The following are two articles published in the London Free Press, London, Ont., in 1980 and 1984, about the Janes' Brick and Tile Plant, now known as D. A. Janes and Son Ltd.
A STRANGE RECIPE FOR SUCCESS (by Frances Kilbourne)
Maple syrup, coal and wood, clay tiles and brick, appear at first glance to be an unlikely combination for a successful family business. For D. A. Janes and Son Ltd., celebrating its 100th year of operation in 1980, those commodities have proved to be compatible.
In 1880 the demand for bricks in the Caradoc and Delaware township area of Middlesex was strong with large, brick homes, schools and churches being constructed. Samuel Janes, great uncle of the present owner, Homer Janes, purchased property west of Delaware on the Longwoods Road, now Highway 2, and started the manufacture of bricks and tiles.
The family home was built in 1897 by Henry Janes, grandfather of Homer Janes, using an estimated 100,000 bricks from the family brickyard for construction of the house. Some of the bricks were autographed by the makers working in the tile yard at the time.
The clay pit on the property provides the raw material for the Janes operation. It was formed during the ice age as immense glaciers retreated and a succession of lakes inhabited by huge whales covered Southwestern Ontario. The Erie blue and grey clay which remained from those days has been mined for 100 years and probably contains enough clay for another 100 years of operation.
Archeological digs on the nearby Longwoods conservation area are revealing pieces of pottery made by the Neutral Indians 1,000 years ago. Their raw material was clay similar to that used at the Janes yard.
Drainage tiles are laid in courses under much of the agricultural land of Southern Ontario, increasing its productivity immensely.
Today's tiling equipment is highly sophisticated, including the use of lasers for laying tiles. However, when the Janes family first produced tile, mechanization was just beginning. Shovels and manpower were replaced by horse-drawn ditchers, followed by steam power in the 1890s. By the turn of the century drainage was becoming a recognized tool in agricultural production and with it demand for tile grew.
The first step in the production of tile is the removal of the clay from the pit. In the early days the Janes pit was dynamited and the clay removed by hand with the help of horses or at one time a pair of mules. Horses pulled the side dump cart up an incline on a rail track. Now one day's work with a bulldozer puts a six-week supply of clay into the storage shed.
There have been only two tile-making machines used in the 100-year history of the Janes yard. The original machine was replaced in 1926 with the one still in service, thanks to careful maintenance and reconstruction. This machine mixes the clay with water and forces the material through an extruder, which, with the addition of different sizing plates, produces tiles of different sizes. Another machine cuts the tiles into proper lengths.
From here the tiles are placed by hand on pallets and moved into air-drying sheds. They then are placed in a kiln for four to five days of intensive heat. After three days of cooling, the finished tiles are removed from the kiln and wire bound readily for shipping.
Power for the extruder came from coal-generated steam till 1950. This method consumed a ton of coal a day. Diesel power then replaced the steam equipment.
Because coal was used extensively in the manufacture of tile, the retailing of coal was always a part of the Janes business. A Model T and Model A Ford truck were used to haul coal from the railroad in Mount Brydges in the early years. The 1935 Ford two-ton truck still makes the rounds of antique equipment shows.
The kilns were originally fired with wood, consuming 1,000 cords a year. To supply this fuel a large woodlot in the southern section of Caradoc Township was purchased. The woodlot has been carefully tended over the years and each year 3,000 maples in it are tapped for maple syrup production. Wood from the upkeep of the woodlot is used to fire the evaporator. Some coal, and the now increasingly popular wood, are still retailed at the yard. From 1914 to 1967 the kilns were fired with coal, which was then replaced by natural gas, a move which cut out the time-consuming job of tending the fires.
Some 2½ inch, six-sided clay tiles have been uncovered on surrounding farms. These old-fashioned tiles from the Janes yard are still functioning well although they are around 100 years old. The only deterioration noted on these lines was at the outlets where frost and other damage occurred - an enviable reputation for any product.
"Owing the high cost of production, our prices are slightly increasing." That's what the advertising fliers of 1917 announced as Homer's father Donald took over the business. And what prices! One thousand kiln-run bricks cost all of $9. Three-inch tile sold for $15 a thousand, four-inch for $20. Four-inch tile currently lists at $210 a 1,000, delivered.
The Janes yard still produces some brick for renovation work in older homes and in fireplaces.
