20 February 2012

New website

Now that my books are becoming readily available, I've launched a new site at Fandrich.ca to spread the word. That's where the new material is going to go from now on, as well as highlights from this site such as the list of books read and lots of free travel writing.

Click to visit:

24 April 2011

My 1954 summer job, part 11: Picking fruit

This post concludes a series on my experiences working for the Vernon Pad and Drum box factory as a teenager in the summer of 1954. Read all installments here, which together form a sample chapter from my autobiography to be released as an e-book later this year.

Fall was in glorious colour. The poplar trees in the marsh below us turned yellow and the apples that blanketed the neighbours’ orchard painted the trees deep red.

Looking down the rows and rows of fruit-filled trees in the neighbours’ orchard I felt a sense of awe. How beautiful and inviting the fully ripe fruit looked, hanging stiffly, partially covered with leaves, waiting for my approach. No wonder the apple was a temptation for innocent Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

I reached for an apple. The round apple felt velvety in my hand. I put my thumb and forefinger around the firm stem and squeezed tightly. I felt the apple slide gently into the cup of my hand, still slightly rigid but coming under my control.

I lifted the apple gently, twisted and felt the apple quiver and then relax in my palm — warm, smooth, and hard at the same time. I felt gratified that the stem and apple remained intact. Had I not handled the apple correctly, causing the stem to separated, I would have had to reluctantly cull the beautiful apple.

The smell of ripening fruit activated my sense of taste so if a stem did separate occasionally I’d take a sweet juicy bite before discarding it.

Gently I placed the apple on top of the others in the canvas-bottomed bag slung over my shoulder and released my grip. I would clamber down the tripod-type wooden ladder when the bag was full. Above a wooden box I’d open the bottom of the canvas bag and gently allow the ripe apples to roll into the box.

At the packing house the apples would be graded and packed into a wooden box between pads that I had helped make earlier in the summer by shovelling wood-straw. Then the box was off to the consumer.

Writing my autobiography has significantly deepened the meaning I find in life, and I am sharing it in the hope that my readers may also gather meaning and personal empowerment from my story. In particular, my summer at Pad and Drum offered several key lessons:

  1. Quality time empowers. High-calibre friends stimulate us, worthwhile possessions gratify us, and knowing the value of our output satisfies us. Confidence in the quality of our friends, time, and work makes us more efficient. The prospect of sudden and great revelations may tantalize us but is only a part of how we make good use of time.
  2. Following a plan empowers. Shunning reactive actions means doing things more efficiently on your own terms. Be sure to work, study, play, and date with long-term goals in mind. Don't get stuck playing your opponent’s game, working your superiors’ projects, and living another’s life.
  3. Having a paying job empowers. Knowing a job is steady, pays well, and is done with friends encourages doing quality work. Doing better work than is expected and more than is required gives security and is a good defence against being laid off.
  4. Determination empowers. A settled purpose helps the will to accomplish a goal or carry out a plan. Knowing that the outcome will bring worthwhile results encourages the continued struggle to attain goals.
  5. Monopolies empower. Knowing that there is no competition emboldens people to ask for more than market value and stifles creativity. Exclusive control energizes inept people.
  6. Worthwhile work empowers. Doing something productive reinforces the desire to continue working. Contented workers encourage each other, courteous exchanges increase the desire to come to work and to do good work, and looking forward to creative leisure energizes the will to work.
  7. Dressing well empowers. Knowing how to buy good clothes at fair prices and wear them appropriately creates confidence. Not having the craving to spend on things not really needed saves money.
  8. Having money empowers. Saving money gives freedom. Spending money wisely brings joy.
  9. Giving to charity empowers. Knowing that someone is benefiting far more that the face value of what is being given encourages altruism.
  10. Quitting work empowers. Having the freedom to quit a job for something better encourages thankfulness. When you do quit, give someone the good fortune of replacing you.
  11. Picking fruit empowers. Smelling and feeling ripe fruit on the tree tunes man to nature and brings our efforts full circle.

