NOTE:  THIS story can stand alone.  One year Around 1980 a whole movie
set from the demolition of Massey Ferguson was moved to our
high school auditorium.  Play Chuck Berry’s SCHOOL DAYS while
reading below.  I mean it.  Get the recording going…


alan skeoch
March 2021

About the time the Massey Ferguson factory was being demolished, our high school, Parkdale Collegiate was a big
part of my life.   One day I brought the two together…the demolition site on King Street West and PCI on Jameson

If life is to be enjoyable then laughter is a key element.  At PCI we tried to mix the good times with the rigour of
academia.   Successfully done I feel.   

One day while rummaging through the wreckage at the Massey Ferguson factory
I noticed  a film crew doing the same thing.  Rummaging. They even made the wreckage look worse by having graffiti artists spray
symbols all over the bricks.  I think it was supposed to be the wreckage of  New  York City after some disaster.
Bottom line is that when the film was finished and the set was piled with the trash I moved in with my truck and loaded up all the discarded props  and
set material.  Garish signs with big dollops of paint over and under.  A  real mess.  Looked terrific.  Drove the stuff to Parkdale 
and staff and  student remodelled  our auditorium into a rock and roll music hall in New York City.  Some of the staff and
students were already rehearsing “School Days”,  that fever pitched song promoted by Jerry Lee Lewis I think.  No, it was Chuck Berry.
 Mary Hunter, staff member, had been a cheerleader in the past and gave leadership not that much was necessary.  The school was exploding with anticipation

Up in the mornin’ and out to school
The teacher is teachin’ the Golden Rule
American history and practical math
You study’ em hard and hopin’ to pass
Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone
And the guy behind you won’t leave you alone

Ring ring goes the bell
The cook in the lunchroom’s ready to sell
You’re lucky if you can find a seat
You’re fortunate if you have time to eat
Back in the classroom open you books
Gee but the teacher don’t know
How mean she looks

We dressed ourselves up as outlandishly as possible for our annual rock
and roll assembly.  We did this often each year but that one year was really special because the set design was
perfect.   About mid way through our preparations there was a visit by a young man.  “It’s about the movie set.”
He  had planned to pick it up as well.  In other words he knew it was junk.  But good  junk.  “Yes, come into
the auditorium and take a look.”  He was impressed.  “Do you suppose I could have the New  York subway signs
when your show is over?”   “Sure, take what you want.”   The  music  of Chuck Berry was busting up the the
speakers.   Everybody gyrating even if not on stage.   This was one grand  use for a discarded movie set.

The pictures of staff and students above and below will give you an idea.  With all he feverish energy that only
teen agers can inject.  Sorry, not true.   i meant to say all the feverish energy that only teen-agers and their teacher 
could inject.

NOTE:  This is only Part One:  The pictures are from various rock snd roll shows.  And from the Parkdale Centennial celebration.  


alan skeoch
March 15, 2021

alan skeoch
March 15, 2021

Up in the mornin’ and out to school
The teacher is teachin’ the Golden Rule
American history and practical math
You study’ em hard and hopin’ to pass
Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone
And the guy behind you won’t leave you alone

Ring ring goes the bell
The cook in the lunchroom’s ready to sell
You’re lucky if you can find a seat
You’re fortunate if you have time to eat
Back in the classroom open you books
Gee but the teacher don’t know
How mean she looks

Soon as three o’clock rolls around
You finally lay your burden down
Close up your books, get out of your seat

Down the halls and into the street
Up to the corner and ’round the bend
Right to the juke joint you go in

Drop the coin right into the slot
You gotta hear something that’s really hot

With the one you love you’re makin’ romance
All day long you been
Wantin’ to dance
Feelin’ the music from head to toe
‘Round and ’round and ’round you go

Drop the coin right into the slot
You gotta hear something that’s really hot

With the one you love you’re makin’ romance
All day long you been
Wantin’ to dance
Feelin’ the music from head to toe
‘Round and ’round and ’round you go

Hail, hail rock’n’roll
Deliver me from the days of old
Long live rock’n’roll
The beat of the drum is loud and bold
Rock rock rock’n’roll
The feelin’ is there body and soul



alan skeoch
March 2021


Most of the Massey Ferguson buildings were stripped bare.  Hundreds of machines gone God knows where.
But I found one machine that had been judged worthless and left behind for the demolition crew.
Who would possibly ever want a lever action ‘iron cutting machine’?  Obsolete remains of 19th century
manufacturing.   Who would want it?   Well, I wanted it.  Never heard of such a machine that could  cut
iron or steel just by use of he human hand and a long lever.

Extricating the machine turned out to be quite an event.  Exciting in the extreme.  Even a member
of the Toronto Police force and his cautionary black and white car with flashing lights got into 
the adventure.

This was not an easy job.  The iron worker was located on the third floor of the old paint shop building.
How the hell would I get it down to ground level.  The machine must have weighed 300 pounds or more.
This required thought.  And help.  So I called up my good friend Bill Parsons.  A man who loved
outdoor bizarre adventure.  

“Bill, can you help me move a machine out of the Massey demolition site?”
Bill Parsons already knew about my rescue missions as he had received
some of those pitch pine planks.
“Sure, When?”
“I think Sunday morning  is best.  Most people will be at church or asleep.”
“What will we need?”
“Just a  long piece of heavy rope…40 or 50 feet long.”
“Got it right here.”

The foreman and his boss found my presence amusing.  

I had already got permission … first to get the machine which was junk to him and
second to be on the demolition site on Sunday when no men would be working.

