Archive for September 18th, 2008

My book titled, A Full House – But Empty, was published the latter part of 2007.

The title would tend to believe this is a book of contradiction? It is not really; however, I shall explain it later. In the business world, writing has been one of my most treasured tasks. I have always enjoyed letter writing, preparing and updating Standard Practice Manuals and writing special project reports, newsletters, etc. Occasionally, I would write an exceptionally good report or letter and I would leave a duplicate copy on my desk to reread the following day. To me it was a sense of accomplishment and very fulfilling. The equivalency of receiving a good review or report card. I particularly love the printed word. On many occasions, I received many compliments on my writing skills, based on my letters, reports and procedural manuals – it was to me a very modest but fulfilling experience. Particularly, as I started in the business world as a grade-school dropout with an overall personal rating of “F” as in failure!

After completing thirty-nine years in hospital administration in California and Alaska, I retired in 2003. It was very challenging transition for this divorced man with no children, who was a very dedicated and productive workaholic, finally having to throw in the towel. And to complicate matters, I was ironically an avid tennis bum – the other end of the spectrum that carried negative connotations. Some combination – being a workaholic and tennis bum; however, both aggregately require boundless energy. And besides that, the last several years, I lived a hundred and thirty miles from my work and only returned home on the weekends.

Upon retirement – with plenty of free time on my hands, I found myself becoming very reflective, especially during my daily morning and evening walks. I particularly found myself reminiscing about my childhood and growing up years in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was born during the Great Depression. My father was from a prosperous farming family in the Province of Saskatchewan. When he married, his father leased farmland for him to get established. When he received the proceeds from his first wheat crop, a wild poker game was ensuing at the local grain elevator. My father, to put it mildly, had more than a penchant for playing poker. When leaving the poker game – he also left all of the proceeds from his entire wheat crop – thus, arriving home with one can of strawberry jam that he sheepishly presented to my mother. His father, a hardworking and very conservative man was outraged regarding that poker incident. My father decided to move on elsewhere.

He and my mother and sister, Laura shortly thereafter, moved to Vancouver. The Great Depression started and it was difficult for my father in seeking employment in Vancouver and being a farm boy – classified in the city as unskilled labor. He could only obtain sporadic employment. His father passed away very suddenly during this difficult period and he left his entire estate to his younger son. As the Depression deepened, my father returned home to see if his brother could offer some financial assistance. He received absolutely nothing from his brother.

Empty-handed and disheartened, he returned to Vancouver unexpectedly one evening and found my mother in bed with some cheater. The cheater jumped out of the nearest window and my mother was instructed to leave by the front door. Thus, my father became a single parent to Laura, 6 Angus, 3 and Marjorie, an infant. Fortunately, the Provincial Government Social Services immediately provided my father with housekeeping and child rearing services daily to help lessen his load. We had two wonderful ladies – alternately taking turns providing those services.

At age 7, we moved with another family, the Ingleharts. A father with five children, also originally from a farming family and he having had similar marital problems. It became a great union and we rented a large frame house with an adjacent lot and with vast railroad meadowlands overlooking the front of our home. It was in Vancouver, but sort of in a semi-rural setting. We had goats, chickens and apple trees and the rest of the property – including the adjacent lot was developed as an extended kitchen garden growing a variety of vegetables. We lived together for four wonderful years. During that period the Great Depression ended and WWII started in 1939 as Canada, being a Dominion of the United Kingdom, entered the war at the same time.

At age 11, our families parted. I was relegated to being chief cook and bottle washer.
My father, during the war years was often working two full time jobs. However, on the weekends, my father a partygoer and poker player, had one or the other, and in either case, usually lasting all night. I was assigned to the aftermath – the clean up. (In view of that setting thus, the title of my book, A Full House – poker games and parties, But Empty – referring to my insular existence living in this setting.) At age 13, I was falsely blamed for an incident that took place in the seventh grade. It was never resolved so my response was to play sick as often as possible and I refused to study thereafter. No vindication – no resolution. I had to repeat the seventh grade and just – bowed out thereafter.

