George A. McCague

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Graduation Year




Interview Date


Ross Hay

Call Number

RE1 UOG A1340053


George A. McCague interview


Ross Hay (00:02):
This is an interview with George Anderson McCague of year 1928. OAC conducted by Ross Hay, year 45 on April the 12th, 1991. It's conducted for the University of Guelph Alumni Association, Alumni in Action Group. We are located at Mr. McCague's present residence, 169 Borden avenue, Kitchener, Ontario. May I call you George?

George A. McCague (00:35):
Yes, of course.

Ross Hay (00:36):
Okay. George, you have told me previously that you're 86 years young.

George A. McCague (00:44):
You're right. I graduated in '28, but see, I guess, a while ago.

Ross Hay (00:52):
Well, you're one of the oldest living graduates from the university, I would believe. I'm not sure.

George A. McCague (00:58):
I suppose I'm in that group.

Ross Hay (01:00):

George A. McCague (01:00):

Ross Hay (01:02):
George, Kitchener hasn't all always been your home.

George A. McCague (01:06):
No, the home farm was 3 and 3/4 miles East of Richmond Hill Ontario. I went to high school in Richmond Hill and went to OAC from the home farm, a little place called Victoria Square on Don Mills road.

Ross Hay (01:27):
Now, that's where that big Roman Dale dairy herd was located at one time.

George A. McCague (01:33):
That's right. And that's where the great church was built by Steve Roman, right about a mile below Victoria Square. As a matter of fact, Steven Roman was very good to the people around Victoria Square. He helped them build a community hall and a number of other activities.

Ross Hay (01:55):
Yeah. And you were living there when you came to Guelph?

George A. McCague (02:01):
Yes, I came right from the home farm to Guelph.

Ross Hay (02:05):
And how many was there in your family?

George A. McCague (02:06):
There were six of us.

Ross Hay (02:07):
Six children.

George A. McCague (02:08):

Ross Hay (02:09):
Does that include your parents?

George A. McCague (02:11):
No. Six children.

Ross Hay (02:12):
Six children.

George A. McCague (02:13):
Haber, Jack, Margaret, myself, Jim and Lorene.

Ross Hay (02:19):
And of those, three of you came to Guelph?

George A. McCague (02:22):
That's right. Yeah. Jack and Jim.

Ross Hay (02:25):
Yeah. I know you have two brothers who both graduated from Guelph. What events or what things in your life persuaded or brought you to Guelph?

George A. McCague (02:37):
Well, I would think for a certain day that Jack had considerable in influence in that, he had graduated from Guelph in 1921. We lost our father in 1920 and he and my older brother were more or less my advisors. And I think the advice was very good. He suggested Guelph and that's where I landed.

Ross Hay (03:09):
And you told me earlier that he helped you through Guelph?

George A. McCague (03:10):
He helped finance me. And as a matter of fact, my sister, Margaret Marine went to McDonald Institute and that was a family finance affair. And then I helped finance Jim at OAC. We, one way another, helped another considerably in our Guelph experience.

Ross Hay (03:34):
That's wonderful. Did you live in a residence when you went to OAC?

George A. McCague (03:39):
In Johnson Hall, for one year? I think it was one year and then moved to Millers Hall.

Ross Hay (03:47):
You were in those for the other three?

George A. McCague (03:48):
Yes. As I recall it, we were in Mills Hall for three years.

Ross Hay (03:54):
Did you have any initiation in your first year?

George A. McCague (03:59):
Yes, we did Ross, but we're going back a long time now. And I don't recall very distinctly what happened in that. One aspect I do recall was being blindfolded and crawling up a loading shoot and dropping out the end of it into a pile of, I guess it was horse manure because it was kind of warm. And then we were fed something like... Well, they said it was fish worms, but I think it was spaghetti. But that, along with the odor from the horse manure, certainly wasn't much of a treat.

Ross Hay (04:38):
That's when you were blindfolded.

George A. McCague (04:40):
Yeah. Right.

Ross Hay (04:44):
Do you remember anything about the food or the cost of going to go Guelph?

George A. McCague (04:49):
I have no recollection of that at all. The only thing I remember distinctly was how a classmate of mine, a year '28 graduate, was attracted to some hard roll sitting at the dining room tables one day. And we just had a lecture by the English professor about some art that was hung in the dining room. And this chap took two or three of the hard rolls and started pacing these painting, and for that, he got campused. The other thing I remember was that saltpeter, I think was okay, but you could never tell because it was pretty heavily loaded with saltpeter, I would guess.

Ross Hay (05:35):
In your coffee?

George A. McCague (05:36):
In my coffee. Yeah. Our coffee. Yeah.

Ross Hay (05:43):
Who was your favorite prof at Guelph? I know that's hard for you to say, but who do you remember from the professors at Guelph, when you were there?

