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Steel shutdown: Requiem for a way of life

Former steelworker Walter Furlan reminisces on what it was like to grow up in a steel family, and reflects on the legacy of Hamilton's industrial heyday.

Former steelworker recalls era when the industry was Hamilton's lifeblood

Walter Furlan and his mother Dirce pore over old family photos at her home in Hamilton's Parkdale neighbourhood on Thurs. Nov. 7. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Steel didn’t just put food on the table.

For thousands of Hamiltonians, the steels mills were workplaces, social hubs, sources of pride, and hulking symbols of the city’s industrious spirit.

It's Work Week at CBC Hamilton. In light of the last week’s news of U.S. Steel shutting down its Hamilton steel manufacturing operation, we are taking a look at jobs in Hamilton: where they have gone, what remains, and which industries are desperate for employees. 

Though the industry's heyday has passed, it brought a way of life that lives on in the memories of steelworkers, both active and retired, and in the stories of Hamiltonians who came of age when manufacturing was king.

For the final instalment in the Steel Shutdown series, CBC Hamilton spoke with former steelworker Walter Furlan about his family’s long life in the steel industry.

The Hamilton native’s father started working at Union Drawn Steel in the 1950s, after moving to Hamilton from Italy. At age 18, Furlan donned a hardhat and boots to work for his father’s employer. And after 30 years in the business, he got out, pursuing a new career in heritage restoration.

Furlan, now in his 50s, reminisces about growing up in a family clothed and fed by the steel industry, recalls his introduction to working at Union Drawn Steel, and reflects on the legacy of the steel industry in Hamilton. 

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