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Draplin Design Co., North America
September 16, 2008
American Steel In My Blood
Posted at 09:29 AM


Before I was born, my dad worked for Great Lakes Steel in Detroit for a number of years. He was an electrician. He enjoyed a good wage and flexible hours and knew how to bend the rules in his favor. In fact, he figured out how to get fired right when the snow would fall in Colorado, so he could go skiing out west. And they’d hire him back every time. I’ve heard a million stories about his time there, but one always stands out: “Aaron, I remember guys in the bathrooms taking shits, sitting there eating their lunches. Jeez.”

Short story, but nevertheless, one that always stuck with me. Thanks, pops.

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This one time, a couple years back, Dad, Unca Kevin and I went downtown in Detroit to check out old haunts and snap some photos. We made it all the way down to Great Lakes Steel. We parked in the parking lot, and walked up to where the workers would leave the plant on a skyway, and then come down the steps to the lot. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in the car with mom, waiting for dad to get off his shift, and seeing dad coming down the steps, flipping my shit. I remember that. That would’ve been 1976 or something.

So while we’re standing there, a guy walks down, and dad recognizes him. 28 years later, and here’s this fella getting off his shift, like he has for the last three decades. He and Dad bullshitted for a couple minutes as if it was 1977 again, telling us about how bad of shape the plant was in, and how he was just waiting it out for his retirement coming up in a couple years. That little interaction kinda shook Dad up. He had this odd look of relief on his face, as, if he would’ve stayed there, you just have to wonder what that kind of time in a place can do to a guy? Anyways, it was interesting to see the place my dad worked at when he was my age, around 32 or so.

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MY DAD KNOW THOSE GROUNDS: Here’s a shot of the facilities from 1942, from the fantastic Shorpy “100-year-old” blog.

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FULL DISCLOSURE: The token above was picked up under a sweaty tent in Tennessee or something on our “World’s Longest Yard Sale” adventure a month back. Here’s the flipside of it, so yer not missing nothing.

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ONE OF OUR FAVORITE LOGOS, OF ALL DAMN TIME: Iron ore, coal and limestone. And here’s another take on it, from the recycling side of things.

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A COUPLE MORE, A COUPLE STATES AWAY: And here’s a couple shots of the once-mighty Bethlehem Steel plant in Pennsylvania.

There Are 2 Comments

Old man worked for the Steel Warehouse when I was a kid. Never heard many stores, though.

Posted by: Phil Nelson on 09/16/08 at 10:25 AM

Thats hilarious my dad worked at the tank plant in Warren Michigan and told me the same thing. It must be some sort of Detroit factory thing?

Posted by: Kirk LeBetz on 09/16/08 at 9:50 PM
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