Elaine Roseen was 12 years old when she started to work at B.C. Tree Fruits in Lake Country — and she never looked back.
More than 50 years later, Roseen said farewell to her friends as she walked out the factory door one last time and into retirement.
Roseen said she remembers when her family helped get her a job at the factory, at a starting wage of $1.21 an hour. Her first day on the job was Sept. 16, 1969.
“When I told my mom I wasn’t going to go any further in school, she talked to the boss at B.C. Tree Fruits to help get me a job,” she said. “After (her) discussion, the boss at the company told me that they’d give me a try.”
Through the years, Roseen went from picking cherries to packing apples. After the apples were boxed, they were transported to various retailers such as Loblaws, Costco, Walmart and other grocery stores across Canada.
While improvements were made over time, Roseen said the job roles for men were much different than they were for woman at the plant when she started.
“Back in the day, there were men’s jobs and ladies’ job at the factory,” she said.
“Men would drive the forklifts, ran the lines, stacked and operated the staple machines. Women would pack and sort the apples.”
Roseen said there was one particular moment when traditional gender roles were finally broken down at the fruit processing plant .
“One day, the boss finally gave the women an opportunity to drive the forklift. He soon found out that the ladies were the better forklift drivers,” she said. “The boss knew the girls would get the job done with the forklifts. I think they were more organized at the job than the men too.”
Roseen said four different female bosses also helped transform and improve the company in the 21st century.
The technology used at the factory also evolved over time.
“Technology changes so quick in the industry that when a grater is bought and brought to the factory, it’s almost obsolete,” said Roseen.
“Computers are also being constantly replaced at the factory because we’re also buying newer and better ones.”
Roseen said machines have taken over many of the fruit processing jobs.
In retirement, she has a couple of different activities planned to keep her busy.
“I’d like to do more acrylic painting and I’ve signed up for some painting classes at the seniors’ centre,” said Roseen.
“I’d also like to do more dancing, spend more time with friends and work in my garden.”
While she admits it’s sometimes hard not working at the factory anymore, she still has close friends who keep her company.
“A couple of the other girls have also recently retired. I’m always talking with them and sometimes we grab coffee,” said Roseen.