If I ever get a dollar I'm going to save my money
BY: Andy Coulas
I was born north of the village of Barry's Bay. On the outskirts. My father had a farm a mile or two miles away from Paugh Lake. And that's where I was born.
When I was only about a year and a half old my dad thought he'd move down between Wilno and Killaloe, to what they used to call the Machout farm.
My Uncle August bought that farm first. He was there for a few years, and he thought he'd sell the farm and move some place else. And he did well. Went way out to Woodstock. He bought himself a hundred acre farm for nine thousand dollars.
Some of the family was born at Paugh Lake. I think there were one, two, three, four: James, Jean, Ambrose, and Winifred were born at Paugh Lake. And I was born there, so that's five. The rest of the family was' born at the Machout farm. I was only about a year and a half old when they moved there. I don't remember all this. But I often go back to the farm.
The Machout farm burned. The lightning struck the buildings here a few years ago. Everything burnt right down to the ground but the old house, and there was an old granary that's left there too. That's all there is. So that's what happened.
We tried to do the best we could.
In our family there was nine of us. Two girls and seven boys. The oldest girl is still living. The boy that was born after her went blind. He must have been twenty or eighteen years of age when he went blind. My dad took him all over the place to doctors in Ottawa. They couldn't help him. So he just went blind and that was it.
Then it happened in 1930 that my mother died. She had a heart condition so she passed away. I was eleven. The youngest was only a year old. And right in the heart of the Depression. It was terrible. I often remember that.
Being on the farm we had a good garden. We had cows, we had milk and so on. We were able to live, but there was no money to be spent. And during that Depression it was terrible. It was terrible, I'm telling you.
As far as education, we didn't get much education. But we tried to do the best we could. Dad never remarried because nobody wanted to get married. No woman wanted to get married and go on an old farm with six or seven or eight kids.
We were all happy, and what else can you do?
We had to look after ourselves, the best we could. If you didn't look after yourself you were just left out. Everybody paddled their own canoe.
And when they were working on the highway some of the fellows that were working on the highway used to board at our place. That helped a little bit, there was the odd dollar coming in.
We had a hard time, but everybody was happy. Us kids really didn't realize what we were into. Everybody else was having a hard time, too.
My dad kept us all at home. And I give him a lot of credit for that. Neighbors wanted to take some of the family, but my dad said no. I give him a lot of credit for that.
We were all happy, and what else can you do? We had enough to eat.
We didn't have anything to spare.
In those days you killed a beef at Christmas time, when the weather got cold. You didn't have any Hydro or deep freezer or cold storage. You had to wait until the cold weather came. And we had pigs. We used to kill them in the fall of the year and salt the meat. That had to do us the whole winter and the summer next year.
When Mother was living she got a girl from Paugh Lake.
We had a hired girl to do the cooking. When mother was living she got a girl from Paugh Lake. They knew of her because we used to live back there. They went down there with sleighs, one time in wintertime, and picked her up. They asked the parents if they would want to give her up for a while, because they needed help. So the parents said yes, she could come down. They were poorer than we were.
On her way back she froze.
The poor girl's mother went to midnight mass one Christmas time, I remember that well. There was no snow on the ground. Christmas Eve it was raining. About five or six o 10 clock it started a few snow flurries. By ten o'clock there was two feet of snow on the ground. And it got cold.
She went out in the afternoon to go to town and go to midnight mass, and on her way back she froze. It turned terribly cold and windy, and she wasn't dressed for it. No heavy clothes. Not like what people are dressed today. And they didn't find her until she was frozen.
Fifty cents in my pocket. Oh yes.
Sometimes I used to work for the neighbours down there at the Machout Farm. On a Saturday when I wasn't going to school, the neighbour might want to cut a few logs, or some ties, just to make himself a dollar. He used to come to the house in the evening and ask me if I wanted to come out and give him a hand. So he'd give me fifty cents, you know, and I was happy.
I'd put the fifty cents away. Hang on to it.
