"It is the greatest pleasure in the world to give"
"The Champion Coated Paper Co., through its president, Peter G. Thomson, has done a fine thing for the people of the First Ward and also for the people of the entire city of Hamilton," declared the Hamilton Journal in its May 9, 1913, edition.
The March 1913 flood divided the city when it swept away all four bridges and severed utility lines crossing the Great Miami River.
For five weeks after the disaster, the paper company fed water and electricity to an isolated part of the city. The Hamilton mill had burned to the water line during the flood, but its boiler room, steam-driven pumps and generators escaped major damage.
As soon as connections could be completed, the crippled paper mill shared its water and electricity with its West Side neighbors.
A few weeks later, when Mayor J. A. Holzberger asked Champion to bill the city for its services, Peter G. Thomson's reply acknowledged that for five weeks Champion "furnished the citizens of West Hamilton with pure water in abundance from our driven wells, besides keeping the reservoir filled at all times as a precaution against fire. To render this service has cost this company in coal and labor, several thousand dollars. We have been advised," Thomson said, "that the city is willing to pay for the cost of supplying this water and would still feel under great obligations to this company for the accommodation made under such adverse conditions."
"After full consideration," Thomson advised, "we have decided that we will make no charge whatever for supplying this water, but will donate this amount to the City of Hamilton. We would ask, however, that, if it is possible, the water rent of the citizens of West Hamilton be remitted during the period in which we furnished same," said Thomson.
Twenty-four years later, Champions again aided flood victims, this time in Cincinnati.
Sunday, Jan. 24, 1937, the Ohio River rose to 77.4 feet on its way to a record 80 feet, covering about a sixth of that city and forcing more than 100,000 people out of their homes. The morning of "Black Sunday," leaking gas and oil on Mill Creek ignited, storage tanks exploded and fire spread over a three-mile area.
Hamiltonians -- remembering the help they had received from the Queen City in 1913 -- responded with assistance.
"When the cry for help was sent over the air waves Sunday morning, Hamilton and Champion heard," reported Champion Activities. "Champions in the mill heard that cry; men and women in several departments immediately started collections of money and of food and of clothing."
Within three hours the next day, workers in the Hamilton mill pledged $1,390 for flood aid in addition to donating food and clothing. Champion trucks hauled boats and drinking water to Cincinnati. One truck took 16,000 gallons of water to Bethesda Hospital while several railroad tank cars were filled at Champion and shuttled to Cheviot, where the water was parceled to thirsty Cincinnatians.
Champion shared its resources with Hamilton again in 1946. In November -- for the second time in seven months -- Hamiltonians faced the prospect of dark, cold homes and suspension of their jobs because of a national coal strike.
The shutdown started Monday, Nov. 18, 1946 -- three days before the deadline set by the United Mine Workers, led by John L. Lewis. The 400,000 coal miners wanted a new contract to replace a pact signed just six months earlier on May 29, ending a 59-day coal strike.
The strike came as winter approached in an era when most Hamilton residences were heated with coal. Local industries and schools had enough coal to operate for several weeks. But the municipal electric plant -- which used about three carloads or 150 tons a day -- had only about a two-week supply, and the city's efforts to obtain more coal were failed.
Friday, Nov. 22, City Manager Frank R. Buechner ordered a brownout in Hamilton, banning commercial lighting and reducing street lighting in business areas 50 percent.
The situation worsened Sunday, Dec. 1, when the first snow fell, and Monday, Dec. 2, when the temperature dropped to 13 degrees. Tuesday, Dec. 3, the city manager mandated a blackout, cutting electric service to industry and business by 70 percent. Buechner ordered all street lights turned off, effective Wednesday night. Even the courthouse clock was dark as the National Guard, Hamilton auxiliary policemen and officers from the Ohio liquor department assisted Hamilton police in patrolling the city.
"To walk or ride about a brilliantly lighted city one evening and the following night to see everything dark is an unusual experience," observed The Log. "Returning GIs spoke of the similarity of driving on blackout nights in Europe. There is a stillness which is impossible to describe -- a feeling that you are reverting to the dark days of generations ago. To see armed state troopers in uniform and auxiliary police patrolling the streets -- that's another feeling, one which always spells an emergency or a disaster."
