Interview with Mr. Marcel Henley: Gabrielle Desgagné.
Société d’histoire d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Cité historia Fonds, Living Memory Project.
On the upper floor of the cider press house, Cité historia’s Gabrielle Desgagné (GD) is speaking with Marcel Henley (MH). This interview was conducted on August 18, 2014. This man grew up in the village of Sault-au-Récollet and worked for some time at the Back River Power Company.
GD [off-screen] You started working there… How was your experience at the Back River?
MH [centre screen] Oh for sure, you know, this was all new for me.
A boy I went to school with, his brother was a foreman there, he got me the job.
A fellow named Lévesque.
That was a long time ago. That’s why…
Since it was close to where I lived, it was very convenient for me. I didn’t need to take the tramway to go to work downtown.
So I would walk over there every day. But it wasn’t that long of a road. And I didn’t even have a bike at the time or nothing.
So we walked.
GD So what was a typical day for you? What was it like?
MH Oh, you get used to it. You get used to things quickly at that age.
It wasn’t very challenging work, you know. It was just a machine. In those days they made a lot of cardboard. The cardboard was used in reinforced boots for the military.
That’s what the foreman told us.
It was a sturdy type of cardboard that was used to line army boots.
It wasn’t hard work.
GD And what would you do there? What was your position, your job?
MH It was a machine, you see, and you would…
There were these sheets of cardboard of about 4 square feet, and you would feed those into the machine, and water would pour on it.
I don’t know why exactly. I think it would soften it or something.
So it wasn’t hard. It wasn’t hard work.
GD You were talking about working conditions earlier … 5 and a half days a week, was it?
MH Right. In those days we would work 5 and a half days a week.
Saturdays we would finish at noon. So that added up to 44 hours a week.
44 hours. From Monday to Saturday, that’s it.
GD And what were the conditions like, salary-wise and all that? How…
MH Oh, it didn’t pay a lot. I remember we made $14 a week.