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Dave Bastedo

Toronto, Wednesday, 31 August 2005

I started with Jim Conklin, working as a teenager in Brantford and the first job I had was cutting the weeds off the railway siding with a scythe in very hot weather. They told me, “See the weeds? We don’t want to see the weeds.” The crew of guys that were around in the shop at that time, Red Ratthe, John Macdonald, Heinz Schlichthorn, Jimmy McSorley, were guys that had been around the carnival for a long, long time, so I was very fortunate as a young lad to work with those characters. That was a summer job when I was a teenager.

That developed into coming down here to the CNE and working with Neil Webb and the office staff, John Drummey, at the time, and for Jim Conklin, weighing tickets for the rides. I used to run around after closing and pick up all the ticket boxes, shake all the tickets out and weigh them with a scale, working through the night getting those numbers ready for the average price to be applied to them and the next day allocating the revenue. This was just as the rides changed from where every ride had its ticket booth to the universal system, one of the innovations that Patty and Jim brought into the business. That would have in ’66 or ’67; it might even have been ’65. I was born in ’49, I was 16, so it would have been ’65. That was my first job down here.

During the day I worked for Bernie Kirby as a carpenter’s assistant, and dumping Skee Ball machines and keeping them running. If I got bored I’d go and stand on a ride and operate a ride for a few hours. I had very full days back in my youth. I never worked as a jointee in the games. Sort of behind the scenes.

When I found myself an early graduate from a university course, Jim Conklin came and said, “I’ve got a job down at Belmont Park in Montreal.” So down I went to Montreal and helped Bernie Kirby, again, and Ernie Denier, reframe all the games in Belmont Park. I worked with Frank Eastman and Mike Higgins. I learned how to run the office; took a bunch of bookkeeping courses.

I was at Belmont for two or three seasons, and then the company had acquired the big park operations, Wasaga Beach, Crystal Beach, Hemmingford Lion Safari, Rockton Lion Safari, Belmont Park, Lake Ontario Park in Kingston. My responsibility was, from a financial point of view, keep a tab on all those spots. I drove around, or flew around in later years.

Then we got the west and John Drummey and I sort of split up who was going to do what. While he was west, I was down here in Toronto getting the office stuff ready, coupons and all the stuff we had to worry about back then. Much different than today. We put a month into the prep and now if they’ve got a week, they take a week, if they’ve got a day, they take a day. We were a little more plodding in the way we did things. I guess the biggest change from an office point of view has been the advent of computers. We thought we were being very revolutionary when we got a Phillips machine in and started doing payroll on mag strikes, big card that slipped down into the computer. That was very innovative back in those days. I was the last one who wrote the 3,000 pay cheques out by hand every week for the CNE and had to put them through a signer.

I have a little story about Patty Conklin. When I was away at university in between seasons, if I came back to town, Jim always had some work for me or through Bernie Kirby or John Macdonald or somebody. I was cutting up some blocking at the Brantford shop down on Elgin Street. Up pulled a Cadillac and Jack Kelly jumped out and Mr. Conklin, Sr., said “Hello, son.” I said, “Yes, Mr. Conklin?” He said, “Just a second. Jack, where’s the tape?” He proceeded to measure out one of these lengths of four by fours that I was cutting up. He said, “If you make them all 19 inches, you’ll get an extra piece out of every length.” I said, “Yes, Mr. Conklin.” That was a very important lesson to me. Mr. Conklin got where he was because he was sharp and he knew all the little things and how they all added up.

[Unfortunately, Dave was called away at this point and the interview will have to be picked up at a later time.]

Note: There are over 200 pages of interviews here, mostly verbatim and unedited. If you find spelling mistakes or typos, or want to add something, contact me at john [dot] thurston [at] sympatico [dot] ca. Thank you!


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