13a de Februaro 2010

Part 4 of my Biography




My adult Biography 4

There I was, without a job and no unemployment insurance benefits to hope for, because the Vancouver General Hospital did not deduct unemployment insurance contributions from our pay checks. I needed work fast. We were now living on the upper floor of a duplex near 6th Avenue and Mac Donald Street, a house that was clean, had no pests, like cockroaches or mice but it was expensive. I went to the unemployment office and pleaded with them but all they had was an opening for several people, to work in a gold mine in Bralorne, B.C., in the (hinterland). I was told that Bralorne was a company town where I could find housing for my family. I could not take time to think and agreed to go. I told Carmen that I shall go ahead and as soon as one week, after I found suitable lodging, I shall have her, Carmen, Walter and Marian follow. The company advanced my fare by train and shuttle bus to Bralorne, B.C. The P.G.E. Pacific Great Eastern Railway, left the railroad station early in the morning from North Vancouver to Prince George, B. C.. I had to transfer in Lillooet, B.C. into a shuttle bus, a large Four Wheel Drive Van which took me and four more passengers up a steep, rugged mountain pass and down on the other side and then along a valley for several hours, passing several ghost towns, old towns without inhabitants, until late in the afternoon we reached Bralorne, B..C. As I can remember, Bralorne consisted of one street of houses, a small community building and a pub. We were led to our quarters, a barrack for single, unmarried miners. I shared the room with an other miner, much older than I and I already felt homesick, worrying about Carmen and Marian, barely holding back my tears. Next morning after breakfast we were issued a pair of overalls, rubber boots with steel toes and a hard hat with a light attached to it. We then were led to a dressing room where we were each given a locker in which we left our private clothing and dressed into the overalls, rubber boots and hard hat which was issued by the mining Company. Then we boarded a lorry on rails that took us inside of the mountain, into the mine, to an elevator which lowered us 2900 feet below the surface. On the way down cold water was dripping onto us and when we arrived on the bottom we needed a while to accustom our bodies to the heat and different air conditions. After that, we rode on some lorries on rails and rode them along a low and narrow shaft to the end of rhe tunnel, where we loaded the lorries full with small boulders of rock. When the lorry was full, we pushed it to an area with conveyor belts where the lorries were emptied onto. That went on, with the exception of three short breaks, all day long. At the end of the shift, we, the miners all gathered near the elevator, from were we were sent up, four people at a time, with cold water dripping down onto our overheated bodies. when we arrived up on top, we transferred into open lorries on rails, that took us out into the very cold fresh air. We now entered the first dressing room where we removed all the dirty work clothes and boots and hanged them into our private lockers that were meant only for the work clothes. Now we went nude into a shower and after we were clean we then went into a different locker room, where we left our private clothes behind, got dressed and walked to the dining hall. When I looked into the pale and hollow faces of all the older miners, I said to myself; they did not have much time on this earth and would probably die of silicoses, a lung disease caused by crystalized dust in the lungs. After experiencing the substandard working conditions, I swore to myself that I would leave again as soon as possible. I stayed two weeks, just long enough to repay the advanced fare money, my lodging and a few more dollars to bring home.

What I was not aware of, was, that Carmen ran out of money after I was gone for one week. She had no money to buy groceries and milk for Marian. Luckily we had a very good girlfriend by the name of Ursula, whom we got to know at our first day of arrival here in Vancouver and we are to this day as close as brothers and sisters should be; she lent Carmen the money to buy groceries with. When I returned home, to Vancouver, I went immediately to the unemployment office and told them why I refused to work in the gold mine. I talked to a sympathetic worker of the unemployment office who sent me to Richmond on Vulcan Way to a subsidiary of Alcan (Aluminum Company of Canada).I got the job there as a laborer.

We could not afford to live in the duplex any longer and found an other dump of a place on Drake Street between Hornby and Howe streets, in the center of Vancouver. The house was in a commercially zoned area and the owner was expecting to sell the property in the near future and therefore he cared not about the condition the house was in. It should have been condemned long ago. (it was a side by side duplex with two stories). The floors were of hardwood and the walls had several layers of wall paper, which were very dirty. I wanted to tear down all the wall paper and then paint the wall surface. I started in the kitchen first where grease was splattered all over the wall. I thought that the wall consisted of plywood, not of drywall which I did not know about. In Germany all houses were built from solid brick and also the room dividers were from a solid material. The wall paper would not come off dry, so I had to wet it. I made it too wet and when I began pulling off the wallpaper, large chunks of drywall came off, sticking on the paper. So that left large holes in the wall dividing the kitchen from the pantry. All I could do then was to splatter paint over all the walls to cover the dirt. We also had mice there. The duplex was large and Ursula came to stay with us and gave us some rent for it.

