You Had a Job for Life

Ten years in the past, the Groveton, N.H. Paper mill, which has been in existence in view that 1889, close its doors for precise, devastating the nearby financial system and network.

Groveton, in northern Coos County, is simply one of many New England towns that, in the early- to mid-20th century, bet its future on the paper enterprise, handiest to see the enterprise fall apart.

The mill’s closure can be seen as a microcosm of what’s befell across the country within the past 30 years, wherein the disappearance of producing jobs in smaller towns and towns has had catastrophic results. In Groveton, the hollow left via the mill’s shutdown nevertheless hasn’t been stuffed, despite the fact that no longer for lack of trying.

The upward thrust and fall of Groveton’s paper mill are told through creator and former reporter Jamie Sayen (rhymes with Ryan) in his just-launched ebook You Had a Job for Life (University Press of New England).

Sayen started the task in 2009 as a part of a required oral records assignment for a graduate ethnography magnificence at Plymouth State University. Almost right now, Sayen found out that this would be an all-consuming undertaking, he said in a smartphone interview from his home in Stratford, N.H.

“By the 0.33 or fourth interview I turned into hooked, and I knew I had the material for a surely worthwhile ebook,” Sayen said.

Sayen, sixty-nine, moved to northern New Hampshire 30 years in the past. A New Jersey local, he changed into raised in Princeton and grew up around the corner to the residence in which Albert Einstein lived whilst he taught on the college. Einstein died in 1955. At the age of 25, Sayen befriended both Einstein’s stepdaughter Margot Einstein and his longtime secretary, Helen Dukas. Those friendships had been the kernel for Sayen’s 1985 ebook Einstein in America.

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As an infant of suburbia, Sayen becomes attracted to the wilder places. In his 20s, Sayen considered whether to move to the Rockies, Southern Appalachia or Northern New England. The latter received out, in part because it became in the direction of his family in New Jersey. He was a reporter for the Coos County Democrat from 1987 to 1988.

You Had a Job for Life brings collectively Sayen’s interest in environmentalism, the legacy of the paper mill and his regard for the people of Groveton, who, he said, fought on this country’s wars, had a ferocious paintings ethic and took pay cuts to maintain the mill going.

“They were actually ingenious in making it extra productive, and less wasteful,” Sayen stated. But that wasn’t sufficient, ultimately, to stave off forces beyond the mill workers’ manipulate: an international market, skyrocketing electricity charges, an offsite company owner and inexpensive hard work expenses elsewhere.

Sayen interviewed fifty-five people, 20 of whom are now deceased. Many of them were already of their 70s, 80s, and 90s once they spoke with him.

When he started out seeking out all and sundry who had labored at, or changed into related to the mill, such as Jim Wemyss Jr., the person who turned into for 3 decades the owner and operator, he expected to have doorways slammed in his face due to his outspoken reputation as an environmentalist, he said.

That didn’t appear. Instead, out of 60 people, best 4 became him down.

“It started out to sunrise on me that maybe I had stumbled onto something that changed into useful to them. Closing the mill down was like a bomb going off, and there hadn’t been any manner for them to mourn and work out their feelings,” Sayen said.

From 1940 to 1983 the paper mill, and plenty of the town and surrounding timberland, turned into inside the palms of James Wemyss Sr. And James Wemyss Jr. The family, in the beginning from Pennsylvania, also sold small mills of their domestic kingdom and in New York. When the Wemyss (mentioned Weems) own family offered the Groveton mill it changed into in pressing want of upkeep, modernization, and expansion.

Depending on who he talked to, Sayen said, the Wemyss have been every now and then despised, once in a while favorite, sometimes feared. They drove the employees very hard and resisted all concessions to the union. But because they lived and invested in Groveton, they earned the honor of the city.

“They can be very tough clients but they cared about the community,” Sayen stated.

When something went incorrect with one of the machines, Wemyss Jr. Could be available to try to parent it out. Recently, Wemyss Jr., who’s now 92, known as Sayen prior to a presentation to invite him to inform the target audience how much he nevertheless cared approximately the metropolis. He additionally told Sayen that if he still owned the mill, it would still be open.

Given the forces arrayed in opposition to smaller independent generators, that assertion is controversial, Sayen said, but what he doesn’t doubt is that if the Wemyss own family had persisted to very own the mill, the “captain would have gone down with the delivery.”

As it was, the Wemyss offered the mill in 1983 to James River Corp., which in flip bought the mill to the Wisconsin-primarily based Wausau Paper in 1991.

“Absentee owners took a completely special method than neighborhood owners,” Sayen said.

Under Wausau, the mill switched from making tissue to making excessive-cease paper, but, Sayen stated, “even though the paper it produced turned into of better high-quality, and the mill turned into profitable, the organization changed into in problem. They had to close down a mill that became out of sight, out of thoughts.”

Shutting a New England mill turned into less complicated than going after Midwestern ones, Sayen stated. It turned into a part of a trend in which Fortune 500 groups that owned paper mills shut down New England operations and moved them to the Southeast, wherein wooden grew quicker, unions weren’t as effective and environmental policies were extra cozy, Sayen stated.

In Maine, which had the best wide variety of paper turbines and the most closures, that staff has been reducing with the aid of 30 to forty percentage, Sayen said.

You Had a Job for Life, Sayen said, “has a message that would clearly resonate with rural resource groups, no longer due to the fact we’ve solved all troubles however because we’ve gone via similar activities and been buffeted with the aid of global forces.”