Skip to main content
At Work: Historical Images of Labour in Saskatchewan

At Work: Historical Images of
Labour in Saskatchewan

 
University of Saskatchewan

Repair & Maintenance

Line Crew Inspecting Telephone Lines, [ca. 1915]
Line Crew Inspecting Telephone Lines, [ca. 1915]

Repair may be defined as remaking an object for reuse - usually by replacing a part or putting together parts which may be broken or torn. Related to repair is maintenance, which involves performing the routine functions which keep a product in good working order.

Contemporary consumers are offered a wide range of relatively disposal products. Often the low cost and convenient availability of replacements reduce the chance of goods being repaired and maintained over a long period. This is especially true when warranties have expired or the product is available in an updated version. Certainly the decline in demand for repairs, especially of electronic products, has lead to a loss in the number of qualified repairmen.

Repairs on Railway Tracks, 8 September 1978
Repairs on Railway Tracks, 8 September 1978

The situation was different during the Saskatchewan settlement era and during the notorious 'dirty thirties'. Potential consumers were often cash poor and a great many lived at some distance from cities and towns where a wide range of goods was readily available. In these situations there was a greater appreciation of basic, well made products that could be maintained, repaired, and adapted over the long term and for clothing that might wear well enough to be passed down to younger siblings.

Among the functions of early community blacksmiths was the production and repair of custom-made replacement parts for broken agricultural implements. During the 1920s the automobile and mechanized truck were eagerly welcomed by Saskatchewan residents. To some extent the maintenance and repair of motorized vehicles compensated for the many jobs lost by the gradual decline in 'horse' power.

Railway Labourers, [between 1905 and 1915]
Railway Labourers, [between 1905 and 1915]

Each advance in transportation - train systems, roads and highways, and airport facilities - involved both an enormous investment in construction, and a commitment to ongoing repair and maintenance. Given the wide dispersal of a small population across a large province, substantial numbers of employees have been needed to upkeep railway lines; paved and unpaved roads; telephone and electric power distribution systems; and fleets of vehicles both public and private.

The cleaning and maintenance of commercial and industrial buildings, hospitals and schools employ many workers. On the domestic front consumers depend upon plumbers, electricians, and heating contractors to see to the safety and comfort of their homes, as well as shoe repairmen and seamstresses to extend the life of their footwear and clothing.

Arthur Rose Dry Cleaners, 1913
Arthur Rose Dry Cleaners, 1913

The exhibition includes many images of laundry and dry-cleaning workers. Before electrification and the introduction of water heaters and washing and drying machines, the care of clothing was an arduous domestic task. Those who could afford the service often sent this work to local cleaning businesses which frequently provided pickup and delivery. One of the common early occupations of Chinese Canadians no longer needed for railway construction was the operation of small hand laundries. In 1914 there reportedly were 29 of these Chinese laundries in Regina; by 1940 the establishment of large steam laundries had lead to a sharp decline in their number to 8.[1]

Footnotes

↑ [1] Chinese Community. Accessed April 16, 2010.


Repairing STC Bus, September 1958
Repairing STC Bus, September 1958
Blind Mechanic, 26 September 1984
Blind Mechanic, 26 September 1984
Maids, 1898
Maids, 1898
Man and Woman Cleaning Floor, [September 1960]
Man and Woman Cleaning Floor, [September 1960]
Shoe Repair, 31 August 1973
Shoe Repair, 31 August 1973
G.S. Tuxford Garage, 1921
G.S. Tuxford Garage, 1921
Prev « Public Safety Retail Trade » Next
 
Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all
Sam Ewing ~ American writer and humorist (1920—2001)