys all the time since this operation started. Is he here?” “No, he doesn’t come early in the morning, usually arrives just before noon”. “Well, good luck to you….if you quit you should know if you go to the school the Rigger there is looking for some help, he pays $1.72”. “Tell him, i’ll be there tomorrow if you see him, Thanks for telling me”. So! Here…..all gut wrenching work just to make .19 cents an hour more. After 3 or 4 days, despite going with the low leg base, getting the shovel full from a long distance required a sideways bend with a straight arm lifting at arm’s length the shovel of sand to the other hand and again another opposite side bend to throw the sand so the whole shovelful into the little bucket. It was like doing two situps at once and strain on the back, the neck the head and both arms while sitting in a kung fu horse stance all the while. Usually three to four dump truck loads came everyday. It was non stop shoveling from 7 am to 5 pm with only short breaks. No cover, continual sun exposure….the old anger at the coach came up through the stomach and i had cursed him for near two weeks almost all day everyday. Then when i was in shape……never got tired, or sore muscles…..i concentrated on getting in perfect shape. Everything was toned. No weakness anywhere. Then before work and after work…..do warm up exercises 15 minutes. I had become vegetarian. It had taken two full years for my blood to become accustomed to working all day in the hot, hot sun. I worked slowly until the boss arrived and went in his trailer. Boss’s like him were lucky to get out of their trailer’s with their life if they did something like this he had done to me…..and at the least would get a severe beating. I decided not to beat him, but definitely to scare him and make sure he didn’t do the same thing to someone else. I didn’t want any extra money because it wouldn’t be my own money and if i accepted a possible bonus it would give him an allowance to do the same trickery with someone else. So on principle when i went to the office, i carried my shovel with me into the office. I opened the door, keeping silent i went to the chair in front of his desk and leaned the shovel up against the desk and sat down and looked him in the eye. “I’m quitting, so make out my cheque”….and pointed to my shovel as if to mean if you hesitate making out the cheque, you’ll have to do deal with the shovel. While he was getting the cheque book, a sense of fear struck him so he hurried up and started writing the cheque. “You know why i am quitting don’t you?” “No, i’m not sure”, he said avoiding to answer the question truthfully, and handed me the cheque. “Yes, you know…i’ve been doing the work of three guys”. His brain froze and he got frightened but didn’t know what to do, but certainly wasn’t going to deny it or argue with another lie. I got the cheque and stood up and said “You’ve been lying, deceiving me all this time”……….i turned around and began walking out the door……turned around to him …..”if i find out your doing the same or similar thing for the next guys, i’ll be back here again right away, in the meantime consider yourself lucky for now”……and lifted the shovel to confirm i’d bring the shovel with me and use it on him. He acknowledge what i said, then cast his eyes down to the floor and remained silent. He had a bit to think about.
The Rigger Foreman was big, fat and jolly, wise and kind and funny. His job was to drive the lifter, get the piece of steel and maneuver it just right to the vertical steel beam already in place so the rigger could insert his rigger’s pin and move the steel beam a few inches then push in the nut and bolt it to hold the beam there. The other rigger did the same thing on the other end……and that was all there was to it. Well, there was the wind factor,….and the rain factor. If it was too much of either, the Foreman wouldn’t let us get up there. He didn’t want any injuries. We were building the Gove Elementary School. Only three stories high. Very, very simple job. All you needed was good balance……and no fear of being high up 40-50 ft when walking on 6″ or 8″ wide beams……depending on what beam it was, it could be 12″ to 14” wide. It wasn’t like New York up 120 or 300 stories where the only guys who would do the job….or could do the job without getting killed were from Indian guys from The Maritimes, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Usually it was the Iroquois, but sometimes the other guys too. The school was just about finished. I left Australia a couple months later, it had been 4 months working in Gove. If you were a Foreman you got $1.90 to $2.40 hr. A carpenter got just under that. Depending on the company a Supervisor would get $2.50 to $3.00. 1971. I said “Good-bye” to the West and went walking across the mountains in Indonesia……it was like it was 1,000 years ago……with only the wind carvings in the mountain to tell you how long it had been like that. No roads, just gentle paths going up and down and along and green hills all around. In the dark in the night you prayed for God to tell you his secrets…..that way you do not sleep so much.
