A LOOK BACK: The Plywood Girls of Port Alberni

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the AV Museum

Four women are seen standing on either side of stacks of plywood, moving the top piece into the dryers at Alberni Plywoods Ltd., circa 1948. A metal bar in the centre of the machine reads “NO. 2”. At the far right, a sign can be seen that reads “In Case of Fire Break Glass Here. The female workers at AlPly became known as the ‘Plywood Girls’ during the Second World War. The plant was rushed into production in 1942 on the site now known as Canal Beach in order to help Canada’s war effort. This photo is one of 24,000 that comprise the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital photo archives. The archives are accessible to the public at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN13192 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)

Four women are seen standing on either side of stacks of plywood, moving the top piece into the dryers at Alberni Plywoods Ltd., circa 1948. A metal bar in the centre of the machine reads “NO. 2”. At the far right, a sign can be seen that reads “In Case of Fire Break Glass Here. The female workers at AlPly became known as the ‘Plywood Girls’ during the Second World War. The plant was rushed into production in 1942 on the site now known as Canal Beach in order to help Canada’s war effort. This photo is one of 24,000 that comprise the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital photo archives. The archives are accessible to the public at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN13192 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)

Alberni Plywoods Ltd. (AlPly) opened a plywood plant in Port Alberni in January 1942 to answer a wartime demand for the product.

Because there was a shortage of men available for work—many of them were serving in the Second World War—AlPly put out a call for women to work at the plant. A number of historical references show that three-quarters of the employees at the plant throughout war years were women. These employees quickly picked up the nickname “The Plywood Girls.”

Although the mill shut down in 1991, and the only remnants that can be seen are the pieces of pier on the water at Canal Waterfront Park in Port Alberni, the nickname and the legacy of the Plywood Girls have remained.

Susanne Klausen wrote an academic article titled The Plywood Girls: Women and Gender Ideology at the Port Alberni Plywood Plant, 1942-1991 that includes a history of the plant itself, historical photos as well as interviews with former employees. It was the first of several presentations on The Plywood Girls between 1994-99, which included a photographic exhibition at the Alberni Valley Museum, a video documentary (co-produced with Don Gill) and some other articles.

More photos of AlPly and the Plywood Girls are available at the Alberni Valley Museum’s online archives, viewable at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com.



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

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