I would go over there, maybe two or three miles, while it was still dark, and I'd give them a hand. I was able to chop, to help them saw, to use the cross cut saw. I was happy.
They would ask me if I had breakfast. I would say no, because we didn't have that much to eat, and whatever there was wasn't up to par, you know. Well I'd get a good meal, good lunch, good supper, then I'd go home. Fifty cents in my pocket. Oh yes.
After I finished school I went to work for a farmer in Brudenell.
I worked there for five dollars a month, doing haying. There was no other work. And out there you got fed. And you got five dollars a month and you put that in your pocket. You took the Eaton's Catalogue out, and looked to see what clothes you had to get, and what was the price of them, whether you could afford them. Then you filled out an order and bought yourself something to keep warm. You had to have clothes. You had to buy clothes for yourself and you had to manage. You had to learn to manage your money.
So that's the way the ball bounced in those days.
I liked farming. I often wondered if I wanted to buy a farm. But I wouldn't buy one around here. I'd go some place where there is tanning. Like Woodstock. I went to work for my Uncle August, way out in Woodstock. Boy, it was a big change for me.
My aunt died here in the month of March one year. And of course Mrs. August Coulas came down from Woodstock for the funeral. So she asked me, "What are you doing out here?"
I said, "Not that much. We're at home and there's nothing to do in the spring of the year."
She said, "We're looking for a man. Do you want to come with me?"
I said, 'Sure."
"We'll give you fifteen dollars a month."
I said, "Of course."
She said, "We'll pay your way down."
I said, "That's good, for I haven't got money to pay my way down there."
But anyway. I thought I'd go and I did.
I went on the train. Oh that was something! I was on the train before, of course, but never that much. You had to buy a ticket for fifteen cents. You didn't have fifteen cents, or you didn't want to spend it if you did have it. So you walked.
Many's the time I walked from home to Barry's Bay or Killaloe, and didn't think anything of it.
Woodstock was different looking country altogether.
Mrs. August Coulas bought me a ticket and then she had to leave the train and go on another one. I was kind of upset because I was all alone. And not familiar with going so far on a train. But when it stopped at Woodstock, they were there with their old car. They picked me up, with my small little club bag of clothes that was all I had.
Woodstock was different looking country altogether. We came to the house at night. When I got up the next morning I went out to the barn-there was all kinds of cattle and horses.
The place was altogether different. Rich country and all kinds of farmers. And she gave us good meals, she was a very good cook. That was something that I wasn't used to at home, good meals. At home we had to bake our own bread and often it was sour.
What did we know? We did things like kids.
So I was there all summer. He had two team of horses. I liked driving horses. Driving horses and looking after them, I could do that. I wasn't afraid of horses.
And the milking had to be done by hand. So they had another young lad there with me and we worked on the farm.
I stayed there all summer and then I came home in the fall of the year. Somebody said to me, "I got a letter from home saying that some of the lumberjacks are going back in the bush. They told me that some of the lumber camps were starting to open up. "You better come here and get more money, " they said.
Well I thought I'd go home. But I was sorry.
I was kind of used to Woodstock.
There was a lot of hard work in the lumber camps.
Oh there was a lot of hard work in the lumber camps. And you had to stay there. There was no getting out. Today people drive to work in the bush in the morning-, and come back in the evening. And they get holidays and all.
In those days there was no such thing as holidays, only Sundays. You never saw the building until Sunday, any other day you were out to work early in the morning until late at night.
It was a poor life, but that's all there was around here. Even now the lumber industry is still here, but the bottom is starting to fall out. I don't know what's going to happen. Well, there is no bush anymore, you know, it's all cut, or ruined with skidders.
But I remember going at the bush for J.R. Booth, way back in the Park. I stayed there for six and a half months. And I was happy! And I came home with two hundred and twenty dollars.
Of course! Cash the cheque, put it in the bank!
I figured I was going to make myself a home.
