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My father, International Harvester and Kosher Chickens

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

For the last 20 or so years of his working life, my dad sold trucks. Big trucks. Big International Harvester trucks to be specific.

In Montreal, he had a very odd sales territory, defined as St-Laurent street, known locally as The Main, for its entire length from its upper end near the river that separates Montreal and Laval islands, right through to its other end on the St-Lawrence river in the Old Port of Montreal.

His turf consisted of both sides of the street and was fittingly known as territory 13.

One of the oldest streets in the city, it traditionally separates Montreal’s eastern and western sides, historically with the English in the west and the French in the east. Of course, that distinction has now been considerably muddled.

This street, especially back in this period, intersected many immigrant commercial and residential neighborhoods including the Jewish, Italian, and Greek communities of the city.

On this strip, some seven miles or eleven kilometers long, one could find all manner of businesses from ethnic restaurants of every description, to tombstone carvers, to kosher chicken butchers and discount clothing retailers.

For those two decades, most of the commercial trucks sold on this long territory were sold by my father.

Now the other salesmen at this regional International Harvester sales office located in the north end of the city, had much different sales markets such as entire municipalities, with proper industrial and business parks, etc.

They used to tease my pop - safely at a distance as he had a bit of a temper and an impressive physical presence - by saying he had the toughest and cheapest sales market on the island filled with its kosher chicken abattoirs.

Despite this, he made a decent living as these hard immigrant owners seemed to trust his stern, no-nonsense approach to selling them the various trucks they needed.

But one fortuitous day, the whole game changed.

The City of Montreal, a huge buyer of everything under the sun including all manner of trucks, moved its main purchasing office to St-Laurent street in the Old Port area, therefore falling into my dad’s sales territory.

Literally from one day to the next, his sales doubled, then tripled, and only kept climbing steadily from there for the last eight years until he retired.

We’re talking big-ticket units… large dumpsters, vans, snow removal rigs, utility trucks, and so on.

All of a sudden I found myself at fourteen typing out his quotes and sales contracts at home in the evenings on a little light blue Smith Corona unit.

Although very well-read, my father disliked writing due to his insecurities stemming from having had only finished a fifth-grade education back in the early nineteen-twenties being the oldest son, along with his twin George.

So born in a family of modest means, he had to leave school early on as he had to help take care of the seven other kids in the family, earning any money he could.

I typed so many of these quotes, and he paid so well, ten dollars per document, that I soon had enough for a brand-new Honda ST-70 mini-bike for our outdoor adventures in the northern woods of Quebec.

And needless to say, the gang back at the International Harvester office never teased him again.


Excerpt from my upcoming e-book... "Recollections from my time on earth. Snackable short stories.


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