Hope Restored: An Autobiography by Paul Hellyer: My Life and Views on Canada, the U.S., the World & the Universe

Hope Restored: An Autobiography by Paul Hellyer: My Life and Views on Canada, the U.S., the World & the Universe

by Paul Hellyer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781634241847
Publisher: Trine Day
Publication date: 09/24/2018
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 515,392
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Paul Hellyer is best known for the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces and for his 1968 chairmanship of the Task Force on Housing and Urban Development. As a journalist and political commentator, he has continued to fight for reform, and in 2005 he became the first person of cabinet rank in the G8 group of countries to state unequivocally “UFOs are as real as the airplanes flying overhead.”

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Growing Up On A Ginseng Farm

I was blessed at the outset to have such wonderful parents. They were a kind, compassionate, God-fearing and innovative couple who exercised a positive impact on our community, as well as on my older sister, Hazel, and me. We lived on a farm in the province of Ontario, about half way between the city of Brantford, where Wayne Gretzky would later be born, and Port Dover, a little fishing town on the north shore of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes separating Canada and the United States.

Our farm was bisected by the Nanticoke Creek that began in Waterford, the nearest town to our place. The creek flowed east for two miles, and then took a 90-degree turn as it wound its way to Lake Erie. My creative father built a dam to generate electricity before it was available from a public source. This was essential for the ginseng business that became the farm's principal crop. The dam created a pond, which became the habitat for a fascinating variety of fish and animals.

The farm was occupied by two Hellyer families, one on each side of the creek. My Uncle Russell, his wife Lillian, and their four children Shirley, Mildred, Walter and Editha lived in the original farmhouse on the west bank. Their home had been beautifully refurbished and boasted a rock garden that cascaded gently down toward the powerhouse. It was surrounded by a barn, the ginseng dryer and a fruit orchard. Russell had been teaching school in Saskatchewan when my father asked him to come back home and form a partnership of Hellyer Brothers to manage the ginseng business.

Our house was on Cockshutt Road about 1,000 yards east of Uncle Russell's. It was a four-bedroom brick building with a covered veranda. A matching two-car garage defined the end of the vegetable garden.

That was the setting into which I arrived on a steamy hot August 6, 1923, just as the threshers were leaving the field to wash up for supper. My mother, Lula Maude Hellyer, had summoned my father, Audrey Samuel Hellyer (yes, that was his name, it is not a typo) to call the doctor just minutes before she delivered me in the downstairs den which had been converted into a temporary bedroom. Second-hand information indicates that my six-year old sister Hazel was very pleased by my addition to the family.

I mentioned the threshers, as we also grew crops such as wheat, oats, and enough hay for the horses, with a little to spare in case of emergencies, which were rare. Normally, the grassy meadows along the creek provided sufficient forage for the young beef cattle that arrived in the spring to be sold in the fall when they were all fat and beautiful. We also had a few apple and peach trees, and lots of pears. Not long before I left the farm I helped plant 4,500 pear trees. All of these had a niche to fill, but none could produce the kind of revenue necessary to build a beautiful brick house. It was ginseng, when the price was high, that had made that possible.

Ginseng Was Our Trademark

Very few of my friends and acquaintances knew that ginseng is indigenous to North America. It was Canada's first or second export to the Orient in the eighteenth century.

In 1714, The Royal Society of London, England, reprinted a letter entitled "The Description of a Tartarian Plant, Called Ginseng; with an Account of its Virtues." This document was written in 1711 by Father Jartous, a Jesuit who had been working in China. This document, which had been sent to his Procurator General, described the habitat, harvesting, value and medicinal characteristics of the herb in fascinating detail, and was accompanied by an accurate drawing of the plant and its root. Legend suggests that a copy of the Royal Society Journal was sent to Father Francois Lafiteau in Québec City. He showed the sketch of the Manchurian root to a group of Mohawk Indians who recognized the similarity to one they revered as a tonic. They directed Father Lafiteau to a place near Montréal where ginseng was abundant.

