By: Doyce T. Shaddix
The last riding mower was produced at Lawrenceburg, TN.
I was so moved by the events that happened this 30th. day of Aug. 2005 that it prompted me to sit down and pen what I remember that happened.
As the day wore on and noon arrived, many employees having been permanently laid off from Murray Inc. began to load their tool boxes, shake hands and say their goodbyes and walked out the door. Many of whom would probably never darken the doors again and not ever cross paths again with each other or with those who were left to work awhile longer.
However, that was not the most moving or should I say emotional part of the day. Around 1:00 P.M. I heard that the last rider mower that would ever be run at Murray, Inc. in Lawrenceburg, TN was now going down the line. I and many others left the tool room either trekking or riding and merged upon the area where the line was located. Employees and management were lining the aisles sitting on lift trucks or “tow motors“ as they are so well known at Murray, 3 wheel bicycles, and battery operated Cushman* carts, or just standing. As we approached we saw employees, both men and women, on both sides of the line as they usually are.
Here is the moving part. As we stood or sat there we began to notice that as each of these people finished with their particular job on that last mower, they would lay down their tools, take off their gloves and shake hands with the supervisors who were moving along with the line. After shaking hands with the supervisors, the men would shake hands with each other, the ladies would embrace each other and others around them including the men, then each would take a magic marker that was handed to them and sign their name somewhere on the body of that last mower.
As the line went to the next operation, then these two employees would lay down their tools, pull off their gloves and shake the hands of the supervisors, then shake hands or embrace each other and others around them. This repetition went on for many, many stations down the line with some shedding tears. Many were leaving after saying their goodbyes and not looking back.
As that last mower was nearing the end, much of the line had been vacated. The next to last operation consisted of two men boxing the mower and sending it down to the very last of the line operations, which consisted of crating the mower. I stood in awe as the last operation ended and the mower was taken away by a lift truck or “tow motor” which had been standing by.
As I stood there watching the people disperse, I was reminded of a funeral of an old friend as the coffin is closed and carried away by a hearse. The line being the bier, the box and crate being the coffin and the lift truck or “tow motor” as being the hearse carrying away an old friend........
As silence fell upon this area, I looked down the long assembly line with all the lights still gleaming and saw and felt the cold silence and loneliness because it was now still and all the employees had gone their separate ways. I can still see those last two men as they finished with their handshakes, picking up their jackets, putting them on, picking up their lunch bucket and turning around and walked straight for the door without looking back.
As I reflected on this, I kept seeing in my mind the gray hair and aged faces of many of these employees and thought how many of them have spent their entire working lives here. Many starting at the early age of 18 and right out of high school, giving the best part of their lives, and giving a fair days work for a fair days pay. Many working the better part of the almost 50 years that Murray has been in Lawrenceburg. Some will retire and many will be going out into a new occupational world, starting over and not knowing what is next or what to expect.
My last thought was that almost the entire community was totally unaware of what went on and how history was made today at Murray (Ohio) this 30th day of August, 2005.........
Doyce T. Shaddix