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Cushman as a Family


As longtime Cushman employees reflect on their days at the company, they interlace their descriptions of hard, hot, dirty work with an overwhelming sense of the workplace as a surrogate family. Often, it was also a place filled with actual family.

One of the things that I always thought was interesting about Cushman is that there are a lot of families, still a lot of families, in some way, aunts and uncles and so forth, were involved in Cushman. My dad worked for Cushman and fed us kids for 27 years. I worked there for 42 years. My brother worked there for several years while going to school. Another brother that worked in the experimental department for a while. My sister worked where they typed up the titles and things-shipping, I guess it was. I had an aunt that worked there. Another uncle by marriage that worked there. You had to be careful who you were talking about because there was usually somebody related to them. It was an interesting place to work. --Richard Pearce

When I went to work at Cushman in 1957, it was a family tradition: I had two uncles working here....my Uncle Ed-he was in inspection. My Uncle Delbert was the one who kind of helped me. He was a transmissions assembler....He went over and talked to them. Finding a job was scarce in those days. I think unemployment was around 6-7 percent, somewhere in that neighborhood, and I came down here one day and couldn't get a job and came down a couple days later-I'd been coming down quite often-and finally, why I came in one day and they said the machine shop foreman just told me one guy was quitting, so sure enough, I got my job. --Bob Heidtbrink

My father-in-law worked there, he was a tool and die maker and worked there. [My husband and son also worked at Cushman] But now, at the present time, I've got two grandsons working there. They are both welders....they like working there...They especially like their bosses. I've never heard a complaint from either one of them. --Marcilla Griffin

Several retirees reported that they met their future spouses on the job at Cushman.

Lois Clagget worked in billing, starting in 1952. She met her husband there. "We sat across the desk from each other for a while," she recalled.

Marv Goodding and Art Dowling met their wives at Cushman, and Dowling also had two cousins who had jobs there.
Russel Ripley's extended family worked there, including an aunt, his dad, his Uncle Carl and two of his uncle's brothers.
Glen Wilson and his wife, Mary, both worked at Cushman. So did her mother, who worked in the seat department, and several nephews.

I have a son working down there right now. I had a sister that worked-she started the same time I did, and she retired after-when she was 65. --Marge Cooper

I had a daugher-in-law that used to work down there and then my younger son, he worked there and then he quit and now he's back there-he's working there right now. And I had a brother that worked in the foundry for a while. And then Chuck [her husband] and I-so I think that's about it. --Helen Shell

vehicle assembly  
The vehicle assembly in the "B" Building, 1960s
Gas tank manufacturing  
Gas tank manufacturing line in the 1960s

Family: A Corporate Policy

At least as early as the 1950s, the company promoted a family atmosphere. An employee handbook from that era said:

The Company realizes that personal and family problems affect the physical and mental health and the attendance of its employees. It is sometimes beneficial to talk things over with an understanding and qualified listener. The Personnel Department doors are always open for this purpose in case you or your supervisor feel that Personnel counsel would be helpful to you. The officers of the Company are likewise always available and willing to counsel with you on special personal problems at any time.

Christmas party for children
 Christmas party for children of
Cushman employees, 1951
family atmosphere 
Charles Ammon actively supported the family atmosphere at the company. "He knew everyone at the plant by either first or last name." 1948
Cushman Christmas   
Preparations for a Cushman Christmas party. 1948

The thing to me about Cushmans were the people. I know they used to say it was kind of like family, and it was. I know I got criticized several times for hiring some guy's wife or some other guy's daughter, or this, that, and the other. But when you anticipate problems, family problems, in the workplace, I didn't think there was too much involved. And it seemed to have better harmony than otherwise. To me, that is what I remember about Cushmans. It was kind of like a family. I feel that all the people I worked with and knew out there were just family. --Ed Hall

...until the government got their stinkin' nose in it, we had a situation here for years that if you were hired here, you had to be recommended by someone who worked here or be a relative of someone working here...That also worked well. it wasn't a hundred percent, but it was a real good method. And the reason why it worked well was because if your folks were here or your brother was here or whatever, you were a little apprehensive about screwing up because you didn't want him to look bad... So it worked real well until the feds said that was discriminatory and you can't do that anymore. So then all hiring had to be through the Job Service. That successfully screwed that up. But it [the old system] did work well. Even if you had a friend here, you were reluctant to screw up because after all, Joe over there said I was an OK guy. --Stan Talley

We had a lot of jokes. In production control, we had somebody that took two metal ends out of the seats that they use to cover the toilets with.... Somebody took two of those ends and tied a tag wire through them and put a part number on them and gave them to somebody over in the "A" Building and asked them where those parts were supposed to go. Had them looking to see where those parts went on a Cushman vehicle. They looked and looked and looked and, of course, never found anything.
        We had another guy that used to brag about how good a mechanic he was, so we thought we'd fix him. After he had overhauled his truck engine, we took some oil and poured it underneath his truck. He couldn't figure it out. He would go home and work on that truck and try to figure out where he had this oil leak. The next day or two, we would pour some more oil underneath it. He looked and looked and looked for that oil leak before he figured out somebody was pouring oil.... --Richard Pearce

