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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, August 04, 2019 1:00 am

Reader memories

Compiled by The Journal Gazette

The following memories of the Fort Wayne International Harvester truck assembly plant were submitted by readers.

My father-in-law, Ben Clampitt, of Huntington, worked at International Harvester three different times, the first being in 1948 at the age of 20. His longest and final stint at Harvester was 1961 to 1983, when he retired. He was a foreman during that time and has fond memories of great camaraderie. – Lynn Clampitt

If it wasn't for my grandparents, Louis and Gertrude Kintz, the International Harvester might never have been located in Fort Wayne. Their farm was located where the IH tower is today. There were some businessmen talking to all the area farmers, wanting to buy land for a factory. They last place they visited was the Kintz Farm, which was meant to be the central location, and needed in order for their plans to work out. Grandma and Grandpa Kintz sold the farm and moved to "town" and opened a grocery store on New Haven Avenue, just East of St. Andrews Catholic Church. raising their 11 children above the store... In the years that followed, son-in-laws, grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as thousands of others made a living there until the plant closed in July 1983. – Clara Sarrazine

Our Father/Husband is no longer with us but we still cherish the many memories of the 30 years he was at Harvester. One of our favorite memories are of the Christmas parties Harvester held at the Fort Wayne Coliseum for their employees. Although the magic shows, singers and performing acts were very enjoyable, us kids could not wait until the show ended when we got to go down the Coliseum ramps and collect a bag of treats which included a Bun Bar! Harvester also held different events through the years which included shows by Lynn Anderson and the Platters. The Harvester picnics were also a good time! – Family of Gene Thieme

My grandfather, Wm. Gehringer, and my father, Wm. F. Gehringer, both worked there. My grandfather worked there probably soon after it opened. He was a janitor. He fell off a ladder and broke his back. He was probably about 60 years old. My dad worked there probably in the early 30s. He worked in the “heat treat” section. It was very hot and dangerous. He said they wore long flannel underwear to protect them from the heat. He was working one day on the machine that I believe flattened metal, with a red hot piece of metal. That red hot piece of metal flew out and hit my dad. He was burned from his waist to his knees. They took him to the hospital for surgery – they said they had to pick his underwear out of his body with tweezers. He was hospitalized for a long time and was never able to work again. And in those days there was no insurance. We learned of the accident when a man brought his lunch bucket home. My sister Charlotte and I always waited at the bus stop for dad to come home. When we saw the man with dad`s lunch bucket, we knew something was wrong. That`s how we found out he was in he hospital. – Gloria (Gehringer) Cowles

Despite the long days worked and the varicose veins which resulted from walking concrete floors, my dad (Jim Murphy) clocked 40 years of service at Fort Wayne's International Harvester Truck assembly plant. He was an assistant foreman and worked one heck of a lot of overtime. He was there through the development and production of the Scout, the first true SUV (other than Jeep). Dad (and Mom) raised 6 kiddos with his Harvester salary and we all looked forward to the big, Harvester sponsored, Holiday Show at the Scottish Rite auditorium every year at Christmas time. Two of my brothers went on to work there also, one becoming a Navistar design engineer. Dad retired in his 60s with great benefits, health insurance coverage, etc., something you don't hear of much anymore. – Susan (Murphy) Muzzy

International Harvester Company is why my family came to Fort Wayne from Akron, Ohio. My father's dad came to Fort Wayne in the 1920s to help set up the new plant. He started working for IH in 1918 in Akron and retired in 1958 from the Engineering Center here. My father, two uncles, brother, two cousins, maternal grandmother and myself all worked at one of the many locations in Fort Wayne over the years. We gave over 125 total years of service to IH by the time the facility closed. My grandfather John Selzer and Uncle Robert Selzer held several patents with the company from their work at the Engineering Experimental lab and the Design Center.  – Kathy Selzer Miller

Both my dad and Grandfather worked there. Grew up on the east side of city and can still remember so many things about that place. A) Picking up Dad and Grandpa after work. Felt so proud of them. B) Touring the assembly line and seeing my dad at work. C) The Tower; the unmistakable tower. D) Stories Dad and Grandpa had about working there. E) Pride in seeing trucks made there on the road and knowing my family helped make them. F) Sadness when it closed and became a flea market. Though both men are gone, the memories of what they did will always be with me. – Aaron E. Greve

"Harvester kid" was the name given to kids who were transferred from Fort Wayne to Springfield Ohio or Indianapolis. When my parents thought all was well in 1979, we moved from Woodburn to a nicer area between New Haven and Fort Wayne, but within a year and a half, the union went on strike. We moved three different places before finally receiving word we were leaving for Springfield, Ohio. We moved right after my 7th-grade year at Blackhawk Middle School. My parents decided to do apartment living in Ohio because they knew once I graduated from high school, it would be my dad's retirement year. As a 12- or 13-year-old, it was a bit scary and exciting at the same time. I met great friends during those formative years and played several sports in high school – I will have a forever record in track (relay team record). Unfortunately, now it seems non-existent since I live back in Fort Wayne, and the high school is no longer the same. Mom kept herself busy by learning how to crochet, so time would move faster. My dad, as many manufacture employees did, would eat, drink, sleep, work and start all over each day. The packing started two months before we moved, and two days after I graduated from Springfield North High School in 1989, we were on our way back home. Yet, I had to learn all over again what Fort Wayne meant to me. I am a “Harvester Kid”. – Tammy "Nolt" Taylor

Our mom, Jeanette Oldfield, R.N., worked 30 years in the dispensaries scattered throughout the IH campus. Co-workers – secretaries, other RNs, x-ray techs, and doctors handled everything from paperwork, hire testing, minor and major injuries, and counseling. Some stories were brought home - with no names mentioned. One was a wild transport ride in a Scout ambulance. Patient and mom survived! I remember our family dressing up in our Sunday best and attending a company-sponsored Christmas party held at the Scottish Rite auditorium where Santa and helpers passed out treats to all the kids. Family friend, and Harvester X-ray tech, Stan Krahn, recounted an emergency aid story between main Harvester dispensary and Phelps-Dodge when their office building blew up. – Linda Oldfield 

Both my dad James Ladig and Grandpa John Ladig worked and retired from there. Funny story. I worked across the road on New Haven Avenue. When I first started there I drove my mom's car. Left my lights on twice. I receive a call from my mom that said dad said get your butt out in that parking lot. Turn you mother's lights off in that car! He never let me forget it. – Deb Snyder

I worked at Harvester in the summer of 1950. It was my first job out of South Side High School. I started out back in the Service Parts Department Office as a secretary to a Mr. Miller. I had to get off the bus by the tower and walk all the way to the back through the factory. For a young girl, that was quite an experience with all the men working in the factory. After a year, I took a promotion to the Purchasing Department as secretary for one of the buyers. The department was headed by Mr. Tucker I think. They had a typing pool for the orders. The typing pool went on a walk out and we all went with them. The first and last time I ever picketed in my life. It was quite an experience. I only stayed for three years as I did not think any of the top secretaries would ever retire and I was impatient so I moved on. Should have stayed and probably would have had a better pension. Learned a lot at that place. No air conditioning. Just open windows. – Beverly Fenker

My father, Leon Motley, worked at IH for 40 years, with early retirement in 1964. He started in heat treat and worked his way up to the engineering lab. He built an engine that was gold plated and put in a case on display. He often had engineer graduates come to him for advice on the engines and carburation systems. He was a brilliant self-educated man. I remember coming to Open House days and see the trucks being tested and built. His older brother, Archie Motley, worked in metallurgy. – Joan Forrest