Barb Kollar seeks photos from fabled mill history binder of Sturgeon Falls; she has shared photo of her Grandfather, a manager at the mill

A previous post is entitled:

In 2010 article, Steven High describes fabled mill history binder of Sturgeon Falls

This document is available at the West Nipissing Public Library.

Barb Kollar has recently contacted me and shared a photo of her Grandfather, who worked as a manager at the mill. She has mentioned that she is interested in history and photos related to the mill.

“My Grandad,” she notes, “was a manager of a mill in Sturgeon Falls. Florence “Frank” Sullivan. I think it was the Abitibi Mill. I recently found a photo of him at an office desk, a retirement photo?”

Please note: At this post, I have featured cover pages for two documents, available at the West Nipissing Public Library, about the history of the Sturgeon Falls paper mill. Such valuable resources are distinct, however, from the mill history binder, for which I do not have a photo.

(Click on photo of Frank Sullivan to enlarge it.)

“My Grandad,” Barb Kollar notes, “was a manager of a mill in Sturgeon Falls. Florence ‘Frank’ Sullivan. I think it was the Abitibi Mill. I recently found a photo of him at an office desk, a retirement photo?” Source: Barb Kollar

Barb has added:

My Grandad. Born 1882 in NY died 1977 in London, ONT. He and his wife moved to Ontario sometime after retiring to live with their daughters. His wife died in London in 1959. All I know is that he was manager of a mill in Sturgeon Falls, ONT. I think Abititi.

My father (McDermott “Mac” Sullivan) was born in Sudbury, ONT and was the youngest of 6. Mother Anna Ratchford Sullivan.

Thank you. Any more photos and information you have is appreciated.

In a subsequent email, Bark Kollar has also noted:

I don’t know which part of NY he was born in. The 1900 census shows he was living in Glen Falls, NY (age 17).

Bruce Colquhoun

I am pleased to report that Bruce Colquhoun has contacted Barb Kollar. As well, the West Nipissing Public Library has been very helpful in sharing information. I have posted cover pages for a couple of resources that are available at the library.

This document is available at the West Nipissing Public Library.

An excerpt from the comments section at the end of the above-mentioned post reads:

Bruce Colquhoun

(January 21, 2015 at 8:03 pm)

Hi Louise, I’m Bruce Colquhoun and am the owner of the above mentioned binder. If you tell me exactly what you are looking for, I’ll check the binder to see if I can find it. If you do email me, please put “mill binder” as the subject. I hope I can help you.

Barb Kollar

(November 24, 2019 at 10:22 am)

Also interested in photos. How can I get your email, Bruce? I sent the photo I have of my grand dad to Jaan after he contacted me via email.

[End of excerpt]

Mill history binder

An excerpt from the above-noted Nov. 27, 2012 post about the mill history binder reads:

In the article Steven Hill describes a binder put together by two worker-historians from a Sturgeon Falls corrugated paper mill that was closed in December 2002.

At the time of the mill’s closing, High was teaching history at Nipissing University in North Bay. At a time when efforts to reopen the paper mill were underway, he began to interview workers for a research project about the closure.

A local resident who helped with the research project in the early days told High about a mill history binder – “the largest binder he had ever seen. He also told me that everyone he approached to be interviewed told him to first talk to Bruce [Colquhoun], one of its compilers (p. 235).” High subsequently met Calquhoun at the Action Centre, a job assistance centre operated by the paper workers union for the former mill workers.

“Bruce Colquhoun and the others treated the mill history binder as a sacred text or shrine to the mill: their voices lowered to a whisper and Bruce turned the pages with loving care. I instinctively did the same, as it was immediately apparent to me that this binder meant a great deal to these men.”

In a note, the writer adds: “It mattered to me too. I never came across anything quite like it in 15 years of research into mill and factory closings.”

[End of excerpt]

Steven High highlights Frank Sullivan’s work at mill in Nov. 26, 2019 message

Steven High has very helpfully shared information about Barb Kollar’s grandfather, in an email which he wrote to me on Nov. 26, 2019, and for which he has given permission for me to post; I have broken the longer text into shorter paragraphs, for ease in online reading:

I see that she is the granddaughter of Frank Sullivan. I do speak of her grandfather for a paragraph or two in my book, One Job Town [2018]. I am sure there are photos of him in the binder, as he was the “plant babysitter” during the hard years when the plant was closed in the 1940s. Here is the text from One Job Town:

“Frank Sullivan’s retirement in 1953 provided an opportunity to reflect on the history of the mill as a whole. He first came to Sturgeon Falls with Imperial Paper Mills as an accountant, and married a local woman before relocating to a paper mill town in Maine.

