By Mike Benbow Herald Writer
It will lose part of its history and identity.
Everett, a planned industrial community built in the 1890s, has a long history of providing well-paying manufacturing jobs. It once held the nickname “The City of Smokestacks.”
“Everett has been the industrial port of the Pacific rim,” said historian David Dilgard. “We were really proud of those smokestacks and the jobs that came with them. Every once in a while a school kid will ask, ‘Where are the smokestacks?’ Today, Kimberly-Clark is it.”
Everett still has thousands of well-paying manufacturing jobs at the Boeing Co., which builds all its larger commercial jets here. But Dilgard notes that Boeing, which doesn’t have smokestacks at its plant, is more attached to Seattle or to the region in general than it is to Everett.
“Boeing has not really provided Everett with a feeling that is comparable,” he said. “Boeing is the Northwest, but those smokestacks are part of the city’s identity. You know people who worked there.”
Union representative Josh Estes notes that some employees have generations of family members who have worked at the mills.
Now they face an uncertain future.
“There are a lack of family wage jobs out there,” he said. “We’ll have to do everything we can to find work comparable to what we do here.”
Kimberly-Clark merged with Scott Paper in 1995. Scott had purchased Soundview Paper in 1935. The original mill, which opened there in 1931, was called Puget Sound Pulp and Paper.
In its heyday, Soundview employed about 2,000 people and vied with a Weyerhaeuser pulp mill as the city’s largest employer. There was also a major pulp mill in Lowell, which helped the city move from a lumber-and-shake mill town to a paper center.
The pulp mills gave Everett a second nickname, said historian Jack O’Donnell, who worked at Scott for a summer in the mid-1960s.
“They gave us the nickname of being the armpit of the nation,” O’Donnell said, referring to the rotten-egg smell typical of most pulp mills of the era.
The pulp mill jobs helped the community get through the Great Depression, Dilgard said. They also helped the city shift from its dependence on lumber and shake mills to pulp.
In 1967, it shifted from pulp and paper mills to aerospace when Boeing opened its Everett plant. But Scott, and later Kimberly-Clark, continued to operate.
O’Donnell said the mills helped put a lot of people through college because the pay was good. It also supported many Everett families, he said.
“I’m saddened about their announcement,” he said of Kimberly-Clark. “It’s the last of the big smokestacks, and it’s the end of an era. It’s the end of paper and pulp mills in the city.”
O’Donnell said he has always bought Scott tissue products, a line continued by Kimberly-Clark, because he felt loyal to the product. “I never looked at the price, I just grabbed Scott,” he said.