Some Creations and Collections of Mill Workers

It is difficult to say exactly what it was that sustained the craft employees of the former Whitin Machine Works. It may have been the strong desires to relax from the long and arduous days at work, or it may have been an internal longing to occupy oneself from boredom. Many of the machinists in "The Shop", especially those on the Tool Job, illustrate those particular reasons. I shall feebly attempt to relate first two tremendous individuals who stand out and deserve special recognition. (A brief list of some unusual hobbies and pastimes was first mentioned in Article 4, entitled: "The Spindle [company magazine] and The Male Glee Club.) Considering his work as a machinist on the Tool Job, Russell Bailey had a strange interest and desire. Saturday movies, that took place in the afternoons, served him as a beginning start to the theater. The movies that he watched were more than just entertainment to him, and as Russ got older, he developed a stronger interest in theatrical productions and read many plays. In addition, he collected a library of plays, and in his leisure time, when he finished his tasks in The Shop, he dabbled in play writing and in stagecraft. Russell began to write as ideas just popped into his creative mind. He loved to make up short stories and poetic verses. He began selling them to local newspapers and eventually decided to write a novel. But his real talent in writing plays , starting with tragedies, dramas, and satires, led him to a first comedy that he wrote, entitled, Pa Calls it a Day. He got it published the very next summer by Walter Baker Dramatic Publications. And while he was composing this play, Russ was attending rehearsals of several local playwrights, where he worked as a sound effects and prop man. He was personally invited by a director named Mr. Del Ramsey. And the rest is history…

Now, fifty years later, Mr. Russell Bailey was honored by the Whitin Social Library with a dedication and memorial tribute for his contributions and poetic genius. Being a modest and humble man, he found it very difficult to fully accept the accolades bestowed upon him. This is what I personally admire most about this man, and I sense it each time I read his powerful and poignant lines that ring so true to our daily lives. Indeed, he is "head and shoulders" above other poets who have preceded him. This is quite an accomplishment for a former mill worker who was featured in a short article entitled, "Hobby- the Play’s the Thing" on page 12 of the Whitin Spindle, Volume 2, #6 in June of 1949 !!! See if you can agree with me when you read an excerpt of one of his best works below, entitled : Death of A Company Town, which he wrote in 1984.

 "I’ll visit in the Village very soon

 I’ll cross the wooden bridge at nod of Noon

And watch the workers leave the Mill abreast

For lunch before returning after rest.

But I had been away from home too long

The Bell that tolled at Noon was out of song

The wooden bridge was now of steel and stone

And emptied out the Mill was left alone……."

Incidentally, for your information, after his complete retirement from the Whitin Machine Works in 1984, Mr. Russell Bailey wrote over 220 poems, with more than 100 of them published in the local papers. And he has helped to raise funds for the Whitin Social Library and other causes. Russ is truly a remarkable, as well as likable man, and we are so fortunate to still have him in our midst. I consider him to be the Poet Laureate of the Blackstone Valley. He has said that he likes writing poems because they "create something meaningful, while granting me a personal sense of satisfaction…; and they are a visual medium that most readers of any age can understand and read over and over again.." While reading his poetry in a serene place, one becomes overcome with emotion and leaves with an uplifted spirit and a refreshed soul. As a graduate of "The Brick Academy", Russell Bailey shall always have a place in our hearts.  

Imagine constructing a luxurious cabin cruiser our of a home workshop. That’s exactly what Oliver Tremblay, who was born in Fall River, MA did! From the time that he was small boy, Oliver dreamed of owning and piloting his very own ocean-going vessel. In 1945, he started to build his boat in the backyard of his Cumberland, R.I. home. Laying out first the keel section of his 35-foot cabin cruiser, he thought for quite a while about exactly what kind of vessel he needed for his own use. Then he hired an architect in Ohio, furnishing him with plans that offered a rugged and seaworthy design having trim lines. It called for double planking of spruce and mahogany wood construction. His design had over 12,000 screws, all had wooden plugs on the back. It had 3,000 rivets and was coated with 3 coats of marine paint. Oliver’s vessel was so well constructed that a marine architect said that it would last over a hundred years. He had sleeping quarters for 6, a toilet, refrigerator, table, stove, sink, lockers, dish racks, and drawers with shelves. At the time it cost him over $8,000 for materials. This also included plans for the installation of a radio telephone. Oliver estimated that his fully-completed cruiser (in 1950), would be worth over $20,000. His "dreamboat," which entailed thousands of work hours, certainly demonstrated his superior craftsmanship and persistence while he also worked on the Tool Job of the Whitin Machine Works. It was a main feature of the Hobby Show at the Whitin Gymnasium held in 1951, and over 6,000 visitors saw his cabin cruiser on exhibit. (photo: Oliver Tremblay, shown standing next to his home-made, almost completed, luxurious cabin cruiser)