The blackout was to have been tougher the next night, Thursday, Dec. 5, when the city manager ordered cancellation of night-time social functions and meetings by churches, schools and civic groups, including high school basketball games.
Instead, lights were on again in Hamilton that night, thanks to Champion which provided 250 tons of coal to the city. The offer to Mayor William Beckett and City Manager Buechner came in a meeting with Reuben B. Robertson, Champion's executive vice president, and Herbert T. Randall, vice president and engineer. Armco also earmarked some of its coal in transit on the Ohio River for Hamilton's emergency.
"The action by these industries, in the hour of Hamilton's need," said a Journal-News editorial, "brings a thrill to the hearts and minds of the deeply appreciative men, women and children of this community."
All local electric restrictions were lifted Saturday, Dec. 7, when Lewis ordered coal miners back to work. Although Champion's Hamilton mill operated as normal, about 2,800 persons -- 18 percent of the 15,700 working in Hamilton factories - were laid off during the strike.
Champion's unselfishness in 1913, 1937 and 1946 are dramatic examples of the many company and employee contributions to Hamilton and the surrounding area, including those often taken for granted -- purchases, wages and taxes.
At the end of 1992, the annual payroll for about 2,300 employees at the mill and at Knightsbridge totaled about $98 million. In 1992, payments for supplies and services at the same facilities exceeded $130 million while property taxes topped $1.9 million, including about $1.5 million to Hamilton schools.
"Since Champion International is our largest employer," said City Manager Hal Shepherd, "it is therefore the most important business in our community." During 1992, Hamilton received $1,867,466.35 in city income tax from Champion employees, which, Shepherd said, helps pay for police, fire, public works, parks and recreation and public health services.
But Champion contributions go beyond its tax obligations. Shepherd said Champion also provided assistance during the 1984 and 1990 city income tax campaigns and "was a major contributor for the Hamilton Bicentennial program."
"The city has provided Champion International with three major tax abatements in recent years," he said, including two at the mill totaling more than $35 million and one at Knightsbridge. "It is our way to provide assistance to Champion's modernization of the mill and of Knightsbridge."
"Some Champion employees have served on city council, such as former Mayor Tom Kindness and Councilman Stanton (Bud) Newkirk," Shepherd noted. "Newkirk was also instrumental in chairing the committee to propose revisions to the Hamilton City Charter from 1989 through 1992, and 10 major charter changes were accomplished.
Hamilton also continues to benefit from T. Edward Knapp's 20-year tenure on the planning commission. Knapp -- who joined the Champion research department in 1926 -- was appointed in 1945.
"During my first year, I didn't do much but watch," he explained in a 1954 interview. "We met regularly and just waited for business. Then at one of the meetings it occurred to me that the planning commission should do some positive planning. The idea took hold," Knapp said, and "that was the birth of Hamilton's new master plan -- the blueprint for a better city." The 388-page 1948 version replaced a 1920 plan.
"I remember Ed taking me to a part of Hamilton called Peck's Addition (the city dump) on a working day afternoon," recalled Allen T. Roudebush in Profiles of Champions. He said Knapp "made an on-site survey of the remaining privately-owned houses and dwellings. There were quite a few. But a carefully scheduled acquisition
program by the city over a period of many years resulted in the eventual replacement of the noxious city dump by a public asset providing space for both the Hamilton Campus of Miami and Champion's Knightsbridge offices."
Roudebush said "the elimination of the Peck Avenue dump was, to me, a crowning achievement" for Knapp, who also contributed notable service to the company. "His principal achievements," said Roudebush, "were in building a strong patent department and portfolio, in providing an early technical library, but most of all, in creating and implementing a strong domestic and foreign licensing program."
According to Roudebush, Knapp had been told by Reuben Robertson Jr. that he expected Ed and other Champion volunteers "to spend about 20 percent of their working hours on making Hamilton a better place in which to live."
In 1985, after Ed's death, Roudebush said Knapp "loved Hamilton. He was fully aware of its intellectual and economic limitations, compared to his native Philadelphia, but he didn't knock Hamilton. He glorified in it, he reveled in its friendliness, and he contributed his time, talents and personal funds to make Hamilton better."