A lot of fellows went back home, and in two week's or three week's time they were broke from buying drink and things like that. I wouldn't spend that kind of money on drinks.
I figured I was going to make myself a home. And I figured that if I met a good girl, I could make a living with her and get along. I was going to get married. Make myself a home.
I worked for a farmer, Jim O'Grady, back here towards Brudenell. One Sunday afternoon his mother, Mrs. O'Grady,, she said, "Andy, will you hook up the horse and the buggy and take me down to Willy Costello's. They have a new born baby. I want to go down there, they're neighbours."
I said, "Okay!" So I hooked up the horse and the buggy.
Oh, she was a lovely woman, she played a Jew's harp, sometimes, and sang. Well she said, "You know, Andy, you're a young man. If you ever run into a girl, you know, a girl, you get married."
And I said, "My Golly, maybe you're right!"
So I took her down there, and I was around there while the women were talking.
In the evening, we came back and I said, "I'm seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years of age. I want to save my money. If I want my dollar I'll have it." So I saved a couple of hundred dollars. Enough money to buy clothes and look after myself.
Then I went to work for Murray's at the sawmills and I bought myself a 1931 Ford for two hundred dollars. I didn't know how to drive it but I drove it anyway, without any permit or driving license of any kind.
You could get a license, but you'd have to go to some place where somebody would test drive you. There was a fellow on top of the big hill at Madawaska-I went there after supper one time to get him to test drive me and I got a chauffeurs license.
I'm very lucky I didn't have an accident!
I remember when the Sixty highway, from Killaloe to Barry's Bay, wasn't open. Of course in those days people didn't drive cars in the winter at all. People drove with horses and sleighs. And in the summertime there was no crushed gravel or anything. Whatever little bit of gravel was on it they drew by horses.
The farmer got something like ten cents a load.
The Snake Hill.
The road was in the same place as Highway Sixty today, but today it is a highway. In those days it was much narrower. I could take you out and show you part of the old road that comes down near the department of highways. There used to be a sharp corner to the left there.
When you left Barry's Bay you went by the Kaszuby Road, then you make a left turn and you crossed the highway. Then you took a swing to the right down to where the airport road is, on top of the hill. If you are driving west, when you come up on top of that hill, you see a gate on the right hand-that's the old highway. Then it takes off around that lake. Over on the far side of the lake it comes out on the highway and crosses again. Then it goes on the left side of the highway all the way down to Wilno.
Used to call that the Snake Hill, that.
Everybody wanted to get on.
I was a grader operator and road superintendent in Sherwood, Jones and Bums Township here for years. I knew the roads. In those days people wanted to get on the highway. Everybody wanted to get on because it was a couple of dollars for them. You got a week or two and then you had to be laid off. Somebody else wanted to get a chance to go and work in the summertime.
One winter they worked for eighty-some cents a day. And they were glad to get on. If you had a team of horses you put in an application. They hired the farmer with his team. They worked from seven to six. And they worked hard, too.
You might get on for a week or two, then you had to go. Make room for the next fellow. I don't know just what they paid for the horses and the man but it wasn't very much.
One winter it was so cold, oh boy, was it cold. The ground was frozen. They would dump great big frozen lumps and humps on the road. In the spring, when the frost left, everything caved in. You would never know they did anything.
They should have given the people eighty cents a day welfare. But there was no welfare that time. They made them work for the eighty cents.
Drilling the rock by hand.
They didn't build the roads like they do now. Today they spread a bunch of sand, and they pack it, and put water on it, and everything else. Today it is done properly. In those days they didn't do that. They didn't have the equipment. There was no such a thing as a bulldozer in those days. So it was all labour. Drilling the rock by hand.
They hammered down so far and then they blasted. Two fellows would hammer, one fellow sitting down and the other hammering: "Bing-bang! Bing-bang! Bing-bang!" And every time they wanted to clean the hole out of mud they used to shout, "Mud!" and the lads would stop and scoop it out.
But anyway, that's the way the ball bounced there.
