Pipe dream off King Street

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By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

 

Where have you gone

Mr. Page and Mr. Hersey,

Remnants of a mill that bore your names

Stand as solemn sentinels over this sordid brownfield

At the foot of King Street.

 

I remember P-H workers in the late ‘50s/early’60s chowing down

Outdoors amidst piles of pipe –

Neither tablecloth nor candelabra adorning the open-air dining room

Yet still they banqueted on take-out chicken dinners, fish and chips and burgers and fries

From the (now iconic) Blue Star eatery a pipe length or two away,

Pleasing palates on payday bonanzas earned with the sweat on their backs.

 

At shift’s end some of these workmen

Stopped at 642 King’s Toronto-Dominion branch adjacent to the township HQ,

At times the lineup extended and snaked out the door,

A blue-collar queue of pipe makers, crane drivers, furnace men and more

Waiting a turn to deposit fruits of their labours into bankbook accounts for safekeeping,

Yet pocketing some as slush fund stashes

For celebratory, sudsy stops at the Crowland and Station hotels

With glasses of draught, or bottled OV and Kingsbeer and IPA.

Way back in those Edsel and Impala and Fairlane days,

Miller’s was just a variety/sporting goods store

A couple blocks north at the corner of Fifth,

Not a frothy brew that whet and wet workers’ whistles

When the shiftwork was done.

 

Where have you gone

Mr. Page and Mr. Hersey,

Not to mention a litany of other owners’ names

In decades that followed,

Some now forgotten, perhaps never known by many now in the old ‘hood;

Here today, gone tomorrow

Is the lost-jobs-legacy with which we are left,

Unlike fulfilled dreams of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds

Who toiled at the P-H pipe-making mill.

 

Sadly we live today not with dreams

But a pipe dream

In the dregs of this demoralizing demolition off King,

A mill long, long ago the proud dominion of

The long departed, pined-for pipe makers,

Mr. Page and Mr. Hersey.

 

(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ont.)

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