Sunday, June 18, 2017

For My Dad (And My Mom).


For those of you who have been stopping by here for awhile now....

Why this post again?

Because it's a tradition...

That's why!

My Dad spent his entire adult life working for tow-boat companies hauling all manner of stuff up and down the west coast, from Alaska to California, and sometimes even across the water to Hawaii.

And he was pretty well paid for doing that job, especially once the 1970's arrived.

And while I know that part of the reason for my Dad's increasing salary, which helped make it possible for me to go to college, a first in our family, was the damned good job he did as he began to work on ever bigger boats like, say, this one, I also know that in large part I owe my shot at a higher education to his union.

How do I know this for sure?

Because I also know that my Mom, who was climbing the ladder working in ever bigger branches on ever bigger jobs with ever bigger responsibilities of one of our country's biggest banks at the very same time my Dad was hauling logs, got paid peanuts by comparison for doing her non-union job.

But that does not mean that my Mom's passing down of her ability to be analytical, sometimes in the extreme, did not help me get to college too and, maybe even more importantly, help me become a full-fledged science geek in the end.

My mom passed away awhile back after a long, slow decline that left my Dad doing a whole lot of the work and the worry after his days of working for a living/pay cheque were long done. It was a tough lot that gave him little time or space to do much else. Which is why it was so special when he came over from the Island last weekend to see littler e's last big dance show as a kid*.

Anyway, with all that said, below is my now traditional F-Day post for my Dad....


I really do live a charmed life.

I have a wonderful wife and two great kids.

I also have a job I actually like, where most of the time I get to do what I want while working with people (also mostly kids) to produce stuff that we are all really proud of.

And that job pays me well; not hockey player money well, but I make more than I ever dreamed of. Which, of course, means that I make just enough that we can afford to live in our own house within the Vancouver city limits.

In fact, I guess some might say that I am upwardly mobile enough that I should quit all my complainin' because I'm one of the lucky ones that actually benefits financially from many of the 'well-off folks first!' policies of Mr. Campbell and Ms. Clark et al.

But here's the thing.....

I am most definitely not one of those 'ladder puller-uppers'

You know, somebody who's got theirs, and now says, "Screw you Jack," to everybody else.


I'll tell you why.

It's because of my Dad.......

My old man was a Union man.

And the folks in the Union fought like bastards...and they fought constantly, usually for the tiniest of things in each successive contract...things like an extra quarter percent on a COLA clause, or one little add-on like an extra free filling per year on the dental plan.

And when I was a kid, especially during that time when I was a barely no-longer-a-teenager-aged kid, I thought the folks from the Union were just a little bit off their nut....all that energy going into what, exactly?

After all, it was the 80's, and Dave Barrett and the Socialist Hordes were long gone, and the Wild Kelowna boys were rolling along, and Unions were bad, and Expo was coming, and Trudeau was going, and John Turner was hiccupping, and Mulroney was lurking, somewhere off in the distance....

....And if you were a half-bright, apolitical science-geek kind of kid like me, breezing your way through college and thinking about graduate school, you laughed when you saw the boy wonder from Burnaby, Michael J. Fox, shirk his Family Ties and ape the young Republicans while making fun of his willfully neutered Leftie of a Dad on the TV screen...

....And if you were that kid, you thought that you were living in a golden age that was tied, not to the social democratic reforms of the past, but to the coming of Free Trade and the promises of the Reaganites from the South...

...And from that perspective you sure as heck didn't always get the irony of Bruce Springsteen singing about the plight of the working class in 'Born in the USA'.

But now that I have spent a good chunk of time in USA where I started a family of my own before coming home, I do get it.

I understand that my Dad spent his entire adult life hauling logs up and down the West Coast, working his guts out to help keep the robber baron families rich because he had to make a living to support his own family....

....And I get the fact that, because of the Unions, my family's standard of living gradually improved, bit by bit, over the years so that by the time I had grown up to be that callow young man described above my parents had saved enough to help me go to University....

....And I get the fact that I was the first one in my family who got to go to University....Ever.....And it wasn't because I was so damned smart....

....And I get the fact that, while my parents' limited financial help and support was important, it would never have been enough to get me into the same good schools if I had arrived on the scene a single generation earlier or, perhaps, later....

