Monday, February 7, 2011

Letter41: The Conservative Axe of Power


December 8th, 1911

Dear Norman,

Your letter of the 5th received. I went to the bank this morning asked if your cheque was there. Said came to hand on the 4th of December so I presented mine and got the cash. Then I started out to pay some bills.

Sorry to see it going so fast but I was behind in so many little things.

We made 182.00 at the St. Andrew's dinner.

Mr. McLeod stayed Tuesday night.He was telling me he has had a call to Scottstown. Will be considered here on the 19th of December.

He said he was afraid the Conservative axe of power might have fallen on you as it had descended on so many. They are pretty sure to carry IGNORANT ONTARIO.

I see just now they are having the discussion about the dismissals. That was pretty good. Sir Wilfrid said "Mr Borden was sound in doctrine, but weak in practice." It is a good thing that the Hon Graham has a seat in the house.

A letter from Edith last night. She as decided to get a suit. I wrote her I thought that was better for her. I don't like the fur she spoke of getting.

Marion is very busy,she says.

The weather has been very warm; losing all our snow again. You will know if they will let you come home for a few days.

You will not like to come this time without permission.

Yours with love, Margaret.

....In 1910 Norman left the railroad without getting permission from his superior. That's why wife Margaret writes that last cryptic line.

Norman wrote in letter in August 1910 to E. W. Tobin claiming that he hitched a ride on a boat rather than wait for permission and have to walk 43 miles to land transportation at "end of steel." He did not mention his 'family problems" but Tobin already knew about them, in a letter from Margaret, asking for his help getting Herb reinstated at the bank where he had stolen 60 dollars from the till. Obviously, there was no question of this happening. He would leave for out West, but not before Norman puts out $500.00 (half a years salary) to settle his son's affairs.

There are only a few 1910 letters, most penned by Herb, prior to and after his big mistake. In September he heads out West, asking Margaret in a letter to "tell no one where I am." The Newalls, old family friends now living in Saskatoon, (indeed, Norman's former partner in the hemlock bark business, have offered to take him in. Of course, Herb soon tires of their hospitality.

Also, in very early May, daughter Edith loses 'her great love' in a Cornwall, Ontario hotel fire. His name was Charlie Gagne, and he was also a bank clerk and had only recently been transferred to Cornwall. This particular conflagration was the deadliest in the history of that town and made headlines across the continent.

1910 was a very bad year for Norman and Margaret, but it would only get worse, before it got better.

Here are excerpts from Herb's early letters from out West:

Oct 1, 1910

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

The think I am certain about is that as far as I am concerned if I was making a good living in the East I would stay there. The houses here are very small and mostly all wood. They rent from 40 to 75. Lots in the center of town are very dear. I saw one the other day with 25 foot frontage and 130 feet deep that they ask 5.000 for. This to me seems far too high. In my opinion the land is too high. It has been bought and sold so often that now the holder has to get these big prices to clear himself and I think it will damage the town by driving property away from it.

Northern Crown Bank,
Saskatooon, Saskatchewan
October 15, 1910

I worked in the Saskatoon branch for about ten days as teller. They have a nice building of their own here and a large office. I was out looking for a room this morning saw a lot of them but they are very expensive. Did not see any for less than 12.00 and they were small and some not very clean looking. This is the finest city that I have seen yet in the West with the exception of Winnipeg which is I think the makings of the finest and best in Canada. The streets are very wide and also very clean. I am to get 700 salary which is not enough to keep me in the West. That is I do not think I will stay out here for the money very long as living is more expensive and I think I can get as much as that in the East. But I will stay this winter and see what comes up in the spring. I was sorry to have to draw on you for that 25.00 but expect to send it to you very soon now.

Regina, Saskatchewan

November 27, 1910

I do not think much of the Scotchman who are coming to this country of late. They are making the poor bank clerks job worth little or nothing. They will work for practically nothing and can do only about as much work. The banks are filling with them. They cannot begin to do the work that the ordinary Canadian can. We have two in the office here and they do not earn enough to buy salt for their porridge as far as the work they do, while my position and the accountant's is made miserable. You can give them work and they may do it, but it takes them so long and rather than wait you do it for them. The East is not the worst place in the work, in my opinion. The Western boom is at an end. Before very long, they will boom together. They are a lot like the Americans out here. Have met men who cannot understand how it is that I come from Quebec and cannot speak French. It is different every way here. You never hear men talking about matters of importance to the country like politics in Canada or foreign. Nothing seems to satisfy them but to talk real estate and a lot of the talk does not seem very real to me. Sometimes I feel sorry for the Indians and think we never should have taken away their land.

January, 1911

You said that if my services were appreciated I was sure to get along. Now that does not always work out. Take in your case and Sutherland's. What did he ever do for the Liberals.? I believe if the truth was really know that the liberals would be better off if they had never seen Sutherland. Still he gets a fine sit. You never found him doing and electioneering that amounted to anything. He might have done a little talking around his store, but if every person only talked to those that came to them there would be a lot that would never be seen or that would ever hear anything. It is a good deal like the banking business though. After you have been in it for a good long time it is perhaps just as well to stick to it and in the end there may be something turn up but it is a case of history repeating itself every day. The deserving are not always the ones that prosper. I feel it in my bones that the liberals remaining years of power are numbered. I do not think that Laurier is losing any of his personal power but he has had quite a few bad ones around that have done the damage.

April, 10, 1911

Dear Father,

I am going to postpone writing very much again as I am leaving for Qu'appelle tonight where I go as accountant. This is a town about 800 population in Saskatchewan and about 50 miles east of Regina on the main line of the CPR. I was up in the HO and had a talk with the General Manager and he has promised me a branch possibly this fall with an increase in salary at once. He did not say how much and when it does come it will probably be 50.00 or something like that, hardly worth mentioning. I do not think however that I will stay with the bank if I can find anything else that will pay any better at once. This working for nothing for the future is about played out for me. Will of course hold on to what I have until I get something better. I am getting rather old and have added another year to my age today

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