When General Motors closed its Muncie, Ind. transmission plant in 2006, some employees had been working their whole professional lives there. Turning the proverbial lemons into lemonade, a group of them have eventually found themselves as the unofficial historians of the Indiana plant.
Bill Grobey and Jary Dawson have collected thousands of photographs and documents covering the history of the plant − best known for its Chevrolet association − turning the collection into a series of DVDs that have been presented at events like a recent Chevrolet retiree gathering and even have been donated to local archives and historical collections to help preserve the plant’s history.
“It was a good place to work,” Grobey said. “I raised my family, two kids, working there. I think most of us felt like we couldn’t work for a more secure plant or corporation in the world. Of course we were wrong. General Motors about folded.”
Credit goes to Mike Jones, once the leader of the plant’s United Auto Workers local, and others with having the fortitude to save documents from the factory. Dawson also received pictures from former workers and their families. “I have scanned more than 50,000 pictures. We tried to put a name to everybody’s picture.” At its peak, about 3,400 men and women were working in the transmission plant.
For their efforts, Grobey and Dawson have found themselves as the latest subjects of “They Made Muncie,” a recurring series in the local The Star Press newspaper that tells the stories of the folks who made Muncie an industrial powerhouse for most of the 20th century.
“I’ve got another 3,000 to 5,000 pieces to do,” Dawson added. “I’ve got shirts and jackets and hats that I want to photograph and record.
The final product from the plant was a transmission for light-duty Chevrolet trucks.