In 1913 he joined the Spanish River mill at Espanola, where he was in charge of the office and townsite before returning to Sturgeon Falls with Abitibi, where he resided for the next thirty-four years:

“Beginning with his association with Spanish River in Sturgeon Falls and on through the amalgamation with Abitibi in 1928, through the prosperous twenties and depression ridden thirties, and the reopening and construction of the forties, Sullivan has come to represent in the Community a personal symbol of the fortunes of the local Abitibi Division. He has provided a link between the old and the new and old timers and new comers alike have been vocal in their praise of his co-operation during the changing periods.” [90]

As office manager Sullivan had been part of the skeleton crew that continued to maintain the closed mill. He remembered the hard times when 60,000 cords of wood from the mill yard were loaded onto railway cars bound for Sault Ste Marie:

“This, followed by the dismantling and sale of two paper machines spelled doom to the inhabitants of a town who watched their raw material and means of production removed with no hope of return. Perhaps the deeply etched lines that distinguish Frank’s lean face are permanent witnesses to such sad scenes.”

An interview with Ed Fortin also mentioned her grandfather in regard to the mill when it was closed:

“Ed: I would say there was probably 15 to 18 people working there all through the Depression. The gentleman, and a fine gentleman, by the name of Frank Sullivan, was the manager of that small group. And they were helping, because there was a power dam, that was part of the mill.”

One Job Town: Work, Belonging, and Betrayal in Northern Ontario (2018)

A blurb for One Job Town (2018) (I’ve broken the longer text into shorter paragraphs) reads:

There’s a pervasive sense of betrayal in areas scarred by mine, mill and factory closures. Steven High’s One Job Town delves into the long history of deindustrialization in the paper-making town of Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, located on Canada’s resource periphery.

Much like hundreds of other towns and cities across North America and Europe, Sturgeon Falls has lost their primary source of industry, resulting in the displacement of workers and their families. One Job Town takes us into the making of a culture of industrialism and the significance of industrial work for mill-working families.

One Job Town approaches deindustrialization as a long term, economic, political, and cultural process, which did not begin and simply end with the closure of the local mill in 2002. High examines the work-life histories of fifty paper mill workers and managers, as well as city officials, to gain an in-depth understanding of the impact of the formation and dissolution of a culture of industrialism.

Oral history and memory are at the heart of One Job Town, challenging us to rethink the relationship between the past and the present in what was formerly known as the industrialized world.

Steven High teaches at Concordia University

Steven High teaches at Concordia University:

Steven High, Professor of History
Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS)
Department of History, Concordia University,
1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd Ouest, Montreal, Quebec, H3G 1M8

Sarah De Nardi, Hilary Orange, Steven High and Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto, eds. The Routledge Handbook on Memory and Place (2019);
Steven High, Histoires de vie de réfugiés montréalais: une rencontre. (2018);
Steven High, One Job Town: Work, Belonging and Betrayal in Northern Ontario. (2018).

Placing Memory and Place in Canada (2010)

The UBC Press website features an introduction to a study, edited by James Opp and John C. Walsh, that includes a chapter about the project initiated by mill workers to preserve the history of the Sturgeon Falls paper mill:

Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada (2010)

Part 2, Inscriptions: Recovering Places of Memory features five articles including Chapter 6, by Steven High, entitled: Placing the Displaced Worker: Narrating Place in Deindustrializing Sturgeon Falls, Ontario.

The introduction to the book notes that in his article about the Sturgeon Falls paper mill, Steven High “disrupts the usual framework of state authorities using the archive and administrative standardization to structure populations and economic activity. In the course of conducting oral interviews of former mill workers, High encountered the ‘mill history binder,’ the unfinished product of years of collecting and archiving. Circulated among workers and safeguarded from managers, the binder served, High argues, as a ‘surrogate for the mill itself’ even as the mill was being erased from the local landscape. The determination of workers to secret out materials and the instructions of the company to destroy the buildings even with many valuable historical documents still inside are stark reminders of how authority and resistance operate in both memory making and place making.”

Note 13 refers to shared interests regarding aspects of history

Note 13 in thee above-noted introduction (I have broken the longer text into an easier to read format) reads:

13 In this respect, we share interests with Steven High and David W. Lewis, Corporate Wasteland: The Landscape and Memory of Deindustrialization (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2007);

Martha Norkunas, Monuments and Memory: History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002);

David Glassberg, Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001);

Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995); and

Gerald Pocius, A Place to Belong: Community Order and Everyday Space in Calvert, Newfoundland (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991).

