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Bruce Teasdale

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Abstract

Bruce Teasedale graduated from the OAC in 1934. He comments on why he enrolled at OAC, on initiation, on college life and on finding a job during the depression. His first job was with the poultry division of Swift’s. In 1936, he purchased a hatchery and egg laying facility from the Ontario Government. For health reasons, this business was sold in 1944. He was hired as manager of the Elgin County Farmers Co-operative in 1945. In 1956, he was hired by the Ontario Department of Agriculture. He served as a member of the Ontario Farm Marketing Board, as Director of the Co-operative Loans Board and as Manager of the Ontario Grain Elevator Storage Act. He retired from public service as Chief Operating Officer of the Ontario Food Terminal. He was a successful financial manager with each business venture, namely his poultry farm, the Elgin County Farmers Co-operative and the Ontario Food Terminal. The first tape covers the period up to his becoming manager of the Elgin County Farmers Co-operative. The second tape includes his involvement with the Co-operative and the Ontario Department of Agriculture.

Graduation Year

1934

College

OAC

Interview Date

Interviewer

H. Pettit

Call Number

RE1 UOG A1340044

Audio

Bruce Teasdale interview

Transcript

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Tape 1 of 1 Side A
ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
BRUCE TEASDALE, O.A.C. 1934
Ontario Agricultural College, 1934
Interviewed by Harvey Pettit
October 29, 1990
H This is an interview with Bruce Teasdale, by Harvey Pettit, on October 29th, 1990, for the University of Guelph Alumni Association, Alumni - in - Action Group. Bruce is being interviewed at his home at thirty-six Harcourt Drive, Guelph. Bruce and his wife Mary and I have been friends since school days. We all grew up in the same part of Ontario, and attended the same high school in Burlington. Bruce and I both married Mac Institute graduates of 1934. Bruce, where did you spend your boyhood years?
B Well, Harvey, I was born in Toronto in 1911. My father purchased a farm in the Burlington area in 1918. I spent one year in public school, before moving. It was my first experience with a rural school. I turned up at S. S. # 4 Nelson Township. Lo and behold, there were three Pettits and two Teasdales, my brother and I, of a total school enrollment of about ten or twelve in the average year. This was a new experience, coming from a school of about thirty or forty students in each room.
H And then after you passed your entrance, you went to the high school at Burlington.
B Yes, that’s right. We lived about three miles out of Burlington. In fact Burlington didn’t even have a high school at that time. First and second form rooms were in part of the public school. The public school had a wonderful old principal - one John Lockhart, and he kindly fitted right in with the overcrowding at the other school. I attended high school for the usual period of time, and frankly would probably still have been attending high school had the requirement that one needed Latin to come to Guelph been enforced. That made it possible to avoid Latin. We had three teachers at Burlington High School at that time with OAC connections. The principal, Jim Bates, who had graduated in about ‘23 - ’24, and two student teachers, who were attending Teachers’ College, one Cameron St. John, and Walter Ziegler. The male staff of the high school were three real supporters of O.A.C. They were all graduates. St John and Ziegler graduated in 1922, following discharge from the first war.
H What were the major factors, Bruce, in you making the final decision to attend O.A.C.?
B I think the final decision rested with these three men being very pro O.A.C. So much so, that I can remember one Archie Porter, who was the registrar of the college, coming down and speaking once or twice to the high school assembly on the virtues of coming to Guelph. And the fact that Guelph was nearby, only thirty miles from Burlington.
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H Now, it was 1930, that you registered at Guelph?
B Yes, the year 1930. And registration, I can well remember, was in the old Physical Education Building, which was opposite the old reservoir. I’ll make reference to the reservoir when we come to the initiation proceedings. Three of us came up that year from Burlington, which is certainly more than the average number who would come from any one high school. The three were Ray Long, Warren McNiven, and myself. We lined up and went through the registration procedure. My name being Bruce Porter Teasdale, the registrar, Archie Porter, made reference to the fact that, heavens forbid - not another Porter coming to O.A.C.
H After registration, you mentioned initiation.
