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Thread: Last night of employment

  1. #1

    Last night of employment

    I took this series of photos inside of Southworth Paper's West Springfield mill on its last night of operations. I've known everyone that has worked here since I was very young. One of them inparticular had worked there nearly 25 years at the time the shutdown was announced. My father worked there for nearly 30 years.

    I'll start off with the "next to last roll" entering the air dryer. Here you see it passing by 500 degree coals beginning the drying process

    In the spring of 1995, the paper mill nearly burnt to the ground after a roll tore as it passed by the coals. Firefighters from Southworth Paper, West Springfield Fire, Agawam Fire and Westfield Fire responded quickly and saved the building. However the air dryer was lost and was replaced and re-opened in the late 1995.

    Here is Jimmy. He had worked here for almost 25 years when the mill shut down. I asked him how he felt. He said "Oddly, I always knew this day would come, I just never thought I was going to be alive to see it. But I am thankful that I will be sending the last roll through the dryer"

    Jimmy poses by the roll

    Minutes later, the last roll begins spining and enters the air dryer. 15 minutes later, just about all is said and done. Jimmy smiles with a tear in his eye as he watches the roll come off the machine.

    Justin wraps the last roll

    Justin writes a fitting tribute to the papermill on the wrapping

    Justin & Jimmy pose for one last photo together

    The writing reads "The very last roll to pass through the fiery mouth of the West Spfld Mill Air Dryer on March 16, 2006 at 10:30pm EST"
    It is signed by both of them

    Finally, about an hour after the shutdown, my father walks over to a large piece of the last roll, bends down, picks it up and tears a piece off.

    Minutes later, I caught him crying on the foot bridge over the canal. He just looked at me and said "This isn't right"

    The next day, management held a luncheon for all of the employees and family. There I saw faces I thought I'd never see again. All of them had the same look of shock and disbelief that the Southworth Paper Mill would be shutting down for good after 167 years in operation.

    May you rest in peace Southworth Mill

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    El Paso, Texas, United States
    Very touching series....the end of era is upon everywhere in america.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Oxford, Connecticut, United States
    Yeah, this could be told as "The new American Tale" operations like this are shutting down across the country... its a shame, lotsa people depend on places like these.. sometimes they arent the best jobs in the world but it puts food on the table and a roof overhead!
    its a shame!
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Northern New York
    That is a shame, I agree with both of them..
    As of April 22dn I am now Mrs. Aron Cartes.. (aceman152)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina, United States
    It is sad to see this kind of thing happen, but sometimes it costs more to upgrade old mills than it does to build new ones... and of course new ones are bigger/faster/cheaper so they can consolidate. But, over time you'd like to think that other businesses will come into those communities and build new. The challenge for the workers is getting the skills they will need.

    In NY, the governor has spent nearly his entire time in office trying to build the Hudson River corridor into a "Silicon Valley East". Dubbed, Tech Valley for short, with his time in office growing to a close, he finally succeeded in bringing something big in to offset the many mills that have closed over the years. AMD, the number 2 chip maker in the country will be building a $3B chip plant in Saratoga county. Together with all the R&D investments at UAlbany and RPI from IBM, SemaTech, and others, this will create a nice anchor point in the Capital District. The southern end of the valley already had a huge chip making presence with IBM's Fishkill plant. The area in between is ripe for the picking. But one thing nice about the AMD situation is that it is very close to being in the heart of an area that has seen a number of paper mills close over the last 10 years.

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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Lebanon, CT

    Very moving series. It really hits home for me - Pfizer recently announced that the Groton Plant, where I currently work, will be ceasing operations and decomissioned by the end of 2008. As of this year the plant has been here for 60 years - it was converted from a wartime sub shipyard to a chemical and pharmeceutal plant in 1948. Granted, I've only been here for 6 years, but it still sucks. There's guys who have been here 20 years doing the same job, that now have to find a job in a different field. This shutdown affects about 300 people. Sucks.

    Again, great series, and a moving story behind the pictures.

    Consolodation sucks....

    Tom Nanos
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  7. #7
    2 major factories in the town where Im a firefighter continue to cut jobs. they just released 50 employees in the offices for good, not layoffs, they just terminated their jobs. America is heading for a dark time im afraid. Something needs to change.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Schenectady, NY
    Thanks for sharing this story with us! I like the series of pictures you chose, and am really glad you decided to include Justin and Jimmy... it really makes the pictures become very moving.
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  9. #9
    Wonderful series of photos. Sad to see another mill close.
    The name is Winston, but please call me Sandy, and never late for dinner.

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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Great series, really tells the tale well.

    Sadly, this will happen more and more in the future. 2009 will be much worse I am afraid. There is no such thing as job security anymore.
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