This is the final installment of this series. Read the rest here, and stay tuned for my e-book!

22 April 2011

My 1954 summer job, part 10: Rewards of work

This post is part of a series on my experiences working for the Vernon Pad and Drum box factory as a teenager in the summer of 1954. New installments will usually appear on Mondays and Fridays until Easter. Read everything to date here, which together form a sample chapter from my autobiography to be released as an e-book later this year.

Handling wood-straw was steady work. I had to handle the stick eight hours a day, always in a pattern that I figured would allow me to keep up, most of the time. Whenever I was asked to do something else on the yard, like haul in wood or carry out pads, I was grateful for the change.

Handling a rough wooden stick the same way day after day induced a personal hazard two months into my job. My index finger became infected with pus. I saw Dr. Wright but he didn’t do much for it as it was not a disease. There was no thought of calling in sick days. I just bandaged the sore, gave it hot massages, and kept on working.

The day before school started, I spent $30, a week’s wages, on something I needed if photographs were to enhance my memory: a Zeiss Ikon 120 camera with a good lens and case. The first picture I took was of my last day of work at Pad & Drum.

At $1 per hour I earned $570 for the three months of work, from which $6.75 was deducted as income tax.

The final cheque showed me a new concept. I was paid for something I did not do. The cheque had a bonus for $10 labelled “holiday pay.” On the farm there was no holiday pay, no time-and-a-half for milking the cow on Sunday, not even double time at Christmas.

What is interesting for me today is converting my 1954 wages into 2011 dollars. The summer income in today’s dollar value was $5,900 and my income tax was $70. According to today’s income tax table, $909 would be deducted for the same income, thirteen times higher! And this is not including today’s harmonized sales tax (HST) on goods bought and services rendered!

It’s not just the state that's demanding ever-increasing resources; all of us as individuals seem to be doing the same. Based on the total amount of energy an average Canadian uses every day in living, like heating his house and driving his car, I calculated that the amount of energy I used in 1954 was equivalent to the manual work done by 100 slave-workers. In 2005 I would need 259 workers. This would be like a king having 259 slaves to look after the heating and energy demands of his palace.

These slaves would continue do hard physical labour. They bring in the fuel to heat and light up my house. They help cook and clean up. They cut trees and mow lawns. They help build and they help tear down. They bring messages from all over the world. But most significantly of all, they carry us around - in most cases much faster than in 1954.

Despite having no slaves but myself, I succeeded at work and at school in 1954. The quality of my studies did not go down during June when I juggled dual responsibilities. I worked harder at my studies so I passed all my courses. In fact, five teachers gave me A’s compared to only one teacher giving me an A on the previous report card when I attended all classes. Only one teacher gave me a C+ (for Farm Mechanics, you may recall) and two gave me B’s.

You may remember that I got the job because my cousin recommended me. When I quit, I passed on the good deed, fully conscious of the commonplace that it’s not what you know but who you know that often gets you started.

I knew a German family who had recently immigrated to Canada, arriving in Quebec City on 24 August 1954 and proceeding to settle in Vernon. Ewald, the father, was looking for work, so I took him to Pad and Drum and introduced him to my former boss. Ewald's family - wife Ruth, teenagers Erwin, Edgar, and Waldemar, and seven-year-old Ingrid - was pleased that I helped him get his first job in Canada. He got work just the way I had: a well-timed introduction and personal recommendation.

Need to catch up? Read the rest of this series here.

20 April 2011

My 1954 summer job, part 9: Tithing income

This post is part of a series inspired by my experiences working for the Vernon Pad and Drum box factory as a teenager in the summer of 1954, and learning how best to handle the money I earned. New installments will usually appear on Mondays and Fridays until Easter. Read everything to date here, which together form a sample chapter from my autobiography to be released as an e-book later this year.

Our giving is only as valuable as what will be done with it. I now chastise myself for not having sooner selected a few charities who give the most life for my looney (notice I didn’t say ‘bang for my buck’!).

