Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 12, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
14 THE IFTHBR1DGE HERALD Tuesday, 12, 1973 Long row to hoe To research an article on migrant workers and the conditions they work and live under, Herald reporter David Ely joined a family hoeing beets. When he finished and he told them he was a newspaper reporter, they laughed and told him they hoped he wrote faster than he hoed sugar beets. By DAVID ELY Herald Staff Writer Peter Genereaux leaned on his hoe and looked up a long row of sugar beets. "It's pretty good he said. Mr. Genereaux of Shell Lake, Sask.. is one of about native workers ccme from Saskatchewan each spring to work in South- ern Alberta's beet fields. get paid for what you do." he explained. "If you want to work 10 hours a day or 15 hours a day, that's up to you. Mr. Genereaux. the father of 10 children, brought his wife, their 20-year-old son. Arthur, and two pre-school age daughters with him. He and his wife have worked in the beet fields for eight years, Arthur for four. The Genereaux family, along with Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Pooyak of Shell Lake and Paul Morin of Victoire, Sask., are working on a farm in the Coaldale area. "This is a pretty clean field." Mr. Morin said, re- ferring to the absence of weeds in the field. ''A gxiy can easy do two acres a day." For thinning the beets removing surplus plants so the beets are about eight inches apart each worker is paid to an acre. The beets are hoed a second time for weeds a few days after thinning is completed. The wage for second hoeing is to an acre, and Mr. Genereaux figures a worker can make as much on second hoeing as he can thinning. "Sure it's good money." he said. "A lot better than we can get in Saskatchewan. But sometimes the fields are dirty full of weeds and then we work like hell all day and still don't do an Working conditions for the beet workers have improved in recent years with better methods of cultivation and weed control, according to Mr. Genereaux. Probably the biggest im- provement has been the de- velopment of monogerrn beet seed. Formerly, seed was used which often produced a cluster of two or three plants from a single seed, making a lot of tedious fin- ger work for the beet thinner. Now spacing of the beets is easily done with a hoe. One of the problems mig- rant workers encounter is poor housing conditions. "This place is pretty Mr. Genereaux said. The housing on the Coaldale farm was a prefabricated structure divided into four small rooms. There was no electricity and water had to be hauled in. "But he (the farmer) is going to move the house next year to where power and water can be hooked Mr. Genereaux said. "You should have seen the place we had to stay in at Taber last year." said Ar- thur Genereaux. "Even a pig wouldn't want to live in it." "There were a lot of Mr. Morin said. "And if you moved one board, the whole place would fall down.'1 "It was pretty said Mr Genereaux. "But we wanted to work and we had to have a place to live in Discouraged by the prob- lems and expense connected with hiring labor for beets, some farmers are turning to mechanical thinning. But the migrant workers don't think mechanization is going to do away with their jobs. ''They'll come up with a lot cf Arthur Genereaux said. "But it takes manpower to thin the beets. A machine can't think.'' The Alberta Department of Agriculture, through its Ag- ricultural Manpower pro- gram, brings in workers for the beets each year, but the group at Coaldale came on their own. "With Manpower, you have to go where they send you and stay until the job is fin- Mr. Genereaux said. Back-wearv blistering slow job "Don't straignten up until you get to the end of the an old beet farmer advised me. When I got to the end of my first row, I couldn't straighten up. I was also nursing an embryonic blis- ter on my left hand and was beginning to feel sunburned. At Agricultural Manpower they had told me they would find it difficult to place me in a sugar beet hoeing job because they usually hand- led groups. So I went looking on my own. "Sure you can thin the young farmer said. "Want to start Several farmers before him had given a variety cf reasons for not hiring me. It was too early, too late or they already had enough labor. "Twenty dollars an he said, handing me a hoe and pointing to the field. "Nine rows to the acre." The rows were half a mile long. After twenty minutes of steady hoeing, I looked up the row to see the tiny fig- ures of the other workers at the far end of the field. Look- ing behind me, I felt I bad moved a scant few yards. My seemed to become a near-unreachable goal, and my respect grew for those who make their living with their hands. I tried to adopt a philos- ophical, even poetic, attitude to help pass the time. Even- tually I ran out of beets and found myself at the end of the first row. The native workers, meanwhile, had passed me going and com- ing. I began to pick up speed, but never did catch up to the experts. They moved along at a steady walk, chopping rhythmically and talking as they went. One of the native workers told me that some could hoe up to three acres a day and that most were doing two. At the end of the day, after four hours of work, I had done two-thirds of an acre. I had set a goal of three acres before I quit, enough to give me background ex- perience to do an article on beet workers. By the end of the afternoon, I shortened my goal to two acres. By the end of the next morning, upon completion of my tenth row, I decided ten rows was just right for background ex- perience. "Ten the farmer said, handing me a check. "About I feit I had earned it. talking Walking, talking end, cf course, hoeing as they go, these two native families from Saskatchewan working on a farm near Coaldaie aim at hoeing about two acres of sugar boets -a day. Below, a work break and a chat with the children. Bottom, the workers' housing facilities described as comparatively good. ''We like to pick we work, and if we don't like it, we move on." A. L. Bothamley. manager of the Agricultural Manpow- er office in Lethbridge. said his organization prefers that a group sees a job through to the end. The freelance workers, though, he said, find a farmer they like to work for and keep coming back to the same farm yesr after year. "This is an indication of good relations between the tanner and the he said. After a stay o." about a month, the Genereaux fam- ily, the Pooyaks and tre others will return lo their re- serves in Saskatc h e w a n. Each worker will have made from to S800. Some cf the