Champion men and paper go to war again
"To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace," advised George Washington, and many Champions were heeding the first president's advice in 1940 as continued German aggression promised to eventually bring the United States into World War II. As Hamilton braced for the inevitable, the Hamilton mill supplied leadership and energy for the community's initial defense measures.
In the summer of 1940, Clarke Marion, a Champion vice president, assumed chairmanship of the Hamilton Military Affairs Committee. Encouraging enlistment in the local National Guard unit, assuring guardsmen of no loss of pay while training, and guaranteeing that guardsmen retain their jobs when "the emergency" ended were the original committee goals, but it soon expanded its activities to all phases of national and civil defense.
To enlist community support, Marion's committee staged a "Pageant of Patriotism" in Hamilton with Champion participating in many ways. For example, Alexander (Alex) Thomson Jr. handled publicity; a company float was planned by Cal Skillman, Ernie Nelson, Dick Korn, Paul Cook, James Fowler and Ed Giebel; and more than 100 Champions marched in the Preparedness Day Parade Aug. 2, 1940.
Meanwhile, George Johnston headed the aviation committee and Cal Skillman, who was a member of the Hamilton school board, chaired the vocational education committee, a cooperative venture of the schools and local industries aimed at training workers for defense jobs.
Dozens of Champions had been drafted or had joined the National Guard before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941. By the war's end, Homer T. Latimer, Hamilton plant manager, reported 676 men and women from the mill in military service, almost half of the 1,440 from all Champion operations.
Eighteen of the 35 company war deaths were from the Hamilton mill. Sgt. John Singleton, 24, was the first Hamilton Champion to lose his life. He was killed in action Jan. 30, 1943, in the South Pacific. A Champion since April 1, 1937, Singleton had entered the service Oct. 11, 1940, almost 14 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He left a job on the No. 2 rewinders in the Hamilton mill when his Ohio National Guard unit was federalized. The oldest casualty was 34-year-old Stanley J. Campbell, who died July 16, 1944, in France. Sgt. Campbell had worked for Champion for more than 15 years when he entered the service Sept. 25, 1943.
Others who didn't return to the mill were Tommy Thompson, Raymond Cox Jr., Morey Soehner, Wilson Browning, Columbus Lamb, Roy C. Webster, Roy M. Vaughn, Donald W. Carter, Frank R. Chiles, Russell Penwell, Fred Stewart, Harold Wynn, Charles W. Arnold, Gordon E. Castator, John C. Walker and Earl Shepherd.
One life may have been saved by the efforts of Bill Wirsing and George VanDeGriff in the Hamilton machine shop. The pair, and others in the department, routinely crafted 10-inch steel-bladed knives from old files and scrap and gave them to Champions and sons of employees entering the service. A knife inscribed "To Bill Marion from the tool room gang" had been presented to the son of Clarke Marion, a Champion vice president.
"Nov. 3, 1943, we were taking off from the USS Coral Sea with three 500-pound bombs," Marion said. "About four miles from the task force, my engine started cutting up and quite suddenly completely stopped. I glided within 25 feet of the water and then spun into the ocean on my left wing. We partially submerged, but popped back to the surface as our plane had enough air in the bomb bays and gas tanks to make it buoyant.
"I tried to get out of the cockpit, but found I was hopelessly tangled up in my parachute harness and radio cord. Luckily, I had my knife with me and was able to cut my way out. Shortly after that, the plane sank," Marion recalled.
"Only because of the knife given me by the tool room gang was I able to climb in the raft with my two gunners and eventually we were picked up by the destroyer USS Frank," he said.
"Most everyone in the mill had someone involved in the war, and they were concerned about them," explained Nancy Gover, who joined the sorting line in September 1941. She recalled "pictures of the boys in service around the mill." The Log and CHIPS, company publications, also featured news of Champions in the service.
In July 1945 The Log reported the release of T/Sgt. Phil Kinder, formerly of No. 10 paper machine, who had been the first Champion taken prisoner by the Germans. Kinder was the flight engineer and turret gunner on a Flying Fortress shot down over Minden, Germany, in July 1943. He spent most of his captivity in Stalag 17-B, near Vienna, until liberation in May 1945.
