ALUMNI-IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
W. FRANK GRAHAM, OAC ‘37
Interviewed by Ross Hay
March 31, 1993
R This is an interview with W. Frank Graham, year ’37 OAC. This interview is being conducted by Ross Hay, Year ’45 for the University of Guelph, Alumni Association, the Alumni in Action Group. The date is March the 31st, 1993.
It is good to have you in our home, Frank, for this interview.
Frank, I have some questions here that I would like you to answer just to carry us along in this interview.
Where were you born?
F In Nepean Township, Carlton County, on a farm, just out of Ottawa, about 5 miles.
R Is that still just out of Ottawa?
F No, it’s right in Ottawa now. Those people who know Ottawa, that is the Richmond Road and Carling Avenue and they meet up by the corner, and if you go back towards Ottawa, we owned 200 acres in there, and it was really expropriated when I was very young and we were in the dairy business. And the same thing happened as is happening today, but this was 70 years ago.
R My goodness. And did you attend collegiate or high school, or …?
F Yeah, I attended public school until I was in grade 5, and then, our farm had been taken over, but we went in and bought our grandmother’s home at 167 5th Avenue, and I finished public school and then went to Glebe Collegiate.
R There were quite a few people from Glebe Collegiate that came to OAC.
F That’s right.
R Well, why did you come to OAC to further your education?
F Well, first, as you have been notified, I got in the Boys Parliament, and then I was hired by the YMCA. They must have been hard up for assistant boys, but at 20 years old they hired me, and after a couple of years, at $75.00 a month, they wanted to cut my salary because I was the last one hired, and I said “No”, and I got a job at Tip Green College and I met a fellow there, by the name of Sandford King, a graduate of OAC, and he knew I was a farm boy and
he took me to all the farm meetings. And he influenced me and I said, “I’m not going to continue in this line of work; I think I’ll follow what you did and go to OAC”, and he had quite an influence on me, and with my background on a farm, that’s why I went to OAC.
Do you remember initiation in 1933?
F Yes, indeed I do. You see, my brother, Cliff graduated in ’29, and my sister Mary in ’31, so I was a little familiar with Guelph and had been up here, and I remember the flag fights we had. Our year won the flag fight, you see, and of course, the second year ahead of us, ’36, they didn’t like that (chuckle). And it was quite a thing; they tried to win it by taking a bunch of us out on that truck away out of town, and then we had to run back and help our fellows win the flag fight. (laughter)
R And you still won?
F Yeah, we won the flag fight.
R Did anybody get hurt over that?
F No, there were no serious, real scuffles, you know, we had all our old clothes and I remember, Al Pales and Gil Wallace, and a fellow by the name of Ford who later became a great tobacco man, knew I was a freshman, and they went up and down the aisles, but by this time we had grease all over our heads and they didn’t identify me. But they tried to get me out to chase greased pigs, and they went by, and they said “Where’s this guy, Graham?” They went right by and they never got me.
R Were you shaking in your boots then? (laughter)
F Oh, I was scared as could be. So I remember a lot about our
initiation, but no one was hurt; it was all in good fun, and really, we enjoyed it and of course, because we were lucky enough to win, that kind of gave us quite a boost.
R Right. What did you think of initiation as an education for you? Did you get to know the fellows in the other year through initiation?
F Yes, we did, because they would get us up early, and we had to run in the morning, 6 o’clock in the morning, and because I had been on a track team at Glebe Collegiate, I was right out there in front running, and I got to know these fellas,and I kept my eye on them, cause they were really our bosses; and I knew some of them, you know, were pretty cross with us, and we learned who to avoid (chuckle), and who to get along with.
R Yeah. Did you have to clean out rooms and do the washing and things like that?
F I don’t recall ever having to do much. We had to shine some shoes, and we had to do a few other things, but I don’t recall that we had to clean out rooms and things like that.
F But we enjoyed the initiation.
R That’s good. Of all the professors who taught you, which one did you like the best?
F Oh, I think, probably, because of the subject I liked, Hugh Branion stands out, and George Raithby, and, of course, Prof. Sproule; he gave us a lot of lectures, and then I took quite a liking toward the end of my crop science year, to Dr. McConkey. He was a real character, and he used to take us out to try to identify grasses on Cutten Field, and because I had a nickname, Doc, a lot of people took our pictures, and said, “Here are the two docs”, but he was a real character. Those are the ones that I can remember influenced me.
R Do you remember one that you that you didn’t like?