B Yes. Initiation in those days was certainly different. Now, I guess, they don’t have an initiation of any kind. Initiation was actually conducted by the second year students - supposedly welcoming, or scaring the hell out of the new students. It occurred over a period of about two months, following our registration, which in those days was just toward the end of September. We were required to wear little green skullcaps and a green tie, with the word ‘Frosh’ on it. Even when we left the campus and went home for a weekend, we still were required to go attired in this manner. Well, I made reference to the fact that the Physical Education building was opposite the old reservoir, which was the reserve water supply, I presume for fire protection. We certainly didn’t drink out of it. That’s one strong point that Guelph always did have, was an ample supply of good drinking water. There were no classes on Initiation Day. We freshmen were all blindfolded and were told to take hold of a rope. We were taken back and forth across the front campus, down around by the beef barn, and in through the sheep barn. And eventually we ended up in front of the reservoir. We had no idea where we were. One of the second year students would be there, beside a tub full of water - splashing the water to beat the band. We were lead singly up a ramp, told to jump, expecting we would end up in the reservoir. Lo and behold there was no reservoir underneath us and you hit the ground with a hell of a thump. That was just one of the well remembered events of Initiation Day.
H Now you were in a single room at that time. There were two of you in the room, I believe.
B Yes. That’s right. At that time the original dormitory building, which I understand had been built in the 1870’s and called Johnston Hall, was being dismantled. First they took down the south wing and then the centre wing. The north wing was the only residence still remaining in 1930. And students were crowded into it, because other rooms weren’t available. The three floors were called Rob Alley, Lower Hall and Upper Hall. We three from Burlington, who were registered the same morning, namely Long, McNiven and myself, were quartered in Upper Hall. Originally there had been both single and double rooms. But, for need of getting more of us in a limited amount of space, McNiven and I were in a single room, with one of the old iron beds that were used at that time, being bunked one on top of the other. There was nothing more frustrating than when someone would ring a gong, which was a fire
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alarm on the top floor. The fire escape required going through our single room to get out on the roof. McNiven and I, as some will know, were a very tidy pair. And this upset things in the room as they went through. This was just one of the nonsensical performances that went on at that time.
H What did you think about the campus meals?
B Well Harvey, the meals in Creelman Hall, the dining hall, and everything associated with it were just ideal. We sat at round tables with ten at a table. There was a big jug of milk on each table and we could have as many refills as were required. The waitresses were girls whom we respected. Each waitress would have three tables to look after. In that regard a number of graduates married girls whom we got to know through our days at Creelman Hall.
H Well, in 1934, you received your degree.
B Yes, that’s correct, and that was quite an operation. We were lined up and paraded down across the campus toward War Memorial Hall, just as I noticed that they do now. They were always held indoors. The main event of the day was being tapped on the head by Sir William Mulock. As you know the Ontario Agricultural College was, for degree granting purposes, a part of the University of Toronto. Sir William Mulock, being the President of the University of Toronto, came up that day, long whiskers and all, and conducted the graduation ceremonies. This was a day to be well remembered, when old Sir William whispered the famous Latin words in your ear, and at the same time gave you a brush with his chin whiskers.
H After you graduated, what was your first job?
B Well, a week or two prior to graduation was naturally a fairly hectic time, for those of us who were graduating. The big thing was; what are you going to do? This was right in the middle of the Depression and there just weren’t any jobs. Certainly, it wasn’t from any great amount of ability on my part but I happened to be one of the lucky four or five, I believe, who really had a job to go to. Other than to go back home, or to stay on at the college for some summertime jobs, that paid about forty dollars a month but were as good as one could get anywhere else, when available. Just a few days prior to graduation, W. R. Graham, the grand old head of the Poultry Department, called me in and introduced me to a visitor of his, an old time friend, I’ve since found out. Dr. Kelly had come to Guelph from Swifts in Chicago. To make a long story short Kelly hired me. Three or four days after graduation, I was to report to a new produce plant of the Swift Canadian Company, a branch of Swift and Company, United States, opening in Belleville, Ontario. I well remember going down from Burlington to Belleville on the train. I’ve always kept a diary, and I notice that the train fare from Burlington to Belleville was a dollar and seventy-five cents. This, by the way, was one way, as I hoped to stay on in Belleville. This is considerably different from the present time. We’re reading that a new service is being provided by the “GO” train, from Guelph to Toronto, and the fare is eight dollars.
H Well, what did you do at Swifts?