We took my truck right up to the doomed building. Climbed up the stairs to he
third  floor and then did something I should never have done.
Best understood  in numbered stages.

This was the building.  We knocked out one  of the third floor windows.

1) We used our hammers to smash the glass window and sash.  No one
seemed to have heard the glass shattering.
2) We manhandled the iron worker over to the window.
3) We tied the rope to the machine.
4) We walked the rope back to a vertical ceiling support beam.
5) Looped the rope around the beam.
6) then went back to the window and managed to lift the
iron worker onto the ledge.  It Teetered there…unstable\
7) “Now, Bill,you go back and hold the rope.   When you
are ready give me a signal.”
8) Bill signalled.  Then I pushed the Iron worker
off the smashed window ledge.  It dropped like a wrecking ball.
9) Bill took off like he had been shot from a cannon.
10) I got to the rope just in time.  We were holding
the rope … the iron worker was dangling between the second
and third floor.  Heavy…but manageable.

We looped the rope around the distant beam, then Bill held the rope while I pushed the iron worker out
the window.   That was  a deadfall drop of about five feet before the slack was taken up.  Imagine.
Dropping a 200 to 300 lump of iron in a free fall for several feet.  Bad business.  I got back
just in time.  WE stopped the drop but could not move. Then help arrived…in uniform.

About this time the police arrived.  One policeman.  He
wondered  what the hell we were doing.

11) “Glad you got here.  Grab the rope.   We can all slowly lower
the machine to the ground without smashing it.  I have permission..
take my licence…whatever you want.  But grab the rope.

And he did.   We gingerly lowered the iron worker to the ground
and tipped it into my truck.  The adventure was over.

The paint shop on the second floor should have given us second thoughts.  Looked like splattered blood.

We survived. Note to worried readers.  Do not get too agitated.  If we failed all that would happen would happen only to the iron worker…it would be
smashed below.  We had an emergency plan.
“Bill, if things go wrong, let go of the rope.”

Once loaded in the truck we felt the adventure was over.
But not quite.

“Do you fellows know why smoke is coming out of
that chimney?”  And the cop joined to the sky where the
tall chimney ended.  Sure enough…smoke.
We were not alone.

“We have no idea.”
“Well, I better check that out as well.”
“Thanks for the help officer.”
“Our motto is We Serve…or something like that.”
(I Think he thought we were a brick short of a load…nuts in other words.)

The foreman told me on Monday that some enterprising thief
had cut loose all the copper electrical wire he could  find…
a great roll was made.  Then he burned off the insulated 
covering in the furnace before getting on the King Street
car and riding to a scrap yard downtown.  He got away.

“He could have killed himself had one of the lines been alive.”

Now it is year 2021…decades later. Guess what?  I cannot find where
I put the iron worker.  Somewhere in a fence row at the farm.  Sinking.





Jackson Skeoch  and I are admiring a pile of rock shingles on a Mississauga beach
…yesterday…March  15, 2021.   We have been in isolation for a
full year now due to Covid 19.  A  good time to reflect on an event
that happened a year ago.

alan skeoch
March 2021

It took a month to put my lecture together.   The occasion was a  fund raising dinner held at the Stonehooker Brewery, Port Credit, on
Feb. 29,2020.   We had a grand time entertaining and drinking fine beer with 100 guests.  Sold out tickets.   I was the feature
speaker  who  was introduced by my wife Marjorie.  She took 20.5 minutes in her introductory remarks which were a hoot.
In the process she managed to push a wine bottle from lecture to cement floor which shattered like a hand grenade.  Shaymus
Stokes then picked up the pile while Marjorie continued with her admiration of her husband.  She had practiced the speech
for four weeks.  Why the wine bottle?  Because the label featured a wise comment by Albert Einstein.  “A mind that opens to
a new idea never returns to its original size.”  Think about that for a moment.  

Now we had allocated 45 minutes for my speech and the rest of the time for dining and sampling beer from the huge vats
surrounding our dinner tables.   Our son Andrew began tapping his watch as Marjorie spoke.   She ignored him just
as she ignored the splintered wine bottle.  Imagine the scene…Shaymus at the foot of the lectern gathering shards of glass
while Marjorie carried on without pause.  She was on a roll.   If the gods  of ancient Greece really existed then her
husband, namely me, should be placed among them.  Wow!  I know this long introduction sounds like trouble.  It was
not so because Marjorie performed with a kind of innocence few speakers are able to accomplish.

The result?  I cut my speech…less than half.   Who would listen to a Greek god?  I did  not have a
wine bottle to smash on the cement floor.  I was just a back up speaker.  Andrew tapped his watch.
If there had been a long pole with a hook it would have been used to haul me off the stage.

So a year has passed.  One of the most catastrophic years in human history.  Pandemic  … Covid 19 spread
with the speed of summer lightning.   Meetings of people in large groups has plummeted.   We had 100
people at the Stonehooker Brewery on Feb. 29,2020.  One daughter in law, Gabriela, and one grandchild
 Nolan flew over from London , England for the occasion. Other friends came from as far as  Collingwood.   We had fun.   

 Then the deadly PANDEMIC curtain came down.  We have
all been in isolation for a year.  And the isolation may continue longer.

Seems to me like a good time to send out that speech.   So here we go.

Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: speech feb .29 shingle beach at Rattray Marsh…Ordovician  
Date: March 29, 2020 at 5:11:34 PM EDT
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>

(will make you feel smaller than a grain of sand…or speck of shale)

alan skeoch
March  11, 2020

“Let’s take a walk, Marjorie,
“There is a shingle beach that fronts the Rarrray Marsh.”
“Because I am trying to get a grip on ‘time’”
‘Time cannot be held.”
“It can  in the mind…”
“Not even there.  Tine moves on…fast sometimes, slow at others.”
“Let’s just take our time and see where it leads.”

