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They Endured and Flourished

The build was not only physically challenging but also emotionally draining. The role of the wives was fundamental. Without their support, the build would not have succeeded. They prepared meals, did housework, and cared for their young children alone in the evenings and on weekends, unless they had extended family close by. They also endured many late-night meals after their husbands returned from an evening at the site. The wives’ sweat equity – this physical and emotional labour – was essential.

Black and white photograph of two women each carrying a child

Dorothy Forbes and Pat Chaves with their very young children on a visit to the Lakedale worksite in 1956.

For many of the men, the construction aspect of the build was challenging. It was physically draining due to the long hours and the nature of the work. Some builders endured workplace injuries and other physical trials. However, they overcame any discouragement and continued to persevere.

A Colour photograph of a group of men taking a break at a construction site. A dog in the foreground.

The Lakedale Builders left to right: Name?, Al Parsons, Ed McLellan, Ed Jack, Name?, Bill Forbes, Bill Fozard (in back), Joe Shaw, Tom Sweeney, John Simpson, George Chave in 1956.


Some knew little about construction to begin with and relied on others to learn. In time, though, many people became masters of their domain. Mr. Colleary, a plasterer by trade, was known as the “King of the Shingleers.” He taught others how to be more efficient at the job and would often commend them on how quickly they learned, which helped to build morale.

a black and white photograph of a group of men called the Sherbrien gang in Grimsby. No title

Sherbrien and Cathedral Heights co-operators pose for a photo during the build circa 1956.


Even after moving in, families faced challenges, such as the notorious bright red mud.  Because the area was not yet serviced with asphalt roads and the season was particularly wet, many people got stuck, slipped, and fell into the mud while accessing their new homes.

A black and white photograph of a group of men taking a break at a construction site. Two dogs in the foreground.

The Lakedale builders in the final days of the build in the early spring of 1956.


Years after the build, many of the parents remember even the hardships with good humour. Charlie Gallagher wrote: “What did these crazy, wonderful co-op people achieve (when everyone knew it couldn’t be done)? They built houses for their families worth twice the mortgage value and formed friendships that will last a lifetime.”

They Endured – John Blake FootageWatch the video with the transcription (EN).

Monsignor O’Brien in conversation with Bernadette Walsh (subtitles available in FR and EN).  Watch the video with the transcription (EN).

Helen Komadoski about cooking for the men on the site (subtitles available in FR and EN).  Watch the video with the transcription (EN).