George Rutherford was an Executive Officer of the Peterborough and District Labour Council in 1966 and was one of those who were jailed for contempt of a court order for demonstrating during the Tilco Plastics strike. This article is reproduced from the 1973 edition of the Labour Review.
We 5 will share this memory a lifetime...(from one who was there)
What's it like to spend two months in prison?
This is a question I was asked in regards to my two month shot for contempt of court in the Tilco affair.
As I had never been in jail before it was quite an experience but I would not want to take it up as a hobby.
The first five days I spent in the old Peterborough County jail house and I often wondered why Peterborough built a Museum when this old jail house was a masterpiece. First of all there were 25 of us shipped in, in one bunch and this old building was never meant for this size of a crowd. They did not have enough blankets to go around and they had to send out for more beans and bread the day we landed. However five of us were soon shipped to Millbrook Prison because of the sixty day stretch. On arriving you enter a small cubicle at the front where your guard duly announces your arrival by phone, there is a loud click and the door is electrically opened and as soon as you get inside it closes just as quickly. You are then ushered down a hallway to the shower room where you are told to strip and shower. You are then issued with prison clothes, razor, tobacco, tooth brush and blankets. We were then placed in a well barred cell, and we were served our dinner which to my surprise was really delicious. We were then removed from the main prison to a long building at the back which was to be our home for the next fifty days. The building was made up in four parts, Dining room, Games room, Bath room and sleeping quarters. The sleeping quarters contained sixteen cots with a cocoa matting mattress and after introducing ourselves to the thirteen inmates who were already there it was time for lights out which is 10:30 p.m.
After a sleepless night we arose at 6:30 and we were instructed on how to make your bed, you stack your pillow, blankets and sheets in a neat pile at the head of the bed. Then at the foot of the bed there is a wooden tray which you leave your boots and slippers on when not in use.
We then had our breakfast which consisted of bacon and eggs, lots of toast and marmalade and coffee. We were then taken back into the main prison for a medical, the medical consisted of bending over and touching your toes ten times in rapid succession, the old Doctor stuck his ear up to your chest and listened to your heart beat, he then informed us we would probably survive and said we were ready to be put to work.
Work at Millbrook Prison can lead into many different types of jobs, like every Monday morning we washed the windows of the guard houses on top of the prison wall that surrounds the prison. The license plates for all motor vehicles in Ontario are made at this prison and about twice a week our job was to load these plates on transports for the different cities.
On Saturday at 11 a.m. we were told to strip the sheets off the bed and take them outside and shake the farts and lice out of them, this is stretching it a bit as I can truthfully say the camp was very clean. You don't have to work Saturday afternoons and you can lay around and do as you please. On Sunday they have a church service which was pretty boring till I suggested to the Padre that he bring out my fiddle so we would have some music for the hymn singing, to my surprise he agreed and every Sunday from then on was pretty lively.
We also unloaded transports of food, built roads, mixed salt and sand for roads for the winter time, piled up lumber, sorted bins full of half rotten onions, cut down trees, painted the camp, and even built picket fences for some of the staff houses on the property. On Thursday mornings we loaded the scrap steel left after the license plates had been cut out.
One thing the government had to do was hire a couple of extra guards to read and censor the mail.
As the most of you know Bill Mulders and I ran for City Council and we had to do our campaigning from the prison. The C.B.C. found out about this and received permission to come to the camp and make a tape for T.V. The Warden found out and made sure we had a tailor made set of prison clothes to go before the cameras in also a new pair of boots which they took away from us as soon as the T.V. crew left the building.
The day we were released from prison we went right back to the picket line for another stint at picket duty.
In closing, I am happy to say that I never met any people I would sooner fight a cause with and go to jail with, if necessary than Charles (Bud) Clark, Victor Skurjat, Stanley Rouse and William Mulders.
© Peterborough and District Labour Council