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Dateline Cowichan: Depression-stalled Paldi mill starts work

Sylvestra Modeste of Duncan, one of the best of the Cowichan knitters, goes over some lumpy yarn to make it smooth for knitting Cowichan sweaters. According to Joanne Peterson, who submitted the photo, it may have been taken about 1954, when she would sit outside to spin in the sunshine.  Her home was near the White Bridge on Allenby Road and people would stop by and order sweaters from her. - courtesy Library & Archives Canada
Sylvestra Modeste of Duncan, one of the best of the Cowichan knitters, goes over some lumpy yarn to make it smooth for knitting Cowichan sweaters. According to Joanne Peterson, who submitted the photo, it may have been taken about 1954, when she would sit outside to spin in the sunshine. Her home was near the White Bridge on Allenby Road and people would stop by and order sweaters from her.
— image credit: courtesy Library & Archives Canada

A visitor to Paldi — west of Duncan beyond Sahtlam — doesn’t find much these days.

It’s hard to believe now that Mayo Singh established a thriving lumber mill and surrounding community there 95 years ago. But the mill did not escape the early 1930s depression that clutched much of the western world in a vise-like grip: It fell silent on Oct. 31, 1930.

However, in April 1933 came the announcement the big plant would be in full swing on May 1 with 250 men on the job and a monthly payroll of about $10,000. This compared with a payroll of $40,000 before the (1929) crash, said Mayo Singh, when the mill ran a double shift with 350 men. On start-up, the work crew would be divided with 150 men in the mill and 100 men in the woods. Capacity would range around 80,000 feet per day, or 10,000 feet per hour.

A 24-man crew was putting into shape the company’s 12 miles of logging railroad; six men were undertaking general repairs in the plant itself; and a donkey engine was at work cleaning out the log pond. According to Mayo Singh, about half of production was destined for Britain with orders also on file for Australia and eastern Asia.

1933: collapse

The one-year-old suspension bridge over the Cowichan River at Benallack, Sahtlam district, used mainly by Scottish Palmer Logging Co several years before, failed and collapsed into the river. It was replaced by a bucket trolley a few miles downstream.

1933: dog show

Miss Marguerite Waldy and Mr. C. W. Lonsdale and Miss Dorothy Hogan showed their dogs at the Nanaimo Kennel Club where Miss Hogan’s Boston terrier, Esteban, made a sweep of awards. Esteban won first in class, best in breed and best non-sporting dog.

1933: road

The new entrance from Cowichan Lake Road to the Mayo Lumber Company opened for traffic after steady work by a gang of some 20 men from Lake Cowichan. The Duncan Chamber of Commerce had pushed government authorities for the new road.

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