The smell of toast and coffee filled the air in the morning, looking out the side window of my grandparents’ huge kitchen and down the street at a line of pines that went alongside the house of a neighbour two doors down, where my grandmother would go each afternoon for tea.
Past that, the street went straight down, then wound around by the cemetary on its way out to Main St., in Picton, Ont., where about everybody knew one another. I recall walking down the main drag with my grandfather, with everybody saying “Hello Fred.”
After all, he had grown up in the area and this was rural Ontario in which many of the town residents had known each other all their lives. My grandfather was no different, having grown up in the area, a simple life despite the hard work that went along with being raised in what was a farming community over 100 years ago.
Around this time of year, every year, I think of my grandfather with Remembrance Day approaching, but even more so in 2017, the 100th anniversary of the most deadly battles of the First World War, where my grandfather’s life changed forever, although you would never know it if you were his grandson visiting years after those battles took place.
Fred Martin was gassed, shot and took shrapnel and he eventually brought back a charming and charismatic war bride nicknamed “Wee Dolly,” but known to us as Nanny. Her outgoing, gregarious nature was the polar opposite of Fred, who was a gentle soul, smiling and nodding in the ruckus of a family visit.
As a youngster, I was aware that he’d been in the war, but didn’t really take much note of the specifics when there were other things going on and friends that I got to see only occasionally on visits to this small town. On the other hand, I don’t ever remember grandpa talking about it either. That was his way.
Oh, he paid the price physically, but whether he would have divulged anything that indicated how such events affected him in other ways is unclear, but I now wish as I’ve gotten older, that I’d taken more of an interest in the specifics of his experience for no other reason than to show I cared and was proud of what he did.
For whatever reason, be it my grandfather’s humble nature or my own youthful focus on other thing things going on around me, it was a lost opportunity, one that I regret to this day.
Still, you get caught by surprise. In the past few weeks, a couple of guys I went to high school with and worked with at a local grocery store have left us, both young men by my standards, in their early 60s and both caught me by surprise.
As sad as I am to see them leave us, their memories make me smile. If I had one more chance to spend time with them, it would probably result in joking and insulting one another in good nature. That’s what made them friends and people I care about and for that reason, their departures and the cherished memories they leave. behind make me want to pull those who remain even closer.
Such people are positive influences on your life or you wouldn’t be lamenting their loss even after life has taken you in different directions. Over the past week or so, I’ve seen that in response to the passing of renowned golf professionals Alvie Thompson in B.C. and Andy Byrne in Ontario. Their losses are reason for sadness, yet their positive influences on the people who worked with and for them come with a smile.
The reason that they’re renowned is that they took the time to spend with aspiring professionals, the human side of the golf industry that we all should hope never goes away despite the encroachment of technology or business practices that may save operating costs, but take away a positive aspect of the game.
That’s not to say that those business practices won’t be necessary. As we all know, businesses, including golf operations, have reacted to the $15 an hour minimum wage coming in Ontario and Alberta, both seen as cynical re-election moves, particularly in Ontario, where the phase-in period is much shorter.
Businesses see their operating costs going up, not only with minimum wage earners, but also others who will want to see their wages go up as well, even if they’re already making $15 an hour. This comes in a golf industry in which affordability is already an issue, so there isn’t much wiggle room for price increases.
That makes layoffs or less hours for workers a more viable alternative, while prices outside the golf course also rise, along with the minimum wage. Will the $15 an hour minimum wage mean much if the cost of living goes up with it, especially in Canada’s biggest cities?
This week’s GNN Poll asks readers if recent circumstances (lack of security, cost of living, wages, etc.) have cause them to reconsider their futures in the golf industry. At last look, 54 per cent said yes and 46 per cent said no.
The combination of golf businesses looking to cut costs and employees looking at possible job changes threatens to diminish the human side of the game and affect customer service.
From the outside looking in, we’ll get fewer golf professionals such as Thompson and Byrne, less personable employees greeting members or daily fee players, those who know patrons, their families and their likes and dislikes.
There’s always been a human side to the game, but it could continue to deteriorate as we move forward in a changing society, just as it has done in other industries. Take it from a guy who has worked in media and seen it transform into something that is unrecognizable in many cases.
It could go that far in the golf industry. As it is in our personal lives, other people can be such positive influences in our lives, but will we realize that now, or wait until it’s too late?