Ursula came from the coal region in Germany, from Bochum. She was one of eight children; (they were catholic but Ursula wanted to have nothing to do with the church. But later on, in Toronto, Canada, she worked for many years as a cook in a catholic diocese, a retirement residence for priests ). Her mother died when she was very young. Her father was a problem drinker who later remarried. Ursula came alone to Vancouver; an angel of a soul who shared everything she possessed but for that reason she was taken advantage of by her friends. She worked as a waitress and dishwasher and later as a cook. She then met this greek restaurant owner, who was very nice and generous to her in the beginning and wanted to marry her. She gave in and married him, but immediately after, she recognized the true nature of this greek person. His restaurant was indebted and he was only interested in her as a cheap slave and would beat her. She left him and came to stay with us a short while until her girlfriend Angela, was ready to move to Toronto with her. They secretly left Vancouver, so that Ursula's husband did not know where she went because she feared that he may hunt her down and have her killed. We always stayed in touch and she came to visit us and once we went to Toronto to visit her.

Alcan at Vulcan Way in Richmond was very busy. I started in a department where the large ingots of aluminum were melted down in a large furnace. After the aluminum was melted and the surface was skimmed with a large long ladle like equipment and all the impurities removed, the molten aluminum came pouring through small tubes that formed it into cables. These cables were still scorching hot when they were connected to large spools which would spool the now hardened aluminum cables by machine. I, and three others had to assist the procedure with various tools; this had to be done with precision. This job was performed five days a week on three shifts of 24 hours a day, three eight hour shifts. The machines stopped only when there was trouble. It was fun working there; only when business slowed down and one shift of workers were either laid off or transferred to an other department. I was transferred to a department where various kinds of frames were formed by melted aluminum pushed or squeezed through a die cast. This job was the most boring job; it was a job for dumb oxen. The formed aluminum parts came out of the cast, scorching hot, I had a pair of long metal tongues with which I grabbed the one end of it, dragged it along slowly along a table until the other end was cut and then together with an other person on the other end we slid it along bars to the side wall and let it cool off there; in various shapes and sizes. When there was not enough to do at that job then I was put on a machine where I needed nimble fingers and hands; there I was a failure, as well as in the polishing department where I caused so much damage that the other only co-worker there, got rid of me in a hurry. I worked at Alcan in Richmond a year only, until there was an other lay off. The company deducted unemployment insurance contributions from my bi-monthly pay cheques and this time I received unemployment insurance benefits.

While I was still working at Alcan, one of the workers there sold me a rundown old 49 Anglia automobile, an import from Britain. The seats were torn and he sold it to me cheap, I thought, but thinking back now he thought he had found a sucker who paid him to take away his junk. The car was in running order and because I never drove a car with a four gear stick shift, in fact I never drove any car before, I thought that would be the right car for me to practice on. The fellow that I bought it from drove it for me to the Stanley Park, a large city park in Vancouver, which had a one way street only and showed me while he was driving how to use the clutch and brake pedals and how to shift gears. I drove the car around the Stanley Park and kept on driving. A few weeks it took me to become comfortable shifting gears. The body of the car looked quite well, but the interior was a heap of junk. I came to love it like a living thing and was actually proud of it. It got Carmen, me and Marian around. When the starter did not work any more, I was so poor I could not take it to a repair shop so I always parked the car on a level or down hill. To get the motor started I got out while the gear was in neutral, gave it a push and jumped in, shifting into second gear and the motor always started. In the morning when the motor was cold I pulled out the throttle, stepped on the clutch, and while Carmen gave me a little push down hill, I released the clutch and put the car in second gear and there, the car was humming like a bee. Carmen always felt ashamed pushing the car in the morning. So I had to park it in our garage in the alley overnight which stood on a decline down hill. Where ever I parked, I always had to park on a downward slope.

One late afternoon in the fall Carmen and Marian were sitting in the rear seat; Marian was still a baby of maybe two years, it was foggy and raining and starting to get dark. I was feeling tired from straining my eyes so much; we were on our way home from Harrison Hot springs. At that time the starter in the car was still working, when we were going to make a left turn into a fork off street at Barnett Highway and Hastings Street in Burnaby. I went too far to the left because of poor visibility, so that my left front wheel got caught in a small ditch that became deeper and deeper. I stepped on the brakes and came to a halt in front of one of those telegraph poles. In the meantime the ditch was so deep that the car lost balance and tipped over on the side. Carmen and Marian had a rude awakening from their peaceful slumber. We had no collision; only when the car stopped it toppled to the side. Carmen and Marianwere not hurt but in shock. I told Carmen to push open the door on the top and get Marian and herself out. Momentarily, people were coming from various directions and gave us assistance. The RCMP car was also right there and told me not to worry, that part of the road had bad lighting at the fork off and caused several similar accidents. When I told them also that I was getting tired while driving, they told me not to mention that to the traffic detail. They called for a tow truck to set the car back on its four wheels and pulled it out of the ditch. There was no damage to the car except for the left side view mirror which was broken off and the carburetor was flooded. So they towed us to the next gas station where they cleaned out the carburetor and we were ready to carry on driving home. When I asked what all that would cost us, they told us to forget about it. That was the mentality of many small business people in Canada in those days. They were not as money greedy as nowadays . The RCMP only told me that if there was more than 500 dollars of damage to the car, that I go down to the police station and report it