(Note, the Rarrray Marsh is one of the wonders  of the City of Mississauga,  It slumbers behind  a rock  strewn beach of Lake Ontario.  The southwest quadrant of
Mississauga…almost approachable….definitely unforgettable.)

“Wouldn’t a  sand  beach be more charming?”
“That depends upon the power of your imagination.”
“Easy to trip and fall here.”
“Right…if you do trip and fall you will find yourself among interesting company.”
“Piles of flat stones.”
“Piles of blue shale….”
“Are you trying to make these stone sound romantic?”
“Romantic?  No, these stone make me feel humble…like a speck of sand on the beach of time.”
“Carry on.”
“Do you know how old these pieces of shale are?”

“I don’t even know what shale is”
“Shale was once mud…pressed by the  weight of untold piles of mud…heavy…so much so
that this ancient mud became sedimentary rock called shale.
“Our city sits on top of this vast expanse of ancient mud…for that matter the ancient mud
once ground and dried became the cement that holds up all the buildings in Mississauga.
And for seventy years, 1850 to 1920, slabs  of this  shale were pried up by crowbars right from
the place we are standing, pried  up in great slabs, manhandled onto schooners and  sailed
to Toronto as the foundations of all the great buildings of the time.”
“Do you mean the Stonehookers?”
“Right.  Nothing quite as Romantic as those stonehooking years.”
“Unless, you actually had to do the stonehoking…it was a brutal business.
“Anybody die?”
“Many. In 1900, One of those old  stonehooking schooners, the Pinta, capsized
just offshore around here.  Young crew trying to make a few bucks before 
winter set in.  They were spotted by some men shingling a barn roof off Marigold Point.
Spotted in the November mist…then gone.  The schooner just flipped over.  Searchers
found three of the men right away.  The fourth was found  frozen under the thwarts 
of the hooking scow some days later…body frozen solid.”

The Stonehooker Lillian resting in Port Credit Harbour in 1910  (Lakeshore Road and Credit River, SE shore.)

The harbour reached its peak between 1880 and 1900 with the advent of stonehooking; one of the primary building materials for construction in Toronto was shale from the bottom of Lake Ontario. The vessels that raised this stone were called Stonehookers and a great many of them were based at Port Credit.
The trade started in the mid 1800s and lasted till about 1910 when inland quarries opened up. The peak of the trade was in 1881 when 23 stonehooking vessels operated out of Port Credit. An extensive lake fishery also operated for a time out of the Port Credit Harbour. Today the historic harbour is largely home to recreational activities.

I often think of one Port Credit lady, whose husband suddenly died.  Their only source of

income was stonehooking.   She was left alone with several young children and
a decrepit schooner bashed up by the loading and unloading of slabs of shale
from the shallow waters along Port Credit shores.  She became one of the few
female stonehookers.  Wading with her long skirts in the shallows.  Straining with
a stonehooking rake to loosen the flat slabs of shale.  Hoisting the slabs with
the help of her children into her skiff and then transferring the slabs to her schooner
anchored offshore.  Once loaded she set sail for the docks of Toronto to market
her stone slabs to builders.





alan  skeoch
March 2021

Often things are not what they seem.   A friend pointed  that out to me once in a short
comment.  “I don’t like him, I think I should get to know him better,”  that comment stuck  
in my brain.  Too easy to form snap judgments.  Get to know him better.  Get to know it better.
That simple idea Cannot be dislodged.   Of course my friend  applied it to human relations but the
comment is  bigger than that.  Often things are not what they seem to be.  Look closer.

As  the Massey Ferguson plant was tumbling around me I came upon a very unusual thing in
the basement of a building about to be pushed down.  The basement had flooded but there
were stepping stones here and there as the water was only two or three inches deep.  So
exploration was possible.   Getting wet feet was to be avoided since most of my days
were spent teaching history at Parkdale Collegiate.  Sloshing around in school was not something
I wished to do.

Those stepping stones allowed me to hop scotch my way through this doomed cellar 
to a distant stairway exit. I  was glad those stones were there.  Lots of them.
Big blocks of wood or stone.  Spongy!  Must be wood.

What the hell are these things.  Mushy.  So I stopped and pulled one of the blocks
out of the black water.   Lo and behold….it was a book.  A book so large that it
was thought to be a construction block…perhaps stone at first…then wood…and
finally paper.

In the darkness  I was unsure about the soggy thing.  Was  it important or some convoluted
legal tome of no interest at sll.    So I carried the sodden mass up the stairwell to the daylight.
Flipped it open.  Looked at the heading.   I was holding  The Canadian Patent Record volume
dated January 31, 1909.   The Patent Record! Incredible.  The blocks in the sodden  basement
were these records.   

How did this happened.  it seemed to me that Patent records were important documents.  Yet
in the haste to vacate these books had been discarded and used as stepping stones
by others who had explored this basement before me.  Time was critical. The excavators
with their huge mouths were chewing at the building already.   My rescue was limited to
this one book.

What to do with it was never resolved.   I still have the book.  Is it important to an
archivist?   The last page number is 1,625.   Huge .  And there is an index.   Wonder if
I can find any  Massey patents?   

In a random search…i.e. opening the book in a totally random fashion I notice patents
for railway track ‘fish plates’ and wooden handles for paint brushes.   Patents for
railway spikes and a farm implement to remove Twitch grass  from hay fields.

