Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 4, 2014

RAY DAY: A marker to honor workers

Kokomo Tribune

---- — I took a trip down memory lane with some old friends the other day, and we talked about things we did when we were kids.

There were several grocery stores in our neighborhood that let us walk through the stores, checking out all the great stuff they had. Stores run by Mr. Whitacre, Ben Martin, Bill French and Merrel Winburn were nice, family-type stores, with usually family members working there. You could go in there and they knew you and trusted you, because they knew our parents and knew we were brought up right.

You could get a sack of candy at those store for a nickel and it would last all day. And of course, all those grocery stores let our parents and other customers run a weekly tab. They would take the list our parents sent with us and they would fill the order and write what was owed on a sheet of paper, and on payday, our parents would pay that bill.

That was called credit but also it was called trust in the fellow man. Where could you find today that kind of trust?

As I grew up, I found there were larger stores such as National and Marsh, along with Long’s Grocery, Jesse Weaver’s Market and Kroger. Frank Neal ran Kroger’s, and I worked for him for about two years. He was a fine man. Bill Borden worked there too and he became store manager when Frank left.

Both of those men were just like Mr. Whitacre, Mr. French, Mr. Martin and Mr. Winburn, in that they knew whom they could trust. The grocery store business here in Kokomo will always be remembered by me and my neighborhood friends as having great people leading the way for those who would come next. You might say we were all family who came to those stores to buy food.

Trusting someone in those days was easier than it is today. Back then a man’s word was his bond, and honesty between businesses and buyers was common ground. It is sort of a shame we don’t have those small stores now, but there was no way they could compete with the larger stores because of volume and selection. We only have the memories of those fine people who ran the neighborhood grocery store.

But with those memories come thoughts of all the old places that were here in the form of factories that gave our men and women jobs so they could feed their children and heat their homes.

Places like Hoosier Iron, Delco North Plant, Pittsburgh Plate Glass and many more. You probably noticed I didn’t say where some of them actually were because my memory fades some about them.

Now Continental Steel has joined that graveyard, but they were here to give work to the people of Kokomo. So it makes me think that just maybe there ought to be at least a marker telling people where these companies were.

I worked at Continental Steel for 31 years, as did my father for 37 years, and our families were fed, kept warm and with a roof over our heads because of that company. That is one reason why when they finally get through figuring out what to do with the land there, they shoud take about a 40-foot square of it and place some sort of a memorial to the place that helped build this great city.

Right now it is sitting there. And I along with all the other steelworkers would like something placed there that will tell our great-grandchildren we worked there and for that they can be proud. Surely it would not hurt the city fathers to grant that wish to all of us workers, living and dead, so that we would know we really did help to make this city of Kokomo.

Of course there would be some reason it would cost too much, but think about this: It has been sitting idle for several years with no tax money coming from it.

Ray “Uncle Ray” Day of Kokomo is a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at uncleray@earthlink.net.