As a youngster growing up in this town, I can honestly say that most of the food that filled my belly and the clothes that covered it were purchased with paychecks from a factory. And there are many others in this world who can undoubtedly say the same.

But, unfortunately, few of us still reside in the birthplace of Carl Sandburg.

My old man got up every morning for 30 years, long before the sun did, packed his old black metal lunch box, filled a Thermos with strong, steaming hot coffee and made his way to that parking lot where Monmouth Blvd. turns into Highway 41 on the southwest end of town. It was a daily ritual in our house at 1103 East Main Street since before I was capable of having any real memories. Regardless of the aches, pains or the night before, John E. Stiles was up and gone to work at Admirals, as we used to call it, at least five days a week, every week, just like clockwork. Like I said, in my day it was "Admirals," the name usually found stamped on the products that were manufactured there, or more properly referred to as "Midwest Manufacturing."

My father, using a wooden plank that ran the length of the machine he operated in Dept. 301 so's he wouldn't have to stand all day on the unforgiving concrete floor, put in three decades at that factory before retiring in the latter half of the 1980s. And after my three-year stint in the Army, I too worked on the same factory floor before going off to college.

I'm certain that mine is just one of any number of stories tied to the production lines of Galesburg which used to be known as a "blue collar" town. And that's why I'm just as certain that recent news that Maytag -- the present-day manifestation of "Admirals" -- is planning on "resourcing," as the front office is calling it, some of its current jobs comes as quite a blow.

Regardless of what the corporate types attempt to call the process that could end up costing an estimated 200 jobs, it still comes down to the livelihood of quite a few families with moms, dads and kids just like me, my brother and sister.

What it really is is "out-sourcing," another means whereby companies can cut into their biggest expense: labor.

Of course the penchant of American corporations for reducing labor forces is nothing new. It's always a firm's first response every time somebody wants to build up the bottom line and profit margin by slashing the payrolls and the people who always seem to care a lot more about their employers than their employers ever care about them.

That's why my dad and countless others dragged themselves off to work in the wee hours of the morning, year in and year out for decades. Pop, who was a life-long union man, probably put it best about the lack of vision in American board rooms.

"The guy who hires you seldom if ever looks at you the same way he does his machines on the shop floor or the raw material coming in at the loading dock door.

"Nope," he explained, "to him you and you're family are taking money out of his pocket."

I once looked at that advice as a bit harsh on the face of it. But now I'm sure that there are many in this town who'd care to add an "Amen!" And you'd think that Galesburg and Knox County would be scratching their collective heads about now, hearing about this "resourcing" scam. After all, it wasn't but a few years ago that the City Council voted a sales tax boost to lend Maytag a hand meeting some upgrading costs in order to protect the plant's precious jobs and many of the very families who will spend the next few months sweating it out over "resourcing."

That's why in the last couple of weeks, people working for Price Waterhouse and armed with pads and pencils were looking over the shoulders of many Maytag employees, who have now been reduced to having to justify their very existence.

And I'll lay you odds there's no points given for the fact that when the same Maytag needed to defend its worth here to Galesburg taxpayers, they all stepped up and didn't hesitate to open up their wallets. But then Galesburg is no stranger to lending hands to people who end up kicking this community in the teeth.

Can we all spell "W-i-t-t-e-k?"

Then there was the early 1980s, when the former Gale Products packed up and shipped its manufacturing jobs to greener "right-to-work" pastures. The truly sad thing is, there are no doubt a few of those 200 Maytag jobs hanging in the balance that have been through all this heartache before. You know, somebody who was put out on the street by Gales or during the Wittek fiasco.

Yes, there was a time when Galesburg was a proud blue-collar community. But now we're little more than a chumped and battered shadow of our former selves.

Either that, or we've found ourselves a long way from G'burg and limited to a letter a week.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online April 19, 2000

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