The Mill and Dust Room

The dust room, the first summer I hired on there was a few days that the mill was shut down or maintenance. So there were all kinds of jobs to do cleaning up the place, one job, I remember in particular. Three of us warehousemen were told to go to the ninth floor of the flourmill there was a Humphrey elevator that we rode up there. A Humphrey elevator is a conveyor belt that runs from the second floor of the mill up to the 10th floor, and there were 3 foot holes cut through the hardwood floors, and the belt ran through them, and there were steps attached to the belt every 16 feet, these steps were about 1′ x 18″ and were angled with a hinged pivot that would flop over when the belt went over the pulley on the 10th floor, there were also handholds bolted to the conveyor belt at about chest level on both sides of the step. On the second floor, where the belt pulley was mounted, there was a wooden platform with two steps that you climbed up on and waited for the next handle and step to go by. You would then grab handhold and jump on the step, but came up, this would take you up through the eighth floors of machinery, and when you wanted to get off you just had to step backwards on the floor you wanted to get off at. To go down you went to the other side and catch a step going downwards. There was also a safety rope that ran up and down on both sides, and by pulling it the belt would stop in case of an emergency; there was also a safety switch if you forgot to get off on the top floor. Anyways back to my story about the dust room on the left side of the mill building, there are few windows as part of the mill was used by the elevator to clean grain going into the mill, above the third and fourth windows you can see two small windows with ventilators above them, this was the dust room, where all the dust from cleaning the grain went. To get out there, you had to climb a steel ladder from the ninth floor and open up a trap door to get in there. It was dark in there, with only 4 to 3 feet of clearance the dust accumulated was about 6 inches deep and have the properties of a liquid when you try to shovel it up. Our job was to go up there and fill old paper flour sacks with this dust and carry it down the steel ladder to be disposed of. I remember an old farmer used to pick up the dust and mix it with feed for his cattle. It wasn’t a very pleasant job, and I can remember, years later, someone had the brilliant idea of jack hammering a hole through the cement floor and run a spout down to the ninth floor, where the bags could be loaded and all you had to do was to sweep the dust towards the spout. Years later, a pellet mill was installed, and this material was used in the mixture for making pellets. Not much went to waste in the mill, including the dust.

Humphrey Manlift

The dust room

Confessions of a Pillsbury Doughboy

We had to load a boxcar with mixed bags of domestic flour one day out on the rear export loading dock.  This was on the concrete platform with an elevated conveyor belt that ran the length of the warehouse.  There were wooden chutes that ran from the second floor of the warehouse down to the conveyor belt at the back of the building there a metal cutoff placed at an angle that would direct the flour bag in the direction in the conveyor belt was traveling, and another cut off would send the bag down the wooden chute and into the doorway of the boxcar being loaded. Their was three of us in the car, me, a new young school kid, who had just hired on to make some money for the summer, and Jerry a draft dodger from the United States, who had a great sense of humor. There were three warehouseman upstairs with two wheeled carts that were bringing in the flour over and sending it down the chute. We started out with 20 pound bags which were loaded criss cross on the wheeler about eight high these came at a steady pace until we had 500 loaded in each end of the car and then they stopped.  The kid asked Jerry why did they stop, to which Jerry replied oh they have just gone to get the 50-pound bags.  Well sure enough the next bags were 50-pound bags of donut and cake mixes we loaded about 400 bags of these product’s than they stopped. The kid again asked Jerry why did they stop, to which Jerry replied that they had gone for the 100-pound bags of flour and once again Jerry was right, and 100-pound bags of flour started coming down the chute we were working pretty hard now and after we had loaded about 200 had been loaded in the car they stopped once again. The kid said to Jerry, what is happening now, to which Jerry replied with a straight face, that they have gone to get the 200-pound bags. The kid walked out of the car and was never seen again.
One day we had a boxcar of domestic flour to load everything we needed was on the first floor of the warehouse.  The boxcar we were supposed to use was on the back loading dock, so we put in the dock plate (a steel plate that bridged the loading dock and the doorway of the boxcar swept the floor lined the walls and the floor with cardboard and with our two wheeled carts loaded the car with bags of flour, that were on the shipping order. We were finished and covered the load with paper and were ready to close the door, when Pete the Shipper showed up to take a look at the load.  He looked at the roof of the older boxcar and noticed two small boards had broken away and were hanging down he said the car was not fit for shipping, and said we would have to take all of flour out and reload it in a boxcar on the front loading dock.

Although we were located in the industrial districtof Bonnybrook there was a restaurant located across from the flour milll on Portland Street, it was run by Mr. Fernie, and was a handy place to go for a bowl of soup and lunch on Day shift, or a coffee and a piece of pie on our coffee break on afternoon shift.  There were also many residential houses in Bonnybrook for the families of the men that workat the CPR, Canadian Government Elevators, Canada Malting Limited, and Pillsbury.  Across the street from the mill on Bonnybrook Road was a house with a family business called the Dorash Confectionary a small grocery store where you could go to get a pop, chocolate bar, bag of chips, or cigarettes. Mr. Dorash passed away in 1969 and the grocery store was closed.

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