CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tears and Fears and Ears

It really did not occur to me that the changes happening with the CPR had serious repercussions for our family . I was ten years old when I found out differently .

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 .

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