Pork & Beans, and The Onion Club — another Backward Glance… In a letter dated August 16, 1938, a Mr. F.

Pork & Beans, and The Onion Club — another Backward Glance…

In a letter dated August 16, 1938, a Mr. F. Guise, of Canadian Canners, is replying to a piece of pork he received from two prairie lads who went on a bit of a lark.

His letter is to Mr. T.S. Burton, Jr., and Mr. R. I. Small, Moose Jaw Wild Park Booth.

Sharing a standard Dirty Thirties lunch, a can of pork and beans, these young prairie lads found, not one tiny piece of pork, but two. In their letter with the pork piece they lamented how some poor soul in these hard times may have had to suffer a lunch of pork and beans without his pittance of pork.

Mr. Guise entered into the spirit of their game with his philosophical reply.

“We thank you,” he wrote, “for your air mail letter to hand this morning, enclosing evidence of your surprise discovering an additional quantity of pork in Aylmer’s pork and beans.

“After all, in Aylmer pork and beans we offer a palatable, and economical, food that does not allow the use of pork in other than in a small proportion to that of beans. We use every orderly method plus supervision to ensure the uniformity of all Aylmer products, but no method or system is infallible or stronger than the human element that operates it and therefore accidents happen in our plant the same as they do in every phase of life. Hence Ripley’s Believe it or Not column, and your own amazing experience in getting two pieces of pork in one can. All we can hope now is that in surfeiting you with the pork we did not starve somebody else, which would bring us a complaint to offset your eulogy.”

“Please accept our best thanks for your kindly interest, and, we trust, the continued use of Aylmer pork and beans and other products.”

Some would say this letter is significant of the Thirties, since in hard times people had little to do, so could engage in such shenanigans.

Such an assumption is as far from the truth as is the current shenanigans of some “experts” who concluded today’s electronic gadgetry allows “multi-tasking”, such as the much touted driving, yattering on the phone, while sipping a coffee on your lap. This “multi-tasking,” they concluded, means the average urbanite packs the equivalent of 31 hours into our time allotted 24 hour days.

This is not tongue-in-cheek stuff like the pork and beans story, these people are serious — why I’ll bet within a year they’ll have convinced a generation they’ve stretched time, and added another world-changing miracle from a generation already convinced they invented sex.

Two miracles in one generation. Lord t’underin’ what’ll they be up to next.

It makes the Yukon’s Onion Club sound more appealing, and sensible. It was a Yukon 1920s phenomenon according to the Mayo-Keno Bulletin, of May 24, 1924, I quoted from last week. Here’s their take on onions:

“All Mayo and part of Keno were on the White Pass dock to meet the first boat of the season … at last she came, and gladly we welcome Capt. Morrison and his gallant crew and passengers too, but still more gladly did we welcome the fresh fruit for which we had been hungering so long. A slight damper on the general rejoicing was the dejected and unhappy countenances of the members of our local Onion Club.

“For long weeks while the rest of us were dreaming of oranges and apples, they had been hankering for their own juicy and succulent, favourite fruit. Captain Boerner the perfidious; and arch schemer; had given them to understand a shipment of choice Bermuda and Spanish onions were on the first boat. Onions there were; and lots of ‘em; but of the same brand and vintage of the rank and strong variety we had with us all winter. Great was the disappointment and dire were the threats breathed against the gallant captain.”

Onions and beans may not be a great mix, but the stories sure are, and isn’t there corporate management lessons in these tales? Keeping promises comes from the onions, and revealing the human side of enterprise comes with the pork and beans. Tongue-in-cheek levity when possible especially together with person-to-person attention, instead of talking to multi-tasking electronic machines when dealing with big companies, and corporations would be a real miracle in this day and age would it not?

A big tip of the hat to Mr. R. I. Small, of Surrey, BC, for sharing his pork and beans story with us, and a another to the Yukon Archives for keeping our Yukon story, such as the 1920s Mayo-Keno Bulletins, safe and sound.