Day 187 - William

Day 187 - William (2nd person I approached)
July 06, 2014 - The first person I approached was actually willing to chat with me, with a caveat. He is an ambulance driver and said he may get called away at any minute. I was fine with that, but then he decided that having his picture taken while in uniform wasn’t the best idea. Have to respect someones professional considerations, and associations.


William was sitting outside a local hardware store, eating a slice of pizza when I approached him. He agreed to chat without hesitation telling me he thought the concept was an interesting one. We seemed to connect very quickly and chatted for the better part of 45 minutes. It took him almost all of that time to finish his slice of pizza.


William was born in Cambridge, England. His sister Jane is seven years older than William.

“We weren’t very close. With the difference in our ages, by the time I was in my early teens she had married and moved out of the house. We do speak on occasion, but not usually more than about once a year,” he said. His parents where both English. When William was four years old, the family immigrated to Canada.

“They had applied to New Zealand and Canada, and Canada came back with a yes first. So Canada it was. My father had been in the military since he was 17 years old. We moved to Ingersoll, in Ontario. I think that decision was made because of a job offer. With my father joining the military at such a young age, he didn’t have much more than a high school education. He got a job working in the office of a nut and screw manufacturing company. The company had previously been making Howitzer (artillery) shells for use during the second world war,” said William. 


When he was 15 years old, William hitchhiked to London (Ontario) to buy a new bike. “We had three television channels, and I saw a commercial for a ‘ten speed bicycle’ which was relatively new at the time. Ingersoll is a small town between Woodstock and London. It was common to hitchhike between the towns. I was about 15 and I went and bought this new bike and then had to ride it home (about 40 kms),” said William. I asked if he had a job or what he did to pay for the bicycle.

“I sold drugs,” he said. I realized he was telling the truth.

”A couple of my friends and I wanted to make some extra cash, so we got together and we sold mescaline. None of us did drugs, we just wanted to make some cash. We did that for about three months and when we had enough cash for what each of us wanted, we stopped selling,” he said. I asked if his parents wondered where he got the money to buy the bike from. He pondered this for a moment before telling me

“You know, they didn’t actually. They seemed to be okay with the fact that I just had a new bike.” William was known at school as

“the guy with the cool jeans. You couldn’t buy much other than plain jeans and clothes in Ingersoll, and if I wanted anything to look a little different, I had to alter it myself. I would add metal studs down the sides, or sew different pieces of material on in star shapes. I actually learned how to embroider so I could make designs on jackets and shirts. I learned about different fabrics and things as well,” he said. 


Upon graduating high school, William went to Fanshawe College to study business.

“I wasn’t particularly interested in business. It was more about that's just what you did when you finished school, you went to college. I also took architectural drawing because I liked drawing and designing things,” he said. William also worked part time as well, getting a job in a retail store, furthering his interest in clothing. HIs father had started his own business, opening a toy store. 


When William finished college, his father had three stores and William ran one of them for his father.

“The store I ran was more of a hobby store and I started to make replica miniature soldiers. Eventually I was getting commissioned to make historically accurate models for some of the customers. They could take as much as one hundred hours to complete, and I could sell them for a couple of hundred dollars,” he said. William got married at nineteen, and had two children, a boy and a girl.

“I bought my first house at 24, and it wasn’t in the greatest shape. I had to learn to do a lot of work on the house myself. I figured I’d start in one room and learn what I could to fix that one room. By the time I had made it through the house, I had learned to drywall, build walls, do some electrical and plumbing, paint and finish. I then went back and reworked the first renovations I had done because I knew how to do the work better. It was a good way to learn, that’s for sure. When you can’t afford to get things fixed, you've got to do it yourself,” he said. William opened his own clothing store in London, Ontario which he had for five years. After 17 years, his marriage ended.

“A customer who was a regular at my store heard I was selling up and offered me a job. His name was Harry Rosen (owner of a chain of high-end men’s clothing stores across Canada). I went to work for him working my way into becoming involved in training the staff in customer care and relationship building.” 


After getting divorced, William met his second wife.

“We wanted to travel and had been thinking about selling up and moving somewhere else. My wife’s father had died at 52 and she didn’t want to wait until we were older to travel, you know, life’s short. So I told my boss at Harry Rosen that I was giving my notice. I got a call and it was the vice president (VP) of the company. He said I couldn’t resign and wanted to know what I wanted to stay. I put my hand over the ‘phone and asked my wife where she wanted to move to. She literally said ‘I went to Vancouver once and I liked it there.’ I told the VP I wanted to move to Vancouver. He called me back twenty minutes later and said they had a job for me in Vancouver!” said William. To make things even easier, William’s cousin was moving to Ontario from England. William arranged to sell him his furniture and his vehicle.

“He bought the lot. My wife and I packed our personal belongings into our car and drove out to Vancouver!”


William worked for Harry Rosen for twelve years in all.

“My (second) wife and I had two children, another boy and a girl. When the children were about eight and five, we decided to move to England.

“I got a job in Brighton working for a window company. I travelled up and down the east coast of England as the after-sales consultant, visiting jobs that our contractors had completed. We lived there for close to two years. The way the education system is set-up in England, you have to have bought a house before even having children. Otherwise you have little say in where they go to school, other than sending them to private schools. We felt the education system was better in Canada. Our daughter was approaching high-school age, so we came back to Vancouver,” said William.


When they needed a new cabinet for their new house in Vancouver, William decided to build it himself.

“I used pine and mahogany and my wife thought it was really great. She suggested I show it to the owner's of a store we knew of. They liked it and asked me to make a few of them for their store. My workshop was the front porch. I was out there on the porch working one day, and a woman stopped to talk. She asked if I would come to her house a few blocks away because she needed a carpenter to do some jobs around her house. She was a Russian ballerina and quite the character, so I went with her then and there. I did the work for her, starting the next day. And now I’m a full-time contractor,” said William. He had being working full time for another clothing company and slowly worked his way out of that job as his contracting work grew.

“I was working 40 hours a week and doing work on the side with carpentry. Then I went to 30 hours so I could spend more time working for myself, and then 20 hours and finally, I went for it. I quit working for that company and worked full time doing contracting jobs.” 


William gets all of his work via word of mouth and recommendations.

“I will do a job for someone and a friend of theirs will see the end result and they’ll contact me. Or someone will say ‘hey, I know a guy who does this’ and they refer me for the job. I pride myself on my work ethic. I’m always sitting outside the job site five minutes before I say I’ll be there so I start on time, every day. I make sure to look presentable, and keep the job site tidy as well. I also email the clients daily to tell them what I’ve worked on and to keep them informed about the progress. I do about ninety percent of the work myself. That way I can keep my word, and accountability. I can’t secure a client just by telling them about my work ethic in advance. I make sure I’m able to uphold that myself. I’m accountable. And busy.” #notastranger