Soren H. Bach, worked in the Ocean Falls Engineering Department from 1963 to 1968. The mill was at that time owned and operated by the Crown Zellerbach Company. Prior to moving to Ocean Falls I worked at the Elk Falls Mill at Campbell River, B.C. also a Crown Zellerbach mill. Following Ocean Falls I was employed by the Northwood Pulp mill in Prince George, B.C. From 1976 to 1998, I worked with the Pulp and Paper Consulting Engineering Company H.A.Simons Ltd.located in Vancouver, B.C.. Thus, my total working life of 35 years was spent in the Pulp and Paper engineering field. I was strongly influenced by my time in Ocean Falls and the memories of this town and paper mill follows me forever. I do believe that my family qualifies as being a part of the "Rain People" from Ocean Falls, what these residents are often called. However, I also realize that we were some of the "Newbies" since there were families in town who had lived there for several generations. Two of our daughters were born in Ocean Falls.
From an engineering viewpoint, the Ocean Falls Paper mill was most likely the best training ground anywhere for an engineer who wanted to specialize in the pulp and paper field. I believe it would be difficult to locate a similar paper mill anywhere in the world which could match the Ocean Falls Mill's ability to produce mechanical, sulfite and sulphate pulp within the same facility. Adding to this, the complexities of the many different paper grades produced by the 5 paper machines. The Ocean Falls Paper Mill was truly a unique mill.
Many of the residents of Ocean Falls have read the excellent book titled "The Rain People". This book written by Bruce Ramsey was published in 1971. Some of the material in this book is based on historical material collected by the local Ocean Falls historian James McKellar. I can highly recommend this book to anybody who have an interest in the birth and life of the paper mill town called Ocean Falls. Another recent book written by Paul Jones and published in 2005 is titled " Out of the Rain". This book depicts the life of a young boy during the years 1939 to 1949. It describes Mr. Jones's personal experiences having lived in Vancouver and Ocean Falls. A part of the book covers his time in the Canadian Navy during the Second World War. This book is also a very interesting and entertaining reference book related to Ocean Falls.
There is an excellent website called "Ocean Falls Museum". This site has a very comprehensive collection of history and photographs related to Ocean Falls. My site is partly included in the Ocean Falls Museum site. The link is: http://www.oceanfallsmuseum.com/
Many of the older residents of Ocean Falls have now fallen away. However, their children or grandchildren will most likely have an interest in the town from where they or their parents came from. In 2002 I learned of an addendum which had been published to the original book "The Rain People" This addendum describes the final years of the paper mill and the eventual demolition of both town and paper mill.. For me it was a bit sad to read this section which covers the final days of Ocean Falls as a paper mill town..
The content of the original book "The Rain People" is informative with many stories covering the lifestyle of the people living in this unique and very isolated town. This book makes you feel happy of having lived in Ocean Falls and it brings out many good and funny memories. You will have to have been from the "Falls" to really appreciate the finer points of the anecdotes.
The first major reduction in mill production came in 1968 with the subsequent large layoff of mill staff. It was planned at that time to shut down the mill in stages. However, a newly elected Provincial Government decided to purchase the mill for a minimal sum of money to continue the operation of the mill thus saving the town from certain death. Several of the senior mill operators and maintenance people had already left Ocean Falls but were called back to operate the mill. Over several years, a valiant effort was made by the local unions and mill staff to keep the mill operating at a profit. However, the writing was on the wall for the Ocean Falls mill and the mill eventually ceased operation due to poor profitability. Studies were carried out to identify possible solutions for a different type of mill based on modern processes and modern equipment. However, quoting the published addendum, investments could not be located to permit a redesign of the mill thus providing it with a new future.
It must have been heartbreaking for the people living in Ocean Falls to realize that the end was near for their town, the mill and their employment. The long and drawn-out negotiations to keep the mill in operation resulted in some bitterness of some people towards the Government of the day and the previous mill owners. This bitterness was expressed in the addendum to the original book. I guess I would have liked to retain a happy memory of Ocean Falls gracefully sliding into the past, as have so many other older pulp and paper mills located in B.C.and Canada.
The stark reality of the Ocean Falls mill was; that it was one of the more expensive mills to operate in the Province of B.C. in spite of the the hydro power savings. The isolated location of the paper mill resulted in many high cost expenditures not normally carried by other pulp and paper companies located closer to civilization. Everything had to be carried to and from the mill by boat or barge. This included everything and everything. Wood for the mill, all the mill chemicals and all new mill maintenance equipment and supplies. The finished paper products had to be shipped out by barge or ship since there were no roads into Ocean Falls. The cost of the wood for the mill was high due to long delivery distances. The mill was frightfully outdated operating paper machines built in the early 1900 with some machines driven by steam engines. The mill had to carry the cost of the necessary township infrastructure, a cost most other pulp and paper mills companies totally avoid. This meant the provision of housing, heating, electricity, and the maintenance cost of all buildings and roads. Due to the isolated location of the mill, it was necessary to retain a large, versatile maintenance staff. It was essential that the mill would be in a position to carry out major maintenance repairs with a minimum of delay in order to avoid production losses. This again meant the requirements for very well equipped repair shops. Most pulp and paper mills located closer to large cities rely on private companies to carry-out many of the large scale and often specialized equipment repairs. Outside contractors can be brought in to most mills on short notice should a major maintenance problem occur.
History has shown, that pulp and paper mills much more modern than the Ocean Falls mill have had to be shut down permanently. This due to the very difficult cost environment many mills often operate within. Mills with quite modern production processes and equipment, and installed perhaps as late as 1980, have had to shut down. The Ocean Falls mill was totally devoid of any air and water pollution control equipment. Such now obligatory systems are high cost items in any new pulp and paper mill. The Ocean Falls mill would not have been able to continue operation without such facilities.
In my opinion, the Ocean Falls paper mill town ended it's career in a noble way, having been the home to so many people since the beginning of the 1900. From an economic, long term viewpoint, the Ocean Falls Mill created very good revenue for all involved, the Provincial Government, Investors, Mill equipment suppliers and the people who lived and worked in Ocean Falls.
The town of Ocean Fals still lives on albeit on a much smaller scale than that of the past. I send everybody still living in Ocean Falls my very best regards.
All comments, descriptions and explanations related to the Ocean Falls paper mill and town are solely my own. I am recalling events in my life which happened 40 years ago Due to my long-standing interest in the life and history of Ocean Falls I felt I should communicate some of my memories and share some of my photographs.
If you are an ex Ocean Falls resident and if you like my site, I would appreciate if you would forward the link to other Ocean Falls people you might know. An Ocean Falls resident visitor's log has been included on the last page of this site.