It is now 1961 and Marian is 3 years old. Drake Street was part of the center of town and dangerous for young children to be on the street but they were playing outside any way. Marian saw them playing through the window. We had a lower floor and an upper. While Carmen was cleaning the rooms and making beds upstairs she locked the main entrance door but left the key in the lock. After a while, she felt that something suspicious was going on when she heard no more sounds from Marian down stairs. She quickly went down and found the entrance door open with a chair standing beside it. While Carmen had been working upstairs, Marian pushed the chair to the door and climbed up to open it; she then walked three blocks along Howe Street, crossing the very busy Davie Street, to a school yard near St. Paul's Hospital between Burrard and Howe Streets. When Carmen saw the door open and Marian missing, she was shocked. She ran out into the street and called her several times until some child told Carmen where to find Marian. ( When we walked with Marian, we always trained her how and when to cross the street safely ). After this instance with the school yard she kept begging us to let her play with the other children outside. Except having her Opa, she felt lonely. The neighbor had his children playing outside in the alley. I told Carmen to let Marian out to play with the other children. Marian got to know all the children by name and where they lived. One morning we were all sitting down for lunch when Marian walked over to the window and saw some children putting their hands into the rolled down window of our car, parked across the street. She excitedly called Papa, Papa there are some boys near our car. I never even went to the window to look, thinking they were only curious. A few days later I remembered our portable radio, the only radio that we had to listen to, in the car, which I had put in the back seat, was missing. We phoned the police and they came to our house and Marian told them the names of the boys she saw near the car and where they lived. A week later I was called to the police station to identify and pick up my radio.

Soon we found a house for rent in a good district on East 36th Avenue, three blocks west of Victoria Drive, where Marian later went to the kindergarten class and then to the first and second classes of the elementary school. I found several short time jobs of which I worked three months as an orderly at the Burnaby General Hospital as holiday relief. I worked on several wards including the emergency ward, a much smaller ward then. I found it confusing for me to work in an acute hospital, it was different than an extended care facility, especially where all the equipment was stored in different areas at each ward which was frustrating when one was sent to get, for example, an oxygen tank. I was sent to fetch an oxygen tank with all the accessories. It was an emergency. I went to the area on that floor where they stored the oxygen tanks and other equipment; on the floor above. It was not stored there but on the opposite end of the ward. I grabbed a tank which should have been full, because the empties were always stored on the other side of the isle but this tank was also empty. By the time I found a full tank and installed the meter gauge and got to the patient, the patient had already passed away. He would have died a few hours later anyway; the oxygen will only prolong the final end. I witnessed several patients in agony before they died, for several hours or even days. I wish that, when the time of my death approaches, laws will permit voluntary suicide, by legal injection or other fast and painless means. There was a lot of measuring of the urine output in ounces and tests for positive or negative sugar in the urine, which the other orderlies measured by only casually looking into the measuring pitcher, being accustomed of many such measurings. Catherizations; inserting rubber catheters to gradually relieve an extended bladder filled with urine and inserting or changing retention catheters. Handing out bedpans and helping patients on and off and cleaning them after, when necessary. Changing sheets and cleaning those patients, who had involuntary bowel movements in bed, emptying urinals, help changing bed sheets, serve and collect food trays and assist in feeding some patients and more tasks. That kept me more than hopping and the time just flew by. And often I was unable to do all the work I was supposed to be able to accomplish. One day late in the evening while I was working on a ward I was called down to the emergency to assist two ambulance drivers to transport a raving mad patient to the Vancouver General Hospital because Burnaby General had no facilities for mental cases. These two ambulance drivers were notified by the dispatcher of the Burnaby RCMP, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to hurry to some house where the RCMP officers were waiting for them. As they arrived they saw six policemen subduing a man who was in a mentally disarrangement. The Ambulance drivers gave the patient an injection. They said the tranquilizing serum was strong enough to make a horse go to sleep but managed only to partly calm the patient. I had to sit on the chest of this strapped down schwarzenegger type of muscular body who vowed to make mincemeat out of us if he got free of the straps. We got him safely to VGH from where he was wheeled into the mental ward and afterwards the ambulance drove me back to BGH.

when the three months at BGH were up the unemployment office asked me if I was a canadian citizen because Willow Chest Clinic, a provincial government operated TB hospital was looking for an orderly. I said I was still german. They advised me to apply anyway. I went to the personnel officer and told him right away that I was no canadian citizen yet but he said that does not matter while I was on trial. I shall be on trial for three months and then an other six months of trial before I was permanently hired and in that time I had much time to apply for canadian citizenship. I was never sure at first if I wanted to become a canadian because I felt as a german I was not fully accepted in Canada. British Subjects were, as I have experienced, the preferred ones. An old ex hungarian later told me once that the british thought they were the only white people in Canada and the others were only tolerated second class. I had a few snobby remarks because of my german heritage made by some ignorant snobs, who were themselves not canadian born. Even my daughter refused to speak german; after she experienced problems from other children at age six, because of her german parents. I found that canadian born people were friendly; only the newly immigrated people were snobbish including many germans. I felt that people were deliberately discouraged from congregating freely with one an other. The system of beer parlors with entrances for men only and on the other side of it was an entrance for ladies with escorts only. People were not completely free to mingle. Inside the beer parlors were bare tables and chairs, no entertainment what so ever, a place where one only went to get drunk, not really socialize. One glass of beer cost ten cents and seemed diluted with water. The beer slinger always brought four beers at once. I only went into a beer parlor once or twice, maybe even three times, only to keep a friend company.

