Voices of the mill: Jack O’Donnell, 67, of Everett

  • Fri Mar 23rd, 2012 2:26pm
  • News

By Debra Smith Herald Writer

In this series, we’re telling the stories of what the Kimberly-Clark mill closure means for workers and for Everett, which has been defined by mills for more than a century.

Summer work at an Everett mill put many a local kid through college.

That was true for Jack O’Donnell, an Everett native, who worked the summers and Christmas breaks during college at was then the Scott Paper Co.

“For the first time, I did a man’s work,” he said.

By that, he means hard physical work. In the summer of 1965, he was 20 years old and still living at home with his parents.

At the mill, he worked long hours at a variety of odd jobs, including running the rejected toilet tissue rolls through a machine that broke them back down to recycle them.

He also filled boxes with different colored toilet tissue rolls, separated small rolls of paper created from big rolls, ran a cardboard binder machine and guided logs in the yard as they made there way through the lumber mill.

“I was always fascinated watching how all of this worked,” he said.

At that time, the mill made wax paper, too, and he remembers sticking his hand in the vat and having it come out coated with wax.

During a summer’s work he could earn $2,200 — a fortune at the time. He remembers his tuition at Western Washington University as around a $100 a quarter.

“I remember when I went back to college that fall I weighed 139 pounds and was also very fit,” he said.

It wasn’t until the following winter the calluses wore off his fingers.

O’Donnell briefly considered making the mills a career. Instead, he became a teacher for the Edmonds School District. He’s now retired.

“I’m forever grateful to Scott Paper Company for employing me during those times,” he said. “It was a sort of coming-of-age job where for the first time I was doing a man’s work. It gave me a work ethic that would last a lifetime.”