Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Canada – CCCXIX. Difficult Beginnings (2 of 15)

The brain behind Montrose was the young brother.  He was a born entrepreneur who never attempted to work for anybody else.  I don`t know of his early business ventures, but according to Joe, once he started this textile Mill, he never looked back; by his early thirties he was a millionaire.

Israel Jr. (as I will refer to him from now on) spent a substantial part of his time in Granby.  When he came to the Montreal office, he was both welcome, and unwelcome!  Since he possessed so much knowledge, many questions, and decisions, awaited him.  Unerringly, he responded to all queries, and made the required decisions – and all of it was done brusquely for he was a very excitable person.  With one exception, everybody incurred his wrath.  The one exception was Joe.  He said it and no doubt meant it that he loved him like a son.  This was due to the Encyclopedic knowledge of Joe regarding the fabric he handled, and his instinct as to what can work and what can`t; to that I would add a genuine affection.

I talked of one exception; really you might say there were two.  I was never subjected to his wrath.  He totally ignored me; and that was fine by me for I had enough difficulties handling this unusual job.

While talking to Joe one day, I remarked that getting angry all the time would no doubt affect his health; it is then that Joe told me that he had a bad heart and had been warned by his doctors to take it easy, or else …

Two years later, while I was visiting my friends at my previous place of employment, I was informed that Israel Jr. had passed away.  I felt sad, for I have come to like him, and respect his knowledge.  Whatever the case, here was a man who had lived his whole life on his own terms.  There is something to be said about that.

Back to me.  How was I doing?  Let me start with the positive news first.

If I were to list the friendliest places I had worked for, Montrose would be one of the top organizations.

With the exception of Israel Sr. and Harold who (understandably) kept their distance, the rest of the staff had simply embraced me.

In addition to Joe and Gerry, the staff included two shipping clerks:  Claude and Flavio; the receptionist at the front, Gabriela; the assistant to both Harold, and Israel Sr. Mia; and finally Mrs. Goldstein the bookkeeper and payroll clerk.

There were rarely time for the staff to indulge in a coffee break, but we made up for that during lunch.  Occasionally Joe would treat us to smoked meat sandwiches, fries, and soft drinks.  While eating, my new friends peppered me with questions.  What kind of a country was Egypt?  What kind of life did you had in Israel, and why did you leave?  Where did you learn your English?  (My vocabulary was extensive, but I had to continually spell because of my accent).  In turn I asked many questions regarding Canada; for instance, what should I expect in winter.  Here, mercifully, they let me gradually come to term with their brutal winters.  The first day it snowed, Mia came running to tell me to go to a window to see the snow coming down.  And I did just that; I actually forgot myself; eventually Joe came and, in jest, reminded me that I was getting paid to work, and not to watch the snow coming down!  He then added that I would have many more opportunities to see snow!  Indeed!

Mrs. Goldstein informed me of relevant details regarding my paycheque; for instance, there was some new requirement for every individual to have a nine digits number that would follow that person through life; it would be called a Social Security Number or SIN.  And indeed, I had to complete an application and eventually received from Goldstein my very own SIN Card.  There was also something called the Canada Pension Plan or CPP, but Quèbec had an equivalent plan called the Quèbec Pension Plan or QPP.  Whatever the name, this plan would allow me to get a pension from the government when I retired.

Claude and Flavio helped me when I had to bring heavy rolls to the cutting table.  Flavio loved wrestling and wanted me to come to a bout, he would treat me.  Claude wanted me to go to a tavern with him and get drunk!  He would bring me back home!  In both cases it was, “it’s very nice of you, but no thank you.”

Gerry did all his work standing up!  He had a great sense of humor and often made us laugh.  He needed it, for Israel Jr. was often on his back since he was responsible for all the billing.  Indeed, he was fired a number of times, left the premises and went home, only to be “rehired” by Israel Sr.; all without any loss of pay.  At his next visit, Israel Jr. didn’t show any surprise to see the “fired” worker standing in his usual place!

Gerry took the same bus going home and that gave us the opportunity to talk.  He expressed his wonderment at my courage to leave everything and come to a new country.  He asked me what I ate, where did I learn to cook, what I did with my free time, how I got along with my roommate, and many other questions which while at time indiscreet, showed a genuine interest in my persona.

Joe was a gentleman.  After Harold he was the highest earner making $200.00 a week (salaries for some reason were not kept confidential!).  That said he never showed off.  He could treat me for supper under the guise that he needed to discuss business.  He helped me buy decent clothes at reduced prices (we went to stores that did business with Montrose and dealt with Joe, indeed he was well known in the schmati – clothing – business in Montreal).

Finally, as I will outline in my next section, Joe showed great patience with me.  If I could, I would recommend him for sainthood!  Alas, I can’t; the Vatican no doubt will not consider a Jewish boy!

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