It is hard to be away from home. Sometimes I find myself moping about it, and when I do I seem to do things to make the melancholy worse. Kind of like picking at the hangnail you have on your finger until it bleeds.
Yesterday was one of those days.
The last run of paper at the GrandFalls-Windsor Mill was completed yesterday. All that is left to do is dismantle the old gal. I found myself in a bit of a funk. To make myself feel better I decided to podcast the Here and Now, I had heard a family friend had been interviewed about the shut down.
As you can imagine the report did little to improve my spirits.
The first shot is a wide one on the mill, a lone worker heads towards the doors, the smoke stacks sending plumes into the air. Across the bottom of the screen scrolled the text “The end of an Era”. Yes, CBC, that and much more. It could be the end of a town.
I was already a little weepy when the shot changed to the men carrying their lunch baskets, perhaps the very ones their father or brother carried years before them carried. I thought of the times my Grandma had packed a lunch in a basket very much like those from my uncles and Grandfather. Filled it with strong tea, cooked dinners, tea biscuits and cookies, filled it with love. Sometimes one of the many siblings was dispatched to bring down a forgotten lunch or maybe a snack to someone who had taken an extra shift. I guess it is hard for a reporter who did not live in that town to pick up on that little detail, but I sure did.
When the reporter Lee Pitts asked Don Beson about the closure and he compared it to a death in the family. Mr. Pitts spotted people taking video and pictures and asked one of them, Pauline Price, why she was recording the mill. Pauline, her voice was a little shaky with emotion, described how many of her family and friends worked there. Indeed, you can trace nearly everyone in GrandFalls-Windsor to that mill somehow.
And that is a problem.
You have a large section of the population in GFW directly or indirectly employed by AbitibiBowater and now those jobs are gone. While in recent months there was a lot of focus on Danny taking back the rights to Star Lake, and about the Union failing to cut a deal, about Abitibi failing to offer one worth taking, there has been relatively very little said about plans to fill that gaping void. Where is that press conference? Where is the big action plan to address that? What is Danny doing to attract industry? What is GFW doing?
I can tell you that families who lost work in GFW are doing a little action planning; they can’t sit around and wait for government to step in. Those young enough are thinking about going back to school, and re-training. Others are wondering if they can move into town and find something. Many others are thinking about trying their luck out west. Out west. What a surprise.
I keep hearing Newfoundland is a “Have Province” now. I hear Danny talk about bringing people back home- home to Newfoundland to work. I have heard a lot of talk about skilled workers leaving the province- but Jesus, what is back home to keep them there?