THIS book is big….1,615 pages of patented inventions…perhaps  more than
5,000  inventions many of which pertained to the improvement of agricultural
machines.   All neatly indesied by subject and also by  inventor.


Again my random search proved interesting.  Here was  a patent for a Disc Plow.  I happened to purchase
an ancient disc  plow at a farm sale a few years  ago and it rests comfortably beside a wild apple tree where
once my grandfather’s barn once stood.   Patent Number 118,406 by John Lavery,  WAUBRA, Victoria, Australia,
on May  18, 1909.  Filed April 17th, 1909.  followed by a description of the disc plow.


Water was seeping into the buildings…never very deep but deep enough
to destroy any paper records left behind and strewn about.  It was only pure chance
that I stepped  on the Patent Record book in the darkness.  The daylight picture
above was taken in another building.

 Eventually the scene around the Massey plant looked
like Berlin in 1945 after a bombing raid.


IF I put the book back in our cellar where it is at least dry then it will just disappear.  Is it important enough for
an archivist?    There are so many patents  described that it would take a month or more for some brave soul
to put the book in digital form.  Just think of a book with 1,615 pages illustrating as many as 3 or 4 patients per
page.   4 x 1,615 = 6,700 patents, likely more.

Maybe i am the only person that gives  a sweet damn about the book.  And  all I did was randomly turn
a few of the 1,615 pages.   Likely doomed.




alan skeoch
March 2021



Why was I so interested in those line shafts hat were being ripped from the ceiling of the Massey factories in 1980?
 A legitimate  question.  I ask myself the same question once 
in a while.  Why would anyone want ro spend
days and weeks high on ladders unbolting ancient wooden laminated pulleys that would never be  used again.
The answer?  My  dad was a factory worker…a tire builder.   He spent much of his working life beside the swift moving belts
that ran from line shafts in factories  across the industrialized world.  He did not make farm machines.  He made rubber tires.
  Rubber tires made for the passenger cars of the 1920’s.   He  was a very tough
man…a proud tire builder…member of a skilled trade. 

Natural  rubber was needed big time.  It still is needed…both an aural and vulcanized rubber.  From the Amazon rain forest came this peculiar gum upon which great swaths
of human society would ride.   Rubber tires,  initially solid rubber then the pneumatic tires..  The story of rubber 
is too large for this sidebar….suffice it to say that rubber tires in the 1920’s had replaced Iron and wooden wheels on farm machines
as well as trucks and  automobiles.   Today rubber is taken for granted…not talked about but it is worth 
remembering that those huge four engined  jet passenger planes could not take off or land without rubber…natural rubber.

Dad never said much about his work when we were little kids.   When asked, however, he did say
a few things about the line shafts on which all manufacturing depended.  

“Were those line shafts dangerous, Dad?”

“Bloody  right they were dangerous.  Do you really want to know?”

  Around 1919,  After dad got back  to Ontario from a winter on the prairies living and bedding
down 16 horses in a barn…no farm house, no people, jus 16 horses…after that experience…dad welcomed the switch  from a rural to
an urban life.   The motor industry was booming.  Cars and trucks needed  pneumatic rubber tires
so dad became a tire builder.

“What did those factories look like, dad”

“Our factory in Guelph was powered by belts running off a line shaft.”
“Line shaft?”
“A long piece of thick rounded steel rod with pulleys of various sizes bolted to the rod.”
…and  the rod revolved via a belt looped around an electric motor…or a seam engine in early factories.  Bloody dangerous.”
“I saw a young man killed on a line shaft.  It was not pretty.”
“In order to shut a machine down there were two choices.  First
choice was  to turn the motor off but then all machines would
shut down because the whole line shaft would not be moving.
Companies did not like that.”
“So, what was the second  choice.”
“Just shut one machine down;””
“There was usually an  idling pulley right beside the drive pulley. If
the belt could be edged over to the idling pulley then just that machine
shut down.  Often there was a lever that could gently move the big belt
from drive to idling.  I am not sure why the guy decided to push the
belt by hand.  No one knew why he did that.  In an instant his arm slipped into the
drive pulley and his body was wrenched up and around the line shaft.  By the
time the motor was shut down he was dead  as  a doornail with some body parts

Now was that story true?  Had my mind magnified the story?  Never totally sure so I looked up lineshaft accidents
on the internet.  Seems that many workers got their body parts severed on revolving
pulleys attached to line shafts.   Do so yourself.

Dad did not stop there.  He had  a more chilling story about a new employee
at Dunlop Tires Corporation … I think the Whitby plant.

“Some guy took a short cut across the rubber rolling machine…he came
out the other side flat as a goddamn pancake.”

A much shorter story that may or may not be true.  I believe it.  The week dad retired
Eric and I asked if we could visit the factory. We wanted to see how dad spent his working life.
We got the royal treatment from the
executives and the foreman.  Dad was busy making truck tire.  Seemed a little odd  for Eric  and I to be escorted 
around the White plant while our father was slapping heavy belts of rubber…vulcanized rubber.. onto a
spinning machine then carving the rubber into a tire.   Dad was always in good shape physically
because tire building needed strong men..  He grinned at us as we passed his  work station.
His clothing was spartan…a sleeveless T shirt and belted  work pans.  Nothing for the
spinning machine to grab.  No jewelry.  

 If I remember correctly we also passed by the long
rubber rolling machine.   We did not take that short cut that made pancakes our of
rubber workers.  Dad did not want Eric  or me to become tire builders.  Why?  Take a  guess.

An artist’s sketch illustrating a line shaft powering many machines

A more complicated line shaft powering real wood working machines.

