Preserved Stories Blog


New 3-minute video from Heritage Mississauga features Small Arms Ltd. wartime munitions plant in Lakeview

An advance screening of took place on Aug. 24, 2016 at The Grange at Dundas St. West in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

An advance screening of “Memories of Small Arms Limited in Lakeview, Mississauga” took place on Aug. 24, 2016 at The Grange at 1921 Dundas St. West in Mississauga. Jaan Pill photo

This post – along with future posts featuring interviews that I recorded on Aug. 25, 2016 – is concerned with an impressive, engaging 3-minute YouTube video about the Small Arms Ltd. munitions factory that was located in Lakeview, Mississauga just west of Long Branch during the Second World War.

The Small Arms Building along with a water tower and an assortment of firing range baffles are the remnants of a larger number of buildings and structures that were key features of the Arsenal Lands in Mississauga.

Spoiler alert

If you do have not yet seen the 3-minute video, I would suggest you have a look at it before you read the text that follows. As a long-time film reviewer, I can tell you something that any filmmaker can tell you. What I can tell you is that when we see a film for the very first time, that is when we truly experience the film.

At Aug. 24, 2016 advance screening of the Small Arms Video; left to right: Meghan Mackintosh, Kathy Baker, Hilda Insley and Linda Wigley. Jaan Pill photo

The Grange, Mississauga: Aug. 24, 2016 advance screening of the Small Arms Video; left to right: Meghan Mackintosh, Kathy Baker, Hilda Insley and Linda Wigley. Jaan Pill photo

Our first impressions, the first thoughts and emotions that occur to us, when watching a film, are critical. When we see the same film many times after the first time, those can all be great experiences, but the first time is something else. The first-time encounter is unique and very special.

As well, when you see it without having people tell you all about what the film is about, and how it will affect you, you will probably have a better go at making sense of what you see, because you’re not going to be influenced by what anybody else thinks about the film.

Click here to play the video >

You can access an introduction to the video here:

NEW VIDEO from Heritage Mississauga! Memories of Small Arms Limited

The contents of the above-noted link feature the following message:

 

af5a70f9-e2b8-4c41-935c-0d359bf5bba6

 

Heritage Mississauga is proud to present a video about the Small Arms factory in Lakeview, Mississauga.

Memories of Small Arms Limited

Click here to watch>

In this short video, you’ll meet five people who worked at the Small Arms during the Second World War making ammunition and firearms for our troops overseas.

Source: Heritage Mississauga

Small Arms. Ltd. archival photo. Source: Heritage Mississauga. Click on the image to enlarge it.

This poetic story is told from the perspective of a woman and man looking back on their time working at the Small Arms in the 1940s.

This video is part of the “Celebrating Mississauga’s Cultural Heritage Project” funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Enjoy!

Sincerely Yours,

The Staff at Heritage Mississauga

P.S. Thank you so much for watching this video. Please feel free to share on social media. We would love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the video, so please reply back to this email after you’ve watched to tell us what you enjoyed the most!

Click here to watch>

Detail from photo display at Sledgehammer Ceremony, April 6, 2015. Jaan Pill photo

Detail from photo display at Sledgehammer Ceremony at Small Arms Building, April 6, 2015. Jaan Pill photo

[End of text]

If you click on the “Click here to watch” link above, you will read the following message:

Memories of Small Arms Limited

This video celebrates the memories of, and the people who once worked for, the Dominion Small Arms Limited munitions factory in Lakeview during the Second World War. One building, Building 12, of the munitions factory, survives today and is a recognized heritage landmark in Mississauga. The video commemorates the significant role that munitions workers, and this building, played in the wartime effort at home and abroad.

Click here to watch the “Memories of Small Arms Limited” video

Produced by Gabriella and Sandor Bank, Sanborg Productions

Memories of Small Arms Limited Video PRESS RELEASE

[End of second message from Heritage Mississauga]

Photo from the June 17, 2016 Mississauga News article depicts a Doors Open event at Small Arms building some years ago. prior to the building of the construction barriers that are currently in place just west of the building.

Photo from the June 17, 2016 Mississauga News article depicts a Doors Open event at Small Arms building some years ago.

Video draws the viewer in, at an emotional level

I much enjoyed the video, which I saw at an advance screening at The Grange on Aug. 24, 2016. The video has excellent production values. It tells the story succinctly, establishes the context for the current, well-organized Small Arms repurposing project, draws the viewer in at an emotional level, and prompts the viewer to wonder: “What is the next step, in this project?”

As a person who has spent some years interviewing long-time residents, in communities across Canada, from time to time I have heard the comment, “You should have been here 10 years earlier; because so many people, who could tell you stories, have passed away.”

