When mom fed the hydro men

May 11, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Keith Schell

When we were little, if you were ever invited out to our house for a meal and left hungry, it was your own dang fault. Our mother was a great cook and always put on a wonderful meal that became legendary over the years to any guest who ever ate at our house.

And back then, nobody knew that better than the maintenance crews who worked for Ontario Hydro. 

In the early summers when we were young, Ontario Hydro crews would come out to our region for a few weeks to perform routine maintenance on the poles and hydro lines strung up throughout the bush in our rural area.

And rather than the hydro crews bringing a lunch, the crews would seek out selected homes in their assigned areas and pay them a stipend to provide the hydro crews with a good home-cooked lunchtime meal.  

One of the ladies in our area who regularly fed the hydro men every summer could no longer meet her culinary obligations. When Ontario Hydro asked her to suggest a replacement home for their crews to eat lunch, she thought of my mother.

The lady got in touch with my mother and asked if she would be interested in taking over the task, and my mother said yes. 

The proper feelers having been put out, Ontario Hydro then contacted my mother to make the proper arrangements. The Hydro supervisors would pay my mother a generous stipend for feeding the maintenance crews who happened to be in our area around lunchtime. Mom agreed to it. 

When the deal was finally done, Mom swung into action. Mom grew up in a large family and always said it was easier to cook for a lot of people than it was for a few. And she certainly proved her point when the hydro men came.

When the hydro crews came to our house for lunch, they ate like Kings! In an average meal, they had their choice of roasted beef or ham with fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy, more than one type of vegetable, and all topped off with freshly baked bread and a dessert of homemade chocolate cake or lemon meringue pie with tea or coffee! Good solid country fare, both tasty and filling, and always cooked to perfection by our mother. 

While Mom was paid a good stipend for her efforts, she certainly earned her money. And despite the big meal she set out, she said she always made money on the deal. 

But there was a bit of a downside: when our family came home at the end of the day, what did we get for dinner every evening after the hydro men were gone? 


Mind you, before you think we were hard done by, there was always plenty left over for our dinner, so it wasn’t exactly a case of the ‘cobbler’s children having no shoes.’ For Mom to be a good hostess, our family had to take leftovers, but we really had no room to complain, even though we joked about it a lot at the time. There was always plenty left over after the hydro men left, and those leftovers were still pretty darned good for our dinner! I smile when I think about the memory now.

It was a point of pride with my mother, as it is with any good cook, that the people you are having in for a meal leave your home happy and well-fed. And the hydro men certainly were that over the years. 

And because of that, each summer back then, when the hydro crews returned to our area for their regular maintenance and servicing duties, they always made a point to request to take their noonday meals at our home.  

Mom really threw on the feedbag for the Hydro men when they came. And I have a feeling they probably ate better at our house for those few weeks in the summer than they did on their own.

The rest of our family never did meet the Hydro men. We kids were always in school, and Dad was usually at work when all this would take place. Back then, the only ones in our family who ever saw the Hydro men each summer were Mom and the family cat.  

But sadly, over time, things change. Through downsizing, off-loading, cutbacks and other cost-cutting measures, Ontario Hydro finally stopped having their crews take their noonday meals at area homes during the summer. And to my knowledge, that program eventually became a distant memory. 

I have no doubt that the Hydro men missed the meals our mother set out for them after that program ended. (We were friends with one of the Supervisors and he said that his men always raved about the meals they got when they came to our house to eat.) 

And when the hydro men get together in their retirement, I bet they still talk about that place out in the country where they probably ate better for a few weeks in the early summer than they did at their own homes! 

(Luv ya, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!)  

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