In the early days, a ‘teamster’ was a truck driver or, before that, a person who drove teams of draft animals.
The name dates back to 1903, when most deliveries were made by horse-drawn wagons. The driver was referred to as a “teamster,” because he was the one who managed the team that was pulling the load.
Today, the term often refers to a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union in the United States and Canada.
I remember however, my first encounter with a first “teamster”.
He was just a name on the 1949 Federal Voters List and everyone in Southampton knew him as Jack. I did not know him until 1954 and I remember him very well.
For decades, in the early 1900’s, Jack McLellan and his trusty team made their way to downtown Southampton from a small farm lot on Clarendon Street, just east of Anglesia, to work out of the railway station on Grosvenor Street. He picked up the incoming freight and did deliveries around town. He usually had a helper as much of his load was large packages.
Around the late 40’s, railway freight deliveries changed to via truck and Bill Barber and his flat- bed delivery truck took over. Bill’s daughter Shirley Marnoch is well known in our town. There were still lots of deliveries to residents as well as to merchants.
In September 1953, our family moved downtown to the apartment in the back of the Customs and Excise Office above the beautiful new Post Office on High Street. We moved in on August 31st . There was my mom and dad and we four kids in the nice new two-bedroom apartment. One week later a 5th child arrived, and I finally got a baby brother to go along with my three sisters and “magic” happened. On a Saturday morning, a door was cut in the wall into a large vacant unused Customs Office room and a wall was constructed making a new 10-foot bedroom. We now had a three-bedroom apartment. And we lived right in the middle of all “the action” that happened in our town.
The following spring, fairly early on a Saturday, I was in front of the post office with my dad when Jack McLellan came by with his team of horses and an odd, shaped rubber-tired wagon. He stopped and talked to my dad. Jack asked Dad, if the “kid would like to help him for a few hours” … and that was how I got to know Jack McLellan.
I climbed up and sat beside Jack on the board across the front of the wagon and we headed down Grosvenor Street to Lansdowne. We turned west towards the lake. Back then Lansdowne went right down onto the shore. I said earlier that he had an “odd shaped” wagon. So here is a description of it. At this point, we were down on the long gravel point that juts out from shore right there.
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There were various types of rakes and shovels hanging on the sides of the wagon as well as a 5 ft. high screen in a frame. The box of the wagon had four-inch boards in the bottom and 12-inch side boards. He set up the screen frame with a wooden brace and we shovelled gravel against the screen which separated the sand from the gravel. We then loaded the gravel into the wagon. When the wagon box was full, we then delivered the load of gravel to homes around town.
He would back the horses up a customer’s driveway. The boards in the bottom of the wagon were loose so that we could pull them out and let the gravel fall onto the driveway. I would be raking as he was pulling the boards out and moving the horses out of the way. The customer would give him $2.50 for a load. Out of this I got a quarter. We would do two or three loads on a Saturday morning, depending on where in town the customers lived.
And we all know what happened. Just like the “truck” ended Jack’s parcel delivery business, asphalt and concrete ended his gravel delivery business.
Jack always had a “chew” in the right side of his mouth. There was always a little sign of it on his chin. Once and only once, I asked if I could have a little bit to try. He took out his knife and cut me a small hunk off of his tobacco plug.
Yes, you know what happened. The challenge is to not let the tobacco juice go down your throat, but that takes time to learn how to do. He laughed hard as I coughed and hacked trying to get rid of it all. Once and only once.
G. William Streeter 2021