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Making Good in Canada
Chapter XX - Various and Miscellaneous Opportunities for Success

Although unskilled labour finds it just as difficult to get a start in Canada without capital as in any other country, except in certain spheres of activity, yet perseverance will enable one to carve out a good niche of comfort in the temple of progress- and to occupy a more or less prominent position in the world of affairs.

Take the hotels and restaurants, for instance. He who attends to the wants of those at the table in these islands is regarded as a servile menial, but in Canada he becomes a person of importance. He can look forward safely to a steady 4s. per day at least in wages, augmented by two, three, or more times that amount in tips, according to the standing of the establishment in which he secures an engagement. In addition, there are many other advantages which must not be overlooked. There are long intervals between times which the waiter is at liberty to occupy just as he pleases, and he is assured of a sound meal three times a day.

There was one waiter who ministered to my wants while I was staying at a certain hotel in Montreal. He bad fallen into Canada in the same manner as many of his class- -bad worked his passage over as a steward on board a vessel to New York, had buffeted with the ups and downs of life in the United States for a while, and at last found himself on the northern side of the International Boundary with his face set towards the premier city of the Dominion. He found a job—the one ho was then fulfilling—within an hour cf his arrival., and was netting a comfortable guinea a day for seven days in the week, and with no deductions whatever, except for his own private rooms. In the periods when he was not serving meals he was Turning a real estate business which he had started, and he found waiting at table an excellent medium for furthering these auxiliary interests, as he secured introductions to clients who otherwise would not have passed his way. The real estate business had grown from a bumble beginning to demand the services cf two clerks. Of the dual occupation the latter business was decidedly the more remunerative, but he retained his position of waiter as a means to an end.

At another hotel there was a young waiter of smart appearance and good address. A magnate from the West patronized this hostelry during his fleeting visits to tho city, and he beer me impressed with the diplomatic manner and methods of this waiter. One evening, after the magnate had discussed an excellent dinner, he tilted his chair and called the waiter.

“Do you intend to stick this game for long?”

“Well, until I can got something better!”

“And If you had the offer of something better, would you take it?”


“Would you go West to night?”


“Well, come with me. I’ve got a job which I think will fit you out fine.”

An hour later the waiter, having discarded his apron and serviette, was westward bound as valet to the magnate. Being well educated and shrewd, although hitherto debarred from displaying his talents, as he had been dangling at the free end of Fortune’s string, he went ahead, and when his companions heard of him later he was acting as secretary to his former customer.

If the unskilled labourer, or the man who has never had the luck to be taught a trade, drops into the vortex of bustle in the Dominion, can stand the jostling with a tight hand upon his pocket, and can keep a clear head, it is purely his own fault if he does not get out of the well-worn rut into which he first tumbled. I spent a few nights with one man in his little shack. He recalled the days when he sold newspapers in the street. He climbed up a bit, but the city did not offer any promising chances to forge ahead. So, with the little bit of money he had got together, he made up his mind to go West. He did not exhaust his slender savings in railway-fares, but secured the job to lock after a westward-bound carload of cattle. His fare and expenses were paid, while he received 6s. wages a day into the bargain. It was rough work feeding and watering the stock, and progress was slew, but he reached the new country at last. He struck a small town, and, seeing an empty shack, took it over at a nominal rent, and opened a small store or shop. The outlay on stock ran away with the whole of his capital, but as he was not hampered by competition, he pulled along very well, until filially he received a tempting offer for his business. He closed with it. moved farther West, and opened another store on the same lines. This he disposed of profitably in the same way. This starting and selling small businesses developed into his speciality. He always carefully reconnoitred his ground. and always took care to be in on the ground-floor, and every succeeding bargain had swelled his bank-book. When I met him he had settled down for a longer period than usual, because he had struck a very good spot, had got into the way of bartering profitably with the Indians and between straight selling and trading he was making money rapidly.

