Monday, February 7, 2011

Letter 37: They Promised Me Something Better

1903 sheaf binder.

Nov 23, 1911
Semans, Sask

Dear Father,

Your letter of some time ago received. Good to know that you were liking your work and the location and also that you were still on the job.

Suppose you can only expect to get notice to stop before long because, as you say, they must have lots of friends to find places for.

This job I have suits me very well and think it was a good move. The collection part is only temporary, of course, but they promised to give me something else to be much better.

Expect it will be sales.

Of course, they only pay my expenses while I am doing work so I have to have to pay my own hotel bills on Sundays and holidays.

This is giving me a lots of valuable experience. Have to do a little driving but find most of my men in town.

My headquarters are Strassburg.

Now just this morning I have taken two Chattel Mortgages on horses belonging to farmers who owe us and would not pay.

Take Bills of Sale on crops of others who we cannot trust to sell their own crop and give us our money.

Expect to have total land mortgages as well. Have the forms and power to do so.

All these collectors for machine companies make money and I am thinking that if we could get an agency in new territory we could do the same.

Will write more particulars about this as soon as I can get more information.

The crops in this particular district are very good but (the farmers)have not finished the threshing yet.

Will have to leave a lot of it until spring although they are threshing away at it with four inches of snow on the ground.

I think I can get a position selling threshing machines in the spring and will likely take it as that pays more money.

Your loving son,
Herb

P.S. Had a letter from Mother and wrote her twice last week.

.......Herbert appears to be hatching a scheme here. It wasn't easy being an only son. At the turn of the last century, in Canada, sons were expected to help out their parents financially in times of need. Herbert Nicholson, who was once expected to become a doctor, crumbles under the pressure.

Norman Nicholson, born 1850, also spent his twenties jumping from job to job, but in the Eastern Townships. He went to academy (high school) which cost money in those days and his brother Gilbert did not, so Gilbert inherited the family farm. This was a typical arrangement. As a youth, Norman sold turkeys for a while, and collected outstanding debts for two different doctors at two different times. (Doctors were expensive and many many patients, it appears, couldn't afford to pay their doctors bills.)

Norman's early 1870's diaries are chock full of little love poems. As a man in his early twenties, he had sex on the brain. Imagine that!

"When the courting at midnight has ended
And he stands with his hat in his fist,
While she lovingly lingers beside him,
To bid him Ta Ta and be kissed,
How busy the thoughts of the future
You bet you his thoughts he don't speak
He's wondering how they can manage
To live on six dollars a week."

Norman lucked out. He got into the hemlock bark business which was a major ET industry for the next two decades. Hemlock bark was used in the tanning process. He married in 1883, and spent 48 dollars on new furniture, 5 dollars for a ladies ring, and 50 cents for a frying pan.

One 2 stanza poem he wrote in pencil on a small piece of paper and saved it in his wallet. It is a terrible poem. But the last line claims that there's a message hidden within. And, sure enough, if you take the first word of each line the line reads: "When will you sleep with me, my dear." It's a dirty poem from 1870!

And yet I am certain Norman would have been upset to learn that there was a young working woman (a stenographer) living in Herbert's boarding house in Qu'appelle. (Margaret would have been appalled.) I didn't learn this from the letters: it's the 1911 Census that reveals this to be a fact.

There were eight boarders in his house, four of whom were Canadian and four of whom were European: one Scot, one German, and two Englishmen. Three of the men were salesmen in shops. One was a bartender. Now, that fact might have upset Herbert's parents even more than the other.

The same Census form reveals Herbert's salary to be 800. a year. He describes himself as an accountant. He clear didn't feel he was making enough money at the bank, so he moved on to work for Massey-Harris, the farm machinery people.

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