Thanks to Faye Fiore for the timely reminder (Times, Aug. 19) to all former Long Beach Ford employees that our old plant is, indeed, "near the end of the line."
That plant really impressed me, a sailor stationed at the Naval Air Base on Terminal Island in 1942. It was then a U.S. Army supply depot with antiaircraft guns high on the roof by the big "Ford" sign. West of the plant was a fleet of barrage balloons protecting strategic L.A. Harbor.
Discharged from the Navy after V J Day, I drove down to the plant to apply for a job at Ford. I was put to work with old-timers of the maintenance crew, piecing together the conveyor system which they had dismantled to make way for the supply depot. Two months later, the system was filled with '46 Fords, which were all white to simplify production because the public was clamoring for cars.
We agree with Don Thomas that during his one year on the (assembly) line in '46 many things were primitive by today's standards: There were no paychecks (we received cash in an envelope for our week's work), no cafeteria (we ate on tables outside the plant), no sit-down desks except in the managers' offices, and no married secretaries (they had to be single if they wanted to work).
Production tooling left much for improvement, but we got the job done in a well-ventilated plant that may have been cold at times, but never with "hot lamps along the lines," as mentioned in the article.
The next 14 years at Long Beach saw dramatic advancements in employee safety, working conditions, production tooling and facilities. This, coupled with improved product design and assembly methods, resulted in a top-quality product.
Thomas can save his lament that line workers could not afford to buy a car from the Long Beach plant. The fact is that hundreds of employees were proud to buy Fords that they had helped to build, including my own '49 and '53 sedans.
The final Long Beach unit rolled off the chassis line March 20, 1959, totaling 1,169,970 Fords since opening in 1930. All employees who desired were transferred to the new production facility in Pico Rivera.
I am proud with hundreds of others to have been a part of that great crew in those early days at "The Beach."
In my 35 years at Ford we made many trips to the pilot plant in Dearborn, where I was often elected to write the report for our team. I have volunteered to write this final report with the concurrence of a number of that Long Beach crew and in memory of the men who made those early days so special.