The Navy moved my household from Panama Metropolis, Panama, to Panama Metropolis, Florida, in 1961.
The summer season after ending Gulf Coast Neighborhood School, I managed to work two jobs, a four-hour job as “port sampler” for the Nationwide Marine Fisheries and within the labor pool of the paper mill. Contained in the mill, the labor pool was referred to as the “Bull Gang.” The work sample for the summer season was eight hours within the mill, come dwelling and clear up, and work 4 hours on the marinas across the county.
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The summer season of 1974 glided by actually fast and I attended the College of Florida within the fall. One fear I didn’t have at college was cash, sufficient was earned to cowl all bills of the subsequent three quarters of faculty.
I deliberate to return dwelling in the course of the summer season of ’75 and repeat work on the mill. Nevertheless, a poor enterprise local weather diminished hiring on the mill and I had no mill job. Discovered loads of work that summer season however the pay was not the mill equal. Earlier than I returned to high school the following yr, I married my highschool sweetheart and we each returned to Gainesville. We made it by one other college yr to the summer season of ’76.
The mill employed me to work that summer season within the machine room the place the reels of paper had been made. My job was to feed paper recycled from field vegetation right into a dry finish pulper. The work was shift work, eight-hour shifts. The perfect a part of the job was having additional time to “double over.” That summer season work allowed for an expanded paycheck as I obtained numerous 16-hour work days.
Solely two extra quarters of faculty left on my chemical engineering diploma. The subsequent focus was deciding on a profession. My spouse and I visited three profession alternatives: petro-chemical in Houston, textile in Georgia and paper in Panama Metropolis. In March 1977, we moved again to Panama Metropolis to start a profession with Worldwide Paper.
In 1930, development groups got here to Bay County to construct a paper mill on the location of a former sawmill in Millville. With the nation struggling in the course of the Nice Melancholy, one of many males in search of work moved his younger household from Louisiana to assist construct the mill. Sam Barbay was in that development group. After the mill began producing paper in 1931, Sam continued to work within the mill with the upkeep group. Sam retired from the mill in 1957 and my father-in-law, “D” Barbay, started his profession on the mill.
“D” had a profitable profession, retiring in 1987. I completed my profession in July 2019 with a bit of greater than 42 years. Towards the tip of my profession, my job included offering shows and excursions for patrons, guests, and group teams.
I really continued excursions as requested after retirement. The final group I toured by the mill was Management Bay with the Bay County Chamber of Commerce. That group, like the numerous teams earlier than, heard the story in regards to the mill’s historical past and my historical past and my spouse’s household historical past. I would go away a quote with the group, “all the things I’ve in life, together with a spouse, got here from the mill.”
A variety of households prospered working on the paper mill. A variety of native households had connections to the paper mill. I’m saddened for the households that had been on the mill when it closed that won’t benefit from the full profession alternative my spouse’s household had for greater than 90 years.
Tem Fontaine has lived in Bay County for 61 years and his skilled profession on the paper mill spanned 42 years. He’s now retired, however stays energetic with the Historic Society of Bay County and the Bay County Chamber of Commerce and its Army Affairs Committee.