Businesses Part 1 Alexander Manitoba
Businesses Part 1 Alexander Manitoba
Growing up in Alexander Manitoba everything is based on the 2 grain elevators that were in the middle of town. If it was not for these prairie giants Alexander would not be there. As young kids we didn’t under stand the working of the grain market or prices all we knew is that Manitoba Pool elevator was always busy while the Paterson Grain elevator was never busy. When hauling to town with the grain trucks I like going to the Paterson Grain elevator because there was no line up plus a longer gentle incline up to the elevator doors. When you are an under age driver on an over loaded under powered grain truck a slope difference of 1% to 2% grade makes a big difference. Now day the grain trucks have big engines for power and lots of braking power plus the drivers have to be licensed which means years of experience. But we were driving using common sense and the willingness to work and we got the job done for cash money and good food.
Hauling to the Manitoba Pool elevator meant long lines ups that moved quickly if everything was going good. As you waited in the long line for your turn to dump the load in the elevator. The grain trucks has the factory AM radios mounted in the dash. Plus the old radios had the fine tuning knob which allowed you fine the radio station you wanted. Back in the early 1980s it was CKY 580 AM radio out of Winnipeg Manitoba that we had to listen too. But waiting in line at the Manitoba Pool elevator the main hydro wires to run the elevator were right there. The big power traveling through the wires effects the AM radios so we could only listen the best Am radio in the province in certain spots while waiting. It did not take much movement to lose the AM radio station then you had to wait till you moved up in the line up to get radio back again. If the elevator bins got full and the rail cars arrived late then we had long wait before getting unloaded and nobody left their trucks because the line up could start any time. This is the only time you shut the engines off in the trucks because you never knew if they would start. Back then these gas engines had carburetors which could flood out the engine or the timing for the ignition was so far advance to get the most horse power out of a dying engine it would not start when hot. If the truck did not start the truck ahead of you just gave you a pull start which means get the truck rolling and dump the clutch to spin the motor enough to start. It was a community effort when at the elevator because it was all for the community. Nobody yelled at you if you did something wrong they would explain why not to do it so you don’t do it again. It was like having 20 teachers help you out. That is why the farmer had no problems with us being under age and going to town with a loaded grain truck because everyone looked out for us. Plus the last thing anyone wanted to see was a damaged or wrecked truck with a load of grain in the ditch.
When it was my turn to climb the steep slope up to the elevator doors I would put the truck in low gear and let the engine pull the truck up. This was the safest way to do the big climb. If I tried to shift gears and blew the shift and stalled the engine. The brakes on the truck would not hold an over loaded grain truck and I would roll backwards down the ramp and in the next grain truck which could cause delays. Once again common sense. As I climbed the steep slope up to the doors of the elevator. The workers would be acting like Mime Artist with doing the motions on paddling a canoe for getting speed. Plus anything to make for a good laugh. The way I looked at it as an extra 30 second saves a lot of grief. Once in the elevator you park the front wheels on the lift cradle because they lift the front of grain truck up to get the grain unloaded faster. The hoist on the box does not have the power to lift the over loaded box. The hoist works OK at the farm when unloading in to the auger that fills the grain bin because the truck box is half empty when the box is lifted. It does not take long to unload the grain truck because there is a big line up and everything has to go quickly. When the unloading is completed they give you a piece of paper to show that the load has been delivered. This paper is to be treated as if Elvis has signed it personally himself. To keep the piece of paper in prefect condition I would put in the centre fold of the Playboy Magazine I had in the grain truck. No matter would happened with switching trucks or if the truck caught on fire like it did one year on me. The important papers from the elevator were always safe and in good condition. It always took time to read and re-read the articles in Playboy Magazine because they used such big words so re-reading was the only way to get the understanding of the words. Now days everyone just Googles the word to get the meaning or understanding.
