The Williams Piano Company

Richard Williams began The Williams Piano Co. operations in Toronto in 1849.  In 1888 the Williams firm purchased the former home of the Joseph Hall Works in Oshawa and began renovating the building for the manufacture of pianos and organs.

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The building was originally constructed in 1852 and was initially used by the Oshawa Manufacturing Company.  The factory, a three storey brick building, occupied an entire town block on Richmond Street.  Williams spent more than $40,000 adapting the facilities for the production of pianos.  To this end, the buildings were re-roofed with slate, new hardwood floors were laid and new buildings built.  All of this retrofitting and new construction turned the former Hall Works into a building with enough floor space for what was the largest piano works in Canada.  The company’s total floor space was approximately 100,000 square feet.  In 1890, the new Williams Piano Factory began producing pianos and organs.  The company was also located at other locations such as the lumber yard and some other smaller buildings in Oshawa. Only this part of the business moved to Oshawa, as the centre of the business remained in Toronto.  Smaller instruments such as guitars and banjos continued to be manufactured in Toronto.

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The Town of Oshawa granted Williams $20 000 in ten annual installments as an inducement to move the plant to Oshawa.  The Town also granted the new firm a fixed taxation rate of $250 per year for a number of years.  Once in Oshawa, the newly acquired space allowed the firm to manufacture its first large church organ.  This first organ was constructed for a church in Brighton and consisted of more than 100 pipes.

The company was reorganized in 1902, and the piano was revised.  The piano was adjusted in scale, touch, case-design, acoustic, and tone. It took ten weeks to three months to make one piano.  The company constructed its pianos to “the highest degree of excellence in every detail of workmanship” and the quality of its product determined its success.  The ‘New Scale Williams Piano’ and ‘Player Piano’ soon became one of the world’s most demanded products.

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In 1903 after much hard work, Mr. R.S. Williams became ill and sold his business.  The company was renamed “Williams Piano Company”.  The president of the company was Fredrick Bull and the vice-president was E.C. Scythes.  The factory was huge and prosperous by the year 1911, and employed 250 skilled workers.  The company produced approximately 3,000 pianos/player pianos annually.

After the creation of the victrola in 1926, many people found records to be more convenient and popular than pianos.  The Williams factory was forced into the radio business.  Eventually, after three years the company became the seventh largest manufacturer.  The Williams Piano Factory even widened its horizons in order to build canoes and row boats.  The company was branching out and business was great.  People from foreign countries wanted a Williams Piano and the company exported their product on a regular basis.  The Williams piano was well known all over Canada, from coast to coast, and overseas.

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The company prospered and began to construct 4,000 pianos per annum.  The company was shipping pianos to seven different countries.  The Williams Piano was also displayed in an exhibit at the Wembley Exhibition in London, England in 1926.  In 1927, one hundred and thirty-five men worked for the company and payroll hit a high of $200,000 a year.  At this time, the company was prosperous, but it did not last forever.

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The successful company that was known to so many individuals all over the world was required to change with the times.  Unfortunately, both the depression and mass production of the neutrodyne radio contributed to the demise of the company.  After the closure of this company many other businesses occupied the premises including: Cole of California; Sklar Furniture; and Coulter Manufacturing Company.  The building even acted as a barracks during the war years.

The building was torn down in 1970 in order to make room for the Durham Region Police Headquarters and the Oshawa Times.


References:

Cselenyi-Granch.  Under the Sign of the Big Fiddle:  The R.S. Williams Family, Manufacturers and Collectors of Musical Instruments.  Winnipeg:  Hignell Printing Limited, 1996.

The Oshawa Daily Reformer, October 25, 1926.

The Oshawa Daily Reformer, June 20, 1927.

Oshawa Daily Times, December 8, 1930.

Oshawa Daily Times, September 19, 1930.

Kaiser, M.D., T.E.  Historic Sketches of Oshawa.  The Reforming Printing & Publishing Co., 1921.

 

The Alger Press

Ora M. Alger began the Alger Press after making a dramatic career change in the early 1900s.  A schoolteacher by trade, Alger began publishing a weekly newspaper after purchasing the Embro Courier in Oxford County.  The change in careers seemed to agree with Alger, as he sold the Embro Courier after seven years and purchased the Tweed News, a larger newspaper.

While in Tweed, Alger expanded his focus to include commercial printing, as well as running another weekly newspaper, the Pembroke Standard.  During this time, Alger’s two sons Ewart and Stewart joined the family printing business.  Although the business flourished, in 1919 Alger decided to sell his holdings in Tweed and Pembroke and move to Oshawa to begin a new printing business.

