Live so that when your children think of fairness
and integrity they think of you.
- H. Jackson Jr.
Our first part-time employee when we were still at Roger's farm was Adolf, a University of Alberta student who was excellent. He always brought a big lunch. Often, at the end of the day, Merelyn would make a good meal. It didn't matter how much she made; Adolf would always clean it up. We told Adolf's wife he would be working late, and she said that was all right, but the first day she called at 6 p.m. wondering where he was. We said he was fine but would be working late. She called again at 7 p.m. We had to explain that when we say late, we mean 11 p.m. or midnight. She couldn't believe it but was ok with it.
We have also had many colourful part-time employees. The most colourful, hands-down, was Don Warren. The first time I saw Don, he was driving truck for Gem Sod and came to pick up fertilizer. The truck looked and sounded in poor condition. Don said he had to drive it because he was the only one who could keep it going. We were looking for an NH3 driver and offered him a job. Don and his dogs accepted. Don was a little rough around the edges, but I liked him. One of the first customers we sent him to with an applicator was Pat Keane. A few days later, when Pat was finished, he called me to say, "Larry, when I first saw Don, I thought you had hit the bottom of the barrel for help. But I want you to know he is the best driver I have ever had. While the tank was filling, he lifted all the shanks, knocked the dirt off, checked each one and replaced one if he didn't like it." Don was happy and loved to joke around, and it was obvious that he loved SVF and what he was doing.
One day, Don came to work with a humongous black eye. Apparently, he had an argument with a bouncer and lost. I told him he better just work around the yard because I couldn't let him drive with just one eye. Well, the next day, he shows up wearing a pirate's patch with an eyeball nicely painted on it.
Don didn't want a full-time job with us, so he wouldn't stick around. He did like hauling NH3 and would find ways to come back for the spring and sometimes fall. He would train the new part-time NH3 drivers. One day, he took a window-cleaner bottle that had "Contains Ammonia" written on it. He cleaned it out and filled it with fresh water and blue food colouring but let the new guys believe that it contained ammonia. Then, while teaching them, he kept taking a swallow or two from the bottle. He told them that you have to get used to the ammonia and the best way is to drink a little throughout the day. Well, after the lesson, the new guys went back to the shop and told everyone, "That Don guy is crazy. He's actually drinking ammonia." The regular staff, knowing Don, burst out laughing. The new guys caught on, and they all had a big laugh.
Don took an NH3 applicator to Claude Lamoureux. Claude claimed the hub meter was not reading accurately and was maybe sticking or spinning. So Don rides spread-eagle on the applicator wing with his face a foot away from the hub meter. When he came back to the yard, he was black as coal from the dust. All you could see was the white of his eyes and teeth. Needless to say, the hub meter was working fine.
If you gave Don a guitar and a stool, he could entertain you and keep you laughing for hours. His passion, though, was tow trucks. We helped him purchase a truck, and he went into the business in Grande Prairie. Don told me he needed a deck truck because you can't Get the RCMP contracts without one. So I told him if he needed a little help to let me know. Well, a month or so later, I get a call from Don in Calgary. He told me he just bought a deck truck for $26,000 and I'd need to transfer the money to such and such bank by 3 p.m. Then he stopped by the plant to show me the truck on his way back to Grande Prairie.
Don had a tough start in life, so I felt I should help when needed. He always paid me back. Don worked part time for us for many years. He is presently hauling gravel. He has bought a half section of land out by Thorhild, so now he is also a farmer. Good part-time people are hard to find, but we have had some very good ones. I am reluctant to name them because I know I will miss some who did a good job for us. So, sorry if missed you.
Jack Spence helped Aub in the shop for several years. Aub thought Jack was great, and if Aub thought you were good, you must be really good. Several Sheehan boys were excellent help. Dave Levitt is a real competent hand. His dad, Don Levitt, worked with us for 19 years. He had many years of experience in the grain industry, which benefited our customers and SVF.
Part-time help adds to our staff in the spring and fall between St. Albert and Legal. They drive delivery trucks and work in the yard. Over the years we've had many really good people, including a lot of University of Alberta students, who come back each year until they are finished. Many others save holidays or days off to help us, like policemen, firemen (like Cyril Gleddie, who's helped a great deal), retired farmers and people from many other backgrounds.
Norm Meunier worked for the town of Morinville in the winter and drove a fertilizer delivery truck for us in the spring. After several years, he announced he wouldn't be back unless we bought him a new truck with automatic transmission. So we did, and Norm drove another three years for us. One day, I was teasing Norm about keeping his truck clean. The next time his truck went by my window, it was spotless even the wheels were shiny. I mentioned it to the shop boys, and they started laughing and asked me if I happened to look at the other side. The next time I knew a Norm was coming back for a load, I called him on the radio and told him that we had a small problem at the tower, so he'd have to come in from the north. When he did, I could see that the other side of the truck was covered with dirt. I walked out and looked at it and then at him. I didn't need to say anything. What a character! But a good hand.
One of our part-time drivers was having domestic problems. He thought if he got arrested and put in jail, it would teach his lady friend a lesson. So he stole a radio out of one of our trucks and hid it in Roger Henry's granary. At work, he got arrested and spent three months in jail. How much she missed him, I don't know.
One man came to work every day with no lunch. He was eating junk food and pop all day. On payday, I noticed his live-in friend and her children came to pick up his cheque. l asked my secretary to leave his next cheque with me and to send her to my office when she came to get it. So, next payday she was in my office. I told her, "Your man is working his butt off for long hours and you can't even make him some decent food?" I told her his cheque was going to stay on my desk until I saw him get some good lunches that would last a full day, and that I would be checking them. That did the trick, but knowing the situation, he probably had to make them himself.
One man was out partying all night so it was too late to go home. He went up onto the roof and opened the lid to the bulk bin, and we found him asleep on the office floor in the morning. At least he was on time for work.
Over the years, we have been lucky enough to have many very good employees. A few good ones got away and moved on to follow other interests. We also had many summer students that came back two or three seasons. This really helps. Many of them are now professional people, including my son-in-law, Michael Krogen. He still has the distinction of being the fastest, smoothest, most screw-up-free skid loader operator in our history. Mike and Heather have 4 of our 10 outstanding grandchildren. In 2014, Mike took a break from teaching and is now plant operations manager.