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You Had a Job for Life
Story of a Company Town
Jamie Sayen

2017 • 304 pp. 25 illus. 6 x 9"
New England History / Social History / Labor Studies

$24.95 Paperback, 978-1-5126-0139-8
$19.99 Ebook, 978-1-5126-0140-4

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“If you’re looking for an anti-corporate screed or a rose-colored-glasses view of small-town life, You Had a Job for Life is not for you. But if you’re... [continued in Reviews below]”—Concord Monitor

The life and death of a mill town

Absentee owners. Single-minded concern for the bottom line. Friction between workers and management. Hostile takeovers at the hands of avaricious and unaccountable multinational interests. The story of America’s industrial decline is all too familiar—and yet, somehow, still hard to fathom.

Jamie Sayen spent years interviewing residents of Groveton, New Hampshire, about the century-long saga of their company town. The community’s paper mill had been its economic engine since the early twentieth century. Purchased and revived by local owners in the postwar decades, the mill merged with Diamond International in 1968. It fell victim to Anglo-French financier James Goldsmith’s hostile takeover in 1982, then suffered through a series of owners with no roots in the community until its eventual demise in 2007.

Drawing on conversations with scores of former mill workers, Sayen reconstructs the mill’s human history: the smells of pulp and wood, the injuries and deaths, the struggles of women for equal pay and fair treatment, and the devastating impact of global capitalism on a small New England town. This is a heartbreaking story of the decimation of industrial America.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“If you’re looking for an anti-corporate screed or a rose-colored-glasses view of small-town life, You Had a Job for Life is not for you. But if you’re interested in a multi-faceted look at an important aspect of New Hampshire’s personality, shown through the people who lived it, and reported at unusual depth, you might want to give it a shot.” 

Concord Monitor

You had a Job For Life, an oral history of the destruction of a mill town, details the life and death of the Groveton Papers Mill. But Jamie Sayen’s book could easily have been about Berlin and other paper towns that saw their economies collapse when foreign competition and shrinking markets closed paper mills across the country. The stories are hauntingly similar. Thirty miles west of Berlin, Groveton shared a workforce and for a period, common ownership, with the mills in the Androscoggin Valley.
Berlin Daily Sun

“It includes labor disputes and the women’s struggle for equal pay, the financial machinations that passed ownership through multiple hands over its century in operation, and the bare hands of workers building it all from the ground up. It is all so vivid you can almost smell the sulfur on their skins.”—800-CEO-Read

“[A] heartbreaking history.”
Wall Street Journal

“Colorful and memorable. . . . Recommended.”


“This remarkable account made me think of Studs Terkel and his classic oral histories—but it also made me think of all the blather about working-class communities in the wake of the Trump election. Jamie Sayen has replaced the blather with fact, and it’s a powerful portrait.”—Bill McKibben, author of Radio Free Vermont

“Between the photos and the interviews, the reader can feel the heat in the boiler room, the scalding chlorine fumes in the bleach plant, and the scrambling of the workers as they wrestle with a sheet break. The decades of uncertainty and worry as the mill’s job count slipped from five hundred to three hundred, and then to zero, mirrors the experience of hundreds of one-company towns nationwide.”
—Lloyd C. Irland, author of
The Northeast's Changing Forest

“Sayen’s work gives voice to the real-life consequences of deindustrialization in a northern New Hampshire paper mill town. The oral histories bring a human element to an all-too-familiar story, enhancing our understanding of community and our place as public citizens.”
—Linda Upham-Bornstein, Plymouth State University

JAMIE SAYEN is a writer and environmental activist living in New Hampshire. He is the author of Einstein in America: The Scientist’s Conscience in the Age of Hitler and Hiroshima.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:05 -0500