The Shop Guard Force by Don Gosselin

   The Shop Guard Force Because of the great number of employees at the former Whitin Machine Works, and also due to the fact that almost 75 acres of property had to be protected, “The Shop” was said to be a ‘community within a community’. It made up sort of a municipality which had in addition to its utilities and services, a police presence and security division.

   Management in The Shop community was expected to keep proper behavior and orderliness, and to promote and protect the WMW proper for everyone’s common welfare. Safeguarding one’s person and property was done with the fine help of the Plant’s Security Department for each hour of every day, 24/7. The Shop Guards made their rounds faithfully vigilant and alert to any hazard or danger that could threaten all. For instance, sprinkler systems were checked constantly; fire extinguishers were inspected and well-maintained; fire exits were kept clear and each fire door was tested for proper operation. If fire did happen, it was brought to the attention of the guards who would assist the Northbridge Fire Department. 

   Each member of The Shop Guard Force, which was comprised of 36 well trained and dedicated men, was also a special police officer of the Town of Northbridge. Each guard helped the Police Department in any community emergency and in specially assigned duties or projects, one of which was directing traffic anywhere around The Shop. There was an excess of 2,000 cars and trucks that had to be parked and marked each day within an official Whitin parking lot by the Plant’s Security Department. An updated card file would show the operator’s name and address, the make and model and year made, and the registration number, which would also help each employee to find or to share transportation. The Guards were expected to patrol all parking areas to help stop theft of automobiles or their contents, and also to help employees who had trouble with, for example, starting their car. The Guards had available a truck with both 6 and 12 volt booster batteries.

   The Shop Guards controlled entry and exit procedures from the Company’s grounds. The movement of materials and supplies was controlled by the fact that each person, including an employee, had to identify himself. He had to wear a “badge”. Unauthorized individuals were not allowed to enter or to stay on Company Property. Furthermore, the Guards assisted all by their protection from disorder, theft, or any other sabotage or damage to Whitin Property by undesirable individuals. Being so concerned with safety also, the Guards worked closely with the Safety Director, James Rankine and the Whitin Maintenance Department to prevent any dangerous conditions or accidents. During their routine patrols, the Guards would report any condition needing remedial action and they would quickly secure any needed repairs or alterations by plumbers, electricians, carpenters or mechanics. They were trained to notice any unsafe practices or methods and would seek immediate correction of such mistakes. If any employee got injured or ill while working, well, the Guards would bring him medical aid and needed comfort. The Plant Security Department kept a “lost and found” section which brought finders and losers together. Very often Guards would find lost money or other articles in the Plant, and they rejoiced when property was restored to its rightful owner. The Shop Guards always had ready hands, willing hearts, and sympathetic ears when some employees had even minor problems and difficulties. If things could not be corrected, the Guards would get help, counsel and advice from the Personnel Department. Bob Wood, the Assistant Personnel Director, was readily available.

    It was apparent that the Shop Guards got respect and were highly regarded by the whole community. Their work involved tremendous service and deep concern for the welfare of the entire community, and they had to have much strength, courage and devotion to duty. Each and every Guard had to be intelligent, alert, careful, loyal and unswerving in his integrity. For while risking their life at times, they had to be well-trained with firearms and judo. They were instructed in criminal law and in police and law enforcement methods for the proper duties that each performed. Their mentor, guide, as well as Chief, was Captain Stephen MacDonald, who graduated from the Boston Police Academy, and was a police and security officer with 20 years of prior service. Captain MacDonald taught criminal law, proper police procedures and judo to the regular police of different communities and also to the auxiliary police. He was said to not only have been an instructor, but a student as well. He had taken a course in Industrial Safety from Northeastern University, and his many associations included membership in the Massachusetts Police Association, the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Massachusetts Safety Council. He was assisted by Lieutenant Howard Libbey, who had 16 years of police experience. Lt. Libbey was also the former Chief of the Boylston Fire Department, having the knowledge of many crafts and undertakings to his credit. Some of the members of the Shop Guard Force included Edward Gendron, Raymond Woodcome, Raymond Duvernay, Earl Parker, Donat Brochu, Forrest Noe, Frank Libbey, Joseph Belanger, Paul Dionne, Clifford Ballou and Ralph George.

(photos: riot guns at the shooting range of Prentice Corner; Frank Libbey adding names to the file )

Source: The Whitin Spindle; October 1957; pp.3-6


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