The building in which the TB Hospital was erected, was an old building across from the Heather Pavilion. It was old and all the water pipes were making loud banging sounds because of all the air bubbles in them but the structure of the building was sound; it was built similar to those large structures of the time, like Woodwards Department Stores, Vancouver Hotel and the CPR railroad station, from solid brick and steel. It was at least as clean as the Heather Pavilion. I saw no cockroaches but many Silverfish and from time to time an occasional cute little mouse moving in during the winter. The patients had a habit of feeding the pigeons who in turn made the ledges along the outside walls, the bases for their nests where they laid their eggs and raised the young. Their droppings made a mess of the outside walls. From time to time a health inspector ordered the removal of the pigeons, claiming they were spreading diseases. The nests were then destroyed and the pigeons disappeared for a while, but soon came back to roost on the ledges until they put meshed wires along them to become deterrents. We were two Orderlies on the day shift, two on the afternoon, and one on the graveyard shift from 2300.hours until 800. hours rotating. Three weeks on days, two weeks on afternoon and one week on the graveyard shift. Our days off also rotated ; 5 days on two days off, four days on two days off. We also had a chief Orderly and an Orderly steadily working in the Operating Room, OR, where all the pulmonary examinations and surgery were performed. These two positions were straight days, five days a week, from monday to friday. The only real complicated job was the one in the OR. There were so many things to remember before surgery so that all the equipment and tools were laid out properly and none missing. The nurses always depended on Norm, our OR Orderly to remind them if they forgot to place some tool or placed it in the wrong area; they never exchanged any words; they would only follow his eyes in which direction they were pointing. They also depended on his strength to help lift the patients from the stretcher onto the operating table and back. He was present from the time the operating room opened until he turned off the light switches.

Norm was tall, more than 6 feet, slender but muscular. He said his two sons were even taller. I liked to listen to him when he told me about his home town in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He worked there for the Electric Company stringing high tension wires. In the winter the sun would shine with above freezing temperatures on the one day and the next day it was snowing with blizzards and temperatures way below freezing and the next day the snow was melting again. During that time many cables snapped and he had to crawl up the poles at temperatures, often lower than Celsius-30 degrees, in blowing storms. He was sure happy to be living in Vancouver, B.C. now.

The pay we received was lousy, very low. Norm, with all the responsibility, should have had a much higher pay-check. After all those years working in the OR, a very responsible position, he could not even afford to buy an automobile. His two sons, later gave him, as a retirement gift, a used ford car, which made him happy and proud of his two sons. The chief Orderly, Lloyd Statt, had the softest touch, even softer than ours. He would just walk around, shooting his mouth off everywhere, but always friendly and fair. He made out quarterly reports on all the Orderlies, to be sent to the government commission. Before he would send them off he would call us down, one by one, to his little private office and discussed the report with us, after he let us read it. Then if there were some points we did not agree with, he would change them to mutual satisfaction, asked us to sign and then he countersigned it.

We were needed there, at the hospital, mainly in case there should ever be an emergency, such as a fire or an earthquake. Besides that, our duties consisted in looking after patients that had incontinent bowel movements and no control of their bladder muscles to clean them up and supplying patients daily with clean and sterilized urinals and taking bedpans to and from bedsides, do catherizations where necessary, looking after all oxygen tanks and equipment as well as weekly cleaning of the equipment and the cleaning and sterilizing of the oxygen tents in use at the time. Not much. We had plenty of time reading magazines or studying. All the other patient duties were performed by nurses and nurses aides. The patients received excellent care. We received patients with TB from private nursing homes with large and deep bed sores. They were turned from side to side every two hours, washed and massaged with rubbing alcohol and in no time the sores healed. Among our nurses I should mention some outstanding nurses: a miss Froese and the other name I momentarily forgot, were ex german army hospital nurses, two very hardworking and kind, dedicated nurses. A patient friend of mine and I, visited them, the two nurses, a few years after they had retired and shared a new house near Cultus Lake, in the lower Fraser Valley.

An old english army nurse, Mrs. Grout, who later retired to one of those modern apartments for senior citizens where they cleaned her room and bedding and provided meals in a large dining hall. She also had a stove and sink in her room, if she felt to cook some occasional meal. She was not happy there, because most people there only gossiped about their family but when it came to discussing worldly issues of a political nature, they were not interested. Mrs. Grout learned to speak Esperanto in the same class as I, while she was still working. And there were a couple of good canadian army nurses.

