The Melnick / Melnyk Family

Chapter 6


Life was not as good as some of the stories seem to suggest. By the time a boy was fourteen years of age, and sometimes earlier, he was out working to help support the family. The girls, likewise, worked; some in factories, but mainly at home helping their mothers.

Joe Melnick first started work at fifteen year of age. In October 1926, he was hired on at the “coal bank” to trim coal. He worked six days a week and received approximately nineteen dollars pay. The following summer, Joe obtained work at the Steel Plant. Work on the coal bank was very hard and anyone who makes it through a year was considered an excellent worker; therefore, was given preference at the plant. The next winter he worked at the Rod and Bar Mill in the Steel Plant. However, pay here was less than on the coal bank because you worked seven days a week for the same nineteen dollars pay.

Within the next couple of years, Joe became employed in the Wire and Nail Mill in the plant. This was piecework, six days a week, Monday to Saturday and after deductions, Joe was now receiving thirty-six dollars a week. He remained here until the Mill was phased out in 1968-69. He then went to the Open Hearth and retired because of bad health on May 1st, 1975.

The story of Peter follows much the same patterns. His first major job was during the early 1930’s at the “Montreal Bakery” located on Tupper Street. Here, Peter worked from seven to seven six days a week, from Sunday to Friday, for four dollars a week. Peter worked here for about two years.

The depression had set in and “bread wars” were happening. Bread sold for four cents a loaf, almost half the price of 1913. The Montreal Bakery burned twice in this period. The second time, it was closed down permanently.

Peter, however, was still in luck. Within a few days he attained a job with Delvecchio’s Bakery, also on Tupper Street. Unfortunately, Peter suffered a wage cut from four dollars to three dollars and seventy-five cents a week. He asked for a raise to four dollars but Mr. Delvecchio refused, saying he could not afford it and Peter could not afford not to work.

In the spring of 1934, Peter almost lost his hand in a machine at the bakery. As a result, he was off work July and August. Peter returned to work in September and in November he received employment at the Coal Bank. He remained here for a year and on July 22nd, 1935 Peter was transferred to the Open Hearth. After a week or so on the job, he said to himself that he would not stay here too long because of the heat. While in the Open Hearth, Peter worked on practically every job – slab cutter, mill rights, pipe fitters, furnaces, then became a crane operator, the highest paid job in the plant. Forty-three years later, on May 1st, 1977, Peter took early volunteer retirement due to medical problems.

The girls in the family had somewhat of a different life. Their mother over-protected them. They were not allowed to play sports or to swim. Their place was in the home helping with the chores or working in their mother’s store, or best of all to be married.

Sonia was first married in 1937 at fifteen years of age. After only four months of marriage, she “flew the coop”. To get away from her troubles, she went to Montreal and obtained work at the Mount Royal Motel as a chambermaid. Pay was low, twenty dollars a month but room and board was free.

For a few months she drifted from job to job. Sonia’s next major employment was at Norden Aircraft in Catchaville, Quebec. Here, she worked on an assembly line. After several months work she was fired, although it was another girl’s fault. Inheriting from her mother a strong conviction for righteousness, she went to see her boss. Not only did she succeed in regaining her job back, but she also was promoted and received an increase in pay of fifteen cents an hour.

In 1942 Sonia, the oldest girl, and Mike the youngest boy took a trip to Ontario together to seek work in the tobacco harvest. Mike was hired but Sonia was not. Sonia again appealed to the boss and succeeded in gaining a job. She was such a good worker that the boss used her as a demonstrator for the proper way to pick tobacco. Both Mike and Sonia remained in Ontario until the end of the season.

For the next several years, Sonia bounced from job to job and from place to place. She came home and left several times. Finally in 1951, she met her second husband, Bill Banfield
(1), and six months later married him.

For Ann things were quite different. She worked in her mother’s store for a long period of time. She never received pay but was reimbursed through clothing. In October 1939, at the age of seventeen, she married Louis Martinello.

Webmaster's Notes:

(1) BANFIELD, WILLIAM R. - 89 May 25, 1915 -March 8, 2005 Louisburg, NS

Born May 25, 1915, in Garnish, Nfld., he was the son of the late George and Annie (Grandy) Banfield. He was a fisherman most of his life and a member of the Canadian Coast Guard. He is survived by his sister, Blanche; nephews, Steven and Bryan; nieces, Marlene and Diane Melnick; sisters-in-law, Anna Martinello and Mary Melnick. He was predeceased by his wife, the former Sonia Melnick, brother, Byron, sister, Effie.  Source . CAPE BRETON POST, MARCH 10, 2005

Copyright © 2006 Robert Stephen Melnick. All rights reserved