An Ocean Fall's Christmas party
The company would host a Christmas party for the mill operators and the mill staff every year. These parties would take place in the Martin Inn ballroom, which also had room for dinner tables. They were very nice parties, especially because it was rare to have large parties in town during the year. Everybody would show up in their best clothes and some of the men were in tuxedos. I remember one such party. We had finished our nice Christmas dinner. There was an open bar and it was very busy. The dancing had started and we were all dancing with someone else's wife. It must have been around 12:30 or perhaps as late as 1:00 AM when the big steam whistle over at the mill starting blowing. We counted the blows of the whistle and thus knew, that there was a fire in the mill. People who were supposed to respond to such a problem and also those who were not , staggered across the bridge to the mill to find, that there was a fire in the No. 1 machine dryer sections. This was a big fire, a typical dryer fire, not much flame but lots of smoke. In spite of all the lights being on in the machine room ceiling, we could barely find our way around due to smoke. There were long walkways mounted high up on the side of the dryer sections and people were running on these walkways with fire hoses. I must admit, it is one of the most funny scenes I have ever seen, since everybody were running around in three-piece suits and tuxedos while dragging fire hoses behind them. We got the fire out but it was too late to go back to the party and honestly, our clothes would not have presented themselves well if we had returned. Certainly one good way to remember a Christmas party at Ocean Falls.
By the way, it was not uncommon to get fires within a dryer section. The paper dust was everywhere inside the dryer hood in thick layers, some areas even soaked with lubricating oil. All the steam heated dryer rolls were supported and running in sleeve bearings which needed constant lubrication. The paper machine was equipped with a centralized lubrication system. Should the oil flow fail to one of the bearings it would not take long before a fire would start due to the overheated bearing. These fires were stubborn fires to put out, since the fire would glow within the heavy paper dust layers that could not get enough oxygen to support an open flame. Something else to consider when fighting a dryer fire was not to spray cold water on the dryer rolls. The dryer rolls were fabricated of cast steel and cold water on a hot roll could cause the roll casing to crack thereby destroying the dryer roll.