Episode 70 – What I Know About My Mom’s Life 1951 to 1953

These years contain the biggest gaps in what I know about my mom’s life, so this is an uncharacteristically short blog entry.

In 1951, having finished her stints in the kitchen and laundry at Glengarda Academy and on her cousins’ tobacco farm, mom moved back to either Galt or Hamilton. I have no record of an address, and knowing where she worked doesn’t help, because she could have taken the bus from either place (she never did learn to drive).

What I do know is that after leaving Berg’s farm, her next job was at the Glendale Spinning Mills in downtown Hamilton, as a “floor walker”. The job entailed walking between the huge spindles of cotton thread and ensuring that the thread was loading evenly, and relieving other female workers if they needed a break. From the archives of the Head-of-the-Lake Historic Society I learned that “Textile mills were among the few places where women could find work in the city. In the first part of the 20th century, female unionists from plants such as this one drew the labour movement’s attention to issues such as maternity leave, free medical care during pregnancy and better health care and schooling for children.” Mom described being on her feet in 3 inch spike heels every day; there were clearly no rules about regulation footwear!

Glendale Spinning Mills in Hamilton, circa 1950

Sometime during 1951 my grandmother arrived in Canada. More missing links. Did she live with Bergs for a while? With my mom? It seems she may have lived in Galt, because she reconnected socially with members of the Neidert side of the family (although never saw my grandfather), who were all in Galt and Hespeler. She worked cleaning other people’s houses – a job she fell back on many times in her life.

Mom and grandma reunited in Canada, 1951
Mom at business college (front row, far right). On the blackboard is the day’s schedule, including bookkeeping, penmanship, and spelling.

Mom’s goal, in the meantime, was not to work in a factory forever. Her secretarial training in Germany had prepared her to work in an office, and leading into 1953 she supplemented that with business college courses in Canada to learn, among other things, both Pittman and Gregg shorthand. She faithfully read the Help Wanted column in the Hamilton Spectator and eventually landed a job on the switchboard of Babcock-Wilcox & Goldie-McCulloch Limited, the Canadian division of Babcock & Wilcox in Galt. As kids, when we asked about how good her English REALLY was as a new immigrant, she always proudly rhymed off that tongue-twisting company name, which had to be said in full every time a call came in. Funny how things come full circle: my first job after I left university was at Diamond Canapower, a division of Babcock & Wilcox.

Throughout 1953 both mom and grandma were working to save enough money to bring my great-grandmother to Canada.

1954 would be a landmark year, solidifying mom’s permanent roots in this “new home”. It is also in 1954 that a new character enters mom’s story: my dad, Wilhelm Mandau. So maybe it’s time to travel back in time again, this time stopping at a large family farm in the town of Wilkow, located on the Vistula River, in the county of Secymin, Poland.

One comment

  1. Oh, Rose!!! (Sigh) As amazing as your travelogues ! Your mother’s history brings back snippets of stories I’ve heard or seen. Our bonus: your research, history, your appreciation of amazing women!! (Shades of Terry Fallis) Thank you! Much much love

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    Liked by 1 person

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