A To Z – History And Hi-Way Market

Challenge2017   Letter H

About 125 years ago, just at the turn of the 20th Century, in the heyday of Ontario manufacturing, Kitchener was not yet a city.  It was still a town, a booming, industrial town, full of Germanic Mennonites and Pennsylvania Dutch, called Berlin.

A bit over a mile (a long way in those days) north of ‘City Hall’, toward Waterloo our Twin City, two companies were established, and two buildings were erected. The nearest was Kaufman Footwear, making slippers, shoes and boots.  A square, three-storey structure went up.  Over the next 50 years, three more additions produced a plant a half a block wide and a city block long, right where the main street crossed the old highway.  At its height, it employed hundreds of men (and later women).

I applied for a job as a lab assistant in 1965, when I first came here, but was turned down. I worked for Kaufman for two years, 25 years later, after they’d moved storage and most of the manufacturing to a new plant at the edge of town.

Another block further north, a rubber company was formed. This was the plant I retired from.  It began as Merchant’s Rubber, then became Dominion Rubber, then Uniroyal bought it, and later amalgamated to become Goodrich/Uniroyal, though it never produced tires.

The asshole brother-in-law worked there for almost 25 years. After he left, I joined it as Becker’s Lay-Tech, then it became Perstorp Components, and finally, Collins and Aikman drove it and its sister plant down the street where my brother worked for Dominion Textile in 1965/66, into bankruptcy.  During its Uniroyal heyday, there were 3600 people working around three shifts.  It didn’t grow as neatly as Kaufman.  Over 50 years there were 13 ‘buildings’ which became another half-block wide X block-long X 4-storey plant.

A mile further north, in the open fields and meadows between the two cities, dozens – hundreds – of stout little homes were built to house all the men who walked or biked to work at these plants. The wife was born in a sturdy brick house, three doors north of the imaginary boundary of Waterloo.

This neighborhood was once called the North Ward, home to the blue-collar families who worked in these factories. The North Ward is slipping away.  The area is called Mid-Town now, and it’s the up-and-coming place for young professionals to move to.

Of course, not everyone in the subdivision could be a mindless plant drone. Her father built a barber shop a block and a half from the Uniroyal plant, and raised 9 kids by cutting hair for men going to or from work.

Two nearby young brothers tried plant work, but found they were more interested in installing and adjusting machinery, so they started a millwrighting/rigging firm in their dad’s garage, to service the two firms. Years later they built a facility further out of town than the Kaufman plant.

I worked for them for two years, and the engineer down the hall, was the guy who didn’t hire me at Kaufman. The structure is now the plastics plant where the son works, and they rent warehouse/assembly space at the nearby ex-Kaufman building, where I once cut shoe/boot parts.

The man whose Portuguese wife sent him to work with delicious sandwiches, started providing them for a friend – or two – or more – soon dozens. He quit the company and started his own catering business, eventually stocking the vending machines, and running the three-shift, hot meal cafeteria in the plant he no longer worked at.

The greatest success story was the local grocer. He also couldn’t take the plant work, but had an inspiration.  If it was a mile walk for the men to go to work, it was a lot further trudge, dragging children, to go shopping.

He turned his front living-room into a little ‘corner store’, when such a thing didn’t exist locally, and stocked it with the essentials. GENIUS!  He had a captive audience.  Soon, he expanded the ‘living-room,’ and then added on….and added on again.

Then he had another flash of genius. In the late 1950s, more families owned cars, and the rise of shopping malls was beginning.  In order to get around an hours-of-opening bylaw, a mile outside the city limit, he built Hi-Way Market.  In the days of two-lane highways, you could just drive out to the A & W, and turn left across the road.  Today, it’s two exit ramps and an access road.

This was the Costco/Price Club of its day, 20 years before Costco was born. He erected a huge big barn of a building, as big as any Costco.  Like Costco, he sold everything, and much of it in bulk – canned and boxed goods, produce, meat, bakery, clothing, hardware, electrical.  He had a sit-down lunch bar where both the wife and her brother worked, and a postal, and a banking facility.

There were actually two floors, but much of the upstairs was used for storage and staff/administration. He put a photography department up there, which later went independent, and still exists in town.  Aside from the main-floor diner counter, he tried a slightly upscale restaurant upstairs.  It became famous in the region, as The Charcoal Steakhouse.  It built a fancy new home a block further up the street recently, when the original building was torn down.

