Workday Wednesday: Retirement Bliss

Retirement bliss is exactly what I call that smile on my grandfather’s face as he holds his first retirement check from Maxwell House in his hands in the photo below.

I’m not sure of his exact retirement date, but I do know he put in over 45+ years at the Houston Plant. Below is a brief write-up about my grandfather’s work experience through the years at Maxwell House that I found with the photo above. When and where was this information published? I have no idea. But if I consider the number of years he worked at the plant, I would say his retirement occurred during the mid to late 1970’s. As I look at some of the information printed on the back of this clipping, it appears to have been cut out of a company publication.

[Transcription]

Retirement Bliss

Retired Plant Services Foreman Willie Taylor (l.) accepts his first retirement check from Houston Plant Mgr. Russ Cox. Willie began working in the R&S Dept. in 1930 for 35¢ an hour. He worked his way up to a shipper with a merit increase to 40¢ an hour, but a cost of living increase brought his salary to 45¢ an hour in 1941. Willie recalls  that the wages were good for a job that was “all muscle and manpower.” Willie, like many other MH employees, worked his way through the Depression, a world war, recession and inflationary cycles. After all that, he feels retirement is a time to do “nothing — just nothing.”

After 45+ years of hard work at some of the pay rates listed above, I agree wholeheartedly . . .  doing “nothing — just nothing” sounds mighty good to me too– LOL!

If you have my grandfather, Willie Taylor, in your family research, let me hear from you because . . .
I’m claiming kin!

Treasure Chest Thursday: An Employee Celebration

It’s Treasure Chest Thursday and from my digital collection is a photo featuring an employee celebration for Willie Taylor!

My grandfather began working at the Maxwell House Coffee Plant in Houston around the same time that my Uncle Jesse started working there  in 1930. His first job was in the Receiving & Shipping (R&S) Department and by the time he retired in the late 1970’s, he was a Plant Services Foreman in addition to being the head coach of the company’s all-black baseball team. He was well liked and a very respected employee on and off the job. His hard work and dedication to the coffee industry was definitely a time to celebrate —

Congratulations!
3/4 million man hours without a lost time accident

Workday Wednesday: Jesse Earl Green, another Maxwell House Man in My Family Tree

My paternal grandfather, Willie Taylor, wasn’t the only popular Maxwell House Man in my family tree. My great uncle Jesse Earl Green from Chappel Hill, Texas, with only a third grade education, went on to become the “first” African American Assistant Department Head of the Roast and Blend Division at Maxwell House!

Jesse Earl Green, Asst. Department Head of the Roast and Blend Division of General Foods Maxwell House Coffee in Houston, Texas

Uncle Jesse, the youngest of seven children was born December 29, 1911 to Lula Routt and Jim Green in Chappel Hill, Texas. He was just 18 years old when he left Chappel Hill in 1929 and came to Houston seeking employment and a better life. He worked odd jobs consistently until he was hired at Maxwell House as extra help in 1930. Once at Maxwell House, uncle Jesse was on the move! He quickly moved up the ranks as porter, coffee blender, sub roaster, regulator roaster and finally as special roaster where his special blend was a mixture of Brazilian and Colombian beans. His final promotion made Maxwell House history — he became the first African American Assistant Department Head of the Roast and Blend Division! He held this position until he retired in 1977.

Photo was taken at the Maxwell House Houston Plant, May 19, 1972

According to the inscription on the back of the photo above, everyone featured represents 244 years of service to Maxwell House. Standing (left to right) is Jesse Earl Green (42 yrs), Lillian Riddle (43 yrs), C.W. “Tex” Cook (30 yrs), Willie Taylor (42 yrs), Frank Lenich (32 yrs), and George Curtis (35 yrs).

“Green House Coffee”

My uncle worked for Maxwell House for forty-seven years! Can you imagine working for any company forty-seven years? People just don’t work jobs for long periods of time anymore. Heck, companies don’t maintain internal departments long enough for anyone to work that long anymore! Well, forty-seven years is a very long time and his colleagues often said they were blessed to have had someone of his character for forty-seven years of service. At uncle’s retirement gala, his gift from Maxwell House was a batch of coffee of his own special blend — Brazilian and Colombian beans — put into cans labeled “Green House Coffee” with a picture of him on the label wearing his trademark — red bow tie!

While working at Maxwell House, Uncle Jesse went on to earn his Doctorate in Theology from Southwestern Theological Seminary. This advanced degree enhanced his service and leadership as Senior Pastor of Blessed Hope Missionary Baptist Church, a church he organized in May of 1950 in Houston, Texas.

Uncle Jesse Earl Green passed away on March 21, 1998 and was laid to rest in the Golden Gate Cemetery, 8400 Hirsch Road, Houston, Texas  77016

If you have my great uncle Jesse Earl Green, a real Maxwell House legend in your family tree, let me hear from you because . . .
I’m claiming kin!

Sentimental Sunday: Maxwell House Black Baseball Team

My paternal grandfather, Willie Taylor, loved, loved, LOVED, baseball!  But what I didn’t know until now was —  he was the head coach of the all black Maxwell House Company Baseball Team during the 1950’s and 1960’s!

