In March of 1924 the Hawthorne Woolen Mill had to close after many years in Carleton Place, and the prospects of it re-opening seemed bleak. The company was in liquidation, and Mr. Richard Thompson, the chief owner, pointed out that the assets of the company were some $425,000 more than the liabilities. Thompson said with the tariff conditions it was impossible to run a woolen mill in Canada. The manufacture of cloth would now stand idle in most mills. The closing of the mill was sad for him, as the 200 persons that worked there were responsible for their homes and families in Carleton Place, and had been devoted to the company. There was little or no other work for these people in town, and he had deep sympathy for them. Mr. Thompson explained that it was possible for other mills in Carleton Place to also be affected soon. The wages paid by the Hawthorne Mill amounted to $250,000 a year, and the mill was also the largest user of water and electricity in the town.
In April of 1946 the Hawthorne Mill, then owned by the Renfrew Woolen Mill went on strike. Kent Rowley, Canadian director of the United Textile Workers, said if the unions demands were not met they would prepare for general action throughout the valley to win those demands. The UTW had laid two major demands before the management of the Hawthorne Mills owned by M. J O’ Brien. They wanted 15 cents more an hour in wage increase, and two weeks holidays for all employees. Mayor A J Coleman had offered to act as conciliator. In some places there were employees in various mills in the valley earning as low as 21, 29 and 32 cents an hour.
Mr. Rowley said the same demands made at the Carleton Place plant were made at its sister plant in Renfrew. He said H A Green, managing director of the O’Brien interests, were living in in the age of the past. It was added that anytime the union ever made an attempt to work out an agreement with the plant– it was always met with the word NO. The workers became disgusted and went out on strike. Their tents were pitched, and their fires lit and they meant to demonstrate to Mr. Green that we were going to stay there and fight, until they got some sort of an understanding. Mr. Green told them to go out on strike as he felt his workers were not that strong and their spirit would be broken in a week.
In Novemeber 1952 Renfrew Woolen Mills went on strike. Mr. O’Brien said they had been operating at a heavy loss for the past year and a half and the strike cost them their contract with General Motors for upholstery for their 1953 cars. The Carleton Place mill employing 90 men now covered by the union was still operating- but only on one shift. It would be forced to close in one week. Mass picketing had hurt the shipping output and both plants just closed down soon after that, never to open again.
Photos- Linda Seccaspina
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