Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Society Museum
The story of GNP’s Spruce Wood Department’s Bangor office continues. Harry T. Burr, the superintendent, had his name prominently display on the sign above the door. The museum has a photo of the office with sign.
After WWI, the demand for woods labor increased and GNP also opened branch offices in Greenville and Houlton. Other arrangements were made with agencies in Portland, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. All the men who went into the woods through these agencies signed a contract. Their name, address, age, height, weight, color of eyes, fingerprints and name of nearest relative of every man hired was recorded and filed with a copy of his contract. The December 1923 copy of The Northern magazine lists one new hire as age 92, weight 220 lbs., height 5’ 11” and hair color as gray.
In the mid-twenties, the Bangor office extended into an adjoining building. It had a waiting room for 50 men, washrooms, reading materials, writing desks, free stationary and brass cuspidors. Burr wrote in an article in The Northern (1927) that these amenities “were free to the public” and employers could find labor free of charge. McLeod, in the Spruce Wood chapter of his history of GNP, suggested that “Burr’s clients seem to have been a little slippery, some of them signing up when they were drunk, and changing their minds later.”
Burr had others associated with his agency including a William H. Bell. Bell was good at hiring men, but was also well- known as a boxer throughout much of Maine. Bell, while hiring woods workers, was also on the lookout for men who might enter the boxing ring. In the evenings, he trained these men in a room fitted out as a gym. He would “catch them when they came down from the woods in the spring as soon as they got off the train and take them in hand before they could fall victim to the rum seller or the professional gambler.”