John Kelly is among the wartime workers featured in the recent Small Arms Video. He worked at the munitions plant at the age of 12 by way of a summer job. He worked on a machine involved with the manufacture of rifles. Before he began work on the machine, he was informed that the previous two workers had lost their thumbs working at the machine. An interview at which JohN Kelly shares these stories among others will be featured in a  future post. Jaan Pill photo

John Kelly is among the wartime workers featured in the recent Small Arms video. He started working at the munitions plant at the age of 12 by way of a summer job. He worked on a machine involved with the manufacture of rifles. When he began work on the machine, he was cautioned that the previous two workers had lost their thumbs operating the same machine. His thumbs remained intact. An informative Aug. 24, 2016 interview with Jaan Pill at which John Kelly shares stories about Small Arms Ltd. will be featured at a future post. Jaan Pill photo

My thought, when I hear such apt remarks, is that of necessity my focus is on the stories that still do exist, that can still be documented; the ones that are gone are gone. With regard to the Small Arms story, many people are indeed gone.

The workers who remain, from that era, are now in their 80s or 90s, and their number is diminishing. Yet on Aug. 24, 2016 and on previous occasions, I have had the opportunity to meet, in person, a number of the workers who are still around. What a pleasure it is to meet them, and to have the opportunity to interview them!

The Long Branch Rifle Ranges were not in Long Branch

In the past I have often wondered: “How come all these places were named after Long Branch, even if they were not in  Long Branch?”

In spending five or six weeks earlier in 2016, researching and writing an article about the history of Long Branch, I developed an overview regarding this interesting topic. The introductory paragraphs at the following post describe what I have learned:

History of Long Branch – DRAFT 4 

A view of the fence at the south side of the Small Arms building, separating the lawn of the property from the parking lot, in a photo taken in the summer. This is among my favourite photos of the Arsenal Lands. It evokes, for this viewer, a sense of the atmosphere at the Small Arms building in the 1940s. Jaan Pill photo

A view of the fence at the south side of the Small Arms Building, separating the lawn of the property from the parking lot, in a photo taken in the summer. This is among my favourite photos of the Arsenal Lands. It evokes, for this viewer, a sense of the atmosphere at the Small Arms Building in the 1940s. Jaan Pill photo

Advance screening on Aug. 24, 2016

On Aug. 24, 2016 I had the opportunity to attend an advance screening of Memories of Small Arms Limited, the 3-minute film highlighting the history of Small Arms Ltd.

I also had the opportunity to meet several former workers from this 1940s small arms factory. As well, I met the key people involved with the scripting and production of the video.

Click here to view the video >

Linda Wigley showed me a Sept. 19, 1991 Toronto Star article about the 50th anniversary of Small Arms Ltd.

Aerial view of Arsenal Lands, taken some time after the demolition of the Small Arms Ltd. munitions plant. The yellow building is the Small Arms building. The parking lot that was in place just east of the Small Arms building has since been removed.  Featured in the June 17, 2016 Mississauga News article, the photo is from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Aerial view of Arsenal Lands taken some time after the demolition of the Small Arms Ltd. munitions plant. The yellow building is the Small Arms building. The parking lot that was in place just east of the Small Arms building has since been removed. Featured in a June 17, 2016 Mississauga News article, the photo is from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Linda Wigley, now 92 years old, who wrote articles for a Small Arms Ltd. employee newspaper in the 1940s when she worked at the plant, showed me a Toronto Star article from 25 years ago, which I subsequently located at the Toronto Public Library website; the text reads:

Making the rifles that won a war: Young women worked long hours in Small Arms factory

Richard Jordan Special to The Star. Toronto Star, Sept. 19, 1991

Tonight, the Mississauga South Historical Society meets at 1389 Cawthra Rd. to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company’s formation.

image of Linda and Hilda

On the left is the Small Arms Ltd. facility as it existed before most of the buildings were demolished. In photo on right are, left to right, Linda Wigley and Hilda Insley. Source: Heritage Mississauga

Despite starting with unskilled staff, the plant’s production was impressive. It turned out more than 900,000 Lee-Enfield rifles, 126,000 Sten guns and 1,000 sniper rifles.

The historical society’s interest in Small Arms Ltd. was spurred last spring, [Bill Lawrence] says, when Betty Jagger, wife of the late plant manager Bert Jagger, brought an old album.

Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga, Small Arms building, April 6, 2015. Jaan Pill photo

Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga, Small Arms Building, April 6, 2015. Jaan Pill photo

Tonight, the Mississauga South Historical Society meets at 1389 Cawthra Rd. to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company’s formation.

Organizer Bill Lawrence says response has been overwhelming since an article about the plant appeared last spring in The Star.

“As a result of the publicity, more than 60 former employees have contacted me and I’ve had letters and phone calls from as far away as Vancouver and Saskatchewan.”

The company closed its doors in the 1950s but some of its original buildings still stand on the south side of Lakeshore Rd. west of Dixie Rd.

