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Navigating Inflation: Barry Christine says higher prices have him staying put at Tyrone's paper mill

American Eagle Paper Mill in Tyrone, Pa.
Alicia Chiang
News Lab at Penn State
Barry Christine works in the security office at American Eagle Paper Mill in Tyrone, Pa.

On a quiet Saturday afternoon in February, Barry Christine was working his daily shift in the paper mill security office in Tyrone.

Barry and his wife are empty nesters. Their children have moved away from the small town nestled in the hills of Pennsylvania’s eastern Allegheny Mountains and now have or are starting families of their own. He doesn’t want the distance to get between him, his kids, and his grandchildren.

This has had Barry thinking about retirement.

American Eagle Paper Mills, where Barry works, opened in the 1880s and shut down in 2001. It reopened two years later when a group of local investors and past mill managers came together to revive the operation under a new name with the aim of supporting Tyrone and its longtime families.

Every day the mill operates, it gives 15 truckloads of paper waste new life. One of the oldest mills in the country, it’s forging a new path toward environmental and financial sustainability.

But, what’s most important to Tyrone, a town of 5,480 residents, is that the mill employs 240 locals.

Barry was supposed to retire in March of 2023 – he is 66 – but he fears that if he does, he won’t be able to afford anything but the bare necessities.

“If I want to travel to see my grandchildren,” Barry said, “I have to scrape and save up for that, and that’s not what I’m retiring for.”

Retirement is what most people see as the time they get to relax, kick back their feet, and enjoy life after years of hard work. With the cost of living on the rise, Barry, like many other should-have-been retirees in Tyrone and surrounding counties, doesn’t feel like that kind of retirement is achievable anymore.

Grocery bills are up.

Utilities are up.

And, it costs more and more to fly and visit his grandchildren.

So, while Barry’s children no longer hear the daily paper mill whistle – the one constant for all Tyrone residents with the exception of those few years the mill was closed – he is likely to hear it from inside the security office for much longer than he expected.

Read the rest of the profiles of Tyrone area residents Navigating Inflation.

Valeria Quiñones is a student reporter with the News Lab at Penn State.
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