Dick Hunt's Blog

December 27, 2011

My Summer Job in Saskatoon 1956

Filed under: Current — Tags: , , — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 10:19 pm

My Summer Job in Saskatoon
In the spring of 1956, I applied for a job with a construction Company in the City, called Little-Borland Company. They did general construction and were non union. I went to their office downtown and talked with Mr. Borland. He asked me for my Journeyman papers and I said I didn’t have any. So he said I was not a carpenter. I insisted that I had worked with some very good builders and craftsmen and that I was a good worker. He finally relented and said I could start work the following Monday, but that I would have to push a wheelbarrow and pour basements for a couple of weeks. The pay rate was $1.25 an hour but was to increase to $1.75 an hour when I started building.
I went to work with a will and was one of a crew of five labourers. The
first day on the job, after being at the books since the fall before, was a
tough one and I had blisters and new muscles all around. And I was years older than the rest of the crew. I think I worked too well as I was able to give a lead to the crew and make the pouring jobs go very well. And of course, the men were happy to let me work hard. The foreman was a man who was a staunch admirer of Adolph Hitler. He soon discovered that I was studying for the ministry and made numerous caustic remarks to me along the way. On my third Friday on the job, he came by just at quitting time and said, “I want a volunteer to run me a wheelbarrow load of concrete mix over there three blocks to finish topping a set of steps”. I immediately volunteered and I ran all the way over. And no rubber tires on the wheelbarrows in those days. That seemed to signal a turn around in his treatment of me as he began to give me grudging approval. He asked me to come to work for a half day on Saturday to work with another man and apply the tar sealant on a foundation wall, ready for the backfilling. As we were working away, my workmate said, “you are working too hard, you are giving the boss too good a deal”. I responded that I always do my best. Then he said something about going to heaven and I asked him how he was going to manage that. He said he didn’t smoke or drink or run around with women so that should do it. We differed greatly and had quite a discussion. But the weeks went by and I was still a labourer. Four weeks, five weeks and finally six weeks and I am still pushing a wheelbarrow. When Mr. Borland came by on Friday of week six I spoke to him and asked him to write me my pay cheque as I was quitting. He wanted to know why and I told him he was not being honest with me and I would only work as a carpenter. He quickly said that I should report on Monday morning at a site where they were building a large United Church and speak to Clem , the site foreman. I should have spoken to him sooner.
Clem was a good chap but because I didn’t have a journeymans
certificate, he was sure I couldn’t do the work I was to be paid for. So he
set me to pulling nails and stacking lumber, sweeping floors and so on. Then he gave me a six pound short handled hammer and a large star drill and put me to making a forty inch by eighty six inch opening in a ten inch
concrete foundation wall in the basement. I asked him why they didn’t
arrange for the opening when they were pouring the concrete and he said with emarrassment that he read the blueprint incorrectly. I did manage to make the opening, it took me a long time and was extremely hard work.Then I framed up the form to enable the concrete around the opening to be applied to smooth up the wall. Finally, I was put back to work sweeping the floors again on the upper level. As I moved along I heard Clem giving instructions to one of his Journeymen about installing the windows in a long wall of the Christian Education wing of the building. The man said, “Clem you show me how and I will do it”. Clem said he must know how as he was a journeyman. Johnnie said he had never learned that. In the meantime I was laughing and Clem said, “what’s so funny?” And I said, “I will install the windows”. He said,”do you know how to install windows” ? I said I wanted to see the blueprints and then he said, “but you don’t have any tools”. I told him my tools were in the car where they had been for seven weeks. So I put the windows in and Clem was finally persuaded I could do the work. Some time later, when we had moved on from the Church site, I was sheeting up the exterior walls of a large house with Johnnie and he told me a little about himself. He had been brought up very strictly as a Roman Catholic in Austria and he said he would show me how to get to heaven. With his carpenter pencil he drew a intricate diagram on the board wall and the top section was a box with God in it. Down from that a little line and a
longer horizontal line with three boxes suspended from it. One was for
Jesus, one was for the Virgin Mary and the other was for the Angel Gabriel.
Then he drew various other boxes with the Pope, Cardinals and Priests and so on in them and then finally at the very bottom was Johnnie. Then he asked me how I go to heaven. I drew a box with God in it and one with Jesus in it and said, that is the way I go to heaven. With that he burst into tears and said I had destroyed his faith. But we continued our discussion as we worked along together.
I went on from site to site for the remainder of the summer, working
mostly with Clem and his crew. Many of the men I worked with were highly profficient European trained builders who were a joy to work with. Numbers of the crew were Mennonites and I found them great workmates with a strong sense of purpose and honesty. When they learned that I was studying for the Ministry our bonding increased the more. The contractor had a standing joke when he came on the various sites and used to say, “don’t ask me, ask the Padre”.
When I finally informed Clem that I would be going back to University very soon, he shed tears and asked me to forget University and stay on as I was one of his best men. I had enjoyed the work for the summer and was glad I was finally able to work into building and an increase in pay. The money was surely a boon to our household, since we were living a day at a time financially. Shortly after I left that work, I was given the challenge of St. Matthews Sutherland (an account is part of this series) for which I also received pay. And so we managed, as we had come to believe we would.
My indebtedness when I left College to be Ordained was $300, a loan from the Diocese of Calgary. And we were able to sell the house and realize enough cash to enable us to trade our 1952 Willys Jeep Station Wagon for a 1957 Chev Station Wagon, a more practical
car for our needs in Parish work and with our family of four children.
One final word about the Jeep, in which we travelled from Saskatoon to Calgary. Near the Town of Irricana, the shift lever for the transfer case (two wheel to four wheel drive) suddenly began shaking very badly. In the town there was a Massey Harris Dealer open and he had a hoist. He discovered that all the mounting bolts had fallen out and the oil had leaked out. Massey Harris bolts fit, the oil was replaced and the kind man only charged us $5.00, which in fact was all the cash we had!

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