In August 1945 The Log relayed the reactions of Cpl. Albert E. Wiseman who had seen the Dachau concentration camp. "I have seen the liberated slaves straggling back along the highway as we moved up. But the worst sight that I have seen was the Dachau Concentration Camp," Wiseman wrote. "I did not see the whole camp, but I did see enough of it to know that whatever you read about it or whatever pictures you may see, you never can know the real horror that existed there. Even seeing what I did, I know that I could not imagine the terror of living in such a place. If hell is any worse than that place, I know I never want to see it," Wiseman said.
On the home front, Hamilton called on Champions again to direct civilian defense in the uneasy early years of the war before it was obvious that Hamilton and other American cities weren't going to be bombed by German and Japanese planes.
Alexander Thomson Jr. took a leave of absence as vice president and advertising manager to become full-time commander of the Hamilton Civilian Defense Council June 5, 1942. A gigantic task faced the son of Alexander Thomson and the grandson of Peter G. Thomson. A total of 3,355 people were needed to fill 21 job classifications for the Hamilton CD organization, including 440 air raid wardens at a suggested ratio of one for every 500 inhabitants.
Within a month of Pearl Harbor, only 301 people had registered to serve in all CD jobs. By mid May 1942, more than 5,000 people had volunteered, including 1,086 who were completing the required training.
Gordon C. (Mike) Faber coordinated the mill's civilian defense in 1942. Other CD leaders were Kenneth Snyder, assistant coordinator; J. R. (Bob) Chambers, fire chief; Ray Dickie, police chief; Dr. Louis H. Frechtling, medical services; and C. L. (Dick) McKasson, engineering services.
The mill enlarged its fire department in January 1942. The plant was divided into 14 zones, each with a fire department of four to six people for each shift, and fire drills were held at least once a week. Later in the year, a used fire truck was purchased from the Venice Fire Department, refurbished and repainted for service in the mill.
Champion hosted more than 100 chemists and chemical engineers from throughout Butler County in November for a course in protecting civilians against poison gas. Ed Knapp, Joe Watson, John Teare, Clark Hayner and E. P. Cox of the research department were instructors.
The Champion whistle signaled the start and finish of Hamilton's first air raid alert -- a 15-minute dim-out on the city's West Side. After a limited test Sept. 23, 1942, Thomson said "more practice and training is needed before we are ready for the real thing" because of problems involving the Hamilton mill, which had been the hypothetical target of a high-explosive bomb during the mock air raid. The confusion concerned the arrival of ambulances and the dispatch of medical crews to the mill during the drill.
When Champion held its own air raid drill Monday night, Oct. 12, 1942, it took about four minutes to blackout the entire mill. The one-hour test involving about 2,000 employees included a 10-minute blackout during which messengers were sent to every department with instructions to order all machines stopped, except paper-making machines, beaters and the chlorine plant. All necessary work was monitored by flashlight. The drill involved hundreds of mill workers trained in additional war-related duties, including 70 who became firemen and 60 who served as mill police.
During this trying period, Logan G. Thomson, the youngest of Peter G. Thomson's children, directed the company. In 1902, at age 17, his introduction to paper making had been on a paper machine in the Hamilton mill. After two years at Williams College in Massachusetts, he returned to work in the color room and on beaters, and played on the mill baseball team for several years. He moved to the order department, billing clerk and advertising assistant before becoming manager of the New York sales office in 1909. He moved back to Hamilton in 1912 as assistant production manager before quartermaster service during World War I. He became a director in 1916, secretary-treasurer in 1920, vice president in 1931, and was president from Aug. 9, 1935, until his death Aug. 6, 1946, at age 61, during a trip to LaJolla, Calif.
Logan Thomson encouraged and assisted Champions who contributed to the war effort in many ways, including defense bonds. "Buy Defense Bonds for Offense Bombs" proclaimed the mill slogan as the Chaco Credit Union was an agent for sale of bonds and stamps. Clarence Bartlett, of the pipe shop, and Albert Kind, of engineering, bought the first bonds. More than 80 percent of work force (2,585 people) had signed pledges by May 1942, and a month later participation exceeded 90 percent.
