Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Balonie goes to the big city

I was going to, at some point take the internet back to my younger years, yes, the 60's & 70's., when everyone was making love in the streets, wearing flowers in their hair, thumbing their noses at the establishment, and doing acid. Except me.

I arrived on the scene in 1965, just fresh out of the country, when I moved to Winnipeg from the small town of Altona, and took up residence with my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins. My parents thought I would be safe with them. I was for awhile. I got a job in a candy factory downtown, called Paulin Chambers. I was pretty excited to have this job, because they made the best candy bar a "Cuban Lunch"!! This was the job of my dreams coming out of high school. God..help me. Have you ever worked in a factory?..

I didn't think so.

My first day at work started out this way. I came to work in my best attire, completed the paper work, and then got introduced to the "forelady"...well fuckaduck..she was a "big lean kid eating machine".. no nonsense 6 foot tall muther. She was one scary bitch. Before she took me on a tour of the facility, she threw a hair net in my face, and said to wear it at all times, or her wrath would not be something I would want to endure. Okay then, I was still thinking, she is just having a bad day, and nothing was more important to me than to get to the the "Cuban Lunch" machine, I needed to see it, because our family had been eating them for years, and I had boasted to my parents on the phone.........I AM WORKING AT THE CUBAN LUNCH PLACE!!.. they cheered for me. I was going to make it in life. I had my dream job.

Ms.Forelady took me over to a very large room with 10-15 conveyor belts running with chocolate stuff coming down it in droves.. all that chocolate in one place!!

..had I died and gone to heaven?

Who needs university I chortled. And you will believe what happened next, even though they made so many different chocolate products, they put ME, on the CUBAN LUNCH line. Lady luck was smiling on me. (Cuban Lunch was a square piece of chocolate with nuts).. it was special...see recipe at the end of post.

It truly was a dream come true.

I could just see my parents crying, clapping and yelling, telling all the neighbor's about their daughter who had moved to Winnipeg, got a job, and was now in charge of CUBAN LUNCHES.

There were a few things I didn't quite understand when I first started assembly line work. #1. You have to keep up to the stuff that's coming down the belt. #2. You don't get to eat any of it #3. If you don't keep up, you are fired. Oops.

They don't care if you are tired, or if your feet hurt, or if there is a mouse or two running around...just keep on wrapping those CUBAN LUNCHES.. We had to GRAB them as they came down the line and put them in a brown paper "crinkly" cup and then let them go on to the packaging section. We also had to look for broken ones and make sure they didn't get into the system. Sometimes they were still warm when I was handling them..oh my!!

I must have passed my probationary period, because in a few weeks I was transferred to the packaging section. This was a hard job. The machine would package them, and then you had to box them up, as fast as they were coming down off the machine. It was faster than a speeding bullet, I shit you not. After that, you had to lift the boxes on big pallets for shipping. There was no let up, from 7:30AM - 5:00PM with 1/2 hour break for lunch and two 15 minutes breaks one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It was hell. But I determined, all because of those Cuban Lunches.

I kept on going, because if I would do well on this shift, I would be promoted to the line that made actual boxes of chocolates...YES, boxes of chocolate for Valentines day. These chocolates would come down the line in all different sizes and shapes and you were expected to put each different sized chocolate in the right position in the box or they wouldn't fit. The red foil one had to be in the centre, and the rest in position all around it, with there little brown crinkly wrappers. "Halp"..and you had to scoop em fast or they would be lost down the line and somebody would know you screwed up.........fart...I was the worst chocolate putter-in-a box person there. I could not do it fast enough, and judge the shapes. I faked it for about an hour, and they caught me because I couldn't fit the lid on the box after I had stuffed it full of chocolates. They gave me another chance on a slower line, but I was not co-oridinated enough to make them all fit in the box correctly.

Back to the CUBAN LUNCH line. Eventually after about two months, I strained my neck while packaging. It was so sore, I could hardly move my head. I applied way to much liniment on my neck and burned it. I had a red mark on it for months.

The dream was starting to fade.

I also didn't want to live at my Aunt and Uncle's anymore either. It was a little smothering for a big city gal like me. I wanted some action...do my own thing..get my own place..ya know the drill. My girlfriend lived in a rooming house off Broadway and there was a vacant room for rent in the building. I grabbed it. I loved that old house. It was an old mansion, and it still had a beautiful historical look about it. When you came in the front door a huge dark paneled foyer greeted you, and were led to a huge oak spiraling staircase. It was so highly polished you could have used it for a mirror. The wall leading upstairs were filled with pictures from years ago. It was like walking into a time warp. Our landlady was a very old lady. She sort of took care of us kids that came in from the country looking for work(trouble). I lived on the third floor. The kitchen facilities were in the basement. Yes, 4 floors down. There was a small fridge, table, chairs and cupboards for our stuff. Each of us had a little compartment with our names and room number on it. Nobody stole each others stuff most of the time (except if you had butter)..that seemed to disappear pretty quick. There was one lady that lived there that was a real character. She would always be talking to herself. I always thought she was talking to me, and when I would answer something she was saying..she would yell "who you talking to?" oooohhkay.. We mostly stayed out of her way. If you wanted to make a cuppa tea, you had to go downstairs and carry it back up to your room 4 flights up. Usually there was no tea left in the cup by that time...All this for $30.00 a month!!

