Dad had been working on the railgangs for two summers , returning to section work in Mattawa during the winter . With the introduction of machines , gangs were becoming smaller . Fewer workers were needed in the rebuilding of track for the new diesel trains . Seniority did little to protect employees when there were fewer jobs . Dad's ten years was borderline at best . He had no training to take on a more modern position . The end of the line was visible .
One night , I woke up from a dead sleep . I could here crying...more like sobbing from downstairs . I crept down quietly and un-noticed . Hiding in the shadow of the dark dining room , I peered into the brightly lit kitchen . Mum and Dad were sitting at the table . Mum had her arm around Dad's slumped shoulders . Dad had his face in his hands and he was sobbing . I couldn't hear clearly but the sight registered in me that something serious was happening .
From that moment forward , I began to pay attention to what was going on in my parents lives . Anytime there was something to be discussed , my parents would do so behind the closed bedroom door in hushed tones , out of earshot of children . Or when they thought the kids were asleep . We were rarely 'in the know' until the time came that it was necessary . I always saw the exchanged glances and heard the murmured warning "Ears are near that shouldn't hear" .
Over the next few days , I pieced together what was being kept hidden . Dad had been told that he would have to retrain or face losing his job within the year .
His lack of confidence in his ability to read the training manual and pass the written test was terrifying to him . That fear was what I saw in the kitchen that night .
Mum had told him that he could read well enough and she would help him just as she had done in Tabarette . They would read it together and she would question him for understanding .
So Dad ordered the CPR manual for operating a frontend loader . Every weekend when he returned from the gang , he and Mum spent the nights at the kitchen table , after the children were in bed , labouring over the manual . When the time for the test drew near , the manual appeared during the day as Mum had Dad explain the workings of a frontend loader .
At the end of the summer , Dad made the trip to head office in Montreal where he sat in a room with 30 other employees from across the country...all trying to keep their jobs .
For a week , he paced and fretted and worried that he had failed as an employee , a husband and a father . Finally , he burst through the door after work one day to announce that he had received his papers . He was officially a frontend loader operator ...as soon as he did the practical test .
Dad was never worried about that aspect . He had trained as a tank operator during the war and had been filling in on the job when the loader operator was absent . He knew the mechanics and had repaired it often enough . Reading and writing had been the only fear he had when it came to machines . Now that he had done it once , he was confident enough to try for every machine that railroad building required for the 1960's .
Within ten years Dad had become an qualified expert with enough experience to come up with a solution for any problem that arose in the rebuilding of track . Eventually , he was put in charge of a gang .
I guess there is a lesson to be learned for all of us .
When the end of the line is visible , build more track .