The other nurses and nurse aides were also good, except for one arrogant english nurse, by the name of Mary, with her nose in the air, an acting assistant head nurse. She always was searching for faults on others, having too many faults herself. I overheard a few words interchanged with her and the head nurse, another ex army nurse, I believe from the canadian army, they both had an english accent.

The head nurse, a little freckle faced, cute little woman, with nearly all white hairs. I heard her say: but Mary, rules are made to be broken. While she said that, she was smiling.

There was Jimmy Brown, an Orderly with whom I often worked the shift together. He and Steve Venechuck came with me as a witness when I made my canadian citizenship. Jimmy was a frail, sickly person, in his forties, married and father of three children. He told me a lot of stories about Canada from before the war and the start of World War Two. He told me about the massive unemployment, hunger and labor unrest and the relief camps and food stamps. He told me that most of the workers were not interested in the war but were forced to enlist or get kicked out of the relief camps and without food tamps they could not survive. He, Jimmy, joined the merchant navy.

There was Lesley Mc Craigh, another Orderly in his late fifties, father of five children. He was always a labor supporter and union member where ever the outfit where he worked, was organized. From him I heard a lot of stories about the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, The Wobblies.

Then there was Pat Roberts, another old timer in his sixties and a first time newly wed., pro union man who rode many boxcars in his youth.

Then there was Willis, an ex british corporal with his nose a little in the air but a good fellow and quite easy to get along with.

There was Al Garber, a young fellow, the intellectual among us; he read a lot of classical literature, of which we had a lot of time for; he knew all those long old fashioned expressions and words one used during the 1800 s.

There was Steve Venechuck, an ex ukrainian who still had all his relatives in the Ukraine, whom he had already visited twice after the war. Steve came to Canada when he was 19; he was now in his 60 s. Before the war he worked as an Orderly in a hospital where he worked seven days a week with only the evening hours to himself. He lived in a dormitory of the hospital and had all his meals there. His pay was measly low. He enlisted into the armed forces as an Orderly and served in Europe. He retired from Willow Chest Clinic at age 65 with a full pension and Superannuation. He said he was well off that way and not hurting.

Lloyd Statt, I was told, changed his name from the german name Stadt to Statt because of the stigma of being a german name, attached to it. He was a proud member of the canadian legion but I doubt he was ever overseas.

In the beginning when I started working at Willow Chest Clinic, there was no union but instead we had an Association, The B.C. Government Employees Association. The pay was lousy low and the benefits not much better. I could just pay my rent for the house and utilities. Our groceries we bought on credit from the corner store by the name of Floes Market, an ex immigrant from Denmark who rode a few box cars in his time. Every month after we paid off our debt. there was no money left over and we had to buy on credit again at the market, from Floe, with inflated prices, of course. He told me he had a lot of loss because many of his clients moved away to addresses unknown before they would square their debt with him. He took me for a ride to the Queen Elizabeth Park conservatory once and he told me a lot about himself; about his ex homeland, Denmark, his emigration to Canada from New Zealand where he was staying with his uncle for a while. He said that New Zealand was too british for him. He told me about the bad days here in Canada; the unemployment, his rides on and in boxcars from city to city. We also came to speak of Harry Rankin, a very popular socialist here in Vancouver who was at the same time a prominent criminal lawyer; very often for the underdog, the poor and simple. Floe said he disliked Harry because Floe had been robbed several times in his store by hoods carrying guns and knives. Harry became their defense lawyer and always found a way to have them acquitted. I told Floe that I doubt that Harry cared for the defendants any more than Floe did. Harry, as a true socialist was opposed to the capitalist system but Floe disagreed. He said that the original ideas of socialism have completely changed. A few years after we moved away I went back to see Floe but his wife said he had died of a weak heart. He was only in his fifties.

Our dog Purzel had diarrhea during the night and we were unable to let him out fast enough. She messed the floor in several places. I gave her some medicine but it did not help. We were too poor to visit a veterinarian and I hoped that she would get better from the medicine. I put her in the basement over night so that she could not mess the upstairs. Next morning she had messed up the whole basement. So I let her sleep in the unheated garage with the door always open. She had her sleeping basket with pillow and blanket. It was a cold night and I felt sorry. The next day when I came to bring her into the house, she was gone and I called for her but no response. I came to the conclusion that she went somewhere to hide and die (she disappeared for several days when she had her puppies; only when she was really hungry she appeared with one of her puppies in her mouth and the rest we found hidden under a log amidst some bushes).