As time went on, I was getting really homesick, even though my friend lived in the house and Gord was now living in the city. I missed my family and my dog so much. Then one day I was in the drugstore looking for a new paperback to read, and I found a book called "Lady Chatterleys Lover"....well holeee shit... 60's porn. I didn't come out of my room for a week and read the book 547 times!! What a little smut face I was. It took the edge of my loneliness!!

After about three months I quit my job at the Cuban Lunch factory. If this was what work was going to be about, I wanted no part of it. It was way to hard, and I was such a delicate little thing. I found a job in another factory, this time in a garment factory. Yes, folks I worked in the garment trade for a full two years before I finally went back to school and found a office job. When I worked at the garment factory, I was trained to sew the fly in men's pants. You know that J type stitch in front of your jeans that holds the zipper in. Yes, and I was good at it. I even qualified to go on "piece work" because I was so fast. I was happy, because I was finally good at something. To hell with stuffing chocolates in a box, I have a career opportunity of a life time, stitching men's fly's. I was called the fly lady. The factory I was working in was a melting pot of different nationalities, Italians, Greeks, Mennonites, etc. more Italians..most of them just off the boat. The ladies couldn't speak English, which made it hard to make friends with them, well, actually you didn't want to make friends with them, because they did not know the meaning of deodorant. Lordluvaduck...you didn't want to come near most of them on a humid day. And rude!? I would be standing at the bus stop going home from work, in a queue with other people, and these ladies would literally push you down out on the street, and yell at you for being in their way!!! I was scart of them. They were all BIG with moustaches. We didn't mess with them, because their whole family worked there in the factory in one capacity or another. We snickered at them from afar.

I moved out of the rooming house a year later when I hooked up with two other girls who had just moved to Winnipeg, and we rented a 1 bedroom apartment. Yes, three 20 year old girls in a one bedroom apartment..you heard right. IT WAS PARTY TIME. Our apartment was right beside a bar on Osborne Street. We weren't old enough to go into the bar, but we knew the bouncer, who just happened to come from our town back home. He was became our personal bootlegger. God love him.

A year later we all turned 21 and we never left the bar until we turned 25. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Around this time I tried to be hippy. I wasn't very good at it. Sure, I had the bell bottoms, tie dye shirts, said "groovy" every ten minutes, and was making love - not war...but I was a phony balonie. I tried the drugs (but wouldn't inhale), tried listening to loud music(put my fingers in my ears) etc., but the Mennonite little girl never really left me, I knew it was shit ...but I SO wanted to fit in. And I made an ass of myself trying.

I must have moved 15 times from the time I got to the city until I settled down. I always had room-mates, sometimes we would even have four people in a one bedroom apartment. We got kicked out a few, because of party's etc...we were bad news, the whole bunch of us. Eventually the old crowd started to get married and having kids etc. and we starting drifting apart. Finally around the age of 27, I had enough, got offered a great new job, got my own apartment, and a year later Gord and I got married. Poof

There was tons of stuff in between, but the internet isn't long enough for that.

My next tale, will be the "Adventures of balonie & Gord" when they got married and didn't have a clue. Coming soon to my blog.

Donna Peck-Harland, Kirkfield Park United, Winnipeg

2 cups peanut butter chips 1 ½ cups crushed ripple potato chips
2 cups butterscotch chips 1 ½ cups peanuts (salted or unsalted)
2 cups chocolate chips
Melt together the peanut butter, butterscotch and chocolate chips in top of double boiler. Add crushed potato chips and peanuts. Mix together with melted chips. Spoon into cupcake paper cups.
Variation: Add ½ cup coconut to melted chips and peanuts. Or, for a less sweet version, use 4 cups peanut butter chips instead of butterscotch and chocolate chips.


Anonymous said...

I loved it. Every word. I was googling Cuban Lunch and found your blog.
I am from winnipeg and didnt know they were made here.

Anonymous said...

I loved it. Every word. I was googling Cuban Lunch and found your blog.
I am from winnipeg and didnt know they were made here.

SuperMurrayb said...

TSCR - Text too small, couldn't read. The gray on white did not help any.

Crystal Westergard said...

There is a community on facebook reviving the cuban lunch! What a great way to celebrate Canada 150!