Some line shafts  in the Massey Ferguson factory.   Awaiting rescue.   These I was able to reach using a step ladder.  Shaky job but
I had no worries.  Superman.

Now these beauties were another matter…they were 20 feet in the air.  Impossible to reach.  Well…not quite…!

IN the back of my mind were the stories dad mentioned so casually about those early line
shafts.   Wouldn’t these things be needed for horror moves?

Note the bolts.   Once removed carefully the pulleys spill into two parts which I then revolted back together.   

Most of the time I was absolutely alone in a building that had not been touched by the wrecking ball.  The  wrecking was going on
in other Massey buildings.  Where I worked there was no one around. Some buildings I could even drive my
truck into for fast loading.  Some of these pulleys were so big that even when bolts removed the two halves were a bit of a problem getting from
the ceiling to the floor and then into the back of my truck.   Wouldn’t the big pulleys be grand  show pieces for a movie.  I felt elated by both 
the challenge of  recovery snd the prospect of a bit of profit.

You can get some idea of just how high the line shafts were in this factory room.  So high up as to be invisible.   Then I fount the gantry.  
(Unsure if this is he right word…gantry)

Yet the real beauties (if a mineshaft pulley can be  called a beauty)…yet those grand pulleys were way beyond reach.  Twenty feet up.  So I wrote them
off.  Then by a quirk  of fate I discovered an abandoned gantry on wheels….  A set of movable stirs with a small platform at the top…on
wheels the size of dinner plates.  So for two or three visits to the factory i was high up in the air liberating some grand pulleys.  They were oily and
dusty…messy job…  have time to wash at school before class.

In the end I managed to get about 30 or 40 of these pulleys.  

Guess how  many have been used  on movies sets between 1980 snd 2020?    You got it.  None.  Not one goddamn pulley.   There was joy in the getting.
That was good enough for me.  


DAD   and his fellow retired rubber workers  met annually at the Royal York Hotel.



alan skeoch
March 2021

THE demolition of the Massey-Harris — Massey-Ferguson Toronto factory was not an easy one day
job.  It took months.  The factory sprawled  along King Street … many old red brick buildings blackened
by time and the soot of passing coal fired locomotives.  Most of the buildings were utilitarian in design…boxy,
three stories high, loading ramps.  Unchanged and no doubt inefficient.  After saying all that, I loved
them because  I felt close to the Massey family who contributed much to early Toronto after moving their tiny Newcastle factory 
to Toronto.  Thousands of Torontonians eventually worked for the Masseys.   Their company in the late 19th
and early 20th century was exporting farm machines all over the world.

For a short few months in the 1980’s I even owned a Massey Harris 44 tractor.  Bought it for $500 at a  farm sale
North west of Erin and drove it to our farm.  That was a great joy…the trip on the big red machine which was
by 1980 long past its glory days.  A drag tractor.  No hydraulics.  As obsolete as the Dodo.  “Nice tires, must
be a good machine…new paint…new Massey Harris  logo.”  I was fooled by appearance. The tractor had
wheel baring problems, ignition problems which  were bad enough but the big problem was the turning 
radius.  Our farm is small with many obstructions.  Just to turn the Massey 44 around involved forward, then
reverse, then forward, then reverse.

So I drove it down to Sherwood Hume’s farm auction and Sherwood nearly got me my money back.  Maybe
lost a hundred dollars but that was not a loss because I had the joy of the overland trip to the farm
on the summer day when first purchased.  Worth a $100 loss.

The Massey Harris machines had  a  good market in the British empire hence
my colonial helmet above.  They also had a good market as  far away as Russia.
But by 1980 the market had shrunk and the machines made in Toronto struggled to 
compete with John Deere and International Harvester.   By 1980 not much
was being made in those Toronto factories.   

So the wreckers were called and arrived with their wrecking tools like the one
pictured below. Small tool.

The teeth of this Excavator could chew the Massey factory into tiny bits of scrap’…
bricks, beams, and line shafts.

Line shafts?  What in hell’s half acre is a line shaft, some readers might ask?
Take a gander below.  A line shaft is a long iron cylinder with a series of pulleys
of various sizes.  The big pulley…the drive pulley…I call it the bull wheel…was
pictured in Episode 274.   A huge wheel that was once the pinnacle of industrial 

Memorize this line shaft.  It is part of my story.  It took me several weeks to have
the courage to remove these pulleys because they were so high above the floor.

“Do you mean, Alan, that you removed all these pulleys?”
“Hard to believe, I know.”
“Why would you do that…sounds  insane?”
“Long story … which is why I am sending this Episode.” (#279)

Most of the Massey buildings featured post and beam construction.  Hundreds of
white pine pillars painted factory green and bashed all to hell by hand carts carrying
cast iron pieces.

Eventually the factory building  became a jumble of mixed parentage as shown above.

I got in the habit of dropping into the demolition site daily between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
before going to my teaching job at Parkdale Collegiate nearby.  At first I just watched
and took pictures.  The demolition crew got used to seeing me and began to accept
me as part of the demolition project.   Nice fellows.  They could have told me to bugger off
but did not do that.

Then  one day a whole caravan of trucks and  trailer arrived. Painters,  carpenters,
set dressers, actors,  directors, even a movable cafeteria.   Now why would that happen?
The answer was  simple.  Movie makers like demolition sites for certain movies.
Old  demolition sites are really good for the making of period movies  In this 
case it seemed to be a special 19th century set that was  desired.

