January 14th, 2011
By Cathy Miglorie
The town of Proctor grew up around the Vermont Marble Co., and so did the families of the marble workers. In the schools of Proctor today, students walk the same halls their great-grandparents did. They cross the same marble bridge and study at the same library. Their family names live on, and so do their memories of growing up in Proctor.
Former Proctor resident Carlene Nichols Belanger wrote to the Vermont Marble Museum, sharing four generations of her family history and describing the variety of jobs just one family held for the Vermont Marble Co.
“My great-grandfather, Bengt August Anderson, immigrated to the U.S. in 1881, arriving at Ellis Island on Oct. 4 from Vinberg, Sweden. He spent 6 months in Hammondsville, N.Y., before moving with his bride to Proctor. He and his family resided on Pleasant Street in Proctor and were charter members of St. Paul Lutheran Church.
For many years, horses and oxen were an integral part of the marble company. Teams of horses hauled slabs of stones from the depths of the quarry. Horses were used to draw sand to the mills and deliver goods from the store. Bengt Anderson “worked in the West Rutland quarry and shop. His main job was to move marble blocks from the quarry to the finishing shop on a sled-type carrier pulled by a team of horses. His job also entailed taking care of the horses each day.”
Belanger’s grandfather, Carl Anderson, Bengt’s son, worked for Vermont Marble Co. all his adult life in the drafting department in the main office building.
“He worked on many large building projects over the years of his employment. The two that I remember him telling about were the U.N. Building in New York City and the National Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. He sometimes spent several weeks in New York City while the U.N. building was going up.”
Marble Chips, in March 1939, documents the National Gallery of Art project, describing the production work done in the Proctor shops. Anderson worked with the team of drafters planning the building and many other Proctor men labored in the shops to turn the 122 massive blocks of marble into gleaming round pillars.
The stone was Italian Verde Imperial and as it arrived from overseas to Proctor, it went to the capable hands of production manager Almo Tenerani. Almo Buggiani and Ben Carney worked with him to core the raw blocks with a metal center. Next, Tony Marfuggi and Almo Baccei trimmed the corners with a diamond saw and turned the blocks over to planers operated by Alex Olsen and Carl Berg.
Long smooth strokes rounded the corners further, giving a glimpse of the eventual shape of the drum. The carborundum machine, operated by Hopper Noren, Fritz Gollstrom, Alex Anderson and Erick Oscarson ground the marble down to its desired diameter. Next came the polishing, done on different lathes by Louis Fredette and Toddy Gallipeau. Great care was taken to ensure fitting with the joints when the columns were set. The marble was then set on yet another lathe in order for a carborundum saw to make a true cut for the joint—this delicate operation was handled by Johnny Horvath and Charles Skuba. Any imperfections in the finished marble were waxed clean by Albert Hector, then the drums were inspected by Lee O’Connor before Tony Taranovich and Warner Brown carefully wrapped each drum in flannel cloth and built wooden crates around them. Each drum weighed 7 to 10 tons, measured 5-feet thick and were 6½ feet high. Projects of this magnitude, while astounding in the sheer feat of physical labor, were all in a day’s work to the hardy marble workers.
When America engaged in World War II, the marble plant in Proctor transformed a large portion of their operations for war industrial purposes. Men left for the armed services and woman began taking their places at the machines. The same planing machines that molded the massive marble sections for the National Gallery of Art and the Jefferson Memorial were now enlisted in the cause of war. Airplane parts, ship winches and weapons were manufactured alongside marble memorials in the huge monumental shop.
“My grandmother Agnes Anderson, Carl’s wife, also worked for Vermont Marble Co. during WWII,” Belanger writes. “Because many of the men were off fighting in the war, the company hired women to fill vacant jobs and she worked in the Mica Plant. My mother and I were living with my grandparents as my Dad was in the service also and my mother took care of me and the house while my grandparents were at work. When my Dad, Charlie Nichols, returned in November 1945, he worked for Vermont Marble Co. for a year in the purchasing department under the G.I. Bill.
“Carl and Agnes Anderson’s daughter, Evie Anderson LaFrance, worked for the company in the Main Office following her high school graduation until her marriage in 1957. Prior to her marriage in l957, she worked in the design department and then moved to the building estimating department. She left in 1958 when her first child was born and returned in 1974 to work in the personnel department with Toge Erickson and finally worked as executive assistant to Robert Condon until her retirement.
“In the 1950s, my mother, Helen Anderson Nichols, worked at the marble exhibit in the spring and fall. The company hired college students to work there in the summer and local women worked during the months when the students were in school. She also helped in the collating and mailing of the company newsletter called ‘The Vermont Marble Company Chips.’
“Our family employment ended with my parent’s generation. I graduated from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Radiology School and I am still employed part-time in that profession. My sister Johanna graduated from UVM and went from teaching to a master’s in human resources, to a master’s in theology; however, our days of growing up in Proctor are sweet memories and I still visit family and friends there on my return trips each year.”
Cultural Heritage Walls
Former Vermont Marble Co. worker names from all years are still wanted for a second Proctor wall and the West Rutland wall. Both walls will be engraved this winter and installed in spring. Sponsor forms can be downloaded at www.dimensionsofmarble.com or call the Vermont Marble Museum, 459-2300, to be mailed a form. Cost is $250 per family name.