F Well, I wasn’t strong on chemistry, and we had, I think, a Professor Fulmer and I couldn’t understand him, and he wasn’t a good lecturer, and I skipped some lectures, and I had to get some help before the final exams to catch up on chemistry, and I remember Prof. Baker too, he was a good lecturer, but I wasn’t all that interested in his subject, I remember, but we got to know him pretty well.
R Great, great. You knew most of them quite well.
R You have told me that you were in extracurricular activities, and I am thinking, you were in track?
F Well, I was on the track team as a freshman, and then I was a manager in the next year, following John Reynolds of year ’36, and he helped me a lot. As you know, each option had their own committee. You probably were on the animal husbandry committee.
F Well, I was on the field husbandry, which is now crop science, and then I was elected president of my year in the third year, and I was on the Student Council the last year.
R Good. Good. So you had lots of extracurricular activity.
R Now what did you know when you retired from OAC?
F Immediately after graduation, I was very, very fortunate to have an option of three jobs, really, and I…my advice to anyone going through any university, is to, besides trying to be a good student, they should take part in extracurricular activities, which will help them get a job. Now, I have a letter still from Massey Ferguson, the sales manager, in Brantford, and he said, “Looking over your OAC records, you were on the track team, and you were president of your year, maybe you’d make a good salesman for us. I’d like to interview you and Mr. Miller.” That was one. Another was they said because of my brother, would you like to be an Ag Rep and I turned that down because one in the government, I thought, was enough. Stories he told me, he liked it, but I didn’t think I would. The other was from Maple Leaf Mills Cafeteria Feeds, and Ted McCloskey, and that was the offer that I liked best and I started to work a week after I graduated for Cafeteria Feeds, Maple Leaf Mills.
R What did you do with them. Were you selling the feed?
F Yes; I was the third salesman they ever had. The first was Davey Davidson, who had passed by the time I was hired; and the head salesman, was Norman D. Hoag, year ’33. I was the next salesman hired, and I worked around Ontario wherever they wanted me to go. I would go down to Windsor; I had to go down to Ottawa and I remember I went to London, and I was really all over the place for the next three months until I was called into head office, and they said, “We’d like you to go to the Maritimes and make a survey. We tried three salesmen down there and they didn’t do too well. They either drank too much or they chased women, and we had to fire them. But two years have gone by, and would you do this?” And that’s how I stopped work late in ’37 and went down and made this survey for them.
R What did that lead to?
F Well, as you know, with your background in Quaker Oats, when anything happens in a big company, they file it for a while, and then, it seemed a month or so went by and nothing happened. Then, all hell broke loose, because my boss phoned me and he said “We’d like you to come in. The president wants to talk to you, and, the sales manager.” And I said, “What about?” He said “This report has just got through to them about the Maritimes.” So I went in, and they, to make a long story short, they offered me a job to go down and I
got a big increase of $10.00 a month, and I said, “I’d like to think it over and talk it over with my parents, and thenprobably we could have another
meeting.” So two weeks later, I come back and they said, “How about it?” and I said, “Well, my father said that a Graham never left Ontario”, and I’d never been out of Ontario. Matter of fact, I’d never been to Toronto and Guelph, except for the Boys’ Parliament, until I went to OAC. And they said, “Well, if you’ll go, we’ll give you another raise of $10.00.” Well, then in ’38, after I had started work, still in Ontario, when they gave me the third raise, I said I’d go, and they gave me a letter and it said, “We’d like you to go down and work six months, and if you don’t like it, you can come back to Ontario.” And I liked it so well, I stayed fourteen years.
R Wonderful, wonderful. And you must have built up business
and made friends and everything else there.
F Well, Ross, you know dealerships. I could; we had seven full-time salesmen and your man, was a fellow by the name of Graham in Fredericton
R Yes, I remember that.
F And I remember, I got to know him. And he was a fine fella, but he was mainly a flour salesman, you see, and I could see that of the seven salesmen in the Maritimes, three of them were farm boys. They’d been trained by Canada Packers or Swift, and when I traveled with them, they caught on fast about chick starter and hog starter and dairy feed, and, so, I could see that if I could educate those fellas, and then get along with them, and I was the youngest member of the staff in ’38; they were all older than I was; and there were eight full-time salesmen and then two special salesmen that did cities such as Halifax and St. John and Moncton. Purina and RobinHood and a lot of the other companies, (Ogilvies), they were trying to sell wholesale through wholesalers, and I could see that that was a tough way to get volume, so I developed the idea of getting a good grocer, with a good sized feed warehouse that was handling a little bit of feed and flour. If I could develop two or three of those fellas in and around Fredericton or Truro, whose credit the company would okay, we’d make up pool cars, and instead of a fellow ordering a little flour and couple of hundred bags of feed, we’d get the man closest to the railhead, and give $10.00 to check out a car and then two others, and we’d make up a thirty ton car, and that worked great. When I went down there it was so bad that we counted bags, not tons. I have still a notebook, and they were only selling 2,800 bags of feed and when I left in ’56, we were selling nearly 50,000 tons of feed a year. Just about a thousand tons a month.