My first job out of high school was at Fraser Mills in New Westminster. Pay was $3.22 per hour working on the Green-Chain. Graveyard shift. When you went to sleep in the afternoon till 10 pm, you woke up with your fists clenched tight. It was an automatic reaction in the night because all night you grabbed and lifted 3 foot wide timber, 4 inches thick….16 to 24 feet long…..spun them off a chain roller……threw the far end over the cross sticks and dropped them exactly into place to form a straight even pile. If you missed once, you had to get down from the gangplank and lift the timber to put it into place correctly. When your pile was done, you did another, and a pile forklift came and picked up your pile. Each piece of timber weighed probably 250-275 pounds……but more when soaking wet in the rain or the snow. Day shift was better and so was afternoon shift, but you had to have seniority to get the good shifts. I had been selected to do the First Aid Course for the Medic’s Division when a downturn in the economy happened and i was let go, not fired but laid off. It didn’t matter anyway because the job was so boring that unless i got the Medic’s job, i had already decided to quit. I didn’t know it at the time, and i don’t know how those guys knew it, but i was interested in medicine. I had gotten the job was a friend’s father who was the Head Medic there for over twenty years…guess that’s how they knew it.
Getting back to Vancouver it was impossible to find work….the economy was still in a downturn even though it was three years later. Jobs were scarce….it was the same old thing, you got the job only if you had connections. Well, that’s not entirely true….if you were super lucky and were at the right place at the right time you got temporary work. Newspaper ads in the classifieds was where work was posted and it had virtually nothing day after day, week after week. Manpower was where you went to get work, but you might get lucky at the pub. But you had to go to the pub every night to get to know the guys…..and it cost money to get there and to pay for drinks. Even Manpower had no or little work posted….whatever was posted was gone in the first hour after the doors opened. The manpower guy would get on the phone and call the owner of the company and tell him so and so wants the job, can he come now? Yes, send him over. When you got there you started work right away. After a few hours, the owner would come with a few bucks and buy you lunch if you didn’t have it…..and give you bus fare and a few bucks to get there the next day. The next day he gave you $50 bucks to tide you through to the end of the week if it was Monday. Payday was Friday and at 4 o’clock you got paid, cleaned up and went home. Usually you worked from 8 or 8:30 to 5 or 6 o’clock and got home at 7 or 8, exhausted. Canadians have a good work ethic……and most jobs except Government Jobs, you had to work your ass off. Otherwise it was ‘out the door’, pick up your cheque and go home. It was the dead of winter, nothing was happening. In the summer, i tried to escape to the States……Oregon, California……worked for a guy who owned a carpet laying business……together we layed the carpet for a new office building. He taught me how to do it. It took two weeks…..on your hands and knees from sun up to sundown, and later. Plus lift and carry the rolls of carpet. He didn’t pay enough so i couldn’t afford to stay on with him. California was in one way a strange place, so was Oregon and Washington……there was a violence in the air and you had to be careful of people……and the police. I never broke the law so i never had a problem that way, but still there was this uneasiness. It was not like Australia where you have this “egalitarian friendliness” even with the cops. Nothings perfect, no where is, but in Canada, it was “suppressed”, not like in the States where there really was “freedom”. There was ‘freedom’ alright, but only if you had money…..but if you lived there and got some kind of job, the Banks were more than likely to lend you money…..in Canada, you needed to know the guy in the bank….or someone, a connection who ‘already’ had bank loans….who knew the bank person…….”then” you got to apply for the loan and chances are “if they liked you”, you would get the loan. That’s for a car or a house, not for a business or a loan to get capital to start a business. Business loans were jealously guarded. Generally, if you gave your idea away in your business idea loan preliminary discussion, the bank manager wouldn’t give you a loan…then a year or two would pass and a business with exactly your idea would appear in the community. Patronage appointments, i call them. Works especially fine if your patron works for the Civil Service. Military, Police, the Justice System (so to speak), Nurses, Teachers, and Doctors and Psychiatrists in the Health System, plus any other Federal or Provincial or City and Municipal position. Half of the adult work force for fifty years is employed one way or the other by the Government. Work for the government, you get a loan. On your own, you need a patronage appointment. Otherwise you labour. Eventually your business will flounder, will be kept in check, and when they are ready, the spooks will take over your business. Canada. Canada now creates about 15 new jobs a year, 81% is owned by American Multinationalist Owned Corporations and 9% by Foreign British and German Multinationalist Corporations, 4% is owned by five wealthy Canadian families who own most the rest of the companies, you can be sure they are Multinationalist Corporations in agreement with the Foreign Multinationalists also. Spread across the board, 6% is owned by individually owned companies. This is the way it has been since 1984 in January when the FTA agreement (Free Trade Agreement) was signed and put into place. Prior to 1984, 6500 new jobs were happening on average year after year for decades and decades. In 1985, new jobs created were 14-17 jobs per year…..and it hasn’t changed since. Check it out!