Employees were given the opportunity to borrow money to buy defense bonds "and thus create for themselves a personal financial stake in the government's plans to make America secure against any foe," The Log reported. "Ted Ketchum is responsible for the idea. He called Cal Skillman of the Chaco Credit Union," the article said, and suggested a plan "through which any Champion can buy the bonds and have the loan repaid out of his earnings."
Later there were "Champion 10 Percenters" -- employees with 10 percent or more of their pay deducted - and some set aside as much as 25 percent for investment in War Savings Bonds.
In 1943, the mill's $1 million annual bond goal was exceeded in about 10 months.
The mill and its employees also responded to appeals to collect scrap materials for the war effort. In eight months in 1942 a scrap drive within the plant yielded 700 tons of iron and steel and 36 tons of brass and copper while workers brought in nearly 50 tons of metals and four tons of rubber.
"Food Will Win the War and Write the Peace," declared a mill slogan promoting Victory Gardens, a program directed by Ernie Nelson of the activities department.
Ed Bauer said "Champion made the space available and plowed the land with the government giving out seeds." Everett Hall requested the first plot, and by the end of May 1942 all space had been taken. Champion obtained and plowed a 10-acre tract at the west end of Azel and Western avenues. The area was divided into gardens 40 by 100 feet. A company publication said "every garden plot is sufficient for a family of five, not only for summer requirements, but also for winter canning."
Among the 107 participants, The Log said "the average produce from each was valued at $40 as a minimum, or more than $4,000 for the 10 acres." As late as February, "one Champion had more than 150 quarts of canned corn, pickles, beans, carrots, lima beans and other items."
In 1944 additional plots were available on Millikin street on the West Side and on Chase Avenue in Lindenwald. There were 143 company-sponsored gardens in 1945 as the war wound down.
As part of the Victory Garden program, Mrs. Irene White McIntyre, secretary to Homer H. Latimer, mill manager, directed a canning campaign in the mill and the city while Alex Wildman of research, described as a "cook and canner in his own right," headed a division of men canners.
"Champion Recipes for Champion Canners" a 61-page mimeographed collection of canning and preserving recipes was "dedicated to the Champion Canners of 1943 in appreciation of the splendid effort made to conserve the supply of Victory Garden produce, and furnish a well-rounded diet to their Champion families." Compiled by McIntyre and produced by the employee relations department, it offered tips on processing fruits and vegetables, syrups for fruit, pickles, meats, jellies, preserves, butters, jams and marmalades.
The Champion Wartime Carnival in September 1943 also emphasized gardening, canning and preserving in addition to games, refreshments and displays and activities focused on the military and civilian defense. McIntyre, Bud Pratt, Art Thurn, Bob Scheben, Otto Kersteiner, Jim Rice and Ralph Beiser directed the "Food for Victory" section of the carnival.
Rationing curtailed food, clothing and especially travel during the war. Tire rationing and efforts to conserve rubber prompted cancellation of the mill picnic in August 1942. Gas rationing, effective Dec. 1, 1942, immediately created plenty of empty spaces in parking lots, increased bus ridership and caused a 25 percent jump in cafeteria patronage.
The employee relations department received more than 500 applications for supplemental gasoline while "Share the Ride" was promoted by the mill rationing committee chaired by George Laugh and including Cal Skillman, Homer Latimer, Kenneth Faist, Roy Stewart, Everett Potts and Ray Dickie."
Rationing problems continued until the end of the war, evidenced by a May 1945 CHIPS story based on a bulletin from the War Food Administration. "With meat in short supply, workers can no longer expect to find the traditionally popular meat-potato-vegetable combination at the cafeteria each day. Roast beef, steaks and chops have disappeared from the lunch special in many localities." The story said "remember that food, like tanks, planes, ships and guns, is a war weapon."
