In The President's Column in June 2012, Lew Bohn, asked the H/AREA Membership to share their stories of working for the companies and divisions that make up the Honeywell International we know today.
My name is John Miller. I started to work for Allied/Honeywell in 1965 and retired 40 years later. I serve as co leader of one of several groups of retirees that meet in this area south of Richmond, Virginia.
Our group has been in existence for 25 years, having been shepherded through these years by Bob Crowell, Leo Dalkiewicz, Vince Paletta, Jim Colona, Bob Albach, Chuck Sipos, and now Rosemary Murphy and myself. Our particular group has dwindled from 50+ attendees in the early years to about 20-25, present day. In our area, our loss in members is due to the fact that, as we have lost members, the number of employees at area facilities has decreased drastically, from about 8,000 in the mid 1960s to 1,500, currently. Honeywell Plants in our area are/were ;"A" Plant (Hopewell "chemical"); "B" Plant (Chesterfield nylon chip, nylon fiber for carpet and industrial, and polyester industrial); the Fibers Technical Center; and the Spectra manufacturing facility on the Tech. Center site.. As you can see, our pool of new retirees is much diminished and also affecting us is the lessening of longevity of employment within Honeywell, which does not foster the camaraderie that more readily develops between longtime employees. Newer retirees have often worked for several different companies as opposed to spending their entire career with the same people at Allied/Honeywell.
We also try to stay in contact with retirees from the now defunct Fibers Sales Office that was in Dalton, Ga., as well as with some individuals that were at our Fibers Sales Office in Brussels, Belgium.
We are fortunate to have a good Program Chairman and our programs are quite varied and always interesting and informative. This goes a long way in helping hold our group together. We do usually try to have annually, an "update on health care insurance", an entertaining Christmas program, and a "patriotic program". One year we had our WWII veterans (US and England) tell us about their time in the service in WWII. We were all moved by their stories and the revelation that we had worked for years with "the Greatest Generation" and did not even realize it at the time, so humble were these gentlemen,
A refresher on the facilities in this area.
A Plant- At one time the largest caprolactam plant in the world. ( 1 billion pounds/yr? and 2 billion pounds/yr of the by product, ammonium sulfate fertilizer, as well as numerous specialty chemicals.)
Fibers Technical Center- A few laboratories remain to support the Spectra (ballistics fiber) that has recently expanded production, but mostly, the facility is "moth balled". Originally this "center" was involved in fundamental and practical polymer research, spinning process development, sophisticated physical and chemical analysis, providing pilot facilities for fiber production and carpet production, and provided the pilot facility that led to a process for recycling carpets.(nylon 6/caprolactam)
The nucleus of our group is from the old Sector Engineering Group, Purchasing, Chesterfield Manufacturing and Support, and Fibers Technical and Marketing. We do have one member from Columbia, S.C. (Irmo nylon staple plant).
Our oldest member is Elton Beverly (95), who started his career in 1941 (Buffalo?) and has the distinction of building the first nylon plant in the Middle East (PERSIA!). My favorite story of his is "when they told the Persians that they had to have some "sand" shipped into this desert country. (for filtration)
Our members were contributors to the new, growing communities in this area in the 1960's, doing their part to improve schools, support the arts, education, and religious institutions; and involve themselves in local government. They came from diverse locations, such as, the U.K (England & Scotland), Switzerland, Germany, India, Pakistan, and Sweden, not to mention the Yankees and Southerners, and native Richmonders. It was a good place to raise families and build careers. There was some bittersweet times as business conditions changed in the last several decades, but all in all, most of us feel rewarded by our time with Allied/Honeywell.
We are in a unique area, with much rich history; the early beginnings of our country, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI & II, and the development of the industrial city of Hopewell. (the first fiber plant brought from Belgium, duPont's gun cotton plant (largest in the world), and Honeywell's giant lactam plant, all being overshadowed now by huge Amazon Distribution Centers).
We meet the third Friday of every month and would be happy to have any one visiting or passing through (we're right off I 95) to come to our meeting . We'll even forgo the $4 meeting fee.
John C. Miller, Richmond Virginia
After being appointed chief counsel to Bendix Aerospace in 1980, little did I realize I would soon be directly involved in an international dispute in a foreign tribunal that several authors have described as the most significant arbitral tribunal in history.
The story begins on February 11, 1979, when the Iranian revolution proclaimed the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, having overthrown the Shah of Iran’s pro-western government. Its new supreme leader was the Ayatollah Khomeini who recently returned from exile. At the time the Shah was in the United States for medical treatment. American economic and military influence in Iran came to an abrupt halt.
On November 4, 1979, U.S. embassy personnel in Iran were taken hostage with Iran demanding the return of the Shah to face Iranian justice, and the return of his assets. The United States refused the Iranian demand. Iran thereafter announced that it planned to withdraw all of its funds from U.S. banks and repudiated all financial obligations to U.S. nationals. In this high stakes chess game, President Carter then froze all Iranian assets in institutions subject to U.S. law, effectively blocking Iran from withdrawing any funds from U.S. banks. The hostage crisis lasted 444 agonizing days, and throughout the crisis indirect negotiations through the Government of Algiers took place seeking the release of the hostages.
