Paul liked us, and we appreciated Paul

Everyone called him merely “Paul,” especially the men and boys who have almost forgotten what a day’s pay looked like before he arrived!
Paul A. Laurence came from Minneapolis right after the worst years of the Great Depression, whenever there was papermill construction to be done on either side of the river.
You could go to his office in the American mill yard and Paul would be glad to see you, especially if you had worked for him earlier and he knew your family.
Generally believed a millionaire, Paul also was known to be a cost-plus contractor. He received an extra quarter for every dollar he spent on a job—and his jobs were plentiful.
He also was considered a Mando company shareholder (Mando being the abbreviation for the Minnesota and Ontario company that used to own the two-country mill here).
Paul put me to work on a variety of locations, from the fence around the radio tower north of town to the bark plant alongside the log conveyor chain on the river to most of the mill roofs—from the steam plant north to the offices and freight shed.
And I can still smell all that hot tar we needed to keep boiling!
Some of his lead men were Scandinavians like himself, but he also thought highly of my father, who could attend a diver or show you how to handle a jackhammer or lay cement.
Our bookkeeper was a well-known school teacher, Mal Steele, whom you could meet whenever Paul was away. Local superintendents included Harry Christiansen, who built the Rainy Lake Hotel in 1925, and Stan Dolyny, who filled our old lumberyard with homes.
When there were any layoffs for lack of work, a man would be practically guaranteed a job again at the next opportunity—and Paul would want to know what you had been doing since last seen.
I had gone to Steep Rock Iron Mines and the Port Arthur shipyard as a welder, the Second World War having broken out by then. But Paul wanted to know when I would be returning to him because he was like a father to all “his boys.”
And when the war ended, I saw Paul again for a summer’s work between college terms. My job was always safe with him!
So now our young men and boys may lack the security that Paul gave all of us who needed jobs, and we still owe him our gratitude! Paul really looked after us whenever he could.
His memory is important to many. Despite the busy times that followed his career among us, he deserves never to be forgotten!
When Paul managed to find another small job for us at Kettle Falls, where the dam required a big barge load of materials, he managed to put us up at the nearby hotel, which had closed for the season.
Two things we had to remember were that Paul would not tolerate smoking on his papermill jobs—and also that he personally might be watching. To scan the mill roofs closest to the bridge, he would park his car at the toll office and come after us if he spotted any smoke among his workmen.
One day, he came hustling over from the toll office to check on my activities while hoisting a wheelbarrow of cement onto the boiler house roof. No, I wasn’t smoking but fatherly Paul was concerned whether I was doing my job safely.
When the war ended and we returned to work for him, Paul questioned everyone to ascertain we had not been injured! With Paul, money was never his only interest. This was a man of compassion, we all understood, and sometimes there would be Christmas turkey from him.
As for wages, he paid the papermill scale of 56 cents per hour and jacking that up a nickel for a compulsory “cost of living” increase.
You’d say that wasn’t much compared to today, but I had worked at Safeway for 25 cents, on a CNR nightshift at ditching in the bush for 35 cents, and at Steep Rock Iron Mines for 45 cents.
Even shipyard welding job brought in very little more.
In financial terms, Paul’s work was much preferred—and he would always welcome you back when the next job opened up!
• • •
Anyone believing I have a good memory had best not be someone I have not seen for several years, as Jessie Bodnarchuk discovered when she came in from her present home at Rainy River after three years away—and had to tell me her name after greeting me cordially.
We all knew Jessie as our ceramics queen when she fashioned some gorgeous objects in McIrvine while John worried about her kiln setting their house afire.
John had a much appreciated sideline also, which was trapping and removing any skunks loitering in your backyard. The Bodnarchuks are much missed here!
• • •
You don’t expect any “cop shop” to become a popular social centre but that was exactly the fate of our former RCMP building on Scott Street, where we enjoyed a gathering of family and friends Saturday.
My daughter, Sara Ann, was home from Winnipeg with her fiance, Ted Aarestad, of Sioux City, Iowa, and my other daughters has arranged with Community and Social Committee, the building’s new owners, to stage engagement reception there.
• • •
Our new neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Ross Kellett, have been rapidly making friends since arriving only a week ago in connection with Wal-Mart’s big new store here.
Mrs. Kellett will be its first manager. Her husband has been RCAF member for 26 years.
• • •
It’s good to see so many great cattle being auctioned on TV since the “mad cow” disaster struck the market, but prices out west seem to be perking up.
Choice Limousin and Simmental heifers were bringing almost a dollar a pound again. This was occurring at Alberta and Saskatchewan sales, where they said Canadian cattle continue to lead the world.
Apparently, the cattlemen are looking beyond their present problem with the U.S. embargo because the sales concerned mostly unbred heifers.
To be a cattleman, of course as I found out the hard way, it takes an eternal optimist. We’ve known hard times in various ways right along but the old excitement lingers on.
• • •
My apologies to Joy Witherspoon for not answering her phone call a couple of evenings back. My excuse was illness.

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