Leslie T. Richardson- Memories & Other Stories
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. This story is true and concerns my Father, his Old Age Pension, and the old Caledonia Mill.
When the Old Age Pension was first started, a person had to be 70 years of age and provide proof of age. The pension was $20 a month, which in those days was considered quite a sum, enough to keep the wolf from the door, if he had his own place and did not go "out on the town." It was a first step in the social structure of today's society.
My Dad was born, went to school and lived all his life in Hamilton, until he came to Caledonia in August 1900. He went to Church and school there. He played ball in Dundurn Park and went to Hess Street School. Johnson of "When You and I Were Young Maggie" was his music teacher.
Having gone to this same school from the beginning my Dad thought there would be no difficulty in getting his school records, thus proving his age which was required for his pension. When he inquired at the school and later at the Board of Education office, there were no such records whatever of the school. Somewhere along the way they were destroyed.
He then turned to the Registry Office in Hamilton for his Birth Certificate, and lo and behold, he was not born according to them. Inquiry at the Parliament Buildings in Toronto also proved negative. This was a let down. All these years he had not existed.
He next turned to the family Bible. His niece in Detroit had it and she carefully cut the page out, showing his birth record on it. The Government would not accept it. Next he sent in his Wedding Certificate and again the Government would not accept it as proof of age.
In desperation he went to Harrison Arrel Q.C. who knew him for more than 50 years and had him swear out an affidavit to that effect. This too, was rejected because it did not add up to 70.
By this time my Dad was in a deep depression. Here he was over 70 years old, a Canadian citizen by birth (he thought), raised in Hamilton and a business man in Caledonia for more than 50 years, an ex-councillor and an active party worker at election time. In both of these cases he had to swear his loyalty to the Crown and yet when it came to paying him his Old Age Pension he did not exist. Not so, my Mother, who was born and raised across the street from my Dad, was a registered citizen and had no problem getting her certificate from Toronto. They even made her feel good by eliminating her middle name which she hated.
That summer, Mr. Isaac Cole, who had been for years the miller at the Caledonia Mill, came to my Dad with a Voter's List he had found in the attic of the Mill. In it, of course, was a list of all the registered voters of Caledonia back 50 years before. His name was there and so was my Dad's. Dad asked him if he could borrow it and sent it to the office which registered the people eligible for the Old Age Pension. 50 years before my Dad had to be at least 21 to vote and so the Government accepted this list as proof positive that he was at least 70 years old and was therefore eligible for the Old Age Pension. It was proof that he was born and was a Canadian citizen too.
It was one of those incidental happening which seemed so simple at the time. Mr.Coles was pleased to show Dad the old Voter's List, but to Dad it was the missing link which meant that he was officially alive after 70 years. From it he was able to receive his $20 a month Old Age Pension.
Moral of this story: Don't give up. Somewhere the government has a record of you.