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Summer Jobs

There weren’t a lot of job opportunities in Burlington mid-century. Essentially, Burlington was located at the perimeter of farmland. So, for the most part, we kids got jobs on farms.

One summer, I got a job picking raspberries nearby. Oh, what fun. My school chums and I worked our way up and down the rows of raspberry bushes doing our best to fill those baskets. Of course, it took us longer than it should have because we popped a lot of those raspberries in our mouths. Pretty soon, we started popping the berries into each other’s mouths. Needless to say, we missed a lot. Yet, despite all that, we still made pretty good money for as long as the job lasted because when the bushes were empty, we were done. We then had to look for something else to do.

While others went to camp, I worked. Don’t feel sorry for me. I wanted my own money even then.

The summer I turned thirteen I tried picking cherries. Mother drove me to the orchard and a kindly farmer outfitted me with a basket and apron. Each full basket earned me two dollars. He brought me to a tree and gave me a stepladder. I climbed up, determined not to let my fear of heights deter me.

Working on the tree next to mine were a couple of boys about my age. I minded my own business and picked my cherries and emptied them into my apron. Each time the apron was full I’d climb down and drop them into the basket. I might add picking cherries was not my forte. I was slow. I was afraid of heights. However, I persevered.

All this time the boys were trying to make conversation with me. I tried to ignore them but they continued teasing and talking about my pronounced bosom. I had worn a knitted top but wore a plaid bush shirt over it. I guess I couldn’t hide my femininity no matter what I tried. And, believe me, I tried. Most of my girlfriends had not yet developed. I felt embarrassed.

Next thing I knew, the boys were on their second tree and then their third tree. I was still working on my first. After a while, one of the guys parked himself under my tree and watched me pick. There he was lying in the grass, his arms folded behind his head, watching me. I continued to pick. He said, “I understand girls like to have their breasts fondled. I think I’d like to fondle yours.” My face turned red and I nearly fell of the ladder. I got so flustered, I could barely concentrate on what I was doing. I fell way behind. My tree was only half done and this fellow was distracting me.

It didn’t take long. All of a sudden, I saw the farmer walking towards me. He called me down from the tree. He asked me to come with him. Once inside the barn, he told me he didn’t think I was cut out for cherry picking and I should call my mother to pick me up.

I was so disappointed. I was so embarrassed. I was ashamed to tell Mother I had been fired. I called her. She came and I told her what happened. At least I made $5.00 for my efforts but I felt like a failure. I had not flirted with those boys, yet I’m the one that got the boot. Not fair. In retrospect, had I been the farmer, I’d have done the same. The boys produced. I didn’t and I was a distraction.

The following summer I got a job I thought was pretty OK. It was baby sitting an eight year old boy. He was quiet and easy to deal with. His Mom was the spitting image of Elizabeth Taylor. She was really lovely. His father was a pretty good guy too but boy, could he drink beer. He had a case sitting beside his lazyboy chair while he watched TV.  He’d reach down to get out a bottle, guzzle it back, put the empty bottle back in the case and take out another. It was really something to see.

Tom (my charge) and I went to the movies quite often. Of course, they were always matinees. Despite the theatre being mostly empty, we’d no sooner sit down, then some old guy would sit next to me and after a minute or two, I’d hear the heavy breathing and feel a hand sneaking over to touch me. I’d move my arm or shift my leg but the hand would follow. That’s when Tom and I would move to another seat. Tom never whined or questioned me on why we moved so often. It wouldn’t take long and either the same man or another would park beside me and we’d go through the heavy breathing, fingers touching my skin, us moving, man following. This would go on until the movie was over. We’d then leave and head home. I made good money there all summer long. It was a pleasant job apart from dirty old men in movie theatres.

The next summer, I got a job with a dressmaker, Anna, watching her toddler while she sewed. As it turned out, she sewed for one Mrs. Ellen Fairclough, who was a Member of Parliament. In fact, I believe she was the first female Member of Parliament.

Anna made all her clothes for special occasions. Whenever my charge was sleeping, I’d watch her work. She was just amazing. Anna was a tiny woman who had no breasts, I didn’t think. I believe she wore “falsies” as they were called then. Falsies were foam inserts you put in your bra. The reason I’m mentioning this, she used her “falsies” as a pin cushion. The first time I saw her push a pin into her breast, I was shocked but I eventually got used to the sight.

Anyway, to get back to her craft, for very sheer dresses, she would line them with diaper material. Cloth diapers were made with a double gauze-like material. She’d peel off one layer and cut the lining from it. She made wonderful clothes. She remarked on the slimness of Mrs. Fairclough stating it was like making doll clothes. Interestingly, watching television a few weeks later, I saw Mrs. Fairclough on television wearing the same dress I’d seen Anna making. I believe it was for the queen’s visit.  I remember it as being a wrap-around.  When the breeze blew, it would open slightly, revealing a lining in contrasting material.  Not diaper material, I might add.

Watching the toddler wasn’t half as much fun as watching Tom but the money was good and I learned a lot about sewing.

The summer I turned seventeen, I got a job as a car hop at A&W Drive-In Restaurant. That was probably the best job. I made lots of money in tips. It was wonderful. The night shift was my favourite. It was cooler then. During the days, the asphalt became very hot and I’d sweat buckets. To demonstrate how times were different then, I’d walk home from the A&W at midnight and never feel at risk. You wouldn’t do that today. Or, perhaps I was just naive and my folks didn’t see the danger or didn’t care. Either way, that’s the way it was.

And so the years passed. I finished school and got my first real job in the cash department of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, as it was called then.

Summer jobs, real jobs, careers, gains, losses.  It’s been a roller-coaster ride. I look back and I have to say, I don’t regret a single thing. I guess you can’t ask for much more out of life, can you?