Something clicked in my head.  Maybe the Massey factory could have another life.
If the movie people like this stuff so much then maybe I can help them out…for
a price.   Just suppose I start to rescue bits an pieces of 19th century technology.
And let the movie people know what I have rescued.  Future movies may want
me as much as a bear wants honey.

Where should I start?

“First thing,” said the foreman, “you must have a hard hat…not white one
because white hats are for the big shots…and you need  steel toed boots
then there will be no problem.”

Then, where should I start, I thought.  The answer came quick enough.
Start with the line shafts.  Remember what your dad said about those
line shafts  when he first started work back in the 1920’s making pneumatic
tires for the car industry?   Remember how a couple of guys  died
on those line shafts.   That is  where to start.  Puts a little tension in the job.
Danger stuff.   Like any good  story.


alan skeoch
arch 2021


THINKING BACK on those days at the Massey Factory I have one regret.
Regret?   Yes.  I should have got all the fellows and girls I worked with…the
teachers at Parkdale C.I…should have got them down to help me with
the line shafts.  Regret that I was so selfish keeping all the adventures to

NOTE the hole in the brick wall, three stories up.  That hole and
the window beside it will have future meaning.

I know some of my staff members are missing here…sorry about that.



alan skeoch
March 2021

The new series  of stories is titled DEMOLITION….tales told

from demolition sites.

-probably 6 to 10 stories beginning with the demolition of
the Massey Harris – Massey Ferguson site which  stretched
along King Street West for several city blocks.  Many buildings
to be toppled.  Seemed such a waste that i could not resist
the temptation to save what was retrievable.  Luckily I was able
to take care and that made penetration of the site possible.
What was necessary?   First I got a good reddish hard helmet. Then
some old steel toed boots.  Absolutely necessary.  Then I made
lots of friends with the demolition crew…assured them I would
be careful.  Got permission for everything I did.  Even though
some of the rescue efforts may have seemed dangerous the only
real tricky one was the rescue of the cast iron and steel iron
working machine.  Thankfully a police car arrived on the designated
Sunday morning making possible theextrication of the machine from the third floor
of a factory to my truck far below.   The policeman and Bill
Parsons helped.  Wow, Did Bill ever help.  Sadly I cannot find the machine at our farm…must
have gone to scrap.  Too big…too heavy.

-The Massey family were the largest employers of Torontonians
at one time and their bright red machines were shipped around
the world.  So the demolition was a sad affair.  

-Efforts to dedicate the great bull wheel as a memorial to working
class history failed as told in the first Episode 272, already told.

-Hook a chain to that beam…wooden beam made of Southern Pitch Pine…terrific
grain once put through John Calder’s saw mill.  Must get it out.  Hook chain to the
trailer ball on back of my truck.  Move ahead slowly.  Watch out for spikes on the
ground.  The rescue could be done.  Truth be told I never waded into a pile of
twisted steel and fractured wood like this.  Way too dangerous. But I did rescue a number of those
wood beams before they headed to a dump site.  Later some really enterprising
person did the same thing using huge trucks.  Much had been lost by then.
My truck was small, a panel van,
but had the advantage of being brown and bashed up a bit.   It fitted into
the decor of the site.

-The presence of a movie crew at one point lit a light bulb in my head.
‘Al, this  stuff could be the start of a new business.’




alan skeoch

OUR son Andrew is a good man with machines.  Too bad his father
is not that good.  We loaded one of our  tractors and a thresher for a movie
set.  Hired a flat bed truck…became a nightmare…one misstep and
all could have upset with dead consequences.  There turned out to
be an easier way for next time.

This loading series of pictures was taken two or three years ago when my
old W6 tractor was working spasmodically.  Now it just sits there in
the field while the thresher is half hidden on a hill for he raccoons to
find as a home.  

The easier loading method is to drive the tractor into a metal bin on the ground
chain it down…use the truck with a hook to lift everything as if it is a big bin
full of trash.  No human need
be in danger.

EPISODE 273 FREEMAN FARM 1914 TO 1930: harsh reality



alan skeoch
March 2021

Edward Freeman, my grandfather, bought a 25 acre farm midway between Acton and Erin, Ontario as
the crow flies.  Seems about all he could afford having been burned out of his home at Krugerdorf
in Northern Ontario.  He never expected the farm to make an income.  It was  a place for subsistence 
living in the country.  Away from the industrial city air that had affected Frank’s lungs. (son).

Edward  got work in the munitions industry which was gearing up big time as the war in Europe blossomed
into a  stalemate of trench warfare and artillery duelling.

We still own that 25 acre farm. (2021) but it does not look much like the farm granddad bought
in 1914.  Today it is dressed in green…forested.  And the swamps  that granddad tried to drain have
been dammed into little lakes…four of them. The house looks the same but it has been changed
totally on the inside…gutted.  Open plan now while in 1914 the main floor had six rooms.  The old
dirt floor cellar is now cement floored with a propane furnace that provides central heating at great
expense. In 1914 the only winter heat came from a big wood stove in the front room kitchen…a room
that also served as a dining room, living room and entertainment centre.  The rest of the house was
an icebox in winter with icicles hanging from the doorframe and window ledges.

Certainly not unique.  All the houses were heated by wood stoves and every farm family
lived in the only room with a wood stove…the kitchen.   If I mentioned the term ‘indoor plumbing’
to a Canadian  farmer between 1914 and 1924 he or she would be puzzled.  There was no indoor 
plumbing.   There was a back house of course.  A little building with a slab of smooth pine from which
a circular piece of wood had been removed. 

 The farm stayed like this until 1990 or so when 
we were robbed big time and had to make a major decision.  Should  we restore the farm house
or sell the farm.  We restored the farm house.  if I met the thief who stole the good furniture I  would
shake his hand.  He helped us rather than hurt us.