Alger purchased a small parcel of land across from the Oshawa Post Office and constructed a two-story plant.  This new business focused on commercial printing.  However, Alger soon returned to newspaper publishing and began the Oshawa Telegram.  The newspaper was a success, switching from a weekly to a daily newspaper, Oshawa’s first daily newspaper.  In 1926 however, the commercial business was so successful that Alger decided to sell the newspaper holdings to Charles Mundy and Arthur Alloway, partners in The Ontario Reformer and focus solely on commercial printing.

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37 King Street

The company faced its first major setback when a fire destroyed the building.  The company quickly built a new single story building on a location approximately a block away.  A four-story office building, the Alger Building, was then constructed on the old site.

In 1936, the Algers began to feel as though they were falling behind other printing presses, as they had no lithographic equipment.  After a research tour of various sites throughout Canada and the U.S., the Alger Press Limited entered into the lithographic field.

The outbreak of World War II saw business rapidly expand and it became necessary to enlarge the bindery and finishing departments.  Space was rented in the old Williams Piano Building, but this was only temporary.  In 1946, the company happily accepted the opportunity to purchase a building at 61 Charles Street. For many decades, this was known as the Alger Press Building. 

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This building had a long history beginning in 1903 when the T. Eaton Company of Toronto began the manufacturing of textiles in the three-story brick facility, built by noted builder John Stacey. In the late 1910s, the Oriental Textile Company operated out of this building for approximately 18 years, producing fabrics for General Motors prior to the depression; they closed their doors in 1934. During the war years, it had been home to the General Motors War Parts plant.

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61 Charles Street, the Alger Press Building, now UOIT Campus building

The Alger PRess remained a successful entity in commercial printing and bookbinding and is known in Oshawa for printing the very popular Pictorial Oshawa series.  However, this success was not ongoing, and in 1993 the company declared bankruptcy.

In 2010, the building was renovated and refurbished for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (now Ontario Tech University), and students started using the building, now known simply by its address as 61 Charles Street, as another downtown campus building in 2011.


References:

“61 Charles Street,” Ontario Tech University website.  Accessed from: https://ontariotechu.ca/about/campus-buildings/downtown-oshawa/61-charles-street.php

Cole, Melissa. Alger Press Building, 61 Charles Street. 2006.  Accessed from: https://www.oshawa.ca/city-hall/resources/Heritage-Research-Rpt_Charles-St-61.pdf

Doole, William E. The Alger Story, Canadian Printer and Publisher. Offset Lithographic Section, November 1948. 36-56.

Follert, Jillian. “Durham students go to school in old underwear factory,” Oshawa This Week, February 24, 2011.  Accessed from: https://www.durhamregion.com/community-story/3515510-durham-students-go-to-school-in-old-underwear-factory/

Hood, McIntyre. Oshawa: The Crossing Between Waters, A History of “Canada’s Motor City” and Oshawa Public Library.  Oshawa: Alger Press, 1978.

McClyment, John.  “90 Jobs Are Lost as Alger Press Goes Bankrupt,” The Oshawa Times, June 8, 1993.

Oshawa Museum Archival Collection: Oshawa Telegram file.

 

Schofield Woolen Mills

Schofield Woolen Mills was one of Oshawa’s leading industries.  The company was first established in 1892 by John Schofield who immigrated to Canada in 1860.  Schofield’s first mill, located in Paris, Ontario, was completely destroyed by fire.  At the time of this fire, a building in Oshawa at 372 Centre St. S. was for sale.  This prompted Schofield to visit Oshawa and buy this property which was originally built as a hat factory and later used by Masson Manufacturing for the manufacturing of farm implements.  This building then became the new home of Schofield Woolen Mills Ltd.

Williams and Schofield

In 1896, the company was incorporated with John Schofield as President and his young son Charles Schofield as Secretary-Treasurer.  The company was organized with a capital stock of $40,000 to continue to enlarge the plant and the output.

The mill started off in a small way but eventually prospered.  In 1911, the company employed 100 women and 50 men.  The mill was two large brick factories completely equipped with modern machinery throughout.  The mill manufactured men’s underwear under the brand names of “Woolnap” and “St. George.”  The underwear was nationally recognized for its exceptional quality and for being made of 90% wool.

In 1918, Schofield passed away and the company was carried on by his son Charles.

