To fully grasp the importance of a job at Cushman - to the employees and to the community of Lincoln - listen to the workers and their experiences, marked again and again by unimagined opportunities for upward mobility through 20, 30, even 40-year careers.
I was able to go to the community college and take classes on machine tool technology and I was able to figure out what was going on with the machines that I was running. So I was very pleased to be able to have the tools to take control of the direction of my life.
There was an opening for a quality control technician. That was a big job. When I first started there, I thought I would never be in a position to have one of those jobs because all of the people that were in those jobs were so sharp, so smart and they knew everything about what was going on in the factory. But I knew I wanted that job when I saw it posted, so I went down and put in for it. Well, it was a hard sell, but they brought me on it. And things have really changed since then....Textron's bought the factory. If we can make a good case for new technology, we can get it bought. It's really, really great now, working with the factory. --Stephen Lucas
I remember [starting in 1962] like yesterday.... I was going to stay there until like in June and go back to construction that I'd worked on. So, meanwhile, I was making more money than I was out in construction, plus I had medical insurance, which meant a lot because I had two little girls. And paid holidays...Anyhow, I worked production for about six years. And then I got group leader and went on up and got to be supervisor in about seven years, eight years, something like that, after I'd started. And then, that's what I did until I retired. I did all right. They paid me well. I mean, all through the years, I never had anything bad to say about it. And I still don't. When I retired, I'm doing real good, too.... It was just a good place to work. --Henry Pace
I started here at Cushman Feb. 11, 1959. I was looking for a job. Really didn't have any particular goals and plans and wandered into Cushman. And Bob Von Seggern, the assistant chief engineer at the time, hired me as a draftsman. I worked at Cushman in the engineering department until May 1993. I started as a detailed draftsman and worked myself up to be a senior draftsman, development engineer, project engineer, senior project engineer and I ended my career as a project manager, engineering department. --John Hicks
It was October and I was looking for a warm place for the winter. Actually, when I came here, my thought at the time was, just work till spring and I'd be back to construction. I was here 42 years later. I started in the foundry breaking sprues off of castings. Probably most people won't understand what that is, but it's the gate part of where they pour iron through to form the casting inside a mold. So when they poured iron, the iron came out of the cupola at 2,800 degrees. Believe me, that's hot. When you talk about the heat end of it, I can remember in the summertime pouring iron and standing as far back as I could get from that ladle pouring iron, and you could feel the hair on your belly curl up. So it was hot. I got what I asked for. It was warm through the winter. --Stan Talley
The engineering department The engineering/cost accounting department in 1952. The tool design department under OMC ownership. Richard Jedlicka and John Barnhard. 1979 A Cushman employee in the foundry, 1948 A plant tour for employees in the 1950s. Birling Dandridge is on the right, Wayne Wright is next to him, and John Mook is fourth from the left. This photo was taken prior to the closing of the foundry in 1959. Black workers were hired only for foundry work at this time. The monorail taking a Truckster to shipping for crating, 1960s
In 1950s Lincoln, Nebraska, getting a job wasn't just a matter of being willing to work. If your skin was black, some employers didn't want you. Those who would hire you, like Cushman, would only hire you for foundry work.
I looked around for different jobs and at that time it was kind of hard. I hate to use this phrase, but there was still the race problem, and I knew myself that I know I could have gotten the job had I been another color. I knew what was going on and I kept looking and looking and I'd still be trying to find a job. Of course I had to because I was starting a family. So there were a lot of my friends, younger friends and older friends, who worked at Cushman and I asked them if they were doing any hiring, and they said, "Probably are, but you must remember you will only be able to get into the foundry." I knew that, too, up front. --Charles Botts
The foundry was the hottest, dirtiest place to work at Cushman. When the company decided to close the foundry ,workers had a choice of either transferring to Omaha to work for Paxton or taking a job in the "B" Building. Black foundry workers who decided to stay broke the color barrier that had kept black workers out of the rest of the Cushman plant
I first started out in the tin shop...When there was a spot welding job that needed a two-man operation, I was the other man. I bounced around like that for a while and then sheet metal finishing, they put me into that. After the welders welded the part or whatever, it then went to the sheet metal finisher to cap the corners down around them, grind off the burr if there were any bumps or lumps, get that out, get it ready for the paint line.... I spent all my years in the tin shop. [When I retired] I thought [I had worked] just 40 years, but it was 40 years and three days. No wonder I was so tired. It was those three days that killed me. --Charles Botts
Botts not only put down roots, he invested in several houses near the Cushman plant, and in the mid-1980s, when the company wanted to buy an adjacent city block for a new parts and accessories building, the tin shop worker was one of the property owners Cushman had to buy out. Despite a cultural climate that limited Charles Botts to the foundry when he first went to work for Cushman, he counts his friendships at the plant as the best part of working there.
I've made, I hope, some long-lasting friendships. I know that when I see some of the guys I worked with in the supermarket or the mall, we just sit down and we just jaw and jaw and sometimes when I come down here, I just go around as a visitor and see who's left from when I was working here. It's nice to talk to the guys who are still here and also to see the changes. I came in here one year, and I got lost. Was going back to the tin shop and I got lost....But all in all, Cushman even has changed down through the years. It has been good to me. That's all I can say. It's been good to me. I don't regret a bit of it. --Charles Botts
The relationship between Cushman and Southeast Community College produced the well trained workers the company needed. Education was always a priority:
From the time I went to work here until about a year before I retired, I was in school all the time.... I took accounting at Southeast [Community College] and took a lot of leadership courses and that sort of thing. When OMC was operating this place, they were pretty strict about you keeping up, schooling-wise. Then whenever there were some new laws passed in Congress about women's rights and all the rest of it, why you wound up ...usually at the university in class relative to the interpretation of those laws and so on...So it was, it seemed like I was in school all the time.... I took a Dale Carnegie course through here. A whole bunch did. I think everyone that drew a salary here went through that class. --Stan Talley
Larry Scott in high rise area, 1970s John Rohn running the punch press. Left to right in the Executive IV are: Leonard Capps, Vern Goering and Oscar Wisbey, 1960s A dinner honoring 20-year employees in 1981. Curt Morris is on the left in the front row. Others pictured: Mary Utecht (center of front row), Art Brakhage, Jack Rippe, Robert Ewoldt, and William Seng are in the back row. Ira "Smitty" Smith, the security officer at the plant, 1948 The Ryan Greensaire 24, 1990s
Randy Hass in the engine assembly area, 1970s
The 400-ton punch press, ca. 1950s
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