photos: Photo by David Denofreo, Black Opal Images

The many hats of Bob Dennis

Bob beams about his vast work experience, before becoming one of Megaphone’s long-time vendors

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By Bob Dennis

In April 1966, at age 12, my first job was selling All Occasion Greeting Cards. I sold two-dozen boxes in about two weeks and won a tape recorder. I was so thrilled. Plus, the job helped me interact with people.

My next job was a parking lot attendant at the Old Ding Ho Restaurant in Kerrisdale, owned by Mr. Japolsky, a pharmacist who owned several businesses in the area. The next job, from April 1966 to April 1967, was delivering prescriptions for Mr. Japolsky. I enjoyed riding my bike most of the time in Kerrisdale. Mr. Japolsky had a sense of humour; he ran a clothesline from the pharmacy to the front counter with a clothespin holding the prescription bag. He’d also ride his Honda right in the store. If the store was full, he’d say over the intercom, “Attention everyone, fasten your seatbelts.” I’d hear laughter through the aisles. I was living in Winnipeg in 1969 when Mr. Japolsky passed away with a heart attack. Both my mum and I were upset about it.

The next job was with the Province newspaper as a paperboy. That meant having to rise at 4 a.m. Back then, I delivered 55 papers for nine blocks in the Dunbar area. I’d pick up papers at a shack down by the University Endowment Lands. A few times, my two youngest brothers would come and my friend, Neil. We would get into mischief. Neil and I egged a teacher’s house because he picked on us and others at Lord Kitchener School. I was 14 years old when I delivered papers from April 1967 to December 1967. This experience helped me get a job at the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper, which I delivered from February to August 1968.

Shortly after, I started working at a garment factory in Winnipeg alongside a guy named Greg. We were both receivers unloading trucks for materials put into women’s coats. The shipper was not a happy person. He bullied me, and others. The day Greg was bullied he gave the shipper a piece of his mind. I lasted three months and went back to school, and did my Grade 10 general business course. I received high marks in general business, business math, and English, which would help me years down the road working with Megaphone.

In July 1971, I came to Vancouver for a holiday but soon ended up working in a dining hall, learning to be a dishwasher and general kitchen help. The staff slept in an old bunkhouse when the place was known as Granite Falls. It was where granite at one time was mined near the waterfalls. The sound of the running falls put me to sleep. After finishing up at Granite Falls in the first week of September 1971, I soon found a job as a dishwasher at the Terminal City Club, a businessman’s club at Pender and Howe. I liked all the staff there, and fellow dishwashers. I left the following July, and soon found myself working for Harbour Ferries, now called Harbour Cruises. I learned how to be a deckhand under Captain Sheppard, a nice man. Captain McInnes had a bad bark, which scared me. I also sold soft drinks, chocolate bars, and potato chips. I would talk to the passengers and point at places in the harbour. Retired skippers also committed to doing tours around the harbour. I would assist them, and sometimes steered the boat. At the end of the summer, I went back to Winnipeg where

I took Grade 10 geography and Grade 11 business principles. But I found school hard and left. I went to work in May 1974 at the Country Kitchen Breakfast, Burgers, Sandwiches, as a dishwasher. I left in June 1978 and returned to Vancouver. I soon found myself working in a logging camp, cleaning the bunkhouses. I worked in three camps in two years.

In the winter seasons of 1979 and ’80, I was in Vancouver doing much socializing with my friends from Kerrisdale. But in August 1980, I had enough and moved on. Then I worked the graveyard shift as a security guard. But after three months of not sleeping well, I left and got a job at the Hudson’s Bay department store in Park Royal South from 1981 to 1990. I was off work for some time, getting over a bad back due to washing heavy pots and pans over sinks. I also had a bike accident and suffered from whiplash. I was off until Al, a fellow dishwasher who climbed the ranks to the supervisor position back at Park Royal South, he called me up to tell me I could return to my job. But Al hurt his arm. He was in the hospital when Minnie, the assistant supervisor, took charge. She was a troublemaker. One day, I had enough and walked out after she harassed me for leaving my station to sweep behind the dessert stand. Not a word of thanks. The other staff members tried to stop me, unsuccessfully.

My last job, before I started working for street papers, was at the Riley Bistro and Anderson’s Restaurant, which were in the same building, as a dishwasher. Due to small dishwashing machines the dirty dishes would pile up. Plus, the chef had a very bad temper. In August 1992 the combination took its toll, and I looked for a more fulfilling job.

That May of 1993 I heard of Spare Change Paper. I applied and got the job thanks to my work experience. It was safer, and having been a former paper carrier helped a lot. I enjoy getting out there selling the paper and interacting with friendly people.

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