Art Wilson spent all his business life in various branches of the produce trade, but his fame is as a professional secretary.
Born in Yorkshire, England, he arrived in Winnipeg at the ripe old age of 11 in the year 1904. By 1912 he had commenced work with the Transportation Department of Swift Canadian Co. Ltd., and when, in 1920, he severed connections with this firm, he was manager of the Dairy and Poultry Dept.
He accepted a position as assistant General Manager of the Crescent Creamery Ltd. in Winnipeg and the following year went to Port Arthur, Ontario as manager of this company’s branch. From there, in ’23 back to Winnipeg as Produce Manager of the same firm, and in ’24 to Regina as Assistant Manager of the Produce Department of Sask. Co-op Creamery Association. Then to Moose Jaw in 1925 as Produce Manager for the Co-op, and in ’29 into business for himself as Wilson Produce Co. Ltd.
That brings us to Art Wilson accepting the secretaryship of the Canadian Produce Association, Sask. Section in 1937, the only western body of the ‘trade’ until the formation in 1945 of the Western Canada Produce Assoc. A year previous to that, the Canadian Produce Association, Western Section had been formed, with Art acting as secretary, but this apparently gave way to the distinctly western organization a year later. Art guided its destiny, but he certainly would not put it that way because he was a modest man who much preferred to talk about others who have played their part in organization, giving them all the credit, taking none for himself.
Somewhere along the line most industries find a man who is willing, and able, to carry more than his share of responsibility, and this was typified by Art. Of him, Claude Holman, long time friend and for many years manager of the Produce Dept. of Burns and Co. Ltd., Calgary, said, “Art has served the industry for over 20 years, even to the detriment of his own business”.
Art was also secretary of the Canadian Produce Council that was organized at Winnipeg in 1950 with its first regular meeting being held in Ottawa in October 1950, and its first annual meeting in Vancouver in June, 1951.
In discussing the achievements of the various associations he was connected with, Art indicated all the credit should go to its various Chairmen. Art followed this up by saying, “I could, without question, say that the Chairmen and Presidents of these several organizations were each and every one enthusiastic and hard working whose ambitions were to guide the destinies of the produce industry as a whole, provincially, regionally or nationally, to produce results that would be in the interests not only of the produce trade, but of the producer and consumer as well. That is why, in my opinion, our associations have been continually successful over the years.”
Continuing Art said, “I would like to mention another chap, who, before his retirement on account of ill-health was most active in the earlier days. Laurie Carr of Buckerfield’s Ltd. of British Columbia, to me, was an outstanding example of ‘how to get along with people’. He exemplified at the conference table just what the word tolerance meant. His recommendations were always made from an overall picture of the problem. For instance, at a meeting in Winnipeg when we were rather concerned about Freight Subsidies on Feed Grains to B.C. and the East, the prairie boys naturally felt this was not in their best interests and were all for passing a resolution asking the Canada Department of Agriculture to eliminate the subsidy or at least reduce it. Mr. Carr, who had supported all the arguments for continuing subsidies, nevertheless, knew he would be outvoted. The prairie members, who had every respect for Laurie rose and said, “Gentlemen, I have enjoyed our discussion. I still feel that this freight subsidy is a necessity for British Columbia, but I just want to say that if it is the wish of the majority of the members of the association to take exception to the principle of the government paying a freight subsidy, I will not oppose it.”
“That instance,” concluded Mr. Wilson, “simply typifies one of the outstanding reasons for the continuing success of the Western Canada Produce Association. The same spirit has always been manifest in the meeting of the other associations.”
Art gave particular mention to the part played all through the years by the government officials; W.R. Brown, long time Chief of the Poultry Department at Ottawa; S.C. Baryy, Mr. Brown’s assistant for so many years; and E.D. Bonnyman of Ottawa, affectionately known across Canada as ‘Bonny’.
Well, this seems to be mostly written about other people than Art Wilson. However, maybe this is in order because Art was seemingly always able to get these people working as a team, for the general good of the industry.
The problems he tackled over the years have singularly changed. All during the ‘40’s it was production goals, transportation needs. Latterly it has been the disposal of surpluses, the seeking of new markets. From hereon in, it is likely to be the streamlining of packing stations and processing plants, and the urging of more economical producing units as eggs and poultry come into more fierce competition with all other foodstuffs.