I ran across another shack standing back from the trail about twelve miles south-east of the Hudson Bay Trading Post at Fraser Lake. Within a mile was a straggling Indian village, while four miles beyond was a large Red Colony. The shop was stocked from floor to ceiling with articles of every conceivable description, most of it, by the way, firmly secured in position as a precaution against theft. It was by no means an inviting situation, because the railway was over 100 miles away. Every ounce of the goods had to be brought up by pack-horses at about 10d. per pound all round in summer, and un sleighs in winter at about 2d. per pound. Passers-by were few and far between, and yet on the average the owner was sending out £300 in value and coin per month! Where was his connection? The Indians almost exclusively. The Red Men had grown tired of dealing with the Hudson Bay Post, and when this rival appeared upon the scene and held oat more liberal trading terms, had transferred their custom to him.

So far as the fur industry is concerned, the sway of the Honourable Adventurers trading to Hudson Bay is vanishing rapidly. On all sides they are meeting with spirited competition from small individual traders, who lure the trade away from the Indians by the offer of better terms. The small man has the advantage over the Company, because his expenses are lower, and accordingly it is not surprising to find one of these shacks at times housing £1.000 worth of furs of all kinds. Again, the Company is not regarded with favour by the average individual, either red or white. Both use the Trading Post when necessity compels, but not otherwise. An Indian will travel twenty miles on his cayouse to get 2d. or 3d. more oil a pelt from an independent trader than the Company will offer him. although his home may be within a stone’s-throw of the Hudson Bay Post.

It must be admitted, however, that many of these independent men take long risks which the older rival declines to entertain, such as the traffic in illicit skins— i.e., the furs of animals which are protected by law. One of these traders was going out of the country with a bulging dunnage sack or two thrown over his pack-horse. He was putting up at one of the “stopping places” on the Cariboo Road, had dumped down his baggage in one corner, and was lounging found. But a. dog roving about the place sniffed the bags, and set up a loud excited barking. The dog’s cries aroused the interest of a fellow-being at the bush who came up and asked the trader what he had in his bags. The latter retorted insolently, resenting the inquisitiveness of the stranger, and then started bluffing, when the latter revealed his identity as a game-warden. As the trader manifested no desire to comply with the official’s request, the latter deftly seized one of the bags. and in the twinkling of an eye his suspicions were confirmed. Among other articles which rolled out on the ground were a number of beaver skins! The other bags were laden similarly.

The trader was caught with the goods. Explanations were useless. He had proscribed skins in his possession, and that was sufficient for the game-warden. The trader was handed over to the law, the skins were confiscated, and he himself was mulcted heavily m a fine. The smuggling of illegal pelts is practised extensively, and, despite the vigilance of the authorities, few of the offenders are caught.

The Adventurers labour under the delusion that the methods which they adopted when they first set foot m the North-West in the Middle Ages are sufficient for to-day. They held autocratic sway for so many centuries that, when they found their powers curbed, they declined to adapt themselves to the new conditions. No Western Canadian has a word to bay in favour of the Hudson Bay Company. and, so far as my oto experiences are concerned, I think the natives are somewhat justified in their attitude. The Westerner would like to see the Company out of existence, and if the opportunity arose he would not shrink from confiscating every possession which the organization now holds, is the Company has been guilty of holding-up the country. The citizen maintains that “when the Company was top-dog- it did nothing for the good of Canada, and now that the positions are reversed why should the interests of the Company be studied?” It is an unanswerable argument, because, unhappily, evidences of the Company’s braking policy are visible on every hand.

Fortunately, there is no need for drastic action on the part of the man in the street, or rather bush. That great leveller—competition—is performing peacefully what the average citizen in his exuberance would like to accomplish in one stroke. Boycotting and the active support of rivals is achieving the desired end just as effectively. A powerful rival—the eminent French firm of Revillon Freres—is forcing its way into the country on every side, and the star of the Hudson Bay Company is waning, so far as trading is concerned. This active competitor is opening posts where barter can be practised upon level terms on every hand, where the red, and the white, men are sure of a square deal. The time is not far distant when this firm, will have woven a complete trading post girdle around the Northern Hemisphere. Its outposts on the Canadian Pacific shore will be able to shake hands with those on the Pacific seaboard of Siberia.