When otherwise, you labour….Good Luck to you. Due to rising costs in inflation….increase of taxes to pay the Civil Employees higher and higher wages…..they get the “real jobs”……they get the connections…..they get the loans while you get to pay more for your food and lodging and transportation, a car…..if you can afford it. You will work all day and not get home to mid late evening, then at night prepare for work the next day or fall asleep exhausted without eating dinner…..you might eat dinner if you could afford the cost of food and had the time to shop and had food at home, but more and more the food costs go up while you suffer from lack of proper nutrition. Eventually…….by the time you are 40, you are done. Work becomes scarce each and every year after that and by the time you are 50 or 52 even if you can still work hard the required 10 hours and a day and manage somehow the 3-4 hours a day travelling time and settling down time to recouperate….no one will hire you. If you survive until you are sixty or sixty-five, consider akin next to a miracle. Not that God did not have better things in store for you…..its just that He was betrayed.
I went to the tax payer funded Coal Mining Town, Tumbler Ridge. It was paid by tax payer money. I got a job with Greeks from Ontario. I slept in the forest by a trail that had easy access to town…about fifteen minutes walk. Black bears used to walk by my beside every night, pretty much. I cut down four branches, stuck them in the ground and stapled some plastic film around where i slept. I put moss over my sleeping bag and never left food open there…….so, they weren’t interested in my plastic wall. I ate two handfuls of nuts and raisins a day, and at night after 13 hours of work ate the crap food in the cafeteria or in the town’s only restaurant. Only vegetables and fruit. I was vegetarian. The Greeks couldn’t understand where i got the power to work all day like that. Nor did i. We had two – twenty minute breaks a day. I was the cement mixer…..then loaded 5 gallon plastic buckets with the mix and fed plaster to all three of them all day. We started at 7 and went till 8 at night. Most houses were 2 story, so i had to swing the bucket up onto my shoulder to have one hand to climb up the ladder….then pass it to them. That was the extent of the job. There was no time to get bored, you just worked. One Greek, Johnny was 25, the other two were in their fifties……this would be the last big contract they would do. Johnny liked to sing and his happiness kept us all happy. No one complained, we just worked happy. Thank Goodness for Johnny’s happy heart. Most guys came from Ontario. Why? Because, even though it was a tax payer funded town, politics…….and corporate politic connections are still more long time established in Canada and Quebec than in BC. These guys were working for an Ontario company. It was paid by BC taxpayer money……and when the billion dollars were spent, they shut the coal mining operation down. Then twenty years later, they did the same thing again….another billion dollars. Now twenty years later again, they are doing the same thing……only this time all the labour work is scheduled to come from China, not from Ontario, or from BC. Well, the Greeks were immigrants too……they came in the mid 60’s through to the 70’s up to 1980. Before them it was the Hungarians, and before them it was the Italians…..and before them it was the Russians and the Ukrainians……and before them: it was the Germans, the Dutch, the Irish, and the French……and before them for goodness sakes it was the English and the Scots. Now it is the Americans, the Filipinos, the Chinese and the East Indian…from India and from Pakistan……and the Iranian and Iraqi’s and a few others. Well, its true the regular jobs for Canadians are all but gone. In most cases the Immigrant is given precedence to be given the job……..similar to what it was back in Australia in the 60’s and 70’s…….if you were Canadian and went there, you were given precedence and it was you who got the job, not the Australian. It was tough on the Australian then, and is tough on the Canadian, now. Sorry, its