September 6, 1999
Ernie is a learner from the Learners Speakers Bureau in Manitoba.
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I was born in St. Lazar, Manitoba. I'm in the middle of a family of eight children. I'll tell you being in the middle things were not fair. For example, the three oldest ones were put in a convent where they had a proper education. My folks couldn't afford to pay cash, but instead they exchanged meats and vegetables for payment. When I became of age to start school the nuns did not want any more meats or vegetables for payment. Therefore, I had to go to day school only and then home on the school bus every night. We had to do farmyard chores, too. Summer was all day in the field. I left home when I was fifteen years old and came to Winnipeg for employment which I found in a clothing factory. I worked there for one winter, but returned to the farm in the spring.
In 1967 the whole family moved to Winnipeg when I was seventeen years old. I had saved enough money to buy a 1960 Chevrolet Impala four door hard top. Sometimes we went to St. Pierre for a wedding or social, or just a school dance. I sold the car because I got laid off and could no longer afford it.
In 1972 I got married and had two children over the next three and a half years. In 1975 I got employed with the City of Winnipeg. In 1978 I applied for a pipe layer position and I got it. I worked a lot of holidays like Christmas, all double time. In 1981 I took the shop steward course, Level Two, and a health and safety course.
In 1984 I transferred to District four. For the next three years we did not take holidays. We were banking as much as we could. In 1988 I took a fall that really gave me a severe back injury. I never worked again and in 1991, I was permanently retired on a full disability pension.
I needed something to do so I applied for literacy upgrading and have spent the last seven years with the program. I am nearing the time I can take my GED. Since 1992 I have been a student, a student representative, a vice president and now the President of Laubach of Manitoba. I am also an advanced tutor myself and really feel my life has changed.