George A. McCague (05:55):
Well, I remember quite a number of them and I would think I would have pretty strong favor for Professor Wade Tool. He was head of animal husbandry. He was our coach when we went to the various competitions, including Chicago. And I might say he passed on later, I think later that year. I had a lot of admiration for him, for Professor Tool. I could remember, I could mention Professor Blackwood, who was our honorary president and quite a number of others. Dr. Graham, Jack Stately, and so on.

Ross Hay (06:46):
Wonderful. Would you care to name the one that you thought was the poorest of the bunch?

George A. McCague (06:55):
No, I wouldn't say the poorest, but he taught subject that I guess was most deadly of anything we had to face, at least I did. I found it that way. That was heat, light and power. Professor Moffitt tried his best to get that through our heads. And I think likely he did a good job, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't know what my final mark was. But if it was a pass, I was lucky.

Ross Hay (07:27):
Yes. I remember him. He was teaching when I went there.

George A. McCague (07:31):
That was Hotstop, wasn't it?

Ross Hay (07:32):
Yes. It was. You were very active in extracurricular activities, being president of third year. You're on the final year executive, then the fourth year, you're a treasurer of the athletic association and may be others. And you're on the judging team. Do you remember at all how your year executive was made up at that time? How many people would be on the executive? That's asking a difficult question, I guess.

George A. McCague (08:10):
Yes, it is difficult, Ross. I would think there would be the president and vice president, the treasurer, secretary treasurer probably and two other, maybe five or six.

Ross Hay (08:31):
And was the athletic association, was that a big group at that time?

George A. McCague (08:36):
That was a big group and that was maybe the most difficult job I had as treasurer. It has since been changed entirely and now it's organized in a much more efficient way. But I found that it was a fairly heavy job. Treasurer of the Athletic Society, which covered all sports. And I think while I did my best to keep things in hand, I'm sure that it has vastly improved over the years.

Ross Hay (09:14):
George, you were on the judging competition that went to Chicago. How did the team fare the year you were with them? Not so hot, do you know that expression.

George A. McCague (09:26):
Well, I think we came out reasonably... Well, this may be contradicted by other members of the year that you may be interviewing. But I would guess we ended up in a fifth place.

Ross Hay (09:41):
Very good.

George A. McCague (09:44):
But I'm not positive.

Ross Hay (09:57):
This goes back, do you recall approximately how many students were at OAC when you were going? It's not the university.

George A. McCague (10:10):
At the agricultural college. Well, Ross, that is another question that I'm not going to very accurate on, but I would guess it at... Let's see, there'd be the four degree years and there would be the two associate years. I would think something in the neighborhood 225 to 250.

Ross Hay (10:44):
That's interesting.

George A. McCague (10:45):
Have you any figure on that yourself?

Ross Hay (10:48):
No, I don't. No, I don't. It just came to me while we were talking to ask you that question, that's why I did so we don't worry about it. How did you your days at OAC prepare you for your future endeavors, for your life's work?

George A. McCague (11:13):
That is certainly an interesting question and one that takes a little bit of thinking, but I feel that the associations I formed there and the communication, the ready communication, the matter of meeting people and living with people assisted me greatly through life. I find that in later years when I got into some difficult situations in connection with the marketing of agricultural products, that this matter of communication and negotiation is of utmost importance in trying to get to a point of agreement and yet resolving a problem.

Ross Hay (12:09):
Great. Now you mentioned in your work, so I'm going to ask you now, what did you do? What have you done since you graduated from Guelph? You went back to the farm?

George A. McCague (12:29):
No, I've moved around, certainly in the earlier years, Ross. I joined the Agricultural Representatives branch and was assistant to George Patterson in Huron County at Tinton. A few months, maybe six, eight months after that George was moved to the Bruce County office in Walkerton and I became the ag rep and remained the ag rep there for only a matter of a year or so when I was approached by Canada Packers and ultimately joined Canada Packers as manager of country plants. They had a plant, a creamery and a portery plant in Clinton. I later was moved to Harriston, which was a multi purpose plant where we handled the eggs and poultry and butter. It was the only plant in Canada practice where they manufactured ice cream. And at that time there were three branches coming under the Harrison Operation, Walkerton, Mount Forest and Chesley.

George A. McCague (13:48):
Having gone through the depression with Canada Packers in about 1935, I was approached to take over a job in Toronto as general manager of a bakery. Well, it goes without saying I had no baking experience in particular. But it was an offer that carried with it double the salary I was making at the time, which I might say was fairly attractive. I decided to take the job on. But that lasted only three years because there was a merger took place, this is an independent bakery. We had about 157 wagons there, wagons and trucks. We had horses and trucks in those days, on the street. And a merger took place, Canada Bread bought out the plant I was running. I could have continued in a sales capacity, but I changed my mind about remaining in the bakery business and that is when I started farming, in 1940.

