The Patriarch

I left off in Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned saying I was angry at Jonathan Scott for removing a wood burning unit near and dear to my family.  What I did not say was, I agreed with his choice of replacement…..13 years prior to the airing of the show.  The shock of seeing it again brought forth a vivid memory of Frankfurt, days before the world debut of the Euro.  There was the model, part of a small convention hosted in the airport.  It was the only competitor’s stove I ever thought worthy of reverse engineering.  Couldn’t convince my dad the project was feasible; wood had long fallen out-of-favour with the more environmentally-conscious American.  We weren’t in the business of manufacturing wood appliances anymore when the recession hit and everyone looking to save a buck suddenly wanted wood burners again.  Don’t know if it would have saved us, but having the design may have made those lean years a little easier.  Suppose I can take comfort in the fact I have proof I was always a woman with vision…..even when no one else believed.     

Ever since Property Brothers – At Home on the Ranch, I’ve found myself reminiscing alot about those early years.  I kinda’ have a new appreciation for my dad.  Even with the salutation Doctor, he couldn’t get a job as an engineer because he was a brown man.  Crazy right?  The man graduated with a B.A. in Agricultural Sciences, M.A. in Agricultural Engineering, and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering…..and HAD to start a company or learn to raise a family of five on $400 a month.  He’s philanthropic…has donated millions, yet for the last seven years he’s gone without a salary in order to extend the financial longevity of his company.  Talk about irony. 

The Factory

He’s had his hands in so many things, not sure if I can recall them all.  Before the market crashed, he bought and sold plane engines.  Kinda’ helped to have a daughter in aviation.  Obviously played the stock markets just like everyone…..except me.  Latest venture is solar panels…..and it was going well until a recent government report suggested incentives favour hydro over solar.  Probably wishing he hadn’t been so quick to resign from the Utilities Board.   

The man actually built a bus…..likely for a contract he didn’t land up winning.  Remember thinking how the shell was as cool as a locomotive car and wishing he would let me have it to turn into a clubhouse.  I was so sad when he sold it.

He designed and built a massive powder coating booth extending the whole length of one of the wings of the building.  In the high season we used it solely for our product.  Off season was all about the custom jobs….and we had lots.  Still have it, but don’t use it because there’s no business.

My Bunk Bed, Redesigned

Can’t recall which came first…..the tubular interior or the PVC patio furniture.  In any case, our indoor-line survived maybe a year.  Dad started with bunk beds….which were initially a success, but the table and chairs were not.  I’ve often wondered if I were the inspiration behind those beds.  I know he felt guilty due to the fact the one he built from wood collapsed under the weight of three bouncing children…..right onto my head.  Many times he’d sit me on his lap, show me his pinkie ring, and tell me about the obligations of his craft…..how miscalculations and short-cuts could cost people their lives.  I remember his eyes as he pulled me out from under that bed.  Was the only time I think he ever felt as if he failed as an engineer.

The outdoor furniture business was successful, in part because we offered a variety of products such as rattan, resin, and high-end luxury items.  Of the one we manufactured direct, Dad did away with elbows and T-bars by heating, then bending the PVC to form one solid frame.  He perfected the technique using Mom’s oven….killing countless oven mitts and two stoves in the process.  Thank God she was a woman who believed in purchasing extended warranties, otherwise he’d still be living in that doghouse.  It’s possible our family was responsible for Sears closing. 

We had to have cushions for our PVC furniture…..so instead of sourcing it out, we also added an upholstery department.  Finding cushions and umbrellas is easy now, but back then we were in a unique position in which we were the only ones West of Toronto to offer custom-made orders.  Loved that our product could be found on restaurant patios and stadiums.  Loved it more when an individual with a sh*tload of cash came in and said, “Design my outdoor living space for me.”.  Was my favourite part of the job.

My parents bought into a pool business when I was fourteen…..possibly to bribe me to reconsider my decision to study abroad.  It was a bath and kitchen company too, but being the majority shareholder Dad shifted the focus to in-ground commercial pools.  Problems between him and his partner eventually caused the division to be terminated and the partnership to end.  Even so, the two men reconciled and formed an unlikely friendsh
ip which lasted until the man’s death.  That was probably the best part of the whole purchase.

Hearth products are our bread and butter, but I’m at a loss to explain how my father came to decide THIS should be his life’s work.  The man has always had an interest in environmental concerns and sustainability.  It bothers him to no end to see the streets of India littered with plastics; such a sharp contrast to the country we both knew in our youth where everything was biodegradable……from the leaves used to hold food to the stems of plants dried and twisted to make twine.  Wood, pellet, and gas will always be preferred in the industrial world, but he has experimented with wheat, corn, water, and even “fertilizer” in the hopes of creating a stove which uses renewable fuel sources, has little impact on the environment, and is affordable to those in third world countries.  Unfortunately, his efforts have been slow due to the fact the cost to process food discards into convertible fuel is astronomical.  I mention all this because two months ago we celebrated our fortieth year with little ceremony.  All I could think was, “This man deserves better.”.   

Dad’s Garbage Can, circa 1978

His dreams may have started in India, but he got here on a scholarship…..and a little help from his parents.  I am still flabbergasted over the fact my grandmother leveraged her jewellery to buy him a ticket to Canada.  She must have worried what kind of message it would send to families of nobility to see her without the “wealth of her family” on her body.  Yet this is what her son needed to achieve his goals.  Even had enough to give him seven dollars for his trip.  Glad they could do this for him.           

It might surprise people to know my parents couldn’t get a loan from the bank because…brown man…”single” woman…’seventies.  Dare I say more.  At the behest of his employers, Dad entered a contest hosted by the city for a new garbage can design.  He used his winnings to start the company…..called it APR after his employers, Al & Peter….and himself.

Dad gave me my first job…..at three.  He had us all sit around the kitchen table licking thousands of stamps and envelopes; putting together gasket kits containing a tiny piece of rope and bottle of glue.  I didn’t get more than ten cents for my efforts….but that’s because I made the mistake of asking to “borrow” two dollars.  It was the same as “giving” to me, but he used it as an opportunity to teach me about “loans” and “interest”.  Even gave me the whole spiel about needing a job, which I could only get with an “education”…..and in the absence of that I had to pray I had a good family willing to put me to work.  So lucky I didn’t lose all my teeth trying to get the little caps on the glue bottles; likely would have subjected me to a lesson on “dental insurance”.     

Don’t have a drafting table because my place is too small…..but I always thought I’d have one.  One of my earliest memories is watching my dad sketch blueprints for the house and various projects.  I was too small to sit on the chair and reach everything, but that didn’t stop me from using his very expensive paper to make designs of my future home.  Needed both arms to anchor the ruler to draw a straight line.  Would love to have a study to put that table.  Maybe one day. 

It’s not what you put on the walls that makes a house a home,
it’s who you put in it. ~s

I relished my vendetta with Jonathan Scott because it stirred passions and fire inside that gave me fight.  But….the more I saw of him and Drew, the more my opinions began to change.  Can’t say I was a fan…..not until I saw how they handled clients who were dissatisfied with their homes because they were unhappy in their relationship.  They didn’t judge….just said, “Okay.  You need a safe space that is bigger and prettier to work through your issues.  No problem.  We’ll help.”.  I know not all their clients took their fortuitous gift and made the best of it, but for better or worse these guys are healers……in their own way. 

“We heat the world one home at a time”.  They “heal the world one home at a time” by taking that one home and broadcasting it simultaneously into millions of other homes, thus making themselves a sh*tload of money in the process.  Suppose I can live with that.
 

Me and one of our doors

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