“Welchie and Sam Go West in 1952!” Sam was my “nick name” !!
Don Welch was a welcome and almost constant guest at our home during this period. I cannot say with certainty how this came about? Don was friends with How, (my brother Howard); friends with Phyl, (sister Phyl) in fact they dated for some period of time, and also a personal friend of SAM. (alias Stan)
The 3 Boys, Don, Howie, and myself (Stan) all had motorcycles > Don a 500 cc Matchless, How a 500 or 650 Ariel (careful with that > I may not have the correct Bike) and I had first, an NSU about 200 cc, and later a Triumph 350 cc. (Stan on Triumph on left) We had some enjoyable experiences with the Bikes. I recall one time the 3 of us travelling on No. 2 Hwy. which at that time was the primary east west artery in ON, we were just west of Kingston still in the 30 mph zone (remember, at that time we were not into Metric). Howie was in the lead and he had with him on the Bike, our 2nd cousin Billy Forestall. Behind How was Don and finally me bringing up the rear. The police came to the opinion that we were all speeding but they were less troubled by our speed than they were with the fact, as they saw it, that I, in the rear, although I had seen the constable, had not attempted to inform my fellow Bikers?? I cannot tell you the outcome, that is who if anyone was fined? After all that was 60 years ago. I can tell you that Billie Forestall, as well as his Mother, Alice, were quite shocked thinking that Billie had been exposed to such “reckless behaviour”!!!
In the early summer of 1952 Don and I decided to “Go West”, something of a tradition in our family. This migration to the west in the late summer/early fall was in support of the harvest in Western Canada, a time when the West needed all the labour they could attract. At this time, super large combines did not exist and the traditional labour intensive methods of harvest were the norm. You will see later in this story that I in fact did take part in the “harvest” sector of the labour market.
Although we still had our Bikes, we decided to drive Don’s 1948 Torpedo Body Chevrolet. Don had it “decorated up” as I recall; one item which was unusual was the “traffic signal” which hung in the back window. It moved from Green through Orange and then to Red as you drove. He had a radio which was unusual and significant at that time! Significant in part because it enable us to listen to radio as we travelled > mostly to western music out of the Mid-Western US > thinking of Wheeling West Virginia. We slept either in the car OR at least one night on the side of the road.
First: When we would stop to eat, Don would become extremely impatient if the waitress did not come with our order in “jig time”. I remember on more than one occasions Don saying: “Sam; We will be too old to eat by the time the food arrives >> Let’s Get Out Of Here” > AND Get Out Of There we did!!!
Second; we were somewhere in SK driving late at night. Our gas gauge was registering on empty and no garage was in sight?? Remember we had no telephone? A telephone in a car > don’t be silly!! We of course had no GPS, not invented yet, in short no way to give us any indication as to where we might reasonably expect to purchase fuel!! The sun was not yet up but we caught sight of a farm and drove in. To our delight the first thing that caught our attention was a fuel tank, an unlocked fuel tank at that. Despite the fact that no one was in sight, we never discussed the option of Helping Ourselves to the gasoline. Perhaps it was because we needed sleep almost as badly as we needed fuel. Accordingly we went to sleep in the car > Don in the front, I in the back. The farmer came out in the morning, woke us and we explained our situation. He allowed us to take fuel from the tank and complimented us in that we had not “Helped Ourselves”. We continued our journey, well rested and feeling good about that which we did not do!!
Our destination was Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and in particular a relative of Don’s. As indicated above, we came west to “help with the harvest”. With that in mind we both took a job on a large farm, Don on one, I on another. I thoroughly enjoyed both the work, with which I was both comfortable and accustomed. I was driving a Field Marshall Tractor working a Huge, Huge, section of land. One aspect that I was both uncomfortable and unaccustomed was operating the Field Marshall. To start the tractor, one placed a shot gun shell in a cavity near the top of the radiator and then hit it with a hammer!! I kid you not!! The farmer and his wife treated me like their son, bringing lunch to me in their new 98 Oldsmobile; and picking me up at the end of the workday. One did not drive the Field Marshall into the farm house. Farming was “good” for my employer. As I recall they spent their winters in Arizona, just one indication of their opulence; the other was they owned their own small aircraft.
Don and I had been “helping with the harvest” for less than a week when Don arrived at my place of work stating that “We are going back to Saskatoon”!! I cannot recall the precise reason(s) for this reversal but remember the first of the two stories above!!
We do indeed return to the city where we just as quickly obtain employment, this time in the construction industry. Don’s father, F.F. Welch, owned a construction company in North Oshawa and Don was familiar with most of the equipment. School mates used to kid him that he drove a bull dozer to public school and for that reason never did make it to High School????
Don got a job driving a dozer pulling a scraper picking up gravel and dumping same into a crusher. SAM got a job driving a centre dump truck, dropping gravel on newly installed gas lines in every alley in Saskatoon.
Many western cities have alleys in every street. This is a good idea. In this situation it was not necessary to tear up the main streets to install the gas lines. Alleys existed also in housing developments > remember our home in Winnipeg in 1970, 164 Rouge Rd.
We had to haul the gravel down Ave. “A” into Saskatoon, a distance of about 10 miles. Jim Patrick sand and gravel, the pit owner and truck owner, had a good many trucks on this haul. I was, at the age of 15 or perhaps now 16, was by far the youngest driver and as I was so young I enjoyed the job and wanted to do well. The other drivers thought I was doing too well in that I was making more trips per day that the other drivers. One of them reported me to the RCMP who stopped me and asked to seem my license. I had a Restricted Chauffer’s License which I obtained the day I turned 15 years old. I cannot recall their line of questioning, if any, but that evening when I turned in my truck, Jim (Patrick) told me that the RCMP constable suggested that I smear a little grease under my nose!! Jim later became the mayor of Saskatoon.
One other story I must share is Don oriented. While my truck was being loaded, Don used to toss stones from the crusher area toward me, in a friendly fashion of course. I in turn reciprocated, except on one occasion I hit him, and for a while I thought he was in serious difficulty. That ended the “tossing of stones”.
We later had girlfriends > also a Harvest tradition! Lol. Have no recollection as to how we met. I can tell you that it was not in a bar as neither Don nor I were old enough to drink. My friend’s name was Valerie Woodhead (My right) and Don’s Shirley. On one occasion we took the girls to the Besborough Hotel, a first rate CNR hotel in down town Saskatoon. We were in their fine dining area, had ordered, and when the food came, not one of us had a clue as to how to proceed. We sat there like “4 young kids” which is exactly what we were. Finally a waiter came along and asked if he could help and this got us started!! The only other distinct memory with the 4 of is a trip to Prince Albert which was a tourist attraction type thing. I believe the photo of Don and I with our Strides (Pic at top) was taken on this trip to Prince Albert.
Have no memory whatsoever of the circumstances which led to our decision to return home, nor do I have any memory of our drive home. Makes one wonder what causes our brain to retain certain things and LET GO others.
Stan McCormack writing in Rockport, ON sitting in the bedroom of Son Ken’s River Property overlooking the mighty St Lawrence River. (Two minutes away from Lyle and Katie Walker) We are on our way to FL and drove from Calabogie this afternoon in order to rest here before crossing into the USA tomorrow a.m. 2011 10 22 19:44
The pic at top is taken in northern SK (Saskatchewan), perhaps at Waskieu Lodge where we visited one weekend.
That is Don on the left and Stan on the right. OCVI stands for Oshawa Collegiate and Vocational Institute which is the High School I attended. Simcoe St. North in Oshawa. It was the only high school in Oshawa at that time and it was so crowded that we were on a Shift System