The Chief

Our guest blogger, Paul Curran.

Our guest blogger, Paul Curran.

A year ago, my friend without a blog, Paul Curran, wrote a guest post here about his mother. Mum was sensitive, intelligent and well-received, as is all of the work Paul authors from his home in Ottawa, Canada, and spreads around the WordPress world via guest-blogging.

You can find Paul’s memorable Mum piece here.

I asked him a few months ago to draft a piece about his father, specifically for Father’s Day posting.

By Paul Curran

I called him Chief – I have no memory of why – every one else called him Charlie or Charlie Raisin. The “raisin” was a result of our last name being “Curran,” often mistaken for “currant.”

My Dad was a quiet man, and yet he did not tolerate sloth or injustice well. The sight of wasted time bothered him and his eyebrows would move together, his lips thin out and a crease would appear in his forehead. I didn’t appreciate how complex a man he was until very late in his life. He just got things done with no apparent strain or fuss – regardless of the size or complexity of the task. He would concentrate as much effort hammering a nail as he would planning the future of a multi-million dollar company. No task was too small and all tasks deserved his full attention.

The Chief had to go to work as a young man before he finished high school. It was just after World War II and so many of the men in his family had not come back from the war. He was the youngest of eight children, and the family needed to be supported. He met my mother and they were married at the age of 24, and he started work in sanitation for a large bakery in Halifax. He swept floors for a living, and I am sure he did an excellent job of it, as he did of all things he put his mind to. I was born when they were 25 (their birthdays were only five weeks apart). It wasn’t long before my Dad was promoted and started as a spare bread route salesman for the same bakery.

We lived in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and he worked in Halifax, about a five-mile journey. He walked to and from work every day, even in snow storms. At the same time, he began to build a new house for us in Woodlawn, a suburb about a half-hour bus ride from where we lived. He worked weekends and vacation time as well as some weeknights on our house. Although he had no formal training he was a fast learner, and by watching and asking, he managed to build, wire and plumb our house — having his work inspected by licensed contractors. A year later we moved into it – a testament once again to his hard work and his tenacity.

The Chief had a great respect for others and while always interested, seldom interfered in their lives. He treated everyone as he would wish to be treated. His background and family was Catholic but I can never recall him attending church. In fact I can’t recall him ever even mentioning religion. That said, he lived an ethical, moral and hard-working life that would be the envy of many who claim to be Godly — the Chief lived the Golden Rule. He could not pass a hungry man in the street without providing a meal or a few bucks – even though he seldom had much of his own to spare.

All hail the man who delivers the bread. (Joern Haufe/Getty Images)

All hail the man who delivers the bread. (Joern Haufe/Getty Images)

As a Breadman, his customers loved him and his assigned routes always grew in volume. This did not escape the notice of his superiors and after a series of promotions to larger and larger runs, he became a supervisor. It was here that his true skill became apparent — he was a superb manager. His employees respected him and he them – having done their jobs. They would go to the ends of the Earth to please him, and although during his career he uncovered some thieves and malcontents, he always dealt fairly with everyone – no one was given any special treatment.

I can clearly remember the day when one of his long-term employees (and friend) was caught stealing from customers and the company. The Chief was so disappointed and down – and yet he pursued the thief with conviction and with all the assets at his disposal. The man was fired and charged with theft. He was convicted and, with a record, could not find a job; The Chief helped his family through the hard times by giving whatever he could afford.

My father had a very funny and ludicrous side as well. He loved a cup of tea, and when making it in the kitchen it was not uncommon for him to break into song: “I’m a little teapot short and stout. Here’s my handle and here’s my spout.” He would accompany this with the necessary arm actions, as if he was a teapot and, of course, a small dance shuffle in time with the ditty. He was close to his older sisters and was especially funny around them.

If the Chief put it together, it would last. (From Getty Images)

If the Chief put it together, it would last. (From Getty Images)

I recall one Christmas his wife at the time (my step-mom) had requested an end table from IKEA as a present. Dad worked for hours on the living room floor assembling this little table – building it, tearing it down and rebuilding it many times before he got it right. He could be tenacious when required. Christmas night we were visiting his oldest sister’s home and having a drink, when his sister asked the Chief if he could help her assemble a side table she had gotten as a gift –and lo and behold it was the very same one. He took one look at it, asked for her tool kit, opened the box and in less than 15 minutes had the table assembled, polished and in place, without a single mis-step. I, of course, knew the story, but his sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews who had watched were taken aback. They were astounded by his competence and praised his skills with amazement. I was having a hard time keeping a straight face, as the Chief soaked up every compliment as if it were his due. It was a short time later that he burst out laughing and explained that he had assembled an identical table that same morning.

