Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cleveland: Dad worked at Johnson Plastics, now where was that?

I've written before about how we moved from the little mountain town of Frostburg in Western Maryland in 1952 so that Dad could pursue a better executive position at a plastics plant. You can read about those times and our move here and here. Mom, who usually looks beautiful and very happy in photos, both then and now, somehow looked sad or perhaps worried. Here she is below, first on the start of the journey from Frostburg, Maryland and in the next photo, just after we landed in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

See how this picture tells a story: we're leaving Frostburg for Ohio.
Mom looks sad or worried, Dad looks happy and excited, and there I am holding Dad's briefcase and pretty thrilled.

Mom now living in Chagrin Falls, standing next to my tricycle. The rental house was at the top of a big hill leading down to the village, so maybe she was worried I'd try to coast all the way down;)

And here she is, below, with her usual smile.

1942, with Uncle Delbert Kelly.

So my brother and I were emailing in plans for this very recent trip to Cleveland and wondering about the old Johnson Plastics plant where Dad worked. Where was it, exactly? Luckily, I thought, I had a photo of one his old business cards, so I checked it out and this is what I saw.

So off I went trying to find a street address, because as you see, all it gives is a post office box in Chagrin Falls. That's not going to help us!

I called the library in Chagrin Falls to see if they had any old phone books or directories from the 1950s. None. Tried to search "Johnson Plastics Corporation" on Google but that was a dead end. What to do? Then I remembered that I like genealogy and it might help to start thinking about this as a genealogy problem and not a missing persons problem:)

Using one of my newspaper subscription web sites, I searched for "Johnson Plastics" and found a series of articles from the Cleveland Plain Dealer about an incident in 1958. It was fascinating reading and when the dust bunnies that had accumulated in the deep corners of my mind shook themselves out and cleared, by gosh I remembered something vague about it all. Here's how the first article, dated June 26, 1958, began:

Pickets' Bullets Chase 7 Youth
Five pickets around the struck Johnson Plastic Co. in Chardon, mistaking seven teenagers in a car for strike breakers, chased the youth and fired three rifle shots at them last night, said Geuga County Sherriff Louis Robusky said.

Yeah, I do remember that: pickets striking the plant trying to unionize without luck, then shots fired. There were five articles in all running from June 26, 1958 to October 8, 1958. The articles drew out the facts and the story painted a picture of some rough action on the part of the pickets. The newspaper reported that they were convicted and sentenced by October.

But where was the plant? The first article mentions that the teens were driving on Munn Road. The second article running on June 28, 1958 mentions that the plant was on Stafford Road. So off to Google Maps and Satellite View to look at the corner of Munn Road and Stafford Road. Humm! That looked like the plant! Now I used Street View and placed the "little man" right at the corner. Yup! That's the plant!

OK, now this might not sound like a whole lot of fun to you, but my brother and I have very fond memories of that plant. Dad took me to work with him a number of times. I got a tour of the plant, which always fascinated, and a bunch of plastic toys and hula hoops to take home, which they made right there. Wasn't overly impressed with the plastic pipe or flooring;) Plus, both my brother and I fished for sunfish in the pond on the premises, and we both love to fish! Great fun!

On Monday of this last trip, I had to jet off home, but brother took on the task of hunting down this plant we thought might be at the corner of Munn and Stafford. Here's what he emailed me a few hours later:

I swear, I shouted “that’s it;  that’s the plant” as soon as we came over the hill and saw it.  Even though it looked all new(ish) and well maintained, I could see the original in my mind as soon and we saw it.  No question about it.  And we saw the Johnsonite sign, I knew the reason we couldn’t find anything about it when we searched on-line.  Remember me telling you Mr. Johnson may have been a chemist or something because I saw all the hits on “Johnsonite” when I searched for Johnson Plastics? 

So it all fits together now.  We solved the puzzle.  Really wish you could have been there for the final discovery.

 Me too. And here's the photo he took.
Yes! That's the plant for sure. And how nice for us that they choose to keep the original blue and white color scheme so that we could more easily recognize it! This adventure was really "our kind of fun"!

Dad at his desk, before we moved to Ohio and Johnson Plastics.

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