Caddying at Marlborough Golf Club in Montreal and other ways kids earned money fifty years ago

We’ve had some previous posts at this website concerned with the Marlborough Golf Club.

We’ve also had some posts in the past about Cartierville School.

I’ve recently been working on a post about the 1970-71 school year, when I took a year off from university to work at logging and sawmill jobs in the interior and west coast of British Columbia. I think it was the 1970-71 school year, anyway. In researching some previous texts that I’ve put together, regarding days gone by, I came across the following text which mentions Marlborough Golf Club. Here’s the text, for whatever value it may have, for site visitors.


When I was in elementary school, my chores at home included washing dishes, peeling potatoes, and mowing the lawn. In exchange, I received an allowance of 25-cents a week. I also earned a little extra money by occasionally working as a caddy during the summers when I was about 10 or 11, at the Marlborough Golf Club not far from Cartierville School in Montreal, which I had attended during the primary grades.

The golf course had a caddy shack, where kids waited for the opportunity to go out to caddy. There was a waiting list, which was determined, at least partly, by when a particular caddy arrived at the caddy shack on a given day. An adult, in charge of the caddy shack, determined which caddies went to work for which golfers. We were paid about $1.25 per day plus a tip which was typically about 25-cents. In the late 1950s, that was a fair amount of money for a child. Comic books cost about 10 or 15 cents each, a magazine might be 35-cents, a newspaper was 5-cents, and my mother could buy a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four for $20.

I was too small to walk around with a bag of golf clubs over my shoulder. Possibly caddies who carried a golf bag earned a little more than those who pulled a cart. The work was straightforward. I would hand the golfer whichever club she or he suggested, pick up divots – divots being the clumps of grass and soil that would sometimes be dislodged after a golfer hit the ball – and replace them, and I would stand perfectly still whenever a golfer was preparing to hit the ball, or to putt on the greens. Typically we would cover the 18 holes as part of a foursome.

It was an impressive golf course – the greens were well looked after, and there were wooded areas adjacent to the course. I would bring along a hat for such occasions, as the sun often got extremely hot. I don’t remember much about the people I caddied for, except for one golfer in his early twenties, who commented that caddying must be an apt way for a child like me to earn a little extra money. One reason I didn’t go caddying very often was because, even if I turned up early in the morning at the caddy shack, there was no guarantee I would get a job that day.

I spent my money quickly. I don’t think I went caddying more than about 20 times in all. At one point I calculated that if I had saved my money instead of spending it at once, I would have saved over 20 dollars.

Newspaper routes

I had several friends who had newspaper routes when I was in elementary school. Occasionally I would help a friend on his route. Whether I got paid for helping him I do not recall. In the summers when I was in high school, I did not do much work. I wasn’t clear about how to go about applying for summer jobs. On one occasion, after I had graduated from high school, I answered a newspaper ad for a job picking worms, which were sold as bait for anglers. It was a job where I stayed up all night, and wandered around a golf course with a tin can attached to each leg just above the ankle.

I carried a flashlight, and pulled worms out of the ground. I was told that some people could make good money picking worms. Maybe they had awesome hand-eye coordination and showed the requisite enthusiasm and drive to excel at this task. In my case, my first night of worm picking was my last. The part I liked the most about the job was walking through the city – what part of Montreal we were in, I don’t recall; it might have been the east end – and seeing the streets very early in the morning, before anybody was awake.

Royal Victoria Hospital

When I was studying at McGill University, after high school, I worked at a part time job at the Royal Victoria Hospital, washing radioactive test tubes at a research lab. I wore a lead-lined apron to protect myself from radioactivity. The research involved rats. I didn’t stay with that job very long.

When I was still at McGill, I applied for a job at the Banff Springs Hotel. The availability of such work had been advertised on the McGill campus. I arranged for an interview and afterwards kept on phoning back to see if I had a job. I think it was my persistence in phoning back that landed me the position. Once I was in Banff, I learned that many of the students working there, from universities across Canada, had landed their jobs because of family connections. I was in a separate category. I was hired because my persistence somehow convinced the maitre d’ of the hotel, who had been conducting the interviews in Montreal, that I would be a good employee.

Banff Springs Hotel

I worked in Banff for three summers starting in the mid-1960s. I began as a busboy and in subsequent years worked as a room service waiter and doorman. In the next two summers, by which time I had transferred from McGill to the newly opened Simon Fraser University in B.C., I worked as a captain waiter at Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alberta.

Those were wonderful summers – my first year in Banff was my first time away from home. During those summers I traveled extensively, on my days off, through the Canadian Rockies and as far as Montana. I also had a letter to the editor published in the Calgary Albertan, in which I spoke approvingly of the economic policies espoused by John Maynard Keynes, a British economist whose ideas, called Keynesian economics, had a major impact on modern economic and political theory as well as on the fiscal policies of many governments.

