Chub Arnold

Interviewed by: Ryan Comer
Date: May 12, 2007

Ryan Comer reports:

"I interviewed Mr. Chub Arnold, who was born and raised in Saltville,
Virginia, and is now 78 years old. Mr. Arnold, or Chub, as he prefers to be
called, was a lab technician at the Olin-Mathison plant in Saltville, and also
played amateur baseball for the Saltville Alkalies. He has lived in Saltville
his entire life and is very knowledgeable of the history of Saltville and its
surrounding areas."

Interviewer: What year did the Olin-Mathison company come to Saltville, Virginia?

Arnold: Well of course I wasn't alive then, but I'm almost sure that it was 1894.

Interviewer: Why did the company choose Saltville?

Arnold: The raw materials. Saltville back then was full of raw materials, and it was all in reach of company workers. They didn't have to transport the materials needed for the plant far because it was everywhere around them.

Interviewer: Was there a sudden change in the town after the company was opened and was it positive or negative?

Arnold: I can remember my grandfather talking about it, and apparently, the town was apprehensive at first. That quickly changed though.

Interviewer: How many jobs could the company offer?

Arnold: Practically the whole town was employed by it in some way. The company ran the town. It owned all the houses, stores; it even had a school board for the local high school in the town.

Interviewer: What do you think the average salaries of the employees were?

Arnold: I really couldn't even guess. There were a variety of different jobs so the pay differed throughout.

Interviewer: How many different types of jobs did the company have?

Arnold: There were quite a few. Every part of the company was a different department, and every department had specialized jobs specifically for that department.

Interviewer: In the eyes of the citizens, what figure did the company portray in the town?

Arnold: It wasn't a bad image or anything intimidating. The company was the town, so of course, the citizens loved the company.

Interviewer: Was the company involved in the town?

Arnold: Lord yes! Like I said, it was the town. The higher employees were very friendly people, the baseball team was here, and it seemed like if you ever needed help or something, the company had a store or someone to help you.

Interviewer: Was it the biggest company in Smyth County?

Arnold: It was probably the biggest company in Southwest Virginia.

Interviewer: Did it play any importance in the nation?

Arnold: Yes. The soda ash was shipped out through the entire nation. So yeah, it played an importance.

Interviewer: What major changes in the town did you notice after the company had been firmly established?

Arnold: Well I wasn't here for all of it, but the town was very dependent on the company. I didn't know it, but the plant was polluting the rivers. Didn't have much of an effect on us but down the river I'm sure they felt some effects.

Interviewer: Would Saltville be the same today if the company hadn't been established?

Arnold: Well Ryan, it probably wouldn't be here to tell you the truth.

Interviewer: How has Saltville changed since the company left?

Arnold: It's on the decline. We're at the end of the line for Saltville unless some other company comes in. Which I doubt will happen.

Interviewer: Was there ever any controversy with the company?

Arnold: The pollution, definitely.

Interviewer: Are we still feeling the effects of the pollution?

Arnold: Not really. They cleaned it up pretty well but down river they still might be.

Interviewer: What year did the company leave, and why?

Arnold: It couldn't meet new EPA standards so it had to shut down. Just up and leave. It was probably around 1970 if I remember correctly.

Interviewer: Do you know where the company went after it left?

Arnold: Somewhere in Tennessee I think: I'm not totally sure on the exact name of the town.