January 6, 2021

It’s nice to meet your neighbours.

Carlos has a long history in my neighbourhood. He began work as a teen at the Neilson chocolate factory nearly 40 years ago. The factory is now called Cadbury.

Cadbury is our neighbour, kitty-corner to our front door. St. Anne’s Road, on which we live, once led to St. Anne’s Church. At some point Cadbury bought the right-of-way and put a gate across the road, painted purple. Purple is a Cadbury colour.

Sometimes the factory opens its purple gate. Big tanker trucks drive through and hook up fat hoses to pour coco butter and syrup into the factory. When the gate is open, my dog Coco and I sometimes take a shortcut through the truck staging area to get to Havelock Street and from there up to the park. Friendly drivers wave at us from the cabs of their trucks.

“Hi Coco!” called out Carlos this morning. He bent over to pet our dog. “Did you guys have a good holiday?”

“Yes,” I said. “How about you?”

“I barely got any time off over the holidays. Just a few days. We are so busy here,” he said. “We worked right through Christmas and New Years.”

From a stainless steel vent in the roof, high above his head, white smoke curled into the overcast sky, spreading a sweet, buttery, sticky aroma into the area. “That’s the vent where the steam comes out when we are cooking the toffee for the Crunchie bar,” he said. “A lot of people notice that smell.”

Carlos told me the other day that he has survived prodigious automation in the chocolate business.

“When I first started we had 1,700 employees, and we only worked two shifts: eight to four and four to midnight,” he said. “We shut down overnight for cleaning, and on weekends. Now we work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we have 350 employees.”

Carlos started out on as a cleaner. Then he graduated to the nut line, receiving many varieties of nuts that pour in for the various chocolate bars. He’s also worked in the dairy division; the plant used to make ice cream. Now he’s in charge of greeting and managing the transport trucks that deliver sugar, syrup, milk and other ingredients to the chocolate process.

We have noticed the factory get busier. When we first moved to the area the plant was quiet on weekends. Now we see trucks every day of the week. Sometimes we complain about the noise, and then once in awhile they bring us chocolate to placate us. I read a big piece in the New Yorker a few years ago about a cookie factory that moved from the Bronx to some right-to-work state in the U.S. South. People in the Bronx missed the smell of the cookies. I’d say about the same about Cadbury: they are a sweet-smelling neighbour and a welcome presence.

Carlos is a survivor and a nice guy, and I hope they give him some time off at some point.