Sam Barrett: Produce Business in Vancouver
Date:Monday, March 26, 1973
ID:Digital audio recording #: 19.73-01
AK: You’ve come to settle in Vancouver. Why did you pick this beautiful city?
SB: I did because I was discharged from the army, and in Winnipeg, Manitoba, there was considerable labour troubles that made world news, there was no work, and I got to Vancouver the best way I could, walking, and riding these freight cars and so on. When I got to Vancouver things were very bad here too. It was in 1921.
AK: Did you know anyone in the city?
SB: No, no. I had a few dollars in my pocket tied up, money was very scarce at the time, and the large trams ran to the American border, which cost a dollar and a half one way. Sumas was the area where the buses stopped, that was just about 200 feet across to the American side. I took the bus, got to Sumas, went through the customs, they asked me many questions and so on, but they passed me. Then I worked my way to Los Angeles; it was getting on to the year 1922. In Los Angeles they had a big delivery barn where they rented horse and wagons for $1.75 a day, and these wagons had sides on them where you went out to the packing house and for one dollar they poured, they filled it up with oranges, oranges of different sizes that were ungraded for their shipping. For one dollar we loaded up this wagon full of oranges and we went to Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles, parked on a side street where we sold three dozen oranges for twenty-five cents. The entire wagon load of oranges only cost a dollar and we were glad to get rid of them. Tourists would come to California, pass by on Fifth Avenue and in three or four hours we sold these oranges, and I was at that game for about a year and a half, saved enough money and came back to Vancouver, bought myself a small truck and got myself a route for vegetables. In 1924 I got married. Rabbi Pastinsky at that time performed the ceremony of marriage.
[Tape cuts out]
SB: But the eyes were getting bad and I hired a Japanese that worked for me for a few years, driving my truck for me. The time came when you had to go through a test and I couldn’t pass and I had to have somebody drive my truck. After that my eyes got so bad that I opened up this store on Powell Street, in 1946, for the same type of business. With good fortune, the first two days I was there I didn’t have too much of a stock but a crowd of people came because I used to sell the off the truck and the same people came and told their friends, and from 1948 ‘til 1955 we’d serve about 100,000 people a year in the store.