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Who Am I?

                  Alan Coughlin

I reflected over my lifetime and share my history and many great times and experiences with you.

I was born in Port Colborne, Ontario in 1953. I have one brother whose name is David and he is seven years older than me.  My Parents, Margaret and Leonard Coughlin met in Galt during the war in the mid 1940’s. Dad was in the Air Force and was stationed in Galt Ontario and Vulcan Alberta.  He was a machinist and stayed in Canada for the entire war.  My mother at the time she met Dad, was a waitress at the main dining room of the Iroquois Hotel in Galt.  She talked about the very classy dining room that served mainly Judges, Lawyers and doctors.

My father was born at Bucke Siding, on the CN railway near Armstrong Ontario, in 1912. His parents worked on the CN to make a living. They settled in Redditt Ontario, 25 miles north of Kenora. My dad had 6 brothers and 2 sisters. My Grand mother was born in Finland and married my Grandfather who was born in the maritimes. I was told many stories about their years in that area.  In the cold winters they would cut blocks of ice from the lakes that would last well into June in the ice houses to preserve meat. Redditt was a main division point for locomotives to take on water and coal. There was also a roundhouse that kept up to 12 engines.  In 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured Canada by train. They stopped in Redditt for at least 30 minutes while the engine was serviced. I was told by my Aunt Murial that she was in one of the pictures with the King and Queen. Homer Duggen was selected to be mayor for a day to greet the royals. He was the only one in Redditt who owned a suit.

 My mother was born in Rama Sask. in 1915. My grandparents arrived in Canada from Austria in 1906. They were Ukrainian, and for their entire lives did not speak English. They arrived with 3 sons, so this allowed my grandfather to receive 4 sections of farm land, each being 180 acres. They helped build the Ukrainian Catholic church in Belandine, near Rama and Canora, north of Yorkton.  This church still stands today along a dirt road amongst farm fields and has one church service a year on the second Sunday in August. The church bell is housed in a separate building to the rear of the property, and has a rope for manual ringing.

So here I am, a child of the 50’s and the youngest of two sons. The spoiled one.  Growing up on the east side of Port Colborne meant that we had Nickle Beach, the TH and B railway tracks and the Welland Canal as our playground. As soon as I was old enough, probably 7, the town was mine to explore. I 

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attended Dewitt Carter public school about 2 blocks from the canal.  On lunch break, I would sometimes go over to the canal to watch the ocean going ships tie up at the wall before going into Lock #8. There were ships registered from countries  all over the world: China, Greece, England, Japan just to name a few.  Many times the seamen would toss their coins to me. I was able to collect a bag full including English Pennies, the oldest was minted in 1897 and had the picture of Queen Victoria on it.

Family gatherings were the most important to me, our huge extended family made growing up a really exciting time.

In 1968 through 1972, I attended Port Colborne High School and Lockview Park Secondary school. During the five years of high school, I attended the arts and sciences stream. My favourite class was music where I learned to play trombone. Mark Fairchild was our music teacher and he made learning music and instruments a breeze. We attended many competitions as well as weekend band exchanges.

A subject I struggled with was English until grade 13. There he was Jim Foley who taught Canadian Literature, one of only  six or seven to teach that course in the area.  He came from Cabbagetown and told us many stories of his experiences. We read the book “The night we stole the Mounties Car” by Max Braithwaite. A very comical fiction about times in the prairies during the great depression. We also had a great event.  Mr Foley organized the first Canada Day on Feb. 18, 1971 for Canadian Literature. He invited several dozen writers who attended, all for free. Some of those writers were Hugh Garner, Al Purdy, Farley Mowat, Margaret Atwood and Northrup Frye. They gave readings and sold books.

During those high school years and beyond, I held many part time and summer jobs. It seemed that jobs were plenty and I always managed to get a job because of family or friends connections. In the early teen years I caddied at Cherry Hill Golf and Country Club in Ridgeway, along highway 3. I would hitch-hike to get to the job to carry either one golf bag for $2.75 or two bags for $ 4.50  for 18 holes. This course at the time had 2 Canadian members and the balance American. The course was pristine and imported sand from Bermuda for the sand traps.  One of the summers I worked at the course while we were hosting the Canadian Open, I watched Lee Trevino on the first fairway.