Peter G. Thomson established the Champion precedent for giving and civic leadership. In the mid 1890s, while he was struggling to establish the Hamilton mill, Thomson found time to be an active secretary of the Committee on the College Hill Electric Railway and to lead a campaign to raise $30,000 for a streetcar connection to Cincinnati. He also was a College Hill councilman for more than 16 years, and lent his talent and support to numerous village projects and charities. A newspaper said Thomson "has been for years and is today, its (College Hill's) leading spirit in every enterprise."
"His outstanding characteristic was modesty," said a Hamilton Journal editorial of Thomson after his death. "He possessed, far more than many men, a sympathetic interest in the everyday activities and in the joys and sorrows of his fellow men."
"I don't like to have anything said about the money I give away," Thomson told a Dayton reporter in 1916. "It is the greatest pleasure in the world to give when you can afford it," he said.
Because of his passion for physical fitness, the YMCA was one of his favorite causes. He contributed $40,000 for building the Central YMCA in Hamilton, including the money which initiated the campaign.
"I will subscribe $10,000 for the new YMCA building, conditioned upon the raising of $150,000 total," Thomson said in a Sept. 28, 1910, cable from London, England, to H. V. Chase, general secretary of the Hamilton YMCA.
Based on Thomson's pledge, trustees and directors inaugurated a successful financial drive which led to construction of the North Second Street building.
"The one word answer is BIG," said James E. Paulus, president/CEO of United Way of Hamilton, Fairfield and Vicinity in describing Champion's long-term impact on that organization. "Since our United Way was founded in 1920 as the Hamilton Welfare Federation, Champion has provided a board chairman for 10 years and a campaign chairman for 16 years."
Filling those key posts since 1936 were Alexander Thomson, Alexander Thomson Jr., Dwight Thomson, Clarke Marion, A. S. Anderson, Robert O. Stephenson, J. W. Zimmerman, Maynard Conklin, Karl R. Bendetsen, Clark Adams, Donald Adams, Joe Shimp, Lionel Zimmer and Charles Roesch.
"Many other people from Champion have been involved in key volunteer roles, not only in the campaign, but in the allocations, planning and other programs of the United Way effort," said Paulus. "The mill has been one of our largest supporters for many, many years. In addition to the leadership provided, the corporate and employee giving from the mill over those years has amounted to over $5.2 million."
"Champion also has played a major role in setting the tone and pace for many other community activities as well," Paulus noted. "One year I was asked by Chuck Roesch to address the volunteer recognition breakfast of Champions and there were over 300 people in attendance, all actively involved in various community volunteer roles."
Champion leadership also was evident when Hamilton observed its sesquicentennial in October 1941. Alexander Thomson Jr., vice president and advertising manager, was general chairman of the seven-day festivities.
"When early plans were laid to observe the 150th birthday of Hamilton, a group of leading citizens conferred and unanimously named Mr. Thomson chairman," observed the Journal-News. "This was not an easy job, and for months Mr. Thomson proved to be the guiding spirit behind the movement."
Thomson -- the son of Alexander Thomson and grandson of Peter G. Thomson -- received plenty of support from other Champions. Calvin Skillman joined Thomson on the 18-man steering committee. Skillman also chaired the Spectacle Division, which staged "Muskets on Miami," a pageant which traced the history and progress of Hamilton and Butler County. Arthur Topmiller headed the makeup committee for the seven-night show at the Butler County Fairgrounds. Ernie Nelson directed the property committee which was responsible for more than 1,340 props. Champions assisting Nelson included Eldon Lenhoff, Paul Cook, Eugene Campbell, Merle Baker, Herschel Richeson, William Rentschler, Bid Stacey, Jack Pendergass, Oscar Stuckenburger, Ray Linn and John Suter.
More than 150 Champions volunteered their services or participated in the pageant. Others helped with the variety of sesquicentennial activities, including a Champion float in the parade.
Directing the sesquicentennial was just one of many contributions by Alexander Thomson Jr. in an abbreviated life. "Few young men have been as active in civic affairs and few have served as many different kinds of civic, charitable and character-building committees and organizations," said a Journal-News editorial when he died at age 35.