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B At Swifts I was only there for a year and three quarters. It was an informative, useful and productive experience. Swifts established a chick hatchery, in conjunction with the poultry feeding operation, and a creamery. They were carried on for several years. By the way, I was followed in managing that by two graduates of O.A.C., namely, Charles Hayes, who had been a classmate of mine in ‘34, and Hector Atchison, who graduated a year or two before, and I believe had returned to the home farm following graduation. The year and three quarters with Swifts was reasonably rewarding. But by the winter of ‘36, I was hopeful that I could get started on my own. The opportunity to purchase a poultry farm, combined with a hatchery, became available. Located on top of the mountain in Hamilton, it had been operated in conjunction with the Hamilton Sanitarium, and was operated by the Ontario Government. The reason that it became available was the fact that it was funded by the Ontario Government. In the prior spring the Mitchell Hepburn government had taken over in Ontario. Everyone remembers about the great sales of all the government cars and the curtailing of expenditures in every direction. And a casualty of this were the hospital farms at Hamilton.
H I might mention that you talked about going with Swifts through contact with Dr. Graham in Poultry Science. Well, you majored in Animal Science, but there wasn’t any Poultry Science option at that time. And it’s kind of natural for a person in the Teasdale family to be involved in poultry. You had a famous uncle at Concord.
B Well, that’s right Harvey. I had a very fine uncle in one Frank Teasdale. He had no children of his own, and he certainly made it possible for me to get started in the poultry business. You’re right in saying there was no Poultry Option at that time. By the way, since moving here to Guelph, I see that Poultry Husbandry, Animal Husbandry and Field Husbandry are now called Science.
H In 1936 I believe, you got married?
B That’s right. That was quite a day. We were married on April the 11th, 1936. My wife, as you mentioned in your introductory remarks, had graduated from Macdonald Hall in ‘34, the same year as I graduated from O.A.C. I had gone to Swifts and she, as a Macdonald Hall Graduate at that time, had gone to one of the hospitals. In her case it happened to be St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto for her ‘pupil work’, as the girls called it. Her home was in Burlington. We’d gone to high school in Burlington.
H When did you move to the farm?
B I had acquired the property in about March of ’36 and we, through help from both our families, managed to put things together and settled on the poultry farm.
H Now you bought the farm from the Hamilton Sanitarium?
B Yes. It had been a going concern in that it had been built for the purpose of providing poultry and eggs and other products for the Sanitarium residents, which were at that time, six or seven hundred. There was also a dairy farm to provide the milk. They did carry on the dairy farm for a year or two. And then it eventually was sold.
H And this was on Hamilton Mountain?
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B Yes, in an area that’s now completely developed for housing.
H And where were your markets?
B Eggs at that time were about seventeen to nineteen cents a dozen, that’s if they went through the wholesale channels in Toronto or Hamilton. There was a modest mark up between that, and the deal that we had to supply eggs to the hospital. The same was true of the poultry end of it. We did our own killing and just that difference in price helped a lot in making ends meet, and in fact making a profit.
H How many birds did you have?
B We kept about six thousand laying hens. We had about twenty thousand in incubator capacity, which wouldn’t be much to-day. But at that time, it would be one of the larger breeder hatcheries as we call them. A lot of the breeder hatcheries, in fact the Frank Teasdale one, which really made it possible for me to get started, was of the old kind, three or four oil-fired incubators, of three or four hundred capacity each. They were the run of the mill. We really had one of the medium to larger sized breeder hatcheries at that time. The hatchery operation, and the whole operation turned out to be very successful. We both worked like the devil, I might say. We had to. We learned the value of a dollar, which we have never forgotten. And of course hindsight is better than foresight. Had my health not started to fail me at that time, we’d have stayed at the job.
H That was in 1944, Bruce, and you sold the farm.
B Well, this brought us up, Harvey, to a little bit before ’44, to about ‘42. I was going to Toronto each winter for surgery, to the famous nerve surgeon, Dr. Kenneth McKenzie. And I remember, finally, going back the third year, which would be about, late ‘42. He said, “Well, look Teasdale, you can’t run a business like you think you want to run yours.” By the way, I don’t want this to sound boastful, but we had almost a show-place operation. We could never have afforded this, only the Health Department had spent money not too wisely in putting up facilities that were more than were required. Probably this overbuilding is one of the reasons why they found it necessary to get rid of the property. The result was that after about eight years, we sold. As I said, we’d worked hard and we’d saved our money, and we ended up with quite a few tens of thousands of dollars, taking into account the sale of our property. This was something we never dreamed of when we started. And I’d say it was that first experience of running a business that I had, where we learned to make money.
