After graduating at the head of his class in a small high school in the Kootenays, Birney took his cue from T.S. Eliot and landed a job as a bank clerk. He soon transferred to a bank in Vernon, B.C. where his monthly salary rose to a whopping $60. "I persuaded them to let me sleep in a room above the bank which I furnished with packing cases," Birne
y said. "But with restaurant meals at 50 cents each, my salary was soon used up."
That experience may have had something to do with Birney’s eventually political leanings.
"I always remained a leftwing liberal, inclined towards a Marxist understanding of history,” he said. In "Reading the Diary”, he later wrote “Now let this frenzied century unloose/what gales it may/here's one who walked unbowed".
(From an article by Scott Anderson, Quill and Quire, 1976)