The agents of this concern are very much alive, and many men who have gained experience in the bush seize the opportunity to enter the Revillon service. In many instances they are getting a foothold under the very noses of their older rivals. There was one man who had hiked into the wild hinterland, and in a small tumbledown shack was doing big business in fur barter. He did not wait for the Indians to come his way, but waylaid them as they were on the trail to the Hudson Bay Posts. By specious talking and the offer of slightly better terms he filched the trade from the English trading company. I asked how he could dispose of his furs. He winked and muttered “Revillons.” Many an innocent looking trading shack, ostensibly the property of a private individual, I found to have some remote connection with the great French firm. It was the vent for the little trader’s wares, at all events.

The Indian is on excellent customer for the 'white man who treats him fairly. The day is gone when he was compelled to trade, willy-nilly, with “Hudson Bay” as he calls it. The little man working on his own—everyone in the bush appears to adopt trading as instinctively as a duck takes to water—resorts to the most extraordinary methods in order to drive in his competitive wedge farther and farther, and he generally makes a very good thing out of the transaction. I encountered one novel example of such enterprise. This individual boasted no commercial training, but yet he had a certain amount of business instinct. He was mushing through the Indian country in Northern British Columbia in an aimless kind of way, keeping a sharp eye open to seize anything which might be turned to profit. He observed that the Indians were inordinately fond of sugar-stuffs. That gave him an idea. He tracked back to the nearest railway-station and promptly ordered some 4C0 pounds of cheap, attractive-looking sweets. He stowed this consignment on the backs of two pack horses, which he bought up cheaply., and harked back to the Indian country. He hung about the Red Settlement, with a smell A-tent as his home, and in less than a month the whole 400 pounds of sweets had changed under for excellent furs. The sweets cost him about 3c1. per pound, but the Indians paid for them in kind at the rate of about as many shillings. With his cargo of skins the peripatetic trader returned south, netted a snug little sum for his goods at a Revillon store, and repeated the tactics upon a larger scale with the increased capital at his command. When 1 struck him he had become established firmly in a little wooden shack which he had run up on the spot where ho had first pitched his tent, with his nearest white neighbour about twenty miles away. He was doing a roaring trade. Although at this time sweets were not his sole vehicle for bartering with furs, as he had a good assortment of other necessities displayed in his shack, yet brightly coloured fondants and chunks of toffee were in more popular request than shirts or even flour. One might be disposed to conclude that seeking for a profit ranging from 600 to 1.000 per cent, was a kind of robbery, but similar tactics have been practised by the old Trading Company from its earliest days. To charge an Indian “two bits,” or 1s., for a notebook and pencil which can be purchased anywhere in Britain for a humble penny is no worse than changing the same individual 3s. for sweets that cost less than 6d. per pound.

Skilled labour, especially in connection with certain trades, always commands a good market. The activity of budding operations calls for masons, bricklayers, plumbers, painters, joiners and decorators. This demand is likely to continue for some time to come, owing to the rapid growth of the cities, and the fact that many of the frontier towns are now in course of transition from wood to stone. Water-power is being developed very extensively, and this factor has an influence upon the many branches of the electrical industry. Mining is being extended upon every hand, especially in coal and such commercial metals as copper silver, and lead. These latter industries, however, demand expert labour, and unless the new arrival is a Cousin Jack from Cornwall, or hies from South Wales, the North of England, Scottish, and other mining centres he stands little or no chance of making headway. Wages fluctuate violently, rising and falling with the season of the year end the locality. So far as building and the cognate trades are concerned, the demand is confined to the cities and the railways, the latter being in connection with permanent structures, such as bridges, stations, and buildings for the rolling stock.

