Eberhardt finds work at Atlas
A recent visit by the governor of Burgenland, Austria, to Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum made me recall some interviews I had with former Burgenland natives who immigrated to the United States. Today, I continue part 2 of my interview with Mr. Paul Eberhardt, who set foot on American soil March 3, 1923.
When he came, Paul said, “I want to stay here my whole life and work like my brother.”
His brother worked at Atlas Cement Plant No. 2. The winter of 1923 saw a brief slowdown at the Atlas. There were long lines at the Atlas employment shanty, located in the woods off 12th Street in Northampton. Paul was fortunate that his brother Steve was such a hardworking employee; they hired Paul on his brother’s recommendation.
Paul started at 22 cents an hour — no mistake, 22 cents in a 12-hour shift equals $2.64 a day. That was the labor rate in 1923. In Burgenland, there was no job for Paul. Paul worked two years without a day off. The labor crew filled cars with cinders manually in the kiln building. Later, they wheeled stone by carts to a rotary stone crusher from railroad cars. The stone in those days was dried in large boiler-fed dryers, so there was always a fire danger. There were no hard hats or safety glasses.
The crew also dumped railroad cars of coal. The massive coal-fed boilers created power to operate the plant’s steam engines. They produced electricity for the plant. The Atlas had its own electrical system. The large Atlas dam was constructed to store water for the massive operation.
Paul also recalled the large apple and cherry orchard that was located off the present Smith Lane in Northampton. There were two full-time gardeners. Some produce was sent to the Atlas central office in New York in an overnight Central Railroad of New Jersey train.
Northampton Banquet & Event Center on Laubach Avenue was the former bag factory and print shop. There was a hedge fence, now gone, that bordered Laubach Avenue down to Smith Lane.
Paul recalled, “One day, the farm foreman, Mr. Shaffer, came to me with a job. We want you to trim the hedge.”
He had no electric Black & Decker trimmer. His tool was a hand-held clipper. Paul was clipping hedges until October. Today, he would be a professional landscaper!
Mr. Eberhardt saw Atlas Plants No. 2, 3 and 4 and ended his career at the last Atlas Plant, No. 5, constructed in 1943. When this writer was employed at Plant No. 5 in 1954, I remember Paul and his trusty paint bucket. Paul and his friend Mr. Roy Laub were Atlas painters. They constantly kept the offices in the plant covered with fresh coats of paint.
They were family figures at the plant. Both were highly respected employees. Paul worked at the plant for 42 years, always grateful for his job at the plant and the lifelong friendships he formed. He was proud to be a cement worker!
More Burgenland memories in two weeks. We will be working on an Atlas farm.