Boeing Canada had been building aircraft in the Lower Mainland since 1929 when they bought the Hoffar-Beeching Shipyard at Coal Harbour and began building seaplanes there. The massive expansion of the aircraft industry that came with the start of the Second World War resulted in the construction of more facilities including the massive factory on Sea Island, built in 1942, as well as many other smaller shops in communities around BC. This expansion of Boeing Canada’s production came with a corresponding expansion of the workforce, providing thousands of jobs for men and women during the war years.
With the flood of new workers, the Boeing Canada Public Relations Department needed a method of communicating with their employees on a mass scale and so, on January 6, 1943, the first issue of the Boeing Beam was published. The Beam, was issued fortnightly (every two weeks) until August 31, 1945 when the war ended and wartime production ceased.
Featured in the Boeing Beam were articles about the various plants and shops, information on training and production, stories about the aircraft produced at the plants, health and safety news as well as social news about employees, events and sports. Also featured in the Beam were the cartoons drawn by the Art Director of the Public Relations Dept., Phil Dill.
Phil Dill was a young man who was originally employed in the Expediting Department but was relocated to Public Relations due to his talent with pen and ink. His work, featuring the antics of character “Claude Hopper” , dealt mostly with worker safety but also covered other aspects of the culture at the plants.
The majority of the cartoons also featured his trademark pickle character, who often added commentary to the cartoons.
Mr. Dill also produced posters. He developed a system of glass fronted poster frames which were mounted in key locations in all the factories operated by Boeing Canada.
The posters, dealing with safety, security and production, were numbered and rotated through the plants, providing a constantly changing theme.
As new problems cropped up, Dill would produce new posters to deal with the subject using a touch of humour.
The poster campaign proved to be so effective that large aircraft manufacturers in California requested photos of the images so they could use them in their own facilities.
Dill’s work was acclaimed by National Safety Council as well as the US Navy Visual Aids departments and the Aircraft Industry Relations Committee.
His cartoons and posters were put on public display at the Vancouver Art Gallery in December of 1943.
Subjects such as War Bond Drives, security and the relatively new experience of working in a mixed gender industrial workplace were also covered in Dill’s cartoons.
After the Boeing Canada plant closed, Phil Dill found a new home for his cartoons in the pages of the “Buzzer”, the BC Electric’s transit publication.