Where am I going with this story?   By pure chance I came across  some photographs taken
by granddad or by my mom capturing the look of the farm between 1914 and 1930.  Compare
them with the photographs taken today…a century later.   

Edward  Freeman and his daughter Elsie proudly standing in from of their newly purchased house in 1914 on the Fifth Line, 
Erin Township, Wellington County.

The person who built this barn thought he was wise.  There is a steady flow of water that goes through the barn which means 
watering the livestock will be easy.   True.  But it also led to the death of the barn from 80 years of freezing and thawing.  The barn
collapsed about 1957.   Today this location is verdant with trees and shrubs and he stream empties into a large pond in
the foreground.  

Louisa (Bufton) Freeman around 1916 or so.  Damn good looking woman.  I never knew her
in 1916 because i was not born until 1938.  By that time she had advanced Parkinson’s disease. Her
hands always shook. Her writing was wiggly.  Yet she persisted.  IN the late 1950’s when
I worked in the far reaches of northern Canada,  Grandmother wrote to me often.  Her writing was painful
and awkward but steadfastly done.  She was Gentle and Tough at the same time. When she died
she said, “Boys, I give you Scottie, please care for him.”  Scottie was a scotch terrier. Marjorie remembers
that he growled when she tried to kiss me in our car in 1959.  Protecting me.

Two calves being fed skim milk maybe. The rich cream was skimmed off for human use…butter.   Since there were two calves
in 1916 they must have been at least two cows.  Mom spoke of one cow in 1914.  How does a farmer with two cows ensure those
cows get pregnant?  No bull.   Often farmers took their cows…walked them…to meet a bull kept by a wealthier farmer.  There must
have been a cost.  Not sure how much.  Later , much later, in the 1950s my cousin Ted Freeman became an A.I. man.  Artificial 
Insemination.  Ted would go from farm to farm carrying his vials of bull sperm to be hand delivered to a cow from the rear.  Amusing
to watch.   Ted often carried a short length of 2 x 4 in his spare hand. Why?   “Because some farms had dogs ready
to bite strangers.  I cooled them off with a good swipe of my 2 x 4”

One of the greatest jokes I have ever heard was told by my aunt Lucinda…told in the 1950’s. Must be shared.

“Dear, I must work in back field today. The A.I. man is coming. Tell him
to service the second cow in the third row in the stable. There is a big
nail in the beam above.”
(His wife came from the city…new wife…not worldly wise)
“Where is the cow?” asked the A.I. man.
“In the stable…third row…there’s a big nail in the beam above.”
“What is the nail for?” 
“I do not know.  Probably to hang your pants.”

I will always laugh at that joke. Earthy.  i laugh because I can hear my Aunt Lucinda telling 
the joke over and over.  At their golden wedding party at the church in Acton, I reminded
Lucinda of her joke.  So she told it again.  In spite  of church crowd or maybe because of
the church crowd.  Her laughter will never be lost.

Mom, Elsie Freeman, wearing her farm clothes…baggy, oversized. torn…not clothes meant for Vogue magazine.
Punch…the pit bull…seems well fed.  He was loved…never used as  a fighting dog.

Aunt Annie feeding the chickens.

Frank Freeman at his farm just a hop, step and jump up the road.

Granddad was proud of his team…just purchased around 1914 or so.  These are old horses…

THE BINDER: These were years when grain was  cut and bound into sheaves which  were side delivered for field labourers like Eric and me.  The stukes
had to be set vertically so the sun could dry them in preparation for threshing.   Every task on the farm involved heavy human labour reduced
somewhat by horses.

Edward  Freeman persuaded his sister Annie to migrate to Canada along with two of his brothers, Cliff and Chris.  He wanted 
all  nine to come including his mother.  But he did not want his father, a miserable abusive alcoholic.   I never met Uncle Charlie. Look at
the field.  Tho whitish thing are stones.  The best crop was stone.  A new crop came up every year and had to be picked and hauled
to the fence rows with horse and stone ‘boat’…i.e. a wood or iron slap with slightly up turned front.   Now in the year 2021 stones
remain our best crop.

I remember when Aunt Annie died.  She was living with us in our rented rooms at 19 Sylvan Avenue.  Mom said. “Boys, aunt
Annie would like to see you today…to talk to to you…she has something for each of you.”
Such a sad room.  She was in bed…dying of cancer.  I barely remember her but I still have her gift.
“Alan, I would like to give you this little piggy bank that I brought from England.”
“And Eric, here is little tinware globe of the world.”  Aunt Annie had so little…all in one suitcase.
Aunt Annie died shortly thereafter.  I never really knew her but still have the piggy bank.

Bleak House and barn…March 1916.   

Granddad, Frank and Uncle Charlie are resting on a pile of new mown hay.  Each year they could only keep enough animals
that this hay could feed.  The barn was small.  In 1916 the Freemans had one or two cows, a team of horses, a flock of
chickens, and maybe a big fat sow (but I never heard they kept pigs)    Getting by was difficult.  Work at some place off the
farm was a necessity.

This  picture was taken in 1916. Two years after the Freeman farm was purchased.  The land was cleared.  Few trees….more sunshine…better chance
of something marketable.   How to keep the house warm? See the pile of tree trunks all of which had to be hand sawn into blocks unless Angus 
McEchern  came by with his tractor and circlular saw.  The need for wood fuel kept farmers clearing land whether they liked it or not.
This farm in 1916 … winter …looks dreary.   The front door had so man cracks that snow piled up inside the house.  The only
livable winer room was the front right kitchen.   Under the kitchen was a dirt floor cellar that smelled  of aging potatoes and sour milk.

