John Hockenberry, co-host of WNYC's national news radio show, The Takeaway, talks about growing up on Kodak in Rochester and takes listener calls on your company town.
Just to chime in
Genesee is still brewed here - they also contract brew for Narragansett, Whole Foods, and a number of other beer labels
Rochester is a unique place and has bred many American brands and innovations
however both Kodak & Xerox missed big digital opportunities in the past or didn't change fast enough (Xerox had the first true PC and windows operating system right under their noses)
Still they provided and continue to provide good livings and wealth and security for thousands
Schenectady in the 70s (from a non-GE family): every family had a father working at GE with stay at home mother and 2 cars in the driveway. Today: depressing to say the least...
I grew up in Cleveland when the mills were still producing iron and steel. Steel production had been the dominant business in the county for generations. Tool and die, construction..all business came from the heritage of steel. As a child, I thought grey was the normal color of the sky at the end of the day even though my home was about 20 minutes from downtown. About to enter college, I took a high paying summer job for the time as a pool manager for the Operation Splash program. A program, operated by the City of Cleveland under Mayor Ralph Perk, installed above ground swimming pools on school parking lots located in depressed areas around Cleveland. Children under 12 could swim in the pools. My job was to manage the pool, act as its lifeguard and keep it clean. My pool was located in the Clark Pershing section of Cleveland. Occupied by itinerant workers from West Virginia and Southern Ohio, children would show up in their underpants for an all day swim holding a candy bar lunch. The Clark Pershing exit off of Rt 21 into Cleveland was literally on the other side of the highway from the mills. On coking days, I could see the glitter flying thruogh the sky. Alot of it would land in the pool. I was given a vacuum to clean the bottom of the pool. To make the cleanup easier, I piled up the glitter to one side of the pool bottom before running the vacuum.A couple of years later, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire from some sort of spontaneous compustion caused by the relentless dumping of toxic chemicals over the generations into the river. Knowledge and awareness of the degredation by both the people who ran the now defunct businesses and the politicians who turned a blinds' eye have left Cleveland a wasteland.Don't blame the regulations for Cleveland's demise as an economic center. As well, the Clean Water Act came too late to abate the huge levels of PCB's still occupying the bottom of the river or lake.I can't romanticize the company town...the societal abuse followed by abandonment is the ultimate legacy...
I grew up here, lived in the NYC area for 10 years and then moved back to ROC a couple years ago. Most ppl talk about Kodak in a nostalgic way, so I don't think many here are surprised by the news. There's a lot of discussion in local media about what to do with pensions and stocks, since everyone seems to know someone who worked/works for Kodak. But these days most people clamor to work for Wegmans or the U of R.
Growing up in Rochester in the '80s, I had lots of uncles who lived off the fat of a Kodak pension in suburban ranch houses. But I also knew at least as many people working for Xerox, which - along with Bausch and Lomb - was much better than Kodak at anticipating the shifting technological winds. The other lasting memory I have is of the strong smells when driving past the factory, and the stories of disproportionately high cancer rates in the Kodak Park neighborhood.
Now I live in Williamsburg, and Genny Cream Ale is a hot commodity beer at some bars around the neighborhood.
I lived in Rochester for quite some time while raising my family. Moved back to NYC several years ago and could not wait to get out of Rochester! However, when I go back, which is often, the one thing I miss is Wegmans and their JCC. Kodak has been dead for quite some time and it had been the hub of Rochester life. Almost everyone knew someone who worked for Kodak, IBM or Xeroz. If you were not affiliated with Kodak, you were out of the loop- in some ways. It was a company town..... Glad to be in NYC.
In Saugerties, NY a former garment/fabric manufacturer is now a senior center. The GM town of North Tarrytown is now called Sleepy Hollow (after the plant was closed) and is very much a commuter town for NYC.
I also grew up in Bethlehem (pronounced "Beth'lem" btw). My father was an electrician for Bethlehem Steel. He died in 1959 during the very long steel strike, and my mother and I moved to NYC. It breaks my heart that part of that famous site on the Lehigh River is now a casino (!!) but the casino is doing great guns.
I don't know what's the big deal, this nostalgia for corporate paternalism. Fathers die too. There are newer "big company towns" based around Microsoft and Google and Facebook, etc. Companies come and go,just like regular people.
As a member of an advertising family, I lived in a number of company towns: born in Detroit (client: Ford), Kansas City (Hallmark). Cincinnati (P&G), Atlanta - Coca Cola - clients Ford, Shell, etc.)
I grew up in Rochester and every other kid I hung out with had a parent who worked at Kodak. When relatives came to visit form out of town we took them on the official tour of Kodak. I'm sad, but not surprised.I remember when Kodak had it's own fire department with almost 100 members
Amid talk of bankruptcy I bought another Kodak digital camera. They're simple to use and take terrific pictures -- my opinion. I read something online (a while ago so no link) that Kodak cameras are too simple to use and therefore are just for old ladies, not for "real men."BTW, I got a great deal on that new camera.
Let's just put a good word in for USA Manufacturing economies. Real people consume real goods. Plus, in a natural spectrum of average people, not everyone can become scientists. We have to work to keep as many types of people as possible employed. A factory offers much for the spectrum.
I lived in Rochester as a working mother (teacher) with children. (1957 - 1960) I could not move out of there fast enough. If you did not work for Kodak, you were nobody and had not a chance of ever being accepted. A big shock was to move there from the East Coast where there were free beaches, free concerts, free parks, free museums. In Rochester you had to pay for everything - but going to a beach on Lake Ontario was not worth a penny.
The demise of Kodak only proves what Republicans have been saying for a long time, that corporations are people. They are born, they live and have their ups and downs, and eventually they die. Pretty much every corporation eventually died.
As a college student of a Kodak employee, I had the classic Rochester summer: a temporary job at Kodak. It didn't take long to gauge the corporate culture and it was one that I didn't see again until I headed to Washington, DC and saw the federal government at work. Slow, stodgy, and clearly not attune to the changing world around it. When I heard the news of its Chapter 11, I was sad to hear. But I suspect the spiral began decades ago.
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