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  • Writer's pictureTerry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. Wisdom

This story meanders a bit but illustrates a couple of brat bits of wisdom. I left home at 17 after graduating high school. I went to London, Ontario to go to Fanshaw College for auto mechanics.

While I waited for classes to begin, I worked at the Holiday Inn as a busboy, and then for a cleaning company at the White Oaks Mall running a big floor scrubbing machine. When it was time to begin studying, I decided I didn't want to go to college (big mistake- tell your kids to get their education while it is easy to do. Getting it later is much more difficult) moved back home (Trenton) and got a job at the Bata Shoe Factory in Batawa. I wasn't so much into manual labour so, after a few months, I quit and moved to Kingston.

Some friends worked at Harvey's, a fast food burger joint, and I got a job there. I hated most of it, they were always pushing us to work faster, get those customers through. I liked doing the morning openings, the restaurant wasn't serving yet, we were getting it ready for the day. I was content to fill the potato peeler and then cut and blanch the french fries, stock the serving trays, recharge the pop machines but, once those doors opened and we were serving the customers, I hated the job. The man who owned the franchise had been a Luftwaffe pilot in the second world war and I could believe that he was a Nazi. He had a puffy, round pot belly that I fantasized about punching at least once a day. I didn't last long there.

I got a job with Shop-Rite, a catalogue store similar to Consumers Distributing, as their warehouse manager (fancy title for a meager job).

Then I moved back home and sold vacuums, well demonstrated them, only actually sold 2. I also delivered pizzas periodically for John's Pizza in Trenton. I liked the job but it didn't pay much. In 1977 I joined the military and started making my own brats.

Where John's Pizza was. Nanny's Sewing Room was in the store on the right.

What was peculiar, and where the brat thing comes in is, when I was posted to Trenton in 1994, we bought a house right behind where the pizza place had been on Front street. The building had been torn down (it was an old house) and a new pizza place (now Gogi Korean Grill) and small strip mall had been built. The strip mall had a convenience store and another space, unoccupied. I went into the convenience store one day and guess who was behind the till? The guy I worked for at John's Pizza. He still owned the entire lot, leased the pizza place to an operator and ran the store himself. It was a good reunion because we had always got along. A year later, my wife opened a sewing store in the vacant space in that strip mall, Nanny's Sewing Room.

So, the lessons from these memories. Get your education when you are young, it will serve you for the rest of your life, even if you don't actually use what you learned. That certificate or degree can open some mighty big doors. I did eventually graduate from college but I was almost 50 by then.

Growing up a brat gave me flexibility, resiliency and a tenacity that allowed me to do well regardless of the job I was chasing. I wasn't always making good money (actually, before I joined the military I hardly made more than minimum wage) but I never had difficulty getting work and each job led me to something better. Had I stayed in school, my career path would likely have been significantly steeper and more rewarding in the cash department.

Since I was used to moving around and had friends all over, I was able to move to where I saw the best opportunities and always felt supported because I was never alone.

Running into old acquaintances, in this instance John, made new opportunities easier. Because we had already established a relationship, it made obtaining the lease easier and less intimidating. We both knew who we were dealing with. And that store did quite well.

What unexpected places/circumstances lead to an unexpected reunion that helped make suffering the drawbacks of being a brat worthwhile for you?

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#beingabrat #brat #brats #childhood #military #memories

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