Friday, July 20, 2012
My first job was working as a secretary in the legal department of Singer at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the 63rd floor. I loved the fast paced city life. I rode on the train with my Dad for about 18 months before deciding working with lawyers wasn't what I thought... they weren't interested in my becoming the next Della Street! plus, I decided I wanted to go back to school. My second job, closer to home and school, was working as a secretary in the automotive testing center for Abex. The original company was American Brake Shoe located in Mahwah, NJ begun in 1901 as a brake block foundry for railroad wheels and brakes. As the automotive industry developed, the company grew and expanded branching out into many different divisions. At some point it became part of IC Industries and Pepsi Co. I worked there about 5 years, going to school at night and earning dual degrees in business and criminal justice. I met my future husband there. After 5 years, I left Abex and worked several other jobs before marrying and raising a family, but my husband continues to work for the company. I'm not sure what year the Mahwah plant was closed and property sold off, but there it is no longer there.
In 1989 we were transferred to Winchester, VA. After living my life less than an hour from the big city (NY) and all its influences, I thought I had died and moved to Mayberry RFD! Lots of open fields, orchards and farms around. I think the town's population was somewhere around 15k. It boasted Shenandoah College, which started out as a seminary in 1875 and became a university in 1991... The Apple Blossom Mall was built in 1982..... and the town and businesses would shut down for a long weekend for the Apple Blossom Festival parade and races in May. This was still a small town but growing as workers from DC moved out of the city looking for the good life. Martins, Lowes, Kmart and WalMart, McDonalds all came to town while we were there. I quickly adjusted and it was a nice place to raise our family.
Abex was been bought and sold several more times... for a time we were part of Cooper Industries and now we are a division of Federal Mogul and in 2002 we were transferred to Cookeville TN. When we moved here 10 years ago I stepped back in time again.... this was Mayberry RFD! LOL!! There were 32 churches listed in the phone book of this small bible belt town! This was a dry county back then and you could only get a drink by the glass in the chain restaurants that were just beginning to pop up on what is now referred to as restaurant row. Downtown is closed off each fall for FunFest and a bar-b-que contest. The Christmas parade is always held on the first Monday in December. The County Fair is held in August... the week after school starts... creating sleepy kids in the classroom after staying up all night with 4H competitions and pagents.... But that's the way it has always been done so the tradition continues. Again, this is a college town... It was Dixie College in 1909 then became Tennessee PolyTech in 1915 and is currently know as Tennessee Tech. The college has been ranked as one of the best since 2007 with strong engineering and nursing programs and currently enrolls approximately 12,000 students who help to grow this town and businesses throughout the year. The last 10 years have seen many changes here. City population has doubled in size and we are listed as the biggest of the 20 micropolitan areas in TN, and at least 4 liquor stores opened up in January with the passing of new laws. This town is growing fast with an influx of retirees tired of the Florida hurricanes or the Michigan winters.
My reason for all this history? Time is marching on and, unfortunately, Federal Mogul has now joined the list of companies closing their doors on American soil and American workers and are moving to open a plant in Juarez, Mexico in 2013 for its cheap labor. The Winchester plant is scheduled to close in January 2013. I also heard that in the near future they will open a plant in India too, which may also mean the end of the nearby plants in Smithville, TN and/or Glasgow, KY where my husband works. Lucky for us, after 40+ years with the company, we are close to retirement age, but I feel bad for the younger workers and their families.
The Winchester closing has prompted a reunion and this past weekend we drove north to Winchester and met with 58 of us "old timers" to review old times and catch up on current happenings. We shared pictures and stories of growing children and grandchildren. Some, like my husband, transferred to other locations, some retired, some found employment with other companies and some hire out as consultants. One races cars and another is starting up a new business in the field. As for the hundreds of laborers from the plant, I can only hope that they have been able to find employment elsewhere. It was good seeing the old gang and there is talk of a gathering again next year! The Winchester area has grown a lot. Orchards and farmland are now consumed by homes and town houses. Mini strip malls of shops, a huge shopping center and a second Walmart cover what was once open fields. As I looked around I imagine that Cookeville TN will grow to look like this in another 10 years. By then we will be retired and hopefully moved on to find green pastures once again.