Packing House Memories
I started working summers at the Oliver Co-Op in 1960 at the age of fourteen. George Elliott was the Manager and Mom and Dad signed for me to work as I was underage and they needed help. I was really lucky as I only sorted for a day or two and then it was off to make boxes which I really liked. I spent all my summers working there and continued to be a boxmaker.
In Grade 13 the Packing House came to the school to recruit Senior High students to work from 4pm to 12pm for a month in September/October as again there was a shortage of workers and I and several of my friends decided we could handle it.
Werner Arndt and Gerry Jansma were our foremen. We had so much fun but we still managed to get our work done. Two of us were boxmakers and we would build forts on the loading platform so Werner couldn’t find us! One night we tied Gerry’s lunch way up on the rafters…he fired us all until we told him where his lunch was!
After Grade 13 I worked there full time for 2 years before getting hired at the Oliver Credit Union. I went to Collen’s to buy a pair of boots and Carl asked if I had a warm coat and what about pants, socks, undershirts??? I said that I would have to wait until I got paid but he said I needed them right away and opened a charge account for me and picked out my work clothes for me. I never let him down and paid off my account before Christmas. The Collen’s were wonderful people.
I would always ask if I could learn this job or that job and of course most of the men…Werner Arndt, Gerry Jansma, Johnny Moore, Bob Venables, Bruce Echlin, Sammy Fleming, Eric Norton, Joe Barillaro etc. were all family friends so of course they let me learn.
I remember being on the stapling machine one day when someone called me and I looked away long enough for the staple to go through my hand…Eric Norton saw it and stopped the belt and Elizabeth Kangyl, Werner, the box and I were off to the hospital to get the staple removed. I never gave up that job and they let me continue doing it as soon as we got back from the hospital.
I worked a few weeks one year in cold storage with my Uncle Bill Shaw. Funny story…when Linda Evans and myself went in to work the first morning my Uncle Bill called the crew together and told the men to watch their language as we were now working with them. Dal Carter guffawed and said, “geez Bill, I think these two know more bad words than I do!” Uncle Bill was NOT amused!
In those days it was common for hijinks to be going on and I remember one day Eric Norton and I were kibitzing about who could move a load of boxes on a hand cart the fastest. Now the lines were drawn….Eric and I each had our hand cart loaded up and we started from opposite sides of the packing line. We had to go through the gates and around and down to the cold storage end of the packing house! I WON! Eric tripped on the last gate and spilled his load of boxes!!
One day we decided to play a trick on Joe Barillaro…one of the boys nailed his lunch kit to the floor cause Joe had a habit of leaving it by the loading dock so he could run and grab it and jump down to get outside faster….Hmmmm…lunch time came and Joe took a run for his lunch kit and went up in the air and down on his back. We laughed until we cried and after Joe got through cursing us in Italian, he laughed too especially when he fixed it so no one could get in the washrooms!!
Another fun moment…I think it was Bob Venables responsible for this but someone found a big old brassiere and tied it across the front of Elizabeth’s car around the headlights and then lifted her car up on the loading dock. Boy was she mad!!
Elizabeth also had a hand in giving us little jobs that had nothing to do with work! She would come down and find the little Catholic girls and take us up to the office for some office duties. Yeah, right! We rolled pennies for Lepers for Elizabeth that had been collected from the poor boxes at the Catholic Church!!! However…Elizabeth always made sure we had a fresh doughnut for coffee break!
Those were the good old days when fun was had and work was still done in a professional manner! The bosses were always good hearted and fun loving guys who would look the other way when some crazy thing was going on! It is fun to look back and remember all the fun we had and all the friends we made. I can still hear the women on the sorting line…..singing good old country music!!