Friday, 24 May 2013


The boys of fifty years ago did not have half the chance to make good that the present generation have, yet if you take a look backward, the old boys did remarkably well for the opportunities they had. There were no technical schools in which one could get scientific training to begin life as a carpenter, a machinist, a blacksmith or as a draughtsman. There was no higher education at public expense, for as soon as one of the old boys had mastered the three R’s generally he had to take to the workshop and learn a trade, beginning in a printing office with washing ink rollers, sweeping the office and sorting the pi he picked up from the floor. This old Muser refers to the printing office, for it was in that time that he began, when only twelve years old, to learn how to wash rollers and sort pi. Nowadays the boys have better opportunities, for their parents are able to keep them at school till they graduate from the collegiate, and, if so inclined, they enter college for a four years’ course and come riding home on a bit of the sheepskin that the college president honors him with as a mark that he has faithfully pursued all the studies in the living and dead languages. Then the boy is ready to become a preacher, doctor, lawyer or something genteel. But where are the future mechanics to come from that are to manage the industrial establishments of a manufacturing city like Hamilton? There is room at the top in all factories in Hamilton for the hundreds of bright Canadian boys if they will only qualify themselves for the places. We might not overstretch the truth by stating that in Hamilton today the majority of skilled workmen were born in other lands. In their native country, they had the opportunity to learn a trade through a thorough training of apprenticeship of seven years. A Canadian boy would not think of giving seven years of his life to learn a trade, for by the time his indulgent parents are willing that he should leave school, he is too old to begin at the broom in any workshop.


          The city of Hamilton has generously provided a technical school in which any intelligent boy can lay the foundation for a trade and for future independence and usefulness while he is still a student in the public school. By spending a few hours each week in the school workshops he can become a master in the handling of tools that will fit him to take an advanced place in some factory by the time he is ready to leave school and begin earning a living. Or the boy or young man who is now employed can greatly help himself by spending a couple of hours for three evenings in the week taking a special course in the technical school under accomplished and talented masters. At the beginning of the last term in the technical school a bright young boy went to the teacher in the blacksmith shop and said : “I have been wasting my time in the evenings laying around pool-rooms and bowling alleys, thinking that I needed recreation after working all day; but now I am going to turn over a new leaf and spend my evenings in learning something that will be useful to me as a worker.” Last Monday night, at the closing exercises of the technical school for this year the teacher in the blacksmithing department took great pride in exhibiting a number of tools which that young fellow made during the winter evenings that he spent at the school. That boy will yet be heard of as a foreman or a master workman in some factory. In the same department the teacher called special attention to the exhibit of work done by boys under thirteen years of age, who spent two or three hours every week in learning how to use their hands in that which will fit them for advanced entrance into some workshop when their school days are over.


          On last Monday night the general public, and especially the fathers and mothers of Hamilton, were invited to attend the exhibition of work done by Hamilton boys during the past winter’s attendance at the Technical school. Prof. Witton and his accomplished corps of technical teachers gave cordial welcome to their guests, but it was evident that they felt by the small attendance that the fathers and mothers did not take much interest in the opportunities presented by the board of education for the training of their boys in skilled labor. The visitors had presented to them what their boys can be trained to do under proper teachers. Take the work done on the wood-room during the past term and it will stand comparison with the work of the best carpenters and cabinet-makers in any city. The work is all done by young boys from 12 to 15 years of age, and it is remarkable the fine finish put upon it as the result of a couple of training two or three evenings a week during the winter months. As most of the skilled carpenters now employed in Hamilton come from the old country, where the opportunities for learning a trade are better than in Canada because of the more liberal spirit of allowing more apprentices to a given number of journeymen, the Canadian boy’s only hope is to get a preliminary training in a technical to qualify himself to earn a living when his school days are over. One thing is certain, the boys who did the carpenter and cabinet work that was on exhibition will be heard from in the future in the army of skilled workmen, if they will order their lives to correct habits. Not alone did they show the careful training education that can be had in a couple of hours each working evening during the term to qualify themselves as electricians. Parents, talk this over with your boys and get them up to the point that when the next session opens they will spend their evenings in Prof. Nolan’s class, instead of getting a street education that will make loafers of them. It is either a trade for the boys while they are young or a shovel and pick ax as a street laborer when old age comes upon them. A first-class electrician’s salary goes up into the hundreds and thousands of dollars every year; the poor devil with the shovel may get twenty-five cents as hour if he has the political influence to force the city council up to those figures. Father, mother, which job are you going to select for your boy?


          Then there is the mechanical and architectural drawing departments in the school, and the specimens of work along those lines that were on exhibition would be a credit to expert draughtsmen. This department seems to be an attraction to boy students, and they great pleasure in excelling in their work. The teacher is patient in leading the boys along, and when one excels he is not sparing in eulogies. A skillful draughtsman makes an expert mechanic, and where both are combined, there you will find a high-salaried man. When a boy undertakes a bit of work in the wood or iron departments, he is required first to make a drawing and plans of the article, and thus he begins from the ground up to complete his design.


          A technical school is fortunate in having as its art teacher Prof. Gordon. His long experience as a teacher, and as a worker in art is just what the beginner needs as a guide. Then, being a Hamilton man, he has personal acquaintance with not only the dilettante in art, but also of the boys and girls who hope to make practical use of their taste in art in some line of business. The walls of the studios in the school are lined with sketches from copies and from life that are creditable to beginners. The students say that he is one of the most patient of teachers, and that he guides them without a word of reproach for their obtuseness. This old Muser is not going to pose as an art crtic, therefore, we can only advise the fathers and mothers to go and see what their boys and girls are doing.


          The rooms of most interest to the ladies were the china painting, the model kitchen, where domestic science is taught and the millinery, the dressmaking and the underwear departments. These exhibits were the centers of attraction, and many a young girl who made her first visit to the technical school last Monday night came to the determination that at the beginning of next term she would enter as a public in the night classes. There was a time, my old Hamiltonian girl, when mothers taught their daughters the art of mending and making their own clothes and to darn their own stockings, but that day has gone by, and the average girl can hardly tell the point of the needle from the eye; and the running of sewing machines by girls is one of the lost arts unless they are compelled to make a living with the machine. The majority of the pupils in this domestic department are girls who are employed during the day in offices and stores, and who avail themselves of the opportunities afforded by the tech. to become experts with the needle. The domestic science department does not draw the number of students that the importance to household economy deserves. If there is one thing that more than another that a woman or girl should be an expert in is in home cooking. The world is full of dyspeptics, and the prevailing cause is bad cookery. Some advanced ministers of the gospel have declared that they will not perform the marriage ceremony unless the man and woman can present a diploma that they can present a diploma from a school of cookery that she is fit cater to the stomach of her dearly beloved.


          In the clay-working room were many fine specimens of the handiwork of students under fifteen years of age. But we must call a halt, as we have run over our allotted space. The writer is interested in the boys and girls of Hamilton, and if we could urge one suggestion to fit them for the battle of life gladly we would do so. In this great manufacturing city, there are openings now and prospective opportunities for every boy, rich or poor, to take his place in its industries. He can either be an expert or he can drag through life at the bottom of the ladder. The technical school, on which the taxpayers of Hamilton have expended and are spending so many thousands of dollars every year, puts it up to the parents to decide what is to be the future of their boys and girls as wage-earners.

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