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was raised on a steady diet of his parents' high expectations. His
father, Andrew Davis (A.D.) McCain, was a successful potato broker.
His mother, Laura, was a community organizer and, later in her life, an
astute stock picker. Both enjoyed formidable reputations for rectitude
and fortitude. For McCain and his siblings (three brothers and two
sisters), this meant daily discipline.
It wasn't sufficient that they do well in school, attend church regu-
larly, and generally set an example for their friends and neighbours;
they had real work to do. They chopped wood, picked potatoes,
and slopped feed. The boys were expected to learn the basics of
their father's business; and so they ran errands, tallied inventory,
ferried produce, and laboured at the production lines. The girls were
expected to master the art and science of running a busy household;
and so they knitted, sewed, cooked, baked, and learned to run a
budget. In the McCain household life was about showing up and
doing what needed to be done.
"If you've ever worked on a farm, you know that cows have to be
milked every day," Margaret once said. "You can't just wake up
one day and decide not to milk the cow. It doesn't work that way. It
certainly didn't at A.D. and Laura's place."
Eventually, with his older brother Harrison (who passed
away in 2004), he built what has become the world's leading
purveyor of frozen French fries, employing thousands of people
in 130 countries, on six continents, and posting annual sales
in excess of $6 billion. But his most enduring business legacy
may be the lessons his life teaches current and future genera-
tions of entrepreneurs along with what has been notoriously
described as the defeated East Coast of Canada. And one of those
lessons was clearly -- never let a little ignorance stand in the way of
learning or ambition.
"When I think back to the beginning of my adventure with
McCain Foods in 1956 and 1957, I am struck by how little Harrison
and I knew about the business we had, almost whimsically, chosen
to make our lives' work," he once said. "I remember Harrison once
telling a reporter, many years after we had achieved some measure
of international success, that the only thing we knew about French
fries was that they tasted good. And that is just about right."
"We didn't start out to make the world safe for McCain frozen
fries, pizza, orange juice, and dozens of other products we even-
tually produced, any more than we planned to become the major
food processing industry player... Our objectives were nowhere near
that calculated. Ours were the ambitions of young men, and as is
the way with young men in every time and place, we thought we
were immortal. We were impatient to prove ourselves, to ourselves.
We wanted to be our own bosses, to call the shots, to live our lives
deliberately, whatever the cost -- bottom line -- we wanted to get
rich. Our corporate vision was more along the lines of `this sounds
like fun, and the fries sure tasted good, so let's go.'"
They approached their early research and development with similarly
back-slapping, spit-balling brio. "I'd identify companies whose oper-
ating systems and results interested me," McCain recounted in the
1990s. "I'd call up the general manager or vice-president and tell him
I was a Canadian businessman and that I'd appreciate an opportunity
to see for myself how it was done right. Boy, it worked every time."
Wallace and Margaret with students at the
Wallace McCain Student Centre opening, 2008
Wallace (left) with Marjorie Crawford (middle) and Mount
Allison's VP University Advancement Gloria Jollymore
Wallace (middle) with former Prime Minister of
Canada Paul Martin (left) and Kent MLA/former
Premier of NB Shawn Graham
Wallace (middle) with former Prime Minister of
Canada Paul Martin (left) and Kent MLA/former
Premier of NB Shawn Graham
Margaret, Wallace, and Scott McCain (right) at the opening of the Wallace McCain Student Centre, 2008