not true Canadians are doing good….or doing okay, some are, but the bulk of the population isn’t. Going and working for the government is having blowback on the people who did that…….unless they got themselves situated 30-40 years ago….that’s about 15 % of the people and that includes the multinationalist and corporate sell-outs plus the present government career seekers, and of those 15%, less than 1% are free from financial concern or worry. Current news is the average Canadian is 163% in debt….which means for every $1.00 earned, they are going an additional .63 cents into debt……in other words they live on borrowed credit and not only is it impossible for them to truly save any real money, they can’t even pay for whatever amount they owe. Yes, it is a mortgage and a mortgage is expensive, but so is a car and the expenses of a car……and so is food and rent and many other things like tools and insurance. The only thing cheap or reasonably priced is stuff from the $1.00 Stores. All the stuff is hardly manufactured in Canada anymore and all of it for the most part comes exclusively from China. But that only includes bare utensils and other similar things……the rest of the stuff that comes from China is sold in Department Stores at a high, high price…..even at the discount price it is at a discount price. The average “net” wage of a Canadian is equivalent to what the seniors get in their pensions. Did you know, that 87% of seniors live on $1400-$1500 per month aka $16,800-$18,000….that’s equal to $8.75 per hour -$10.71 per hour if you took it on a typical 40 hour work week’s worth of income. The “Liveable Wage Index” is $19.00 per hour. That means $36,480 is the Poverty Line…..which it is stated by itself to be! So….how can a senior live properly on $1400-$1500 per month? They cannot…even if they live in a Provincial Housing Property where they must pay 30% of the net income i.e. $420 + $20 more for utilities = $440 per month or $45- + $20 for utilities = $470 per month…….so: $1400-$440 = $1020 per month income and $1500-$470 = $1030 per month income. The Poverty Line or the Liveable Wage at $19 per hr/$36,480….for 1 person is not something 87% of the living 4,850,000 seniors get aka 4,219,500 people receive less than 50% or i.e. less than have what is considered as bottom line poverty to sustain oneself in Canada. There are no jobs for seniors in Canada…. very, very few actual paying jobs, and if there are, they are at the level which they presently get i.e. $8.75 to $10.71 per hour……”if” they are lucky. “Gone” are the days of making $20 per hour. “Gone” are the days of making $15.00 per hour if you are over 50 or 55 years old. Lucky is the mature adult to be making $12.00 per hour “Clear aka Net”. And, lucky !?! is the senior who can get any work at all, never mind at $8.75 even though it is $1.50 below the present “minimum wage”. The blind eye and the deaf ear keep on being blind and deaf to the Liveable Wage of $19.00 per hour…….and also to the fact that the $19.00 is going up and up…..many consider it mandatory to be making $22-25 per hour as being able to “just manage” for “1 person”……not a kid included, not a partner included i.e. “not 2 people”, just “1 person”.
The Greeks were leaving, going back home to Ontario. They were such good guys…..kind to each other, even openly affectionate and loving to one another. It had been really good working with them. Open minded and hard workers. A friend of their was a Polish young guy. A tradesman doing Trimming, again from Ontario. He offered me a job “to run with him”. To him, “to run with him” meant to run all day i.e. work as fast as possible for 12 hours a day. I agreed. He was an excellent carpenter. A karate student in his younger days, before heading out to work his still had the habit of doing leg stretches in the morning, he called it Yoga. I admired him because it was my habit and i knew what it took to keep up with such a habit. Plus, i liked to pick up and go for a 5 mile run once every week or two. With running on the agenda, i looked forward to it. The Greeks left, and i began working with him.
