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Monday, December 5, 2016

Memories of the Montreal Gazette's "Addressograph Department"

The other day I was scrolling through the contact information on my iPhone and for a few seconds pondered the drastic changes that have occurred with information technologies since I was a highschool student. What's all the more startling is to realize how much has been replaced, discarded and forgotten while making this journey from the not too distant past to the present.

My first 'real' job came in winter-spring 1970, albeit on a part time basis, and landed me in what was unofficially called the "Addressograph Department" in the Montreal Gazette's Circulation Department located on the 7th floor of the former Gazette Building at 1000 rue St. Antoine.

The former Montreal Gazette building located at 1000 rue St. Antoine in Montreal.

These are a few fading vignettes from those experiences and the impressions they made upon me, and as I make this nostalgic journey back into the past, I do wonder how many of the once young people who may have once worked there are still around today; many people came and went during my three-year tenure.

Anyone and everyone stepping into the lobby were soon greeted by elevator operators Roger Tessier or Hermos Wagner; those two Gazette ambassadors always knew where everyone worked and where everything was.

At 08:00 that first Saturday morning, I started my learning under the tutelage of Muriel Rutherford; a seasoned veteran whom I thought was probably my grandmother's age. Miss Rutherford ran the Addressograph Department and she also seemed to live there.

Through careful hushed whispers I often heard her referred to as an old battle-axe, so I quickly learned that most people seemed to be afraid of her, but I never perceived her in that light during the brief time I was one of her fledgling peeps. 

Anyway, that first morning she patiently taught me how to use this ancient machine and what it was used for.

The keyboard was identical to that on a typewriter. Instead of typing on paper, this machine stamped out letters and numbers on small metal plates. The machine's words per minute speed was slow; maybe 20 to 30 at best. Although I was not a typist by any definition of the word, I was soon able to type faster than the machine could accommodate.

A metal plate as seen from the back
This example of a typed metal plate is actually as seen from the backside. Plates were typed backwards for one obvious reason; so that printed impressions came out forward.

Reading backward soon became second nature because doing so was much easier than removing and re-inserting the plate into the machine's carriage to read them from the backside.

Spelling and other errors were easy to correct on a metal plate. The error would simply be "blanked" by using the key (Just like a delete key today) that would flatten offending spots that would then be typed over.

The metal plate inserted into a metal frame
New plates were relatively clean to work with but almost all work involved existing plates which were coated in ink from their usage. In seconds one's finger tips would be blue from handing them. 

When taking a break or when work was finished, a special hand cleaner was required and that ammonia-laden smell was overpowering for anyone unprepared. The challenge during the day was to avoid touching or scratching oneself anywhere... otherwise telltale blue smudges would be left behind everywhere... and I mean everywhere.

The finished plates were inserted into a metal frame and collectively this too was usually referred to as a plate. As this example details, the typed plate has been inserted face-forward and a yellow cardboard impression has been inserted above in that spot to hold it. This format made reading, finding, handling and filing thousands of plates much easier.

(to be continued)

The Oddblock Station Agent

Thursday, August 18, 2016

2000 Miles!

Yay !!

If you miss the train I'm on, you will know that I have gone,
You can hear the whistle blow two thousand miles.
 Two thousand miles, two thousand miles, two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Lord, I've walked two thousand miles on this road.

Two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Lord, I've walked two thousand miles on my way.
Two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Lord, I've walked two thousand miles on this road.

(With thanks to that Peter Paul and Mary song, 500 Miles)

Today I can boast just a little because this morning I passed the 2000 and 2001 mile boards in my walking journey to nowhere.

Yeah... it's for my thoughts.
To place 2001 miles in the context of a walking journey across Canada that started from the corner Front & Yonge in downtown Toronto, I would now be about 2 miles east of Alderson, Alberta, a tiny location about 35 west of Medicine Hat.

To be honest, I was never certain I would reach 1000 miles and was often less certain I could pass 2000 miles.

My goal now is to reach Vancouver by the end of 2017.

This stated, my immediate thoughts are just about being able to go out again this evening and walk another mile, and be just as grateful to God to be able to accomplish this much today. 

A Nickel's Worth of Hope
This other coin on the left is for another journey detailed in a book I read quite a while ago.

"A Nickel's Worth of Hope"

An amazing true story of one man's journey; hitch-hiking from Holland to South Africa shortly after the end of World War II. 

Each person's journey through life if different, leading over different trails to different places and into different events.

Enjoy your journey while you are on it! 
 And don't rush just to get there!

Deo Gratia
The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum October 05, 2016

Yesterday morning I passed mile post 2100 in my continuing journey to nowhere, but if I was heading west, then according to the map I would be about 8 miles west of Gleichen, Alberta.