He loved to travel and was fascinated by anything he had not seen before. Mostly he traveled by road and dragged us along. I inherited his love of driving from him. As an only child, I often requested and got a friend to travel with us. Sometimes my mother’s mother would join us a well. So with the Chief and Mom in the front seat, Nan in the rear and my friend Brian and I in the back of the station wagon, we would haul a camper trailer around the east coast of North America: Toronto, Montreal, New York, Virginia and Florida. I eventually inherited that old ’67 Chevy II station wagon when the Chief got a company car and Mum got a new car.

My Mum was going to university for many years, and my parents grew apart. They eventually divorced when I was 16. The Chief took it hard – much harder than Mum – but he eventually found and married another wonderful woman (after about 10 years of dating). I loved spending time with him but he wasn’t around a lot and we had very different interests as I grew. When I was younger, he would take me with him to work both when he was a Breadman and later as a supervisor. I grew up in the bread business and started part-time in plant sanitation when I was 13 (the minimum age was 14 but the Chief thought I was big enough and responsible enough so he lied about my age).

I worked at the bakery for many years after as I went through my schooling, occasionally working with the Chief as my boss. He was more demanding of me than any other employee, as he said that there could be no favoritism or sign of favoritism. Yet he was ultimately fair. I did have to straighten him out a few times when he would use me as an example of how employees should be acting and working. I know it was because he was proud of me, and yet it caused issues for me with the other employees – my colleagues.

He was promoted through the ranks and became the manager of another commercial bakery purchased by his employer. He had 500 employees when he retired. After retirement, my Dad had to stay busy, so he went to work volunteering and driving a school bus for small children and handicapped. He would occasionally do charter tours to the States or special highly classified runs hauling Canadian Special Forces teams doing drug interdiction.

His favorite story was of the cold winter day when he had a load of kindergarten students aboard and all the inside bus windows were frosted over. It had been a “bring your Teddy Bear to school” day and one of the young children started to cry. When they were stopped, the Chief went back to ask why she was crying, and she told him that her Teddy Bear couldn’t see out the window. The Chief produced an ice scraper and cleared the frost for the bear. Of course, the next student loudly complained that his bear couldn’t see out either. So, the Chief found a second ice scraper, and passed one to the front student on each side and told them to pass it along when they had cleared their window. All the bears eventually had ice-free windows.

As an adult I moved to Ottawa, and the Chief and I grew apart. He came to my university graduation when I did a degree later in life, and then he came to visit when I was going through cancer treatments. One day his wife called and told me that the Chief had been admitted to a hospital with an infection. Before I could fly to Halifax, he had died unexpectedly at 75.

I said my goodbyes to him that cold February afternoon, standing in the graveyard as his ashes were buried in the urn he had chosen many years before. Even in death, he was efficient and made it look so easy.

Paul writes frequently at Cordelia’s Mom, Still, Willowdot21 and the No Blog Blog. You can also find him leaving his smart comments all over BloggyVille.

Here’s the link for the source of the bread picture.

Here’s the source for the table photo.

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56 thoughts on “The Chief

  1. Thank you very much for the opportunity to guest post Mark, especially on this special day – Fathers Day. Happy Father’s Day to you and all your readers Mark. I am pleased to write this post in honor of my father today. When he passed his wife sent me a package of his possessions as mementos. Amongst other personal items was a small board about 4 inches by 6 inches of rough wood that had been sawn off a plank. When I was 4 years old I had cut that piece of wood and drilled holes (with a hand saw) in it to make eyes and a smile. I had given it to him for Father’s Day in 1962 and he had kept it over 50 years. It sits now in a place of honor in my room as a reminder of the caring man he was.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, he was a special guy Daily Musings – a great Dad – I was lucky to have him. Thanks so much for the visit and comment. It is a pleasure to have you join the conversation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful tribute to a man who seems to have been a wonderful Dad. So much like my own Dad, who lived to be 77, even though his doctor said he wouldn’t live past 55. Real heroes — both of them.

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    • He was indeed a great Dad. Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment Kentucky Angel. It sounds like your Dad was special too. That is amazing that he lived 22 years past the doctors’ expectations. This is a day to celebrate heroes – yours and mine and all the others.

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    • Hi LCTC! Happy Father’s Day! Yes, the Chief was very conservative in his values but very liberal in his acceptance of social change and policies. He thought it was important that everyone was fed but no doubt would make sure everyone able was working – even if it was sweeping the streets. To him there were no small jobs.

      Thanks so much for dropping by and thank you for the compliment. It is a very easy to write about the Chief – he was a good man. I was delighted and thankful that Mark gave me this opportunity to honor my dad on this Father’s Day.

