Copies of the complete Cockshutt Plant News (1943 and 1944), as well as some issues from the 1942 and 1945 years, are held as part of the Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre’s permanent collection. In discussing ways to share this fascinating glimpse into local history with the public, the CIHC decided to replicate a single volume (1943) and thoroughly index it to capture the stories of the factory workers, family members, and other individuals who worked with the plant.
CIHC and Ontario Genealogical Society - Brant County Branch volunteers spent countless hours indexing the 12 issues published in 1943, thoroughly reading through all of the pages to gather names. What resulted, says Ray Wright, CIHC Treasurer and Secretary, was “more than a treasure trove of names; [the volume is] a fascinating look at life in Canada in the middle of the Second World War...the work became more than a collection of plant news issues – it became a ‘Wartime Chronicle.’”
One of the most heartwarming stories captured is outlined in the article published on May 15, 1943, entitled “5,000 pennies, saved for soldier-son lost at Dieppe, invested in fourth victory loan.” Mrs. Vincent Brennan saved pennies for two years as a present for her son when he returned home from war. Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Brennan’s son Kenneth lost his life at Dieppe, so they brought the pennies to the Cockshutt Plant and bought a Victory Bond; “This may help some other Canadian boy,” remarked Mrs. Brennan.
Other stories within the volume illustrate the lives of “girls” brought from Nova Scotia and Port Arthur to be trained and to work in factories; stories about the creation of workplace cafeterias and “day nursery facilities” in the factory so that working mothers could maintain their jobs; and even letters from family and friends who were serving overseas during World War II.
As Wright read through the volume, he continued to discover glimpses into his own family’s history. For example, an article about “Victory Gardens” (written by Ken Gardiner, a nearly 25-year veteran of the plant, and avid horticulturalist) requested that plant employees aid in the effort to conserve food for the post-war “starving millions” by growing their own vegetables at home; Wright’s own mother created a war-time garden, and it was his responsibility to look after them to provide the vitamins needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
For lovers of local industrial, wartime and social history, and for those who love genealogical research, the Cockshutt Plant News Volume 2 (1943) is an incredible time capsule that is definitely worth a read. The publication is printed in full, original size and is available for purchase online by clicking here.
A comprehensive index of all names mentioned in the Cockshutt Plant News Volume 2 (1943) can now be searched online. Find out if your own relatives are mentioned by clicking here.
Special thanks to Rob Adlam – one of the founders of CIHC – for maintaining the Cockshutt Plant News issues for a number of years, and for bringing them to the attention of CIHC volunteers and assisting with pre-indexing the issues.