The patients at Willow Chest Clinic were mostly people who were poorly nourished and therefore had a poor immune system. Many elderly chinese men of the ones brought over by the british in the last century, to help build the railroads,( had a poor knowledge of the english language and spoke with a foreign pronunciation but if one took a little time to listen, had a little patience, one understood what they were trying to let us know. Quite a few nurses, nurse aids and orderlies, could not be patient enough. I had no problem understanding, what they were saying and told them, the staff, what the little old, partly senile chinese patients were trying to communicate to them ), now were exploited by chinese farmers and business entrepreneurs. And then, there were the problem drinkers of skid row, an area run down with cheap lodging and cheap liqueur and beer parlors in run-down hotels. When we received the skid row crowd, they were under the influence of excessive alcohol and uncooperative. These patients were misunderstood by some of the staff, in particular by some nurses. These nurses would regard them openly like scum but other nurses like Ms. Froese or the supervisor, Mrs. Shell knew that these people were victims and needed some kindness and understanding. After the patients spent a few weeks in our hospital, sobering up and receiving the best of food and kindness at the same time, they turned out to be the gentlest polite, friendly people. But after a few months, when they were healed and discharged they had nowhere else to go but to the same rundown environment, among the same down and out, otherwise good people, and end up as drunks again. I met maybe two or three ex patients afterwards who were trying to stay sober and stay healthy.

I could never understand that people known to have alcohol related problems and for that reason were welfare recipients or the many pensioners and disability people who could not manage their money due to the addiction of alcohol or drugs, sleeping under bridges, not eating properly would be given checks which they could cash in to buy cheap alcohol and now drugs. If we really have a healthy democracy, capitalist or socialist, we should have compassion with our fellow citizens and make sure we do not contribute to the eternalizing of their addiction. These people have a brain disorder. Why not create group homes with proper supervision and take the funds out of the checks they would otherwise receive? Let them have pocket money and some job opportunities. Give them a chance to belong and regain their health and dignity.





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12a de Februaro 2010

Part 5 of my Biography

My adult life 5

We had patients from all walks of life. We even had a minister, an MLA of the Social Credit Government. When he was admitted, his room was doubly washed with care and he had extra special treatment.

We had a greek sailor who had jumped ship as his ship docked in Vancouver. He managed to find illegal work as a cook in a logging or mining camp; became sick and tested positive TB. He had an especially difficult operation on his lungs and after the operation the incision became infected with a staff infection. He nearly died. He had a wife and a young daughter, both living in greece, whom he supported from the pay he received in the camp. He was to be sent back to Greece after he recuperated. He wanted so much to bring his family over to Canada and stay here. His wish became true. One of our nurses who was married to a lawyer took over the responsibility for him and his family and paid the fare for his wife and little daughter to come to Canada. That surely helped him to recuperate. Shortly after his discharge from the hospital, he and his wife opened a greek restaurant in Vancouver and were apparently doing quite well.

There was an immigrant from one of the soviet, russian republics in Asia, a disabled miner whose son was living in Vancouver and sponsored him and his wife to come and live with him here. He said that as soon as he was well enough to travel he and his wife were returning to Russia ( he was of the greek orthodox faith and his wife was islamic ). His wife could not adjust to the way of life in Canada.

An other patient, a devoutly practicing vegetarian who only drank tea from alfalfa grass.

The average stay in the hospital was twelve months. There was a patient by the name of Willy Green who was the owner or manager of The Cave, a popular night club in those days. He had many young and sexy looking women visiting him and they were constantly discussing political issues and seemed very fond of him and interested in his opinion on matters of politics. I asked him what made him such an expert in politics and that I was totally ignorant of world affairs. He told me that it takes a lot of reading and learning to analyze what is being written. I had plenty of time at work to read books and magazines laying around at the hospital but none worth reading with exception of Playboy which contained pictures of nude females. One middle aged nurse aid looked at every page with pictures in it for a long while and would always say: disgusting. But she studied every single picture in the book. I got tired of all the magazines and novels lying around. At that time the struggles in Korea and Indo-China ( Vietnam ) were in progress and I was surprised to find out that the black people in the U.S.A. were still discriminated against ( I always thought that the black people were fully integrated when in Germany the Regiments for blacks only and vice versa were abolished and the white and black G.I. s were integrated. I met quite a few who seemed cheerful and got along just great with the white G.I s. ( A girl whom my mother took in to stay with us shortly before the end of the second world war with the name of Frieda Nave, who came from the same town that we were evacuated in, during the war, from Langenbielau, in Silezia; She found work nearby at the electronics factory Telefunken but had no friends or relatives in Berlin. My elder sister Sigrid knew her quite well in Langenbielau. This girl was sexually involved with many men and one of these men was a black G.I. who was with the eighty second airborne and stationed at the time in one part of our school building. She became pregnant and after the soldier was long gone, she had a child born of him. A cute little baby boy, he had a yellowish complexion with brown, crisp, curly hair. My mother helped raise the boy with her and we treated him with love, like he was part of our family. When Hansi, Hans Joachim, that was the baby boy's name, was two years old, Frieda moved in to her own apartment, had many boyfriends, among them many G.I s who helped pay the rent and living expenses.

One of her boy friends was a member of the german Swat team = Bereitschafts Polizei, who swore that he wanted to marry her but after he made her pregnant, he left her because his mother did not want him to marry a prostitute. ( He never found out what a loving and kind woman he betrayed ) and left without paying any alimony for their child. In the meantime Frieda had three children, each from a different man. Child Welfare came and took her children. She later married a mexican-american G.I. and moved with him to New Mexico. My mother heard, after many years passed, that Hansi was adopted by some British major, who sent him to good schools and he went all the way to university and made something of himself.