So much history! So much local commerce emerged from the wife’s neighborhood.  The Kaufman plant is now a preppy downtown condo, and my C&A plant had a tiara added and is home to a bunch of Google gremlins.

Jeep goiing up

And so, the ugly duckling has become a swan.    😉

Google Building

 

Flash Fiction #91

Water

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

HOW DRY I AM

Mankind is a blight upon the face of the Earth. I believe the line in The Matrix which says Humanity is like a virus.

This was a nice little town, until someone drilled a large-bore water well. Even then, it was happiness and prosperity for thirty years – till the aquifer went dry.

Then there was no more water for drinking or manufacturing. The water-dome collapsed, the soil compacted, and entrances at ground level, now needed ladders to get up into.  People moved away, plants and animals died, and the town, with its proud history and spirit, died with them.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Mistaken Identity

I recently read a post by a young woman who is a receptionist for a small firm.  She handles the few walk-ins, directs incoming emails and deals with the constant phone calls.  She wrote of the strange and wonderful telephone calls she has to deal with.

Steam ears

Like being a greeter at Wal-Mart, this is a job I could not handle.  I like to talk to people, but I don’t suffer idiots well.  By about coffee-break time the first morning, I’d want to injure someone.  Since I couldn’t get at any of the fools on the phone, it would probably be the loud blonde in accounting, with the nasal, Fran Drescher voice, who snaps her gum as she chews.

Asshole

The lady with the post estimates that she knows 83% (what an interesting number 😕 ) of her regular callers by their voice, even before they identify themselves.  That’s a useful ability to have, but it should not be relied on unquestioningly.

It’s only good telephone etiquette, and business sense to identify yourself on the phone.  When I worked as a Purchasing Agent, I always did so when I called someone – until that fateful day.  I had called a supplier one day, and told him who I was.  He replied, “Oh, you don’t have to tell me who you are.  You have a very recognizable voice.”

Once upon a time, my company required a small amount of…widgets, ASAP.   We needed them by 11 AM the next day, to allow assembly time, to make a 4 PM shipment.  I called a supplier, and in the excitement, merely started off with, “Hi Bill, could you do me a big favor?”

He replied, “Oh hi.  Yeah, sure!  What can I do for you?”  I told him what I needed, and how soon.  He put me on hold, and picked up again in a couple of minutes.  “You’re in luck.  The machine running that item is in production right now, and we have a bit of extra raw material.  I’ll tell the operator to run it out.  We’ll load your stuff tonight, and you’ll be the second stop for the truck tomorrow.  You should have them by 8 or 9 o’clock.”

I gave him a Purchase Order number, and promised to mail the confirmation.  The next day, when I arrived about 8, they weren’t there – no biggy.  They weren’t there at 9, when I took a washroom break – Hmmm.  They weren’t in by 10, when I called the receiver – startin’ to worry.  They hadn’t arrived by 11, when the receiver called me in a panic.

I finally got through to the supplier about 11:30.  “What happened to my widgets?  You promised they’d be here much earlier!”

“Oh, they’re there.  I knew how important they were to you, so I asked the driver to call me when they were unloaded.  He has a bill of lading, signed by your receiver at 8:37 AM.”

“But they’re not here!  The receiver just phoned me.”

“They must be there.  Maybe he unloaded them and just forgot.  Just call him back, Bob, and ask him….”

“BOB!!??  I’m not Bob!  This is Archon!”

“Oh shit.  You and Bob sound so much alike.”

He didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell.  The other company’s receiver unquestioningly unloaded parts they’d never previously ordered, on a waybill with a purchase order number not in their series.  The truck driver got paid overtime, because he had to go back and reload, and deliver to our plant.  And we still got a non-compliance late/short shipment demerit.

If it doesn’t say Styrofoam SM®, it isn’t, but you can be sure you’re getting the real Archon, because every one of my babbles is clearly identified as “Archon’s Den. ™”

 

Autoprompt – What’s In Your Fridge?

