p> While at UBC in the early 60s I spent my summers as an employee of the Standard Oil Company. In those pre-self-service days, every car that drove into a Standard Oil gas station had its windshield washed, tire pressure checked, under-the-hood examined. We wore white uniforms, including a wedge cap. As a part-timer, my job was mostly at the front end, serving customers at the pumps, but I also did my fair share of lube jobs, tire repairs, lot sweeping and rest-room cleaning. I was a ‘floater’, assigned to stations in the Vancouver area as needed, and thus had the opportunity to meet most of the full-time employees in Standard’s Vancouver gas station empire. They were a fine lot of fellows, generous, hard-working, helpful and funny. I often think of them and wonder what became of them.
The voyage began auspiciously enough, even joyously: my birthday, my last day in the Public Service of Canada, and my last day as ambassador to Venezuela. We (my wife, Sally, and 1) had a glorious send-off from the elegant Caraballeda Yacht Club where we had been privileged to be honourary members during our tour of duty in that South American republic. A spirited gathering of staff and other friends; then, as prearranged, we cast off just as the sun dipped below the horizon.
There comes a time when ageing pack rats must bend to the admonitions of a partner. “And what are you going to do about your stamp collection?” The downsizing and disposal of such long-neglected possessions seems inevitable.
July 15, 1946. That was the date on the yellowed pages of Maclean’s Magazine that I tugged out of a blocked-up space in our foundation wall a few months ago, along with the Friday, May 20, 1949 edition of The Ottawa Journal. I had pulled down a section of drywall in the basement to check the insulation and spotted what appeared to be an old vent hole. Someone, many years ago, had packed the exit in the outside wall with cement, and simply plugged the inside cavity with old paper.
It had almost become one of those some-day-when-I-win-the-lottery things. For years now, it had been that one day when Adriana got her driver’s licence we were going to take a road trip together through deepest Middle America, going to neat places and out of the way towns and catching up on some serious father-daughter bonding.
One of our first retirement projects was to care for a friend’s cottage for a couple of years while they were off in foreign parts doing what we had done for more postings than most normal people would consider reasonable. In the course of this house sitting enterprise, we came to the conclusion that we might like a place of our own where we could putter around while waiting for future grandchildren to appear on the scene.