Canadian Sikh Heritage | Sardar Sewak Singh
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Sardar Sewak Singh

Life in trucking in BC: My Story

In 1941, after moving from Paldi, which was near Duncan, our family settled in Abbotsford. I was 10 years old at that time. My parents were always busy with the community and the Abbotsford Gur Sikh Gurdwara.  I remember as a young child I would always sit outside on the steps outside of the Gurdwara where there were often large gatherings that would go on until the late evening.

One memory that really sticks in my mind as a young child was when my mom asked me “Do you want to come and help me milk the cows?”  We owned some cows that were in the nearby farm. I then replied, “Mom this is different! And boy can I try to milk the cows!” Mom then said yes. I really enjoyed it and I felt good about feeding the cows also. I had a great feeling about this, for it meant that I was caring for a cow, and here is where it all started, milking cows on a small barn in 1941. I would always look forward to this chore of helping and feeding the cows. I guess that my parents thought right that I, Sabik at this early age, was taking pride in his work and that’s when I felt it now was a start of my responsibility, at the young age of 10.

Within a short time later, my parents bought three more cows at a farm sale in Chilliwack. We then had milk for us children, and donated some to the the gurdwara as well. We then filed some papers with the Fraser Valley Milk Producers Association. This started a routine and we were shipping milk to the milk producers.  The containers in which we were shipping the milk were in steel cans 18 inches round by 36 inches high. This container had to be put in a holding tank. We had a cement-built milk house, and flowing cold water to cool the milk fast, which I had pumped by hand. Every morning at 10:30 am, a trucker from Abbotsford, (who had an international Harvester truck) would come to pick up the cans of milk. For me this truck was very fascinating. Just by looking at it I felt proud because this “monster” truck came to our farm yard.

When I could, or at any point I had, I would say “Hi” to the driver. I though he was so strong, with one hand, he could lift the milk can into the truck which was one hundred pound heavy. This was okay with me. I loved it when the big monster-size trucks drove by the Gurdwara. I loved the noise, the smell, the roar, and power.  I also enjoyed watching truck, trailers and tankers going up the hill in front of the Gurdwara. I noticed that when the trucks went down the hill, they made even more noise, as some trucks engines were equipped with engine brakes. All of this was my big thing and it made me feel very good.

Sometimes when my Dad would tell me stories, I would be extra nice and sit quietly while he talked. The stories were mostly about when he came to Canada, and how it was. He used to tell me how he used to have several teams of horses. My father’s favourite were a pair of black horses with some white marking on their forehead. On the horse drawn wagons the dump boxes were made towards the back of the wagon, in order to have it past the centre mark, making it easier to dump. He would then pick-up and also sell wood, which was picked up at the beaches around Vancouver.

Next, Dad had bought an old 1924 Day Elder truck, which had solid rubber tires on them. These noisy monsters dumped by using a dumper, which was something you would wind up with your hand. This gadget was mounted on the frame behind the trucks can and by winding this handle, the cable would wind on a street drum, thus lifting the wood box to dump. In 1943, Mom and Dad visited the West 2nd Avenue Gurdwara in Vancouver and returned home with a 1940 red ford truck with a shiny nose. In the summer of 1945, I started to learn to drive this truck in our hayfield by picking up hay which was used as winter feed for the cows.

In 1946 at the Agassiz farm I would attend school. After school, Dad would pick me up with our truck, and I would then drive to Stanley mill which was in Agassiz too. At this point, I would load wood on it and Dad and I would sell it along with some sawdust in Chilliwack, Rosedale and Agassiz. In 1947, we started to haul logs, on the property behind the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel, back to Agassiz mills. We also started to haul gravel on roads in Agassiz and Seabird Island.  All this milking of cows driving trucks, became a full time job for me, which made me quit school in Agassiz, and then eventually join heavy duty trucking. This all revolves around the fact that I was the oldest and the family was growing up and still going to school yet.

During the great flood of 1948, we were moving to Chilliwack. I thus started hauling gravel in Chilliwack, Rosedale, Glendale, and the Sumas Dykes. Just after the flood the farm land was messy and the growing of crops became hard to maintain. Dad and I started hauling Marl Lime from Bridal Falls to farms in the Fraser Valley. This was the year that the great “S” emblem was put on our truck.

In 1948, I was hauling blacktop for Trans Canada Highways in Rosedale B.C. ten miles east of Chilliwack.  This was the year that I applied for my Motor Carrier plate called the “H” plate.  This was used in order to be able to haul aggregates and other commodities within the Greater Vancouver, including the Fraser Valley.

When I went to the Motor Carrier Commission in Vancouver, to get the license I was told that I was the first East Indian trucker to make an application for hauling. I was then later told that applying for a hauling application was also difficult to get. My clean driving record and accident free years of driving helped me in my successful application.

During this time our farming business had grown to 75 heads of cattle. As such, we required a bigger barn to accommodate this. This also made the work load a lot heavier.

In 1965, I moved to Richmond and continued on with the trucking.  I started to work for the City of Vancouver and was also involved in hauling road salt for the B.C.  Government Highways Department.  This first great company was called S.SINGH TRUCKING.

In 1966, after the death of my first wife, my mom asked me once again to join the family trucking business because my younger brothers didn’t know all of the work and involvement which was involved in the trucking business.  With much hesitation I brought over my truck. My Mom then asked me to transfer my Motor Carrier to the company. It was formed and called G.H SINGH and SONS TRUCKING LTD.

G.H in this instance stood for my father’s name, Giani Harnam Singh. With government contracts and other heavy duty responsibilities, my brother Raminder Singh (Mindy) carried it on with me for 27 years, and sadly, it all ended with my brother’s death. In this moment I was left on my own. I moved on with my second wife Janice (Jaishi) and my children to Langley. I am still driving a truck to this day and haul aggregates-gravel in the greater Vancouver area and the Fraser Valley.

-Written by Sewak Singh Dhaliwal