H After you sold the property, you made another contact with Dr. Graham, and what was that all about? When you went to St. Thomas.
B Well, Harvey, that really wasn’t through W.R.Graham. He had by the way, moved to Burlington. He’d retired from Guelph and used to come up to see us at the poultry farm. He got quite a kick out of the fact that we were doing as well on it as we were. After we sold that farm, we moved down to Burlington, and in that year and a half
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you might say I was convalescing. In fact, if you’ll remember, I worked for you.
H (Chuckle)
B Yes. That’s right. I worked with you for a while. We moved to Aldershot, which is near Burlington. By this time we had a son and a daughter. They’d both been born while we were on the poultry farm. Our daughter, Barbara, who is now fifty-three and George is about fifty. Our George, by the way, is just about the same age as your son, John.
H That’s right.
B I was beginning to feel a little bit better. It appeared that I really couldn’t do as much physical work. As it turned out I was approached by a newly formed Co-operative Board of Directors located in St. Thomas. They called themselves “Elgin Co-operative Services”. They’d been in business for about six months. In that six months, they’d managed to make kind of a mess of their operation, as often happens with these farmer inspired co-operative companies. They forget about the fact that the manager must have some autonomy in his own right. That he must learn how to make money in his own right. And finally, that they should give him his head, and for better or worse, see what happens. This had been their failing in the first six months. They’d hired a well meaning chap who’d graduated from 0. A. C. But they didn’t want him to manage the company. They wanted to manage him. It has been proven many times since, that this doesn’t work. When I went to St. Thomas, I had nothing to lose. The thing was in a mess, and it had to get a lot better in a hurray, or it was going to fold.
H Well, when you were at St. Thomas, things did get better.
B Yes, they did, Harvey. As I mentioned, mostly due to the fact that one has nothing to lose when you go to a business that’s just on the ropes. I’d learned enough about being in business for myself - close to ten years - that there are right ways and wrong ways to do quite a few things. We started out with one branch, one main farm supply headquarters, which included a grain elevator. We would buy cash crop grain including Ontario fall wheat from the farmers and also white beans, which are now gone by the board. Corn and Soya beans were just coming in.
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Tape 1 of 1 Side B
ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
BRUCE TEASDALE, O.A.C. 1934
Ontario Agricultural College, 1934
Interviewed by Harvey Pettit
October 29, 1990
B One of the best moves made during our years in Elgin was the expansion to our first branch location in West Lorne. An old flourmill was purchased and converted to a grain elevator. Then a second branch was established in Aylmer, when I purchased an operation from Jan Verdun - who was a 1935 graduate of the college. Well, it did become necessary for me to try to find someone to help me, supposedly in the role of Assistant Manager. In this connection I don’t like that word. Nobody ever worked with me as an assistant. I’ve had a lot of awfully good men with me, through the years. They didn’t work for me. We worked along together. And I was lucky enough to get Archie Irvine, who was discharged from five years service in the Army - with the rank of Lieutenant - Colonel. Archie Irvine is still living, by the way. His health did fail fifteen - eighteen years ago. He took over the Elgin Co-operative when I left, and I’ll refer to that later. He suffered a very severe stroke a short while after that, and retired back to his old home.
H You mentioned, Bruce that things had been very successful. These farmers had invested in the Co-op, to start it in the first place. How much did they gain on their investment?
B I should have mentioned that when the Co-operative Company was formed, shares were sold at a par value of one hundred dollars. The odd farmer took out more than one share. In that regard much and all as he wasn’t an active farmer, the fabulous Mitchell Hepburn took two thousand dollars worth. Within two or three years I was making enough money for them that it was deemed advisable to at least pay back some of those one hundred dollar shares, or in other words, redeem them. This pleased the investors in the organization, because a lot of them never thought that they’d get anything back. But we did redeem them all, back to the basis of one hundred dollars each. In other words the two thousand dollar man received nineteen hundred dollars, and still had a hundred dollars in the organization. Ten years later – in 1955 -1 went there in about ‘45, we were in a position to redeem those one hundred dollar amounts. But, by this time, they were all so pleased with the success of the co-operative company that they wanted to leave their money in the organization. However, had they been redeemed we had sufficient, without curtailing our capital in the least, to pay them off at five thousand dollars, which is an appreciation from one hundred dollars to five thousand dollars. This situation with the co-operative, continued with Archie Irvine in charge, for several years. In fact, I would say probably even improved, until Archie’s health failed about ten years after that. And