I ran across one unusual display of enterprise, but one which has many opportunities in a new town. It was at Hazleton. There were about 200 or 300 settled population, I should imagine, and businesses and shops of all descriptions were flourishing in the streets. It was a frontier town in the fullest sense of the word, as there was not another community within 200 miles. Into this strange colony a young English lady had fallen. She was deft with the typewriter, one of which machines she had brought up with her. With this she was busy from morning to night. I do not think there was another typewriter in the place, and the rising firms, wishing to convey an impression that they were more imposing than a glimpse of their timber-frame offices would convey might duly had their communications and reports for the outside world executed in accordance with the practice of the most up to date city offices, showing that, although they were marooned 200 miles in the bush, yet they were practising modem scientific business methods. This young lady occupied one corner of the solitary room of a business office, apparently in return for the execution of whatever typewriting the owners desired, and she was in keen demand among one and all throughout the town, making, as it w ere, a round of the various establishments in the manner of the postman, or ready to answer a call from here, there, and everywhere. It was certainly one of the strangest methods I had witnessed of making good, and the experiment was evidently perfectly satisfactory to herself.

The blacksmith is another toiler who, taken on the whole, is in very keen demand. Rut he must be conversant with every branch of his craft. At one moment he will be required to shoe a horse, at another a damaged wheel will demand his expert assistance, at a third perhaps a hinge will have to be overhauled or made, or an agricultural implement put right—in fact, he will have to be ready and competent to carry out any working in iron, no matter how puzzling it may seem, that may be brought his way. In the frontier towns as a rule the blacksmith is not very much in evidence. The railways and other constructional works are quite ready to take on any son of Tubal Cain that may present himself for employment. Many of the settlers in the remote districts suffer from this deficiency, and it is by no means unusual to find the blacksmith in many districts touring the country within a certain distance of his home. Shoeing is the most urgent requirement, seeing that the horse is the popular beast of burden, and the settlers often are in a quandary when a horse has cast a shoe, and possibly the blacksmith is fifteen miles away ! On one of our pack-trains one of the boys was expert at farrier work and he carried out all the demands in this direction, the shoes being carried readymade in a variety of sizes upon the true American standardization principle, and as a rule a horse could be reshod in about twenty minutes.

In seeking for employment in such a country as Canada. success is dependent vitally upon the character of the man. and his ability to determine the market w7here his labour is likely to command its value. It is useless for a cotton spinner to hang about the Crows’ Nest Collieries for work, while a miner will wear the skin off his feet looking for a job in the vicinity of Winnipeg. But if the cotton-spinner will come east, and the mines will go Nova Scotia way, or west, then each will drop into his appointed groove.

The “waster” has a short life in Canada; he generally degenerates into a tramp. Similarly, the man who is prepared only to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay receives a rude awakening. Nor are there any dead men’s shoes for which the competent are compelled to wait in their determination to get ahead. Individual exertion is the only lever by which one is able to get on top. The man who lingers for a friendly boost will grow grey while waiting. The “remittance man,” who is sent to Canada by his parents because he is a constant source of anxiety and worry at home, and who is regularly forwarded a certain sum of money to keep him from starvation without work, has killed the chances of those who, deficient in pluck and confidence in their own abilities to forge ahead, are content to remain passive until others can give them a friendly push.

The heavy grinding mill of experience has worn out the axiom that only men with influence behind them can win. The man at the lowest rung of the ladder, who has no one to give him a friendly jolt upwards, will, through grit and pluck, get to the top long before the less competent, who is content to be pulled along at the end of somebody's influential shoe-strings. While the man with a card of introduction airs his heels outside the office of the principal, waiting for an interview to give him the required start for the position to which he aspires, the other man, working off his own bat, will carry off the job through his own sheer merit and capacity.

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