R And multiply that by 20, would give you the bags.
R In those days, they were 100 pounds.
F All of them.
R Wonderful, wonderful. Well, when you left there in ’56, then
what did you do?
F I was called back to head office. In the meantime, my friend, Davey Davidson, had been moved around quite a little bit. He was more a production man, and I think, a good one, but they took him out of that and made him sales promotion manager, and advertising manager. And, he somehow didn’t take to that, and they retired him early. And six months after, they took me to head office, January the 1st, 1956, as advertising and sales promotion manager for Cafeteria Feeds.
R Now would that be in Toronto or Montreal?
F Yeah, Toronto.
R Toronto. That was quite a move.
F Well, it was a big move, and, our office was at Yonge and, King Street upstairs, and the president was still the old gentleman, McLaughlan, and the sales manager was a fellow who had worked for Robin Hood, but he really was the one that let Davey out and six months later hired me, and when I came up, a fellow that you fellas know particularly, Jock Appleton and the others at Quaker, was Sam Clarke. Now Sam Clarke was a relative of the president of Maple Leaf Mills, who was Jack Leitch, you see, but Sam was a great financial man, and they made him head of Cafeteria Feeds and I was number two and I remember when they came to put the pictures in the Globe & Mail, they had to put Sam first, and, he parted his hair a certain way, but they had to (laughter), you know when they switch things in photography, he didn’t like the way they did his picture, and there was hell to pay, but I liked Sam very well. But it was a tough job for a few years to move from the Maritimes: I often think when you’re that far away from head office, and make your own decisions, it’s the best life in the world.
F But when you’re at head office, you have a lot of bosses.
R You’re under the gun all the time.
F All the time.
R Right. Well, then after that, Maple Leaf amalgamated with Western Canada Flour Mills.
F Yes, well, yes, I should say after that in ’58, I think it was ’58, or early ’59, Maple Leaf Mills bought out; not amalgamated, bought out thirty flour mills, and we got Purity Flour and Pioneer Feeds. And of course, with any amalgamation, it’s tough on some people, and, see, Ivan Sparling, a classmate of mine, who had since become a veterinarian, and worked for Pioneer Feeds under the manager, Walter Hendrick,
R Yes, I remember him.
F Sparling had a lot of authority. He was the purchasing agent and the nutritionist, see. Well, then, I had to help make the decision: what are we gonna call it? And, I think now looking back, we did not make the right decision; because Pioneer had a good name, we called it Pioneer Cafeteria Feeds, and I remember when they sent me to Chicago to a seminar, I showed them my card, and the head man said “Graham, how the hell are you going to sell with a name like that? Pioneer Cafeteria Feeds!” and I felt pretty badly , but they came along fast; in ’62, we amalgamated, true amalgamation, with Master Feeds; then the decision had to be made what will we call the feed, and you would know from Quaker that Master had not ever sold a bag of feed west of Winnipeg and Cafeteria was right across Canada from coast to coast.
R No, I didn’t know that.
F And, the tough decision was made (and I must say I was criticized, because I had a vote.) to call it Master Feeds, because we weren’t on the open formula, and then, we had all these new techniques in the manufacture. It worked well, but I spent a lot of time in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC selling the managers and salesmen on Master Feeds. But that was good experience for me.
R Yes, it would be. I didn’t know anything about that. I knew about the amalgamation and everything, but the west, I didn’t know anything about that.
Well what year did you retire then?
R And then you came to Guelph.
F Yes. I must say I have had the finest retirement any person could ever dream about.
F I have had six jobs. First I was lucky enough to be hired in November, 1972 by Clay Switzer. I’m told he interviewed four or five people. He got nervous about the OAC Centennial, and they had a Board of Directors that met for a
year and a half and they had fifteen pages of ideas, but they had no idea how to put it together or how to finance it. And they gave him authority to hire, preferably an OAC grad, who had been in business, and was going to retire. So, I don’t know, several people had recommended me and I know one of them was the Co-op fella, the manager right here in Guelph.
