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Needlepoint survives to this day
Former finance minister Jim Flaherty’s law firm supported mothers in the workplace before flex time became commonplace. This glimpse of Flaherty was expressed by a lady lawyer who articled as a student with his firm some three or more decades ago.
Hearing her story made me realize how lucky I was that my last salaried job was with a manager who let me adjust my hours to fit in my family so long as I kept his office humming.
He even let me stay home to heat the house with the woodstove when a hydro outage closed the school for a day, and when a February storm closed the school for a day .
How I came to be in his employ was purely happenstance.
I met Randy when he walked into the lawyer’s office where I was struggling with my first electric typewriter. Despite years as a medical secretary, I was stuffing my waste basket with spoiled quadruplicate forms, feeling inept and unhappy.
As he waited to see the lawyer, he struck up a conversation, ending with, “How would you like to work for me?”
He offered me $250 more per month, an office with a manual typewriter and only five blocks from my home.
So I became sole office staff for Williams Moving, located then on River Drive across from the Crescent Street intersection in Thornhill.
At the time, our girls were attending Copper Mountain School. By letting me start work half an hour late I could see them off to school. At noon I biked home to lunch with them.
When I’d arrive at 8:25 a.m., Randy would be leaning on the windowsill, drumming his fingers, car keys in hand.
The window was the only one in the building, behind my desk in a tiny front office equipped with a large oak desk, a four drawer legal filing cabinet, a teletype machine, and a long wooden table with a drip coffee maker and china mugs.
Here drivers congregated for coffee and tale swapping, peppered with cuss words. I asked Randy to banish the cussing to the warehouse; he did.
Paperwork involved in moves was largely handled by head office in Vancouver. By mid morning my typing and filing would be done, coffee mugs scrubbed clean with Comet.
The rest of the day I just had to be there, waiting for the phone to ring or someone to stop in. Either rarely happened. My biggest task was staying awake.
To occupy my time, I took my Singer sewing machine to the office and sewed kids’ slacks from Simplicity patterns.
Once I repaired a customer’s damaged sofa (by then I had been upholstering evenings and weekends for months). And one August afternoon, I sanded chair legs outdoors while our girls played.
After I ran out of small tasks, I hit upon needlepointing a picture of a Williams van to decorate the office.
I traced the Williams logo from the side of a mattress packing box, transferred the design to a rectangle of needlepoint canvas measuring about 3 x 4 feet, and began needlepointing a Williams van in red, white and black wool against a blue map of Canada with two blue arrows curving around the map, on a golden background.
One long haul driver made a point of peeking over my shoulder to check on the design’s progress whenever he came in for coffee.
The picture took me most of the winter months to complete. Needlepoint wool cost $85, plus canvas. Randy opted to pay those costs and when the job was done, he had it blocked and framed under glass. Today it hangs in the coffee room of Williams Moving’s Terrace branch #539.