Sunday, March 22, 2015

If I Were Born In The 19th Century

When I was a kid, I always dreamed of living in the 19th century. To me, it was like a Garden of Eden. Everything looked better. Machinery was fancy, architecture elegant, people well dressed, it was cool. As I grew up, this idylic stance wore off as I learned more about that fascinating century. My gentleman farmer's dream vanished but I still have a great fondness for La Belle Époque.

Recently, I was curious to see what I would have looked if I have lived in that era. With the help of Photoshop, I was able to get a glimpse of myself as a railway entrepreneur. I suspect I could have been some low ranking manager for a regional railway company, probably overlooking buildings construction and such.

Historically in Quebec, most French Canadians would be unable to get better jobs in railways though they were generally considered as loyal and valuable workers. When laying track, foremen would prefer to keep them working on safer jobs that needed more accuracy. Unfortunately, that meant Italians, Chineses and other immigrants had to do the dirty job. No need to talk about the death toll. Even some 19th century CEO felt they had walked a thin line and didn't think it made any sense to consume humane lives at such a rate.

As an anecdote, a friend's great grand father used to work his lifetime for one of our big national carriers. He was well-known among the establishment and at some point, he was offered to get a far better managing job. There was only one condition, he had to enroll as a Freemason which he steadily refused as most French Canadians of the time would have done. He never moved up anymore in the company until retirement. Such were the times...

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