THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
From My Window - Local Business - Thank You!
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
A regular Times reader passed along a request for a column in honor of the long-time local business, Badger Paper Mills. I am sharing some of his comments, along with my own personal connection to BPM.
Like all local businesses, their taxes benefit the local community. In fact, having strong local businesses creates all kinds of good direct impact besides taxes " it provides jobs, local shopping, service and dining opportunities, and convenience. That cascades into opportunities for child care providers, realtors, and everyone else in the service industry. But the key point this local reader wanted to make is that our "tribal knowledge/memory" of past good deeds BPM did is slipping away with time, and I felt like he wanted to acknowledge those past contributions.
So, going back to the times when my Grandfather worked there, the reader says that through Badger a local dentist provided dental care for all children of the Peshtigo area, even children whose parents were not employed at the mill. I suspect my father was among the recipients of this kindness as a young boy, and he was always proud that even when he was in his 60's dentists would comment on the quality of his 50 year-old fillings.
Badger was a sports supporter. There was a tennis court next to the mill office; and the mill supported a softball field and organized ball games down to the grade school level. I know for a fact that my grandfather Lawrence Thibodeau, got a job at Badger in the "stores" area at the height of the great depression. He'd been left a young widower with three children, and laid off from his job at the Kissel Motor Company, which I think was in Kingsford, MI. The job allowed him to begin to support his family again, and secured the future of the little family in Peshtigo.
The rumor in the family was he was given this job at least partly for his prowess playing baseball. In those days, before professional sports, local communities had a "hardball" team that would travel for hotly-contested competitions with teams in other small communities. While he was not a physically imposing man, his forte was lightning-fast base running and stealing " leading to his knick-name in Peshtigo of "Flash."
I remember being introduced to older men at social activities in Peshtigo in my pre-teen years, when my Grandpa was still alive. The old guys would say, "Oh, you're Little Flash!" or "This is Flash's granddaughter!" to identify me with my family tree. But getting a job at Badger partly in exchange for being on their baseball team during the depression was not only a drawback, it was really a side benefit, and the games provided cheap entertainment and socialization opportunities for Peshtigo. There was not a much in the way of entertainment back then so the games were truly the biggest show in town when the ball season was underway.
I also believe that my father spent at least one summer working at Badger while he was in school " earning a nice amount during a school break to help make ends meet while studying to be a teacher.
When I graduated from Peshtigo High School in 1974, the seniors who had "gotten a job at the mill," were envied by others, including some of the some-what reluctantly college bound kids. It was stable employment, good money, and didn't require you to leave your family, friends and comfortable circumstances behind you.
It would be hard to imagine that Peshtigo would be the community it is today had Badger not been around during those times " and without Badger, Peshtigo might have ended up more like Porterfield, Loomis or Harmony " a small cross-roads instead of the bustling little town it is now.