The Canadian Years, big business 8

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Thursday 30 October 16:42



My brother and I slept in a basement in Jerry's house. That sounds worse than it was. It was an old house, Canada was only 100 years old in the 60s, so it was from the first years that Canada started to become populated. Jerry had told us the previous evening at dinner, that the house was 80 years old. He was a carpenter in construction and his wife worked as a cleaner in a hospital.’ My own house’, he said proudly, and I understand that he and his wife had endured great sacrifices in order to make the deposit. ‘That would have been impossible for me in the Netherlands,’ he continued.’ In the Netherlands you live by default in flats. Here people are queuing up to live in a nice apartment downtown.’  ‘People find that useful huh, all shops near by.’ There are tower blocks in Calgary where you have a waiting list to qualify. You do not need to work your garden or keep your sidewalk free of ice and it's more fun for young people.’ That was bizarre, like so many things in life. It was weird because it is driven by dreams, by illusion. It struck me that there are plants everywhere in the houses, in the Netherland. They had always filled my aunties windowsills. Probably due to lack of garden, people take plants at home and where people have a lot of garden, like in Canada it is not utilized. So people could choose a detached rental house with a garden, or a  flat in Place Concorde and they would chose for the downtown  flat, because then you had it made. It was status.


‘You will see that everything is built of wood,’ our carpenter, went on,’ so I fell with my nose in the butter,’ he laughed at that. I've never been out of work a day and that is important because you get paid per hour and you can get fired per hour. You do not pay much tax, but you should not get sick. You continue working if you get sick, your colleagues wiil give you a hand.’ I believed it, I had no experience and it did not  interest me whether Jerry was being paid per hour or not. Only a few years later I would find that very important. ‘You can find a broom and a snow shovel in the barn, clean the sidewalk tomorrow, will you ?’ ‘That is fine,’ said my brother, ‘we’ll do it’. ‘We are at our work’, continued our host ‘and if someone breaks his leg on our doorstep we are ruined ,because then they’ll sue us to the last penny. Remember if you live elsewhere later, the first thing you do in the morning is get your house in order. Your sisters are two houses to the left, if you stand with your back to the front door, walk past there as well and clear the snow.’

‘Now we will watch some TV’, suggested Jerry ‘and then we will go to bed early, because ‘the early bird catches the worm ', from which I deducted that they had to leave early. We slept in the rumpus room, which is in Alberta a space where you can party without disturbing other people. You usually find that under the house, in the basement. It was nice and warm because if a house is built in Calgary then you first dig a pit and you pour a concrete basement and you make sure that it rises slightly above the ground level. In the basement, you place the boiler, which explained the delightful temperature in our’ bedroom.’

Jerry had given a lecture of how he built houses and it differed very much from how it was done in Europe. On top of the cellar you made a floor of wood and there you erected a framework of struts on solid outside walls, interior walls respectively. The space between the struts you filled up with glass wool insulation. You did not need to build high because there was enough land about, So you build your structure in the length or in the width. The insides you finished with drywall and  the exteriors, with something that you called shielding, long metal, surfaces as scrap metals overlapping each other. The roofs were covered with wooden squares which were called shingles. The roofs needed a lot of maintenance because of the snow and subsequent shifts in temperature and it would be my job in the next few years, to brush the roof of my father’s house each spring with linseed oil. ‘From start to the end’, said Jerry,’a home is built within 3 months.’ He ‘threw’ a lot of skeletons of houses up with a carpentry team, and then finished the inside in the wintery months.


We heard the door slam, above us, and later the heavy rumble of the great American car, Jerry and his wife went to work. It was still dark outside, but we got up and made some tea ready. At first light we went out with coats and a hat with side flaps, to go and shovel snow. What a bitter cold, the wind cut right through you! A lot of snow had fallen. We went at full strength. ‘Hey boys,’ sounded a voice of a man who we had not heard coming because of the scraping shovel and pusher.’ Do you want to earn a dollar?’ The speaker was an old man with a walking stick. I nodded. ‘Every day you clear my sidewalk for a dollar, what do you say?’

‘Okay,’ I said,’ I’ll do it. ‘Let's make it interesting,’ said the old boy. You clear my doorstep 7 days and I'll pay you five dollars’.’ Hmm’, I said, ‘I know something better, I sweep your sidewalk clean every day whether it snows or not for five dollars a week.’ ‘You've got a deal,’ chuckled the old man. ‘That week starts tomorrow’, I said. ‘Now I’ll clean it for a dollar’. I'll pay you for the week, at the end of the week,’ the man said. ‘Well,’ I said? He put his hand in his pocket, looked for a moment and then flipped a coin in my direction, ‘one dollar’. ‘That’s where I live’ and he pointed to a house across the street, a house with a very long sidewalk. ‘You can do this alone’ my brother said. I nodded. I had set my first steps in business.

The following years I would live in the old neighborhood where my father went to live with us, every day I would be clearing snow before going to school. I had four old customers and in the summer I mowed their yard with a horrible dilapidated inertia push mower. I earned a guaranteed income of $ 20 a week.

The sidewalk in front of the house where my sisters lived was narrow and we were done quickly. Let's explore the village said my brother and I thought that was a good idea.

San Daniel 2014

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Ik lees ze zo graag, mooi geschreven
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