....And I get the fact that those Wild Kelowna Boys, and all the other neo-cons that have come since, have been doing their damndest to destroy the dream of a University education for all, and instead have instituted an elitist education for some and one-trick-pony Technical training for everybody else.....

....And I get the fact that, if it wasn't for folks like my Dad and the other lefties of his time, my current world, one in which I make a living with my eyes and my mind wide open, would not be what it is today.....

....And most of all, I now get the fact that my Dad was, and is, my hero.

Photo at the top...My Dad and my youngest brother getting ready for a highly ritualized Samuri Fishing Rod Sword Fight (to the death!) up at Spectacle Lake at the top of the Malahat on Vancouver Island in the early/mid-70's.
Photo at the bottom...My Mom with somebody's kid, probably one of my much younger cousins, at the picnic table in our daisy-filled old back yard on Monterey Ave. in Victoria that was the scene of a thousand-and-one-before-and-after-dinner soccer and/or cream-'em games (although the latter were more often in the front yard for some unfathomable reason) also probably from the middish '70's...And if I'm wrong, rest assured that my brothers will be sure to correct me!
*That does not mean that littler e's dancing days are done...In fact, right after graduation she is climbing into a big cigar tube to spend a month in the Big Apple tapping her toes



North Van's Grumps said...

And the link to "This One" .... Rivtow Capt. Bob ... with the self loading self dumping log barge. Was the photo taken at one of the Gambier Island dumping boom grounds??? of either West, Centre or Long Bay's Daisy Bay....'28.0%22N+123%C2%B022'23.6%22W/@49.4577694,-123.3732139,486m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d49.4577694!4d-123.3732139

According to Google Earth the boom grounds are gone and who got the windfall waterfront properties?

Anonymous said...

Great post. My dad really inspired me too, nice to remember all those good men with good values who made a difference to their families, neighbours and communities.

Feels like the momentum is picking up with unions. The BCGEU convention last week was really great, lots of young people participating, bringing their energy and perspectives. Two of the new VPs are both young, very smart and solidly committed to members, the labour movement and progressive principles. Very inspiring to see, as one of the older participants.

e.a.f. said...

I remember this post and thank you for re posting it. Its important we remember where we came from. Thank you especially for the parts about the role of Unions in how we the working class in B.C. became the middle class and enjoyed things like being 2 car families, for the first time, having cottages in the Gulf Islands, going on yearly vacations. We got to go to University because we had the brains and our families had the money. That was a first, our families having the money. Without the Unions fighting for 15 min. coffee breaks, up from 10 minutes, to extended medical plans and higher wages, we'd still be working for $300 per month.

In 1951 a working man made approx. $50 a week. Ten years later that was $100 a week. By the early 1970s. working people would be making $25K a year. That was also the price of a home in Richmond. However, that is now still what a lot of people are making. Not much progress thanks to the likes of Christy Clark and her cabal.

Looking forward to this next year.

John's Aghast said...

In 1971 I bought a house and five acres for $20,000. That was less than 2 years salary. Guess what 2 years salary will get you now!
Guess what a house and five acres costs now.
Somehow something doesn't equate. Maybe I shudda hung on to the house!

sd said...

Well said Ross! I went farther in school than my folks because back in the day you could afford it.Another fact is that my Dad was in a union but my Mom wasn't( even though she was a "Rosie The Riveter") but we had a house and a boat, nowadays kids can't even afford rent.By the way ,it would be cool to see Bolinas again and try to surf,ha!

Norm Farrell said...

Thanks for this RossK. It is affecting.

When I came of age in the sixties, my education was funded by working union jobs in summers, first in logging, then in a BC pulp & paper mill. We paid, I recall, about $4.50 a month in union dues, without giving much thought to the opportunities we enjoyed as a direct result of the suffering of people who were fired and run out of the company town 35 years before because they expressed support for unions.

My father tended engines on fish packers and tow boats on BC's coast and told stories about crossing Hecate Strait with waves higher than our house. He knew many men that died while working to earn livings for their families. Those unfortunate families were usually left in dire poverty.

My friends and I (callow as well) entered adulthood filled with optimism and expectations. I suspect it's not quite the same for many today and that might have something to do with people toying with substances that are as likely to kill them as dull their pains.