The Iroquois Nation was the first known user of the root in North America. They considered the ginseng sacred, calling it "Garent-Oquen," which means "man's thighs and legs separated." "The similarity to the Chinese name of the plant, Jin-shen, which means 'man root' is noteworthy, for the American Aboriginal ancestors were believed to have migrated from North-East Asia by way of the Bering Straits."

Father Lafiteau sent samples of the Canadian root to France where Jesuit botanists verified that it belonged to the ginseng family and classified it as Panax Quinquefolium (five leaved) or North American ginseng. As soon as the analysis reached Canada, samples were sent to Peking where "the roots were found to be of excellent quality and were sold for their weight in gold. The news of this sale soon spread and precipitated the 'ginseng rush' of 1715."

Shipping masters made deals with trappers and Aboriginals to hunt for the roots. They also petitioned France for the exclusive trading rights with China. Their request was granted and the "Company of the West Indies" obtained a monopoly that prospered until the middle of the century when it was subject to some harsh economic realities. When the price rose to five dollars a pound, greedy individuals dug roots out of season, and dried them hastily and carelessly around campfires, ovens and fireplaces. The company refused the badly prepared and scorched product but private entrepreneurs sent the rejects to China "and the market for Canadian ginseng was ruined." A fundamental lesson that the world's farmers, foresters and fishermen might learn from this early experience was that the product was becoming extinct. Roots had been gathered before the seed matured so rather than being a renewable resource, the wealth was just harvested on a one-time basis.

The New England colonies and territories as far west as the Mississippi were beneficiaries of the Canadian malpractice. "Between 1744 and 1766, the ginseng trade between New England and China grew rapidly. George Washington, on a trip west to his lands on the Kanawha River in Virginia, noted in his journal: 'I meet with many mules and packs laden with ginseng going east over the Forbes-Braddock Road.'" The first American ship to trade with China, the 360-ton Empress of China, carried a cargo of ginseng which "yielded over 300 percent profit on the amount originally invested." As a result the trade flourished for a while until the Americans proved that they were unable to learn from the Canadian experience. "By the end of the 1890s, the ginseng supply dwindled rapidly and the plant was approaching extinction."

That was just about the time that enterprising farmers on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border attempted to grow the root domestically, one of the early pioneers being the Fromm Brothers of Wisconsin. My great uncle Clarence must have read an article, including pictures, of their operation which enabled him to recognize the plants growing in the hardwood forests not far from the farm he was about to sell. He picked the seeds and persuaded my grandpa Albert to plant some in partnership on the farm where I was born. The orchard environment they chose proved relatively inhospitable to the early experiment. In addition, they had to learn by trial and error that seed harvested in the fall does not germinate in the spring, but must lie dormant for 12 months.

It was left to my father to carry on where the initiators had left off. This gave him the distinction of being the real pioneer of the Canadian domestic ginseng industry. Instead of relying on the natural shade of woods or orchards, he moved his gardens into open fields and covered them at six-foot height with wooden lath slats to block out two-thirds of the sunlight, in simulation of the forest. The fledgling business grew rapidly and, as I said earlier, Dad recruited his younger brother Russell to join him in a partnership that endured for decades.

Hellyer Brothers dominated the Canadian ginseng market but, during the 1920s, when profitability was at its peak, dozens of smaller growers were attracted to the business. Their timing couldn't have been worse. In the 1930s the price dropped as low as Cdn. $2.25 a pound, which was well below the cost of production, so nearly all of the small growers either abandoned their crop or went bankrupt. My family proved an old adage attributed to British economist John Maynard Keynes who said, in effect, that if you owe your bank one hundred pounds, you have a problem. But, if you owe a million, it has. Hellyer Brothers owed the tiny Waterford, Ontario branch of the Bank of Montreal so much money that the bank couldn't afford to foreclose. It was better to pretend that the loan was active.

