ICP enjoys reunion at Belfast Lions Club

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Former ICP workers at the reunion last weekend listen to Ed Campbell's instructions on how to line up to get their food and drinks. Over 200 people enjoyed a bountiful potluck meal. Generous donations provided drinks and door prizes.

Over 200 people who used to work at a Lewisburg plant that closed in 2002 converged on the Belfast Lions Club building Saturday for a reunion that may become an annual event.

The plant was called International Comfort Products (a division of Carrier Corporation) when it closed. Before that, it was Heil Quaker, and it started out as Florence Stove.

Some of the people at the reunion had worked there for decades, others for only a few years, but they all praised the family atmosphere at the plant. Ninety-one names of workers who have passed on since the plant closed were put on the Memory Board.

"1980 to 1995 was one of the best periods of my career because of the family atmosphere; I've not experiences that with any other company," said Ed Campbell, who was in the human resources department.

"It's a real shame they had to go out of business," he said. "The people we had could still make money for a company - they were good, hard-working, honest people."

Campbell went on to say that in the HR department he had a staff of five working on the insurance for 5,000 employees and their families.

"We never had a problem with health insurance," Campbell said. "They were taken care of. We were self insured and self administered - that's unheard of nowadays."

"I do miss it," said Lisa Chilton. "I liked the money; I liked the people; I liked my supervisors. I really miss the money: that was the best paying plant in Lewisburg."

Chilton said she was making $17.41 an hour in 1999.

Her sentiments were echoed by Debbie Hastings, who worked in the press room. When they were on piecework, Hastings said, she could make $120 by lunchtime. "It (the money) was there if you wanted to work for it," Hastings said.

"I haven't been the same since I left," said Carolyn, who worked there for 19 years. "Bring it back!"

Ted Cashion lost his arm in an accident in the press room, but another job was created for him when he was able to come back to work.

"Back then, people cared about people," said Campbell. "We took care of human beings as human beings, not just numbers."

"It was a wonderful place to work," said Mildred Posey McNatt, who is about to open a restaurant in the former KFC building on the bypass in Lewisburg. "The people were great - I made a lot of friends there."

McNatt was the first woman to be an apprentice in the tool and die department, and was worried about being the only woman, but, she said, "All the guys treated me like I was their little sister."

ICP was a union plant, and Hastings said it wasn't easy if you weren't a union member. "People wanted you to be in the union," she said. Strikes were not unknown and "sometimes it got rough."

"The union was pretty strong - it had to be," Hastings said.

Campbell was a negotiator of contracts with the union and said, "We negotiated trying to look out for people and make it a win-win situation for both the company and the union."

Steve and Sheila Walker were pointed out as one of several couples that had met and married at ICP.

"We made a family," said Shirley Hedrick, who organized the reunion.

"I opened my big mouth and it got out of control," she said with a laugh. "Hopefully we'll have another (reunion) when a younger person takes it over."

After the reunion, Hedrick handed everything over to Rhonda Waters and said, "it's up to her" to organize the next gathering.

It was a lot of work, said Hedrick, but she enjoyed it: "It was almost like we were back at ICP."