Memories revisited during Lewis exhibit opening

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By Lyle Carter

There was a good turnout Saturday afternoon at the Colchester Historeum on Young Street in Truro for the opening of a new exhibit.

Joan Free, left, Harry Lynds and George Lewis during the Lewis Industry exhibit opening Saturday at the Colchester Historeum.

The display explores the Lewis family of Truro and their vast involvement in business and manufacturing.

The walls of the Colchester Historeum are practically alive as photos and newspaper articles describe business ventures from the 1800s into the 1900s stretching from Truro to Stewiacke, Sheet Harbour, neighbouring Lewiston and Brownsville, Maine.

First, John Lewis, then George E.M. Lewis, followed by his sons Frank and Charles Lewis, took on business ventures, which would employ more than 1,000 people.

Manufacturing shoe making supplies, clothing and hosiery and cap and hat manufacturing were just some of the ventures, which led to lumbering, shipbuilding and shipping.

"I worked at both the Lewis Textile Factory on Prince Street and Federal Products on Wood Street," Harry Lynds, 78, of Bible Hill said. "I went to work for Frank Lewis in 1950 when I was 15. I grew up in Central North River and a friend of mine Donnie Lynds worked at the Lewis Textile Factory. I think it was through Donnie that I got the job."

Lynds recalled an alley between the Lewis Cap and Hat Company and the factory he worked in.

"We were across from Goodspeeds where Pyes are today," Lynds said. "I worked five years for Frank who would have been George Lewis's uncle. My foreman was Mac Taylor and I remember Francie Stewart trained me as a knitter and to run machines that knit ankle socks and work socks."

Lynds said 12 to 15 people worked in the department, which occupied one of four busy floors, and that knitting machines were lined up in straight lines.

Remembering many of the men he worked with, Lynds named Charlie Moxon, Russell Fielding, Don Mingo, Art Ash, Bill Smith, Bill Creelman, George Wilson and brothers Dave and Richard Connolly.

"It was a busy place to work," Lynds said. "You had to keep the different colour yarn on these machines and you had clear the lint away and keep everything running smoothly. You couldn't talk when working, it was noisy and we were too busy."

Recalling that the men worked five-and-a-half days each week, Lynds said they had an hour lunch break at noon.

"I started at 45 cents an hour," he said. "We were paid every two weeks. Some pay periods included getting some overtime."

Lynds still has in his possession a screwdriver, a few tools and pay stubs from the early 1950s. Looking at several pay stubs, one disclosed a 100-hour work period.

"I must have got some overtime," Lynds said. "My total wages were $52.14 after deductions of $2.65 income tax and 70 cents for unemployment insurance."

Lynds said it doesn't sound like much money compared to today's standards.

"But I rented a room on Revere Street for $3 a week and you could buy a bottle of pop for six to eight cents. A chocolate bar cost only a nickel or a dime. I must have saved some money for after two or three years I bought a 1941 Hudson. I paid $200 for it."

In 1956, Lynds went to work for Charles Lewis and Federal Products as a machine fixer. In 1970, he made the move to car and truck repairs and became a licensed mechanic.

Belmont resident Florence Shearer got her first job working at the Lewis Textile Factory in 1938.

"I was 15 when I went to work as a looper," Shearer (nee Blackmore) 90, originally from Upper North River, said. "The stockings I looped were cotton. I worked for nearly two years upstairs where the knitting machines and looper machines were. I remember my floor lady was Jessie Hannelberry, a survivor of the Halifax explosion."

Florence said her older sisters Daisy, Blanche and Addie all worked at the textile mill.

"It was a happy time in my life," she said. "The thing was it was nice to have a job and money coming in. I was quiet and shy as a young girl but everyone was very friendly. I think while I was working for the Lewis's that unemployment insurance came in."

During Saturday's exhibit opening, Joan Free, Frank Lewis's granddaughter and George Lewis, Charles Lewis's son, shared remarks.

TAGLINE: Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.

Organizations: Lewis Textile Factory, Lewis Cap and Hat Company, Halifax Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Truro, Sheet Harbour, Lewiston Brownsville Maine Prince Street Wood Street Central North River Revere Street Upper North River

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