Friday, 15 February 2013



        Now simply because we select this grand old line from the hymn book is no evidence that a sermon is to follow; but there is nothing like having a text to start with, even if it is in writing the reports of a police court. First, lay your foundation and then tell your story. Well, here goes. Some years ago, there came to Hamilton, a young Englishman and his wife and two children. He had received a liberal education, the intention of his parents being to fit him for the life of a missionary. In his English home, he fell in love with an intellectual young, and she fell in love with him, and that put an end to all ideas he had about converting the heathen; the result was a happy marriage, and in due course of time, bright little babies came to bless the home. Let us call him Bob, for it is more convenient to have a name for your hero than to wander through your story without one, even though it is fictitious. Bob had studied the Pitman system of shorthand, was an accomplished scholar, and had a position as a clerk in a large commercial house, but as London was full of that class of men, glad to get a job at any salary, Bob’s pay check was hardly equal o the expenses incidental to a young family, especially as himself and his dear wife were brought up in homes of refinement and plenty. Prospects of future preferment and more salary did not seem to loom up, even in the distance; in fact, the chances were looking toward a reduction in the clerical force in the house in which he was employed, and as he was low down on the list, naturally the older clerks would have the preference. His dream of missionary life had long since faded away in the bright sunshine of the realities of life, and he had no desire to enter the ministry and trust to luck and the liberality of the average church officials for the support of his family, unless he could get inside of the ring that handed out the paying charges.


          The time came when Bob had to come to some decision as to his future, as he was too proud to call upon his father for help, especially as he had disappointed the fond hopes of his parents in taking a wife instead of devoting his life to the singing of “From Greenland’s icy mountains and India’s coral strands,” and other soulful missionary hymns. Bob was human, and the love of a dear girl appealed stronger to his heart than did the spiritual condition of the heathen in foreign lands. He had saved a little money out of his meager salary, and as Canada held out the beckoning hand o9f promise, he bade farewell to his native home and set sail for the ambitious city, where electricity was doing all the hard work and all the laborer had to do was draw a fat pay check at the end of the week and live in the lap of luxury. Poor Bob found out in time that this roseate dream was not all sunshine, for girls were doing the stenography and bookkeeping and experts only were needed in the factories and workshops. There was no place open for educated missionaries in this busy part of the world. He walked the streets day after day looking for employment, but not being an expert in any line that was open, he returned to his home in the evening footsore and weary and very much discouraged. Had his parents sent him to a technical school in his boyhood days instead of a college, Bob would have become an expert in the mechanical arts, for he was a young fellow who could have applied himself to industrial pursuits.

          The little money he had brought with him from the old land melted like the snow, and soon poor Bob and his wife and children were on the verge of being down and out. One rainy Saturday night, when everything looked dark and gloomy in Bob’s humble home, some good angel prompted a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance union to call on the family, she having heard of their condition.  What was the use of the visitor unless she was prepared to render ‘first aid’ ? So she prepared a basket of food and started on her rainy journey? The visitor had met Bob’s wife before, so no formality of introduction was necessary. To shorten the story, the basket was looked upon as manna from heaven, to which a two dollar bill was added. On Monday morning, through the personal acquaintance of the lady’s husband with kind-hearted Tom Towers, who was then a street foreman, a promise of work for Bob was secured, and that afternoon he was added to the street gang. It was work that he was unaccustomed to, and by night was sore in back and with blistered hands after his first half day as a member of the shovel brigade. Tom Towers made his task as light as possible, while at the same time he felt it to be his duty to look after the interests of the city.


          Bob worked with the shovel brigade till such time as more congenial employment was offered to him. The sun of prosperity made life brighter for himself and family, and in time his new employers found that he was too valuable to be employed in the humble capacity of a laborer; he was advanced to a better job with quite an addition to his paycheck. He bought a home for his family and provided it with many of the comforts he and his wife were accustomed to in the English home they had left a few years before. The company for which he was working gave him another boost on the ladder, and called him from the town in which they had first appointed him and brought him back to Hamilton at a salary of over $100 a month. Bob bought a home in Hamilton and is now the owner of two comfortable houses, on which there is not a dollar of indebtedness. It is not likely that he will forget the days of adversity when he first came to Hamilton, nor the kind friends who came to his relief. Especially will he remember kind-hearted Tom Towers, who helped him to his first job. Bob’s wife has never forgotten the friends who helped them, for she told the story to a lady member of the W.C.T.U. , to whom the readers of these musings are indebted for a recital of it. The man that is not too proud to work at anything that offers will come out ahead in the end. There is always room higher up as you climb the ladder.



          The bit of history that we have written about Bob has its counterpart in the history of another Hamiltonian, who was down and out a few years ago in Hamilton; not that it was his fault that he was out of work but the reader can remember when work was scarce and two men were on the waiting lists for every job. And here is where Tom Towers came in as the good angel to help another, a brother man in distress. Towers was a street foreman, and a right good one he was , for he not only knew how to get the best out of his men, but also how to plan his work in the best interests of the city. One day Tom was approached by a young fellow whom he had known for years as a Hamilton boy; in fact, the young fellow was a native of this old town. We will have to give him a name to designate him while we are telling his story – Bill Sandstrip, for if there is a spot on this broad earth that Bill loved, it was the old beach, where he shot ducks and fished in the happy days of boyhood. Bill had no trade, having spent the first years of life in acquiring an education in view of studying for a profession. The education was all right, but the profession never materialized on account of circumstances, and Bill had to turn his hand at whatever he could find to do.