With the outbreak of World War II the price began to creep back up but following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, nothing could be shipped to China and we had a truckload of ginseng root sitting on a New York dock from November 1941 until almost the end of the war. This almost proved disastrous as a result of a rigid tax regime that insisted on taxing a crop the year in which it was sold, rather than the year it was grown. A little flexibility on the part of the tax authorities renewed bank confidence and the day was saved. The Hellyer Brothers emerged from the war with a virtual monopoly which was not to last very long in a changing world.

Father had hoped that I would take over the business, but that was not meant to be. I was simply too tall at six feet and three inches to work in the gardens without wreaking havoc on my head. More important, I had my heart set on politics where I hoped that I would be able to accomplish something worthwhile for the common good. So when Dad retired, my cousin Walter took over the family farm and became Canada's largest grower. My brother-in-law, John Race, incorporated Race-Hellyer Ginseng Growers, a company in which I was a shareholder. About two decades later, in 1980, my oldest son Peter, with the able assistance of his brother David, established Peter L. Hellyer Ginseng Growers. Peter was able to operate profitably for quite a few years until what was first a trickle became a tidal wave of new entrants flooding the market.

One farmer after another planted a few acres. Then Chinese and Korean immigrants, familiar with the ginseng trade, began planting enormous gardens and the supply increased exponentially to an extent that the market became saturated and the price, once again, fell below the cost of production. Peter decided to exit the business and harvested his last crop in 2006. It was a bit sad after almost 110 years of family involvement in the ginseng business. The market, however, dictated the decision.

Throughout the years few subjects have been more controversial than ginseng's medicinal properties. Many years ago I had a small dictionary that was categorical: "Ginseng: a worthless herb prized by the Chinese." A more restrained view came from Dr. Omand Solandt, the first chairman of Canada's Defence Research Board who, with a generosity untypical of his medical colleagues, simply said: "It must have something or the Chinese wouldn't have used it for so long."

In recent years the skepticism has changed remarkably. Ginsenosides, the active ingredient, have attracted wide attention. The Soviets, who conducted controlled experiments as far back as 1948, gave it to their cosmonauts and Olympic athletes to enhance their performance. More recently, Canadian scientists have developed a ginseng product known as Cold-FX(r) that many people, including myself, have used and found helpful in preventing colds in the early stages by boosting the effectiveness of the immune system.

Life on the Farm

Farms are wonderful places for children to grow up. There is so much freedom to move around and go to the barn with its many attractions – petting, feeding and learning to drive the horses and milk the family cow. At a little later age I learned to drive a tractor and the farm truck. It was usually fun to help with the various chores and combine play with exploration in a way that is not available to city kids. It is sad that "big Agro" is buying up so much land and making it so difficult for small farmers to survive. The very large decrease in the number of farms is robbing thousands of young people of the many blessings that were routine for those of my generation.

I only had one pet when I grew up, a beautiful German Shepherd named Peter. I loved him so much that one day when a careless workman left the top off a can of paint, I took advantage of the opportunity to convert Peter's beautiful brown fur into bright green. I don't think my decorating skill was fully appreciated either by the dog or my parents.

Unfortunately Peter came to an untimely tragic end. He was so diligent in guarding and protecting me that some of the neighbors came to mistrust him, and one of them poisoned Peter. Many tears were shed, and I have never had another pet.

The farm was a great place to develop entrepreneurial skills. I manufactured bath salts that I used to fill the most exotic bottles I could find before putting them in my little wagon to peddle to the neighbors. My wagon also came in handy when father drained the pond to make some repairs to the turbine. There were a number of large carp left stranded in the shallow water and I was able to get my hands on a number of them and sell them to neighbours of European extraction for five cents each. They obviously knew a bargain when they saw one!

