by Don Gosselin
It was summer of
1965 and I was hired by Mr. Robert Hoisington, supervisor of Foundry
personnel at The Whitin Machine Works. Little did I realize back
then that this job would be so challenging and demanding of my
endurance. I met a tough faced man, who would be my foreman and
immediate boss for the three months I worked there. His name was
Arthur Broadhurst, and what I remember most about his appearance,
(outside of his booming base voice), was his huge, strong and
calloused hands when we first met. I would later learn that Arthur
was the captain of an engine company on the Northbridge Fire
Department and served quite a few years in a leadership capacity. He
then introduced me to the "bench moulders" I would be working with.
The Foundry was not the kind of work place I had dreamed about. It
was hot, steamy, noisy, and the odors of molten metals permeated the
open expanse of the sand-covered floors. Many parts of The Shop
Foundry looked "old and grungy," but somehow, there was organization
and sense of commitment to the crude tasks and heavy labor that had
to be done. Each employee I met that day was helpful and courteous.
Making animals of sand, however, was a totally different matter. This required much patience, skill, and attention to detail due to the fragile nature of the medium used. Among the hobbies of the mill workers of The Whitin Machine Works, there was an unusual pastime by a worker near the Foundry. Henry LaPlante of the Core Room, with the use of a file, hacksaw, and some paste, would turn broken cores (made of baked sand) into lifelike-looking animal heads: ducks, fish and other creatures as he saw fit to make them on his spare time. He had lived in Woonsocket, R.I., and as was the practice then, employees had one hour for lunch. So, being unable to go home at mid-day, he found and made use of his idle time by filing down on broken and wasted cores that had been piled up in a corner by his work station. One day an idea came to him at work about finding a creative use for the piled up cores. He began to create the head of a deer. Later, he made a bear's head. Then, he made many ducks, rabbits, fish and even a fishing rod and a rifle, entirely out of cast-away sand!
Another employee of the Foundry's Carpenter Shop was James Connor, who was also its supervisor. He, along with Winifred (Sally) Jones, of the Pattern Loft, were co-founders of the Whitinsville Blood Donors' Club, begun in 1940. The members at that time, who numbered slightly over 35, had donated a total of 1250 pints of their blood to the community. It had also been documented that this Club never refused a call for help and had sent 775 donors to hospitals in Providence, Pawtucket, Springfield, Worcester, and Boston. Some donors had to travel as far as Portland, ME. The Blood Donors Club had never charged for its donations, and refused cash gifts that were proposed. The only exception to this policy was the acceptance of support from Mr. E. Kent Swift of the Whitin Board of Directors, who had arranged to have all blood donors in The Shop receive their full pay when absent from work. Well over 90% of the Club's membership came directly from employees of the Whitin Machine Works. Also, it was a fact that whenever a Shop employee was sent out to donate blood, his transportation and meal reimbursement was provided to him.
"I suspect the best thoughts of old friends, come not on specific days set aside for remembering them, but from the things we used to do with them and from the special way we do things because that was the way they did them. The life they lived is now part of our own. (This is about the only sort of memorial that means so much.)"
"I was upset and disheartenend
when I was told to clear and shut down all operations in the Shop
Foundry. It was a bad day for us all, but I felt really troubled
when I later learned that the Blast Furnace and the building would
all be taken down."----source, Mr. Alfred LaJoie, last Full-time
Employee of The Whitin Machine Works Foundry, 1970