Ross Hay (14:57):
And then where did you start farming?

George A. McCague (14:58):
At Harriston.

Ross Hay (14:59):
At Harriston. And did you stay farming until you retired or-

George A. McCague (15:06):
No, I farmed there for about 19 years.

Ross Hay (15:11):
What kind of a farm was that, beef or dairy or was it a mixed farm?

George A. McCague (15:18):
It developed into a fairly sizable operation. I think the people around Harriston, myself as well, were fortunate in that shortly after I started farming, had a change in bank managers. The bank manager that was there at the time had never made the bank any money had never lost any money, but wouldn't lend anything. So the head ops apparently decided they should change that so they brought in a new man and he was generous to a point that it almost frightened you. If you wanted money, there it was.

George A. McCague (15:57):
And started out with 200 acres in 1940. And by the mid fifties, we were running between 16, 1700 acres. Knocking about roughly 100 cows. Marketing 700 or 800 head of beef, a few hundred ahead of hogs. Doing a little bit in the droving business on the side. But that was a very interesting period of time, for sure. And it was made possible to quite a degree by really money that through the bank. And I guess it goes without saying we handled the money pretty well because our credit was always in good order. And had been advised as a matter of fact, by our family doctor, we should get off the farm because of a problem of health within the family. In 1959, we left the farm and I joined the Department of Agriculture and Food in [inaudible].

Ross Hay (17:10):

George A. McCague (17:16):
And that was with the marketing services. A matter of a few months later, I was appointed chairman of the Farm Produce Marketing Board. I probably should say that I had wondered about the problems in marketing boards. I heard about it when I was farming. And I had discussed with a few people in the department of agriculture and wondered why they were having so much argument. Particularly in hog marketing. Well, it didn't take long for me to discover why there were so many difficulties. Well, it can be recalled by myself that the hog board was in a situation where they were demanding agency authority, that is authority which would enable them to direct and market all of the hogs in Ontario through one marketing channel. And while there was authority provided for that in the act, that authority had never been delegated to the hog board. And that is what the argument was.

Ross Hay (18:43):

George A. McCague (18:45):
Rather than draw on that, we had interesting experiences in tobacco marketing in... Well, some 21 marketing boards at that time. And I remained as chairman until 1965. I might say, going back to my farming days, I was a member of the stock yard sport as a farmer. And I remained a member when I came with the department of agriculture. In 1965, the new Milk Act came in, Milk Act 1965. And I was named chairman of the first Ontario note commission under the new act. And that was really the beginning of the developing of marketing of Malcolm Dairy products as we know it today.

George A. McCague (19:48):
I retired at aged 65 in 1969 and remained on the board as an independent member for three years and retired at that point. Although I did serve as a commissioner on the long term hydro planning commission for the province from 1970 to approximately 1980.

Ross Hay (20:12):
Boy, what an interesting life, George. I didn't realize that when I came over here, I knew you were connected in some way with the milk marketing board.

George A. McCague (20:24):
Oh yeah. Oh yes. In 1965 was the beginning of that operation and I left in '69. Well, there was a lot of water went over the dam, for sure in those early years. The adjustment was outstanding and a wonderful job was done by all concerned. The milk marketing board and members and the milk producers. While many difficulties presented themselves, for most part, it went very, very well.

Ross Hay (21:04):
And you maintain your ability to work in these various capacities was helped by your communications with other students in that lay over at [crosstalk].

George A. McCague (21:16):
Indeed, I think that the heart and soul of our activity today and many of the situations that become catastrophes can be avoided with reason and with proper communication and understanding.

Ross Hay (21:41):
Very good. Very good. I agree with you. Well, that's been a wonderful career. I see something up here on your wall. What are they? I want to read to you this citation that was given to George on his retirement from OMAF. It's to George Anderson McCague on behalf of the honorable William Davis, Premier and the Government of Ontario. It states as follows, I extend sincere appreciation of your many contributions to the growth and development of Ontario. Not only for the years of faithful public service, but also for the aid and encouragement you have given to so many agricultural organizations. You have given outstanding leadership to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food as chairman of the Farm Products Marketing Board, as chairman of the Ontario Stockyards Commission of Ontario.

Ross Hay (22:54):
Your knowledge and experience in these and many other areas have contributed greatly to the agricultural community and to the enrichment of this province. It is my hope that the future brings you many years of health, happiness, and prosperity. It's signed by William A Stewart Minister of Agriculture and Food. I think that's a fitting way to end this interview. Thank you very much, George.

George A. McCague (23:25):
That's fine. Thank you, Ross.

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