Today, I am a guest of Local No. 14 United Cement, Lime and Gypsum Workers International Union, Coplay. The union is voting to ratify an understanding with Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company.
Our readers may remember some of the former dedicated cement workers. The union leaders were Ralph Talotta, Adolph Wechsler, Edward Klucsarits, Caffiro Bartoni, Joseph Ehrets and Jerry Neuman.
The agreement was for two years: May 1, 1961, to May 1, 1963. The vice presidents of Coplay Cement were Louis Stamburg and Paul Lentz.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 by ED PANY Curator, Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum in Local NewsGary Butko
Mr. Gary Butko was reared in Northampton, graduating from Northampton High School and vo-tech, specializing in masonry, in 1976.
Gary’s first job was with a bricklaying firm, earning $5 an hour. After a few years, he was employed by MCP, a metal company, for 18 years.
When the plant closed, he started his cement career at Lafarge, recalling, “I started on the tire dock, feeding tires into the plant’s kilns, later transferring to the labor gang and the pack house.”
The painting “A Cement Factory in Autumn” was recently found in storage at Northampton Area High School. The watercolor was painted in 1948 by Garret Conovor, a local artist who at one time resided in Allen Township.
The painting shows the last Coplay Cement manufacturing plant and a view on the west side of the Lehigh River as well as a cluster of homes that were called North Coplay.
When the United States entered World War II, the War Production Board was formed to mobilize American industry for war production. Donald Nelson, a former Sears executive, was appointed the director. He possessed unlimited power to head the war effort.
The factories of America were now manufacturing tanks, planes and anything needed to win the war. The machine shops of our local cement companies worked 24-hour shifts to support the war effort.
In this fourth column, this writer and Mr. Larry Oberly, camera in hand, are joined by railroad historian Mike Bednar at the Coplay Lehigh Valley Railroad station to continue our visit to Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company’s building projects.
Our first stop is at the Wilson & Baillie Manufacturing Company in Brooklyn, N.Y. They specialize in manufacturing concrete pipes.
We are also thrilled to see the Woolworth building, an early skyscraper.
The year is 1920, and this writer and my friend Larry Oberly are at the Lehigh Valley Railroad station in Coplay. With us is Mike Bednar, a railroad engineer and rail historian from Darktown, Whitehall Township.
We convinced Mike to flag down a Lehigh Valley passenger train so we could board the train and visit some projects that have used cement from the Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company.
We will be traveling to the Catskill Mountains in New York state to view the construction of an aqueduct that will supply fresh water to New York City.
Mr. Jim Berger was raised in Leesport, graduating from Schuylkill Valley High School in 1985.
After school, at age 14, he worked at the Leesport Cattle Auction, recalling, “I enjoyed working with the cattle as a youth. I even milked cows on a relative’s farm.”
Upon graduation, he was employed full time at Leesport.
Later, he studied masonry at Berks County Vo-Tech; as a result, Jim was hired by Ken Short Construction to do brick and block work.
His cement career started Feb. 13, 1989, at Evansville, which is today Lehigh Heidelberg.
Today, I am looking at a rare piece of Saylor history — a century-old booklet titled “Cimento Portland Saylor’s Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company.”
Coplay Cement decided to open an export sales office on Fifth Avenue in New York City. They decided this was necessary to continue to be competitive.
When World War I started in 1914, European cement companies curtailed exporting their cement to many customers in Latin America; as a result, United States companies filled the void.
(Editor’s note: This series was written to honor the borough of Coplay on its 150th anniversary.)
Over the years, we have written numerous columns pertaining to the Lehigh Valley cement industry, but I am sure there are many stories that will never be told, as less people are employed in the industry. Modern technology has streamlined our cement plants; they operate more efficiently with a smaller labor force.
This final column concludes our visit to the Bath Museum.
Bath is a community with over 200 years of history. We were happy when Japan surrendered in August 1945, V-J Day. World War II was officially over.
Men and women returned to their homes, and family celebrations were held worldwide. In Bath, it was a return to civilian life. There was a G.I. bill to help veterans adjust to civilian life.