Sunday, March 1, 2015

Changes And More Changes

Life is full of changes and I guess that's a good thing, but I didn't think so much would not survive my short time on Planet Earth in the way it has. Here's my trip back down memory lane, revisiting many of the institutions and businesses I've been a part of.

  • Saint Elizabeth Hospital – Closed – This is the hospital where I was born and I have their birth certificate to prove it. Unfortunately they never filed a copy with the State of Ohio, causing me later in life to prove it to a local judge in order to get a passport. Although to this day I have no idea how I got a driver's license, which also requires a government copy.  
  • Loos – Closed – I only went there for first grade and only have faint memories of taking a bus ride to get there.
  • Our Lady of Mercy Grade School – Closed – I admit, this one hurts a bit. Seven formative years of my life spent here. So at this point I'm 14 years old and nothing will remain the same. But at least I didn't know that as yet.
  • Chaminade High School – Merged – The all-male Chaminade merged with the all-female Julienne, forming the imaginatively named Chaminade-Julienne High School. I was in this first merged class as a senior and the clash of cultures was terrible. For example, Chaminade was a “discipline is given to those who need it” and Julienne was “discipline will be given regardless of need”. Rules, regulations, restrictions and weird girl traditions made my last year drag on. Mandatory attendance for the football team's pep rally? Never went to a game, why a rally? Just a mess.
  • Dayton Daily News – Morphed, but Survives – Like many kids in the 1960’s and 1970's, I earned a few bucks delivering newspapers, seven days a week, including very early Sunday morning route. Back then we would walk up to every house and place the paper between the front door and screen door. Now somebody drives by in a car and throws it towards the house. But to give him credit, he's pretty good at hitting the porch.
  • Woolworth’s – Demolished – Located in Forest Park Plaza in Harrison Township, this was my first real job, cleaning animal cages, sweeping floors and cleaning up the lunch counter. The most fun part was getting to water, and then sell, flowers in the spring. Flower people are happy people.  Woolworth’s, along with the entire Park, was demolished in 2013.
  • Sherer's Ice Cream – I've had some very good role models in my life, but none better than Mr. and Mrs. Sherer. I dipped ice cream, whipped up malts and shakes, and made sundaes for several years in high school and my first year in college. I learned how to make ice cream in their ten gallon batch freezer. Fresh ice cream out of the machine is the best, so creamy and flavorful. They treated us to a one dip sundae or a milkshake at the end of a busy day. Their daughter took over the business for several years after they retired, but finally closed it. I never gained a pound during those years. We worked as hard as we ate well.
  • Third National Bank – Acquired – I was a computer operator there for about a year. Third shift weekends. Then on to college classes all day Monday. Brutal doesn't describe it.  But it prepared me for the Saturday night/Sunday morning all-nighters that would regularly happen for the next twenty years.
  • Wright State University – Better than ever – WSU is one of the very few things that has actually gotten bigger and better during my life and I would be remiss in all this negative talk if I didn't acknowledge its success and the start they gave me. On top of a top-notch education, I worked as a student programmer, getting to write the college's admission system from scratch, 40,000+ lines of COBOL code, online screens and databases. I was then hired as a Systems Programmer, the people who know how all the mainframe hardware and software works inside and out.. Both of these are experiences rarely given to a 20-year-old pup. I'm forever grateful.
  • Hobart Corporation – Acquired – I only worked at Hobart Corporation for eight months, leaving because of boredom. Not enough work to keep me happy. After I left, Hobart Corporation was bought by Dart & Kraft and it has changed hands a few times since, now part of Illinois Tool Works.
  • Mead – Merged – These were the best working years of my life, starting as a Systems Programmer, being promoted to Section Manager, leading the Network Services group and serving as the SAP Technology Director. I led a Data Center consolidation project as a 26-year-old newbie, introduced this Internet thing before it was THE thing and was part of the great team that implemented a corporate-wide ERP system. But eventually Mead and Westvaco merged, doubling the size of the company and putting on a path to be a packaging, not a paper, company.
  • MeadWestvaco – Left Town – The five years at MeadWestvaco were good and I served as the Chief Technology Officer, which I like to describe as the guy that can talk to both the real technical guys and the company's senior leadership and have a real conversation. But MeadWestvaco decided to consolidate its corporate staff in Richmond, Virginia. For awhile I thought I would relocate, but ultimately, and emotionally, decided to stay in Ohio. Best decision of my life.
  • NewPage – Acquired - In 2005, MeadWestvaco sold its Coated Paper division to Cerberus Capital Management. In 2007, NewPage doubled in size by acquiring Stora Enso North America, which was mostly the former Consolidated Paper company. NewPage hired me into its IT Strategy group as a result of their larger size. Unfortunately ,the economic downturn, and iPads, led to sharply lower demand for paper and led to NewPage eventually going through bankruptcy. That in turn led to a strong balance sheet, just the thing that Verso Paper needed to avoid its own bankruptcy. In one of the strangest deals I've ever seen, near-bankrupt Verso bought NewPage, but had to shed two paper mills to satisfy antitrust concerns, which they sold to Catalyst Paper Corporation, who will shortly become the fifth paper company I've worked for since 1981. All without leaving town.
So that covers the high points from 1955 to 2015. Oh, they also closed The Georgia Pig, my favorite BBQ joint, which was outside of Brunswick, GA. That really pains me.

But for all that change, I find myself at this moment with two, now adult, children I'm immensely proud of, my wife who I couldn't love more, and her two equally fine sons. It's been a long and crooked road. I'm sure more changes are in store. That's OK. I'll be just fine.  I'm used to it.

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