You Had a Job for Life

Story of a Company Town

Jamie Sayen

Absentee owners. Single-minded concern for the bottom line. Friction between workers and management. Hostile takeovers at the hands of avaricious and unaccountable multinational interests. The story of America’s industrial decline is all too familiar—and yet, somehow, still hard to fathom. Jamie Sayen spent years interviewing residents of Groveton, New Hampshire, about the century-long saga of their company town. The community’s paper mill had been its economic engine since the early twentieth century. Purchased and revived by local owners in the postwar decades, the mill merged with Diamond International in 1968. It fell victim to Anglo-French financier James Goldsmith’s hostile takeover in 1982, then suffered through a series of owners with no roots in the community until its eventual demise in 2007. Drawing on conversations with scores of former mill workers, Sayen reconstructs the mill’s human history: the smells of pulp and wood, the injuries and deaths, the struggles of women for equal pay and fair treatment, and the devastating impact of global capitalism on a small New England town. This is a heartbreaking story of the decimation of industrial America.

Cover Image of You Had a Job for Life: Story of a Company Town
Paper: $29.95 | E-book: $28.95
ISBN-13: 9781684581849
Pages: 304 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: October 10, 2023

A heartbreaking history.

The Wall Street Journal


  • If you’re looking for an anti-corporate screed or a rose-colored-glasses view of small-town life, You Had a Job for Life is not for you. But if you’re interested in a multi-faceted look at an important aspect of New Hampshire’s personality, shown through the people who lived it, and reported at unusual depth, you might want to give it a shot.

    Concord Monitor
  • You had a Job For Life, an oral history of the destruction of a mill town, details the life and death of the Groveton Papers Mill. But Jamie Sayen’s book could easily have been about Berlin and other paper towns that saw their economies collapse when foreign competition and shrinking markets closed paper mills across the country. The stories are hauntingly similar. Thirty miles west of Berlin, Groveton shared a workforce and for a period, common ownership, with the mills in the Androscoggin Valley.

    Berlin Daily Sun
  • It includes labor disputes and the women’s struggle for equal pay, the financial machinations that passed ownership through multiple hands over its century in operation, and the bare hands of workers building it all from the ground up. It is all so vivid you can almost smell the sulfur on their skins.

  • A heartbreaking history.

    The Wall Street Journal
  • Colorful and memorable. . . . Recommended.

  • Through this remarkably engaging oral history and its many colorful stories of characters, pranks, and conflicts, the reader comes to know the people whose lives were dominated by the mill, and the devastating impact upon them and the town when the mill ceased to operate.

    David R. Foster
    Director Emeritus, Harvard Forest

About the Author

JAMIE SAYEN is a writer and environmental activist living in New Hampshire. He is the author of Einstein in America: The Scientist’s Conscience in the Age of Hitler and Hiroshima.

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