By the end of the second house, i knew the protocol and was about 90% as fast as he was, nevertheless, i always consulted with him before doing certain cuts on the baseboard lengths and 45’s at some of the corners. With the Coping Saw, you have to be specific, depending on how square/straight the wall is…you use a small square, draw a pencil line then adjust the corner cut from there….a 1/16th or a 1/32″. Then sand it a shade so the other piece fit perfectly. Nail the baseboard, then dap it with your finger along the top length so there was no distance from the wall and the painters had the correct type of job to start their work with. Take a wet cloth and wipe all the dap clean off everywhere on the baseboard, and pay attention to the corners especially. This was 2″ baseboard, easy to work with. He did most of the window casings and door casings. Installation included the closet shelving, the clothes bar, sliding doors and hardware, the window casings…and made sure the window open and closed while not sticking, and the lock worked. Then hung the door…chiseled the door fixtures on the door jam, the door, and installed the hardware plus tested the level, smooth swing of the door. The door casings. The baseboard stopper. We did 34 houses, mostly two story houses, and his contract was finished.
I continued to work as a landscaper. Leveling the ground, making slopes…with 4 ft rakes and installing pallets of sod grass. Heavy work, again fast paced work. The foreman was just my size, but a bit stockier. From Newfoundland. We always say out here in BC…..if you need to find someone to work…..get a Newfie, they are the best workers. This guy would take a fresh dumped load of soil, shovel it and spread it perfectly faster than three guys with that rake….and quicker. Finally, i said to myself, “I got the right tool to do the job”. Back in the days when i was a kid, they didn’t have 4 ft. light aluminum rakes….I was in my glory, and i just about kept up with the Newfie guy but i think no one could ever have done that. The town of Tumbler Ridge was basically built….a brand new town. I thought what a waste of tax payers money. I knew intuitively that coal mine was going to close down a few years later, and turned out to be right. A $250-300,000 home became worth nothing. They were “sold” at $5,000 – $12,000.
As a labourer, you either get with a company and stay with them or you go to the Labour Pool. Manpower morphed into Labour Unlimited types of companies. I think of it as a crime, a political -federal AND municipal crime. Manpower should never had disappeared. It was the easiest, most efficient, simply organization the government had. Taking the taxpayer funding out of it….the politicians put it in the hands of greedy “entrepreneurs” who became millionaires taking the difference of the hard earned monies of the labourers which the labourers should have got…so they could keep up with the costs of things! Instead of getting $14 hr at the time they were getting $8.00 hr……instead of getting $18-$20 hr/$22 hr. they were getting $12 when the next inflation was put into place…….and $14 if they got continual employment with a company….if that’s what that company gave as an option and what that labourer wanted to do…stay on with a company. Unless you “got” with a company, you had to go and work at the Labour Unlimited types of companies. Jobs were available there pretty well only with “new” construction companies. So, a company…..because Manpower was no longer there to receive a call from and immediately have a guy come over and start working….would pay the Labour Unlimited company $18-$20 per hour to make the labourer’s stand in line at 6:00-7:00 am then send them out to the company……and give $6 – $10 hr on top of the labourer’s back to the Labour Unlimited company. If the company wanted the labourer to stay on working with them……because there were lots of skilled labourers……the company had to pay the Labour Unlimited $4-8 hr more for each hour that the labourer worked for the next two or three or six months….depending on the company agreement. Money, the labourer never saw.
