A Show of Hands

 

By Nicola Ryan
Road trips are as much a summer tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador as capelin rolling and regatta days. The best ones veer off the beaten path, where you’ll always find some weird and wonderful hidden gem. In central Newfoundland, Superior Gloves points the way to a fascinating new spot in Point Leamington. You might be surprised to know that the town is home to the largest glove manufacturing plant in Canada. This summer the factory opened a true jewel for your road trip bucket list: The Canadian Glove Museum, the only museum in the country dedicated to – you guessed it – gloves.The museum’s opening coincides with Superior Gloves’ 35th year in Point Leamington. As the story goes, in the late 1980s, Ontario was full of homesick Newfoundlanders. In smalltown Acton, northwest of Toronto, Frazer Stuckless worked at Superior Glove Works Ltd., a family-owned manufacturer of work and safety gloves, but dreamed of moving back home to Point Leamington. Company boss Frank Genge, reluctant to see Frazer go, made a trip to Point Leamington and decided it would be an ideal place to set up a new manufacturing operation. From its earliest beginnings – a community effort and three sewing machines in borrowed space in the town hall – Superior Glove Works’ factory has grown to be the largest in the country and now employs more than 600 people in the region. And Frazer? He manages the entire operation.
When we caught up with Carleigh Roughley, Superior Glove’s marketing and community engagement specialist, in Acton in April, she was busy putting the finishing touches on plans for the grand opening in May and her first trip to Newfoundland.
“We’ve been making gloves in Canada since 1910,” she says. “We’re truly passionate here about protecting hands and anything to do with gloves. If anybody was going to open a museum about gloves, it would make sense that it would be us.”

All Hands on Deck

Point Leamington is located about a 90-minute drive north of Gander, on the shore of Southwest Arm, which extends southward from Notre Dame Bay. This picturesque small town of about 600 is probably the last place you’d expect to find a national museum.
The Canadian Glove Museum is the realization of the dream of Superior Gloves current president Tony Genge, Frank’s son. Tony is an avid collector of glove memorabilia. Among the more than 100 gloves on hand, there are some exceptional items Tony has collected over the past 30 years. They include an authentic chain mail glove from a 500-year-old suit of armour; a Royal Air Force gunner’s gauntlet from WWII; and mittens once worn by a soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army. There are also gloves on display with celebrity status. See a pair of photography gloves worn by Roberta Bondar, learn why a glove once belonging to David Suzuki is almost missing a finger, or check out the work gloves worn by Elvis Presley when he served in the US army in Germany in the late 1950s.
Other gloves are out of this world. No really – on loan is a pair of spacewalking gloves worn by astronaut Chris Hadfield. Hadfield made history as the first Canadian to float freely in outer space, and he was wearing these gloves when, as part of the crew of the shuttle Endeavour, he installed the Canadarm2 onto the International Space Station. There’s also a pair from the Sokol spacesuit worn by Russian cosmonaut Roman Yurievich Romanenko. The collection of gloves and the stories they tell deserve a round of applause.

Gotta Hand it to Them

Superior Gloves knows gloves. Passionate about hand safety, they’ve been designing, manufacturing and supplying work gloves for more than 100 years. The 3,500 different types of gloves they produce are used in a variety of industries including oil and gas, mining, automotive and food services. One of the museum’s main goals is to give visitors an appreciation for how glove styles and manufacturing technologies have changed over time.
“We thought that people would be interested in the technology we use to make all the different, advanced gloves that we do,” Carleigh says, noting that the industry’s come a long way from the early days when gloves were hand-stitched one at a time. The museum has an excellent collection of Superior Gloves from the earliest designs up to and including today’s hi-tech, puncture-resistant, nitrile-coated styles. A free tour of the manufacturing plant, to see the specialized work 150 skilled team members perform, helps stitch everything together.
Young visitors to the museum can take part in some engaging hands-on activities, too, including making their own gloves. “Our mini dip gloves give people a chance to see how gloves are dipped, on a smaller level, and then they can take their gloves home with them,” Carleigh says.  This part of the museum experience is popular with visiting school groups, and inspires kids to develop an interest in science and technology, she says. Maybe the next great innovator in the glove industry’s been among them.
The launch of this unique attraction is a symbol of the ongoing goodwill between Superior Gloves and their host community of Point Leamington. It’s a partnership that has served them both well for more than three decades.
“The town has just been so great to us,” Carleigh says. “We wanted to give back to the community and help draw some visitors to our beautiful town.”
No doubt about it, the glove factory and museum nestled in this small town around the bay is one the province’s best-kept secrets. If you’re exploring this summer, set a course for Point Leamington and see this interesting and distinctive place first-hand.To learn more about the Canadian Glove Museum, follow them on Facebook @TheCanadianGloveMuseum or visit www.thecanadianglovemuseum.com.
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