The E.M.B.A.

International Paper created Employee Mutual Benefit Associations (EMBA) in each of its mills in 1924 as part of an employee benefit program intended to discourage workers from reorganizing labor unions in the wake of the 1921 Strike. Mill employees managed their mill EMBA to develop social and recreational activities for workers and their families. The Corinth EMBA was named the Warren Curtis chapter.

The EMBA’s initial activities were centered at the Community Hall at the corner of Pine and Heath Streets in Corinth. The building was originally constructed in 1922 to house men brought to Corinth to operate the Hudson River Mill during the 1921 Paper Strike. Called “strikebreakers” by union members, the men were forced to live within the confines of the Mill throughout 1921 and half of 1922, due to the threat of violence if they walked the streets of Corinth.

The Hudson River Mill’s new workforce moved out of the mill and into the future Community Hall in 1922 - and as the threat of violence decreased - eventually into nearby homes that had been either rented or purchased by International Paper. Although the Strike against the Company did not officially end until 1926, social and political relations in Corinth had begun to normalize by late 1924. It was then that the building that was originally intended to house strikebreakers became the Community Hall which opened formally in November 1924 with a Thanksgiving Eve ball attended by over 200 people. The rich variety of social events held at the Hall beginning in late 1924 worked to heal a community which had been fractured both socially and politically by the 1921 Paper Strike.

The future EMBA Community Building, under construction in 1922, was originally built to house strikebreakers during the 1921 Paper Strike. Strikers were forced to live within the mill yard for the first year of the strike due to the threat of violence if they traveled the streets of Corinth village. By summer 1922 these men were able to reside in this building.

The future EMBA Community Building, under construction in 1922, was originally built to house strikebreakers during the 1921 Paper Strike. Strikers were forced to live within the mill yard for the first year of the strike due to the threat of violence if they traveled the streets of Corinth village. By summer 1922 these men were able to reside in this building.

The Community Hall began to serve a the site for plays, dances, minstrels, church suppers, card parties, and political rallies soon after its 1924 opening. Dances were regularly held at Thanksgiving Eve, Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the Hall served as the site for the annual Christmas party for Corinth children which was attended by nearly 600. Corinth High School used the hall for its basketball games in the late 1920s, for the Junior Prom, and for the graduation of Corinth seniors. By the end of 1924, basketball games were being held in the building as the home the International Paper Company team - the Corinth Internationals - which played teams from other local communities through the winter months.

Pictured is the 1929 Corinth Internationals basketball team, and an announcement of a March 7, 1929 game at the Community Hall with the Albany “Whirlwinds.” The Internationals won 30-20. The player holding the ball in the photograph is Vendome Tichnor. Tichnor came to Corinth from Wisconsin in 1922 at the age of 19 to work as strikebreaker during the 1921 Paper Strike. He claimed that his skills as a baseball and basketball played helped ease his transition into the Corinth community. Tichnor married a local woman, spent his entire work life at the Hudson River Mill, and served as the Mayor of Corinth the 1950s.

Pictured is the 1929 Corinth Internationals basketball team, and an announcement of a March 7, 1929 game at the Community Hall with the Albany “Whirlwinds.” The Internationals won 30-20. The player holding the ball in the photograph is Vendome Tichnor. Tichnor came to Corinth from Wisconsin in 1922 at the age of 19 to work as strikebreaker during the 1921 Paper Strike. He claimed that his skills as a baseball and basketball played helped ease his transition into the Corinth community. Tichnor married a local woman, spent his entire work life at the Hudson River Mill, and served as the Mayor of Corinth the 1950s.

The EMBA at the Hudson River Mill expanded its role in the Corinth community in 1942 when it began to publish the EMBA News as a means to keep former employees who were serving in the Armed Forces during World War II informed about mill and community events. The initial issues of the News consisted of only four pages and contained but one or two photographs on the front page which featured a different department in the mill every month. Articles in the News were very brief and consisted mostly of community events, EMBA activities and personal news about Corinth citizens. There were virtually no discussions of Company news or developments. The News also published letters mailed from men in active military service. This publishing idea eventually spread to the EMBAs at other International Paper Company mills.