I went to J.R. Booth.
Well, after I went farming I went to J.R. Booth. They were up in the bush and I went there. The wage was thirty-five dollars a month and that was good wages, in those days.
I went to the bush the last week in August and never came back until the twenty-second of March. I stayed there for Christmas. We got Christmas Day off, but we just lay around and had a good rest. See, Sundays you had to wash your clothes and do your patching and things like that for yourself.
You used to take your blankets outside and two lads get together and shake them and air them out. You would leave them outside all day, and bring them back in the evening, and they'd be fresh. And you had to look after your bed and your clothes. You'd have your woolen mitts to dam. You had to look after yourself. If you didn't, nobody else did!
But anyway I came home and then I wanted a job, but where do you get a job? So the drive was going through. They had to drive the logs from the Park. One Saturday morning I went to the headquarters and I got a job and I stayed right there. The drive was going to go up the next week. There were a couple of lads who had a sleep camp there and a headquarters and a cookery, and there were fellows looking after the road going in. So I worked with them, we put some sand down with a truck, we patched holes.
Then it was the case that they needed so many men for the drive. A bunch of the men were coming up to be hired, but some were drunks and everything else. Well, they hired some but they didn't hire some. So they hired me, and I had to buy myself a pair of cork boots for eight dollars. They had big nails in them, the drivers had to have them.
It was long days, but I enjoyed it.
The drives used to come down to the big mill here. I went up and I got in with a couple of lads from here. That was fine. The foreman put me watching a river below the dam, with the two other lads. It was long days, but I enjoyed it.
When they put the drive through the Big Opeongo we were just below the dam watching the river. Then we had to move down to the Five Mile Point, and wait there until the drive came down.
On the drive you went to the side of the river. There was all kinds of water. The water was high because they had built dams on the lakes to hold water.
When the drive came, and the logs were coming down, they'd open the dam from early in the morning until twelve 0 t clock. Then the logs would come down from the Big Opeongo to down here.
And you were beside the river, watching.
Nothing but whitewater flying!
You had side piers built and you watched-there wasn't that much to do. Jump on a big log and go down along the side pier. When it was going to go into the rapids you'd jump off. They had brought logs in on the sides of the river and piled it full of rock. They narrowed the river to make the water high. There were all kinds of big boulders to force the water high so the logs floated right on top.
Nothing but whitewater flying!
Eventually the logs come through Madawaska and down through the Bark Lake dam here. There was only a small dam there years ago, the lake wasn't that high. Then it went down to Kaminiskeg. That's where they separated the spruce and balsam and the pulpwood away from the red and white pine. Then they brought the booms to the big mill to get sawed.
Well then finally I got a job here too, and then I was thinking I would get married.
I met my wife one time I was down working for Murray's here. I met her first in the fall of the year. There was snow on the ground.
I met her at a dance back here on the highway towards Combermere. Neer Lodge, they used to call it. I was there one Sunday afternoon and there was a dance going on.
When I came home for Christmas, well, I met her again.
She and her neighbours used to go there together. So that Sunday they came in there. Well I kind of got struck on her, I thought she was a real good looking girl, so I got around her.
But of course I had to go back to work that evening, for if you missed your job, you lost your job. I was working for Murray's down here at Cross Lake, south of Madawaska. So I went back to work and we wrote letters back and forth. And then, when I came home for Christmas, well, I met her again.
I went to Killaloe and bought her a box of chocolates for Christmas. Cost me three dollars. Beautiful box! Well, three dollars! So then we got talking and we thought we'd get married in the spring of the year. And in June we got married.
And I never regretted. I got a good wife.
When we got married I bought her clothes and I bought myself a suit and whatever, and when we paid up everything I still had five hundred dollars to myself Yes. And this old car.
So I went to work and I got a job here at Omanique's Mill. I didn't go back to Murray's. I got a job here closer to home. It took me over an hour to walk, but I wasn't having any expenses, I was able to walk. So I got a job piling lumber here. I was already doing that up at Murray's, so I asked for the job here at Omanique 9 s and they took me.