He started his Champion career in 1929 in the Hamilton mill and the next year moved to the advertising department. In 1931 he began a six-year stint in the Cincinnati and Cleveland sales offices before returning to Hamilton in 1937 to become advertising manager. In 1939 he was elected to the board of directors and named a vice president.
In the next two years, in addition to the sesquicentennial, he also provided leadership for the Hamilton YMCA, the Boy Scouts, the Hamilton Welfare Federation (now United Way), Mercy Hospital, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Hamilton Preparedness Day program.
As a member of Company C, a local National Guard unit, Thomson went to summer training camps in 1940 and 1941, but was rejected because of his health when the Ohio Guard was nationalized. Instead, he became the full-time director of the Hamilton civilian defense program when the United States entered World War II while continuing efforts to join the armed services. "Determined to do something in the war, something in the actual battle zones, he became a Red Cross club director with the understanding that he be given an overseas assignment," the Journal-News explained.
Assigned to Cairo, Thomson left the U. S. in March 1943 aboard a freighter hauling explosives, part of a convoy subjected to German submarine attacks in the South Atlantic. In Egypt, he was assigned to a transportation unit, but his tenure was shortened by illness. By October 1943, he had resumed his duties in the Champion general office in Hamilton. He never regained his health and died June 18, 1944, "a regrettable loss to practically every phase of Hamilton's community life," said the Journal-News in eulogizing the Champion executive.
During his term as civilian defense commander, Alexander Thomson Jr. utilized the familiar "Voice of Champion." That voice didn't belong to a person, but to a relatively small brass object perched atop the mill. It was a steam-powered whistle, which has an uncertain history.
"Actually, nobody knows how long men have sent a flow of steam through those steel vocal chords to make her sound off," said an article in the June 1954 edition of The Log. The unnamed writer of that article said it dated back to the early 1930s.
Other Champions believe there may have been an earlier whistle and the one reportedly acquired in the 1930s was a replacement. Some newspaper accounts hint that a Champion whistle helped announce the armistice in 1918, joining other factory whistles, locomotive whistles and church bells in making the community aware that World War I had ended.
The Champion whistle continued in limited service until April 1992, according to Bob Claypool, manager of utilities at the mill. During its final years, it was used for tornado warnings. Its coded blasts were related to various mill operations, Claypool explained. It was last used for a warning about three years ago, Claypool said.
But the whistle is best remembered as a community timepiece. It announced the time seven times each day -- 7 a.m., 11:55 a.m., 12 noon, 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:55 p.m. and 5 p.m. -- "until sometime in the early '70s," according to Larry Anderson, superintendent of utilities. "It was manually operated," said Anderson, who explained "that a man stood and watched the clock" to be sure it was sounded at the appropriate time.
Each blast consumed about 14 cents worth of steam, according to a 1954 estimate, and was triggered then by a tug on a cable by one of the four oilers in the turbine plant, identified as Nate Tuley, Virgil Shaw, Beck Laney and Warren Pegg.
"She was a ship's whistle before being sent to Hamilton," said the 1954 Log article. "Herb Randall relates that Bill Wolff located the whistle at a ship salvage dealer in New Jersey. As Herb recalls it, the transaction, back during the Depression, involved the trading to Wolff of two pounds of brass per one pound of brass whistle. With brass selling, at that time, for about nine cents a pound, it figures that Champion's whistle cost about 18 cents a pound."
A slightly different history was reported in a 1968 CHIPS article, which was based on the recollections of two Champion retirees, Charlie Moyers and Clyde Norcross. In 1931, that article said, "Herb Randall had asked Clarence Bartlett, who retired in 1951, after 47 years at the Ohio Division, to select a whistle to sound out the shift change at the Ohio mill.
"Clarence, who was a native of Chilo, Ohio, journeyed to that town and listened to several steamboats as they made the trip up the Ohio River." He selected a sound and "one like it was ordered to be positioned on top of the power plant," the article said.
Of course, the whistle was installed for mill purposes, but it also served the surrounding community in numerous ways. For some Hamiltonians it was a wakeup call or a convenient time to check the accuracy of a watch or a household clock. For others, including boys and girls out of the sight of a parent, it was a command to go home for lunch or dinner. "We were constantly playing outside and didn't have watches, so we depended on the whistle to help us keep track of time," recalled a child of the 1940-1950 era.
