HANTSPORT - Writer Harry Bruce said he could have titled his 1979 biography R.A. Jodrey The Man from Gaspereau.
It remains a chronicle of one man’s remarkable lifetime entrepreneurial achievement.
We wanted it to last forever: Closing the Minas Basin Paperboard Mill rounds out a good portion of Jodrey’s legacy from the perspective of his chosen hometown of Hantsport.
In the late 1920s, Jodrey chose the little town on the Avon River for his mill because of tax concessions that nearby Windsor wouldn’t offer. He set up papermaking operations in the old Churchill shipyard. His new industries replaced the outdated production efforts that saw more than 130 wooden sailing vessels built in Hantsport.
Biographer Bruce observed that Minas Basin Pulp and Power “became a synonym among bluenose businessmen for a small-town, financial genius named Roy Jodrey.”
It was Jodrey and his heirs who provided a good workplace, solid employment for area residents and environmental leadership for 85 years.
A time of change
In 2012, 135 employees, some of whom had worked at the plant for more than 30 years, lost their jobs. Forty of the employees were offered jobs at CKF Inc., the company’s sister plant.
The closure came 44 days after the mill’s parent company, Scotia Investments Ltd., announced the plant would cease operating due to increased competition and rising costs. But closures in the papermaking industry, including the closure of the NewPage and Bowater Mersey paper plants, have not been confined to just one region of the province.
About 30 per cent of the displaced workers lived in Hantsport, with its population of just over a thousand, and the rest resided anywhere from Coldbrook to St. Croix.
Dick Groot interviewed 23 of them and took their portraits.
“They reflect on the good and bad times and share their feelings about the impact the mill had on their families and the community over several generations,” he said.
Groot says the loss of the plant was a devastating loss to the employees and the town.
“This closure followed the shutting down of the gypsum mine and the gypsum loading facility in Hantsport about 12 months earlier. Hence, a double whammy.”
Showing Terry Gerhardt, who was vice president operations, images of the silent mill in the winter of 2013, Groot said they brought back memories and a story or two. So the collection began.
He says he and George Bishop decided to create a book to celebrate the life of the company through good and bad times. Gaspereau Press handled the typography, layout and design.
Don Connolly, host of CBC Halifax’s Information Morning, grew up in a town with a now shuttered mill and he wrote, “No one bore witness to the last days of this business, which sustained five generations in Northern New Brunswick.”
What a service this book is to Hantsport and the people who founded, built and worked at Minas Basin, Connolly said.
“In this book we find the history not only of a company, but a community.”
Groot’s photographic practice
Since 2002 Dick Groot has based his photographic work in Wolfville. His main photographic interests are the photography of abandoned industrial sites, street photography, portraiture, and the nearby tidal landscape.
Twenty years ago the Dutch native was struck by the architecture of the farms, villages and towns in the Valley. He observed that that the architecture portrayed both wealth and economic decline, so he set out to photograph, for example, the empty Windsor Wear-Nova Scotia Textiles Mill.
He has had five solo exhibits and his work hangs in private collections in Canada and various other countries in North America and Europe.
IN TIME - The last twenty years
Minas Basin became the first company in Canada and the only one in the Maritimes to use 100 per cent recycled fibre in their paper mill.
First in Nova Scotia and one of the first in Canada to be in total compliance with all federal pulp and paper effluent regulations.
The Minas Basin Development Centre was opened for enhanced training for its employees and two years later received an award for Excellence in Workplace Literacy.
The Nova Scotia Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Main Business Partnership Award was awarded to Minas Basin for its shift in business practices.