Monday, October 17, 2022

The Eventful Year 2012

Jim Beam's American Stillhouse opened in 2012.

The last two decades have been a whirlwind for fans of American whiskey. As we start to look back on the year now wrapping up, here's a peak at what seemed exciting ten years ago, at the end of 2012.

One of the year's best releases was Abraham Bowman Virginia Limited Edition Whiskey, a phenomenal 18-year-old bourbon at 138.6° proof (69.3% ABV). Its moment on the stage was so brief, most of it was consumed instead of collected. It never had a chance to be a unicorn.

Larceny, Heaven Hill's Old Fitzgerald spin-off, debuted in 2012. I called it "a major new star in the wheated bourbon firmament." In addition to being very good whiskey, it replaced a false origin story with a true one.

Jim Beam's American Stillhouse opened in 2012 and set a high bar for distillery visitor experiences. It has been upgraded and updated several times since, as bourbon tourism continues to grow.

The mystery that was Angostura's Lawrenceburg Distillery Indiana (LDI) became the marginally less secretive MGP in 2012. It is the distillery now known as Ross & Squibb. It doesn't matter. Everybody still calls it Seagram's. MGP still isn't as transparent as one might like, but compared to the previous owners they were "a breath of bourbon-scented fresh air."

The renowned Michigan craft brewery New Holland released its first Beer Barrel Bourbon in 2012. I called it "rectification in the finest sense of the word, which means 'to set right; correct.'" They took an undistinguished major distillery bourbon and made it not only drinkable but genuinely special by finishing it in their beer barrels. And they told the truth about it too.

Maker's Mark v Diageo was decided in 2012 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. It said Diageo couldn't use red wax tendrils on tequila bottles, upholding that as part of the Maker's Mark's trademark. I was thrilled to have my work cited not once but five times in the decision. As my sister said, "I sure hope all that stuff you wrote in your book was true now that they're using it to decide court cases." Me too, Jane. Me too.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Building Where My Dad Worked for 40 Years Is Being Demolished Today


'A' Building at Westinghouse Mansfield, in its heyday.
It is a milestone few will note, as the Westinghouse 'A' Building has been empty for more than 30 years. The rest of the factory was demolished long ago. In addition to 'A,' there are some small buildings, concrete slabs, and other structures that need to go. "Concrete slab" may not sound like a big deal, but one of them covers 13 acres! Finally, the whole property is being returned to 'greenfield' status so it can be redeveloped. That's a good thing and a good sign for Mansfield, my hometown.

My connection to the building is because my father worked there, as an engineer, for 40 years, 1949-1989. I occasionally took him to work or picked him up. I worked in the plant myself one summer, 1970. They hired college kids so people could take vacations other than during summer shutdown, and the kids of employees got first crack. 

We made washers, dryers, and ranges.

It was a great job, a union shop. I joined the IBEW and got the same pay as any new employee, which was great money compared to other summer jobs. Other local factories did the same thing, but that was one of the last years it was available. The postwar boom was winding down. In 1975, Westinghouse sold its major appliances division to White Consolidated Industries, which eventually sold it to Electrolux, but Dad stayed on through all the changes.  

He retired, as the company required, at age 70. The plant closed a few months later. I joked that they couldn't go on without him, but he didn't find it funny.

The Westinghouse Electric Company built the factory in 1918 to make appliances. At its height it employed more than 8,000 workers. Mansfield had lots of good manufacturing jobs in those days. We made appliances, cars, tires, steel, all sorts of stuff. Westinghouse did events for employees and their families, like a big Christmas party and a summer picnic at an amusement park. I liked to watch professional wrestling at the IBEW Hall.

Although all the buildings had letter designations, I think the 'A' also stood for 'Administration.' That's where all the offices were, for engineers but also salespeople, managers, bookkeepers, etc. Because dad's hours were different from mine the summer I worked there, I got a ride each morning with the father of a high school friend, who was a foreman in the factory. I'm sure walking into the factory each day with Ed Henrich got me a lot more cred than being Ken Cowdery's son.

I don't believe Mansfield has anyone poised to take over the site but I doubt, especially after all this time, if the city, state, and federal governments would be spending $4 million on this remediation without prospects. It's a good location, big enough for just about anything someone might want to put there. Although I haven't lived in Mansfield for many years, I still have friends and family there and much affection for the place. I hope to see something bright, shiny, and new on my next visit.

A NOTE ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH (10/17/22)When I posted this on October 5th, I used a picture of 'H' Building because I wanted to show the factory in its prime and I couldn't find one of 'A' Building. I don't like to change posts, but that picture kept bothering me. The new one is 'A' Building and though it's not dated, the cars parked next to it suggest it wasn't long after the building went up in 1918, on the site of what had been the Baxter Stove Company. 

UPDATE 12/14/22: Apparently, although the demolition project began back in October, 'A' Building is still standing. According to the Mansfield News Journal, "Demolition on the former Westinghouse building on East Fifth Street is set to begin around 3 p.m. Dec. 19 and is expected to take six to 10 weeks." As the old saying goes, how can we miss you if you won't leave?

UPDATE 2/7/23: All gone.