Many U.S. corporations delivered goods and services to the Shah’s government and were never paid. This included several divisions of Bendix Aerospace which had delivered sonar equipment to the Shah’s Iranian Navy, and various avionics equipment to the Iranian Air Force and to Iran’s national airline.
A fortuitous event occurred on September 22, 1980, that helped Algeria break the stalemate between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. On that date Iraq invaded Iran with its air and land forces. Iran now had to fund a war for its very existence. (The Iran-Iraq war lasted approximately 8 years.) In 1981 Algeria negotiated a resolution to the hostage crisis and the release of Iran’s frozen assets which came to be known as the Algeria Accords. An Iran-United States Claims Tribunal would be established for the arbitration of contract disputes between United States nationals and Iran. The Tribunal would be located in The Hague. Iran would release the hostages and the U.S. would release Iran’s frozen assets, but would withhold $1 billion to be used to pay any judgments of the Tribunal to U.S. nationals.
My office immediately filed an action in the Tribunal on behalf of Bendix Aerospace against The Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Navy, the Iranian Air Force and Iran’s national airline. I tried the case in the early 80s and won a judgment which was paid out of a U.S. bank with funds that were held for that purpose. The Tribunal’s decision, however, was delayed for a period of months when activities temporarily ceased at the Tribunal after two Iranian judges attacked and beat up an American judge. The Iranian judges were eventually recalled to Iran.
Immediately after the proceedings I was contacted by Iran’s lead counsel requesting a meeting. I walked into the meeting and was surprised to see nine Iranian officials representing it’s navy, air force, and a representative of the Defense Minister’s office. They presented me with a list of military equipment that they would like to buy from Bendix. What nerve! First you stiff us for payments due, then you take American hostages — a criminal act in addition to trampling on the universal concept of diplomatic immunity, and now you want to do business with us! Those were my thoughts although I never expressed them. Of course it was impossible in any event, as military exports to Iran were forbidden under U.S. law. The meeting was cordial but they walked away empty handed and I flew home with memories I will never forget. It was an exciting time.
Marty Paskoff, H/AREA Board Member
In 1966, I was an Englishman working for BP Plastics in the UK as a research engineer when I saw an ad in the Daily Telegraph for chemists and engineers with experience in producing PVC film and sheet to work for a company in New Jersey involved in a major start-up of these products. At the time, Harold Wilson was a Socialist Prime Minister, and I lived in a country where the unionized janitor earned more than I did with my two degrees. I applied for the position, and a telegraph arrived on Christmas Day offering me a position at four times my salary in the UK. I accepted, and my fiancée moved our marriage plans forward six months. It took six months of waiting for green cards, including spending a whole day at the U.S. Embassy with our two year old son.
Now comes the interesting part. We had no money to speak of, so I asked if Allied could pay for our boat tickets! They spent $762 on a cabin class suite with no hesitation. We sold all of our possessions and got on the ship with just over $200 to our name. When we arrived in New York, it was 95 degrees, and I was running around in my three piece Harris tweed suit trying to find public transportation to this place called Morristown.
In the meantime, my son had lost the keys to our three cabin trunks that customs wanted opened. To cut a long story short, I eventually figured out with some help to call Allied and announce my presence and the name of my employer, totally unaware of the size of the company! (No Internet, no Google.)
Unfortunately, in the meantime, the division had changed names and personnel, so nobody knew who this crazy Englishman was, or why he was here. Finally, Julie Kushnick (living in Boca Raton today, I believe) arrived at the docks and took us to Ho Jos on Route 10. I told him I only had $50, so he took me to Allied HQ and I was given an expense advance of $200. I was also given a rental car for a week while I found transportation. Although my salary of $11,400/annum was well above average wage, nobody would extend me credit, as I had no history. The head of our group, Al Steinberg, who didn’t know me from Adam, took me to the bank and co-signed a loan for a 1966 candy apple red Mustang.
We rented a garden apartment in Lake Hiawatha. The first six months were very rough on us because I spent every week at the Pottsville plant, my wife couldn’t drive and there were no shops in walking distance. By the end of six months, she was working for an attorney and drove a 1962 Ford Galaxy; our son was in day care; and we had moved to a duplex in Boonton. From then on, it was plain sailing.
My purpose in writing this monologue is twofold. Firstly, the unbelievable kindness of strangers – the unquestioning and trusting help I was given when I came to a new country with the blissful ignorance of youth (I was 28 at the time), without which I have no idea what I would have done. Secondly, the Company’s generous expense advances – helping me with travel and, basically, teaching me the American way of life.
Of course, Allied Chemical is no more, but I will always have fond memories of a time that doesn’t exist today.