All across the country the labourers “missed” that money. The disappearance of Manpower has destroyed the infrastructure of the construction industry…..instead, when 10 years later, you saw the consolidation of little so-called employment centres pop up in every minor town….with “the same or lower wage” for the same kind of labour work…..and much of that type of work diminished or being non-existant, but only service and distribution types of work the only available for the most part at minimum wage you got sure that the “country” had been taken over. Preceding the new so-called employment centres, were the resumes…..they supplanted the “application”. Almost every company had an Application Form. Before that even an application form wasn’t even necessary. When you went to a Manpower “job”, the owner met you, pointed to the job to be done, or described what had to be done and asked if you could do it or not. If you said yes, he hired you and you did the job. If you said ‘most of it’….he hired you and he or someone working for him filled you in on what to do. The discussion lasted ten seconds, maybe two minutes. Most of the time you worked alongside a tradesman as his helper. Now….prior to even being allowed to talk with the owner or the company or its ‘boss’….you had to fill out a resume. The resume was introduced as a fad to begin with….a sort of prestige issue, if you had one it was touted that you were ‘ready’ to go to work. Then it became mandatory on the so-called issue of the ‘boss’ was too busy to talk with you if you were looking for a job and he was setting up interviews. Even the ‘boss’ got bamboozled into the ‘resume requirement thing’. Now, it took him 10, 20, 30 times longer to hire somebody…..he rarely read the resumes, but most bosses felt compelled to go along with the process because: 1. they usually didn’t own the company and 2. they were told to do it and complete the process. The application form was by this time “out the door”. The only time an application form was filled out was once you were “hired”. All that money….all that time… wasted money, wasted time. The other important issue with resumes was that if you did not list at least every detail of what “experience” the boss wanted to hire you for….”you” never got a chance to talk with the boss because he would just stuff your resume in the garbage. Eventually the resume requirement became like a CV – curriculum vitae- and if you didn’t have a perfect curriculum vitae suitable to the exact job….you never got hired. For the most part even the CV didn’t get read unless you made a call to the boss and the usual way to be “allowed” to make a call to the boss was if you knew someone in the company… or the receptionist/secretary was having ‘a soft moment’. CV’s and patronage appointments….all this stuff was set up for corporations, and corporations who controlled the government……all based on the American way of doing business. And the fact is, they never had the intention of hiring you……the Americans “owned Canada”….over 36 industries, lock stock and barrel….beginning since 1985 to now. These little so-called employment centres for the most part only gave women work…..to show you how to make ‘a resume’……and were ordered to be set up by the Rockerfeller Corporation through the United Nations….and through political scams and patronage, the government cronies…..highly paid for their betrayal to their fellow citizens….implemented exactly what the UN wanted. I hope you know that the Rockerfellers “own the United Nations”. Yes, own, and…..control it. Whatever you see in Canada, is all their “Agenda”. If you don’t, you should understand it is called “UN Agenda 21” and check it out. In the 60’s the Americans “owned” about 30% of all the Canadian companies……..now they in their “Council of Foreign Relations” business groups aka Multinationalist Corporations, own between them 94% of “all the Canadian companies”. There are no Canadian companies here, anymore…..hardly a one. Almost every company is owned by somebody who lives outside of Canada….in another country. They get all the tax write off’s, pay minimal to absolutely no tax…..in fact almost everytime get the Canadian government to give them bank loans and have the Canadian government pay for the interest on the loans and basically regard Canada as a Tax Haven. Its not what you think…..or have been told! Yes, there is minimal work out there…..with one of ‘their subsiduaries’…and when you get there, you, have to sign a contract to keep your mouth shut…..doesn’t matter if it is a corporation or the government. Even if you have to pay a ticket, you will find that not only can the civil law worker there….or anyone in the court system….start or sign a petition that this or that ticket or the dollar amount to pay the ticket is incorrect, or unjust…..or they will be fired. In other words they are “forced to sign the agreement or contract if they want a job”. There are no other jobs to get…..so in reality, they are held hostage to have to sign the contract. They therefore become accomplices to treason against the citizens of the country and, themselves. This is the way it has become under the Rockerfeller dominion.
As a result, knowing, seeing, experiencing all this stuff…..as a young guy, as soon as i found out who owned the company…..if it was a multinational company, or type of company, i would leave the job…go work for somebody else. Eventually, it got tougher and tougher to find work because there were less and less independent contractors, till today there is hardly a one still alive. Maybe its better to scroll to the top and click on the brevity list…..at one way or another, i did all those things. I’m retired from labouring and no, i could not go out and build my own house……unless “I had to”. At this point, after doing so much work, i only say to my surprise….two weeks before sixty=five, “I made it”:)))….and now am feeling good, healthy, full of vim and vigor and ready to get on with following my own interest…..which is doing: Real Estate.