Part-time jobs were an absolute necessity in the Player family. We each had one, early in life, because there never seemed to be enough money to go around…at one point in the 1970s, my eldest brother Matt was the manager of the A&W in Walden, Ontario. He would have been 17 at the time. While in that position, he managed to hire three of our siblings: Eva age 19, Amy 18 and Mark 14 (Mark lied about his age). So, four Players were working there and those were the days of delivery to the car window by waitresses in uniform. The tray would hang off the window and would be filled with the order of those in the car.
One time, Matt was working with Mark and with a friend, who is now deceased due to drugs, Byron Hedgeman. Hedgeman had been cleaning the stainless steel counters with a mixture of bleach and water when a bus pulled up and there was a massive order placed. Everyone was working madly to fill the order. Sadly, the javex and water combination did not get wiped up well enough. Matt slid a burger to Hedgeman who would put it in the bun and the burger must have gone through the javex. The next day a man comes into the front of the A&W and this man’s face is green. He has ‘bags under bags under bags’ under his eyes. He tells Matt that he was deathly sick, throwing up all night, after eating the burger from A&W. Matt looks at Hedgeman and they are sure of what must have happened to this man’s burger. The javex. Matt offers the guy a couple of coupons for free burgers. The man looks at Matt and says: are you kidding? I will NEVER eat in this effing place again.
One very good thing came of the A&W days…Matt met June and they have been happily married since June was 19 and Matt was 20. They have two adult children and three, almost four, grandchildren.
A little while after meeting and falling in love with June, it became apparent that Dad did not approve of the relationship. Matt would spend hours talking to June on the phone. He had a basement bedroom in our family bungalow on Pearl Street in Walden. Matt was serious about his phone calling so he got himself his own extension phone, a trick we all thought was quite outstanding because at the time, teens NEVER had their own phone. In his day, Dad had been a very skilled hockey player and he had an ambition to produce another serious player from one of his four sons. To that end, Dad and Mom would make us a back yard rink every winter and Dad would force the boys to take a hundred shots a day. Of course there would always be broken kitchen windows and neighbours’ windows too, sometimes. Almost all of us could skate, holding a chair, before we could walk. How’s that for true Canadians, eh? So, Matt had been doing well with his hockey. Dad bought him a new pair of CCM Super Tacks skates. These would have been very expensive on a teacher’s salary who has seven children. Whenever these skates were spoken of, a hush would fall over the room. They were absolutely the ticket to the NHL. They were the very best skates to own back then. Dad, not approving of Matt and June’s relationship, sat Matt down one day and said he wanted him to move out. Matt was 17. Matt asked why. Dad said Matt was a bad influence on the other children. He then took back the skates. Matt asked why he would do that. Dad said he knew Matt wasn’t seriously into hockey if he was going to take up with a girl. Matt said it was crazy to take them back but, Dad did anyway. He took them back and put them in a well-known hiding place: under the head of his bed. Matt found them a few days later and took them back.
So Matt and June found a small apartment in a really old house in downtown Walden. They paid $70 per month rent and Matt was making that much in one week at A&W. Matt could see that he would be needing to do something more lucrative in order to live a more comfortable life. While living in that first apartment, Matt had a pair of leather shoes, just one pair. He would wear them to work. Soon, the sole started to come unattached from one of the shoes. Always a quick problem solver, Matt found a thumb tack to hold his shoe together so he could still wear them to work. One day, he couldn’t find this all-important tack for his shoe. He was running around with his shoe sole flapping yelling June, help me find my tack. I’m gonna be late! until he finally found the tack and he could get to work just in time.
Matt went on to get his papers in Electrical Contracting. He worked for decades in downtown Toronto and all over the city in commercial Electricity making a very good living. He worked hard and he always had lots of work. June managed the business office and, in so doing, had the flexibility to be home to raise their two children. Sam was a honeymoon baby and ended up playing in the Big Leagues. He now does commentating and consulting. Sally is a restauranteur and city counselor for her city. All this wonderful success happened due to the A&W days.