Stove industry impact focused in event

‘They helped take care of me’

By ALLEN MINCEY Staff Writer
Posted 7/21/17

When discussing the history of Cleveland and Bradley County, one cannot forget the impact the stove industry had on this area.

That impact was highlighted at a special roundtable presentation …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Stove industry impact focused in event

‘They helped take care of me’

AVERY JOHNSON, left, and Leroy Rymer Jr., right, both representing Magic Chef, speak with Matthew Brown, center, of Brown Stove Works before Thursday night’s stove history roundtable at the Museum Center at Five Points.
AVERY JOHNSON, left, and Leroy Rymer Jr., right, both representing Magic Chef, speak with Matthew Brown, center, of Brown Stove Works before Thursday night’s stove history roundtable at the Museum Center at Five Points.
Banner photo, ALLEN MINCEY
Posted

When discussing the history of Cleveland and Bradley County, one cannot forget the impact the stove industry had on this area.

That impact was highlighted at a special roundtable presentation at the Museum Center at Five Points on Thursday evening. Representatives from the industries talked about how the stove industry is not only a part of the area’s history, but how it continues to be so today.

Much of that success came from the employees at Dixie Foundry, Hardwick Stove, Magic Chef and now Brown Stove Works and Whirlpool.

“Everyone took care of themselves, and took care of their families,” said Harrison Brown of Brown Stove Works. He said that the administration at these plants all were conscious of their employees’ needs and helped in any way they could.

“They helped take care of my family, and it was a blessing to me,” said Andrew Johnson, a 43-year employee of Magic Chef whose brother Avery began working at Magic Chef just as it was transitioning from Dixie Foundry.

“We knew who everybody was and worked to put out the best product we could,” Avery Johnson said.

Magic Chef’s Tiger Jones remembered moving to Cleveland in 1968 from Newton, Iowa, former Maytag site. He said his wife thought, from all the moves they made, “that we were moving to purgatory, but we found out differently, and love this area.”

Matthew Brown, son of Harrison Brown, may have been the youngest of the panelists, and noted that he began working in the industry when he was 14 and a freshman in high school. He, too, said that it was the concern from the top brass at these industries for their employees that stands out to him.

“I know we had someone who came down to the plant (Brown Stove Works), and he said he had his first hot shower, and he saw electricity for the first time when he worked there,” the younger Brown said.

The panelists said that along with the concern from the management at the stove companies, the desire for the employees to make money to survive better was a driving factor in the growth of stove manufacturing in the area.

“Some of these people had farms, where they, their sons and grandsons worked, and they all began working there,” said Coleman Sawyer, representing Hardwick Stove where he worked for 27 years. “These were the greatest group of people I had ever met.”

While manufacturing stoves in the area, many suspended their operations to assist during World Wars I and II. Harrison Brown remembered that Brown Stove Works began making parts for airplanes, while other companies made cast-iron heaters to be used in military barracks.

Bill McClure, who worked with Magic Chef, said that it was cooperation from all of the companies that made stove creation in Cleveland and Bradley County a success.

“There was no harder job than in the foundry, but they were proud of their jobs,” McClure said. “And we all worked together, even though we were competitors — if someone needed something at their plant, we helped them, and when we needed help, they were there.

Leroy Rymer Jr., whose father had a long history in the stove business, said that while he only worked one summer on the assembly line at Dixie Foundry, “they did not stop ... they all worked together, and that is how we all became successful.”

The Rymer family is well known in the history of the stove industry in the area. Don Lorton, however, had moved from different stove manufacturers to land at Maytag, which consolidated with Magic Chef, yet he found Cleveland and Bradley County to be to his liking and remains here.

“I think it is that East Tennessee ethic that has led to our success,” Lorton said.

However, the group generally agreed that as they were spending the early years in the industry, it seemed that employees were more involved and prouder of their work. In many cases, Harrison Brown said the employees did not consider it a job, but a calling.

“I think they were more committed then, and those opportunities in the local area are still there,” the elder Brown said.

Janice Neyman, interim museum director, said that in the 10 years she has been with the museum, this roundtable may have been the best presentation staged there. She reminded those 75-plus people in attendance, and the general public, that the museum has a history of stove display there called “Heating Up! The Story of Stoves.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

X

Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE

Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE

We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.

If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.

Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE