The Long Story
--Harvey in 2010--
The Long Story
I was born in 1950 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I was born under the zodiac sign of Virgo. I was born to parents Ernie and Mavis Foster. We lived in Toronto for a few years. How many? I don't remember.
We moved to Barrie, Ontario, before I started school. I went to Codrington Public School and the teacher, I think, was Mrs. Flynn.
I acquired two sisters somewhere along the way. The first sister was also born a Virgo, in 1952. The second sister was born in 1954, a Cancer. I know, that makes all of us "kids" over the half-century old. Or is that young?
After Barrie, we moved to Niagara Falls, Ontario. I remember I attended James Morden School for my first year here, which was for grade six. The only teacher I remember from there was a Mr. Block.
For grades seven and eight, it was on to Princess Margaret School. The teacher I remember there was a Mr. Mousseau.
I think it was when I was in grade seven I also went to Los Angeles, California, with the family. We left on January 2nd in a snow storm. My parents had arranged to drive a car to California. After we arrived in Los Angeles, where we were to stay, my dad and I delivered the car to Sacramento, California. After he finalized the delivery, was paid, and finished up with his business, he and I (are you ready for this?) hitchhiked back to Los Angeles (read a poem from grade seven).
We were gone for about three months. All I remember is some 'Tar Pits.' I don't even really know what they are today. I have seen them on television, but doesn't really mean anything. I was there to see them though.
We also went to a couple of amusement parks. Disneyland wasn't one of them. I didn't get there until 1989.
We did go to Pacific Ocean Park and to Knott's Berry Farm. I remember little else of that trip.
Although we lived in Niagara Falls, I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake for grades nine and ten. It was actually close to Virgil along Hwy 55. The school was Eden Christian College, a private school. The school was to be converted to senior residences called The Sterling, although I notice only signs for it and no development.
My time at Eden were probably the best years of my school life.
After grade ten at Eden, I returned to Niagara Falls to Stamford Collegiate Vocational Institute (S.C.V.I.). Although I was in a technical course, I seemed to excel in English (with teacher, Mr. Rossiter), and Math (and I don’t recall with whom). I was ‘great’ (yeah, ha, ha) at auto mechanics as well. Just to give you an example, while everyone else in the class was tearing down an engine, I had to find reverse on a stick shift. I think the engine was apart and back together again before I found reverse (the ‘secret’ turned out to be I had to push the gearshift down first). Somehow I made it through.
Somewhere here I learned how to drive. I drove my dads’ truck for him and his business. I became a chauffer for my sisters. I was way too confident behind the wheel and gained much experience at the same time. I was sixteen. Been there, done that. I would never give a license to a sixteen year old. It’s almost a surprise I’m still alive.
Now that I could drive I found the tourist visiting my hometown was always in the way. They didn’t know where they were going, hesitated at every move, and wouldn’t turn right on a red light. The work for a young person was also too seasonal. I decided to leave town. What else was a seventeen year old to do?
I ended up in Toronto. I found a job working as a technician wiring large apartment buildings for television, telephone, and intercoms. This job sometimes also involved wiring audio/video systems in usually upscale homes. I didn’t mind the wiring or the work, but often it was outdoors in the winter. This was definitely not for me.
While I was in Toronto, I was married. It was April of 1969. I was eighteen, she was nineteen. Patricia (Dalton) and I had known each other since I had come to Niagara Falls. Everyone knew we would just get married one day. We decided that Toronto just wasn’t for us. We sat on the ground in Hyde Park, looked at an Ontario map, and chose Kitchener as the place for our new home. It seemed on the map to be big enough to find work, yet small enough to be friendly.
Off I went before our marriage to find work. On my first day there I was given a job at Electrohome. They even told me I could work a couple of weeks, take a week off for a Honeymoon, and then come back to work. I remained at Electrohome until 1975. I was fired. Want to guess why? I was late for work most every day for seven years. They decided enough was enough.
While I was out riding my bicycle (that’s another story for later, or maybe now) one Tuesday afternoon shortly after my dismissal from Electrohome, I rode past a dairy. They had a sign in the front window for a route driver-salesman. I removed the sign, and went upstairs to apply for the job. It was granted. I was with Greenwoods Dairy for close to three years.