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In 1927, the production at the plant had grown from 30 dozen garments daily to 125 dozen garments daily.  The wool used in the garments arrived to the mill in 300 to 1000 pound bales.  First, the wool would go through a thorough scouring and cleaning before being carded and spun into yarn of different sizes and weights.  The yarn was then knitted on machinery, washed again and bleached, and then cut into garments.  After the garments were trimmed and finished, they were ready for market.  Although the company did not export many of their goods, their products could be found in nearly every town or city in Canada from coast to coast.

The Schofield Woolen Mills company produced large quantities of underwear for the men in the armed forces during World War II.

The factory saw a number of fires throughout its history.  For example, in 1941, the Oshawa Daily Times reported on a fire which started near the carding machines and remarked, “the fire was the second in the plant in two months.”

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Photo from the Oshawa Daily Times, June 2, 1941

The mill continued to operate in Oshawa for several years but eventually closed down in 1951 upon the retirement of Charles Schofield.  He later died on December 29, 1954.  Several companies had operated from 372 Centre St. S since the woolen mill closed, and it remained an empty field for several years.  In the mid-2010s, Habitat for Humanity began their CentreTowne Build project which saw the construction of houses for 24 families on the site of the former mill.


References:

Oshawa Daily Reformer, June 30, 1927.

Oshawa Times, March 6, 1982.

Vernon’s City Directories.

Bouckley, Thomas.  Pictorial Oshawa, Volume 2.  Alger Press Limited, 1976.  Oshawa, Ontario.

Oshawa Illustrated, The Ontario Reformer, Reformer Printing and Publishing Co, Ltd., 1911. Oshawa, Ontario.

Archival collection of the Oshawa Museum, Schofield Woolen Mills Ltd.

Habitat for Humanity; https://habitatdurham.com/renew-it/centretowne-build/

The Month That Was – April 1937

More about the 1937 General Motors Strike can be read in an earlier post


Toronto Daily Star, 8 April 1937
3700 Motor Workers Strike at Oshawa
“Won’t build another car until they sign” Organizer Declares, Walkout Orderly, 260 Girls quit work with men and help picket plant

Oshawa, April 8 – A stand-up walkout, not a sit-down strike, hit General Motors today when 3700 workers made their peaceful exit from the plant five minutes after filing in as usual at 7am.  At once 400 pickets were flung around the works with pre-arranged precision.  The big motor industry was brought to a standstill in orderly fashion.  The threat has been threatened for more than a week, but only at 1:05am was the decision arrived at following a five hour conference of union stewards.  Six hours later it went into effect.

Thus begins the first test of strength in Canada of the Committee for Industrial Organization, which, under the leadership of John L. Lewis, has been waging a union struggle in the motor industry of the United States.

The real issue of the strike here is the CIO, or rather recognition of its affiliate, the United Automobile Workers Union…

Besides recognition of the Lewis-led union, the strike involves demands for a 40 hour week, time and a half for overtime, seniority rights, and the right of workers’ stewards to talk over grievances with company officials.

The beginning of the strike was not only peaceful but undramatic.  The workers filed in.  The workers filed out.  There was no attend at a sit-down…

“General Motors,” declared Hugh Thompson, CIO organizer, “will not build another car in Canada until they sign an agreement with the international union.”

 

Toronto Daily Star, 8 April 1937
Sale of Liquor is banned in Oshawa during strike
Beverage rooms and government store ordered closed by Odette, Mayor’s Request

During the Oshawa motor workers’ strike the liquor store, the brewery warehouse and all beverage rooms in that city will be closed.  EG Odette, head of the Ontario Liquor Control Board announced today.

We are going to co-ordinate with the municipal authorities in every way possible to maintain order,”: he said, adding that not until today had he received a request from the mayor of Oshawa, the chief of police and other municipal officials, that all sources of liquor be closed.  A number of workers received their pay cheques late yesterday, he told The Star, stating that it was feared that idleness might result in disorder, should the beverage rooms remain open.

“We are trying to do all we can to do all we can to help clear up the situation,” he said.

In Oshawa, Mayor Hall said his request if idle workers had access to liquor.

“We do not want any drunken pickets on our lines,” Millard said.

 

Lafayette Journal and Courier (Lafayette, Indiana), 13 April 1937
Premier Hurls New Threat in Oshawa Strike
Warns Lewis and his Aides Will Be Jailed Without Bail if They Commit Overt Act in Canada

Oshawa, Ont., April 13 (AP) – A move by Canada’s minister of labor to mediate the Oshawa strike pivoted today upon consent by General Motors of Canada, Ltd.

