Fifty years later …


STELLARTON – A back-to-the-future sentiment comes easily while viewing a display at the Museum of Industry of products built at the former Clairtone electronics manufacturing plant in Stellarton.

Stereo systems and TV sets – some grand and futuristic looking and some more modest – adorn the museum’s gallery which is set up with panels featuring photos and printed vignettes for public viewing before a grand opening marking the 50th anniversary of the plant’s opening, which is scheduled for Thursday.

Stellarton resident Bill Akkerman thoroughly and enthusiastically describes what is there, including a replica of an assembly line that was part of the operation.

Clairtone Sound Corporation Limited, founded in 1958, was already an award-winning company renowned for its high-quality products when it opened the plant on Acadia Avenue in 1966.

Akkerman moved to Stellarton from Willowdale, Ont., outside Toronto, to be part of the adventure and help diversify and support Pictou County’s economy after its once-dominant coal industry all but vanished.
One of the kiosks pictures the great American jazz trumpeter Al Hirt, whose music was used to test on the stereo systems produced at the plant.

“If you play the same record, you know how it should sound,” Akkerman said.

The wood veneers for the systems and TV sets vary from rosewood to walnut and other veneers.

Legs at the corners support some stereo systems, but other players and their globe-type speakers are mounted on pedestals.

“The speakers are unique in more than one way, in performance as well as shape,” he said.

There is one black and white TV Akkerman calls a hybrid with a picture tube, some other tubes and more modern assembly that he built this year for the exhibit.

Almost as remarkable as the leap in technology at the Stellarton plant was the inclusion of women, who did 60 per cent of the electronics assembly work based in the belief that their motor skills meant they could produce precise, high-quality repetitive work.

The assembly line replicates the three-minute increments required for assembly of some products before a light flashed to signal a move to the next assembly station.

Bill Akkerman describes the replica of an assembly line that’s part of the Clairtone exhibit at the Museum of Industry. The exhibit officially opens
on Thursday at 2 p.m. (Goodwin photos)

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