Although I’m sure I probably should have been fired from here as well, I wasn’t. Bob Greenwood was a great guy, and a super boss. The business closed. Home delivery of milk by Silverwoods (the parent company) was being phased out. Everyone was let go.
While I was working at Greenwoods Dairy, I started my own business. I started a company I called Harvey G Enterprises. The main business was television repair, although we (I had one employee, Mike) did repairs on anything electronic or electrical. If someone dropped off a television or a vacuum cleaner, we fixed it. I also wired houses and did electrical modifications. One house I wired in Preston, Ontario, had a fire three years later. Faulty wiring was the first suspected cause. Fortunately, after the fire inspector was finished his investigation, it was found to be something plugged into the wiring. I feel better now.
During this time I was often getting asked what the 'G' stood for. I explained I didn’t like Harvey F (from Foster) Enterprises, so went with ‘G’ from Gordon, my middle name. It wasn’t long before I was getting mail to Harvey Gordon, being called Harvey Gordon, and was known mostly as Harvey Gordon. My business life had overwhelmed my personal life. So, I became, and am Harvey Gordon.
While we were in Kitchener we had been attending the International Gospel Center church. My best friend and buddy was Mark Emmerson. He convinced (actually I think it was more like tricked) me to drive a bus. My personal vehicle was a sixteen foot long Chrysler Newport. To me, that was plenty big enough. Mark (he was the pastors son) had me driving a church bus before very long. I guess my business in Niagara Falls was his fault.
In October of 1973, my wife (Pat) and I had a baby girl (do the math, she’s now over thirty), Tanya Lynn (now married to a Brown and living in Ayr, Ontario). Unfortunately, in 1975, our marriage dissolved. In 1979, after Greenwoods closed, I decided to see if there was any work in my hometown, Niagara Falls.
I arrived in Niagara Falls on a Monday morning and was hired by G and G Motor Coach Tours the same day. Of course I needed some licenses. I said, “Why? I have a bus license. Won’t I be driving a bus?”
“Yeah, but you need a license from the Regional Police and one from the Niagara Parks Commission,” Diane Cowles told me. Talk about over regulation and money grabs. Didn’t they think I would get a job driving bus with a license to drive one? Why another license? As much as I was opposed to this licensing, I went and acquired them. Over the years these licenses became many points of contention with me, but that’s another story. Let’s just say I didn’t ignore this situation. Later you’ll see I argued, fought, and went to court over these, and other, issues. And yes, some things did change.
I started with G and G Motor Coach in May of 1979. After working the summer for them, I was laid off in October for the winter. What do you mean, 'Laid off?' This is something I wasn’t used to. Getting fired, yes; company closing, yes; but just no work because this is a seasonal town? How come I wasn’t aware of this? Didn’t I live here for enough years to know this? I guess I was too young to notice.
I was told to go file for Employment Insurance (although it was called Unemployment Insurance back then). Do what? This was something new. I had never had to do such a thing before.
I figured I had made enough money during the summer while I was working to keep me for the winter, so I just enjoyed the winter off. Then the reserves ran out. It was April of 1980.
I went to file for this Employment Insurance. I was given such a hassle from them because I didn’t file last October, and I never did get any benefit for that winter. I did learn my lesson though. If the government really wants to give me money, I will be there to file as soon as I can. They made the rules. I’ll just follow what they insist I do to receive benefit. In the years that followed I did as instructed.
In 1984, my job terminated because the company (G&G) was bought out and most of the staff were let go. I went to work for the NTSC. By this time I was getting used to having the winters off. Loved it. Still do. This job was just the same. Seven months work, five months off. I was here for two years. Then the boss decided to outsource the bus operation. It was time for me to make another change.
I went to work for Red Carpet Tours in the spring of 1986.
Niagara Falls Taxi owned Red Carpet Tours at that time. I became their sole driver. I also started the season by getting a ticket from the Regional Police Services Board for not having a license to drive the bus. It won’t be the first. Wendy Southall and I went to court. She won (or the Police Services Board won), but Wendy and I will after this, and did, have more issues in the years to follow. Over the years we gained a respect for each other and oftentimes issues were settled by us talking to each other, laying out the issues, and coming to a resolution. I haven't actually been to court with the Police Services Board for quite some time.