Meanwhile, other developments added fuel to the already heated controversy of international scope: Hugh Thompson, John L. Lewis’s right-hand man in the Oshawa strike, asserted the US supreme court decision on the Wagner act would cast the United Automobile Workers’ union in the role of sole bargaining agent for the General Motors workers here and the in the United States.

Premier Mitchell Hepburn of Ontario accused Lewis of trying to become “economic and political dictator” of both the United States and Canada and declared that, if he came to Canada and sponsored any overt act, or if any of his aids should do so, they would be jailed “for a good, long time and there wouldn’t be any bail.”

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From the Reno Evening Gazette, 13 April 1937, page 1

The Indianapolis Star 14 Apr 1937
US to Fill GM Foreign Orders
Strike at Canadian Plan Necessitates Move – CIO May Act

Oshawa, Ont., April 13 (AP) – General Motors of Canada decided tonight that emergency orders for shipment abroad must be filled by United States plants because of the Oshawa strike, and an augmented police force was mobilized at nearby Toronto to guard against disorder.

The strike of 3,7000 workers in the local plant began last Thursday. Vice-President Harry Carmichael indicated tonight that the company had “no definite information” when it would end. …

The police force was augmented at the order of Premier Mitchell Hepburn who said the Oshawa situation apparently was becoming “a little more tense” because “Communists from outside were ready and willing to take an increasingly active part.” …

Pickets continued to walk before the Oshawa plant today, but they were peaceful and quiet.

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From the Manhattan Mercury (Manhattan, Kansas) 16 April 1937, page 1

The Daily Clarion, 23 April 1937
Hepburn Backs Down, Recognizes Auto Union; Oshawa Strikers Vote on Agreement Today
Worker’s Demands Accepted As Premier, Reactionaries are Beaten to Standstill

Oshawa General Motors employees’ demand for union recognition was crowned by victory it was reported early this morning.

The complete list of demands as presented by workers to the GM corporation had long been considered gained, with one contentious point of union recognition used by Premier Hepburn to block negotiation.  This morning it was learned that recognition of Oshawa local 222 was achieved.

Although at yesterday evening’s press conference the premier stressed that no amplification of his statement would be made to the press, the Globe and Mail, personal organ of WH Wright, multimillionaire mining operator and friend of Hepburn, and its informant, were evidently not bound by this gentleman’s agreement.  The Globe and Mail carried the full news both in paper and radio.

 

The Daily Clarion, 23 April 1937
An Ontario Scandal

To the Editor:

As a reader of your paper and much interested in your articles regarding the relief situation, I have often wondered why you did not tell something of the conditions under which the recipients of Mothers’ Allowances have to exist.

Budgeted as we are with no allowance made for dental care, for medicines or medical care, not yet for clothing (a large item) nor for the replacement of worn out utensils, bedding, and mattresses, in the Township our dollar has not the value of the voucher in the purchase of bread or of milk.

Take my own case, six children and self allowance $60 per month with rent at $15 per month for four rooms.

Four boys ranging in age from seven to twelve years sleep on a…couch, whilst a child of five – a delicate girl of 13 and myself try to sleep in another bed.

The mattresses covering these beds are worn out beyond repair. The threat of the Attendance Officer (who is a policeman in the Township) has been held over my head all winter by the school because I have been unable to provide the necessary clothing for my children to attend school.

There are many other mothers in the neighborhood in the same condition.

Can’t you take up cudgels on our behalf and through the columns of your paper let the people know under what conditions families such as mine have to exist, conditions which would be condemned by the Children’s Aid Society,

-Oakridge

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From the Daily Clarion, 23 Apr 1937, page 1

The Globe and Mail, 24 Apr 1937
JOYOUS MOOD OVER OSHAWA AT STRIKE END: Auto Workers Celebrate to Tune of Dance, Following Vote to Return THOMPSON IS EXPECTED

There are no picket lines in Oshawa tonight.  The tents of the strikers have been struck.

And this city is celebrating, gaily, jubilantly. It is marking the end of the 16-day strike which paralyzed its major industry, which extended its deadening influence through hundreds of other plants and dealers’ organizations, which took its toll in the town’s merchandising business, and which at one stage threatened to end in CIO domination.

