Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Duff Tweed - Canadian History at Pickering Plant, 1945

Hello again and hope you have enjoyed the Duff Tweed blog thus far. While searching for Duff Tweed carvings and more history about the man, I came across this 65 year old article from the Pickering-Ajax Digital Archive.

 Below is some history on the town of Ajax and the Pickering Plant. Following that is the article about Mr. Tweed from the Pickering Plants’ in-house news periodical: The Commando – Ajax, Ontario - June 1945 – Vol. 3 No. 11. Pictured in the article are Duff along with one of his carvings and an additional Duffy carving just beneath.

The town of Ajax is named for the HMS Ajax a Royal Navy cruiser that served in World War II. Ajax is a part of the Greater Toronto Area and the Regional Municipality of Durham.. It is approximately 25 kilometers (16 mi) east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario and is bordered by the city of Pickering to the west and to the north and the Town of Whitby to the east.

Before the Second World War, the territory in which Ajax is situated was a rural part of the township of Pickering. The town itself was first established in 1941 when a Defense Industries Limited (D.I.L.) shell plant was constructed and a township grew around the plant. By 1945 the plant had filled 40 million shells; employed over 9,000 people at peak production; boasted of its own water and sewage treatment plants; a school population of over 600; 50 km (31 mi) of railroad and 50 km (31 mi) of roads. The entire D.I.L. plant site included some 12 km2 (5 sq mi). People came from all over Canada to work at D.I.L.

The burgeoning community received its name in honor of the first significant British naval victory of the war. From December 13 to December 19, 1939, a group of British warships - HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles — commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood — engaged and routed the powerful German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate, near the Uruguayan port of Montevideo in South America. Ajax was chosen as the name of this war-born community.

After the war, the University of Toronto leased much of the D.I.L. plant to house the flood of newly discharged soldiers who had enrolled as engineering students. War machines were moved out and the buildings were converted to classrooms and laboratories. By 1949, the last year of the University of Toronto, Ajax Division, some 7,000 engineering students had received their basic training there.

Now, here’s the article. I have entered the article verbiage below so you do not have to strain to read it from the pasted picture of The Commando, Ajax 1945. 

The Commando Ajax Ontario June 1945 Vol 3 No. 11

Meet Duff Tweed folks—as though most of you haven't. Duff came here with Carter-Halls back in May, 1941, as a material checker. These checkers were supposed to give the name and description of all material coming into the Plant. When Duff was stumped on some complicated piece of machinery and could not find out what it was, he would make out a very complete and accurate drawing and let it go at that. He actually became famous as the "guy who sketched out his checker's report."

In December, 1941, Duff transferred over to D.I.L. and nearly froze to death in some of the unheated buildings that housed Completed Rounds. After one winter of continuous colds, he decided there wasn't enough clothes in the world to keep him warm, so he moved into Stores Building, 2012, where at least there was some heat.

Duff was born in Medicine Hat, but after his father was killed in the last war, his mother moved them to Vancouver. From there on it's too hard to follow Duff until he landed in California where he went to school.  Prior to coming here, Duff worked in various night clubs in Canada and the United States doing caricatures of the patrons. He claimed the reason he quit this type of work was that he was going blind from the bad light and the good liquor.

Duff's real hobbies are painting and wood carving and of all things gardening, all of which he excels at. You don't have to take our word for it, just take a look at the picture and figure out how long it would take you to carve it out with a jack knife.

Post-war plans are something we all have to think about pretty soon. Duff is at present trying to obtain permission from Selective Service to return to California and turn his hobbies into a paying business.
 All the best!  -Joe

1 comment:

  1. Love the posting and all of the history. Keep it coming.