TRAINS ARE JUST SO CIVILIZED: HOW MY GRANDFATHER USED TO GET BY ON ONE SALARY, NO CAR, AND HAD TWO SERVANTS BACK IN THE 1930-60 ERA.
I’m just coming back from my sister’s wedding in Whitehorse. I’ve had a great time reconnecting with her after not seeing her for a number of years. We managed to gather the whole clan together for a ‘tour de force’ of family unity with all three of us brothers and the two wives in tow, re-uniting with my sister and, this time with her new husband, for the first time in several years.
It has given me time to reflect on the status of our country, such as it is, in the lead up to this fall’s federal general election. Air travel is still fairly efficient. I had a fairly pleasant, if lengthy Air Canada experience on the way up and on the way back so far, with friendly, efficient, and courteous staff members who processed me through my flight process with relative ease, and rendered the inherently unpleasant experience of flying and dealing with airports (at least for me), that much less painful.
It gave rise though, to thoughts about the sorry state of our passenger rail system, both inter-city, and municipal urban commuter transit trains. For some reasons I was reflecting back on how my maternal Grandfather used to live, I believe I was having a fictitious conversation with somebody in my head concerning my role as my Mother’s caregiver between 2001-2008. I was having this fictitious conversation in my head in an AA hall before the meeting began, and was extrapolating in my head, based on a previous real conversation with the same individual in the same context, about how I grew in my sobriety by being my Mother’s caregiver during the early days of my sobriety and how my Mom’s own alcoholism deeply motivated me to get well myself in AA.
As the fictitious conversation unfolded further, I related to this individual how my Mother had been devastated by my Father’s death and that this is what drove her to drink, and that my Father had taken the role of my Mother’s own Father, being my Mother’s new ‘Daddy’, in the wake of her Father’s untimely death four months after my Mom’s first child was born.
This led me to expound further about how my Mother had been born in a relatively privileged environment before WWII, and that my Grandfather lived in Company housing in Beaupré, QC, belonging to the paper mill, that the electricity and heating were paid for by the mill, and that the whole subdivision was not even part of the town, it was owned by the mill. Also, I mentioned that for the period of the 1930s and 40s, to have had two servants with only one salary was quite phenomenal. The kicker was that I underlined to this young woman in my imaginary conversation, that my Grandfather never drove a car! He walked to work at the mill, and when he needed to go to town to visit my Mom at boarding school, he and my Grandma took the commuter train into Palace Station in Quebec City, then took a streetcar and a bus to Bellevue Convent to see my Mom. No need for a car!
Funnily enough, they got rid of those commuter trains between the outlying communities of Quebec City and downtown and got rid of the tramways as well after the war, all in favour of cars and Diesel buses. Now, as the urban centres of North America have been becoming more and more congested since the late 1960s and early 70s, as the rural/urban fringe keeps expanding with urban sprawl, the demand for transit solutions keeps growing. Therefore, I can only hope that this upcoming election will see the issue of transit back on the table and the notion of protecting our agricultural fringes around our cities a hot topic for debate.
Never thought that my sister getting married in Whitehorse and talking in my head with an AA newcomer could spawn such musings. Well, carry on Canada as Mom always said. I think Grandpa would approve. All aboard!!!