Monday, September 2, 2013

LABOUR DAY - My Work History

Randy Seaver did a great summary of his work history for Labor Day (USA)  and I thought I'd do the same... as best I can remember!  I've lived in Vancouver BC Canada almost all my life, so assume the jobs are in Vancouver unless I mention another place.   And the spelling is of course, Canadian!

My first job started when I was about 12 years old, babysitting all the many little children and babies living near where we lived, on Matapan Crescent in Renfrew Heights.  "Maternity Crescent in Diaper Heights" was the nickname - 600 rental homes built specifically for married Canadian veterans' families having at least 2 children.  All streets had WW2 battle names: Dieppe, Falaise, etc.  Whew!  Lots of babysitting jobs there, for many years.  And when that one year old baby woke up and threw the poop from her diaper all over the bedroom, wall, and floor... well, Mom was just across the street to help!  I made lots of money in those early days:  25 cents/hour, 35 after midnight.  Enough to help me start buying my own clothing, music sheets of the Top 20, and more.

When I was 14 years old, I somehow got a summer job in the Kraft mayonnaise factory a few blocks away from our home, on Grandview Highway.  Unloading clean jars onto the conveyor belt for an hour, then sitting on a stool beside the conveyer belt making sure there were no broken/chipped/misplaced jars being filled, finally loading the filled mayonnaise jars -- 4 at a time -- into clean labelled boxes.  Boring job -- very.  Paid quite well.  One summer was plenty!

The next year, both my older sister and I worked at Kitsilano Beach at the Fish'n Chip concession stand.  Everything done by hand - potatoes dumped into the unit that scrubbed them and cut them, the batter made fresh for the fish fillets cooked individually.  I still love battered fish fillets with malt vinegar on them!  A great job for the summer.

Ohhh, a "real job" when I was 16.  I worked for Canada Safeway stores as a cashier on Friday evenings and all day Saturday.  Great wages - $1.25 per hour!  Each week, we had to memorize not only all the specials, but all prices in the produce section -- actually ALL prices in the store.  It's quite amazing how one could touch a tin or an apple and know immediately the price.  The Canadian government began the Social Insurance Number card system in 1964, and since I was still working part-time for Safeway, their head office in Ontario did all the paperwork for all their Canadian employees.  My SIN card starts with the Ontario code rather than the BC code - something to confuse an ancestor-hunter in the future!!  This job was essential for my being able to go to university - I continued to work off and on for 5 or 6 years.

After high school, I went to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver; after completing a year of sciences, I was accepted into the Nursing School in Applied Sciences.  I graduated with a BScN from U.B.C in Vancouver.  I received a substantial bursary for my final nursing year, from the Victorian Order of Nurses who did home nursing, baby clinics and follow-ups etc., with the proviso that I would work for them anywhere in Canada for one year.  I used some money from the $1500 bursary to buy myself my very first new coat - a black blin'n blin wool coat with shawl collar and deep pockets plus cuffs.  I ended up in tiny Leamington Ontario - the home of Heinz!  Carts of bushels of tomatoes heading along the farm roads to the Heinz factory.  I was the one and only VON nurse in the area, teaching classes for new mothers, as well as doing home nursing (strokes, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, post-surgery care, diabetes care, wound care, etc.).   I was able to pay off my university loan in one year!

Back home, and I took some time off - first time off in 6 years.  Got married, then worked at St. Paul's Hospital in the Newborn & Premature Nursery.   Then followed a few different nursing jobs interspersed with babies of my own.  Public Health nursing for the City of Vancouver.  Psychiatric Nursing at the new UBC Psychiatric ward of the not-quite-yet-built hospital.   After which I worked on and off for my (now-ex) husband and his brother's [Bill Lewis] music store - guitar store, with repairs, and students.  I was the pregnant one behind the cash register, booking students, selling music and guitar accessories, talking with the parents while balancing a baby on a hip.  Memories - wonderful musicians came through our store... Johnny Cash was such a treat!  And being Canadians, we were all soooooo respectful while he bought several solid-top guitars to practice on in the hotel room.  No requests for autographs until he was totally done.  People kept sliding into the store very quietly, whispering, talking very softly, watching.  Amusing.  Very sweet.  So many other musicians as well.

