About the end of the first week in July, I decided to get my hair cut at one of my favourite barber shops not too far from our condo. My regular barber, Sal, the owner, was busy. Since we were going out of town for the weekend, I was in hurry to get a trim (though there’s not much hair to worry about) so Sal asked one of his barbers who was available to fill in.
Joe beckoned me to his chair. I said, “Please, just a trim.”
“Okay,” replied Joe. I mentioned that it was my birthday, my 77th to be exact, and went on to say that I really felt I was getting older.
“What do you mean?” asked Joe. “I’m 82, and look at me, I’m still at barbering. I have been since I was a kid.”
As Joe began the trim, I asked where he came from and how he came to our city. His story began to unfold as he meticulously trimmed my last vestiges of hair.
It turned out that he immigrated to Canada when he was a young man and had only maybe $20 to $30 in his pockets when he arrived in Toronto to stay with relatives. The only skill he had was barbering. He wound up at a small shop on Danforth Avenue in Toronto and eventually saved enough money to buy his own shop.
“Joe, I think you’re cutting my hair too short,” I said. “Not to worry, I am a true craftsman and I will make you look like a million,” he replied.
After a few years, Joe’s wife arrived and he needed larger accommodations. He could not afford to buy a home, even though prices in Toronto in the late ’50s and early ’60s were relatively inexpensive compared to today. He then went on to tell me about a real estate agent, Anne, who knew him through her husband. Anne was always showing him the Co-Ops – our MLS listings – and Joe would always say that he didn’t have the money to pay for a deposit and for a lawyer.
Anne continued to call on him for five years and when she told him of a home just a few blocks away, Joe went to see it. He kept saying that he didn’t have the down payment. After some encouragement, Joe went to see his bank manager, who loaned him $2,500. It wasn’t quite enough for the down payment, but Anne arranged the balance so that Joe could buy his first home in Canada after five years of barbering.
It was a great feeling, Joe professed, to own his own home, which he eventually sold for a profit. “I had to move on, because my family of two girls and a boy were cramped in the three-bedroom home,” Joe told me.
Up to about five years ago, Joe bought and sold five other homes and made enough profit to send his three children off to university. One is a lawyer working for the government and the other two are gainfully employed.
“Did Anne sell you all these homes?” I asked.
“No, I lost track of her some time ago. I think she passed away,” Joe said.
He said he wished he was able to buy and sell more homes, but his wife of many years told him, “No more moves.” It would be too difficult at their age, she said, and scolded him not to buy any more homes.
As Joe whisked me off and showed me the mirror, I sort of winced.
“Nice job, eh?” Joe asked.
“Ah, well, a little more of a trim than I expected.” I replied. Tipping him as I left the shop, I thanked him for his wonderful account of what most immigrants to Canada have experienced – that being the joy of working towards owning their own home and raising their children to be successful and how they continue to prosper and add to Canada’s growth. Newcomers to Canada have helped this country very much and will continue to do so in the future.
And yes, my parents came here to Canada as immigrants as well.
Have a great fall campaign.
Stan Albert, broker/manager, ABR, ASA at Re/Max Premier in Vaughan, Ont. can be reached for consultation at [email protected]. Stan is now celebrating his 43rd year as an active real estate professional.