Jasper Park Lodge

In the late 1960s when I was working as a captain waiter at Jasper Park Lodge, a Canadian Rockies resort with a clientele similar to that of the Banff Springs Hotel, I had the good fortune to meet Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who at that time had recently been elected as Canada’s Prime Minister. When he walked into the dining room at the resort, people gave him a standing ovation. He wandered into the kitchen area later, shaking hands with people, and also kissing the young women – waitresses and other staff who like most of the front line staff were university students from across Canada – who were hanging out in that area. He got permission from the young women before he kissed them. I remember one waitress declined a kiss from Trudeau. I had the opportunity to shake hands with him at that time. He came across as a very energetic, good-natured, and courteous person on that occasion.

My summer jobs in university were a great way to earn extra money and meet new people, especially after the lack of jobs while I was in high school. I also enjoyed the transcontinental train rides on the Canadian Pacific Railway from Montreal to Banff in May, and the return ride to Montreal late in August or early September. Seeing the changing landscapes as we traveled across the Canadian countryside has always been a delightful experience for me.

Jaan Pill
Toronto, March 2008


4 replies
  1. graeme decarie
    graeme decarie says:

    My career was less exciting. I was at Marlborough, of course, when I was 12 or 13. (14 was the minimum age for regular employment.)

    So, at fourteen, I got my first job as a blueprint delivery boy for Hughes-Owens. That brought in a cool, $12.00 a week. However, I had to give $10 of it to my mother. And it was made clear that this was not “board”, but simply my (inadequate) contribution to the household.

    Next summer, the job was wrapping purchases down in the basement of Birks, and sometimes working with the driver of the delivery truck. $14 a week. And this time I kept $4 – but had to pay my own tram fare.

    Then – jackpot. The next summer I did unskilled labour in a factory at $17. I remember one day standing in the loading door looking up and down the filthy lane and thinking, “This is it. This is the rest of my life.”

    Little did I know that in just 8 years, I would be pulling down over $50 a week as a teacher. (women got about $45 a week. Mr. Campbell explained to me that was because men had the extra expense of dates. But that $5 was pure profit for me, because I could never get any dates.)

    I have to confess that in grade 7, I made ends meet by shoplifting – things like stamps for my collection.


  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Good to know of your experiences, Graeme.

    I’ve recently been working on a series of blog posts based on a year that I spent around 1970-71 working in the lumber industry in the interior and west coast of British Columbia.

    I took time off from university for the year of work and I guess also for a bit of adventure. I had a credit card debt of $1,000 to pay off. I recently used an online Government of Canada inflation calculator to determine that in 2015 Canadian dollars, that was about $6,200 that I paid off.

    I began by working at a small sawmill a ways inland to the west from Lac La Hache on the highway between 100 Mile House and Williams Lake on the route going north along the Fraser Canyon from Vancouver. Everything that I owned for that year including a cooking pot and a tiny camp stove that I used for cooking soybeans, I carried in a backpack. I had also bought a surplus Army jeep jacket to keep me warm.

    I found a small shack to rent close by the sawmill. I worked there from the fall of the year until the spring breakup at the start of the next year, when the unpaved road to the sawmill became impassable for logging trucks. I had my debt paid off by then. It was easy to find work in these days. I had stopped at a gas station at Lac La Hache while hitchhiking and asked if there were any jobs around. I learned that a local sawmill had an opening available and I signed up at once.

    I hitchhiked to Prince Rupert at the start of the spring breakup (when the ground was unthawing and exerting turned to mud) when the sawmill had shut down for a while. In Prince Rupert I slept overnight in the woods and on the next day flew to Haida Gwaii off the best coast south of Alaska. I lived there for six weeks, learning how to cut down huge trees in the rain forest. I was about to go into the business as a tree faller but the six-foot chain saw that was required for the work cost $600 and when I sought to pay for it with my credit card (the same one that I had paid off), I found my credit wasn’t any good and I couldn’t buy the saw. That may have saved my life because I’m not really made out to be a tree faller.

    The work is dangerous. You have to cut a pathway through the bush to enable you to go running when the tree falls. Sometimes it bounces after it falls and who knows where it lands. There are also trees called Widow Makers in the bush – big trees that died decades ago but that remain standing, propped up by other trees. When somebody walks through the bush, the Widow Makers become dislodged and they can fall upon anybody in the vicinity. I learned all kinds of other terms for situations that can kill a logger; that one example provides an idea of what can happen. As well, people who’ve been felling trees with a chainsaw for some years can lose the capacity to feel anything, with their hands, because the constant vibration of the chainsaw can leave the hands totally numb, as the years go by.