Divorced, sharing the care of our 4 kids, I raced back to UBC for yet another degree - this time an M.A. in Counselling Psychology.  Since my nursing degree was in Sciences, I had to take many arts courses to get enough arts credits to eventually be accepted into the MA programme.  And I took whatever jobs I could take.  The first job I found at UBC was selling at the Thunderbird shop - terrible wages, so that didn't last long.  I found a counselling job out in Abbotsford, working with parents and their teens who were in 3-6 month temporary foster care due to behavioural/family challenges.  Another job was doing research jobs for several different UBC professors - one in nursing, another in psychology, another in medicine.  Another job was using a computer typesetting programme (TeX) for an introductory university mathematics textbook.  Oh, the things I did.  Money was so tight, and the 4 kids needed every bit I could find! 

When I finally graduated with my MA (original research thesis: Social Support-Seeking Behaviour of Fathers of Elementary School-Aged Children Diagnosed with Severe Learning Disabilities)... I started work at the Vancouver Neurological Centre (VNC) - now known as the BC Centre for Ability.  I ran the Parkinson's exercise and group program, helped begin support groups especially the young-onset group, counselled adults with epilepsy, was team leader of teams of rehabilitation therapists providing services to children with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders.  Later I became one of 2 provincial coordinators for a community/home-based rehabilitation program for children and teens with recent brain injuries; I also developed and edited/wrote the newsletter, and various handouts for parents.  I stayed at the BC Centre for Ability for almost 23 years, before retiring.  Whew!

Labour.  It means different things to different people.  For me, it was freedom.  Freedom to care for myself, to care for my children, to bring more knowledge to my volunteer work.  None of the 'jobs' I had were my passions, however one does what one needs to do.  And, I learned a great deal.  Cheers.  Do leave your comments below. 


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thanks for sharing. Always offers insight into other blog posts and comments. Thank for your continuing support! ;-)

Barbara Poole said...

Celia, you sure know about Labor/Labour, I am in awe of your work history. You kept educating yourself and getting better jobs, even though you weren't passionate about them, you did what had to be done. I hope your children took after you, what a great role model. I didn’t expect to see Heinz and Kraft mentioned, nor Johnny Cash (saw him in concert), but they added familiar fun to your piece. I’ll post a picture I took of Johnny in the future, just for you. Thank you for the peak into your life. You are one smart cookie.

Donna Peterson said...

Thanks Celia! I feel I know you better now. A very interesting and well written piece of your personal history.

Jill Ball said...

Celia, you are a trooper. Thanks for telling us about your personal labour march that you undertook with dignity and good cheer.
It's good that you can now indulge your passions for writing and family history.

M. Diane Rogers said...

Very interesting, Celia. I should do this too, although I might not post it :-) I've had quite a few different kinds of 'jobs'- once three at once! (My Superwoman days...) Most were to pay the bills, but I learned something from each of them. And a few I loved at least parts of. (And I have all my early tax returns, I think, so I can see how little we've lived on at times.)

Celia Lewis said...

Hi Barbara - thanks for commenting - it was quite the challenge. I almost didn't go to UBC because I was sure I wouldn't be able to afford it (we were very poor!), but my marks were high enough for several bursaries and my part-time Safeway job helped with the rest. Johnny Cash was a hoot - he really talks that deep and that slow, and is that courteous! Always loved his music and style. Charming indeed. Thanks for your comments.

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks Donna for commenting. I had some odd jobs, and learned some odd and unusual skills, I must say! And to think I always wanted to be a marine biologist! But I wouldn't have learned what I did from nursing and counselling... let alone the computer skills as well. Interesting indeed. Glad you know me better!

Celia Lewis said...

Hi Jill- This has been fun to write and I hope my kids read it too! So far only my sister on Facebook has read it. :( In my next life I expect to follow more of my passions, rather than "doing what was needed". Well, we all do that at times, right? Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Celia Lewis said...

Oh those Superwomen days, Diane ... I remember those. Several different jobs while going to University, sewing my own clothes, making bread, knitting sweaters for the kids, etc. Sigh. We all survived, and gathered more skills and talents, eh? Unfortunately I have moved so many times that "extra" paper got turfed long ago - I have very few documents about those hard times when I made about $100 over my expenses - which went for food, clothing, meds, and transportation. Interesting times. Nice to see all of this is in my PAST! Cheers. See you in a week or so.

Celia Lewis said...

Hi Bill - thanks for dropping by! Your easy style in blogging was a huge encouragement for me to start my own. So, thank YOU! Cheers.

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Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis