First Picture Disc in the RCA plant from The Record News 1978
In May of 1953 work on the construction of the two unit record factory of RCA Victor Company Ltd. was begun in Smiths Falls and the $750,000 plant was expected to be in operation by fall. December of 1953 saw 26 presses beginning to turn out phonograph records and the RCA division expected to be in full production by the end of January 1954.
The Smiths Falls factory might employ up to 125 workers and have a yearly potential of 8,000,000 records for both domestic and export markets. Over 75% of the employees were women and the plant had seven soundbooths where “testers” checked on quality, where only maybe two or three per cent of production was rejected.
Local citizens were shocked as they expected RCA factories in Montreal and Prescott to close, but not in Smiths Falls. Over 6000 Canadians were once employed by RCA in 1970, and in 1978 the total had dropped to 2,000. The thing that angered local residents most was that RCA had never been above board with anyone. Smith Fall’s Mayor Fred Aboud said the closure of RCA was going to be more disastrous to the town than the huge layoffs that had been done at the nickle plant in Sudbury.
There was no doubt that when the plant left town, it let many people down. Some still say today they haven’t bought an RCA product since, and the same with a Hershey Chocolate product. But most of Smiths Falls rallied together and stood tall for their town, and as the Beatles once sang:
“But tomorrow will rain, so I will follow the sun”.
Sandra Rattray— My Mom worked there for a number of years, after Bates & Innes in Carleton Place called. She worked in one of the sound booths, testing records and took so much pride in her job. I remember when she test Elvis’ album “Moody Blue” and the first covers were, I believe, signed by him. She was so excited. I also remember the sheer devastation she felt, when, at age 57, she was laid off. Chances of another job at that age were nearly impossible. She was a “company man” or “company woman” as you would say today, and very production and quality control oriented. Very sad for all the workers.
“Smiths Falls, Ontario, can rightfully claim to be the real birthplace of Beatles records in North America,” writes author Piers Hemmingsen.
The Beatles in Canada, The Origins of Beatlemania, by Piers Hemmingsen