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unfortunately then, the co-operative seemed to start to decline. I still can’t understand why, nor can Archie. But most recently, why it declared bankruptcy. This by the way has been the rule of the way of a lot of Co-operative Companies in Ontario, but there was no good reason for it.
H Now you previously mentioned that in 1955, there was a change. What was the next move?
B Well, the next move was the third major move for us. I’d gone to Belleville, followed shortly, by the poultry farm operation. Over a ten year period this had proven to be very rewarding financially, and every other way. After a year or two in Guelph, the next move, number two, was the ten year period of working hard, using our heads and making money with the Elgin Co-op. Things were going smoothly at St. Thomas –Archie was doing well. I’ve always been very fortunate in having good men with me. I never went through the procedure that some do, of advertising a job and thinking that one’s going to get a lead here or there. I always felt it was better to find someone who you knew yourself was doing a good job and watched his performance, and simply hire him away from the people that he was working for. I will always be of a mind, that that’s the best way to do it.
But after ten years at St. Thomas, which would bring us to about ‘55, ‘56 there’d been a change in our thinking. My wife and I felt that eventually we would like to move back to the Burlington and Toronto area. Our children, by this time teenagers, were ready to go beyond high school. So we moved to Port Credit. The recent provincial election resulted in the end of the Mitchell Hepburn Liberal government in Ontario. Fletcher Thomas, the old-time Agricultural Representative for Elgin County, and really the inspiration for the Elgin farmers getting together to form the Elgin Co-operative, had defeated Mitchell Hepburn, and Mr. Thomas was named Minister of Agriculture.
H I might mention that Fletcher Thomas was also a grad of the college.
B Yes, he was, and quite a fellow, no doubt about that. He was pleased, and had been in no small way, helpful in the success that I had with the Elgin Co-op. And we had a mutual appreciation for one another. That being so, I went to work for the Ontario Department of Agriculture.
H How did you adjust to becoming a Civil Servant, Bruce?
B Well, Harvey, that is quite a loaded question, I’m afraid. I’m also afraid that I never did get adjusted. We moved to Toronto. I had pretty well been used to running my own show, which had been very successful and rewarding. In government I didn’t actually have to take orders for everything I did, but there was no reason to try to do anything in a sensible way. I had two or three different titles. I was a member of what they called the Ontario Farm Marketing Board and I had another comical little job called Director of the Co-operative Loans Board.
This is rather interesting in that one of the first decisions that I was involved in was with the Manitoulin Turkey Co-operative Company. This group was a little bit like the Elgin organization in that it was a farmer organization that was trying to run a co-
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operative company. They had a different manager about every six months. It was quite obvious that it wasn’t economic to truck feed all the way from southern Ontario up to Manitoulin Island to feed the turkeys, and bring the birds back down to southern Ontario to be processed. Ross Cavers, who was connected with the Poultry Department at Guelph, and several other men, well meaning and well informed persons at the Poultry Department, made many trips up to Manitoulin to try to pull it out of the error of its ways.
But one of the feed companies had established a bit of a headquarters on Manitoulin Island and were determined that things were going to be kept going, come hell or high water, in order to keep their field sales up. The outcome of it was that the politicians got mixed up in it, and it was decided that further monies would be poured into putting more good money after bad. I felt very keenly on it. I went back and forth different times to Manitoulin, knowing that the longer the dissolution of the operation was postponed, the worse it would get. This sort of soured me a little bit on some of the nonsense that goes on with government, and it made me feel it was quite obvious that I wasn’t going to be a very successful career civil servant. About then, I was almost ready to throw in the sponge.
The grain elevators in Western Ontario found out that all private enterprises were not as successful as they should have been and one or two of them got into financial difficulty. For the first time farmers were not paid for their deliveries to the elevators. Having been a past president of the elevator association during our years at St. Thomas, I was fairly knowledgeable about their operation. This could be both co-operatives and private elevators. The result was that the government did get into the act, through the local members of parliament, who were approached by the farmers who were not being paid for their produce.