As a young man I knew the rules about tithing. As I got older, I learned the exceptions. Now I take some leeway if a trusted friend is running the charity, since I would expect the charity to have a set of guidelines that would mimic his ethical standard and concur with my philosophy.

For example, one of the proposed projects I visited before donating to it required a capital investment of $100,000. The project would cap a spring and install pipes to bring clean water to the 500 inhabitants of Awassa, an isolated hill tribe in southern Ethiopia.

The return on the capital would be ten days if one considered minimum wage for the young women who have to walk 3 hours each day to get filthy water from a spring 4 kilometres away. In ten days the wages of all the women who brought water to their huts would have paid for the capital investment. Clean water would cost them nothing for the remaining life of the pipes — about 20 years.

In other words, if I contributed the amount of money the women bringing water could earn in ten days in Canada, their whole families would have free water for 20 years. She could then have more time to raise and support a healthy family into adulthood.

If people like me don’t contribute the necessary funds, water-borne diseases will continue to kill two of every five babies born in the Awassa village before they reach the age of five.

No price can be attached to saving a dozen babies a year simply by supplying clean water and teaching hygiene to the mothers. Since children look after their parents in old age, their old age security would go up by 80%.

This is the type of return I am now getting on my charitable investments. Making the paradigm shift to be more selective and discerning in my donations makes me feel good.

The money I earn here is much more valuable than the work that I could personally do in Africa. Instead of taking time off to go to Ethiopia to build a water storage tank or a chapel that could be done much more efficiently by local labour, I consider part of my job here is to earn money for needy people there.

My donation to HOPE International Development Agency was minuscule compared to the world’s aggregated needs, but it enabled another small Ethiopian village to have clean water so that 20 of their children who would have died can live. In earning this money and then simply writing out my $1000 cheque, I gave life to these 20 children. The cost to ensure a child grows up into adulthood was about $50.

Give a man rice and he can feed himself for a day;
Hand him seed and he can grow food for himself for a year;
Train him to farm and he can supply food for a family for life;
Teach him to think and he can provide food and shelter for a community indefinitely;
Tell him the way of salvation and he can have an abundant life forever.
Give him my book and he may want his money back.

An effective long-term investment is to supply a basic need to people who had no choice where they were born. Giving is a way to show my thanks for the abundant life I am able to enjoy in Canada.

Give where

  • need is most basic: first clean water, then food, shelter, medicine, and friendship;
  • money is distributed most efficiently, goods are used most effectively, and the person who needs it gets most of it;
  • help benefits the largest number of people;
  • investment is long-term and return on capital is highest;
  • people have the fewest alternatives and the least chance of being helped by other sources;
  • receivers are most appreciative and thankful; and
  • people didn’t win the lottery by being born in a western country.

When I was young the church was the centre of my social life as well as the source of my spiritual roots. I was taught that tithing was a divine rule. Years later I learned that the tithe in Biblical times was equivalent to our present income tax, and went to pay for civil servants, i.e. priests, and infrastructure, i.e. temples, so I started making exceptions to the tithing rule. I’ve already contributed more than my tithe as income tax, Canada Pension, and UIC (UIC was Unemployment Insurance Commission, started 14 years earlier, which would result in all workers in Canada having a Social Insurance Number, or SIN, starting in 1964).

Once the income tax department issued charitable donation receipts, my donation to the church became a charitable contribution, not a tithe.

What surprised me later when I became more sceptical is why I didn’t hear sermons preached on Genesis 47:26. The passage records that once Joseph gained power in Egypt, he made laws to tax the people 20%. Some minister could have made hay with this passage, doubling the tithe. Others would say Egypt was becoming socialist and hastening its downfall.

Need to catch up? Read the rest of this series here.