Well, if I don't cry, I'll be okay. This was shortly after I started at Cushman. I suppose I was maybe 22, 23, 24, and I got very sick and had to have a kidney removed. And during that process I needed a lot of blood. My brother went down and said, "Hey, my sister needs transfusions and she needs people to come in to donate." I tell you, there was such a turnout of people donating blood to me, most of them I didn't even know. --Jan Fleck

Having Fun

We used to have some real big parties out at the old Turnpike out south of town. We used to have some big-time bands. Glenn Miller and all those types of things. But we would give a lot of gifts away. I guess we didn't have TVs then, but radios, toasters, mixers, all that kind of stuff. They would draw names out of a hat to get a prize. I am going to say 45-50 nice gifts. They would have a big turnout. There would be three, four hundred people out there for it. Everybody had a good time. --Ed Hall

You'd get a paper calendar at Christmas and you got as much whiskey you wanted to shove down your gut and you got a meal at the Cornhusker. I can recall one fellow who was taken home, and before the fellow who took him home because he was drunk drove back to the Cornhusker, this fellow had taken a taxicab and was already back, even before he [the first fellow] got back to his car. --Bob Debus

[W]e always did have a lot of fun on bowling. For years we bowled downtown. There used to be a bowling alley above a car dealer on about 12th and P streets. And we bowled there for years and then they finally moved out on 48th, out there at the Hollywood Bowl and bowled out there. That's how you got acquainted with the people upstairs, because you never got to run up and visit with them, like you would when you were bowling. And that's the way we got acquainted with a lot of different ones that worked there, which was good. --Lucille Brittain

I had a great time with the people at Lincoln. I've always been the kind of person that got close to his employees. I never embraced that philosophy that if you're going to be a manager, you can't play with your people. So we did a lot of things together....We'd go fishing a lot. We'd go on bowling trips. We'd go on golf trips and football trips. And we had a poker group here, a bunch of us guys played poker.... Almost all the friends I developed in Lincoln, a good 90 percent of them were people from work. --Gerald Ogren

Close friendships  
Close friendships were part of the family atmosphere at the plant. A bridal shower for members of the mail order department. 1950s
softball team  
The OMC Lincoln softball team. 1986 Class B. Front: Bob Schidler, "Coach." Front row, L-R: Al Beeck, Alan Hoback, Jim Vanous, Larry Marrow, Steve Jackson. Back row, L-R: Tom"Leo" Hull, Ted Williams, Mark Mroz, Terry Trausch, Dan Smith, Ralph Miller, Ed Edelmaier.
Labor Day parade
Company and union loyalty extended to many activities. The plant union's Labor Day parade entry in the 1990s. Brian Green is on the left, Sharon Burcham is on the right with her granddaughter, Chelse.
 
Halloween  
Halloween at the plant, 1992. Richard Jedlicka is in costume, talking with John Frederick.
bowling league  
The Cushman bowling league. Russell Ripley in front, Betty Bozarth in back.
Junior Achievement  
The winning bid at the Lincoln Junior Achievement fund raiser in 1990 - dinner with Governor and Mrs. Ben Nelson. L-R: Mrs. Nelson, Sheryl Jedlicka, Mike Bruggeman (HR manager), Joan Ogren, Governor Nelson, Richard Jedlicka (Mfg, Eng. Mgr), Cathy Bruggeman, and Jerry Ogren (plant manager).

Cushman Cuisine: The Cafeteria

I didn't eat there regularly, but I did eat there occasionally. I remember one of the things in particular, the guy that was the cook and manager and whole thing, he didn't like you calling his hamburgers "Gainesburgers." I think they were pre-cut and pre-packed and every one was just perfect. They looked just like a dog's Gainesburger. He would get mad when you called them Gainesburgers. But I [c]arried my lunch most of the time. --Richard Pearce

Ma Simmons ran the cafeteria. One arm. And she was on the hefty side. But just a peach of a gal. She would try to feed you well, and she did. She prepared good food. And everybody just called her Mom. Cheap, good food. --Ed Hall

They always had soup or sandwiches or about everying on the menu you could think of.... She really ran a good restaurant. She was a good cook... And everything she served was good. --Lucille Brittain

[S]he [Ma Simmons] had one of the best pie bakers in the world there. We couldn't wait to get up there and get a piece of her pie at noon. It was just great. The food was typical, I guess cafeteria food. It got old and as soon as I became part of the management, I did like the rest of them and got away from here at noon to have lunch. --Charles Palmer

plant cafeteria 
The plant cafeteria in 1948
cafeteria  
The plant cafeteria

I worked at Cushman for years and enjoyed my work. I have always had Cushman in my heart from then on to this present day. And I own about five [Cushman] machines that I wouldn't sell. --Harvey Gates

I just know that I've never regretted working down there. I still have a lot of friends, I figure, from associating with those people down there. And us women, all the women that retired from Cushman, we have lunch every month-every second Tuesday in every month. We go to a different restaurant and have lunches. --Marge Cooper

The people are IT here. Yes, yes. It is just like a big overgrown family. It really is. There is, like in all families, you know, there are things that are [not] as you like them all of the time, but yet when you look at the overall picture they are a good bunch of people. All of them. And have been for a long time. --Stan Talley

Old Timers Club  
Old Timers Club,
"You had friends you could really trust."
The Tradition Continues  
"The Tradition Continues." Although the name
of the speaker is not known, the message on the
sign behind him says it all.



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