Editor, The News:
It was like when you know that a family member is going to die but when it happens it still comes as a shock. That is how I felt when the news broke that Hammond Cedar was shutting down, a victim of economic and political forces that it couldn’t control.
That mill, in its various incarnations on that site, was a major part of not just my family, but for countless others over the last hundred years. It provided employment which enabled people to build homes and provide for their families. It provided first job experiences for those who used it as a springboard to other career paths. Above all, it was a community like no other with all the good and bad of any small village.
I first went to work at the mill in 1968 for a year to help pay for my university education at SFU. Through adventures and misadventures, I got that degree when one of those curves in life came along. I was working on the campus when it shut down due to a strike. Because poverty didn’t seem appealing to me, I went back to the mill with the idea of going back to SFU after the strike. Well, I compared paycheques and stayed for another 25 years until an industrial accident literally knocked me out and the resulting concussion saw me fully pensioned off.
The mill culture was like that, some would leave and never go back.
Others would return as they had found their niche in the world. I don’t want to get overly sentimental about the demise of the mill as the work was hard and often dangerous. My own grandfather Rock was killed when someone left a trap door open and he fell through and died when he went through the chipper saws.
I feel like I`ve been kicked in the gut by the announcement that the mill is going. So many mixed emotions I couldn’t put them all in this letter. But it is for the workers who will lose their jobs, especially the ones not quite at retirement age, that are the victims of a changing world that need all the support that they can get.
They and the younger ones now have an uncertain future ahead. Thoughts and prayers are as useless as they always are. Every agency and the union itself must step forward as the remaining workers go through the anger and grief that they will have to deal with.
The days when places like Hammond Cedar that could provide that kind of security have long gone. High-paying jobs have been replaced by part-time, minimum wage jobs with no benefits and no future. I am grateful that I worked at that mill during the best years, along some truly terrific people and a few of the other kind.
I am sure I am not alone in those thoughts. Hammond Cedar may be soon gone, but never forgotten.
Robert T. Rock