After driving the Red Carpet Tours bus for a year, Mary Chapman (later Connor) made me the manager of the tour operation for the 1987 season.
In late 1987, the shareholders of Niagara Falls Taxi, Limited, made a decision that the tour operation might be in conflict with the taxi operation. The decision was made by the shareholders to sell Red Carpet Tours. Mary Chapman called me in to let me know that I may or may not have a job in the spring of 1988 depending on the buyer and if they wanted to keep me.
In May of 1988, I bought Red Carpet Tours. I sold a house I had on Morrison Street to get the down payment, made an offer to the shareholders to hold the paper on the balance, and to provide me with telephone and dispatch services for two years.
This was a win-win situation as all my dealings are. They received their full dollars; I paid them interest on the balance, and paid for dispatch. I was again in business. (My time with Niagara Falls Taxi, Ltd.)
The first thing I did as the new owner was to do something I had suggested to Mary a year earlier. She thought the shareholders would never agree. She was probably right. I painted a bus bright, fluorescent, pink. I’m sure in the sunlight the helicopters could see it miles away. Was it an attention getting device? Yes! I was the talk and laughing stock of the town. Even with no name on the side of the bus, everyone knew whos it was. Then the laughing stopped. The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) called and wanted to interview the person who did this and broadcast on three thousand radio stations across Canada. Really, why would anyone paint a vehicle a bright pink when the company name was Red Carpet Tours? Cost to me for advertising? Zero dollars.
The pink bus, then more buses, became a trademark in Niagara Falls. They were known for giving a quality product for a fair price. Drivers and guides were taught to go beyond what they had to because people will remember the pink bus, either for the great time they had or for the bad experience they encountered. The guest of Niagara Falls will probably not remember your name, the company name, or maybe that they were even in Niagara Falls, but they will remember being on a pink bus. We had to be the best.
Red Carpet Tours emphasized service, quality of information, and entertainment. We had a great run for many years. We closed the company after the 2003 season. (Go to Red Carpet Tours for more background.)
Let’s back up to 1984, and just to interject. I rode my bicycle to Walt Disney World. The first time was in 1984. I have now done twenty-two rides to Florida on my bicycle. If you want to know more about this particular phase of my life, go to my Florida ride.
I was called by a friend in Toronto and asked if I could help him out by driving a truck to the United States a few times now that Red Carpet Tours is closed. I ended up driving for nineteen months doing one trip a week to the United States. This means I was back to working four days a week. I finished with him on September 30th, 2005. Go to the trucking days to read about my trucking.
Because I had a 'real' job and not self-employed, I could, and did, file for Employment Insurance. They gave me twenty-one weeks of benefits. (For Employment Insurance ‘Thieves,’ then click on EI thieves.)
While I was on my October 2005 bicycle ride, the twentieth, I received a phone call. The 'voice' on the other end told me they heard I was semi-retired. I said little. I didn’t know this 'voice' or person on the other end of the phone. She informed me I was coming out of this retirement and going to drive a bus for her. Although I had never yet worked for her (the 'voice'), Celine (my sweetie) and I attended their company Christmas party in December.
At the party she (the 'voice') found out Celine could speak French. As it turned out, Celine and I BOTH drove for Grape and Wine Tours in their 2006 season. I guess 'the voice' on the phone was right! Her name was Barbara although everyone refers to her as Bebie.
I still get the winter months off, but we have been working for them since 2006. I have worked for them now through 2006, '07, '08, '09, '10 and now it looks like it will be also 2011. I guess I do my job well and they keep inviting me back for another year. If you are interested in what the guests say of my work, you need to see what others say.
So I guess I’m still driving a bus this summer. It might only be part time, but still driving. What did Mark Emmerson get me into back at the church? (For more about my days and involvement in the church, go about half way down the page after you click 'church')
Shotcuts: just click on the appropriate one...
Some “Repair” stories - will follow later
Business Idea’s and Practices
Mickey Mouse and Me