    So I went back to the mainland and began working as a chockerman as part of a mountainside logging crew working between Terrance and Kitimat. I was witness to some close calls while working on the mountainside. I recall one worker’s comment, on one occasion where a person’s life could easily have been lost: “Close calls don’t count.” Safety on the job, at sawmills and in logging operations, requires collaboration and good intentions on the part of many people. When such collaboration and good intentions are lacking, anything can happen.

    The job lasted for a while, long enough for my forearms to start to show the results of day to day chores putting cables around logs. After that I went to work at an office job at an Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat and then went back to university. By that time the muscles in my arms had shrunk right back next to nothing; many decades later, when I began a program of strength training, I learned that the technical term for such shrinkage of muscles is called “detraining.” The subtext to the story is that it’s a good idea to engage in regular, strenuous physical activity, as our bodies are not meant to be idle all the time.

    Emerald ash borer

    I recently came across a small-scale portable sawmill operation near a historic Small Arms building in Mississauga near where I live in South Etobicoke. The sawmill has been set up in connection with an emerald ash borer infestation that has killed ash trees in guess in much of Southern Ontario. The ash borer gets in between the bark and the trunk of ash trees and in that way kills them. The trunk itself is unscathed and thus the wood can be reclaimed. When in December 2015 I saw the logs that had been piled up at a temporary logging site, I had this huge flashback to the time that I worked at a sawmill in British Columbia forty-five years ago.

    I thought among other things of the technological developments that have occurred in the logging and lumber industry in Canada during the past forty-five years. I’ve thought of so many things and have begun reading library books about the British Columbia forestry industry to find a way to position that industry, and my own fleeting experiential connection with it, in my mind.

    I’ve been working day after day trying to figure out what I had learned during that year of travel and work across the British Columbia interior. Part of the time I lived in a tent as I didn’t want to spend money on lodgings if I could live for free out in the bush. One of the insights I gained at that time is that every environment where a person sets up a tent is different. Some places are super comfortable and congenial for camping, some are not.

    Grizzly bears

    During my stay on Haida Gwaii I spent six weeks living in an improvised shelter in the roots of a giant hemlock tree at the edge of a rain forest near a place known as Hippie Hill in Queen Charlotte. I found a huge tree whose roots had grown over a rotten log that was resting on the ground. Trees in the B.C. rain forests are incredibly huge – absolutely enormous. I borrowed or rented a chain saw, removed the rotten log, and found I had a great cavity to work with, to set up a shelter. I built a drainage ditch all around the floor area, and created a sleeping platform using evergreen branches. In the area above the floor, I installed plastic sheeting to keep the rain off. While living in the tree, I regularly shopped at a natural food store in Queen Charlotte. There were many people to talk with, mainly American draft dodgers of my own age who had settled in the area.

    That was a super comfortable place to live. The six weeks I spent living in the hemlock tree was among the best (and healthiest – I had so much energy!) times that I remember from all of my years living in British Columbia. I was in B.C. from 1967 until I graduated from university in 1974 and moved back east. I would not see myself living out in the bush again, however. On the last night I was living in the tree, I heard something nearby and something told me I was in the presence of a grizzly bear. I had never had such an adrenalin rush in my life. I had a good sense of what grizzly bears are about. I had been at a logging camp some weeks earlier and had noticed an overturned fibreglass boat. Across the bottom of the boat were gouge marks that a grizzle bear had made with the single swipe of a paw. Those marks had impressed upon me what grizzly bears are about.

    Fortunately, it turned out that what I thought had been a grizzly bear turned out to be a false alarm. The next day or soon thereafter I was on a seaplane on my way back to the mainland.

    British Columbia interior and west coast history

    A random selection of books I’m now reading includes, by way of example:

    Timber: History of the Forest Industry in B.C (1975)

    Up-Coast: Forests and Industry on British Columbia’s North Coast, 1870-2005 (2006)

    Clearcutting the Pacific Rain Forest: Production, Science, and Regulation (1998)

    They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School (2013)

  3. graeme decarie
    graeme decarie says:

    I dunno, Jaan. That reads like a proposal of marriage.
    (come wiz me, my fair one, and I shall cut you bouquets of lumber.)

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Whether it’s the Grizzly Bear come to visit, or the Widow Maker going about its business, the woods are full of scary things. The disappearance of the woods, as in clearcutting, is also a scary thing from what I’ve read.

    It’s my understanding that lumber corporations used to have a practice of leaving timber standing alongside roads that travel by clearcut areas of what used to be forests. In that way, people wouldn’t experience the acute discomfort of actually observing the absence of the trees. I like that story, because it reminds us that public relations is a key part of success in life, whatever line of work a person or corporation happens to be engaged in.


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