The prosperity of the tile business is closely related to that of the agricultural community, and, like the proverbial fiddler's elbow, the two have their ups and downs.
But Homer Janes remains optimistic about the future of the family business. He and his son Roger continue to prove that maple syrup, coal and wood, and clay tiles and brick, do mix.
THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY: Century of tradition behind clay brick, tile firm (by Don Murray)
It's ironic that it was a broken hydraulic line on a modern front-end loader that shut down the D. A. Janes and Son tile and brick plant near here at the end of a recent working day.
It wouldn't have been the ancient John Deere diesel tractor that powers the plant. That, says Roger Janes, the fourth generation in the family business, is indestructible. "You just can't hurt them."
Nor would it have been the clay mixing and processing machine, a great lump of iron and grease-coated gears that dates back to the last century.
The machine is still making bricks, pushing the mixed clay into molds or dies and feeding it out as a long block that looks like grey cheese.
The block then runs through an automatic clay cutter-the patent dates stamped on the side are from the 1880s - where a paddle-wheel and wire device slices it into bricks.
From there the raw bricks are loaded onto skids and taken to the two beehive-shaped kilns where several days of baking at more than 900 degrees celsius produces the reddish finished product. The gas-fired kilns-one build in 1928 and the other a 25-year-old youngster - were once fired by wood and then coal.
Watching over the entire process with an eye sharpened by a lifetime of working with clay is Homer Janes, the 62-year-old third-generation head of the family business.
Both he and son Roger talk about being "knee high to a grasshopper" when they started in the business. To them the plant, where the smell of grease and clay are deeply imbedded in age-worn timbers, is their way of life.
The D. A. Janes on the sign outside refers to Homer's father, Donald, who took over the business from Sam Janes. The business was a couple of years old when Sam, Homer's great-uncle, bought it in 1880.
Out back is the reason the factory was built in the first place, a hill of clay that Homer says "has a pretty big hole in it" after being mined for more than a century.
A bulldozer scrapes the clay into a storage shed where a front-end loader transfers it to a side-dumping railway car patterned after those once found underground in mines. Pulled by cable, the car trundles along its own track to the plant where the clay is dumped in the mixer.
"The ties wear out from time to time," says Homer, "but the rails will last forever."
There is a sense of tradition in the place, a feeling of continuity that comes from being surrounded by things from the past.
In one corner is a 75-year-old wheelbarrow that Homer remembers shoving around as a youngster. Here and there washers and other bits and pieces hang from nails that were probably hammered in decades ago.
Homer points to the ancient steam engine that powered the plant for 23 years until being replaced by the tractor in 1949. The huge 680-kilogram (1,500-pound) steam engine pulleys are still used today as part of the belt-driven power system.
The old engine, built who knows when by the E. Leonard Co. of London, once powered the electric light system in Ridgetown, Homer says. From there it went to the old Parisienne Laundry on Dundas Street in London where Donald Janes picked it up in 1926.
It wasn't easy getting it to the factory, says Homer. There weren't many bridges around then that could handle its six-tonne bulk.
He says he was tempted to modernize the plant a decade or so ago when business was booming, but is glad now that he held on to what has already been paid for.
The slumping farm economy has cut into the demand for clay tiles - "oldtimers still swear by them" - and competition from plastic piping has made inroads.
Plastic is easier and faster to install, says Roger, but it isn't as absorbent. And too, he says with a grin, critters like raccoons and gophers just love to dig up the plastic pipes and chew the heck out of them.
He and Homer admit that, like the handful of other small yards left in Ontario, they are hanging on and hoping for an economic upswing.
The Janes, who have supplemented the business with an extensive maple syrup operation on their nearly 300 acres (120 hectares), are cautiously confident about the future.
"Is there a future here?" says Roger, who adds that the independent rural life is deeply ingrained in him. "I have to believe there is. Yes, I really think there is."
While his son is out getting a replacement hose for the front-end loader, Homer tells a favorite story about how D. A. Janes and Son was used as a movie set. That was a couple of years ago when the University of Windsor was making a film about conservationist Jack Miner called Wild Goose Jack.
Miner, a friend of Homer's father, was originally a brickmaker and the Delaware yard was considered an authentic backdrop for scenes for his early life.
The Janes family was invited down to Windsor for the film premiere, says Homer, and the old yard looked pretty good.
However, he adds with a slow smile, when the film was shown on television about a year ago all of the yard scenes were cut out to make way for commercials.