Where the High School is, right out to the Laundromat.
It was the Barry's Bay Lumber Company, but they sawed Booth's logs. They sawed the pine that was cut through the winter and floated down here.
Where the High School is, that was all a lumber yard. Right out to where the Laundromat is. That was the spruce yard.
They used to pile the spruce and the pine in sheds, beautiful pine boards a couple feet wide, three inches thick, and not a knot. They had them in the sheds. Piling it was heavy work but I was able to do it. The lumber was piled on lorries by the rails. The shunter came down and brought up five loads of lumber for the five gangs of pilers. Everybody knew their load, they put their load wherever you wanted it, and you had to take the load off and pile it.
That was okay. That was fine!
There were three men. And you went in a circle with the jobs. One week you looked after the water pail, go and get water in the morning, get out early, before seven o'clock, go over to the ice house and get yourself a chunk of ice and water from the well. The next week maybe you drove the horses, looked after the horses, harnessed them in the morning, took them in in the evening, and took the harness off before you went home. The next week you were carrying the jack. There was a jack that you put out against the pile and on the load and you looked after that.
You know, you went in a circle with the jobs. You were never bored. And the next week you got another, different type of lumber.
The work was okay. And every two weeks you got thirty-two dollars. That was okay, that was fine!
And then I got a job with John Drohan, driving a truck and hauling lumber. He was buying and shipping. He had the lumber yard right in town, in back of the bank. That was all a lumber yard years ago. I worked for him, and I was happy because it was a job close to home, and it paid every week. I thought that was good. I stuck right to the job.
And we were fine at home, but, oh, it was so cold! Well, we had got fifty-some dollars wedding gifts from the people. So we saved that money and bought ourselves a stove.
We had that stove and we were very happy.
Years ago they had a Master Climax stove that you could buy from the catalogue. We bought one of them and we had that stove for a long time. They were a good stove, with a big fire box and a good oven. They baked well. We had that stove and we were very happy.
And then the war broke out.
Of course I had to leave.
I was in Ottawa for thirty days, and then I had to go to Brockville. Then I enlisted, and then I got turned down. I never liked the Army, and I got turned down, so I came back.
So then I was able to work and I bought the house I live in today. I paid five hundred and some dollars for the property. I thought, 'I have to have a home. I have to have a place to hang my hat. I'm not going to go around and drink my money and bum around the street. No no."
That isn't the thing. You've got to lead a life. That's what makes politics click.
Think if everybody did that, what would happen to the country?
Anyway, that's the way the ball bounced then.
When we bought this place it was in bad shape. But we were happy. We came in, and worked here, and put on gyproc, and cleaned it. And when we got the house kind of fixed up we put on siding. It was old clapboard, it was shabby and ratty looking, but mind you, I paid five hundred and fifty dollars for it and I paid for it cash. I had the money. See? See how the money come in handy? I didn't have to go to the bank.
You have to be worth something.
Nowadays you can go to the bank and if you have good security, and if you have a good story, you can get money. But in those days! No! You couldn't get money. There was no money.
Well, wages were thirty-five and forty dollars a month. The banks are not going to lend you money. You have to be worth something. What are they going to take on you.?
So I paid cash for the place and we were both happy.
My wife wasn't extravagant, and she saved a little here and there. And we were very happy together. 'We're still happy.
I did it myself.
So then I started to repair the house, fix it up a little bit, put on the siding. I got a carpenter to give me a hand to start the siding and then I did it myself. I had a job with Jack Drohan, and I had a job at home. I worked in the dark, in the evenings, putting on the siding and whatever I could do myself. I couldn't hire. If you hire somebody you had to pay them. How are you going to pay them? You haven't got that much money.
So you have to do it yourself You learned the hard way. And it's a good lesson. I had that when we were at home, because I said, "Boy, if I ever get a dollar, I'm going to go to work, and I'm going to save my money."