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.
(Editor’s note: This series was written to honor the borough of Coplay on its 150th anniversary.)
Over the years, we have written numerous columns pertaining to the Lehigh Valley cement industry, but I am sure there are many stories that will never be told, as less people are employed in the industry. Modern technology has streamlined our cement plants; they operate more efficiently with a smaller labor force.
This final column concludes our visit to the Bath Museum.
Bath is a community with over 200 years of history. We were happy when Japan surrendered in August 1945, V-J Day. World War II was officially over.
Men and women returned to their homes, and family celebrations were held worldwide. In Bath, it was a return to civilian life. There was a G.I. bill to help veterans adjust to civilian life.
Today, I am in the new Bath Museum looking at the impact of World War II on Bath — the year, 1940.
Our economy was slowly improving. We were optimistic. We hoped the Great Depression was in the past.
In 1940, war raged in Europe; Japan threatened the peace in Asia. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, thrust us into a world war, one we attempted to avoid. Now, our factories, farms and citizens mobilized for the war.
Mr. Stuart Guinther was born in Boston, moving to Kutztown in his youth and graduating from Kutztown High School in 1980.
He recalled, “I enjoyed all the math courses; they were taught by Mr. Gougler, a real perfectionist.”
Stuart pursued his education at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., earning a degree in chemistry.
Mr. Guinther’s remarkable cement odyssey started as a chemist at Lone Star in Nazareth. He then moved to Michigan and was hired as a process engineer at St. Mary’s Peerless Cement Company.
In this fifth column, I am continuing my visit to the Bath Museum, recalling 200 years of local history.
In our last column, we remember when the cement industry had a great impact on the Lehigh Valley. In 1926, the Penn Allen, Pennsylvania Cement merged with a Tennessee company and changed their name to Penn Dixie Cement. They would now have three plants in the area, Nos. 4, 5 and 6.