The Press Room
When I first saw the button on this site labeled PRESS ROOM, I thought not about press releases but flashed back to the first time I entered the press room of the newly opened Fisher Body plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. More than forty years have passed since then, but to me and thousands of other "stampers" around the midwest, the term "press room" will always conjure up the sights, sounds, and memories of the arena in which we spent much of our working lives. As I stood in line at the main crib on that first day to get my tongs and gloves, I watched an employee using both trolleys of an overhead bridge crane to turn over a huge floor pan die in the adjacent work bay. I remember thinking to myself that I was glad I didn't have that job. The years passed, and I went from Press Operator, to Apprentice Die Maker, and on to Journeyman. Using the crane became an everyday occurrence.
By the early nineties, I had walked from the parking lot to the press room floor countless times, but the walk I remember most vividly took place the day it was announced our plant was scheduled to close. It felt like walking into a giant tomb. I had left early in the morning in a company truck to pick up some prototype quarter panels from a laser trim shop in Detroit. As I drove East across the state, I kept changing the radio station hoping to hear that our plant had been spared. The word came just as I reached my destination. Our plant was among those to be "idled", management-speak for closing a plant. I remember feeling very much alone and out of place. I missed being back at the plant with my fellow workers to hear the news. The first person I met inside the plant when I returned filled me in on the meeting I had missed. The GM spokesman who announed the plant closing to the assembled workers ended his remarks with the statement, "Have a nice day." I have heard those same words many times in more reasonable contexts since then , but never without the bitter aftertaste left from that day.
Retired Die Maker
In 1966, General Motors opened its 2,000,000 square foot Fisher Fisher Body stamping plant in Comstock Township in east Kalamazoo County, along I-94. At its peak, the two-million-square-foot facility employed nearly 4,000 skilled laborers. In 1992, General Motors announced the closing of the Comstock stamping facility.