Vote 2205 to 36

Tonight members of the local union, now ex-strikers, danced in the armouries where a few hours before they took a vote.  There at noon they balloted and by a decision of 2205 to 36 ratified the settlement agreement negotiated in the office of Premier Hepburn. They came to this conclusion when Hugh Thompson, CIO organizer, and Homer Martin, Thompson’s boss, were out of the country.  They brought about their settlement when Claud R. Kramer, the CIO agent newly thrust into the scene, was out of the way in his hotel room. …

Mayor Alex Hall was up on the platform making a speech, getting lots of cheers.  He said that Police Chief Owen Friend would tell them that there had been no law-breaking, complete orderliness.  Only arrest in the strike was a vagrant who asked to be locked up. He complimented his hearers for coming through with flying colors, maintaining the city’s good name.

 

Oshawa Daily Times, 30 April 1937
Oshawa Labor to Get Preference in Local Plant; Shop Committee Meets G.M. Management for Discussion

In the face of reports prevalent throughout the city that outside men in the city without work, the at General Motors while there were ment [SIC] in the city without work. The shop committee of General Motors employees met with the management yesterday afternoon for discussion of the matter.

E.E. Bathe, vice-president of Oshawa Local No. 222, U.A.W.A., revealed that the committee was assured by General Motors officials that Oshawa men and former employees would be given the preference when additional help is being taken on at the plant here. He pointed out that in all cases it was not possible to secure men from within the city and it was found necessary to seek elsewhere for men to fill some positions in the shop.

Production is going forward every day since the plant reopened on Monday and practically the same schedule of production which prevailed before the strike was called has been maintained if not bettered during the week. There has been no speeding up the lines and no pressure brought to bear on the employees. The employees hit their former stride in the various operations throughout the plant and it is quite possible that production will continue well on into the summer months.

 

Oshawa Daily Times, 30 April 1937
Belleville Students Stage a Walk Out

Belleville, April 30, – Forty students of the Belleville Collegiate Institute and Vocational School staged a walk-out yesterday after-noon and wended their way to Victoria Park. Approached by a reporter they refused to state the nature of their grievance.

Students who were questioned stated that the grievance had nothing to do with the teaching staff but it was a collective grievance and one which may effect [sic] the whole school.

The Board of Education and the principle of the school was questioned but nobody would talk and those who did say anything stated they had no knowledge of any trouble.

The event was the first walk-out ever to occur in Belleville.

 

Oshawa Daily Times, 30 April 1937
Oshawa Ten Years Ago, April 30, 1927 (The Oshawa Daily Reformer)

At midnight tonight, the time-pieces in Oshawa will be advanced one hour for at that hour, Daylight Saving Time comes into being for the season

Miss Marjorie Hancock of the Toronto Normal School is spending the week-end at her home, Celina Street.

A short meeting of the Oshawa Water Commission was held yesterday afternoon when accounts were passed and other routine business completed.

MH Hudson, 26 Warren avenue, had a spare tire stolen from his car which he left parked on Simcoe Street North yesterday.

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From the Oshawa Daily Times, 30 Apr 1937

Ajax’s Defence Industry Limited

By Tracy Wright, Durham College Journalism Student

When the opportunity came for Louise Johnson to work at Defence Industry Limited (DIL), she took it, with the blessing in the only letter she ever received from her father saying, “Go for it, it sounds like a great opportunity.”

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This was a historical moment. In 1942, almost all jobs for women were in the home, taking care of the family. “Back then,” says Johnson, “you worked the farm and married the boy down the road.” But the Second World War changed that.

Men had been recruited to go to the Second World War, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. There was a shortage of workers, so women were needed to fill the jobs men would normally do.

Defence Industries Limited (DIL) was a shell filling plant, says author and historian Lynn Hodgson.  Its main purpose was to build shells with explosives and have them crated then transported by cargo then rail and finally shipped to England to the men in field, according to Hodgson.

Louise Johnson was 21 years old, living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  She was single and working at Saskatoon City Hospital in the nurse’s residence. Louise said she was lucky to have been at home when the call came from Civil Services (now known as Human Resources) about working at DIL.

DIL opened in the summer of 1941. It had 9,000 employees and 75 per cent of these employees were women, explains Brenda Kriz, Records and FOI coordinator for the Town of Ajax. The women came to Ajax from across Canada, as far away as Northern Alberta and Nova Scotia.

Before the Second World War, Ajax was not a city. It was all farmland.  “It became Ajax, after the war,” says Hodgson, who wrote Ajax Arsenal of Democracy.

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The women at DIL were called Bombgirls. Johnson, like the other women, did not know what to expect when she arrived in Pickering Township.  When she was recruited, she was told the job was dangerous. She was assured she and the other 9,000 employees would be taken care of; they would receive housing and meals along with a uniform, and if they did not like it there, they would get a train ticket back home.

