This story was sent in Sept. lst 2002
to CBC Radio,
Air Show hosted by Jeff Goodes.
It was read on air Sept. 8th 2002.
There were two reasons why the Mining Companies in the small
Northern Manitoba towns provided summer jobs for the older teenage
boys: to give a bit of spending money, and in a rather subtle way,
to keep them off the streets.
Britannica Mining and Smelting in
Snow Lake, was no exception.
I had been assigned to the paint crew
and had spent the summer painting the various pipes their
identifying colours. After working at this relatively easy job, I
certainly was enjoying the new found freedom, which comes with
having a few dollars in my pocket. Even after contributing one-third
to the family budget, I still had quite a bit left over.
“This working for a living was
certainly better than high school,” I concluded, so it was with
great fanfare, one evening after supper, I announced I was going to
quit school and keep working.
Mother, as anticipated, went off on
one of her spiels expounding how I was too young to quit school; my
whole life was ahead of me; I had to have an education; etc. It was
I wasn’t listening because I
was waiting for Dad’s reaction.
When nothing seemed to be
forthcoming, my internal encouragement meter rose to new heights.
“So, you want to quit school?” he
asked in a tone that was somewhat unnerving.
“That’s for sure,” I said. “I like
painting much better. It’s easy and its a lot easier than school.”
“Um-hum,” Dad agreed, at least it
sounded like an agreement. “You realize, of course, that those jobs
end when school starts.”
“Er, no. I didn’t know that.”
“But, that’s okay, Dad carried right
on. “Maybe we can find you another job.”
“Sure,” I said, taking the bait,
hook, line and sinker.
Dad spread the Winnipeg Tribune on
the table, and turned to the want ads.
“Let’s see what you are qualified
for. What skills do you have? You can paint pipes. Here. Look
through the listings for a pipe painter.”
My scrambled search yielded nothing.
“Well, what else can you do?”
I could not think of anything.
My aspirations sagged.
“They had you shovelling in the
crushing plant for a while, didn’t they? Maybe there is a need for
Of course, there wasn’t.
My shoulders began to sag.
“I think there is a section for
unskilled people. Have a look there.”
I had a determined look. Nothing.
Even here, the minimum requirements were Grade Twelve.
Now, it felt like my ears were
“There is nothing here, either.” I
Dad didn’t offer anything. When I
looked up him. I noticed the small smile on his face. I knew I had
been led down the proverbial path of self-realization.
“Well, it looks like I'll be going back to
That was the year I took my entire
Grade Eleven by correspondence and passed. It also lead to
University and a career in teaching.