PROLOGUE

When I saw the above autoprompt, I wondered, “Who would want to know what’s in my fridge?” Then I remembered, if we go to a party at someone else’s house and use the washroom, we always nose through the medicine cabinet. Hmm, Rogaine and hemorrhoid cream – he’s got problems at both ends. So yeah, you know you wanna know.

Refrigerator

It is said that, the poor eat calories, the middle class eat nutrition, and the rich eat presentation.

Even when I worked in offices after we were first married, we were still only one short half-step up from being living-under-a-bridge poor, so calories were important. I always wanted to eat – well. Later, when I took off the shirt and tie, and donned the blue-collar to work in manufacturing plants, calories were important. The wife watched a lot of TV cooking shows, and bought and read a lot of cookbooks.

The wife of a couple down the street often complained about her husband’s food wants – meat and potatoes, meat and potatoes, seven nights a week. At our house, it was homemade pizza, perogies and potato pancakes, soups, stews and spaghetti, Chinese food, tacos, stroganoff, goulash, tourtière, schnitzel. One time we had menus for seven weeks in advance, with no duplicates.

To make this dizzying array of global dishes requires quite a varied supply of raw materials. This need explains the wife’s 36 place spice rack, and the 24 spot herb rack, with more in the cupboard, and a few growing fresh, on the back deck. Almost everything we have, because of personal preference, allergies and cooking options, we have multiple versions of.

Starting above the stove is a cupboard full of cooking alcohol – red wine for pasta sauce, white for chicken and turkey dishes, Chinese cooking wine, sake for a couple of Japanese recipes, and brandy to soak Christmas cake in. The only stuff that I drink is the occasional bit of Crème de Menthe on crushed ice, when I’ve overindulged in rich food.

Come the apocalypse, the basement storeroom will feed us for three months. Aside from cookies, crackers and canned goods, we have 12 sizes and shapes of pasta and noodles, 2 brands of tomato sauce, plus marinara and Alfredo sauce.

There are usually about 36 two-liter(2-quart) bottles of Pepsi, and ten or twelve 710ml(20 oz.) six-packs. We keep a 30-pack of bottled water ahead, to replace the one in use under the cats’ feeding stand upstairs, and one or two gallons of distilled, as well as a dozen cans of ginger ale.

There are 4 types of rice – long grain for plain white rice, Basmati rice for body, Jasmine rice for sticky rice dishes, and instant Minute Rice. We have all-purpose flour, cake & pastry flour, bread flour, specially-fine-ground blending flour for thickening soups, sauces and gravy, rye flour for making pumpernickel rolls, and spelt flour, which like rye, is not wheat-based, and suitable for the allergic grandson.

Currently there are 20 pounds of Superior, white potatoes for boiled and mashed, 20 pounds of Russets, which make great French fries and potato salad, and 5 pounds of new baby whites in the ‘beer fridge’ for suet roasting and skin-on salad.

Onions include, cooking, Spanish, sweet white, occasionally a red onion, a bag of perishable Vidalias in the fridge, shallots, which like leeks aren’t quite onions, and green onions, in the upstairs fridge, which I’ll get to next post, after we’ve had dinner.

Poor overworked, under-appreciated beer fridge! No actual beer in it, so BrainRants better give me at least 24 hours warning of any surprise visit. Instead, it has 4 varieties of soft drinks, several flavors of coffee creamers and salad dressings there’s no room for upstairs, three dozen eggs, two more dozen pickled, extra bags and blocks of cheeses, and sour cream and margarine, so we don’t run out upstairs.

Besides the onions and baby potatoes, there’s a cabbage and a half, a large broccoli, an extra lettuce and a multi-pack of romaine. It contains the son’s individual yogurts and rice puddings for work meals – and leftovers….Yum! Yum!

A Yankee society doyenne imperiously informed her Georgia plantation-owning host that, “Up north, we think breeding is everything.” He replied, “We like it down here too, but we got other hobbies.” I’ve never run into another home which revolves quite as much around food as ours does. It has to. It can’t escape the gravity well. We read – a lot. We watch some television, and we allow computers to suck our time and insult our intelligence.

If we’re not shopping for food, or storing food away, or cooking food, or eating food, we’re concealing evidence tucking leftover food away, often in the fridge upstairs. Come back next time, when I finally get around to describing its interior, and explain why we had to reinforce the kitchen floor.   🙄

#488