By Stuart Bollen (from Dunnellon, Florida)
My experience was not so different from others in my age group. After the World War was over, (World War Two, not One), I came home to Brooklyn, got married, went to school on the GI Bill days and looked for a temporary job nights to pay the bills. A friend told me about this outfit in Jersey that was looking for people with some knowledge of aircraft instruments. Heck I had spent over 4 years in the Army Air Force, so I felt that this made me qualified to apply. Bendix hired me to work on the night shift repairing their aircraft instruments. In my first year at Bendix, I had the honor to rebuild the air driven Earth Inductor Compass that Charles Lindbergh used in his aircraft, The Spirit of Saint Louis. (I was born the same year that the instrument was designed and built.) That instrument, in working condition, is now located in his aircraft in the Smithsonian Institute National Air Museum in Washington, DC. By the way, Commander Richard E. Byrd used the same instrument in his aircraft, The Virginia, for his Antarctic expedition.
At the start of my second year at the bench, Bendix required me to make a change in my job description. Our Military customers and the airlines realized that they needed an in-house capability to disassemble, repair, calibrate, reassemble and correctly operate their aircraft instruments that were becoming more complicated and expensive. From then on my job was to write these manuals to whatever specifications required. In my 42 years with Bendix I wrote manuals used on at least 42 different Air Force, US Navy and Commercial Airlines aircraft and their special test equipment. I and my writers also had some input to equipment used on the Lem, the Skylab, the Space Shuttle, Boeing 707 and the DC 10 among others. We also wrote a manual on gear that tested a component of the atom bomb.
It was an interesting profession, sometimes crazy, with deadlines, etc., and sometimes so satisfying because it allowed me to meet people like Charles Lindbergh, Werner Van Braun and many bright scientists, engineers, and pilots. All in all, Mother B, (as we Teterboro people called Bendix) was good to me and my family.
Vince Grieco, H/AREA Board Member
There is a chemical plant in Hopewell Virginia which has been operating for 57 years. It’s among the largest and most efficient plant in the world for making caprolactam, a precursor to Nylon 6. The plant is a cash cow for Honeywell, generating hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue each year. H/AREA member, Reed Belden, who was there at the beginning and played a key role in its success, wrote the following history for our Newsletter.
Wallace Carothers of DuPont discovered Nylon in 1933. DuPont grew the nylon fiber market, primarily in hosiery, until World War II at which time all production became dedicated to making parachutes. After the war major markets developed for nylon in clothing, carpets, tire cord and plastics.
At the end of World War II, the victorious Allies set up groups to look at and “cotton pick” German technology as part of the war reparations. A representative from Allied Chemical and Dye was part of a team that studied German nylon manufacture. In the late 1940’s, a major decision was made by Allied to pursue the “polyamide project”.
Pilot plants were constructed in Morristown at the Corporate Research Center for manufacture of the nylon precursor, caprolactam, and for polymer manufacture and fiber spinning.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that while Allied was building the small batch pilot plant for making caprolactam, DuPont was building a much larger caprolactam continuous pilot plant. DuPont used a different process. Subsequently, both Allied and DuPont both built full scale plants using different processes. It should be noted that DuPont’s Nylon 66 is made from two monomers, hence the 66, Allied’s Nylon 6 is made from a single monomer, caprolactam. Both nylons have similar properties though made from differing raw materials. DuPont’s interest in becoming a caprolactam producer was to supply the increasing number of Nylon 6 manufacturers around the world. After duking it out with Allied for a few years, DuPont threw in the towel and went out of the caprolactam business.
Now going back to about 1950, the corporation decided the commercial operation would operate under the aegis of the National Aniline Division because that division made and sold dyestuffs to the fiber industry. For a number of reasons it was decided that the optimum location for the “polyamide project” plants would be in the Hopewell, Va. area. The caprolactam plant was located on the James River which has deep water access to the Atlantic Ocean thereby facilitating shipments of sulfur from the Gulf coast and phenol from Philadelphia. Further, the site was adjacent to a large Allied, Agricultural Division fertilizer plant with a large supply of both ammonia and synthesis gas (nitrogen and hydrogen) which were the remaining raw materials required for caprolactam manufacture.
The caprolactam plant began operation in 1954 with the first purified caprolactam produced in February of 1955. The initial plant was designed to produce 20 million pounds per year. In the next ten years the capacity of the plant was first increased to 30 million pounds per year then in sequence 80 million pounds per year and 150 million pounds per year by 1965.
The Hopewell fertilizer plant started out in 1926 as the world’s largest synthetic ammonia plant. It produced both ammonia and the fertilizer, ammonium nitrate.
By 1970 the fertilizer operations were terminated and the plant, now producing only ammonia was merged with the caprolactam plant to form the current chemical plant.
The small town of Hopewell is nestled near the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers in Virginia.. The fibers operation was located on the other side of the Appomattox from the caprolactam plant. In an hour, more or less, one can drive from Hopewell to Williamsburg or Jamestown or Petersburg or Richmond. Here, Indians had harassed early settlers. British ships passed this way during the Revolution. During the Civil War, Hopewell was a major staging area prior to the assault on Richmond. Despite its historical background, the character of the town is industrial. During World War I, DuPont built a major explosive plant there, on the banks of the James. The river was a ready source of water and a convenient disposal site. DuPont also built hundreds of small homes for employees. These homes are still occupied and give the town its industrial flavor.
Today, Nylon 6 producers, wherever they may be, need caprolactam so the Hopewell plant continues to grind out hundreds of millions of pounds per year providing Honeywell with a great source of revenue.
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