If it was a long delay at the Manitoba Pool elevator when you returned to the field where the combines were working. There was a grain truck loaded and ready. I would grab the only 3 things that I needed when driving and that was my jacket, my water jug and the Playboy Magazine. When I hoped in the loaded grain truck and if I had missed the meal served in the field while in town, my food plate was on the front seat of the truck and off I would go back to town. If things had changed on the work operations then there would be a note on the food. There was no communication because radios and cell phones were not around. It was common sense that made me make decisions that kept me going because nobody had to babysit me. One thing I never had to carry in the grain truck was food because it just arrived. Back then we did not have coolers or fancy plug in fridges because we did not need them. Even if you were at the long line up at the Manitoba Pool elevator, food just showed up even if was not from the farm family you were working for. The other farm families shared when they brought food for their workers. Plus if I had extra food I shared too.
Around 11pm at night the oldest female member of the family I was working for would come around to give everyone the midnight snacks and pick up the paper work for the day. It seemed that she always showed up when the rush was on from the lights on the combine flashing because the grain hopper is full and needs the grain truck right now or when unloading at the grain bin with the auger. These augers sometimes were powder by Briggs & Stratton gas motors which later in life I compared to an ex-wife. The little engine will be running fine and everything is going good then it quits for no reason. This plugs the grain auger and by the time you get the gate door closed on the grain truck you have a mess to shovel up. Just like an ex-wife everything is going fine and smooth then they create drama for no reason. In a hurry I would grab the Playboy Magazine and quickly open it to the centre fold to get the elevator papers that were in prefect shape. The first time I did it in front of the older lady she gave me a speech about nudity and how wrong it was. That is when being street smart kicks in and I pointed out to her in the good book that she worships, Adam and Eve were naked in the garden of Eden. With that she just smiled. Then all other times she came to get the elevator papers it seems like she was always looking to she if the centre fold lady was a differently lady.
The Paterson Grain elevator was across the street from the pink house I grew up in. We always helped out at the Paterson Grain elevator because the guy running it was our neighbour. Plus the elevator was not that busy so he did not have any hired help. If the fellow needed help at the elevator he would stop me when I was walking home from school. Then I would go home and change out of my school clothes. Mother was obsessed with how much laundry she had to do plus the cleaning of the pink house. I could never figure out how she came up with these ideas. The sister and I were washing and drying our own clothes at an early age. We had a stool in the laundry room so we could stand on it to reach the bottom of the washing machine. As for cleaning we did that every Saturday which we had to clean ½ of the pink house before we could do anything. If we were not around on Saturdays the cleaning was done on Friday nights. Plus mother had to approve the cleaning before we were allowed to do anything. If she did not approve we did again and again till she did. Plus she sat in her chair smoking her cigarettes and drinking coffee which we had to refill the cup for her. Once I was paying $300.00 room and board that is when I refused to clean. I still did my laundry and kept my area or food dishes clean.
I would arrive at the grain elevator in my work clothes and if the job that needed my help was up in the top of the grain elevator then I would have to climb the ladders to the top. There was a man elevator to lift you up and down quickly to the top of the grain elevator but is is based on weight and pulley system. I was only 90lbs so getting on the man elevator that is made of a 300lbs fellow just does not work. But to come down from the top of the grain elevator I could ride with the fellow down because it is all gravity involved. If the bucket elevator that lifts the grain to the top of the grain elevator had jumped a belt or something I would help the fellow getting going. Then I would stay up top and use the pry bar to get the belt started back on then the fellow would go down and hit the start and stop buttons to bump the motor to get the belt back on that I was forcing in to place. All this took place with yelling back and forth. He trusted me and I trusted him. Once the problem was fixed it was a quick ride down in the man elevator. What we did back then would be unheard of today in the year 2020 because of too many safety rules. We just used common sense to get the job done and no one got hurt.