I used to go around asking the married nurses in our hospital if they would mind if their daughter came to them and asked if they could marry a black man. They were all opposed. Some said they had black friends but would not want their daughters to marry interracially because they feared the discrimination against their future grandchildren. Many years later my niece who lives in the interior of B.C. wanted to adopt an other child to grow up with their own son together but she said, it was virtually impossible to get a child. I asked if there were no native indian children to adopt and she said yes but a native child they would not want because her father, my brother, was very much against it and of the discrimination in the schools and the neighbors; she said she would adopt a black child because they were accepted in the area.

On my days off I visited several different group meetings of so-called socialists. Trotskyites, Maoists, Marxist- Leninists, YIPPIES, World Federalists and what ever they called themselves. They all did not like one another and competed for membership. The only meeting I visited more than once was the Trotskyite meetings. They seemed quite open in their discussions and I also met some resisters of the war in Vietnam there. The trotskyites startled me when I heard them mention that the Zionists were evil and guilty of the first and second world wars. They published a pamphlet called: The Young Socialist Forum. They had a book store in the same building where I bought my first book by Voltaire: Three Works of Voltaire of which I have a translation into Esperanto by Euxgeno Lanti which reads better than the english translation. Reading the same book in german did not appeal to me. Later I read many books by Kropotkin,( also in Esperanto), Bakunin, and many of the various anarchist schools, and also the writers: Mark Twain, whose biting Essays are very educational, Ingersol, Payne and other american classical authors. I tried to read Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto but had difficulty understanding anything I read there and got bored. I never trusted any of these groups with their slogans similar to those I heard and saw in East Germany.

When I was twelve and back in Berlin, a friend who was partly paralyzed, a paraplegic, because he had polio during the polio epidemic in 1946 told me that a male nurse at the polio hospital( Oscar Helene Heim ), spoke Esperanto, The International Language. At that time I laughed about it and thought it was a similar invented language as that of the secret chicken language that boys in our area invented themselves. But now, while I was working at Willow Chest Clinic it came back to my mind. I phoned the private foreign language institutes but they said they never even heard of Esperanto. I talked about it with one of our patients, a black lady in her fifties who worked for the Province Newspaper. A few days later this lady gave me a piece of the Province Newspaper, an announcement of a meeting at the Edith Adams Cottage, for people interested in learning the international language Esperanto. Nearly forty people showed up at the meeting with some who already knew about the language and some already spoke it.The lady who announced the meeting was Mrs. Biely, a retired school teacher, in her late sixties, jewish and originally from Poland, an ex concentration camp inmate. She had just heard about Esperanto while she visited Poland just recently and only just began learning it. She started a night school class at the Vancouver Vocational Institute near Victory Square in Vancouver. Thirty five of us newcomers took part in the class and maybe six graduated the 12 week course. I was one of them. For learning material we used the book by John Hartley & John Wells. That gave us the basic reading and understanding but we were far off from speaking it. For that, we needed practice; so we started a club, an Esperanto club with president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer. That still not gave us the opportunity to speak it amongst ourselves. Our club members were mostly retired people with difficulties learning something new. The only two who actually spoke it well, that was Bryce Waters, a french language teacher, our president. He used to read to us or even held speeches in Esperanto and Gustav Carlson, a retired painter originally from Sweden, who spoke Esperanto with a strongly noticeable swedish accent. All the members except I, were church goers. I never thought I could feel comfortable with pious church goers but I was pleasantly surprised that we got along so well, they were a happy, friendly crowd but not serious enough about the necessity for speaking Esperanto. We were invited once to the home of Mrs. Biely and her husband, a researcher at the UBC beef, cattle husbandry department. He told me when we were both standing out on the porch, that he does not believe that esperanto would ever be accepted as an international language and surely never contribute to the achievement of peace.

A little more about my co-workers. There was Else, a nurse aid, an immigrant from Germany who did not care much for men; she called her husband (a truck driver by profession who had been unemployed for some time) a fat, lazy pig and she said she refused to have sex with him or do any chores for him. They had a married daughter where Else spent most of her days off. Both, Else and her daughter were believers in the Women's Liberation Movement. We, the orderlies got along well with her. Then there was Mary, her grandparents came from Poland. She disliked germans but was friendly enough. Then there was this very nice woman, in her late fifties, whose name I forgot but not what she told us. When she was in her late twenties she became a widow with three little children; one of them newly born. Her husband had no life insurance when he died and she was forced to accept Welfare Checks. She said the money was so little that several days of the month they practically had no food. She complained at the Welfare office. They sent a social worker to her home to figure out with her how to budget the money she received. The welfare worker had paper and pencil in front of them on a table and began adding and calculating and when she reached the middle of the month, the money was already spent. She said that the social worker left her home embarrassed and never again bothered to criticize. There were two german ex army nurses, one was named Miss Foese but the name of the other I forgot. These two nurses were hard working and very good to the patients; after they retired they bought a new home together near Cultus Lake in the Fraser Valley. Our headnurse spoke with an english accent. She was always friendly and fair. and a few more nurse aids who never talked about themselves. The nurses had their own little office where they gathered and socialized. One of the nurses had her son there as a patient; a veteran of the canadian navy who served in Korea. He was quite friendly and both, his mother and he, took a liking to what was german. The son was a problem alcohol drinker and after he was discharged from the hospital he invited me to visit him at his mothers home near 49th Avenue and Boundary in Vancouver. I went to see him one day before noon as he just got out of bed with one of the nurse aids from VGH after a long night of drinking. They were not happy to see me.