Left

Left to right: City of Toronto Ward 1 Councillor Jim Tovey, Meghan Mackintosh (standing in background), Hilda Insley and Linda Wigley. During the years he served as President of the Lakeview Ratepayers Association, Jim Tovey played a key role in ensuring that the Small Arms Building was saved from destruction. Hilda Insley and Linda Insley along with John Kelly and Len McNeice are featured in the recent Small Arms video. The Executive Producer is Jayme Gaspar. The Concept and Writing is by Meghan Mackintosh, Outreach Coordinator, Heritage Mississauga. Narration is by Ron Duquette, Diane Kalenchuk, and Jim Tovey. Matthew Wilkinson served as Historian for the film. Producers are Gabriella Bank and Sandor Bank, Sanborg Productions. Jaan Pill photo

At peak production, the plant employed 5,300 workers. Lawrence estimates more than 14,000 people worked there at some time during the war.

More than half were women and the company had full-time recruiters who travelled across Canada visiting small towns to find employees.

A contemporary newspaper advertisement boasted of “the finest working conditions, good food at low price and a special girls’ club in a separate building with a variety of athletic programs.”

Despite starting with unskilled staff, the plant’s production was impressive. It turned out more than 900,000 Lee-Enfield rifles, 126,000 Sten guns and 1,000 sniper rifles.

It contained publicity photos of plant activities that brought back memories to many long-time Mississauga residents. Curiously, there were no pictures of the plant’s exterior, probably, for security reasons.

For tonight’s meeting, at 7.30 p.m., the society has had many of the pictures made into slides and their showing will be accompanied by music from the era.

Councillor Jim Tovey tours the Small Arms building with a City of Mississauga Commissioner [details to follow]. Jaan Pill photo

Prior to April 6, 2015 Sledgehammer Ceremony, City of Mississauga Ward 1 Councillor Jim Tovey conducted a tour of the Small Arms building with Paul Mitcham, Commissioner of Community Services. Jaan Pill photo

The historical society’s interest in Small Arms Ltd. was spurred last spring, Lawrence says, when Betty Jagger, wife of the late plant manager Bert Jagger, brought an old album to a meeting.

Several speakers will share their wartime experiences at the plant and the artifacts on display will include a Lee-Enfield rifle.

[The article included a photo for which the caption read:] The protective eyewear on Gladys Betland wasn’t glamorous but the work carried glory at Mississauga’s Small Arms Ltd. – manufacturing guns for our boys overseas.

Copyright 1991 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.

[End of text]

A Brief History of Small Arms Ltd. Document source: Linda Wigley. Click on the image to enlarge it; click again to enlarge it further.

Linda Wigley shared showed me as well a document that she had brought along, entitled “A Brief History of Small Arms Ltd.” The text (I’ve made minor changes in punctuation) reads:

A brief history of Small Arms Ltd.

Small Arms Ltd. was a Crown corporation created on 7th August 1940 for the purpose of the manufacturing firearms for the Canadian and British governments.

Space for the building was made available on what was called the Long branch rifle ranges just west of Etobicoke Creek. Work on building had already been started in April of that year, and by November 81,000 sq. ft. of factory floor space had been completed along with a suitable office. A tool room was in operation and production machines were being installed as quickly as they arrived.

Detail from Sawmill Sid project. Jaan Pill photo

Detail from TRCA / Sawmill Sid wood repurposing project currently taking place at the Arsenal Lands adjacent to the Small Arms Building. Jaan Pill photo

By June 1941, five Lee-Enfield Mark IV rifles had been completed and were submitted for approval. They passed with flying colours and the plant swung into full production. By the end of the year, over 200,000 rifles had been supplied to our armed forces. With peak employments of 5,500, and working three shifts production reached 32,500 units a month.

On 31st December 1945, wartime production was complete and no further orders were placed by Britain. Ownership then passed to the Small Arms Division of Canadian Arsenals and it continued with experimental work and peacetime production.

In a period of five and a half years, Small Arms Ltd. had employed over 14,000 workers and with a total production of more than 900,000 Lee-Enfield rifles and 100,000 Sten guns, had made a tremendous contribution to Canada’s war effort.

[End of text]

Small Arms Building, at the foot of Dixie Road at Lakeshore Road East, Mississauga

In a subsequent posts, I will highlight several interviews featuring several participants at the Aug. 24, 2016 advance screening of the new 3-minute video about Small Arms. Ltd.

Click here for previous posts about the Small Arms Building >

Small Arms Event Oct 2016

A Small Arms “In Situ” multi arts festival will take place on Oct. 27 to 29, 2016 at the Small Arms Building. The event will feature live music, live art creation, and pop up theatre performances. Tickets are $20. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Among the previous posts are the following three recent ones:

In Situ, a multi arts festival at the Small Arms Building in Mississauga, will take place Oct. 27 to 29, 2016

Mississauga positioning itself to take ownership of historic Small Arms building – June 17, 2016 Mississauga News

Saturday, April 23, 2016 was perfect weather for a Clean-Up Day at Small Arms Building in Mississauga 

Among earlier posts is one entitled:

TRCA/Sawmill Sid portable sawmilling project is now underway at Small Arms Building in Mississauga

For many of the photos at this post, you can click on the image to enlarge it; click again to enlarge it further

 

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