          Well, to get on with the story, and not tire the reader with too much detail, bill got in touch with his old friend Tom Towers, and asked him if there was an opening in his gang for a Weary Willie who had worn his legs down almost to the first joint in search of work, and could only get promises of the first vacancy that might arise, which was not very cheering to say the least. Tom looked Bill up one side and down the other, and with that good-natured smile on his face that never comes off, he told Bill that he could not offer him anything that would be desirable. Tom fancied the well-dressed Bill with a spade in his hands digging in the streets of his home town , where he had lived a life of ease and comfort, not knowing a want that could not be gratified. Fancy him in a pair of coarse boots where he was wont to be seen in the finest calfskin; a pair of trousers that the poorest man would turn up his nose at if some good Samaritan were to offer them to cover his naked limbs; with a shirt and felt hat to match. Tom Towers could not realize his old friend in such garb. Bill had counted the cost to his dignity, and all he wanted just then was a job that would pay him twenty-five cents an hour till such time as something better turned up. Well, he was on the city payroll the next morning, and Foreman Towers had no more faithful man in his gang. Bill stuck to the shovel brigade for a few weeks and then an unexpected offer was made to him by a man who admired his independence in working as a day laborer rather than be a loafer on his friends. Bill Sandstrip was a young man of good habits who never visited a saloon nor spent time and money as a would-be sport. Today he is the business manager of one f the large firms in Hamilton, and it is only a question of time when he will be on top of the ladder. He does not forget his old friend, Tom Towers, nor does he forget that in his days of adversity a way was opened to tide over the hard times. Providence helps those who help themselves.



          Tom is a Hamilton boy from the ground up. When a youth he learned the carpenter’s trade, and developed into a competent workman. From the time that he had arrived at man’s estate, Tom took an interest in ward two’s politics, and he was somewhat of a hustler on election days. It was all fun for him, and he had no idea of ever getting into the game beyond helping a friend who might be a candidate. A. D. Stewart took quite a fancy to Tom, and when he was elected mayor of the city, he offered to give him a hand to the “pork barrel.” Tom had no ambition for a city job, in fact he preferred shoving a jack plane and being independent. Hard times struck Hamilton pretty hard in those days, and Tom, like hundreds of carpenters and other mechanics, was out of a job. Mayor Stewart got busy and found there was an opening in the office of foreman of streets and he offered it to Tom. The temptation was too great for Tom to resist, although he was somewhat doubtful of his abilities to fill the office, but he concluded to give it a trial. And Tom Towers got on the city payroll, and he has been there ever since. No change in the city’s administration has affected Tom’s standing, for he has been promoted from one department to another, wherever his experience better fitted him, till now he holds the responsible place of superintendent of the waterworks. Tom is no shirker, no matter what hour of the day or night duty calls him, and the official head of his department has confidence in his ability.



          The old-time Methodist preachers were wags in their way, and when they met at the annual conferences they generally had a jolly time. It was the old story, when the cat’s away the mice can play, and these good brethren, being out of sight of the saints to whom they dispensed the gospel when at the home church, gave vent to their humorous natures. Brethren who had probably not met since they parted in the college campus on commencement day, greeted each other in loving embrace, and talked over the happy days of college life. For this hour they forgot that they were staid Methodist preachers, but they were boys again, recounting the pranks they used to play on the professors, and how one class was always on the lookout to catch the other fellows at a disadvantage. The story was told of two athletes, sworn friends, who attended Albert college at Belleville, that they never met that they did not grab each other and wrestle for mastery. They were splendid specimens of vigorous young  manhood in their days of college pranks.

          It was during a session of conference that the Rev. W. J. Hunter, who was pastor of one of the congregations in Hamilton, raised a laugh at the expense of a clerical brother who was known as a regular tightwad. When the conference plate was passed around among the preachers for some special object, this brother was always careful to feel down deep into his trousers and fish out the smallest coin. At a table around which was gathered a number of the brethren discussing fried chicken and other delicacies that the good sister who entertained them knew that Methodist preachers loved so well, it was proposed that after the bounteous meal, each one should tell a story to pass away the hour. When it came to Brother Hunter’s turn, he related an imaginary dream that he had a few night’s before. In his dream he went to heaven, and his picture of the golden streets, the rivers of shining water, the seraphic choir and so forth were described as only that delightful raconteur could paint it. When he concluded, Brother Tightwad, who was pastor of a church in Chatham, asked him in a tone of coarse jocularity:

          “Well, Brother Hunter, did you see any of us in your spiritual dream?”

          “Yes, Brother Tightwad, I saw you.”

          “Ah! and what was I doing?”

          “You were on your knees.”

          “Of course, praying.”

          “No brother, I must tell the truth. You were trying to dig up the golden streets of the New Jerusalem.”

          Ah ! that was long ago, and but few are left to tell the story of the ministerial match down at the Grand Trunk depot, or whether Brother Tightwad’s pocketbook shook out more generously when the conference collections were being taken up.

No comments:

Post a Comment