Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living.
I hadn’t heard this 400-year-old nursery rhyme until I was in my teens and working as a “picker” for Thursday’s Child Antiques in Unionville, Ontario. The store’s owners, Brenda and Verla, knew their business was a longshot to succeed so they named it Thursday’s Child. But being born on a Saturday, I’ve had the “works hard for a living” line stuck in the back my mind throughout my working life. I wouldn’t say that I’ve worked particularly hard, at least not in a physical sense, but I have worked my fair share of Saturdays.
As an 11-year-old in 1973 I had the first-ever garage sale in the town of Stouffville, Ontario. Naturally, it was held on a Saturday. Gross sales were about $250 which wasn’t bad considering that I sold mostly items scooped from ends of neighbours’ driveways on the annual “large garbage collection day”. (My mother was aghast when she found out what I had planned and she made me get permission from each neighbour before selling any of it.)
In the early 1970s the Canadian government expropriated 18,359 acres of prime farmland for the planned Pickering Airport. There were so many century farm auctions in the summers of 1973 and 1974 that antique dealers and pickers simply couldn’t attend every sale. This created a window of opportunity for someone like me. I’d get my mom or dad to drop me off at the least promising auction on a Saturday morning, hopefully in the pouring rain, and they’d pick me up later that afternoon. There were times when I was the only picker at a particular sale and I could usually fill a two-horse trailer for under $200. I’d spend Saturday evening cleaning and sorting the “junque” before delivering it to Unionville on Sunday morning. I didn’t need much working capital as the auctioneer wouldn’t have cashed my cheque before I deposited the proceeds on Monday morning.
By age 18 I had a part time job as Chart Maker (statistician) at Barrie Raceway where racing was conducted on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. At $35 a night it wasn’t as profitable as antique picking, especially after a few hours at the track’s Longshot Lounge which remained open long after the last race, but it gave me a leg up on a career in the horse racing industry.
As a 19-year-old I signed on with Central Program Register and represented the company at Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs, Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, Regina Exhibition Track, Moose Jaw’s Golden Mile Raceway, and eventually Cloverdale Raceway and Sandown Park in BC. Like Victor Kiam, I liked it so much that I bought the company and by 1990 I was working in our Orangeville program printing plant by day and at Barrie Raceway on Saturday nights.
In ’97 I joined the fledgling broadcast team at The Ontario Jockey Club (later Woodbine Entertainment Group) and began a 17 year career “talking horses” on various broadcast from Mohawk and Woodbine Racetracks. As Saturday nights are prime time in the racing world I worked all but a handful of Saturdays over those 17 years.
As you may have read in an earlier post, Saturday, June 21 was my final night at the track. Tonight will be my first Saturday without a full-time job and next Saturday will be the first of what I hope will be about 100 Saturdays “on the road” – hence the name of this blog.
Get about as oiled as a diesel train
Gonna set this dance alight
‘Cause Saturday night’s the night I like
Saturday night’s alright, alright, alright
The lyrics of the Elton John song Saturday Night’s Alright aren’t particularly appropriate as I’m not much of a dancer and I don’t plan to get ‘oiled’, although I will have spent 36 hours on a diesel train by the time next Saturday rolls around. But Elton John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin were spot on with the line “Saturday night’s alright, alright, alright.”