I wonder; when shall I be able to catch a first glimpse of Calgary's skyline in the distance?

Anyway, like that bunny, I'll just keep on going as long as I am able.

Addendum November 08, 2016

This morning as I walked with Kie to the GO Station I quietly passed mile 2200 in my continuing long-distance walk to nowhere. 100 more miles in 35 days!

In my ongoing imaginary journey from Front & Yonge, mile 2200 would now place me about 50 miles west of Calgary and parallelling the historical Canadian Pacific Railway, just past Seebe, Alberta, a name on the map.

On this note, yesterday, November 07, 2016, marked 131 years since the ceremonial last spike was driven at Craigellachie, BC., finishing construction of the CPR and Canada's first transcontinental railway.

As I have said all along, I'll just keep on going as long as I am able to.

Addendum January 02, 2017

This morning and without fanfare, I quietly passed the 2300 mile board. I had hoped to reach this distance prior to the end of 2016, however, that did not occur. Regardless, I did log 801.6 recorded miles walked in 2016.

In my ongoing imaginary journey from Front & Yonge, mile 2300 would now place me about 4 miles west of Leanchoil, BC., a location that actually exists and a place I once briefly stopped at while passing through on foot in June 1975.

Michael C. and I were pack-pack hiking from Golden to Field and we stopped to rest and wait for CPR's Train 2, The Canadian, so I could take a picture. The train showed up on time, I got my picture and we then resumed our journey.

Anyway, these days I'll just keep on going as long as I am able to.

Addendum February 24, 2017

Early this morning and without the rain that was forecast, I passed the 2400 mile board.

The railway mileage shown in this table was calculated from Windsor Station in Montreal.

Travel in any form must entail both an origin and a destination; even in walking a loop. 

My location now in that ongoing imaginary journey from Front & Yonge to Vancouver, mile 2400 would now place me about 2 miles east of Three Valley Lake in BC., a location west of Revelstoke that actually exists on a map and in this old CPR train schedule as Three Valley.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Baby Spot Has Arrived

Congratulations David & Winnie!!

A new arrival came into the world.

"Audrey has a sister." Kie excitedly informed me just after 06:00 yesterday; both of us were surprised because we heard nothing from David or Winnie the evening before.

Baby Spot, as she was called prior to birth, came into the world at 04:27 on July 19, 2016. David and Winnie have since named her Louise.

Baby Louise's fast arrival could well have been scripted in a Hollywood... really!

Winnie holding Louise a couple of hours afterward

Winnie went into labour around 03:50 and of course as planned, David and Winnie immediately notified the midwife and Catherine (Winnie's Mom) to look after Audrey. The midwife could not be contacted so David called 911.

As the minutes passed, the situation soon became very apparent to the expectant parents that Louise was not going to wait for help to arrive.

Just like in the movies, David was on the phone with 911 receiving instructions as he delivered Louise into the world at home while Audrey looked on.

Catherine and two ambulances arrived at David's home at the same time but Louise had already arrived.

For those who are doing the calculations and wondering, the answer is yes, Winnie's labour was all of 35 minutes or so. Audrey arrived quickly when she was born therefore a short labour had been expected for Louise; but nothing this fast.

Louise - 7lbs 2 oz.

 "... for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed." (I Samuel 2:3b)

This next image came in from David, the best one of Louise that I have seen so far... I'm assuming more are to come. 

Louise - July 21, 2016

Audrey with her new baby sister Louise

Hello from Louise Winifred on July 22, 2016

In her Mom's exact words, "In 45 minutes, she turned her father into a midwife, our bathroom into a delivery ward and her sister into an apprentice."

 The Oddblock Station Agent

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Three Years Already and Still Going

Only a place named Square One would have its name spread out on a curved surface

Today, July 07, 2016, confirms that three years, 1096 days (I used calculator because I don't keep count) have passed since my life-changing brush with death and experience with cardiac arrest; life-changing because nothing is ever the same afterward.

Against my wishes and best efforts since, a haunting "What if" always lurks in the shadows my mind. From birth, the reality of a finite life span has always been this way, but living in that subconscious balm of automatic human denial of such a possibility of expiry had always made life easier. That's gone now. Again, surviving cardiac arrest is life-changing and no day is ever the same afterward.

Life is a precious gift and I truly cherish each new day that I awaken to see and live in; this daily awareness is far more acute. A genuine gratitude and sincere thanksgiving to God are always and unavoidably foremost; before they were only thought of when selfishly convenient to remember. Instead, I was given a firm reminder to humbly breathe in like air rather than only occasionally think about what I have always said I believed.

