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

 

Just Posted

Patrick Hughes, member of the Seniors Network, Age Friendly Community Task Group, and David Cooke, manager of Business Solutions, Information Technology for the City of Maple Ridge, work on the Seniors Mapping App. (Seniors Network/Special to The News)
Seniors mapping program first for Maple Ridge

The goal of the program is to increase outdoor community participation for older adults

Students at Langley’s Brookswood school were among an estimated 85,000 students who cast ballots representing all 87 electoral districts in the province, mirroring the actual election (file)
How would young people have decided the B.C. Election? We have an answer.

In Langley, Maple Ridge and neighbouring Abbotsford ridings, the winners would be the same

Lisa Beare and her husband Hendrik Butter on a Zoom call with NDP volunteers on election night. (Special to The News)
NDP’s Beare defends her seat in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

With no green candidate, those votes went to NDP, Liberals speculate

Ann Steen (left) will be playing organized soccer for the first time at age 77. She credits Ridge Meadows Soccer’s Shauna Williams (right) for the push. (Ronan O’Doherty - THE NEWS)
Ridge Meadows Soccer Club offers walking soccer program

The slower-paced version of the beautiful game is aimed at seniors and those with limited mobility

Brad Lyle, left, in costume with his Cauldron Creeper display that he made himself. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
Trick or treat if you dare at this Maple Ridge home

Brad and Stacey Lyle have their home decked out for Halloween

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil forfeiture office alleges $2M Surrey home was used to launder cannabis money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

Most Read