 Another summer job I got was with International Surveys Ltd, a market research firm in Toronto.  I was hired as a surveyor of products on store shelves. They rented me a new 1971 Lime Green Ford Pinto and I drove from Hamilton to Pickering,  stopping at selected grocery stores, and pharmacies. The product surveyed was disposable diapers.  I drove 4000 miles in 6 weeks. The following summer, I again worked at this firm and made telephone surveys as well as worked in the computer room, loading cards to run computer programs.

After graduating high school, I attended the University of Waterloo for a year. It was a challenge and a life changing event that would turn out to be a great opportunity. In the coming years, I travelled Canada  by hitch hiking and worked on the CNR as a section hand in Quibell Ont. , a Yard Clerk in the Pas Manitoba, a chrome plater and buffer at Iona Regina and an assembler at John Deere both in Welland. I enrolled at Niagara College in Business Administration and Majored in Data

Processing Management. I graduated and received a diploma and an honours certificate from the School of Business. During the summers while attending

college I worked as a Porter and Third Cook on the Great lakes for a company called Upper Lakes Shipping. I travelled from Lampton near Sarnia as far north as Point Noire Quebec. The cargoes carried were corn, wheat, iron ore pellets and coal.  One summer I secured a job on the Cape Breton Highlander. I flew to New Orleans and sailed for Romania. The ocean crossing in May was incredible. The sun shone every day and the ocean was as calm as glass. It took 20 days to reach the Black Sea where we anchored for 30 days. We carried 30,000 tons of soya beans. Once we got to the docks we were one of 70 ships in Constanza Romania ( known as the Russian Riviera).

  There was a shortage of rail cars and the method of unloading was surprising. They were bagging the cargo.  It took us 3 weeks to unload, normally in Quebec City, it would be 17 hours.  The round trip took 100 days.

I then moved to Cambridge in the spring of 1979, I began a position with Walker Exhausts as a Junior Programmer. I worked with languages such as  RPG, Cobol and a machine language similar to Assembler called SPPf2 for the Speedy Muffler King point of sale cash registers.

During this time I met Laura who lived in the same building as me. We happened to be doing our laundry at the same time, I got the dryer and she got me.  We married in Waterloo and  bought a house in Kitchener. By this time I was working at Canada Sand Papers in Plattsville and then successfully got a position with Allen Bradley in Cambridge. I was a senior Programmer analyst and worked on projects such as Payroll, Shipping, GL conversion to Peoplesoft and the EDI system. I was early retired with a broad smile on my face and a golden handshake in 2007 at the age of 53.

Laura and I adopted 6 children while we were foster parents. This made a total of 8 with Laura’s two boys.  Our home seemed to be made of elastic bands as we increased the structure from 3 bedrooms to 6.  We had many fabulous family gatherings and summer vacations. We also had tremendous challenges with our children as we began to deal with their special needs. We learned about the various terms: Fetal Alcohol effect, ADHD, Tourette, depression, developmental delays, impulse control, mood disorder and Schizo – affective disorder.  But most of all we learned to cope and manage the challenges with love, lots of hugs, a never give up attitude, continuous hope ,smart advocating and always planned respite. In 2007 we lost our daughter Ashlee to suicide, she had just turned 20. 

Laura and I have been married 29 years, we also have one grandson named  Carter. We volunteer for Parents for Children’s mental health, and  I am a Director on the Board for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Grand River Branch. We are currently exploring a partnership opportunity with Trellis. I am past president for the Cambridge Jaycees and have been a mentor with Junior Achievement. I am also a Church Warden with The Church of St. John the Evangelist, and an environmental leader in the Church. I occasionally play golf and enjoy cycling.  My hobbies are wood working and restoring 2 vintage cars, a 1946 Pontiac and a 1950 Mercury.

I am also very pleased to be a member of this Probus Club. 

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