Excerpt of a Transcript of a Tape Recorded Interview with Isak Simon Elik
Interview conducted by D.H. Bocking, December 21, 1970. S-C54.
We are interviewing Mr. Isak Elik. Now, Mr. Elik, would you start by telling us where you were born?
Isak Simon Elik:
I was born in Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia, in 1889, 28 of March, and I went to public school
and high school in that city.
Were your parents well-to-do people?
No, they weren’t well-to-do people. They just had a little grocery store in Sevastopol.
But you were fairly well educated for that time, were you not?
Well, I attended public school and high school and then at the age of about 16, I move to another city also in Crimea – Kerch. In Kerch, I continued my high school and I joined a pharmacy and registered as an apprentice. Then I worked for three years. In between, after working for about three years I served in the Russian Imperial Army. I had such an educational standing I didn’t have to serve four years, I just served about a year and half. After that I went and worked again another three years in the pharmacy. In between I traveled – I went to Vienna and stayed there for about a year, and before that I went to Turkey and I took up languages. I spoke French and German fluently. In 1913, I emigrated to Canada.
Because of my educational standing and my accomplishment of assistant pharmacist, I would be eligible to go to University in Russia, but it was only a two percent norm. That means that out of 150 only 2 Jews would be accepted. And that’s why I figured I would have to wait about 100 years before I got there. So I emigrated with the thought that I had a good educational standing from Russia, and I emigrated to Winnipeg in 1913.
Did you have someone to come to?
Yes, I came to some of our friends from the city, and it was kind of a depression in 1913 and for three months I couldn’t find work, but they were willing to help support me, and then the first job I ever had was in Dauphin, Manitoba, on a farm. I had never seen a farm in my life as I was brought up in big cities like Sevastopol, Odessa, and so on. So for about a summer or so I worked there until the farmers couldn’t stand me because I didn’t understand the workings of the farm. So I came back to Winnipeg….
…And then I wanted to go into pharmacy. I got a lawyer and he went over all my qualifications and made affidavits and so on that my qualifications were sufficient to qualify for university. I was accepted in the university….For two years The School of Pharmacy was affiliated with the University. I had to serve also in a drug store. I saved enough money to go to college but I had to put in two years apprenticeship, then two years University in between…I worked for two years at a Liggett drug store at a salary of $3.50 a week…. Then I graduated. I think it was in 1917 or something like that. Then after graduation there was a shortage of druggists and I was offered a job…
Note: In the 1920s, Isak moved to Saskatchewan, where he eventually owned his own pharmacies in Saskatoon.