The year is 2001. I’m over on Penn Street in Bath with Mr. George Maureka, a former Penn Dixie employee, who is sharing his memories of the Great Depression. His son, also named George, was an outstanding student of this writer at Northampton High School.
The family resided in a company home. The home had running water, but they needed the kitchen stove to heat the water. The only heat was provided by a kitchen stove, which was located in what is the present basement of the home.
Remember when our high schools offered courses in typing, shorthand, office machines and bookkeeping? Today, offices have been transformed by computers and modern technology. A number of years ago, Kathy Unger, a friend and former secretary at the Penn Dixie Cement Company, wrote me a description of her position.
Kathy graduated from Nazareth High School in 1956. An excellent student, she was hired and trained to fill in for other secretaries during vacations, maternity leaves and illnesses.
Today, I am a guest of Local No. 14 United Cement, Lime and Gypsum Workers International Union, Coplay. The union is voting to ratify an understanding with Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company.
Our readers may remember some of the former dedicated cement workers. The union leaders were Ralph Talotta, Adolph Wechsler, Edward Klucsarits, Caffiro Bartoni, Joseph Ehrets and Jerry Neuman.
The agreement was for two years: May 1, 1961, to May 1, 1963. The vice presidents of Coplay Cement were Louis Stamburg and Paul Lentz.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 by ED PANY Curator, Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum in Local NewsGary Butko
Mr. Gary Butko was reared in Northampton, graduating from Northampton High School and vo-tech, specializing in masonry, in 1976.
Gary’s first job was with a bricklaying firm, earning $5 an hour. After a few years, he was employed by MCP, a metal company, for 18 years.
When the plant closed, he started his cement career at Lafarge, recalling, “I started on the tire dock, feeding tires into the plant’s kilns, later transferring to the labor gang and the pack house.”
The painting “A Cement Factory in Autumn” was recently found in storage at Northampton Area High School. The watercolor was painted in 1948 by Garret Conovor, a local artist who at one time resided in Allen Township.
The painting shows the last Coplay Cement manufacturing plant and a view on the west side of the Lehigh River as well as a cluster of homes that were called North Coplay.
When the United States entered World War II, the War Production Board was formed to mobilize American industry for war production. Donald Nelson, a former Sears executive, was appointed the director. He possessed unlimited power to head the war effort.
The factories of America were now manufacturing tanks, planes and anything needed to win the war. The machine shops of our local cement companies worked 24-hour shifts to support the war effort.
In this fourth column, this writer and Mr. Larry Oberly, camera in hand, are joined by railroad historian Mike Bednar at the Coplay Lehigh Valley Railroad station to continue our visit to Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company’s building projects.
Our first stop is at the Wilson & Baillie Manufacturing Company in Brooklyn, N.Y. They specialize in manufacturing concrete pipes.
We are also thrilled to see the Woolworth building, an early skyscraper.
The year is 1920, and this writer and my friend Larry Oberly are at the Lehigh Valley Railroad station in Coplay. With us is Mike Bednar, a railroad engineer and rail historian from Darktown, Whitehall Township.
We convinced Mike to flag down a Lehigh Valley passenger train so we could board the train and visit some projects that have used cement from the Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company.
We will be traveling to the Catskill Mountains in New York state to view the construction of an aqueduct that will supply fresh water to New York City.
Mr. Jim Berger was raised in Leesport, graduating from Schuylkill Valley High School in 1985.
After school, at age 14, he worked at the Leesport Cattle Auction, recalling, “I enjoyed working with the cattle as a youth. I even milked cows on a relative’s farm.”
Upon graduation, he was employed full time at Leesport.
Later, he studied masonry at Berks County Vo-Tech; as a result, Jim was hired by Ken Short Construction to do brick and block work.
His cement career started Feb. 13, 1989, at Evansville, which is today Lehigh Heidelberg.
Today, I am looking at a rare piece of Saylor history — a century-old booklet titled “Cimento Portland Saylor’s Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company.”
Coplay Cement decided to open an export sales office on Fifth Avenue in New York City. They decided this was necessary to continue to be competitive.
When World War I started in 1914, European cement companies curtailed exporting their cement to many customers in Latin America; as a result, United States companies filled the void.