Over the years I did lots to help out at the Paterson Grain elevator and learn a lot because the fellow running it was very knowledgeable. If the school needed any cardboard for the making Xmas concert props, the Paterson Grain elevator always had the free cardboard sheets that were used to block off the door on the box cars when loading grain. When I asked for a few sheets the fellow always gave us more then what we asked for. Plus we would walk from the school to the elevator and carry these sheets of cardboard back to the school. If it was a windy day which was everyday, carrying the sheet of cardboard made for great fun. These sheets were 4’x8’ and about 3/8’ thick with steel strapping in the cardboard for strength. If you took a piece of the steel strapping and bent it in half then you had a whistle when in your mouth. Great noise toys for at school.
The fellow at the Paterson Grain elevator mowed all the grass around the elevator to make it look good and for safety from grass fires which the passing trains could start and did. When the mowing was done he would set up his Belgian Bowling which is done with non round balls. The game is played with round cylinder shape balls which look like wheel barrow wheel with solid centres. The bowling is played on uneven ground and you have to roll the wheel thing to get it to stop by the stick at the other end. As a young kid I got to play the game which is very popular in Europe and since leaving Alexander I have never seen or played the game again. If it was not for Google I would not have been able to refresh my memory for writing this story. Also when the phone rang at the Paterson Grain elevator, the phone was hook to a loud ringer. If the fellow was around the yard of the elevator or in the elevator he would have to run to answer the phone in the office because there was no answering machine or call display back then. If the phone kept ringing because the caller kept calling back because the fellow did not answer the phone. Mother would send me over to the elevator to make sure the fellow was OK because he was working alone. Cordless phone have given people the reason not to run to the phone any more.
It was a sad day when the Paterson Grain elevator burnt down. The heat from the fire did damage to the 3 houses across the street from the elevator because the fire burns so hot. Of course dad and mother had the damage fixed on the pink house under insurance and the still got the house painted pink. To this day I can not figure out why keep choosing the pink colour in painting. But I’m colour blind so it will always be the grey house I grew up in.
The post office was the main meet and greet place because there was no cafe’ with the Table of Truth which everyone hung out at. Then the family that traveled the local fair and rodeo shows with a food trailer decided it was time to stop traveling every summer. The food trailer was parked at the west end of town with a view of the highway. By winter it had been enclosed and you could go inside to order and then sit in your vehicle to eat or have the morning coffee. As the money came in the place got bigger and bigger with indoor seating. Then Alexander had the official Table of Truth which I only visited when I came back to town to visit dad and mother. The new comers to Alexander would not believe you when you sat in the cafe part and tell them that under all this wooden building is a little food trailer which started it all. That surprises them, then to tell them I worked in the food trailer for the Brandon summer fairs back in the early 1980s. As a young teenager and being asked to work the summer fair my first thought was fun times and lots of young ladies. But I was so wrong and compare to the experience of working the summer fairs as a marriage with stress and drama. The set up in the fair grounds was tough, the food trailer got dropped and then as the fair rides get set up they limited the vehicle access. Now anything for the food trailer has to be carried or dolly carted in. The family that owned the trailer had been doing the show circuit long enough to get a good spot so the food trailer was across from the most popular rides. I thought it was great location until you realized that the most popular rides play the top rock songs of summer. The first day it is great to hear the songs and by the 5th day you can not stand those songs because you have heard it so many times. No wonder most of the rides work crews were on drugs just to make it through the day.
The food traffic is not steady so there are slow and extra fast times and that when you work hard. With 4 of us in the little food trailer cooking and serving plus you have the 5th person running to get supplies and doing loose ends. It made for interesting moments but you just smile and wave and keep the customers happy because that is return business. If they come one day they will be back with different friends on another day so you have to serve them the great food they had on the first visit. When the summer fairs does the midnight madness that is an all night heavy work out. The crowds are good and business is good and then when the rides shut down everyone wants food at 2am. Most of the other food trailer close and go home but this family knew the routine and stayed open till there was no one left to feed. It was a long night but we got paid good. Each year I said I would not do it again but the next year I was doing it again.
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