In the meantime Walter became ill and was hospitalized at the Heather Pavilion of the VGH. He was diagnosed of being effected by many different types of cancers. After two weeks or so he came home but not for long; his condition worsened and he was taken back to VGH. Our family doctor, who also treated Walter, Dr. Horii, asked his permission to try some experimental drugs on him. Walter gave his permission and in only a few days his skull had large cavities. The last time I visited him was on the day that president Kennedy was assassinated which made Walter very sad and he had tears in his eyes and very soon after that, he died. I refused go to his funeral to meet his family.

At work we had discussions, quite often about social issues like social welfare and unemployment. There were quite a few who bragged that people who were unemployed are lazy and did not want to work and if for some reason they, themselves were laid off from their jobs, they would find an other job immediately after. These same people had anxiety attacks when they were informed that Willow Chest Clinic was to be taken over by the VGH but that we should not worry about our jobs because we shall be transferred to other B.C.G. (British Columbia Government ) job locations. The orderlies were given the opportunity to get transferred to Pearson Hospital, a B.C.G. extended care hospital near 56th Avenue and Cambie Street in Vancouver. This job was a heavy job compared to Willow Chest Clinic. Jimmy Brown was to frail and quit working to go on welfare and Mc Craig had back problems but he was over sixty and went on early retirement. Where Willis went I never found out but the rest of us orderlies, nurses, nurse aids, ward aids, cleaning staff and dietary workers transferred to Pearson hospital. Pearson Hospital had three different kinds of patients: the general population of mentally and physically handicapped people including those suffering from the advanced stages of neurological diseases. Then there were two wards of patients suffering from activated positive Tuberculosis. And an additional part occupied with people who were physically, partly and severely handicapped by polio. I started on the general ward which was a heavy ward to work in and mentally depressing for sensitive workers. It reminded me of the Heather Annex. I worked there for maybe one year and afterwards I got a transfer to the polio ward which was in comparison, a breath of fresh air.

Although most of the patients there were severely physically handicapped but their mental state was a charm. The majority of the patients there were young people who were afflicted by the polio virus in the early stages of their lives; some of them as early as three years of age. Most of the patients had respiratory problems and needed artificial devices to assist their breezing. They were all fighters and with the support of the government and loving, dedicated support of their families they were well cared for. The patients were actively participating in the kind of care they were receiving and in many social activities. Not having the use of their hands they performed tasks with only a stick in their mouth, like using their sticks to send morse code on their amateur radio, in their amateur radio station which was donated to them by pilots of Air Canada or holding a paint brush to produce first class, mainly classical paintings of sceneries or they would write with the pen or pencil in the mouth. Brian Cruickshank who was only three years old when he was afflicted with polio and became severely handicapped; he needs a special belt put on him every morning to enable him to sit up in his wheel chair, he needs to be lifted on and off the toilet seat and cleaned and dressed; he has an opening in his throat with a permanent tube down his windpipe ( most of the polio patients had this tube down their windpipe ) which is attached to a machine to help him breathe when he is lying down to sleep, he is unable to use his hands properly and writes with a stick in his mouth; he took correspondence university courses and became a lawyer, working in a legal firm in downtown Vancouver. (I met him a few times in Riverview Hospital, many years later where I retired from, when he was sitting in at patients legal hearings.

There was George de Pape from Courtney, B.C.., a tough logger, who was only 19 years old when he was afflicted with polio. He was one of eight children in his family. His parents, mother with russian background and father belgian, were divorced; his father still living on the island with his new, young wife. His mother, brothers and sisters all moved to Vancouver to be close to George, who also became a quadriplegic.( He was paralyzed from the neck down and needed an artificial breezing aid. When he was sitting in his wheel chair he needed a Pneumo belt to compress his diaphragm and when he lay down, he went on a rocking bed His bed was in the far corner of the hall. His brothers helped him to set up a small canteen, right on the Ward, where he sold candies, cigarettes, pop, magazines and comics and many other articles and what he was unable to store you could order from catalogues which he had near his bedside. He was always happy go lucky. His brothers would bring in whiskey and secretly he would drink whiskey( together with his medication) until he felt really good or sometimes even too much, so he would vomit. His stereo component was playing from morning to evening; sometimes he had the sound turned up so high that the other patients complained so that the sound was lowered again. He played the kind of music that I liked; mostly german, russian music and Vie