Ian Bennett, a Saint Michael’s College student, interviewed Lada Maple, a former Mill Worker on April 8, 2016. Below Ian recounts meeting Lada and a bit of what she told him.
Left: Lada Maple, Mill Worker, c. 1934, age 18
Right: Lada Maple, 2016, age 95.
The first thing I noticed about Lada, when we went to visit, is that for a ninety-five-year-old woman, she is extremely mobile. She welcomed us into her apartment, and immediately began talking. She regaled us with tales about her time working in the mill, and her life during and after her employment.
Lada spoke of how her husband was also her boss. He had started working in the Mill at the age of twelve for no pay. This was to gain experience for when he finally was hired by the Mill. There were also a variety of entertaining stories that she told about the dynamics of their relationship. He once fired her when he was fed up with her misbehaving while on the job. It was quite satisfying for her, Lada said, when they told him that she had to be hired back.
Another thing that Lada mentioned were the extreme conditions. Cockroaches and rats scurried about on everything. The only safe place for people’s lunches would be on the back of the machines where the vibrations kept the pests away. The air was also hot and full of lint from the textiles. By the end of the day, enough of the lint had accumulated on the skin of the workers that they could peel it off in sheets.
Lada’s time at the mill wasn’t all difficult though. One story she told was about how the women would all smoke in the restroom. The Management were not fans of this practice and as a result they had the bottom few inches of the door sawed off so they could see the girls’ feet. Not ones to be outsmarted, the women would climb up onto the toilet seats so they couldn’t be seen.
Her time spent working in the mill is not a time Lada looks back on with much fondness, but her experience is not one that she hated. The time she was working was an interesting and unique, if not a comfortable, part of the Winooski area’s history.
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