ELIZABETHTOWN — Employees at one area business may have retired, but they took time off recently to get together and look back.
Around midday Friday, approximately 125 former employees of Specialty Product Technologies — what was either Veeder Root or Danahur during their tenures — gathered together at the factory for a reunion.
“These people are like family to me,” said planning committee chair Carolyn Lewis. “I just thought it would be nice for us all to be able to get together again.”
Lewis — who has worked at the site for 44 years — has served with most of the guests in attendance, many of whom were employed at the site for decades themselves.
Like any family reunion, the day began with happy greetings, warm hugs, and a group photo.
Andrew McCauley, president of SPT, began by thanking guests for laying the foundation for the company’s success.
“It’s so humbling to see you all here,” he started, then elicited laughs when he added, “There’s so much wisdom and experience in this room — you’ve probably forgotten more than we all know.”
To much applause, former plant manager Joe Thompson spoke to guests about the reputation of the plant.
“When I was growing up, if you wanted to learn how to (manufacture) properly, there were three gold standards,” he told those in attendance. “And Elizabethtown was one of those three.”
“When you consider that Danahur is a $23 billion company, that this company was one of three gold standards, that’s no small thing,” McCauley said later. “The people in this room were in large part responsible for that.”
Thompson noted that seven or eight of the people from the plant had gone on to manage large manufacturing sites elsewhere, a fact he cited as evidence of the quality of “team we put together here.”
The products that came out of the plant were also commended by Thompson.
“I retired in ‘03 … since that time, I’ve thought often of this plant and the impact its had on other plants,” he recounted, adding a number of products that changed machinery.
While the focus of the day was on the retirees and their accomplishments, the sheer number of former employees there didn’t escape notice.
“I’m relatively new to the area,” McCauley commented, “but it’s been humbling to see the impact SPT has had in this area.”
On a table near the lunch room was a scrapbook, one page of which contained the names of the very first employees of the company. Howard Johnson, a 2002 retiree, was one of those employees.
“I started work here in 1965,” he commented. “The women worked in the basement of the courthouse, and the men worked (at a separate site). It’s come a long way.”
In addition to Johnson, the men included Roy McKeithan, Harold Davis, Wayne Watts, Luther Melvin, Houston Hester, and Jessie Thomas. The women who worked out of the basement included Hilda Priest, Burndine Bell, Vollie Coleman, and Lucille Andrews. Four of the original employees were in attendance Friday.
After a tour of the facility, the guests were treated to an ice cream social.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.