I was named as Director of what was called the Ontario Grain Elevator Storage Act. I wasn’t influenced in any way by government. It was a case of “clean the thing up”. Try to get enough money to pay those who’d lost money, and set up a procedure so that it would not be possible for this to happen again. It almost did happen again. After about two years of our administering this, a grain dealer did get himself into financial difficulty by not paying the producer. I did the thing that normally one would do in finding out where monies might be that were owing to this grain elevator operator, following the sales that he had made. I knew the participants well enough that they were able to get my name on the cheque in payment to the elevator operator, as well as to the bank. Otherwise, the bank, who was owed money, would have got their hands on it, and that would be the end. Well, all hell broke lose for a while, in government circles, to think that any civil servant would do such a horrible thing, as to get his name on a cheque. Well it was obvious that I wasn’t a very good civil servant. Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Thomas, got quite a kick out of the fact that this had happened, and I was pleased, and I think everybody else was pleased. However, it’s an indication that I wasn’t cut out to be a very good civil servant.
H Now, later on in your career there, Bruce, you became the Operating Officer of the Ontario Food Terminal, and a very famous name in Agriculture Services. Tom Kennedy was involved.
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B Well, that’s right Harvey. We’ve completed number one, the poultry operation at Hamilton Number two was the St.Thomas part. It was successful, and I think I wanted a number three. I had sort of a made up my mind that I was going to retire when I was sixty. When things looked the worst, and following the Grain Elevator Storage fiasco, which we did get straightened away, the Ontario Food Terminal was seeking a chairman. The Ontario Department of Agriculture was replacing the Chairman and Chief Operating Officer.
The Food Terminal Operation, I’ll just touch on it a little bit, and then it will be obvious to you what it does. It was formed in the mid-fifties by an Act of the Ontario Legislature, requiring that all wholesaling of fruit and vegetables in Ontario, which at that time would have been handled down at the old St. Lawrence Market at the foot of Yonge Street, would be required to be done through one outlet. In other words, Loblaws, and Canada Packers, and other wholesaling firms, predominantly Jewish and most successful by the way, were required, before they could continue in business, to relocate to a new facility that the Ontario Government would build.
It was to be out at the Humber, at the west end of the city. Naturally, these old companies were very much against this. They had done business for years, granted, under rather antiquated facilities, down at the foot of Yonge Street, by the O’Keefe Centre. It was subsequently built, but after several litigations as to whether the Ontario Government had the right to do this horrible thing to them. Well, the late Colonel T. L. Kennedy was Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Premier at the time. You see the only way to do this would be to have an Act put through the Ontario Legislature, requiring that all wholesaling had to be done through this new facility.
There was no use putting up the new facility unless this Act was put through. Otherwise the Government would be building a large, about a four million dollar operation, which in today’s prices would be ten times that, without this Bill requiring that they all be located there. Now, Colonel Kennedy was able to, I’m told, twist the Honourable Mr. Frost’s arm and have him OK putting up this amount of money, of approximately four million dollars, firstly to build the facility, and secondly to steer through the House the required Order that all dealers had to locate there.
Well a copy of the four million dollar cheque is still hanging out in my old office at the Ontario Food Terminal, The gossip is that Mr. Frost had said to Mr. Kennedy, when he OK’ed that cheque, “My god Tom, that money’s gone down the drain.” (Chuckle) Well, it’s one of those fairyland stories that it is hard to believe. The Food Terminal provided wholesale trading space. It is a facility where one can compare prices and quality. The Stock Exchange provides the brokerage companies with a seat, which is nothing more than the right to trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The same is true of the Ontario Food Terminal. The participating companies were provided, at a very low price, the right to purchase a lease, at the Ontario Food Terminal. It was just a nominal amount. The original Chairman and Chief Operating Officer was Frank Perkin, an excellent operator and he did an excellent job for them. Within five years the leases, instead of begging for a buyer, were starting to sell at a premium. This brought up the question of who eventually was going to own the
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Ontario Food Terminal. The Ontario Government had put up the four million dollars to build it.
