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Scotland


SO THAT YOU CAN SAY YOU KNOW ME;


I was telling you of how I learned some lessons in life that did not come from home,church or school So I had hiked into Vancouver to the docks to see if I could land a job as a stevedore, no one on the docks was interested in me, they all were huge hunks like Espey. I hung around there until I had spent my $20 on chips and cokes and then met a guy who was as deluded as I was. His plan was to work on a ship and make his way back to England where he would be able to live with his great aunt while he looked for a job. That hair brained idea seemed OK to me so we chummed around as I spent my last dollar. His name was Bruce Clayton and he had a rich English accent. He had no money. But while at the docks we met a former sea captain retired from His Majesties Navy and now living in considerable style in British Properties. I told him my tale of woe and he offered me a job for the summer at his estate. He had a Chinese gardener but he said I could follow behind and make everything more perfect! He also landed Bruce a job at Freeman Meats. So we rented an apartment in an old Victorian mansion on Balfour and started the life of real workers. Sandy McComb, the sea Captain, was a very kind man, paid well and kept most of my pay back looking to the day when Bruce and I could find a cheap flight to Prestwick, Scotland. He had a lovely daughter Jane, who was a model in New York. I became their ersatz son. Autumn rolled around and he arranged for some cut rate flights for Bruce and I and we found ourselves in Prestwick Airport. A really divine little airport, not crowded and friendly. But that was how we found all the Scots to be. I had a little book of addresses that Sandy McComb thought we might need to make our way. The economy was bad in Scotland and so we hiked up to an old friend of his near the Scottish border. After a great evening of reminiscences, Joe Hobbs phoned a distillery he owned in Fort William and said he was sending up two new employees. It was a long hike through the Highlands with some unsuccessful hitch hiking but eventually we walked thru the gates of Inverlocky Distillery. The welcome was cold indeed. The lads in charge were not keen about a couple of Canadians taking jobs in their distillery. But they took us in and then we were given a cottage next to the castle that was the sporadic home for the Hobbs, Greta, Joe, Peter and Anne Marie. Hobbs owned a couple of highland distilleries and an ammunition plant. He had been born in Vancouver but Joe's father had acquired the Fort William distillery and he spent the Depression running illegal shipments of over proof spirits into New York for the syndicate to bottle and sell at great profit. The head of the Kennedy clan ( Joe Kennedy) was in the same game.


Bruce and I were great workers and were soon putting a shine to the huge copper vats and all the piping in the plant. Our mornings started at seven when we reported to the staff lounge for a steaming bowl of Oats, Then everyone trooped out the backdoor and disappeared. No one ever invited us to come. One day I said to Caddy, who was about our age, “I had heard the Scots were frugal but why are you guys so cold toward us?”. “Well”, he said, “it is this way, You boys are here today and gone tomorrow, You are doing a fine job and everything is looking great. But the English management is watching all this from the window and it is going to have a dire effect on our labour relations with Joe Hobbs, Just relax a bit!”. So we did and one day we got the golden invitation after breakfast to troop across the Burn into the giant cathedral-like warehouse where the plant production was stored for ten years or more. The keeper of this institution was a representative of the Queen who saw to it that a tax was paid on every ounce sold and so he offered the boys all a Gill of this over proof booze, He stuck a pump into a huge oaken vat and began to pump out gills of severely over proof whisky. “Do you want an ounce or a Gil”, he asked. Naturally we said a Gil even though we had never heard the word before! But back into the plant all we could do was lay down next to a hot tank of mash and sleep. We were now as useless as the rest of the crew and accepted as dear friends. Invitations came to dine with McKenzie and Caddy but we noticed that they never ate with us always in a back kitchen. One night I learned they were just having a bowl of broes (oats) for supper while we were having Jambon. We then had to come up with excuses not to dine with them because they were very poor and could not afford to feed us and eat as well. What gentle hearts!

Joe Hobbs sister Patricia arrived to spend a few weeks. That was part of her inheritance payoff from her dad's estate. Joe got the distilleries and Queen Victoria's castle, while she got to spend time there with her maid and keep a fabulous house on Park Row near Buckingham Palace, She was actually also a Canadian so we hit it off and she, her maid, Brucie and I would spend afternoons high in the hills where the 'no-see-ums' did not fly, drinking from the supply of pure dew of Ben Nevis that Pat kept in the trunk of her Rolls Royce, September rolled around and we went back to London and bought stolen bikes in the thieves market in Peckham. Everything stolen in London went there for resale. After a very choppy ferry crossing we stood on the docks of Ostend, Belgium and my dream of biking Europe was

about to come true.

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Hello and welcome to my thought process !

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