Hard hats spell sad end at IP

Published 9:48 am Saturday, May 15, 2010

FRANKLIN—As the afternoon shift change unfolded at International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill on Friday, change was in the air.

And on the ground.

Friday was the last day for 212 workers at the mill as it prepares to shut down for good this summer, eliminating 1,100 jobs. Many left their hard hats on the ground just outside the mill entrance. Dates of employment and other messages were scrawled on almost all of them.

“In God We Trust, Not IP.”

“That’s All Folks!”

“Good Luck Everyone!”

Oscar Babb of Franklin — an employee of the mill for 32 years, most of them as a millwright — crouched down to take pictures of the makeshift memorial of hard hats, boots and clothing.

“It was very sad,” Babb said. “It’s just like losing your family. No, it was losing family.”

Babb said although he starts a new job Monday with EMC Electric Motor and Contracting in Courtland, leaving the IP mill and his longtime co-workers was hard.

“We all didn’t realize it, but we had become brothers and sisters of the Camp mill,” Babb said. “It was tough.”

Former millwright Lynn Baugham of Boykins walked slowly to his car. He was carrying a white plastic bag full of his belongings.

“I never thought this would happen at this mill,” said Baugham, a 34-year veteran. “I’ve been saying goodbye to people all day yesterday and today. As of right now, I don’t have any future plans. I’m just going to wait a little while and then look, just hope for the best.”

Mike Twine of Courtland, a 14-year employee of the mill, will still be an International Paper employee. In Texarkana, Texas.

“I’ve lived here since I was a teenager,” Twine, an instrument mechanic, said. “This was a good place to work. There were good people here.”