A sinking fund was set up to supposedly provide enough to eventually pay this back. In this regard, Mr. Frost, I’m told, also said to Tom, “Well the damn thing will never be paid for, Tom.” But, history proved otherwise. Finally about the mid to late sixties, when I became interested in the Food Terminal operation, it was obvious that the sinking fund could be managed better. It was only getting interest compounded at a three and a half percent rate, which was a way out of date by this time. Darcy McKeough, who many of us knew, from Kent County, who had been in the elevator trade, was the provincial treasurer. Through more good luck than good management, Mr. McKeough agreed to do away with this three and a half percent rate. I did do a little bit of persuasion, when it applied to business left with me.
The Government, who were paying ten or twelve percent, took over this sinking fund at a very much better deal for the Ontario Food Terminal. And we ended up with a pretty tidy nest egg in the hands of Ontario Food Terminal, instead of still owing the Province of Ontario. All those dealers who’d rebelled against going there in the first place, they became quite interested. The Food Terminal was doing well. It was looked on world wide in this regard. I’d had the privilege of visiting other Food Terminals in most of the European centres, and in many centres in United States. Before one knew it, leases at Ontario Food Terminal, instead of begging for a person to even take one, were selling for five hundred - six hundred and I’m told as high as, since I left, eight hundred thousand dollars for a lease, which meant nothing more than the right to do business where the business was there to be done, as one would say. This was the situation in the late sixties, which was the time that I had set for Mary and I to retire. I suggested to the Minister at the time, that I might retire from working with the Ontario Department of Agriculture, and he very kindly said, “Well, you’ve been reasonably successful with Ontario Food Terminal. Would you not just continue with Food Terminal, even if you do retire?” Well, I very humbly said, that I would be quite happy to. And I spent an additional five years there, before I officially retired in the late seventies. So, this gave me my third goal. They’d all been fairly successful. In the interval we had moved and had converted a summer property up on Balsam Lake.
H Where is that, Bruce?
B That, Harvey, is about twenty miles north of Lindsay. We had a permanent home there, and we spent fifteen very pleasant years there. By the way you’d say, “Well, how did you put in that final five years at the Ontario Food Terminal?” I would only come down two or three times a month, to board meetings and such. By this time I’d found an excellent manager. Guess I’ve been awfully lucky in finding people that were able to do better than I would. This gets us up to‘75. We spent a lot of very rewarding years there. We were very, very proud of the home that we had. And finally, by the early eighties, we could see that we maybe needed to make one more move. Not from the standpoint of employment, or making some more money. We’d done reasonably well. But we emphasize again, that we’d done reasonably well, because we worked like the devil all our lives and we had the happy faculty of getting the right people to be with us. So then where would we go? Our son was in Chatham. Our daughter was in Barrie. Guelph was reasonably equidistant. Harvey you got in
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the act, and we always appreciate that. And you said what lost souls you thought we were, when we came to Guelph, looking for a house.
H Well hardly that, Bruce. 1 know you took a long while to get the house, when you finally decided on thirty-six Harcourt Drive, which you’ve got in very lovely shape.The outside grounds and the inside, just a nice home for you and Mary. After you graduated, Bruce, this goes back a long way, you became associated with the Alumni Association. Is that right?
B Yes.
H You took out a Life Membership?
B Yes, Harvey, we both took out Life Memberships in the O.A.C. Alumni Association many years ago. When we came to Guelph, we became founding members of the present Council. And we’re presently finalizing a Memorial Gift to the Alumni House. We hope that this can be worked out in a way, both having graduated in year ‘34 - Mary and I – that it will be something that can be incorporated as a memorial to our respective classes, both O.A.C. and Macdonald Institute.
Did I mention about our O.A.C. involvement, family-wise, which will never be comparable with the Pettit name. It’s just hard to believe. You, Harvey, and your two sisters, and myself – the three of us all attended that same public school in Burlington. My wife Mary came from Burlington, and we all knew one another. And we’re still involved. My brother John attended a while as a member of year ’37. And we are very proud of the fact that we have two grandsons, our son George’s boys, who are students at the University. I still can’t get this word “University”, really in my head. And we have a third grandson, in that same family, that we trust will be along in another year. So at least we’re going to finish up with, we hope, a strong performance from the three young fellows.
H Well, you’ve covered quite a period of time, Bruce. You started out with the O.A.C., which was a very important school back in 1930, and you ended up with the University of Guelph, which started in 1964.

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