18 April 2011

My 1954 summer job, part 8: Valuing money

This post is part of a series on my experiences working for the Vernon Pad and Drum box factory as a teenager in the summer of 1954. New installments will usually appear on Mondays and Fridays until Easter. Read everything to date here, which together form a sample chapter from my autobiography to be released as an e-book later this year.

Giving to charity involves choices. Concern for the welfare of those we love serves our self-interest and is not judged to be a sacrifice. Judging whether one should help a person one doesn't love is based on one's hierarchy of values and determined by one's rational self-interest. The amount given to help another can be considered proportional to the increase in happiness the receiver gives us.

Money is only as good as what it does.

As an 18-year-old student with my payroll cheque in my hand, there was little leeway on how much should be donated to charity, and where it should go. Tithing 10% of my income to the church had been ingrained as an ecclesiastic expectation, if not a divine commandment. Consequently, in June, when I deposited a cheque of $87.01 for half a month’s pay into my savings account at the Bank of Commerce in Vernon, I took back $8 in cash.

In those days I did not use a rational principle of behaviour in giving money to charity. My giving was not an act of generosity but a moral duty. The relief of suffering was not my primary goal nor did I sacrifice myself in the welfare of others.

Now I realize each creature must maintain life by his own effort. Nature does not give knowledge automatically as a gift. Cognition comes through thought, experience, and the senses. The values needed for an abundant life have to be discovered and acquired by man’s own thinking, work, and sensations. Subordinating my life to the welfare of others was not my thinking.

I was taught to sacrifice myself to meet the needs of others. On Sunday morning in Emmanuel Baptist Church, I cautiously took the three bills from my suit pocket, checked the colourful money in my hand, and then hesitantly placed a green $1, a brown $2, and a blue $5 on the offering plate.

Giving a tithe is like saying grace.

The motion of placing my first tithe unto the plate was like saying grace: I was thankful for having earned money and being able to give something back to God. Tithing made me feel especially good.

As I grew older and more widely travelled I came to see more broadly and feel more deeply. But I also became finickier. My contribution to charity became more selective, marginal and incidental, just as disasters are marginal and incidental in the course of human existence. I wanted my contribution to be a vote in support of those people working in an area where my donation would do the most good.

Finding out that many charities were self-serving upset me. Some gave only 20% to the people the donation was intended to help. Self-serving charities come up with pathos-producing names and seek heart-wrenching projects, hire aggressive marketing firms, and get kind-hearted people to donate impetuously without checking on how much of the donation disappears into black holes of bottomless pockets. Catastrophes help them greatly.

In order to consistently get the most effective results, I set up the basis of my criteria to evaluate alternatives: My help should come as an exception, not as a rule. Acting on this first principle, the list that emerged boosted my happiness as it reduced my concern about having my money squandered.

Need to catch up? Read the rest of this series here.

15 April 2011

My 1954 summer job, part 7: Dressing well

This post is part of a series on my experiences working for the Vernon Pad and Drum box factory as a teenager in the summer of 1954. New installments will usually appear on Mondays and Fridays until Easter. Read everything to date here, which together form a sample chapter from my autobiography to be released as an e-book later this year.

I had freedom to buy the clothes I wanted: I could use the money I earned at Pad and Drum. Alas, I grew up without taking sufficient time to gain confidence in looking after my appearance. I should have developed habits to make sure my jackets were clean, my pants neatly pressed, and my shirts ironed. Too bad my poor appearance blocked the view of my intelligence, warm heart, and friendliness.

My mother was too busy looking after six school-aged children to give me the attention I needed to gird my body with a self-image.

My talented seamstress sister Nellie was good at sewing and knew styles, so I should have gone to her more often for advice on what would look good on me. Had I paid attention to her advice I would have been better off.

I don’t worry about skimpy clothes despite the current push to minimize material to save the environment. I just focus on what is exposed, so I never notice the shortage of material in the dots-and-dash swimwear. I do, however, notice how slippery some slacks are. I suspect sensual designers are designing clothes for efficiency — to slip off and down as easily as possible.