In June, CHIPS again addressed the problem of customers eating too much meat in the cafeteria. On a day when flank steak was on the menu, "many meat-hungry employees took two or even three servings," the report said, "meaning that the daily steak consumption on Saturday was double a normal day." In urging one meat portion per person, CHIPS said "if you eat it today, you don't eat tomorrow, or even of you eat it in the morning, someone else can't at night." In the summer of 1945, CHIPS also reminded employees that within the mill, cigarette rations remained only one pack per person.
On the business side, the mill adjusted to a market dominated by war demands and government controls. It wasn't until April 7, 1943, that Champion was declared "an essential industry." The War Manpower Commission found Champion "fulfilling contracts of government agencies directly engaged in the war effort, and that you supply materials under sub contracts for contracts directly concerned with the maintenance of indispensable civilian activities."
Earlier, company publications boosted employee morale by stressing paper's many roles in the war.
For army maneuvers in 1942 in the Carolinas, 95 tons of paper went into 4.5 million maps. Every soldier in that operation received 21 maps covering all parts of the of the 12,000-square-mile area.
"All ration cards and instructions must be printed on paper, and there is hardly a branch of this defense wherein paper is not used wholly or in part," noted The Log. "It is necessary to plotting systems, giving instructions for air raid precautions, first aid instructions, communications and records of all kinds. Bonds, tax stamps, notes, orders, correspondence, even money itself is paper required by the Treasury Department, and the chances are that the bond you buy or the revenue stamp which is canceled on the can of tobacco is made by Champion." The 1942 article said "in this greatest of all wars in the history of mankind, there is needed for this year alone, 18 million tons of paper."
"More than 6,000 tons of paper were required during the first 90 days after D-Day to provide maps for the Allied armies of invasion," noted CHIPS in November 1944.
The war also created new uses for paper. The Log said "paper is being impregnated with this or that or something else to protect package goods formerly packed only in tin cans or glass jars."
The article said "paper is substituting for hundreds of metals which the world had believed could not be replaced. The research laboratories of Champion and other paper industries are working overtime to make these substitutes and the former users of metal and tin are seeking, through their research departments, methods which will permit the use of paper."
Not all Hamilton mill products were paper during the war. In October 1943, the General Machinery Corporation -- whose plant was just across the river -- observed completion of its 500 marine engine for Liberty Ships, 10,500-ton cargo vessels. The mill machine shop, a subcontractor on the project, shared in the quiet celebration.
As the war continued, the Champion shop also machined parts for bazookas, anti-aircraft guns, drive shafts for boats, chests for ships and sight protectors for guns and small naval craft.
There were problems, too, as noted in the memoirs of Reuben Robertson Sr. The company concentrated on keeping an "even keel in production and earnings in the face of a variety of war-generated obstacles," he said. "Disturbance of normal business activities was felt in early 1942; a disturbance that heightened in the succeeding years of world conflict. Civilian demand for paper decreased, causing a curtailment of production by about 20 percent. The War Production Board limited the number of grades that could be manufactured in certain classes of paper. Critical shortages among operating materials contributed to a lowering of product and quality" Robertson said.
Increased taxes, ceiling prices, higher material and labor costs and material shortages -- especially a decline in pulp production -- were other wartime problems noted by Robertson.
"The activity of research during the war years was, of necessity, directed toward developing substitutes for materials in short supply. Perhaps the most rewarding result of these efforts," Robertson said, "was a paper substitute for the aluminum foil used to make liners for cigarette packages. This highly successful, moisture-retaining paper was put into production and eventually added up to many millions of pounds."
After testing, production of cigarette paper started in 1942 in the Hamilton mill and continued 24 hours a day, six days a week until after the war ended in 1945.
World War II also transformed the work force when more than 670 men entered the armed services.
For the first time since World War I, women were accepted for positions which had been regarded as "men's work." By early 1943 there were 957 females working in all Champion plants, not including clerical help, and 361 of these in jobs formerly done by men. "It is surprising how quickly they learn to do things," said The Log, "and on many jobs formerly done by men, especially where it is largely handwork, the women soon become more proficient than men -- because their hands are supple and fingers more nimble. In fact, we believe they will soon convince the most skeptical that they can do work formerly done by men, and do it just as well and just as efficiently."
