The Garbage Truck Move

We moved to Clinton in a green garbage truck.

By the summer of 1965 it was clear there would be no prosperity for us in Greendale. Small demolition jobs and amateurish turkey farming would not sustain our family. So the hunt was on for work, again.

I got to go with father on his job interview in Clinton, in central BC. We set off in the morning in the Dominion Motors 57 Chev and went north up the winding road of the Fraser Canyon, with the tumbling Fraser River churning its way southward between the tall peaks on either side of the long gorge. It was a long drive, longer when you’re just a kid.

I got to meet the retiring Secretary Treasurer/Town Clerk. He explained that he wanted to retire and needed to find his replacement. He and father talked for a while, sort of a casual visit, that, I guess, was the job interview. The meeting took place in a tiny house-like building right on the main highway that cut through the center of town on its way north. The Cariboo Highway, number 97. The man explained there had been some vandalism damage to the building but they knew the kid that did it. His name was Tom and he was known as something of a spoiled punk kid troublemaker of the mayor.

We drove back to Greendale and it wasn’t long before the news came that father had landed the job as the new Town Clerk for Clinton, British Columbia, and we would be moving, again. It wasn’t so much that I hated moving, by this time I was pretty used to it. The thing that was the most troubling was having to make that new start again. New friends, new school, a whole new place.

Clinton had two employees that I knew of; one was the Town Clerk and the other was the Maintenance Engineer, who was responsible for garbage collection and general maintenance of town property and vehicles. The Maintenance Engineer also owned the Sunrise Cafe and cooked the best, greasiest, cheeseburgers that ever came with a side of fries. When the town decided it was time to buy a new garbage truck, he was sent to a garbage truck auction in Vancouver. He bought a twenty-five-year-old green monster that had been scrubbed spotless and freshly painted. It just so happened the timing was perfect for the new garbage truck to stop at our house on Sumas Prairie Road and substitute as a moving van for our furniture heading up to Clinton.

The Maintenance Engineer, Jim was his name, showed up a bit late in the day from retrieving the old-new truck from Vancouver. The landlord of the place in Greendale had a new renter moving in the day we moved out. The new renter arrived with his family and furniture in tow, long before our garbage truck moving van showed. We moved all of our furniture from the house to the yard, in anticipation of the arrival of our transport.

Ivan, the new renter, bellowed heavily German accented commands, to his kids, as if they were troops, displacing us from the property through their occupation. We even had to leave our garden that was not quite ready to harvest. Ivan the white-haired bull would be enjoying the fruits of our labor. ‘Ivan the terrible.’

It was well into the depth of the evening by the time the garbage truck rattled and chugged out of the ranch house driveway, and well into the sunrise when we pulled into Clinton. I got to be the passenger and companion of the Maintenance Engineer, for the midnight drive up the Fraser Canyon in the garbage truck. The Fraser River rolled and furrowed two hundred feet below on one side as we crawled against the belly of the mountains in the blackness of the summer night. I learned that the driver of the garbage truck, the town employee, was called Jim Sinclair. Everyone called him Red. I asked him why and he told me he wasn’t sure. My family followed behind us, through the canyon, in the 57 Chev. None of us were sure if the car could survive the journey up the canyon again, but it did.

When the green garbage truck rolled down the mile-long hill that turned into the main drag of the town, the sun was just creeping up over Begby Mountain. It didn’t strike me as strangely appropriate, at the time, that we stopped in front of the Sunrise Cafe at sunrise. Jim Sinclair, Red, asked me if I was feeling like some breakfast. I said ‘sure’, and that was the first time I tasted one of his delicious grease burgers. My folks ate regular, though why they would eat liquid eggs when the sun was barely up was a mystery to me. The Evil Sister stayed sleeping in the car and the Angel Monster, had a chocolate milkshake for his breakfast. Red Sinclair took care of us.

We moved into a house on Foster Street that didn’t have a basement. There was only two bedrooms. I was told this house was only temporary, that our permanent house wasn’t ready yet for us to move in. Here is a picture of the house. It didn’t have the front porch enclosure then, you just opened the front door and walked into the living room.

After we’d been living in Clinton a few weeks, my mom suggested that we have a party at our house, as a way of making new friends from the neighborhood. Some of the neighbor kids seemed friendly and my mom thought a house party dance would be a good ice breaker before school started. The Evil Sister and I would be going to the high school and we thought a house dance would be a good idea. The Angel Monster was going to the elementary school. Little kids didn’t dance yet.

Simon and Garfunkle were on the record player singing Sounds of Silence. I discovered, that year of puberty, that there were distinct disadvantages in not having been kept back a grade, like some of the Clinton boys. Some of them looked to already have chin whiskers while I still had naked armpits. Bernie Rokstad, and his multitude of sisters, lived right next door to us on Foster. Everyone called him Rocky, because of his last name, though I called him Bernie. Rocky wore a forever grin, like he was always just on the edge of laughing out loud. His black hair waved and fell into loops and curls, naturally twisting this way and that. His sisters, all older, complained about the unfairness of his beautiful hair, compared to theirs.

I said ‘hi’ and he said ‘hi’ and after that we were best friends.

Rocky, Leif Rasmussen and I all ended up in the same grade eight class at the school. Our teacher, Mrs. Tait, looked remarkably like Margaret Atwood, and she actually turned out to be quite nice.

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