Recollections of a plant operator

Recollections of a plant operator

by Meyer Eidelson

In 1972 I worked as a 21 year old plant operator at Arthur Vale and Co, 257 Ingles Street, Port Melbourne. The company made cooking oil and possibly other stuff. My machine was the hydrogenator, meaning I was converting the oil with saturated fat, ie making it less healthy. The whole place was covered in greasy pipes and machines and was freezing cold under tin roofs. Most of the workers on the packing line filling bottles were Greek. At least their job was clean.

We all wore overalls and the place was serviced by a single steam boiler. I used to beg the boiler guy for more steam pressure as, without enough, my pipes jammed and became blocked by metres of cold fat. I then had to melt pipes by hand along the roofline with a ladder using a blow torch to unblock them. I still remember the sound of the pipes vibrating as they jammed and unblocked. More steam please!!!  Very high tech place. 

Ingles Street, Port Melbourne, was the end of the earth as I cycled from Caulfied and back each day. The  whole street was under water in the 1972 flood and I waded homewards along Ingles Street up to my knees in water.

I worked in a few factories like that and decided that those in society who worked hardest in the worst places were the worst paid. 

Image: advertisement from the Emerald Hill Record, 9 June 1951

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