According to a former employee of a local store which relied on the patronage of mill workers, "that whistle was a sound of security." For about 40 years, as it reverberated through the city, it was assurance that "the Champion," as the mill was often called, was still providing a paycheck for hundreds of Hamiltonians. But on a Wednesday afternoon Feb. 21, 1968, mill workers and city residents heard too much of the "Voice of Champion." That day the 1 p.m. blast continued for about 10 minutes before a stuck valve could be corrected.
The Champion whistle also served the community during the early years of World War II before it was obvious that American cities -- including Hamilton -- weren't going to be bombed by German and Japanese planes. In the months immediately after the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hamilton was preparing for the worst under the leadership of Alexander Thomson Jr.
The "Voice of Champion" played a prominent part in Hamilton's first air raid alert Sunday evening, Aug. 2, 1942. The whistle sounded the start and finish of the 15-minute dim-out in the First Ward (West Side).
"The entire affair was staged with clock like precision," said the Journal-News, which reported some minor violations in the Armondale neighborhood "because an unusually strong and unfavorable wind" (15 miles an hour) made it difficult for residents in that area -- about a mile and a half west of the mill -- to hear the whistle.
The whistle was used again during another limited test held Sept. 23, 1942, after which Thomson said "more practice and training is needed before we are ready for the real thing." The problems involved the Hamilton mill, 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.
The first city-wide dim-out Sunday night, Oct. 4, 1942, utilized six factory whistles (Champion, Ford Motor Company, Shuler & Benninghofen, Economy Pump, Estate Stove and Black-Clawson) to alert the community.
A few days earlier Thomson had announced the city would purchase a 5,000-pound air raid siren from the Chrysler Corp. He said the siren "makes the loudest sustained noise ever developed by man," developing 140 decibels at 100 feet. The original plan had been to scatter 14 sirens around the city to replace the factory whistles.
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. That night 70 performed as firemen and 60 as policemen.
By late 1943, the threat of enemy bombs falling on Hamilton had passed and Champion's whistle was no longer needed to alert Hamilton. But twice in 1945 the "Voice of Champion" joined a prolonged chorus of industrial whistles and church bells to signal good news to the city -- arousing many residents at about 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 8, to proclaim V-E Day (Victory in Europe) and Tuesday evening, Aug. 14, to celebrate V-J Day (Victory over Japan).
Polio was one of the greatest fears of parents during the 1940s and 1950s before development of vaccines by Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin. Poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, is a viral infection which attacks the nervous system, its effect ranging from minor illness to paralysis. In the 10 years preceding introduction of the Salk vaccine in 1955, more than 390 polio cases had been reported in Butler County, including 116 in Hamilton, mostly six and seven-year-olds. Eight of the victims died.
Each year Champions donated hundreds of dollars to the March of Dimes Foundation and participated in the Mothers March on Polio, a door-to-door campaign, to finance the search for a polio preventive. In August 1949, Champion truck drivers had a more direct role in saving a young life.
"An emergency call came to Bob Chamber's (transportation) office. A child's life was hanging in the balance at General Hospital, Cincinnati," reported Bill Thompson in a column in The Log. "An iron lung was the only thing that could save that life." Some polio victims lost the ability to breathe on their own and had to be placed on the whole-body breathing machines called iron lungs. Champion was asked to help because all lungs at General Hospital (now University Hospital) and other Cincinnati hospitals were in use.
"The nearest one to be spared was at Mercy Hospital in Hamilton," wrote Thompson. "Not a second could be wasted. The first Champion truck in sight was flagged down and rushed to Mercy Hospital. It was Jim Minter's truck with Carl Cropenbaker his helper. Verl Kennedy's dump truck laden with cinders was stopped and rushed to the scene to help Jim and Carl with the loading of the lung for the mad dash. In an amazingly short time, the lung of life was secured and the race was on.