A Place to Belong (2000)

A blurb for the last-mentioned study about Newfoundland in the above-noted note (I have broken the longer text into shorter paragraphs) reads:

By accepted standards of tradition, Calvert’s culture is declining. Old structures are regularly torn down or renovated; antique household items are replaced with modern conveniences. Pocius argues, however, that the tangible expressions of a culture can be misleading. Calvert’s essence is not in the things owned and used by its residents but in the spaces in which those things abide and in the attitudes, values, and obligations that delineate the order of those spaces. From woodlands, water, and fields to yards, gardens, and homes, Calvert’s physical and social structure is governed by shared concerns about the community’s livelihood and welfare.

As a resident of Calvert puts it, “Where you’re working in the same space with people you know … it’s just not practical to be falling out with everyone.” The sense of community that pervades Calvert is best exemplified by its annual draw for fishing berths. Because productivity varies among offshore fishing grounds, there is no private ownership of fishing rights. Rather, a lottery instituted in 1919 ensures each family the same chances for periodic access to the best fishing berths. The draw continues until all the fishing berths are awarded, but it is common for a family to opt out once they have drawn enough good berths. There are also instances of the most successful fishing operations sharing their catches.

From his observations of Calvert’s people at work and leisure, Pocius provides evidence to confirm the viability and durability of their culture. He reveals that standard assumptions about culture are inadequate, particularly those based on the primacy of artifacts and on sharp dichotomies between tradition and modernity. Calvert, he shows, belies our notion that declining cultural values and social segmentation are unavoidable side-effects of modernization and a rise in material well-being.

A Place to Belong will promote a constructive scepticism about the ways we perceive and interpret cultures and, most important, will remind us of what it really means to belong to a place.

Note 23 addresses public memory

Note 23 from Placing Memory resonates with my own understanding of how history is constructed:

23 John Bodnar defines public memory as “a body of beliefs and ideas about the past that help a public or society understand both its past, present, and by implication its future. It is fashioned ideally in a public sphere in which various parts of the social structure exchange views. The major focus of this communicative and cognitive process is not the past, however, but serious matters in the present such as the nature of power.” See his Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 15.

Blurb highlights content of Placing Memory (2010)

A blurb for Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada (2010) reads:

Places are imagined, made, claimed, fought for and defended, and always in a state of becoming. This important book explores the historical and theoretical relationships among place, community, and public memory across differing chronologies and geographies within twentieth-century Canada. It is a collaborative work that shifts the focus from nation and empire to local places sitting at the intersection of public memory making and identity formation – main streets, city squares and village museums, internment camps, industrial wastelands, and the landscape itself.

With a focus on the materiality of image, text, and artefact, the essays gathered here argue that every act of memory making is simultaneously an act of forgetting; every place memorialized is accompanied by places forgotten.

Blurbs define us and tell us who we are

I have an ongoing interest in the role that blurbs play in the positioning of information:

Click here for previous posts about blurbs >

I have a particular interest, as a blogger and writer, in contributing to efforts to ensure that blurbs about local history are evidence-based and express the views of everyday people closely connected to the subject matter of the blurbs. I have elaborated on this interest at previous posts including one entitled:

Enthusiasm for local history is not enough, by itself, to preserve and repurpose heritage buildings

Another way to address underlying concepts related to local history is to say that all history entails the intersection of metaphor and materiality. Such an intersection in turn entails the reality that metaphor and materiality, in particular circumstances, overlap with each other.

History, we can add, involves an intersection between the local and the global, a point that I discuss below. Such an intersection is, again, characterized by the underlying reality that, in particular circumstances, the local and the global overlap with each other.

With regard to metaphor and materiality, as with regard to local and global, what we are dealing with is how we choose to frame things. We are dealing, that is, with the frame of reference that we bring to our everyday acts of perception. Such acts of perception involve our everyday efforts, typically involving a social consensus, to construct meaning from the sensory data impinging upon us.

In practical terms, materiality rules the roost. Materiality is the starting point for all else that follows. Metaphor typically plays a key role, along with application of instrumental reason, in bringing a person to a particular place as it relates to materiality.

