The next morning I began the same routine as back in July. I’d pick up a Toronto Star and Telegram as soon as they hit the streets, make a note of any possibilities, phone those that had numbers and write down addresses for those that didn’t. Still not wanting a long commute, I concentrated on an area bounded by Davenport Road, the Lake, Sherbourne Street and Spadina Avenue.
I don’t remember all the interviews, but I particularly remember being turned down by a branch of The Bank of Commerce (now part of CIBC), a Castrol Oil sales office, a branch of Canada Trust, and a couple of printing shops. On days when I had no early afternoon interviews I’d go to the CBC studio on McGill Street and sit in on the live radio broadcast of The Happy Gang, after which I’d walk the streets looking for “help wanted” signs in windows.
Even after three weeks without a job I wasn’t discouraged, mostly because there was a lot for me to do. I still had some money and was seeing NHL hockey every Wednesday from standing room at Maple Leaf Gardens, Junior “A” double-headers at the Gardens on Sunday afternoons, and the occasional movie. Every Saturday night I went with Mae and Eric to Eric’s mother’s place in Weston to watch the Leafs on TV, and Sunday evenings always found Mae, Eric, Joey and I out in Lakeview at Barney and Ethel’s for dinner. Of course, my weekdays were filled with newspapers, job hunting and The Happy Gang.
One evening while Mae, Eric, Joey and I were having dinner, Eric asked me if I’d put my name in for work at the CNR and CPR and I told him I hadn’t seen any ads from either. He told me they never advertised because they both had employment offices at Union Station to which people went in and applied for jobs. As Eric, Barney and Joey all worked for the CPR, and my father had worked for the CNR, I found the possibility of working for one of the railways quite appealing. Eric thought the offices opened at eight a.m., and that’s exactly when I walked into Union Station the following morning.
Both employment offices were at the very end of the departures concourse, the CNR on the west side and the CPR directly opposite on the east side. I guess because of my father I went in to the CNR office first. I told the clerk at the counter in the reception area that I was looking for an office job and he informed me there was nothing available, but had me fill out an application form which he said they’d keep on file for, I think, a month or two and that they’d call me if something came up. I have no idea if they ever called because during the week there was no one home at Gloucester Street during the day to answer the phone.
I crossed the concourse, went into the CPR office (which was identical in every respect to the CNR’s) and told their clerk that I was interested in an office job. He, too, gave me an application form to fill out, but while I was doing so I noticed that he had removed a couple of filing cards from a little tin box that he had retrieved from beneath the counter.
When I gave him the completed application form he looked it over, checked the cards he had removed from the box and informed me that they had a job I might be suited for. He said it was in their freight office, which was located at 62 Simcoe Street, about a five-minute walk from Union Station, right where Roy Thomson Hall is today. He went in to an office and I watched through the open door while he made a telephone call, wrote something on a sheet of paper which he put, along with my application form, in an envelope. Then he wrote something on the envelope. He returned to the counter, handed me the envelope and told me to go to 62 Simcoe Street and ask for the man whose name was on the envelope and who would be expecting me in about ten minutes.
Ten minutes later I was on the second floor of 62 Simcoe Street sitting across the desk from George Thorpe, the man whose name was written on the envelope. Although Mr. Thorpe couldn’t have been more than around sixty years old (because the mandatory retirement age was sixty-five, and he was still there when I left the CPR four years later), he looked like he was in his eighties: completely bald and gaunt. But he was very well-dressed and moved with youthful energy. His title was Chief Clerk, which was bit misleading because he was the top dog in the freight office and had over a hundred and fifty people working for him.
He shook hands with me and after looking over my application and the note the employment clerk had attached to it, he opened a desk drawer, took out a little tin box, identical to the one I’d seen at Union Station, and extracted a filing card, which also looked identical to the one I’d seen at Union Station. I began to wonder if the CPR actually ran on 3 x 5 filing cards in little tin boxes. He spent a moment or two looking at the card and then told me that I could start work on Wednesday, which was March 10th, exactly one month after I arrived in Toronto. He said the job was called Shed Boy and paid $135 a month. He then had a gentleman by the name of Gord Flood take me down to a small office on the first floor where I was introduced to a fellow by the name of Slim Norris who assured me he’d teach me all I needed to know about being a Shed Boy when I arrived at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Gord then took me into the payroll office where I filled out a bunch of forms, was assigned an employee number (227757), and was shown how to punch the time clock.
I went back to Gloucester Street a very happy CPR Shed Boy.
Next week: My CPR career.