"Sirens sounded as the police escort took the lead to the city limits. At the city's edge, the Highway Patrol picked up and led the way. Traffic laws and speed regulations were forgotten. Speed was the thing because a young life was ebbing away. Queen City police were waiting and the Champion truck with its courageous Minter and Cropenbaker rolled on. Any intersection could have brought about the crash which could have been their end." Thompson said "28 minutes after the truck left Mercy Hospital the lung . . . was being unloaded at the contagious building of General Hospital in Cincinnati."
"This is a great day in my life to see the dream of Twin Run come true," said Dwight J. Thomson June 22, 1963, as he participated in the dedication of the Hamilton municipal golf course he made possible. "I don't have to you of the tremendous debt of Champion to Hamilton, the city of our founding. I'm happy to be able to repay the community in a small way for the good things that have happened to us since 1893, said Thomson, who had donated the land off Eaton Road in May 1960.
Thomson -- a son of Logan G. Thomson and grandson of Peter G. Thomson -- described the gift of 220 acres -- valued at about $400,000 -- as "a memorial to the past presidents of Champion, whose desire always was, as mine is now, to contribute continually to the well-being and growth of Hamilton." The five past presidents then were:
Peter G. Thomson, 1893-1931.
Alexander Thomson, 1931-1935.
Logan G. Thomson, 1935-1946.
Reuben B. Robertson Sr., 1946-1950.
Reuben B. Robertson Jr., 1950-1960.
Dwight Thomson joined Champion in 1938, first in unloading, then in the laboratory and on beaters and paper machines in Hamilton, and later in a variety of jobs in the Canton, N. C., and Pasadena, Texas, mills before World War II naval service from January 1942 until March 1946.
He returned to the Hamilton mill to work in industrial relations, was appointed a director and elected a vice president in 1946, and rose to chairman of the board in 1960. He resigned from the Champion board in 1965. His community service included leadership roles in United Way, the Red Cross, the YMCA, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Boy Scout organizations.
The Twin Run gift had been part of Dwight Thomson's Contentment Farm, a 460-acre tract which had been the home of his prize herd of polled Herefords. It began with his first land purchase in 1947. The property conveyed to the city included a two-story residence, built in 1949; a one-story guest house, built in 1952; a main barn and other farm buildings. The former Thomson residence became the first clubhouse for the course.
No taxpayer money was used in the construction of the $250,000 Twin Run course. Instead, golf fees were increased at the Potter Park Municipal Course with the added funds earmarked for developing Twin Run and improving Potter Park. This revenue was to pay for $175,000 in 25-year bonds with an additional $75,000 from a public fund campaign.
Dwight Thomson participated in the March 12, 1962, groundbreaking and returned to play the dedicatory round May 22, 1963. Twin Run -- which opened to public play May 30, 1963 -- is now an 18-hole, 6,667-yard course.
Miami University -- founded in nearby Oxford in 1809 -- answered the increasing demand for higher education in the 1960s by offering to build a new campus in Hamilton, if the community could raise at least $1 million to supplement state funds. When the financial drive began in February 1966, Champion management and employees soon set the pace in meeting the challenge.
R. O. Stephenson, vice president and Ohio division manager, in announcing the availability of payroll deduction for the campaign, said "for the benefit of our community, our company and for our youngsters who will be the citizens of tomorrow, I certainly encourage you to investigate the feasibility of supporting this drive." Karl Bendetsen, chairman and president of Champion, said "the cultural advantages of such a university campus are considerable."
Endorsements also came from other Champion organizations. "The whole purpose of the Champion Service Association is to help Champions and the community in which we live," said George (Pappy) Spears, CSA president. "In our opinion, the Hamilton Campus Fund drive will do both these things. Champions will have the benefit of a college campus in their own back yard." Al Wiseman, president of Chaco, noted the high cost of a college education. "Many of our employees have borrowed money to put their youngsters through college," he said. "A Hamilton Campus will make possible a big financial savings."
Bendetsen announced a two-phase program based on gifts of Champion employees and others. He said (1) Champion would match payments of Hamilton-based employees on a dollar for dollar basis, and (2) that Champion would pledge $1 for every $3 contributed by other citizens of Hamilton, up to a maximum contribution of $250,000." The money would come from the Champion Paper Foundation, which had been established in 1952 as a non-profit corporation for charitable, philanthropic and educational purposes.