F Walford, yeah, Walford, and Clay phoned me up and I didn’t know him. I didn’t know he was a tall red-headed fella, see, and they all thought in Maple Leaf that I should have known him, when I guess I should; I knew Rick Richards, but he had just come in. So he said, “Frank, I’d like to interview you, and I’m coming down to the Winter Fair.” And I said, well I know the general manager, Johnny Moles. He said “So, do I. Well,” he said, “Would you arrange to meet in his office.” So I said “I’ll phone you back.” So I phoned Johnny and he said “Sure, you can have my office for the interview.” And he interviewed me and at the end he said, “ I’d like to hire you.” And he said it wasn’t all that much money. But the agreement was, according to him then, work part-time in ’73, full-time in ’74 and part-time in ’75. And he said “What about it?” And I said, “I’d like to talk to my wife first.” So he said “How long will that take?” I said “until tomorrow at 10:00.” Joan said okay, and I phoned him back and that’s how I came to Guelph. Now this was the first job.
The next job was with Clare Burt Travel. He did not have anybody out west to help arrange tours, and he asked me if I’d help him. And most of these jobs, I’ll tell you about later, I got them at cocktail parties. Now I don’t even like cocktail parties, but I went to one at the Winter Fair, after I was hired by Switzer, and I saw Clare & Milly Burt, and they said “Frank, what are you doing?” And I said, “I’m working part-time starting in March at Guelph.” Well, he said, “How about coming out to help me?” And I said, “I don’t know anything about the travel business.” “I know, but you know people across Canada and I want somebody to help me arrange the tours.” So I said, “You know, when you’re retired, if you tackle it nicely, you can work the hours you want to work, instead of what they want you to work.” So, I said, “Could I work two days a week, say, from 8:00 'til 2:00?” He said, “Why couldn’t you work 'til 5:00?” “Well,” I said, “I don’t want to get in the traffic. I want to leave Brampton and get back to Don Mills.” He said okay, so I worked two days a week and then the A.I.C. phoned me up and said the man who is in charge of advertising is quitting. Would you take the job on? And I said, “Well, is it part-time?” “Yes,” he said, “You could do it in a day a week.” I said okay. So then I had three jobs … I did that for two years, and after that I took over the secretaryship and treasurer of the Ontario Feed Manufacturers, and then I worked for Clyde Tisdale for two years and a half interviewing people.
Well, the sixth job was with the Federal Business Development Bank, and I don’t know how they got my name, but they wanted someone in agriculture.
So, I went to several seminars; they had a lot of them around, and I did three projects for them over two years. But that was just strictly part time.
So, I’ve enjoyed my retirement. I loved it, and I was lucky.
R Well, that’s wonderful to be able to fulfill the remaining years that you wanted to work with such a broad spectrum of agriculture. That's great.
Well, is there anything else, Frank, that you wish to place on this tape?
F Well, not particularly. I enjoyed most, I think, the years I was president of the Ontario Feed Manufacturers, and worked with fellas like Harry Wilcock, and George Pierce, and your Quaker man that you mentioned, Art Douglas, and when I did come up in ’56, I was the representative from Cafeteria Feeds on the Ontario board, and then when we amalgamated with Master, Harold Cook said that Fred Irvine was quite ill then, and he said, “Frank, we want you to be our representative.” And I was fortunate because it could have been Bill Archibald, or Morley Funtson or somebody, but I was appointed, and I don’t know why, but I was, and later became, in ’62, ’63, president of the Canadian Feed Manufacturers. And I am to say that they never had had a convention in the Maritimes and I wasn’t the only one, but I was able to sell them on going to St. Andrews by the Sea in 1963 for the convention and it was a great success. People called it a family affair, and I think fellas like Art Douglas, or your other Quaker fellas who were on the board, they took the whole family down there and they stayed and toured around.
So that was one highlight for me, and another was the year I was president; I went to Harold Cook, my boss and said, “Do you really want me to take the time off to be --”, and he said, “Yes, and we want you to go across Canada and we’ll pay your way.”
F And that was the first time any president, I think, had visited, so I went to the Maritimes for their meeting, and Quebec, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver, and we were able to arrange after the annual meeting in each place, then the local manager, in, say, Winnipeg, he’d call all the salesmen in and have a little meeting, and of course, that’s why Cook said if our sales managers do that, we’ll pay your way.
R Wonderful. Well, thank you very much Frank. It’s been very, very
interesting, and I am sure that anybody that reads it will feel the same way. Thanks again.