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  3. what a beautiful tribute to this very special man and father, paul. he sounds like a person who was open to the world, embraced whatever he did fully, and never gave up. you were very lucky –

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    • Thanks for the visit here for a read and comment Beth. Indeed I was lucky. I feel sad when I hear of kids with abusive Dads or no Dads. Have a great week-end Beth. 😀

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    • Thank you so much for dropping by for a read and comment Teenage Poet. It is a pleasure to see you here. The Chief was a good man and I was lucky to have him for a Dad. Thank you for the compliment and I am honored that you visited. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Paying homage to a special man indeed Paul! I look today at my Father with great love, respect and admiration and can not at my age of 32 y.o. imagine losing him! I look at the man I married 12 years ago, the father of my five children with love, respect and admiration and can not imagine my life without him. I look at my Father in Law with the same love, respect and admiration. I look at my four brother’s and their children with that same love, respect and admiration. My BIL (Brother-in-law) with the same love, respect and admiration. They’re all here at my home today, the grills are going, they’re swimming and enjoying the pleasant Florida weather. Life just does not get any better than this! To every Dad A Happy Day to you!!! The Gatorette.

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    • Thanks for the read Chatter Master. It is great to have you here. Yes the Chief was a special guy and i was lucky to have him. Thank you for he compliment, I am sure he is smiling down from above. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Chief was one of a kind. When they made him they broke the mold. I could not help myself, this efficient, kind, hardworking man who was Paul’s father really was impressive. He was heads above the rest. It is sad when a parent and grown child (son or daughter) drifts and separates due to different interests. This happened to my friend, Anna’s daughter and her. I find myself wishing for the two to find a similar interest or “common ground.” I am glad looking back, you can tell Paul really loved and respected his father.

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    • Thanks for dropping by Robin. My Dad was special but I didn’t really appreciate him until later in life. We did grow apart as life went on and that made me sad. I’m honored that you visited here today Robin. Please come by again.

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  6. I think you are becoming (have become) for a lot of us – the glue that binds us all together with these stories we can just visualise in our minds Paul. Your writing really has a way of creating such a clear picture of the characters and events that occur. I really like this one a lot too because… it gives so much insight into YOUR ways and outlook and background. As I read I was trying to think ‘now which part will I say is my favourite (dunno why, but I like doing that) and each new glimpse was lovely… however… I have my favourite part, apart from that I enjoyed the entirety of your beautiful tribute… I really DO have my favourite part that I just sat here smiling about. 😉

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    • Belinda! So great to see you here – I am honored. **BOWS** I know your time is very precious these days. Thank you for dropping by. I bet your favorite is either the Teddy Bear story or the small plank with the face that I mentioned in the comments.

      Thank you so much for the huge compliment regarding my writing. I am gobsmacked. Thank You, it meas so very much to me – now if I can just get my swelled head out the door… ha!

      I hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day Belinda and thank you so much for dropping by. lease come again. 😀

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      • Ah – you are welcome Mark. Sorry it took Paul to get me back over here… I am not moving around blogs much lately sadly. Just how it is right now 😉 Thanks for hosting him! 🙂

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      • Understood, Belinda. As the warm months and longer daylight days are upon us, I too am having a very hard time reading as much around the world as I’d like. 😦 I am so glad to say hello to you this morning. 🙂

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      • That made me smile 😀 Thanks Mark – you too dude. LIke that facebook meme says – friends can go long periods without talking and pick back up again from where they left off, and still understand 😉
        ENJOY the warmer weather – OH isn’t it just one of those simple and ultra awesome things to enjoy and appreciate in life 😀 ❤ Regards to the family!!

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    • Hi Merril! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the story. The Chief loved story telling as well and he had many favorites, the Teddy Bears being his most favorite. He was a very humble man and didn’t tell the table story much as it made him look good – although I love it. Thanks again for the visit Merril – please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved the post!!! The Chief sounds like he was a great man. Only a really special person would go out of his way to make sure the Teddy Bears had a clear view!!!!!

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    • Thanks so much for dropping by for a visit SD Gates. The Chief empathized with small kids and could entertain them endlessly. This skill made him an excellent school bus driver and Teddy Bears were important. In a way, he lived as the bible suggests – with all the wonder of a child. He was that way naturally, not because of religion or any belief system. That said he was also very aware of all that was around him and the people too. It was very difficult or perhaps not possible, to fool him. I tried and failed until I gave up. He was an uncommon man and I was lucky to have him as a father.

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the story SD Gates. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s great, Paul. While I can barely relate to teddy bears not being able to see out of ice-covered windows, I can always relate to bread and bakeries. And I didn’t know you’d had cancer!? Or have I forgotten such a thing as that?

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    • Yes, travelling Teddy Bears here have a much rougher time of it in the winter. Ha! I had colon cancer about 10 years ago. I’m a survivor now, but it was up in the air at the time if i would live or not. It took three surgeries , radiation and chemotherapy to get rid of it – and it took about 10 months of my life. But all is fine now- more or less. The radiation caused kidney failure, so I am on dialysis permanently. Radiation is nasty, nasty stuff – completely painless in its administration – that can cause serious side effects up to 25 years later. And it has – internal bleeding and dozens of other issues. But I’m still alive – so all is good.

      Thanks so much for dropping by – I am honored. please come by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: In Memory of Blogger Paul Curran – priorhouse blog

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