That said, however, certain choices can be made. A person can, for example, apply instrumental reason in pursuit of materiality in all possible circumstances, without concern for anyone but one’s own self. Alternatively, a person can choose to combine such a form of reasoning with qualities such as empathy, compassion, and the pursuit of collaboration – however such terms may be defined.

A key variable that ties these connections together is power, which has the capacity to strongly influence frames of reference. In some cases, power speaks its own language, because it can. As James C. Scott (please see below) notes, power manifests itself in a wide range of ways, including the power of resistance on the part of such individuals and groups that are otherwise deemed powerless.

Deindustrialization

Deindustrialization is a recurring theme among publications cited at the current post.

Click here for previous posts about deindustrialization >

Of relevance with regard to this topic, an Oct. 24, 2019 London School of Economics article is entitled: “Book Review: The Archive of Loss: Lively Ruination in Mill Land Mumbai by Maura Finkelstein.”

An excerpt reads:

In many ways, Finkelstein’s work is very refreshing. It is not at all simplistic nor does it focus on ‘one issue’ to tell the story. The data involved is rich, and the theoretical framings and arguments very persuasive, though sometimes it verges on over-indulgence in patching together a number of sources in a somewhat bric-a-brac nature (though this could possibly be the style of anthropological writing). Here, the footnotes are essential to understanding the underlying intention of what could appear as mere claims, and sometimes it may feel tedious to have to flick to the back of the book to know more. The book itself, however, is narrated through a gripping form of storytelling: in many ways it is reminiscent of a thriller novel as the various layers of the story are revealed. For me, some topics were not confronted as well as they could have been, such as caste – all the participants, though workers in the class sense, were high-caste/savarna. On reflection, Finkelstein defends this presentation as respecting the interlocutors who themselves tell her not to ask about it (131). Instead, the manifestation of caste is presented in subtle ways throughout the book.

The Archive of Loss side-steps some of the confrontational questions surrounding development and deindustrialisation, such as assertions of the inequalities and differential impact of such changes on people, often in an absolute sense. Instead, it asks questions about the obvious: the lived reality of those who are revealed as having been ignored or rendered invisible by the aforementioned claims. The book is enriching for anyone interested in deindustrialisation in the Global South. It presents the complexity of the context exceptionally well as it incorporates various themes that may seem bewilderingly unfamiliar to others who have not experienced it, for which Finkelstein rightly makes no apology.

Differing views, regarding meaning of life, as experienced at the local level

Over the past year I have been reading passages from Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (1998) by James C. Scott. The latter study, which focuses on aspects of history of the twentieth century, serves as a good complement to a study by Jürgen Osterhammel entitled The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (2014).

Osterhammel, a historian, makes it clear in his introduction to The Transformation of the World (2014) that he is a follower of a school of sociology that is convinced that the local doesn’t much matter, because, as he sees it, all of life’s experiences lead to a global perspective – in his view, as I gather, the only one that matters.

In contrast, James C. Scott (whom Osterhammel describes (p. 369) as a sociologist, but who in fact is a political scientist and anthropologist), in Seeing Like a State (1998), argues that when that which is the local is ignored by nation-state actors, by decision makers operating at the higher reaches of a society’s power structure, disaster awaits around the corner.

His book outlines a series of such disasters, in some cases leading to enormous destruction and deaths of millions, in the course of the twentieth century.

Osterhammel shares valuable overviews of nineteenth-century global history, but falls short, in my view, with regard to the local-versus-global issue. That said, the relationship between history and social science is a matter of interest, and a topic worth pursuing, as I have noted at previous posts regarding the historian Peter Burke’s study of the relationship between history and social theory.

James C. Scott covers the local/global dichotomy more adroitly than Osterhammel, but, as he himself notes, the lens that he brings to his own study of history would not provide a suitable means, for making sense of absolutely everything.

I have made a point of reading both authors, because their contrasting approaches complement each other well. My preference remains, however, for the view of things that James C. Scott adopts.

I mention the distinction between local and global because from what little I know about the contents of Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada (2010), my sense is that this particular study underlines the value of focusing on the local aspects of reality. That is not to say, however, that global perspectives do not matter.

The climate crisis, by way of example, along with an underlying configuration of economic, land use, and social forces that drive the crisis, is decidedly global in nature. In that particular context, a global perspective on reality is absolutely essential, in my view.

The forces to which I refer are in turn the reflection of particular ways of seeing – that is, particular frames of reference – that are demonstrated, with regard to the relationship between humanity and the physical realities (which we sometimes define as the ‘natural world’ or ‘world of nature’) of planetary existence.

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