Within about 10 weeks, employees at the Hamilton mill and at Knightsbridge contributed $72,417, and the Champion Paper Foundation provided the maximum $250,000. By May 1966, Champion pledges and matching funds from the foundation exceeded $390,000, or more than 25 percent of the $1.5 million raised, surpassing the goal by 50 percent.
When the Hamilton Campus opened in 1968, part of one of its two buildings was named the Champion Student Center in recognition of the contributions from employees and the Champion Paper Foundation.
"Our very positive relationship with Champion" started in 1988 when the company, through Charles Roesch, "provided boxes for our first-ever United Food and Clothing Drive," recalled Tina Osso, executive director of the Shared Harvest Foodbank. "This drive is an annual door-to-door collection of food and clothing conducted by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, with Shared Harvest benefiting from the food and Goodwill receiving the clothes gathered in two of the 12 counties involved," explained Osso.
That first year, the cooperating groups faced the problem of handling the canned foods collected by the scouts. Champion solved the problem by contributing cardboard flats and boxes. "That year we collected more than 85,000 canned and boxed items and, without Champion's help, we could not have moved it onto the tables of needy families in Butler and Warren counties within a two-week period," said Osso. "That was just the beginning of Champion's involvement," she recalled. "The members of UPIU Local 1967, led by Ed Roberts, have consistently worked one of our 14 drop points on the day of the drive. This involved a commitment of five or six hours on the last Sunday of every April since 1989," Osso said.
Since the fall of 1992, a "Tackle Hunger" program has been conducted by Shared Harvest, the Miami University athletic department and Champion, under the direction of Jeffrey Weber, director of public affairs. The 1992 effort included three food drives during November and Champion pledging $50 for each point scored by the Miami football team during its 1992 home games. Four tons of food were amassed during the food drives, which included (1) collections at 21 area food stores, (2) a door-to-door campaign in Oxford by Miami football players, and (3) donations by fans attending the last 1992 home game. In addition, Miami points netted $5,050 from Champion.
"This money could not have come at a better time," said Osso. "Shared Harvest was faced with having trailer loads of food donations in other states which we didn't have the money to transport into our warehouse. The $5,050 paid for this transportation, which resulted in 280,000 pounds of food being available to needy families through the holiday season. We couldn't have done this without Champion's generosity," she said.
"The commitment Champion has shown to the food bank's mission is a true example of how, together, we can insure needy children right here in southwestern Ohio can go to bed with a full stomach and wakeup to a nourishing breakfast," Osso declared.
"The best way to begin breaking the cycle of poverty so many American suffer is to form these partnerships with corporations, like Champion, which are committed to making their community a better place to live for all," said Osso.
Coaters: a unique, complex operation
Wes Cobb calls his work on the coaters "28 happy years with a great bunch of fellows who were determined to make Kromekote the No. 1 high finish sheet in the industry. And I think we did," said Cobb, who retired Oct. 1, 1968.
"Even today, 25 years after I retired, whenever I pick up a menu, or a pamphlet, and my eye recognizes Kromekote's glossy surface, an unexplainable glow comes over me, knowing that I was a part of it all. Once a Champion, always a Champion," declared Cobb in a 1993 letter.
The company shared Cobb's pride in the coating operations. A company advertisement announced that Champion's "machines are the most efficient of any that have been made," and boasted "they were built in our own machine shops under the supervision of our own research and engineering departments."
When he started in 1934, "the coaters were still in their heyday," said Cobb. "There were 29 coaters -- 16 double coaters (coating two sides) and 13 single coaters (coating one side). Most of my experience was in the middle room (double coaters 9 through 16)."
"My first boss was Link Atchley, a kindly, even-tempered man in the twilight of his Champion career. Link was one of the original group of Champions who worked with Peter G. Thomson in establishing the coater operation, well before the turn of the century," Cobb said. "His first job was carrying armloads of sticks back from the reels to the apron." (Liston C. Atchley started on the hotline Dec. 16, 1895.) "Later, a conveying system automatically brought the sticks back and positioned them to pick up the paper and literally 'hang it in folds' as it moved slowly through the hotline."