This crew from an unnamed paper machine appeared on the cover of the November 1942 issue of the EMBA News. The man at far right is Ray Wildenberg. He arrived in Corinth in 1921 at the age of 20 with a number of other skilled paper makers who had been recruited in Wisconsin to come to Corinth to work during the 1921 Strike. Like Vendome Tichnor, Ray Wildenberg remained in Corinth, married a local woman, and spent his entire working life at the Hudson River Mill.

This crew from an unnamed paper machine appeared on the cover of the November 1942 issue of the EMBA News. The man at far right is Ray Wildenberg. He arrived in Corinth in 1921 at the age of 20 with a number of other skilled paper makers who had been recruited in Wisconsin to come to Corinth to work during the 1921 Strike. Like Vendome Tichnor, Ray Wildenberg remained in Corinth, married a local woman, and spent his entire working life at the Hudson River Mill.

By the 1950s the EMBA News had become an important source of news within the Corinth community. Company, employee and community activities of all kinds were covered in its pages. The number of pages in the News grew and several photographs were featured on each page. The News actually became a reflection of the growth of the EMBA itself which expanded the resources available at the Community Hall and the activities that it sponsored for IP employees, their families and Corinth citizens. The chart below documents the range of activities offered by the EMBA during the 1955-1956 season and the extent of community participation. The vast majority of EMBA sponsored activities were intended for men and boys. Girls got to use the Hall’s gym during open rolling skating, Girl Scout meetings and dances, archery and bowling. Women participated in organized bowling leagues and attended dances and some banquets. The EMBA did not offer women organized basketball or softball.

The chart above which describes activities held in the Community Hall during the 1955-56 season does not include EMBA sponsored softball leagues or golf.

The chart above which describes activities held in the Community Hall during the 1955-56 season does not include EMBA sponsored softball leagues or golf.

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The five photographs above show the variety of ways that the Community Building gym was used.

The five photographs above show the variety of ways that the Community Building gym was used.

The Community Building added four new bowling alleys in 1957, and a cafeteria in 1951.

The Community Building added four new bowling alleys in 1957, and a cafeteria in 1951.

In the period 1942-1975, when George Holland served as the editor of the EMBA News, both the articles and the photographs that filled its pages reveal the expansion of EMBA activities after World War II as well as International Paper’s growing influence on Corinth’s civic life. The Company exerted a strong influence within the Corinth community through its economic presence, its active benevolence, and its public relations activities. International Paper’s provided substantial support for the EMBA through its financial support for the EMBA News, its maintenance of and upgrades to the Community Hall, the construction of a skating rink near Curtis Field which was home to the EMBA’s softball leagues, and the building of Brookhaven Golf Course. By the 1960s, the traditional contents of the EMBA News was being augmented by articles inserted by International Paper’s corporate offices to serve the Company’s greater public relations objectives.

This photograph was used to illustrate the main story on the front page of the August, 1968 edition of the    EMBA News    which described International Paper’s newest product, CONFIL, a wood-based, non-woven disposable fabric designed for use in hospitals. It is an example of how the    EMBA News    was increasingly used to serve the Company’s broad public relations objectives  in the 1960s.

This photograph was used to illustrate the main story on the front page of the August, 1968 edition of the EMBA News which described International Paper’s newest product, CONFIL, a wood-based, non-woven disposable fabric designed for use in hospitals. It is an example of how the EMBA News was increasingly used to serve the Company’s broad public relations objectives in the 1960s.

At some point in the 1950’s the EMBA Community Hall was renamed the Community Building. By then it contained the gym, a four lane bowling alley, a cafeteria, a rifle range and a boxing area on the second floor. Besides serving as the site for all kinds of sporting events, it also hosted the annual EMBA sports banquet which celebrated the winning teams in all sponsored league sports and recognized individual achievements in golf, fishing. darts and shooting. The Community Hall was also used throughout the year of other types of banquets, and its cafeteria provided meals for the many guests who came to tour the Hudson River Mill.  

View of the main entrance to the Community Building in 1956 with International Paper’s administrative building in the distance.

View of the main entrance to the Community Building in 1956 with International Paper’s administrative building in the distance.