The Project

In the early 1920s, Sir Richard Squires promised to turn Corner Brook’s economy around by establishing a paper mill in the community. While his campaign slogan, “put the Hum on the Humber,” referenced the bustling activity of industrial development that would invigorate the economy of the west coast, it also foreshadowed a host of changes to the sonic environment. This study focuses on those changes and the impact of the mill whistle on the everyday life of residents, their identity, and their cultural expressions.

The idea for the Mill Whistle Project came in 2007, when the mill whistle was temporarily silenced due to work on the roof of the mill. There was outcry in the papers and on open line radio shows, and when the whistle finally returned in December it was at a reduced frequency: the whistle that sounded eight times a day in the 50s/60s, and four times a day in the 80s/90s, now sounded only two times a day (at 8am and 4pm). With the realization that this iconic sound was slowly disappearing from the soundscape of Corner Brook, the idea for a collection project was born. This project seeks to answer the following questions:
  1. In what ways is this whistle unique to Corner Brook?
  2. What does the whistle sound like from different areas of the city?
  3. What are the sonic boundaries of the mill whistle?
  4. How do the sounds of the mill interact with and/or impact the surrounding natural environment and other industrial/mechanical sounds?
  5. What do these sounds of industry mean to the people of Corner Brook?
  6. What would be the long-term effects should the whistle be silenced for a more substantial length of time, or if the mill were to shut down for good?
  7. Will references to the whistle in literature and song still resonate with the people 20 years from now?
  8. How will daily lives and special moments, such as Remembrance Day, change if the mill whistle disappears?
  9. How does the mill whistle reflect a community character and how might that change in the future?
  10. Should the mill whistle be preserved? If so, how?

The Mill Whistle Project has received funding from the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) and the J. R. Smallwood Foundation at Memorial University.

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