Except for very early mornings, this current heat-wave has precluded my going out to walk around the neighbourhood over my usual routes as I have been doing diligently for the last almost three years.

Anyway, this morning I did something different; really stepping out of character and out of my comfort zone. Upon my own initiative rather that following a suggestion, I drove over to Square One before store opening time because I wanted to do some walking. Yesterday I had to drive Kie to the Apple store there, so I did have a practice session yesterday.

Square One's spacious passageways were far from busy and being crowded but I did have constant company everywhere I went. 

"They're all old people." I thought first, and then realized I was no different at all from them.

Honestly, I felt like an old man wandering aimlessly around a huge shopping mall filled with stores, stores all catering to a world of young people who I am now decades separated from, who are living in this changing world that I no longer know or understand. Somehow those unsmiling but not necessarily unfriendly expressions on the faces of the seniors I encountered seemed to reflect this sombre realization I had been pondering.

I brisquely but not recklessly walked my one mile plus a bit more and then promptly departed for home where I'm now coolly sequestered inside.

This morning the iPhone confirms I have logged 1908 miles since installing the Nike+ Running App and commenced using it on November 22, 2013. Notwithstanding the app's name, I have never run; only walked.

Morning's rising heat aside, I'm truly glad to be here to see this quickly passing new day of life that God has again granted to Kie and me to live in.

Deo Gratias,

The Oddblock Station Agent


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

We Weren't the Only Two!

The following heart-warming story that made national headlines back in August 1982 and then again in March 2015. Since then I have been wanting to add my comments.

I recall first reading this story back in August 1982 because it many remarkable ways their story was very similar if not almost identical to our own. If anyone has read other posts in this blog, then the reasons are obvious.

Although our journey down that similar road had a two-year head start, Kie and I never made it into the news. That idea had never occurred to either of us.

Kie and I have never had any contact whatsoever with this famous MacDonald couple, however, if there is one anecdote I could add, then it is this: 

My family name is not MacDonald but my mother's certainly was. In exasperation with me at times, Mom would eventually comment, "The MacDonald's were known for being stubborn." 

To travel those unmapped roads back then, a certain amount of that MacDonald stubbornness didn't hurt.

Read on and enjoy their wonderful story...

Pineapple love:
How a note sent overseas in a juice crate led to a 30-year marriage Staff
Published Tuesday, March 31, 2015 8:12PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 31, 2015 10:20PM EDT 

Gordon MacDonald was stocking shelves at a grocery store in 1979 when he cracked opened a cardboard case. Inside, amongst the cans of pineapple juice, he found a note from a woman working in a Del Monte factory in the Philippines.

Three years later, MacDonald flew across the world to marry her.

Still happily married and now living in Fredericton, the juicy love affair began in an innocent fashion, MacDonald said.

Gordon MacDonald and Gilda Feliciano met through a letter carefully placed inside a box 

Gordon MacDonald and Gilda Feliciano today.

“I cut the case open… and I found this little piece of paper,” he said. “I opened it up and it had a note on it saying 'pen pal wanted,' and the date had been 11 months since the letter had been written.”

He decided to write the mysterious author back, just to let them know where their note ended up.

When Gilda Feliciano received the response to her letter nearly a year later, the next step, she said, was obvious.

“I put it in the garbage.”

Feliciano said she’d nearly forgotten about writing the message in the first place, but was eventually overcome with curiosity. She opened up her piece of Canadian mail and began what would develop into a two-and-a-half-year correspondence.

“I sent him a Christmas card just to tell him I got your note,” said Feliciano. The conversation began as casual talk about family and work, but soon picked up.

“And then the letters started to increase. Once a week, then it became every day,” MacDonald said.
Daily letters turned into phone call and audio tapes -- and finally a marriage proposal. The story made MacDonald a local celebrity.

“Before I knew it there were people coming into the store, lining up to meet me, greet me,” he said. “People I've never met before.”

Newspapers covered the affair the week MacDonald left to meet his future wife for the first time.
“MacDonald, 29, leaves for the Philippines this week to wed a woman he knows only from pictures, letters, tape recordings and a fateful encounter three years ago with a carton of juice cans,” reads a story from August 12, 1982.

The couple returned to Canada to begin a new chapter in their fairy tale. A year later, their daughter -- a “pineapple princess,” as they’d call her -- was born.

Now a music teacher in Calgary, Melissa Ashley still appreciates the unlikely story of how her parents met.

“I take a lot of pride in the story,” Ashley said. “Not many other people can say that their parents met in that unique way.”

With a report from CTV Atlantic

With our sincere, best wishes for your many more years together.

The Oddblock Station Agent