"The coaters were a unique, complex operation," said Cobb, who started as a broke hauler at 42 cents an hour." He described the operation this way:
"The web of paper was fed through flyrolls, then through the (color-panned) nip of the squeeze rolls, through three-inch steel rolls, through a double set of agitated brushes -- then floated out above heated blowers for over 50 feet to the suctioned revolving felt apron. From there, the reel sticks picked up the paper and hung it in long folds as it moved slowly to the reels, where it was rewound into rolls.
"The weight of the sheet was controlled by reducing the consistency of the coating in the cistern, plus adjusting the pressure of the squeeze roll nip on the sheet. The smooth finish was attained by a careful setting of the brushes -- the first two wiping the paper firmly, the last two lightly. And, of course, the speed so that the sheet floated over the dryers without touching them, yet not taut enough to endanger breaking it.
"At the time, I had nothing but admiration for those coater runners" Cobb continued. "Now, as I look back on my pleasant memories of the coaters, I still marvel at the job they did. They were an unusual group of Champions, with excellent judgment, and years of experience.
"Most of the sheets were 60 pound and 70 pound - not too much of a problem. Then came the big Esquire order -- 34 pound. And there was a question whether the lightweight paper (we called it the 'touchiest' sheet ever) would withstand the pull between the machine and the apron. The coater runners' response was, 'Give us good stock, and we'll run it.' And, run it they did! 200,000 pounds of it every few months.
"Of course, we had bad days, with too many breaks in the hotline, and scraping paper off the little steel rolls, and the squeeze rolls, and washing everything out and starting all over again. But we ran it.
"These coatermen were unusual in other ways," said Cobb. "Listen to this. The coaters ran around the clock, six days a week, down Sunday morning. On the shutdown, we washed out the brushes. Everything else, color pan, baffles, etc., were thrown into the huge water tanks, the cisterns filled with water. On a Monday morning startup, men were in there between 6 a.m. and 6:15 a.m., on their own time, doing the dozen and more things necessary to insure that the paper went floating down the hotline by 7 a.m. Although I can't verify it, it was said that Sy Hillard, who ran No. 5 and No. 6 coaters, came in at 5:30 a.m. to start working on his machines.
"Call it the spirit of Champion, call it dedication, pride in your work, call it loyalty, job appreciation, call it the fact that men were mousy in those days, without realization of their rights in the workplace. I call it all these things -- plus the pull of tradition," said Cobb. "It had always been so, and who among us would change it? I can only tell you that on a Monday morning startup, we had just one thought in mind -- wrapping the paper around the stick, leading the sheet down the hotline and slapping it on the apron before the big hand of the clock moved to straight-up-and-down 7 o'clock."
Cobb also recalled a coaters' tradition broken by Charlie Soule, "a no-nonsense boss" who "demanded results, and no excuses."
"When he came across a skid of bad paper on the sorting line, he immediately reached for the ticket (identifying the source), made a mental note of the coater runner's name." According to operating tradition, Cobb explained, "if there was a large amount of waste, likely as not, the runner would be laid off for a week. Once or twice, a runner had been laid off for two weeks. For years, this punishment was accepted by everyone. It remained unchallenged until about the spring of 1938."
Cobb said a father of five or six children (Shorty Roark) was the runner on 1 and 2 coaters, "and no one took his job more seriously; always checking his weight, checking the brushes, checking the hotline, holding the light between the rustling folds of paper as they moved slowly toward the reels, then back to the coaters again.
"One day, our general foreman, Clarence Paxton, approached Shorty, and told him they had found a considerable amount of his bad paper out on the sorting line. He then added, reluctantly, that it would probably mean that he would have to take off for a week. Shorty looked him right in the eye and said, 'Clarence, I can't afford to take off for a week. And I have no intention of doing so.' "
The foreman went to Soule, and two days later told the runner he would have to take off for a week. "You tell Charlie that I'm not taking off for a week; I'm not taking off for a day; I'm not taking off for one hour," Shorty replied.
"True to his word," said Cobb, "Shorty never took off for a single hour. In fact, it was the last time we ever heard of this little incident. And it was the last time any coaterman faced the threat of losing time because of running bad paper. A page had been turned."
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