January 30th, 2008 Posted by | Nostalgia | no comments

Culture – And I Don’t Mean Yoghurt

I wouldn’t call myself a complete cultural idiot.  After all, I did take music and art as a youngster.  Still, there are genres of both that appeal and those that repel.

I’ve never been a lover of opera.  First of all, I don’t like high-pitched voices.  They irritate me, although I do appreciate that they are rare and lots of work has gone into fine-tuning them.  That said, I just don’t enjoy listening to them. I prefer baritones and altos. They’re just kinder to my eardrums.  So how does that explain my annoyance with country and western music? And I use the term (music) loosely.  No tenors or sopranos there.  I guess I just don’t want to hear about the little lady doing dishes while her man is at some honky-tonk and cheatin’ on her. 


One year, my husband and I decided to buy season’s tickets to the Toronto Opera company.  We really wanted to immerse ourselves in opera and develop an appreciation for it. 

We certainly liked all the fanfare.  We loved dressing up and moving among the artsy fartsy crowd, giving our two cents worth while sipping on white wine.  Oh yes.  Very hoity, toity.  Don’t ask me what we saw.  After a time they all sounded and looked pretty much the same.  Thankfully, they had the English lyrics displayed above the stage so as to help the uninitiated.  Like sitting through Mass, perhaps I would have found it to be more mystical or something, had I not understood the words.  I mean, the plot was always the same.  Always.  There are parties and every man there is a count or a prince, or something.  There are always beautiful women who are their courtesans.  There is always one young woman who falls in love with said prince or count or something.  He leaves her for another, for one reason or another.  She falls ill and dies.  End of story. 

The story lines are boring.  The arias are few and far between – and then very short.  On top of which, you have all those voices singing in unison but making no sense.  All of them screaming away.  Oh boy.

On the plus side, the costumes are beautiful.  The sets are beautiful. The audience is beautiful.

One day, we were driving along the QEW, late as ever, trying to make curtain call.  There was a weaver – we all know who they are – who was whipping along, weaving in and out of traffic.  He wove past us and – somewhere up ahead – he clipped a car on the left, rear bumper.  The said car spun around with the driver pointing to the oncoming cars.  I’ll never forget the look on his face as we whizzed by him without slowing down.  Like a deer in the headlights.  Like his fate was sealed.  We didn’t hear a crash so we figured everyone stopped in time and that he was safe.

Once we got to the O’Keefe, we reflected on what could have happened and let out a sigh of relief.  We then proceeded to our seats and pretty soon, the orchestra struck up and the story began – opening with a party, what else?  Having seen that very same plot several times over, I began to lose interest and fell blissfully asleep.  I later learned that my husband did as well.

I woke up to loud cheers of “Bravo! Bravo!” I opened my eyes, confused for a moment.   Where am I and what’s with all the shouting?  The audience was on its feet clapping and cheering loudly.  It was Intermission.  We got up – a little annoyed at having been woken up – and filed out, stood in line for our glass of wine.  No use lining up for the ladies room.  That lineup snaked around the corner and down the stairs.  No sooner had we finished sipping our wine than the tones sounded requesting our return.

Back in our seats and settled in, it wasn’t long before we drifted off once again.  We woke just in time for the prince or count or whatever, to be kneeling beside the poor girl’s bed as she drew her last breath.  I mean, it is clear she gave into the cravings of the flesh, sinned and therefore had to die.  Clearly the count or prince or something, suffered no such repercussions.

Again with the “Bravo!”  Well, at least we had some good sleeps.  It had been, after all, a long day.

We stopped buying season’s tickets after the third year.  We figured we had given it a fair chance but it was just too expensive to be used as nap-time.

This brings me to wondering what it is that entertains us.  Clearly it is different things to different people.  Where opera hurts my ears and puts me to sleep, jazz perks me up and makes me happy.  Watching anything and everything Bob Fossy had a hand in choreographing has me mesmerized and always wanting more.  I have watched Cabaret, Chicago and All That Jazz, about 27 times each.  I own every movie Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock ever made.  What is it about some types of entertainment that puts you in that other place?  What strings does it pull?  What buttons does it push?

Does it matter?  I think not.  The only thing that matters is that it brought joy into our lives.  When all is said and done we owe it to ourselves to be joyful as much as and as often as possible.

My husband and I still go to theatre.  Only now it’s to experience what we both enjoy.  Hey, we want our money’s worth.  We want to be awake during the entire performance.

So, the next time you’re at the opera and hear unusual night-time sounds coming from those around you, have a look.  Those next to you or behind you may be fast asleep, blissfully unaware that the death of a young maiden is about to occur.  Be sad for them for they will never understand what you find so infinitely engaging. 

January 23rd, 2008 Posted by | Musings, Personal Opinions | no comments

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

That should have read “An Old Dog Is Learning A New Trick”.

Here it is, mid January, and I’m trying to get caught up on everything.  Well, the tree and decorations have been down for about a week or so.

I bought (finally) Office 2007 after having worked with Office 1997 for 10 years.  Actually, when I told a client of mine, he laughed uncontrolably for about one whole minute.  So, I guess you could say, he shamed me into it.  At any rate, I am now trying to learn Access.  I even got “Access for Dummies” to help me.  That means, if I ever figure it out, I will be spending all weekend inputting.  Did I tell you how much I hate data entry?  Gawd.  It’s boring and yet you have to be ever so careful because as we all know, garbage in – garbage out.

Well, I guess you now know what I’ll be doing for the rest of January and maybe even into February.

Wish me luck.

January 17th, 2008 Posted by | Business | no comments