On the Sunshine Coast, there was and is “The Mill.” The Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives, which produced the book about the century-old Port Mellon operation (Rough and Ready Times, by Ellen Frith with Peter Trower – available in the Museum gift shop, $18) also provides a short history at sunshinecoastmuseum.ca:

“The British Columbia Wood Pulp & Paper Company was established in 1908 by Captain Henry Mellon at the mouth of Rainy River at Port Mellon. The mill changed ownership several times during the century, in 1927 becoming Howe Sound Pulp & Paper Mill, still in operation today.”

Dale Peterson (son of the Museum’s founder, Les Peterson) is a local history buff, and recently triggered a long string of reminiscences when he quoted a passage from the book History of Port Mellon 1908-1967. His comments follow, reprinted with his permission.

In 1941 after very long hard fought negotiations a union was finally formed at Port Mellon. It was pretty much wages, hours and some safety items. Things like paid vacation, medical, dental, pensions, getting more overtime were fantasies not even thought about yet.

Here were the first negotiated wages in 1941. Please read carefully and look at last one in particular compared to others. There it is right out in open in writing. Says a lot about Canadian society back then:

• Millwrights 80 cents an hour

• Electricians 70 cents an hour

• Digester cook 75 cents per hour

• Backtender/baler 56 cents per hour

• Orientals 45 cents per hour

On a lighter note: Nowadays everyone is familiar with the term “dirty pay.” It is in every collective agreement and explains how much extra is paid for work where conditions are significantly worse. Well the mill had that in the first agreement, when the term was brand new and the majority were still unfamiliar with it or its meaning. During the war many of the production line workers were women as the men had enlisted. A male foreman asked one of the women workers ‘how would you like to go down below and earn some dirty pay.’ She hauled off and slugged him.