My father used to say the hardest thing people do is change their minds. He knew this as fact. He grew up in Napanee. Its been forty years and they’re still complaining about switching to metric. I lived on Slash Road which changed its name to County Road 13, in l988. And Old Hamburg Road, which is the old road to Kingston. I remember My Dad would go work. He’d drive through the mean streets of Napanee. In his van. And he’d be waving at everybody like he was running for mayor.
But he couldn’t because he was the town clerk, which is now called a CAO, which is a fancy title for more work and less resources. See my entire family was in municipal government. My Uncle was the fire chief. My cousin was the Building Inspector. And my mother ran the roads.
To be clear, my Dad wasn’t the town clerk of Napanee. This was before amalgamation. He was the town clerk of Richmond Township. Not North Fred, Not South Fred. Richmond. Richmond Township.
To an outsider it might look like nothing was going on in Richmond Township but there was an underground pond of mystery and intrigue.
My Dad was a forward thinker.An instrument of change. The first clerk to actually enforce the dog tag payment, bylaw. And this may have been a good change for tax base, but not met with a warm and fuzzy response by the taxpayer.
People would call Dad at home at eleven at night…and
“Sorry I hope I didn’t wake you up.
And my Dad would say, ” No, No. I was just lying here with my eyes closed.
And then they proceeded to ask why there was a differing pay scale for the different sexes of dogs. And we would hear my beleaguered father say into the receiver. “Well if it’s a male it’s thirteen dollars, if it’s a female it’s 18 unless it’s spayed. Uh huh. Uh huh. I see. Well, why don’t you lift up the tail and check?”
So then Dad had an idea. Why not get his kids to sell dog tags door to door?
Today it would be called patronage, Or Child abuse.
You learn a lot about people when you sell dog tags. People would tell bare face lies about actually having a dog.
Despite the barking you heard as you came up the driveway, despite the bowl of kibble and pillow full of dog hair at the door, there were some who would deny all canine ownership. My sister put red meat in her pocket and huge dogs bound out and one bit her and she ended up getting rabies shots. My sister not the dog. Of course you couldn’t complain because we were ambassadors of Richmond Township. In those days parents didn’t coddle you. Right, I mean we didn’t have a pool and we’d swim in the Napanee River and with pus oozing from our eyes, Dad would say “Ah lighten up it’ll grow hair on your chest.” Which is reassuring to a twelve-year old girl.
Change was not welcomed, as council meeting would attest. Apparently it took as long to discuss what went on after the council meeting as it did to have the council meeting. He’d sit out in the driveway for hours, and my mother would be worried Dad wouldn’t get up for work, and would look out in the driveway and flash the lights at him, to get in the house.
He returned the favor a few years later if I sat too long in one of my date’s car.
And then there were men in the vehicle with him. His posse.
Men whose bellies hung over their belts like burps.
This sorry group of men had their hands on the pulse of municipal politics.
I found this tightly woven was when one afternoon, I went out driving with my Dad.
It was called the Road to Nowhere.
It was called that because the township began building it and ran out of money and so it stopped and went nowhere.
Dad was teaching me how to drive and as we pulled out of the Canadian Tire, I thought he said turn left out of Canadian tire and he meant the other left, and we went off into the ditch.
Okay I went off into the ditch.
He got out looked at the car in the ditch. And then he lit a cigarette.
And then he got back in the van and turned on the radio.
Aren’t you going to do something, old man?
No. Deb this is Richmond Township, they’ll find us
Janet will go by on the bus, go in and mouth off at the store and the guys from the Roads will be getting theur afternoon coffee, and Delbert’s on that crew.
–So, Dad- Delbert will come for us?
–No Delbert is a yes man but Jack will be there.
– So Jack will rescue us?
“ Jack doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. He can’t change his mind without calling Harold at the Salt barns. But Harold won’t be in the barn he’s been ploughing for an hour. And Harold’s not allowed to plough an un-serviced road.”
“So we’re screwed, dad?”
“Just because they won’t let him, but doesn’t mean he won’t do it. Harold hates the SOBs on council so he ploughs it first just to bug them.”
Then my dad drew in another ring of smoke.
“ Ah! There he is now.”
No people may not change quickly but even on the road to nowhere it takes teamwork to get you out of a tight spot.