Biddeford Mills Museum recorded interviews with more than 50 former Biddeford Mills employees in 2012 and 2013. This summer you can read excerpts from some of those videos right here in a series titled, “Mill Voices.” The full set of videos will be available for viewing at the Museum when we reopen later in the summer. In the meantime, please enjoy these stories taken from our archives. Find us online at biddefordmillsmuseum.org or check out our Facebook page — Biddeford Mills Museum.

On Oct. 17, 2013, Pat Brown sat with Moe Paquette and Maureen Lyons to talk about her years working in Biddeford for WestPoint. The interview was video taped and is available for viewing at the Biddeford Mills Museum. Her interviewers were off camera. Behind her was the original master time clock, now located in the Museum. Pat wore a cocoa brown cardigan sweater over a lovely ecru blouse.

Formally introduced as Patricia, Pat, or Patty as she was sometimes called, set an informal tone as she told that she was hired in 1980 to fill a vacancy at WestPoint. She had grown up in York, graduated from public schools there, and had earned her nursing degree at Maine Medical Center, attending from 1960 to 1964.
In her job as an occupational nurse, Pat reported to the personnel director.

Bob LeBlanc, and later Carl Franchette, occupied that office during her 22 years with the company. Her office, with separate exam room, was constructed for her when she was first hired. It was located in the sewing department (2nd floor of Building 13w).

Pat was asked if she found it difficult to move from the coastal community of York to the city of Biddeford. She smiled a broad grin, and replied, “Well, my name was Brown so it was a different culture.” Pat laughed out loud and said that she loved everybody and made a lot of close friends. “I only had to learn to eat pork pie,” she explained.

Pat was responsible for the health and safety of every employee. There were about 2,000 workers while she was there, working three shifts. Her regular workday was scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., however, there were times when her work would require her to be in the office during the night shift. Pat would travel to WestPoint-Stevens corporate headquarters in New Orleans twice each year to meet with other nurses from the other WestPoint plants. She said she was pleased to have had that opportunity.

Asked if there were any serious injuries while she was working, Pat said that WestPoint-Stevens was a very safe shop. She couldn’t think of any, and was proud of the safety records they had maintained.

Was WestPoint was a good company to work for? Pat flashed her beautiful smile and answered a very upbeat “yes.” She went on to say that there were “ups and downs” like all of life, but overall it was good.

She could recall only one strike during her tenure. She thought it lasted about eight weeks. She never had a problem crossing the picket lines, however, and worked regularly during that time. She said there had been other threats of a strike but the issues were resolved before the strike deadline.

Pat shared several stories about her grandfather who had lived to be 114 years old — one of the oldest people in the United States at that time. He was in good health, loved to walk and would snowshoe in the winter. He chose to stop driving when he was 102. She told about the day her grandfather had gone up onto the roof when he was 103 to shovel the snow off. When asked how he got down, he answered that he “jumped down, of course.”

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