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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Footage. Watch 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).