Mill’s gone, but Scott Paper Co. receptionists remember it well

Almost nothing is left of what was once Soundview Pulp Co., and later Scott Paper Co., and later still Kimberly-Clark, the pulp and paper mill demolished on Everett’s waterfront in 2013. But memories are left, good memories and long friendships.

“It was just a family. With all of us girls, it was wonderful. I was in the secretarial pool,” said Everett’s Lena Rochon, now 83.

Charlotte Bowers hosted a reunion of long-ago Soundview and Scott Paper co-workers at her Marysville home Friday. The women, some accompanied by husbands or grown children, laughed again over stories shared through the years.

On Friday, they turned pages of a scrapbook filled with snapshots and memorabilia. Looking like starlets from a 1940s movie, they are shown holding china teacups during a coffee break, and posing in Soundview softball team shirts at Forest Park. “We were all good,” said Bowers, 87.

There are pictures from company Christmas parties — held at the Everett Elks Club, Waldheim’s in Mukilteo, or Seattle’s Canlis. Sometimes at work they celebrated each others’ bridal and baby showers.

Rose Margaretich, at 99 the oldest among them, came to the reunion with her twin daughters, 77-year-old Janice White and Jonette Ryan. “She was everybody’s head secretary,” White said of her mother. Margaretich retired in 1967.

Also at the potluck lunch were Marie Nelson, 81, of Marysville; Betty Larsen Hammer, 83, of Arlington; Mary Neilsen, 81, of Edmonds; and Anna Lucas, 82, of Everett.

They talked about camaraderie and fun more than secretarial tasks.

For one summer outing, the company chartered the Thea Foss, originally a yacht built for Hollywood legend John Barrymore. Secretaries and their husbands or boyfriends cruised through Deception Pass. “I spent most of that day hiding from a guy I didn’t want to see,” Nelson said.

Hammer recalled daily errands to Karl’s Bakery in downtown Everett, where she picked up treats bought by the company for coffee breaks. “We could order anything,” said Hammer, who still remembers being nervous to drive Leo Bardon’s “big Chrysler” on the doughnut runs. In the mid-1940s, Bardon was a Soundview Pulp vice president. “I drove by my folks’ house to show them the car,” Hammer said.

There were no more doughnut errands after the Scott Paper Co. took over in the 1950s, sending executives out to Everett from Pennsylvania. “They thought we were in the backwoods,” Rochon said.

In an article titled “Building Up Everett: A Brief History by the Decade,” the Historic Everett preservation group said the Scott Paper Co. bought Soundview Pulp in 1951. It became Kimberly-Clark in 1995. That mill closed in 2012.

“I’ll tell you, times have changed,” said Nelson, who worked for Scott Paper’s technical director in the 1950s. She remembers being invited to her boss’s house for dinner. “I overheard them in the kitchen — would they dare give an innocent a glass of wine?” Nelson said.

Among Bowers’ keepsakes is a postcard one boss sent to the office during his vacation. “We are high up in the Bavarian Alps,” he wrote in June 1954, signing the card with “Kindest regards.”

There’s a gentility in the memories and memorabilia that is lost in today’s work world. Recalling their dressy office attire, Hammer said she had three suits, brown, blue and navy. Bowers once earned a $50 bonus because her boss was told by an important visitor that she had remembered the man’s name.

Every memory wasn’t straight out of an Emily Post etiquette book. “Whatever you did, you didn’t say Kleenex — they were Scotties,” said Nelson, adding “we nicknamed them ‘snotties.’?”

Rochon, for a time the youngest in the secretarial pool, said a co-worker once asked her at what point she considered someone to be middle-aged. “I answered, ‘Oh, about 30 or so.’ I was in my early 20s,” Rochon said.

Some of their longtime friends have died, but age hasn’t stolen precious memories. For most of the afternoon, there was laughter in Bowers’ house and outside where lunch was served. For a few moments, it was quiet.

Old friends joined hands in a circle, bowed their heads, and gave thanks for all they have shared.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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