Sunday, February 22, 2009



My father completed Grade 12 and was accepted into the Engineering Faculty at the University of Alberta. Based on his birthdate, March, 26, 1912, this would likely have been in the autumn of 1929, with graduation in the spring of 1934.

To pay for his tuition, he earned money every summer by selling magazines to farmers. His method was to go out into the country with a Model A Ford, a tent, and magazines. He sold these to farmers and took chickens and eggs in payment. He would camp out for a few nights and return to Edmonton, hoping that the chickens in the back of his Model A were still alive. At the market in Edmonton, he would sell the remaining chickens and eggs, pay for the magazines, retain a bit of money towards his university costs, and then repeat the cycle.

When as a child I first heard about this entrepreneurial streak of my father's, I didn't know what to make of it. I now find it quite typical of him - oblivious to hardship, stubborn, determined to show what he could achieve through hard work, and having a strong faith in Canada as the country of opportunity. As a child, of course, I didn't understand any of this. From the way people reacted when the story was told, I could see that in some way it was remarkable, making my father seem unusual compared with other parents - not something that would necessarily bring advantages to oneself where status at school was concerned.

Because I loved my father, it left me with a feeling of not quite fitting in. Unlike the kids at school who proudly wore green on St. Patrick's Day, I had neither knowledge nor pride in my heritage. My Dad believed that people who left Europe for Canada should leave their customs behind and embrace the new country where all were equal. Instilling a pride in our ancestry was not consistent with that approach.

Only later, when I was an adult myself and had lived in England for a couple of years, was I able to put all of this into a different context. When I met several people there who shared his values, I could see him for what he really was, feel admiration for him, and be proud that he was my father. I only wish he had taught me to speak French!

The pictures from top to bottom are: 1) Looking out from the house in Calder with the Model A covered in snow 2) my father in what looks to be the uniform of a cadet 3) my father camping out probably with his Model A and chickens 4) my father's university graduation photo and 5) father camping out.

1 comment:

Grumpy said...

I just finished finished reading your blog. What an excellent way to honor and remember your father. I enjoyed reading about your father selling magazines to finance his education. It is fascinating the things we do to make ends meet and reach our goals. I have had a variety of second jobs in my life, one of which was delivering magazines to stores. Thank you for an excellent read and the photos.