At age 17, this grade-school dropout was tossing lumber ends off of a conveyer belt in a sawmill – a total dead-ended job. A theological student from the University of British Columbia came to our home to attend a party with some of my father’s friends from his pub club. George, the student, and I became very good friends. One evening he stopped by and delivered a Dutch uncle speech. He instructed me to get off of my ass and get moving. He suggested that I immediately enroll at a local high school and take evening classes in both typing and accounting to obtain some basic skills. Further, he suggested that I seek a white-collar entrance position in a company that would offer future advancement. I responded by saying that I was a failure with no education nor had any other basic skills. He countered by saying that he was certain that I had above average intelligence and to move ahead in a positive manner. He opened the door and I did exactly what he suggested.

It was a very productive but long and difficult road – sometimes filled with trepidation, but this grade-school dropout became very successful. During my career in both Canada and the USA, I spent nine years in the petroleum industry. My last employer, Richfield Oil was scheduling me for a junior executive position in their home office. I decided to make a career change and spent the next thirty-nine years successfully in hospital administration in both California and Alaska. I was a director with staffing complements of fifty-five to seventy employees.

Because of my great love for preparing written documentation, I decided I could try and creatively utilize that basic skill. Initially, as I had mentioned earlier, I particularly loved those years with the Inglehart family and during my walks after retiring I was constantly reminiscing about my ‘ Waltonesque’ like childhood. I have two great nephews and at that time they were both within the ages of 7 and 11 the exact age range of me during the Inglehart years. I decided to write a story about my childhood for my great nephews to share those experiences. When I completed the draft, I was having breakfast with my nephew, Paul (our lad’s father) who had read my material and suggested that I simply carry on and write a complete autobiography. Thus, this was the beginning of my book, A Full House – But Empty.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with a wonderful and detailed memory. As I sat at my computer writing my story, I actually seemed to reenter my world of yesterdays. I could really sense our rented frame house, our family members, our activities, gardens, goats, chickens and the surrounding areas. I was able to methodically put all of those memories in their proper and/or appropriate place. Each day, I would review the prior two or three paragraphs as a precursor and than continue my story. I really enjoyed writing about my childhood and youthful years. It was all simply sharing those earlier years and covering ongoing events. Frankly, the entire exercise was a piece of cake. My thoughts poured out ebulliently and thankfully in precise orderly tandem.

When writing about my life after the Dutch uncle speech it required a different approach and standard. I was hopeful that I could successfully share my climbing up the vocational ladder starting from the bottom rung. I wanted to convey a positive message relating to my experiences in the work scene and socially – in that setting and elsewhere. In other words, aside from elevating my positions, I wanted to demonstrate growth factors in relating to people and different circumstances and to address some interesting points.

My father, had been an outside foreman for a large oil and coal company. He was greatly respected by both the office staff and his outside employees and many attended our parties. If was evident to me that they all adorned him for his absolute dedication to the organization and fulfilling all of his responsibilities with alacrity. While I was tossing wood off of a conveyer belt – in the evenings after dinner at the kitchen table he would explain how he addressed difficult and complicated situations relating to employees and/or work issues. These turned out to be great quiet and productive moments for me. During these sessions, I never questioned nor refuted any of his opinions or his course of action taken in individual situations. The proof was in the pudding – all of his co-workers and/or associates admired and respected him. He always said to me, “ Always do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances or outcome!” Amen!

While I appear to many to be an outgoing and friendly person, I am actually quite conservatively private. I rarely, if ever discussed my past experiences with my contemporaries. When I started writing, I realized that I had to reopen closed doors that contained both happy and sad experiences and address them equally along this path. In the process, on numerous occasions, while writing, I wondered do I really want to do this project. I decided to go either 100% or nothing. I decided on the former!

In the writing process, I received the following, words of advice from a New York City, literary agent who was also a writer. She stated, “Writing successfully is having the reader be so engrossed with your story that that person can hardly wait to get to the next page!”

Angus Munro is the author of A FULL HOUSE – BUT EMPTY. Info on book and author can be found here.

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