I came up with other initiatives as diverse as selling magazine subscriptions, and trapping muskrats in the pond. I would skin and dry the pelts and sell them to Boehner Bros. in New York. They were fur brokers who bought our ginseng for resale in the Far East.

My principal business project, however, was market gardening. My products were peaches, pears, apples, elderberries and acorn squash. I always put the larger fruit in the bottom of the basket and the smaller ones on top, a practice which appeared to give me a slight advantage over some of my competitors. I would begin loading the family truck at about 5:30 a.m. every Saturday morning and, because I was not yet old enough to have a driver's license, my sister Hazel was kind enough to drive me to either the Hagersville or Brantford farmers' market.

Anyone who is interested in subjects like inflation may be interested to know that the price of peaches, pears and apples was invariably 20 cents for a six-quart basket, and the wooden basket was included in the price.

I was also blessed by an unexpected opportunity to learn a little bit about leadership. My father was the president of the local softball (now known as fastball) league for all of my formative years. There were traditionally about six teams in the local league but in 1939, when I was 15 years old, three were unable to field teams due to the war. Father invited the league executive committee to a meeting to plan for the season. It was held in our living room so I was allowed to listen in. When they agreed to prepare a schedule for three teams, I spoke up and said "four." At first they just ignored the interruption but when I persisted they finally agreed that I could try to put together a team in Townsend Centre, the name of the four corners of our township.

I called a practice but four of the best players from previous years didn't show up, each claiming that due to the uncertainty, they had made other plans for the summer. So I was stuck with the less experienced players who were, however, eager to pitch in. No one was surprised when we lost our first game. But a few eyebrows were raised when we tied the second game, and won the third and fourth. Curiously (although not really), one by one the four experienced players, including a star pitcher, phoned me to say that their plans for the summer had changed, and they would be available after all – everyone wants to be part of a winning team. Our team wound up in first place at the end of the season, and took possession of the trophy.

We topped the league again the next year in 1940. In 1941 I was in California, but the team topped the list for the third consecutive year, a feat that had never happened before in the long history of the league. The prize for this achievement was that the Townsend Centre team was given permanent possession of the John S. Martin Trophy.

I learned a great deal from mother and dad. They were both Sunday school teachers, and both sang in the Villa Nova Baptist Church choir. Dad was the church treasurer and responsible for counting the collections. He taught me to tithe, (give 10% of one's income to a church or charity) a habit that has persisted to this day with more than a little bit added to that original percentage. They both walked the talk and this was demonstrated by the generous and compassionate way they treated their employees, and also neighbors, who occasionally had special needs beyond their ability to cope. My parents' actions were such that decades after they were gone, whenever I would visit the sites of my childhood, I would be approached by people who sang their praises and in more than one instance confided that my parents had exercised a more positive influence on their lives than their own parents.


Excerpted from "Hope Restored"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Paul T. Hellyer.
Excerpted by permission of Trine Day LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Other Books by Paul Hellyer,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
1) Growing Up On A Ginseng Farm,
2) California, Here I Come,
3) The Wartime Years - 1941-1945,
4) Preparing For Politics,
5) Learning The Ins and Outs Of Politics,
6) Winning The Prize But Losing The War,
7) Curran Hall Limited,
8) The Still, Small Voice That Led To The Road Back,
9) The Pearson Era: Part I,
10) The Pearson Era: Part II,
11) Working With Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
12) Action Canada And My Fling With The Conservatives,
13) Ten Years In Journalism,
14) Farewell Ottawa - Hello Toronto,
15) The Canadian Action Party,
16) A New And Very Different Era,
17) Supplementary Evidence,
18) The Cabal,
19) A Little Post-World War II History,
20) A Strategy Of Lies And Deceit,
21) The Love Of Money Is The Root Of All Evil,
22) Remote Viewing,
23) God Is Alive, Well, And Everywhere,
24) Blessed Are The Peacemakers For They Shall See God,
25) How Can Americans Retrieve Control Of Their Country?,
About the Author,
Appendix A,

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