Finding enough women to fill empty places wasn't easy; the competition was intense. At the end of 1942, the U. S. Employment Service estimated Hamilton factories needed 4,253 additional workers with only 1,577 available.
"Everybody got along, and they (the women) did a real good job," said Frank Burns of the transition in the Hamilton mill when women replaced the more than 670 men in the military. "They took over any job that was open," added Ed Bauer. "I remember one girl on a jitney, and I never saw a man who handle that jitney like she could. One time a roll was rolling down a ramp, and she just speeded up and picked it up on the run."
Nancy Gover, a sorter during the war, said "they hired some girls from the sorting line" for open positions. "You could change, if you wanted to. But I didn't."
"They were very nice to us," said Mary Louise Zettler of the male reaction when she and others assumed jobs formerly filled by men. She had worked on the cutters and as a sorter and helped on the platers for seven years before the war. She recalled women replacing men on calenders, in the print shop and other jobs. "I worked in the washer room, replacing a man," she said.
"At that time, Champion was buying up old office paper -- what today would be called recycled paper. It was brought in by bales, and people would take out the roughage, or what wouldn't cook. What remained, was put in two large kettles. After it was cooked, it would be in pits before going to the beaters. That's where I worked," explained Zettler.
"I would oversee the pits and remove objects and paper that didn't cook." She said some changes were made in the mill for the women, including additional restrooms. "We had a very nice room.
We could cook there, and they had showers for the women. It was very nice," said Zettler, who retired in 1974. After the war, when the men returned, she said the company moved some of the women to the sorting line. "Some women didn't like that and quit. But some stayed," said Zettler, "and they placed them all."
The needs of returning servicemen led to formation of the Champion Veterans Club. It started June 1, 1945, between V-E Day (Victory in Europe) in May and V-J Day (Victory over Japan) in August. It grew from a nucleus of about 10 men to 280 members within six months, and to more than 1,200 members two years later. It was formed to assist veterans with personal problems and readjustment to civilian life.
"We served our purpose -- to get guys home and get them jobs." recalled Bob Schaney, one of the founders of the group. "We adopted the kids of the guys killed in the service. We bought them toys and typewriters and other things. We also paid some grocery bills and coal bills," Schaney said.
Organizers included Schaney, Charlie Sibert, Lee Doellman, Lee Lipscomb, Dick Stewart, Jim Poe and Wilson F. Brown. Besides Schaney and Brown, the club's first officers were Al Smead and Joe Sanders. Also assisting in drafting a constitution and bylaws were Enis Day, Phil Braun, Alva McQuinley and Rowland Daugherty. Sibert, a shipping employee before his four years in the army, returned to Champion after losing his left foot on a Normandy beach during the D-Day invasion in 1944.
Membership ranged from some of the 676 who had left jobs in the mill to those employed after discharge. Schaney, a new hire, started June 1, 1944, three days after he got home from the service. "I went in the service in 1939 and was in the 10th Infantry, Regular Army, at Fort Thomas, Ky.," said Schaney who was wounded in fighting on the Rapido River near Cassino in Italy in 1944. Adjusting to an indoor industrial atmosphere in the mill "wasn't easy after being outdoors for about six years," he said. Schaney started at 66 cents an hour in the machine room under Earl Jones. "I worked there three or four weeks, then transferred to the trimmers." Before retirement in 1977, Schaney also worked in finishing, bonus computation, traffic, real estate and benefits.
He became involved with Champion veterans, Schaney said, "when Ernie Nelson and Cal Skillman took me off the trimmers to work with them in Champion activities office. I was working with the Butler County Veterans Council on the side, assisting returning veterans, as a volunteer."
Schaney said Champion provided veterans opportunities to make some extra money. "We bought a house and I had some money saved," said Schaney, who was one of several vets who looked forward to overtime pay. "When I was on the trimmers, I'd go to the machine room and the calenders and I'd work 40 or more hours of overtime in these other departments to try to get enough money to buy a car.