Somehow Uncle Frank was able to purchase a car in 1922.   How could he do that when his farm only had about 60 acres tillable.?
Frank and Lucinda certainly did not go to town for Coffee, chips and a Big Mac.

Keeping the Freeman farm neat and tidy was not easy.  Just cutting the grass with a push
mower would take hours and if the grass got ahead of the mower…i.e. got long…then forget
about the mower…get the scythe.

Grandmoher Louise (Bufton) Freeman in her Sunday best.  Ed must have been a family friend.
The Freemans had lots of friends…because they were so musical and welcoming I believe.
They were surrounded  by Scottish immigrants who had arrived in the 1840’s, many of whom were childless so
Elsie and Frank were warmly received after the Scots got over their anti-English prejudices;
And decades later, in the 1940’s and 1950’s my brother Eric and I were also warmly received
by the Macdonalds, McLeans, McEcherns, Kerrs.  Today only the Kerrs remain.  And the
Skeochs (our family) now own the McLean farm.   Cousin Ted Freeman and Shirley still own their

DIGRESS HERE:   Why so few farmers today?…3 to 4% of Canadians. Most of the land on the Fifth line is now tilled and harvested by the Anthony Brothers’
who rent several thousand acres which were once individual 100 acre farms.  They pay $90 an
acre which is market value.   If a 100 acre farm is 80% cleared then the yearly income would
be  $90 x 80 acres which equals $7,200.00.  If a new John Deere tractor costs $100,000 then
tell me how quickly a farmer would go bankrupt.  Those big combine harvesters must cost
$150,000 or more.  How many of those could a farmer buy with his or her $7,200.00?
What about food? A car? Kids  education? Copies of Playboy Magazine (if they sell exist)?
Now that is  ‘tough sledding’…better to sell  the farm and get the hell to a better place.

This picture was taken from the air by an enterprising photographer who photographed farms for a living.  Used  an old WW One biplane likely
…could fly low enough and slow enough to capture the Freeman farm around 1930 or later.  Big changes.  Compare this picture with
early pictures in 1914 and 1916…see the impact Granddad had on the property.  House enclosed by a manicured cedar hedge.  Huge berry
patch,  apple trees, weed free garden freshly plowed  and  harrowed…the stony ground is obvious.    The big white pine tree still remains
…much larger and much stressed as it was struck by lightning big time in the 1940’s.  The lightning bolt followed the telephone line
into the house but did  not set it afire. Note the lone telephone pole beside the big white pine. Granddad made the Freeman farm look a neat and manicured as the Eywood Estate had been
back in England.   He was, after all, a ‘head gardener’.   What is missing?  Electricity.  House wired around 1950. How is the house roofed?  Cedar shingles.  How
is it heated?  Wood  stoves…three chimneys.  Where is the back house?  Hidden in a lilac bush at back of the house.  Later this became
the site of a grand  walnut tree which still exists. Grandma claimed I planted the walnut beside the back house around 1945.  I doubt that.
Fencing was always a problem.  Split rail cedar fence rails surround he farm aligned as straight as a Temperance persons mind.

Every farm had at least one team of horses along with a buggy and  set of bob sleighs.   This team seems to be old…has seen better
years…so was likely purchased as such. The fate of one of these horses is recorded below when Elsie headed for a job in the big city.

Frank Freeman, mom’s brother, wearing his best clothes.  Late 1920’s I estimate.  Uncle Frank became a major part of
our lives as did his wife Lucinda whose laughter still rings in my memory.  They were great church goers…United Church
members after church union of Presbyterians and Methodists.  Grandma  and grandma were Anglicans but church  was never
as big a part fo their lives as it became for Frank.  

One of the great mysteries happened in the decade of the 1920’s.  Granddad managed to buy the Maud farm…north of our farm.  How he did this
I have no idea.  Perhaps Mom provided some cash as the 1920’s were boom years for sweatshop workers  in the ‘needle trades’.  Maybe granddad saved
 money earned making munitions.   The Maud farm was no hell as a farm…too many hills and swamps…too little good soil…but it
was a real farm of 100 acres.   In the picture above Frank and neighbours are building a second barn for hogs
underneath and machinery above.   Uncle Frank and Aunt Lucinda moved here and farmed  the land for the rest of their lives.  How they
managed to make a living selling shotgun cans of cream I will never understand (but try to understand  with the help of 
their son Teddy, my cousin, who now lives on that farm in happy retirement with his wife Shirley (Awrey) Freeman.

MOM, Elsie Freeman, helped run the farm with Frank and Grandma during the war years but by 1920 she decided to leave the farm
to see if she could help out more by being a ‘domestic’ in Toronto Rosedale.  Terrible job.  She hated the person she worked for and
quit…homesick and disillusioned…returned to the farm for short time.  The ‘domestic’ that replaced her, a young Scottish immigrant,
had no such  escape so committed suicide by jumping from third floor window.  Mom had the guts to know when an employer was
lousy for the rest of her life.  

Her trip to catch the train in Acton in 1920 was a warning if you will.  Partway to town the horse died in the shafts. Granddad had 
to borrow another horse then get Elsie to town in time for the train.  And then the dirty part.  He had to return to the skin the dead
horse and arrange to bury the body or find someone who wanted dog food.   Could you do that?   All of us can do unpleasant things
when there is no alternative.  I believe that.

Grandma and granddad as I knew them.  They were contented in their lives.   That is apparent in their faces.