Lights, camera, action! The 1918 Belknap Mill comes alive

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Congratulations to the Belknap Mill on a successful weekend shooting the film for their Community Project Grant supported project, A Day in the Life of a Mill Worker, which will introduce New Hampshire students to life in a 1918 textile mill.

By Roberta Baker, The Laconia Daily Sun, July 19, 2021
Photo by Johanna Halperin

LACONIA — In a stern voice sprinkled with fatherly kindness, J.P. Morin — historic owner of the Belknap Mill, portrayed by Ray Dudley of Gilmanton — gives a pep talk to two children who are about to start work.

“Come on in! Don’t dally. I’ll expect a lot of you because I expect a lot of all my employees! Do your job well, and you may end up a successful man like me. I started as a mill worker, and one day I was able to buy the whole mill,” Morin says.

It is 1918, the time of World War I, and American soldiers overseas are in desperate need of something that this mill manufactures — wool socks.

Morin, a French-Canadian immigrant, purchased the mill in 1913. For decades his advice has been passed down to schoolchildren and other visitors. Now the sock factory and Morin’s message will be immortalized in film.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Belknap Mill became the stage for a dramatization of the factory as it was in 1918, an adaptation of the original school field trip that is being made into an educational film, “A Day in the Life of a Mill Worker.” In December, it will be distributed to New Hampshire schools and available to classrooms across the country.

“It’s culture and heritage,” said Karen Prior, executive director of the Belknap Mill Society. “It’s sharing the history of New Hampshire. Many of the workers were immigrants. It shows the evolution of this community. If we don’t understand our history, how can we begin to understand our future?”

“To snap your fingers and make these kids turn from today back to 1918 was a great idea,” said Helga Stamps of Bristol, a docent who has conducted Belknap Mill field trips since 1999. “It’s too good to let it go.”

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