I hired out as a CNR switchman in Port Mann at 11:05 on June 27, 1955. I knew absolutely nothing about railroad dialogue. I didn’t know what a frog was, nor a “hog head”, “gandy dancer”, “beans”, a “rip track”, a “yard master”, a “checker”, a “drop kick” or “highball.” When I heard the term “extra west” I didn’t know if it was coming from the west or going to that direction.

There was no one to teach you the terminology or explain the scene. Everyone just assumed you would eventually catch on.

And I did. ..after a couple of months. But it was worth the wait. The comradery was incredible. We loved being together, whether it was at the frequent poker games, on the softball field, having some beers at the Turf Hotel or the retirement parties.

We had the world by the tail and I loved every minute. Soon I had enough seniority to hold a regular shift, even if it was on the night shift.

And I could not wait to get to work and tell my pals about the great auction I had discovered at Love’s. They all seemed genuinely interested in my happy happy stories – about the tea cup and saucer, Gib Love the auctioneer, Horst holding up the Victorian easy chair, the crazy low prices on some items. But soon the conversation shifted back to a flush beats a straight, three of a kind is better than two pair and cards speak for themselves. All but for one person – Len Lanyon, an engineer on nights.

Len loved my stories and enthusiasm. It turned out he had lots of experience in the second hand business from his earlier years.

One day coming out of New Westminster with a drag of cars Len said, “You find a vacant store with lots of traffic and I’ll go in with you.”

That was all I needed to hear. I quickly found a store and Variety Warehouse Sales was born.


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