I had turned 17 in June of that year and my dad had suggested a good job for me would be a brakeman for the CNR railroad. The pay was good and because my dad was a railroader, a station agent, our life was seen as a good way to make a living. I had gone to Melville, the terminal in our area, earlier that summer and was "examined" by the railroad doctor to determine if I was healthy enough for the railroad to hire me on as a brakeman. He said, "Drop your pants and bend over ", and he stuck his finger up my backside. I was confused but assumed I guess that this was part of being a brakeman and it was okay. In retrospect now, I wish I could ask him why he didn't give a 17 year old a little forewarning or counsel, but since I'm in my 86th year, he would probably be 141 tears old and not answer.
I was not to be a brakeman. My mother wrote to her father, my grandfather and her twin sister, a doctor in practice in Connectticut and told them my marks in Grade 12 were good and asked them for financial help to allow me to go to university. It was not easy for her to do that, but she was looking at her own life, living in railway stations, making do, keeping her family of boys together and often on the move. It wasn't that she didn't know any better as she had been in the same university residence where I was scheduled to live when she became a teacher in 1926 and knew that knowledge and the ability to impart it is a wonderful thing. My grandfather sent me two thousand dollars and my aunt a thousand dollars which was my turning point. I had lived with my mother at my grandparents for my first three years of my life during the great depression in the early thirties while my father traveled to earn a living, so we were close and I was named Darcy, after grandfather's nickname, acquired after Mr. Darcy, Jane Austin's prototype of a dandy of yesteryear. That wasn't me at that time.
Lestock, my little town in Saskatchewan was everything I needed at that time. School, friends,baseball, hockey, family, supremely happy, wrenched from this to culture shock, anonymity, incompetence, loneliness, and loss of identity. Small town boys, perhaps more so me, took a long time to become acculturated and then it may not have been all that useful. It took me a year to get grounded. I lived in four different places, scholastically struggled, barely passed everything and longed for home. I made friends with the equally troubled whose maladaptation was equivalent to mine but I recognized that distancing was useful. I learned one thing however, I wouldn't repeat the screw-up the following year. If I was to get into medicine the following year my pre-med year had to be good. I had to jettison my maladaptive friends, accept that to study is lonely, but to learn is joyful. I studied six nights a week and celebrated on the seventh. My marks were good. I was awarded an Isbister Scholarship and got accepted into Medicine.
The summer before grade twelve and before my mother took me to Winnipeg, I worked in the Pool elevator across the tracks from the railway station cleaning out the bottoms of the elevator shafts in preparation for the new harvest to come. The chaff of wheat, barley and oats with rat droppings was three to five feet deep in the bottom of every shaft. Dirty , dusty jobs like that taught you two things. Three things really. he third thing was that you needed to bath every night to get rid of the dust balls in your hair, eyes and ears and had to carry the water from the town pump in order to heat it on the wood stove for the bathtub in the kitchen. Then what was one?---- That you didn't want to do it forever and two----that you weren't good enough to do anything else. Learning to be a brakeman might have seemed to be a good enough idea at that time but all things are relative.