Remembering My Dad

22 April 2019

When I picked up working with wood about 25 years ago I wondered why I hadn’t tried to do more creative work earlier in my life. Especially as using power tools and coming up with ideas to plan out furniture pieces seemed to come so naturally to me when I started.

My Dad worked for over 40 years driving locomotives both in the main switching yard in Sudbury and out on the mainline to Little Current, Chapleau and down to Mactier. As early as I can remember he was using his Dad’s tools, that had been passed down to him, to fashion crafts for our Church summer Bible School. Then he took to ripping up floors and bedrooms and restoring or renovating them with beautiful results. I wondered when I was young, how did he know how to do that stuff? – he was a railroad engineman after all.

He then moved on and started building houses, churches and you name it with friends in his spare time. Again I was puzzled as to how he could accomplish such things with no training. Well I guess at some point I surmised that it just came natural to him – like some children of musicians who seem born knowing how to play instruments. After Dad's retirement he continued working on any project that his children had going on – and he just loved doing a great job.

When I was a kid I had to often help my Dad on projects like drywalling, plumbing and framing that he was helping out a friend or neighbor with but my heart wasn’t in it. I must have been thinking about how all this work was cutting into my basketball skill development time. I did assimilate a few things that I managed to apply in my own life over the first 40 years however it wasn’t anything that I took real pride in.

Then when I was managing a project of installing leasehold improvements for a sporting goods store in West Vancouver, I watched the guys who were building the pine displays and thought to myself – that looks like something I would like to do. I started working in a shop that we had at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, B.C. on weekends and building all sorts of furniture pieces - in no time I was able to make anything I dreamed up.

It was then that I thought to myself how easy this was, and made the connection that whatever gift my Dad had, he had passed it down to me. And not only me – it seems that all of my brothers and my sister have the ability to make create really nice work without any background.

My father Bill Swain passed away exactly 10 years ago today at the age of 84, so I remember him today and I thank him for teaching me how to work hard and for passing on to me the love and ability to make things that I had not dreamed possible earlier in my life.