The Way You Worked
We've invited the community to share photos and stories of how they and their families have worked as part of the local component to The Way We Worked, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian. Here are some of the contributions to The Way You Worked display.
MARIE JEANNE SAMSON, Lewiston millworker, (fourth from left, third row), born in 1909. She married Arthur N. Comeau in 1929 and was only 15 when she is shown in this photo. Her father had told her she tall tall enough to pass for 16 and she should work! Her father, Joseph Paul Samson, worked at the Continental Mill. - Carmen Comeau
My father, Charles Henri Labonte, was born on April 11, 1882 in St. Lambert, a town east of Quebec City and east of the (Fleuve) St. Lawrence River. In 1885, his family moved to Dover, N.H.--he was three years old at that time. At the age of approximately ten or twelve, he began his "career" as a textile mill worker in Dover.
Eventually he ended up in Lewiston. There he worked at the Bates Mill. As a matter of fact, his "strap" or "leather" shop was directly below where your museum is. He was the foreman of that shop and had five employees. Four are pictured in the photo and my father is the person leaning against the column to the right of the picture. The second man from the left was a Mr. Desmarais. Not pictured was his secretary, Gertrude Plourd. The shop office was the roll top desk you see in the background.
Often times, my father would work on Saturday mornings until noon. When I was about seven or eight years old (I was born on Feb. 2, 1935), I would go down to the guardhouse which is situated at the end of the footbridge off Ash St. on Saturday mornings to meet him as he came out of work. We would then go home together in his car (on Saturdays he took his car whereas on weekdays he would take the bus). After about two or three weeks from the time I started to meet my father on those days, the guard, one day, asked me if I would like to go meet him at his shop---I was excited at the prospect of going in to the mill and surprise my father. The guard explained to me how to get there: "go down this narrow footbridge (just beyond the guardhouse) to that double door over there, (pointing to it), once inside and to your right there is staircase, go down that staircase, then take a left at the bottom of the staircase and go about fifty-feet to the first door on your right and there you will find your father." I was all smiles.
The strap or leather shop was where all the belts used on those big pulleys were made or repaired and not just for the Bates Mill but for five mills: The "saw tooth" mill next door; the Bates Mill (building you're in); the Androscoggin; the Hill Mill and a fifth mill of which the name escapes me. Periodically, he would also visit some other mills owned by the Bates Mill people in other towns.
In those days, the employees were paid in cash on Fridays. The cash was put in little brown envelopes. When my father got home on Friday night, he would hand over his pay envelope to my mother who was the person responsible to pay the bills etc. My mother would give my father five dollars for his everyday expenses. He would accumulate a lot of this money and but gifts for my mother and us kids at Christmas or our birthdays etc. - Jean Paul (John) Labonte