"We'd watch for Ray Linn from employment. About 2:30, when he came around, we knew he was looking for guys to work overtime," explained Schaney, who said the veterans club also afforded time for some fun.
"We had a club room on Court Street, (second floor, 311 Court Street, between South Third and South Fourth streets). "The lease was paid by Champion; the other expenses by the club," which held dances and other social activities. Schaney said "every time a guy would come back, we'd have a party for him."
High school students filled war-time void
Bill Compton's first career at the Hamilton mill was a short one -- about a month -- thanks to the end of World War II. "I started on my 16th birthday, July 17, 1945," he recalled. "It was a pool job," said Compton, whose duties included "working in No. 2 finishing, pushing broke, helping on the trimmers and whatever was needed."
"They were hiring 16 year olds then," he said because of local labor shortages caused by World War II. Other Hamilton industries suffered a shortage of workers and, like Champion, recruited males below and above draft age as well as women to fill vacancies.
In May 1943 Champion announced it had adopted the "war-time policy of employing boys 16 to 18 years of age and girls 18 to 21 years old" to fill summer vacation schedules.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult for Kenneth Faist to find men to replace those leaving for military service or other causes," reported CHIPS in April 1944. Mill employees were asked to tell "friends and acquaintances that there is work at Champion for men who are not working in essential industries." They were to contact Faist, then the mill personnel director, who also recruited 16 to 18-year-old sons and 18 to 21-year-old daughters of Champion employees to keep the plant operating.
By the summer of 1945 -- after the German surrender in May -- veterans were returning and seeking jobs. Then, in August, the Japanese capitulated after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"The veteran of World War II gets legal job protection guaranteeing, among other things, that the employer shall restore the veteran to his or her previous position, or to a position of like seniority, status and pay," explained CHIPS in July 1945.
Champion had pledged to rehire men and women entering the services with presentation of a discharge and approval of their physical condition by the Champion medical department.
"Should their physical condition be such that it is deemed unadvisable to rehire, the medical department will so advise," the article said, "and the veteran will be placed, when he recovers sufficiently, to perform some type of employment." CHIPS also said "continuous employment service dates are carried for service people as though they had remained at work with the company, and time service bonus will, on their return, be computed on the basis of uninterrupted work."
"I was there for V-J Day, but just before school started, I was among about 450 high school students who were released," said Compton, who was about to start his junior year in high school.
Two years later, when he finished high school, Compton didn't follow family tradition. His great grandfather, Bruce Compton, had started in 1904 in the sheet metal shop, followed by his grandfather, Guy Compton, a foreman for 47 years; and his father, Bob Compton.
"I didn't want to go to work where everybody in my family worked, so I decided to get a job on my own," he said. "I went to work at Baldwin-Lima-
Hamilton, on the fitting floor at Hooven's, and worked on building the presses for Fisher Body (in Fairfield) before it opened."
In April 1948, "I got laid off at B-L-H, and walked across the bridge to Champion personnel and asked for a job," said Compton. "They said we're not hiring right now; come back in June when we're hiring summer help. I said okay, but then he said, 'What did you say your name is?' Then he was gone about 15 minutes. When he came back, he said I would start at 3 o'clock that day."
"That's the way it was done at that time," he said, referring to the mill policy of hiring children and relatives of proven employees. "I can't remember anybody's son or daughter being hired in there and then being let go," he said.
Bill Compton's second tenure at the mill -- which extended 43 years and nine months -- was interrupted from January 1952 through January 1954 when he was drafted during the Korean War. "It didn't amount to much," he said, contrasting the apathetic treatment of the Korean War with the patriotic fervor of the World War II years.
Compton -- believed to be the first fourth generation mill employee -- spent most of his career in the electric department, starting as an apprentice electrician. The biggest change was "computerization -- every thing computerized," he said. "I saw the mill go from belt drives to computer drives -- and to every drive having its own motor. It was family when I went there," said Compton, who retired Jan. 1, 1992. "There was an atmosphere that nobody will ever see again. No one will ever work under the conditions we worked under."
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