Most people nowadays will change careers a number of times in their working lives. It is often quite rare, for a variety of reasons, for somebody to have twenty years with one organization. But can you imagine working with the same company for fifty years!
In 1981 Harold Kitchener (Kitch) Gill retired from Abitibi-Price. He was 65 years old and bears the distinction of being the last of the 50-year men. He had worked for the owners of the Grand Falls mill, “The Company”- Anglo-Newfoundland, Price Newfoundland and Abitibi-Price, since he was 15 years old.
Gill was reportedly the last of a number of men, that, over a period of 20 years, reached the 50-year mark working for the owners of the Grand Falls Mill.
In February of 1961 Robert Brown was the first to get a 50-year Pin from the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company.
Brown had joined the Company at the age of 14. It was February 6, 1911 when he went into the mill as a junior electrician. His pay at the time was 7.5 cents an hour. He spent 46 years with the electrical department before becoming the General Superintendent of Mill Services in 1957. By the time he reached the 50 year mark he was Mill Manager (Not to be confused with General Manager).
Brown’s service with the company, was not entirely uninterrupted. In February of 1916 he enlisted with the Newfoundland Regiment. In April of 1917 he was wounded and taken prisoner at Monchy. He spent the remainder of the war as a Prisoner of War in Germany at Limburg and Schneidemuhl. The A.N.D Company, of course, credited his wartime service towards his seniority. It should also be mentioned that Brown, was a very early resident of the Grand Falls. He was the son of Thomas Brown, the builder of the log house and the Grand Falls House. As a young boy Brown would have walked the muddy trail from the station to the townsite, and would actually see the mill take shape. At the time it was noted that Brown was probably the first worker to reach the 50-Year milestone. At the time the Company was only 56 years old.
Hubert Matthews, Camp Foreman in Badger Division reached the 50-year mark shortly after Brown. Matthews,originally from Musgravetown, Bonavista Bay, spent a lifetime in the lumberwoods with A.N.D. He was another World War One veteran. Enlisting in the Regiment in 1918, Matthews managed to make to the regiment in the field only eight days before the war ended. His occupation on enlistment was listed as lumberman, and he would have gone into the woods first when he was about 14. After the war he went back into the woods eventually becoming a camp foreman and a prolific dam builder. The last dam that he built was on Rushy Pond. The advances that Mr. Matthews had seen in the woods would have been staggering, from going into the woods in the days of horses, axes, long timber and far flung log camps, to retiring in an era of chainsaws, tractors, and trucks.
In 1967 a total of five men joined the 50-year club at the one time. They were: J.J Hatt, Harvey Andrews, W.T (Tommy) Howell, Walter Parsons, and Leo Blackmore. Interestingly it is largely because of Mr. W.T Howell that a lot of this information is available, since he was the editor of the News-Log. Howell joined the company as a teenager in the main office, back when the Main Office was at the intersection of Carmelite and Cabot. For many years he was the assistant to the Town Manager, L.R Cooper, then took over after Cooper retired. As the A.N.D Company gradually gave up control of the town, A.N.D made Howell the “Superintendent of Community Relations.” Mr. Hatt was the son of one of the men killed in the Grand Falls Tragedy back in 1907, one of the boys who were guaranteed a job by the nascent company on the death of their father.
It is hard to imagine, but most of these men weren’t even that old when they got their fifty-year pins. Both Brown and Matthews were about 64-65 when they reached that milestone. A fifty-year man was a product of the times these men lived in. They left school early, in some cases it was possible because of the system at the time, that they may have actually finished at 14 or 15. It is also a testament to stable employment before there was such thing as early retirement. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a gap in my information and I am sure I am missing numerous men that retired in the 1970’s. By the 1980’s I believe the system had changed, and employees could retire at an earlier age.
The last of the 50-year men, “Kitch Gill,” joined the A.N.D Company in 1931 as a “water nipper” for the stevedores loading the paper boats. He later went on to a long career with the Botwood/Grand Falls Central Railway, until that was phased out and he went on to spend his ast working years at the Grand Falls Mill. Mr. Gill went on to have a long retirement, he passed away in March of 2009 at the age of 92, coincidentally the same month that the Grand Falls Mill closed forever.
A.N.D Company News-Log 1961
Price Newfoundland News-Log 1967