Hobby:"Curios from the Orient"

This pastime by James Cooper of the Research Division was begun on June 8, 1946 when he went to Shanghai, China to work for a subsidiary of the International General Electric Company as head of sales and engineering of their textile machinery division. He and Mrs. Cooper traveled on weekends and holidays, while sightseeing and looking especially for Chinese curio cabinets. Indeed, they had found many valuable pieces in remote areas of China, accessible only by river rafts and sedan chairs. But in addition to collecting curios, the Coopers also collected a jade laughing Buddha, ancient white jade dress ornaments, including belt buckles and pendants, snuff bottles, and cloisonné opium tins. The tins were inlaid with ground up precious and semi-precious stones of various colors. Quite old, then, the tins were considered extremely valuable.

During their very lengthy stay in China, including Peiping to the North, the Coopers knew that opium smoking was banned except in some of the western province. But Jim reported and emphasized that this was one of a few Chinese customs that he refused to try. The Coopers began to collect many Chinese figures. They owned 8 laughing Buddhas and a Chinese lady figurine made of ivory. Other items included Chinese scrolls dating back over 500 years, opium smoking kits with ivory pipes, small cloisonné cooking lamps, and cloisonné tin in which ashes were emptied! Jim also mentioned that he had a fossilized reptile he found near Hankow, that was thought to be thousands of years old. When the Coopers were advised to leave China due to the proximity of threats by Communist Red Chinese, they had crated and had shipped back to the States, 10 cases of curio cabinets which they had accrued and collected during their stay of three years in China. It had cost them around $1,000 to have their items shipped then, but it had proved to be well worth the expense. 

Hobby:"Photographing Old New England Churches"

Herman Brewster of Border Street in Whitinsville used to hang around churches, but only with a 4X5 corona-view camera, and his ideal subject was an old majestic New England church in order for him to photograph the type of quality picture he wanted. He became interested in admiring churches because of their unlike spires. The First Unitarian Church in Lancaster was one of his favorites. It had been designed in 1816 by Charles Bullfinch, who was a great American architect. It is considered to be a prized landmark even today.

Herman had over 30 photos of churches from Central Massachusetts. He worked from his own darkroom in his home’s cellar. He developed his own negatives and prints, and had his own large and mixed supply of developing and painting solutions. Herman’s film developers were self-mixed and his paper developers were also already prepared.

Herman had one other camera that he used for general work. It was an Ihagee hand-held camera with a special Zeis F 3-5 lens. One of Herman Brewster’s most famous photographs was done for the Whitin Hobby Show in 1951---it was the image of the Whitin Social Library and it was on public display for many months.

Hobby: "Making Friends with Dolls"

Louise Bedford started her hobby when she bought a Dutch-made doll in Baker’s Department Store on a wintry Saturday afternoon. But the most interesting and amazing thing about it was that she never had to purchase any of her dolls again. All of her collection consisted of dolls that her friends got for her over the years, or little girls left for her when they visited. Louise’s favorite doll was a little flower-seller from France. She had one also from Guadalajara, N. Mexico, an unusually red-fezzed boy doll from Turkey, and a tiny Japanese girl doll. But perhaps her most fascinating doll was one of the smallest dolls ever in the world: mounted on a pin, it measure 3/8 of an inch and was very detailed.

Louise also had 6 little dolls that stayed in a straw box. Measuring only an inch long and 1½ inches high. Each of the 6 dolls represented a different leading industry in Guatemala. And Louise was not the only one to have a collection in her family. Her husband collected bells which he kept from all of his trips made around the world. Louise reflected about her hobby and said it certainly added happiness to her life! She wished it would do the same for others.

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