January 21, 2013

In Biddeford, cribbage links generations of mill families

A fundraising project triggers memories for families with ties to Biddeford's iconic textile mills.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Patrick Wilson, a student at the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology, shows a cribbage board that was drilled by a computerized machine.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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The boards reflect the history of the mill with an engraved brass plate.

Additional Photos Below

While the CNC machine worked behind him, 18-year-old Brian Kearsley ran his fingers over an uncut board.

"Every once in a while you'd look at the wood and remember just how old it is," he said.

After the boards are cut, they are brought back to the Pepperell campus, where mill vets set up a workshop in their headquarters. Surrounded by displays of historic photos and cavernous empty mill rooms, they created an assembly line to paint the horseshoe nails, attach plaques and wrap each board with paper and twine.

James Lantagne of Biddeford worked in the mills for 19 years. Now he's one of the mill vets producing the boards, giving tours of the mills and documenting history for future generations.

"Everybody (in Biddeford) has relatives who worked here. This whole place is the foundation of Biddeford," he said.

Lantagne said working with the floorboards is exciting, though he sometimes finds himself pausing to think about the history behind them.

"Who knows how many people walked on them," he said.

Making a connection with a younger generation was a rewarding aspect of the project, Guillerault said. The mill vets hope to inspire the teens to embrace the city's history.

"We're the old guys. Most of us are in our sixties," Guillerault said ."We want to step out of the way and let the younger generation step in."

While the students and mill veterans said they enjoyed working together on the project, others are thankful for the memories conjured by holding a piece of the city's history.

Joyce Poulin, an administrative assistant at the center of technology, knew a cribbage board would be the perfect gift for her father, despite the fact that he doesn't play the game. Richard Guay spent his entire working life behind the brick walls of Pepperell, making his way up through the ranks to management.

When Poulin first heard about the project, she knew the boards would be a hit.

"(The mills) have affected so many people in this area and they're proud to have worked there," she said. "I knew people would buy into it because of that pride."

Despite the long waiting lists, Poulin was able to buy a cribbage board as a gift for her father. Watching him unwrap the board was incredible, she said.

"You could see the emotion," she said. "You could just see him thinking about Building 16 and the memories."

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:


Twitter: grahamgillian


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Additional Photos

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Student Jeremy Lambert vacuums sawdust from a drilled board before removing it from the computerized drill machine.

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Freshly painted nails, used as counting pegs for the game, dry on a cribbage board.

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Marc Cadorette, an instructor at the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology, works with students in the machine tool technology class to use a computer program that automates the drilling machine.

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Don Guillerault, a Biddeford Mills Museum board member who worked in the textile mills for 42 years


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