Defence Industries Limited was built in 1941 on 2,800 acres of land. “The land was expropriated from Pickering Township to create Defence Industries Limited,” says Kriz. This was the largest shell plant during the British Commonwealth, according to Kriz. The township of Pickering set up the factory to build bombs for the Second World War.  Pickering Township, now Ajax, was considered the perfect location.  It was away from residential areas and water supplies, which was very important because it required million gallons a day to support the site, says Kriz.

There were 600 wartime homes built as temporary residences close to the plant. “There was a community hall, movie theatre and a convenience store and a post office so you didn’t have to go outside,” according to Hodgson, who goes on to explain that “loose lips sink ships” and this is why DIL didn’t want workers speaking to the public about their job.

When the plant closed, the idea was the homes would be broken down and sent to Britain to help with the housing shortage there, but instead a town was established.  Ajax was named after a battleship called HMS Ajax.  Naming of the town came after the post office in Pickering Village could not handle the loads of mail sent there.  For a post office to be in a town, the town had to have a name.  A vote was held by to choose between Dilco, Powder City and Ajax, after the mythological Greek hero.

DIL had been in operation for about five years before Ajax got its name.

To get access to the plant, you would walk across the Bayly Bridge which is no longer there but you would have crossed over the 401 at Harwood and Bayly. This is how you’d enter the gates for DIL. From there you would take a bus that would bring you to the line where you worked.  “At the end of your shift, you’d take the bus back over the bridge and then walk back to your residence,” explains Hodgson.

“There were four lines each line produce a different kind of shell,” says Kriz.

There was heavy security at DIL, Johnson recalls.  “If you did not have a badge, you could not pass through the gates,” says Johnson.  The whole facility was surrounded by barbed wire fence.  Hodgson explains, “Security was very tight; the guards were armed veterans from the First World War.” For safety reasons, no matches were allowed on the property.  If you were caught with matches, you would go to jail. One guy served 30 days in Whitby jail for smoking behind the line, says Hodgson.

Johnson worked on line 3. Here she measured cordite, which is another form of gunpowder. Her job was to weigh it on a scale and she had to be very precise. If not filled properly, the ammunition could either explode in transport or not detonate in the field. Work was in rotating shifts each week: eight hours a day six days a week. Each shift was represented by a different colour bandana: blue, red and white. Johnson’s was blue.

The only day off was Sunday and Christmas day.  “On Sundays, you just watch the walls and cook dinner,” says Johnson.

Life at DIL was not just about work. Relationships were built there. “I met my husband at work,” laughs Johnson. “He was the cordite deliverer.”

Russell and Louise were married in 1944 and had one child, a daughter named Lynda. Russell died in 1965. “He worked hard, but was not a well man,” Johnson said.

With the end of the war, the need for shells ended too.  The lines at the factory were shut down one by one. When it came to Johnson, she was called to the office and asked if she knew how to type.  She said, “I could look for keys,” she said, “and make a stab at it.”

Johnson was assigned the task of typing quit slips. She placed her slip at the bottom of the pile and when the time came typed her own quit slip. She was the last production employee at DIL.

Johnson then went to Selective Services, now Employment Insurance, to receive her compensation.  Johnson asked the lady behind the desk if she should comeback after her EI ran out.  She was advised to not come back as there was no work for women.

Men were coming back from war. “It was a two-sided coin,” Johnson says. “The men left work to go to war and they came back.”

Not only were the jobs few, Johnson’s husband did not want her to work. She stayed home and took care of her daughter, who was eight years old.  She did start working again and was able to work from home.

Johnson now aged 96, lives on her own in the same wartime bungalow she purchased with her husband.

Comparing the workforce for women from 1942 to now in 2018 Johnson says, “Hasn’t changed.”

As for DIL, “few buildings remain. But not many,” says Kriz.   The original DIL hospital became Ajax/Pickering hospital.  The original building was demolished in the late ’60s, according to Kriz. The Ajax Town Hall sits in the same place the DIL administration office was. “The heart of the community has always been on this site,” says Kriz. Without DIL, “There would be no Ajax a town born overnight,” says Hodgson.


The land where we stand is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

Durham College‘s newspaper, The Chronicle, launches a new feature series called The Land Where We Stand, about the hidden stories that shape our region.

Some of the articles found on this blog have been provided through partnerships with external sources, and we welcome reader engagement through comments.  The views expressed in such articles/comments may not necessarily reflect those of the OHS/OM.

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