The Hammond Cedar Mill, owned by Interfor, will close this fall. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

The Hammond Cedar Mill, owned by Interfor, will close this fall. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Closure sad for Hammond Mill family

Multiple generations worked at Maple Ridge mill

Harry Leaf had a long career at Hammond Cedar, supported his family, and got his son Scott a job there in 1987 that lasted 20 years.

Scott had been travelling, and when he got home, Harry said ‘I got you an interview down at the mill.’

You had to know someone to get a job there.

Scott said he did everything.

“You start at the bottom, and you work your way up,” he said. “But it was a really good job as a kid.”

The mill was woven into the fabric of Hammond.

“Every family had someone at the mill, or knew someone at the mill.”

He worked there when it was owned by B.C. Forest Products, then Fletcher Challenge, and finally Interfor.

He’s got a lot of memories. He had a shift one night in 1994, when the Vancouver Canucks were in a hockey game with a championship on the line. Productivity was not high.

“I remember the night the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup final – guys had smuggled in TV sets and radios,” he said.

The place virtually shut down in those moments at the end of the contest, as the workers watched the fateful game unfold.

“It was a sad moment, but as a Canucks fan you’ve come to expect that.”

A dead sturgeon washed up on a log boom. It was a huge, prehistoric-looking fish. Ugly as it was, it became a political football in the labour environment of the day. First somebody took it to the front steps of the IWA office, then it wound up on the front steps of the mill, he said.

Another time there was a power outage. After waiting an appropriate amount of time, the foreman “called it,” and sent the shift home. They were walking away when the lights came back on. They didn’t stop. Leaf and the crew were crossing the train tracks when they could hear the foreman yelling “Come back!”

“Everybody ran for the parking lot.”

He won’t forget seeing a co-worker lose the tip of his finger, and there were worst accidents.

“It was the most dangerous occupation in B.C. when I started there.”

“I’ve still got all my fingers,” said Leaf. “And most importantly, I still have my hearing.”

He kept his ear protection on, but not everyone did. His father has major hearing loss.

“Those saws sing like a million bees.”

He remembers fishing derbies and company picnics that gave the place a comfortable feel. The man in charge of those fun events was John Ambrosio. For 40 years, ending in his 2005 retirement, he was the first aid attendant, social convener and “the heart of the place” according to Leaf.

Ambrosio said everybody had a small payroll deduction for these events, and the company would match it. They went on ski trips to Hemlock, rented a boat to watch fireworks in English Bay, held their annual picnic in Pitt Meadows, and ran their fishing derby in Mission.

Cedar mills were notoriously a place where you could lose a finger or worse, he said.

“It was a very dangerous place, and we had some fatalities,” said Ambrosio. “But we really tried to keep serious accidents down.”

He moved to Maple Ridge from Port Hardy for the job, and found it a great place to work.

“When I was there I enjoyed myself a lot. Management was good, and the union was good. They had their squabbles, but at the end of the day everyone got along down there.”

Ambrosio wrote a book about the mill, and in his research found there were many families, like the Leafs, where there were multiple generations who worked at the mill.

Despite tough times in the forest industry, he said former workers are surprised to see it about to be shuttered.

“It’s sad. There were threats over the years that they would shut down, but they always persevered,” Ambrosio said. “We’re all sad to see it closing.”

Leaf said 12 years ago when he left, the mill was already struggling. He knows a lot of people who are still there, who will be looking for work.

“I feel sorry for the guys who have been there a long time,” he said.

He went on to be a city councillor, and is now a realtor. He said the property is valuable, and being on the waterfront, he could see it being re-developed into a residential area like Bonson’s Landing.

“Make it a community once again,” he said.


 

@NeilCorbett18
ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Closure sad for Hammond Mill family

Closure sad for Hammond Mill family

Closure sad for Hammond Mill family

Closure sad for Hammond Mill family

Just Posted

Steven Powell will fix up the recovered three-wheeler and donate it. (Ronan O’Doherty/ The News)
Maple Ridge man’s stolen trike recovered

Community Safety Officers found the bike outside downtown Tim Hortons after receiving multiple tips

COVID-19. (Pixabay)
Two more Maple Ridge schools have COVID-19 exposures

Cases at Eric Langton elementary and Maple Ridge secondary

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The City of Maple Ridge is looking for public input on new playground equipment. (City of Maple Ridge/ Facebook)
City of Maple Ridge looks for public input on new playground equipment

Albion Park is getting a re-haul as part of the city’s Lifecycle Program

The Pitt Meadows Paddling Club is looking for a new location. (Special to The News)
Pitt Meadows paddling club looking for a new location

Club has lost its former leased site on Harris Road

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on October 27, 2020. The City of Vancouver says it has purchased a former hotel at a major thoroughfare that can house about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. A joint news release by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and city says 2075 Kingsway, Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver, will be ready for accommodation this November. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen also announced a $51.5 million Rapid Housing Initiative for Vancouver that is expected to create 135 new affordable homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former Vancouver hotel to be converted to 65 units for homeless people by the fall

The former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November

B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Murder conviction upheld in case where Surrey mom was stabbed in front of her kids

Jury in 2017 found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal, aka Sonia Kaur Gill, guilty of first-degree murder in 2007 death of Amanpreet Bahia, 33

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read