Day 230 - Joyce (1st person I approached)
August 18, 2014 - I was sitting on a bench on the seawall, enjoying the view and a cool beverage. A lady walked by just as I was, of course, checking my email. I smiled at her and said hello. She smiled back, said hello and continued walking. I thought of inviting her to sit and chat, but I didn’t. Five minutes later, as I continued walking along the seawall, I saw the lady who had returned my greeting, sitting by herself on a bench. I walked over and asked her if she’d chat with me. She asked if I really wanted to hear all of her ‘stuff.’ Yes, yes I do.
Joyce was born in Toronto.
“There were seven children in the family. Four girls and three boys. I was the third child. Having four younger siblings meant there was always something to be done. Everyone helped out. It was just the way things were done,” said Joyce.
“I went to one grade school, and everyone who was in my class, were in the same class all the way through school. There were 45 kids in the class. Some of the kids were from the next grade up. They were the ‘smarter’ ones, and they sat in our class. They required less attention, and because there wasn’t enough room in their class, they were in ours. We lived in the heart of downtown Toronto for many years, always in a house. When I was older, the family moved out to the suburbs,” she said.
At fifteen and a half, Joyce left school.
“My parents figured I had been in school long enough and it was time for me to go to work. I got a job in the office of a department store, Simpson’s (later to become Simpsons, then Simpsons-Sears, and then Sears). I was an office junior. I learned as much as I could while at work. I also enrolled in 'Cram school,' which enabled me to finish high-school. I worked all day and then went to class for four hours in the evening, four times a week,” said Joyce. She finished high-school and gained more responsibilities in the office.
“I became good friends with a woman in the accounting department. She was the only one who could work the Comptometer, a manual non-electric calculator. (*Fact Check - see link below.) She showed me how to operate it and that allowed me to get a promotion at work. I saved up some money, enough for my tuition and to pay my board and went and took a three month training course for the Comptometer. I had to quit my job because the classes were only available in the daytime,” she said.
Once she completed the training, Joyce got a job in the accounting department of CGE, Canadian General Electric.
“We called it generous electric,” she said with a smile.
“This was during the war, so there weren’t a lot of men around, and it was easier to get promotions. I worked there for eleven years,” she said. At a baseball game arranged by her church Pastor, on the grounds of her former elementary school, Joyce met her future husband.
“He was from Holland and was an engraver. His work was rather specialized. He went into the auto industry. He created moulds that when used, would leave patterns and designs on say the door handles of cars, for example. He went to school and took elocution lessons so that he didn’t speak with a Dutch accent,” she said.
“When we got married, I stopped working. I wanted a family and I wanted to be home to raise them,” she told me. Joyce and her husband eventually moved to Windsor, and had five children.
“The car industry changed and my husband wasn’t happy with it. His work became about making parts for the American automotive companies. He was an artist and that wasn’t what he wanted to do."
"We decided we would sell up and move to Vancouver. If it didn’t work out here, we were going to go to Southern California, where my husband knew he could find plenty of work. We rented a house and for the first year my husband worked from home. He would go out once a week and knock on doors and drum up business in the tool and dye industry,” she said. In 1968, Joyce’s husband became ill.
“He had cancer and passed away. We had been married for just fourteen years,” she said. “I had five children from ages four to thirteen, to raise on my own. I never remarried, you don’t just get over something like that. I had a few other challenges ahead of me raising my children.” Joyce went to work for an accountant that had been taking care of her husband's accounts and taxes.
“He offered me some work. I told him the children had to come first, I’d have to be able to say when I worked and if anything happened, I had to leave immediately. I worked for him for three years. He gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever received. He told me to get my certification. He was an accountant but had never gotten certified, and said that was his one regret,” said Joyce. She studied part-time “at night when the children were asleep.” Joyce became a Certified General Accountant.
“As a family, when my husband was alive, we did everything together. We went skiing and had vacations and trips together. I wanted to do what I could to continue with that,” said Joyce. In 1972, she rented a recreational-vehicle and the family drove to Toronto.
“I wanted the children to see the family and it was also a test. I wanted to see if we could all travel together okay without my husband.” The trip went well. So two years later, Joyce and the children went to Europe for two months.
“I thought it would be good for them to meet the other side of the family. We started in London and rented a van. It was big enough for nine people and we were able to sleep in it. We drove up to Scotland and took all the little side roads to see smaller villages and the sights. My oldest daughter was sixteen, maybe seventeen at the time. She was the navigator. She had the map, and planned out where we would go, what direction to go in and how to get there,” she said. I commented that I thought it wonderful that Joyce empowered her daughter in that way.
“Well, I couldn’t do everything by myself,” she said, smiling.
“We took the ferry over to France and drove through Paris, then Belgium and Holland to Amsterdam. We spent time with family there and then went on to Berlin. It was a very good trip. Three of my children have gone back to Europe since then, and my daughter just took her son to Holland last year,” said Joyce. She has ten grandchildren now.
Upon returning to Vancouver after that family trip, Joyce was offered a job.
“I wasn’t particularly interested in finding another job, but when this offer came in, I took it. It was for a large trucking company and I became the CFO (Chief Financial Officer). I worked hard and in time went on the become the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the company, and did that until I retired.” We chatted for a bit about Joyce’s incredible journey from an office clerk to running a major trucking and freight company.
“I had a family to support, and I was doing it on my own. I did what I had to do,” she said.
Joyce spends her time travelling and enjoying her retirement. I asked if having ten grandchildren meant she spent most of her time with her grandkids. Without hesitation, and with a big smile on her face, she replied
“When I want to.” I thanked her for chatting with me, and Joyce said that she had really enjoyed the conversation.
“How will you remember all of that though. Aren’t you sorry you chose me?” I said no, that I loved her story.
“Are you sure you didn’t record it?” she asked. I assured her I write from memory.
“I’ll tell my children to look for the story. They follow Facebook. I won’t be reading it though. It’s my intention to die without ever having been on there.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - http://www.vintagecalculators.com/html/comptometer.html