As an 18-year-old without a girlfriend, most of my spending was on clothing:

In January: bought rubbers to go over shoes for snow and slush.

In April: bought pants for FFC convention.

In June: bought a $20 red-checkered windbreaker (photo at left).

In the fall: spent $5 on a pair of Sunday church shoes.

In time for Christmas: bought slacks, shirt and socks (photo at right).

Money passed slowly through my hands. Seldom did as much come out as went in. It came in through earnings and went out in clothes. I learned to buy only good value and only when needed.

The principle of frugality stayed with me for the rest of my life. I benefited by getting through university without debt, by becoming financially secure when I married, and by living into old age counting my marbles. Being thrifty meant developing a desire only for things I really needed and could really afford.

Need to catch up? Read the rest of this series here.

08 April 2011

My 1954 summer job, part 6: Getting good work

This post is part of a series on my experiences working for the Vernon Pad and Drum box factory as a teenager in the summer of 1954. New installments will usually appear on Mondays and Fridays until Easter. Read everything to date here, which together form a sample chapter from my autobiography to be released as an e-book later this year.

When I reached the stage in my life where I was intent on evaluating my life, my first job in the box factory helped me come up with a generalized statement of the essence of good job: Good work involves doing worthwhile tasks with a group of friends, getting respect for accomplishments, and having time for creative leisure and athletic activity.

My repetitious job fit the criteria even though the job was mundane:

a) Boring work it was not. When I threw the blower slightly more wood-string than it could handle, it plugged up. Then I put on a desperate effort to open up the blower so the pile-up would not get away on me. I had to develop a technique that would minimize plugging up the blower intake. My mind kept thinking of ways to make the system better.

b) Inhumane work it was not. There was always hope for more occasions when the cutting machine would jam and I’d have a break for a few minutes.

c) Working in isolation it was not. The workers around me were generally friendly, sometimes too friendly. The share of pranks played on me came with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was glad to be noticed when on the way past my building some would come in for a bit of mischief. On the other hand, when a couple of guys shut off the power to my blower so that the blower plugged up, being bugged was one-way fun. When that was not enough to get me upset, someone suddenly threw something extra into the blower, directly off my head. The next time I saw my hat, it had been neatly packaged into a pad. I wish I had labelled it The Summer of 1954 and kept it as a souvenir.

d) Work without an hour for dinner it was not. Years in school had shaped me to distribute work to fit the free time available. Now with my regimented work schedule my reduced free time was more equal to that of my German Church young people who had an hour for dinner. Working at Pad and Drum or at some manual work in town, they had an hour to meet in Polson Park to eat their lunch, usually packed in a tin bucket, and – I guess you’d say – hang out together.

e) Lacking freedom to take time off it was not. My boss gave me time off for unique personal needs. He gave me time to write provincial exams in the school room, to register for Grade 12, to attend the school's Honours Day to see my brother get track-and-field ribbons, and to attend the graduation ceremony so I could hear my cousin give a smooth valedictorian address. Each day at noon I’d get assignments from the teachers in the school, take them to a park bench in front of the school, and work on the homework. Suddenly I’d have to jump up and run away from the school like a scared coyote being caught in the henhouse.

f) Soul-destroying work it was not. It didn’t destroy the body so the work would not destroy the soul. There was even time for creative thinking. When the poking was rhythmic and the flow was under control, I thought of how I would improve the layout and equipment to prevent so many plug-ups. Or I thought of what I would do once five o’clock rolled around. My work produced something worthwhile for orchardists to get their apples to market unbruised.

Even now, a visit to Polson Park and the vacant field where the school once stood returns me to the nostalgic summer of 1954. Memories return me to looking out of the classrooms to beautiful flowers, green trees and cut lawns, and spending noon hours on a park bench in front of the school doing work. Then, for the month of June, I rushed across the street to beat the one-o’clock whistle at Pad and Drum instead of into the school to beat the school bell.

Need to catch up? Read the rest of this series here.