Friday, March 13, 2020

the last book I ever read (Cabbagetown by Hugh Garner, excerpt five)

from Cabbagetown by Hugh Garner:

Among the East-End Toronto factories that drew many of their workers from Cabbagetown, and Riverdale across the river, was “the soap works” on the east bank of the Don, near the spot where it empties into the Bay. There were two large soap manufacturing plants in the East End, both of them international in reputation and both manufacturing various kinds of laundry, face and specialized soap, soapflakes and allied products. Soap is a relatively inexpensive product to manufacture, and most of the sale dollar was turned back into a large advertising budget that cajoled, frightened, coaxed, and persuaded the pimpled, odorous, star-struck, socially conscious wallflowers of both sexes into buying one or the other of their products. Their laundry soaps and soap flakes, in the days before detergents, had become household words and needed less advertising than their face soaps—body cleanliness being closer to both godliness and success than clean laundry was at the time.

The soap works was a much better place to work than, say, the steelwares or the wirebound-box company, where too many plant workers bore foreshortened fingers and arms from their labour on the presses. The copper and brass foundry was not as dangerous, but finding a job there was almost as difficult as finding a job as a city garbageman, whose unbelievable salary was twenty-eight dollars and eighty cents a week.

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