Coach Willie Taylor (standing left) with the all black Maxwell House Baseball Team

I tell you, this photo of my grandfather with the company’s all black baseball team is a true TREASURE!

So what does the history of baseball and Maxwell House have in common? Well, according to, You Know You’re in New Jersey When . . . by Lillian and Nina Africano, the first baseball game in the US was not played in Cooperstown, New York;

the first recorded organized baseball game was played on June 19, 1846, at Hoboken’s Elysian Fields, later site of the Maxwell House Coffee plant.” [1]

I don’t know if  Maxwell House facilities in Jacksonville, FL, and San Leandro, CA had company baseball teams, but the Houston factory sure did and their success kept them playing baseball for many years!

Coach Willie Taylor (facing forward with his arms folded) listens intently with a player and assistant coaches to someone involved with the league

The section of the book titled, “You Know You’re in New Jersey When . . . Diamonds are a Boy’s Best Friend,” goes on to say,

By 1900 baseball had truly become America’s pastime, and practically every town in Jersey had a baseball team. Company teams like the Newark Westinghouse Nine, the Doherty Silk Sox of Paterson, and the Michelin Tire Company team of Millville were among the strongest.”

Jersey wasn’t the only state with popular company baseball teams on the horizon during that time. Texas had some prominent company baseball teams too such as the Alamo Furniture Baseball Team in Houston, Southern Pine Lumber Baseball Team from East Texas, The Southern Select Baseball Team, the Pepsi-Cola Ball Club better known as the Austin 9, and of course — the Maxwell House Baseball Team!

My oldest brother remembers after little league practice watching in “awe” the Maxwell House baseball team pitching and power-hitting on the baseball fields at Finnegan Park — located in the Greater 5th Ward Community! Grand-dad was a quiet man by nature. Oh but when he stepped on a baseball field with his team, he transformed into a force to be reckoned with!

He started coaching the Maxwell House team before I was born. But my brother promises that if I had been old enough to go to games, I would have loved his unique coaching style and his team’s fierce competitive spirit! My brother, who is in his sixties now, says some of the men who grew up around Finnegan Park during that time, still talk about how great Maxwell House played baseball. The fact that they rarely lost a game made them real legends for the company and for Houston’s 5th Ward community too!

 If you recognize any of the players in the photos above, I would love to hear from you.

If you have Coach Willie Taylor in your family research, definitely let me hear from you because . . . I’m claiming kin!

Source Citation:

1. Africano, Lillian, and Nina Africano. “You Know You’re in New Jersey When . . . Diamonds Are a Boy’s Best Friend.” You Know You’re in New Jersey When . . .: 101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, and Eats of the Garden State. First ed. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2007. 7. Print. You Know You’re In Series.

Those Places Thursdays: Maxwell House Coffee – Good to the last drop!

Familiar with the old Maxwell House Coffee slogan  — Good to the last drop!? I’m sure you are! Well that slogan and the Maxwell House Coffee brand has been a major part of my paternal grandfather’s life the minute he began working at the coffee factory in Houston at age 21 in 1930!

Paternal Grandfather, Willie Taylor

My grandfather’s employee photo above, taken on 8 October 1968, is one of my favorites of him. By now he has been working for General Foods Maxwell House for 38 years and he’s only 59 years young!

Maxwell Houston Factory in Eastwood area of Houston, Texas

The Maxwell House building featured above with its giant neon cup of coffee, has been a major landmark visible from three of the major freeways – US 59, I-10, and I-45 – of this city for many years! I recently came upon a very interesting history lesson about the Maxwell House Coffee Factory where my grandfather worked on the popular Houston Architecture Info Forum (HAIF). According to one of the forum members, [1]

From the Houston Press, 8/5/46, p. 1 – General Foods Maxwell House Coffee buys the old Ford plant @ 3900 Harrisburg, will move from their current facility at 2107 Preston. Press says the plant was built by Ford ’25 years ago,’ ‘abandoned by Ford before the war.’ It was used as an assembly plant for aircraft parts during the war and briefly as a warehouse by Pepsi after the war. GF moved in the following spring.”

For starters, I never knew the Ford Company even had an assembly plant in Houston, and that the Maxwell House coffee factory you see in the picture above was that plant! But that’s not all!

In the 40s and 50s, most Fords on the road in Texas sported an oval sticker (the shape of the Ford logo) in the rear window or on the rear bumper or trunk lid which proclaimed ‘Made in Texas by Texans.'”

I tell you I learn something new and amazing about my family’s history and this city I’ve called home for over 50 years all the time!

Willie Taylor (left) working in the service area of Maxwell House Coffee Factory in Houston, Texas in 1968

Back in the day, you could ask anyone who lived in this town what was one of the best smells in Houston and their answer would be immediate — Maxwell House coffee factory of course!

If you have my paternal grandfather, Willie Taylor, who worked for Maxwell House Coffee in Houston, TX in your family research, let me hear from you because . . .
I’m claiming kin!

—–

Source Citation:

1. Williamson, B. (2008, October 6). Maxwell House History [Maxwell House History: post #9]. Retrieved August 8, 2013, from http://www.houstonarchitecture.com/haif/topic/17811-maxwell-house-history/?p=282573