women make less be- cause they spend part of the day looking after the small children. Back in Saskatchewan, the men will pick up odd jobs, look for work in the parks or do some fishing. But they won't be able to make s? much money for their work there as they (io in the beels in Alberta. Mr. Genereaux said. They'll he back in the spring farmers seem to prefer native labor to white labor. "I've had while one Coaldale area farmer said. "And they gave me a lot of problems. They com- plained a lot and they didn't work very well. The Indians come in here to do a job, and they do it. You can leave them alone and know they're going to get it done." The majority of migrant Corkers are Saskatchewan Indians, said Mr. Botham- ley, although about 500 Al- berta Indians are involved in beet work this year. Old tribal differences preclude assigning members of cer- tain tribes to work in the same fields as others, the official said, although this is a very minor problem. Motor home builders optimistic While U.S. manufacturers of motor homes are facing a pile of troubles, including production cut-backs, Leth- bridge manufacturers are looking forward and planning increased production. Increasing competition in the U.S., a push for increased saftey standards, the gasoline shortage and a snarl of cus- tomer-service problems are putting pressure en the more than 150 manufacturers of motor homes in tha U.S. Forecasts are that many of the smaller companies will bs ealea up in the future or just go broke, similar to the manufacturers cf s n o w- mobHes. Winnebago Industries, the sales leader in foe U.S., has cut production 25 per cent, dropped plans to build a new plant, and is authorizing dealers to cut selling prices ct its top lines in order to move excess production this year. In Lethbridge things are not so glum. Prebuilt Industries plans to proceed as normal with production of its motor homes. There will probably b% more homes produced for next year than this year be- cause of a shortage of chas- sis, a company spokesman McDonel Conestoga Motor Homes definitely plans to in crease prcduct.'cn for next year and is looking for new quarters in which to expand. HaiCo, the largest motor home manufacturer in the area, is budgeting for in- creased production next year. A company spokesman said HaiCo is having its best year tver. One problem local manu- facturers are how- ever, is rising costs of ma- terials. Lumber prices have increased 70 to 80 per cent in the past year, plywood has gone up 20" per cent, cer- tain cloth has risen 40 per cent, s'.eel is up 15 per cent, cushions and drapes are up four per cent, hardware costs have risen seven par cent and labor nine per cent, they claim. Alcoholism care inept say MDs The province's physicians admit they have been largely inept in manging alcoholism and are hoping a new research and education foundation will help them fill a gap in the treatment of the An editorial in the latest issue of the Alberta Medical Bulletin, the official publica- tion of Alberta's doc- tors, says "the medical pro- fession has fallen short in ed- ucating both itself and soci- ety in the areas of alcc'.iol and drug abuse. "Alcohol as a destroyer of life ranks along with cancer, heart disease and drug abuse." the statement says. "Recovery rales are dis- couragirjgly low. Improvement will only come through educa- tion and research. Every phy- sician practising medicine cares for alcoholic persons." 'It is indeed regrettable that wa in the medical pro- fession to date have been rel- inept in managing this major killer; while equal or superior results have been achieved by lay organ- izations." The edi.orial claims alcohol accoun.s for some SO per cent cf all problems relating to drag abuse the other 20 par cent being tobacco, heroin, marijuana, ampheta- mines, "LSD and a few others. The profession says it is he ping the newly formed AI- bcrta Foundation for Univer- sity Research and Education in Alcoholism and Drug Abuse will "provide educa- tion, not only in the univers- sities but in all spheres of learning" and form a major element in the fight against alcoholism. The editorial says alcohol abuse is seen at all levels of society and adds that the medical profession is "liber- ally represented." The training programs for physicians, both at the under- graduate and post graduate levels, are in no way com- mensurate with the preval- ence of this condition, the statement says. Director upset with bureaucracy The new director of pupil personnel services for the Lethbridge public school board, Fred Cartwright, says some changes are needed in the provincial education de- partment particularly to- ward the Alberta School For the Deaf. Mr. Cartwright. former su- perintendent of the school for the deaf, succeeds Dr. Bob Gall, who has resigned his local office to accept a posi- tion with the University of Lethbridge. After six years with the school for the deaf. Mr. Cart- wright is expected to begin work with the Lethbridge school system in early Aug- ust. "I'd be kidding if I didn't say I was bitter about some things. But I'm not vindictive and I hold no grudges" he said in an interview. The 44-year-old educator said his former school needs a chang? in philosophy. If money spent on dormitories at Ihe school was re-directed. "we could start a fine pre- school program for deaf chil- dren. "I'm spending nearly 000 a kid on things other than classroom instruction. You could take that money and spend it for the benefit of the total deaf he said. Mr. Cartwright, in his final days as superintendent at the ASFTD, has recom- mended to Education Minis- ter Lou Hyndman that stu- dents be placed in group homes within the Edmonton community, rather than being housed at the school. He says he has "alienated" a few people in the educa- tion department, "but I have M tolerance for bureaucra- lic machinations where you restrict and constrain a man from doing his job." Mr. Cartwright has asked Mr. Hyndman to introduce a provincial program for early diagnosis and datec- lion cf hearing problems. Wild antics bring fines Same of the people who took part in the wild Victoria Day weekend in Waterton are poorer this week following their appearance in provin- cial court Saturday in Water- ton. Two persons were fined and respectively for the possession of mari- juana. Eleven of 12 persons appearing on charges under the liquor control act receiv- ed various fines depending on specific charges. Warrants were issued for the arrest of five persons who failed to appear in court and the remaining charges were sent for disposition at other locations throughout the prov- ince.