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Gladys (Hawkins) McKenzie

The following is submitted by Ruth McKenzie of the Prairie Region. It is a wartime story, as told to her by her mother, Gladys (Hawkins) McKenzie.

"In October of 1942, after harvest on the farm, I enrolled in the War Emergency Training Program (WETP) in Moose Jaw. I was 22 years old and had grown up on a farm 70 kilometres southeast of Moose Jaw. Through WETP, I received training in machine shop work, learning the operation of machines like lathes, planes and drills. I also had instruction in drafting, reading blue prints and hand tooling metal goods. I was recruited by the John Ingles War Factory in Toronto, along with some forty other girls from the Moose Jaw classes.

We travelled to Toronto by train in the luxury of a private day coach, enjoying our trip of two days and two nights. At Toronto we were met at the station, assigned billets in private homes and told which section to report to at the factory. All of us were sent to different billets, assigned to different sections in the plant and worked different shifts, so we didn't see much of each other once we got to Toronto.

On the first morning, I had to get to the street car stop in the darkness of an early December morning which was really dark because Toronto was on double daylight savings time. I had no idea how long the ride would be across the city. The conductor called out the street names, which all sounded the same in his English accent. The ride was over an hour and I was scared of missing my stop so I kept asking the driver if this was my stop. I'll bet he was glad when my stop finally came.

At the John Ingles Plant, I was assigned to the barrel setting division for Bren gun manufacture where I worked for one year and then was reassigned to one of the barrel divisions. In this work, we used powered grindstones to shape and smooth the gun barrel to exact specifications. My daily quota was 500 barrels. If one of the other machine operators was absent, we had to cover off the extra machine and keep up the unit's daily quota.

The job paid $42 per week and I paid $20 per month for my room. We got a full hot meal at the factory for 35 cents and I managed small meals back at my room. Leaving home and working in a factory was quite an experience for me. I learned to adapt but never wanted to stay in Toronto. I made some good friends in the factory and we had some good times together, but after three years, I was ready to come back to Saskatchewan and help my older brother on his farm.

I know we were making equipment to help win the war, but it was upsetting to walk by the shipping room and see all the guns and crates piled up. I thought about all those men shooting at each other and thought of my boyfriend overseas. Fortunately, he came home without injury and we were married in 1947, but that's another story."

Gladys (Hawkins) McKenzie
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