Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Corner Brook Selfie

A little over two years ago, I was contacted by a reporter in Corner Brook who wanted to interview me about the Mill Whistle Project. We chatted on the phone for about a half hour and at the end she asked whether I had a photo that could run with the story — preferably one of me with the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill in the background. I told her that I would send her something that would work, but that I definitely did not have the requested image.

Her request has stuck with me, but I’ve never had the opportunity to have the photo taken. So last week, I headed to the top of Crow Hill to pose for a selfie.

I'm a selfie novice, so I wouldn’t say that I nailed it (the sun was blinding), but it does the job for now!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Waking to the Whistle

On Monday of last week, I was surprised to wake up to the Corner Brook whistle. It hasn’t happened in years — I have never heard the morning whistle from my parents’ new home in the Sunnyslope Drive area. At first I thought I had slept in, since I usually wake around 7am while on vacation and the whistle doesn’t blow until 8am. But then I realized it was sounding for what seemed like forever. I looked at my watch and discovered it was around 6:45am. I was hearing a fire whistle — a series of long and short blasts that repeats to alert workers to a fire in the mill. Though I strained to recognize the pattern, hoping to look it up in my mill rules book, I was unable to identify it because it took so long for me to realize what was happening. I went upstairs and asked my parents if they had heard it. They had not. It seems that the ambient sound of morning news on TV, the kettle boiling, and the HRV unit cutting in and out had covered the sound of the fire whistle.

I find this incident interesting, since sometimes I have been asked whether the whistle has been “turned down” because it doesn’t appear to be as loud as it once was. When I spoke with an engineer last year, he assured me there was no volume control. I asked if perhaps improved construction techniques and materials (insulation, windows, etc) were the cause. He agreed that these likely contribute to the perception that the whistle is not as loud, but emphasized that the wind direction is the primary factor.

I guess the wind was in my favour last week!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Archival research from the comfort of one’s home…

I recently committed to writing an article on the Corner Brook mill whistle and its relationship to World War II and Remembrance Day. Of course, once I got into the writing process, I found a few gaps in my research that needed to be filled — and fast! With a tight deadline to submit the article for peer review, I found myself wishing for two things: 1) to be in Corner Brook so that I could go through back issues of The Western Star (the local newspaper) and 2) to have access to the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland & Labrador. As a joke, I posted to my facebook timeline, “My kingdom for a copy of the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador! And a bag of sour candies and some mini eggs and a cold diet pepsi…”

Well, imagine my surprise when just a few moments later, a friend replied, “Will digital do?” She attached the URL for the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador available via the Digital Archives Initiative at Memorial University (thanks Michelle!). The entire thing. Searchable! I quickly typed in a few keywords and found the answer to one of my questions about radio in Corner Brook during World War II.

While there on the DAI site, for a lark I browsed the newspaper holdings and clicked on The Western Star just as I had many times before during the course of this project. In the past, I found the first three decades of the publication. Much to my surprise — and rather fortunate in terms of my looming deadline — I discovered that additional volumes had been added since I last checked and now 1900-1952 were available! Again, all searchable!

I must admit that I interpreted both of these finds as “signs” that I really was meant to write the article between June 1 and June 10. It seemed as though the stars were aligning for me! I was able to do the archival research required not only in a different province, but while sitting in the comfort of my apartment on my sofa (though, sadly without a cold diet pepsi).

So, I thought I should share these incredibly valuable resources — and all the many others — that have been made available by Memorial University through the Digital Archives Initiative. This is an amazing initiative and I can’t wait to see what else ends up available online in the future!

Thanks to everyone involved in the DAI at Memorial!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

ACE Awards

On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending the ACE Award Ceremony at the Pepsi Centre Annex in Corner Brook. The Mill Whistle Project had been nominated for a Heritage Project award and I had been nominated for a Heritage Individual award for my work on the Mill Whistle Project. It was truly an honour to receive the award for Heritage Individual after working on the Mill Whistle Project for 7 years now.

The ACE in ACE Award stands for Achievement in Community Excellence. The ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate outstanding residents of Corner Brook in a variety of categories, including business, environment, sports, and arts/culture. The event was truly enjoyable, but it is unfortunate that there wasn’t an opportunity to say a few words of thanks. I know that I would have appreciated it. And so, in this post, I thank everyone involved in the Mill Whistle Project thus far who have helped to make it a success and apologize if I miss anyone!

JR Smallwood Foundation

Institute for Social and Economic Research

Ryan David Butt

Heather Wellman

Tammy MacNeil

Todd Hennessey

Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill (esp. the Engineering Department)

Corner Brook Museum and Archives

The Rooms


CBC Radio Archive in St. John’s

Library at Grenfell Campus

Steven Rolls

Everyone who participated in an interview

Everyone who completed a survey

Everyone who shared books, recordings, poems, etc

Everyone who showed support for the project, even if they thought it was crazy or didn’t quite understand “the point.”

My family and friends who have listened to me talking about the mill whistle and encouraged my work.

Finally, thanks to the person who nominated me and the project — you know who you are!


This project has a special place in my heart and it will only continue to grow from here!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Not one, not two, but three?

Back in September (2013) I met with a gentleman who works in the engineering department of the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill. He provided a lot of great information about the actual functioning of the whistle (including how many pounds of pressure it takes to operate the whistle, for example). During our conversation, I asked him to describe what the whistle looks like and, much to my surprise, he said there was more than one. At the time, he said he thought there were two and, given that there are two distinct pitches to the whistle when it blows, this seemed to make sense. I asked him for a photograph and he said he would snap one the next time he was up on the roof.

Weeks passed and I wondered if he’d forgotten about the photograph, but given that he had carefully noted the request in a small notebook, I did my best to be patient. And finally, one day, I found an email from him in my inbox. Attached was the much anticipated photograph of Corner Brook’s whistle. Never in all my imaginings did I come close to the image in front of me. Three whistles.

That, my friends, is it. That is the infamous “mill whistle” of Corner Brook. One large, two small.

Together, the voice of the community.