50 years ago – when Lyndon Johnson was President, Lester B. Pearson was Prime Minister, an unpopular war was raging in South East Asia, political assassinations rocked American society, riots broke out in Chicago and Detroit, LSD was the new miracle drug, the Boomers were going to change the world – I got my first real, interesting, relevant and good paying summer job in a small, serene southern Ontario town.
I had gotten lucky a few months before in having an interview with Keith Torrie – General Foods Lab Manager – at a Queen’s job recruiting fair. Now I was a lab assistant in GF Research for the summer. As usual, I needed the money to finish my degree, and this time I got paid better and didn’t have to shovel concrete for a change.
I worked with two food tech veterans and they taught me a lot – they had to. Edith was a veteran industrial home economist, and I learned food preparation and simple cookery from her. Elwood was in his late 50s, had graduated in the same discipline and from the same university as I hoped to do. He had developed Ovaltine back in the day and also was the expert at GF in Shake ‘n Bake – plus being the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet – totally unselfish and willing to share his knowledge. What a pair!
I did a lot of Elwood’s bench work – first on a dumb project to make Shake ‘n Bake for hot dogs – and then after I gained his trust Elwood had me do the pilot plant trials and full-scale introduction for Shake ‘n Bake Italian – something that is still around today. Pretty neat.
I was hooked. I came back as a graduate to work in the lab a year later, spent 35 years at it, still think it was the best career I could ever have had. A lifetime ago, a world away – but the memories, oh the memories!