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

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

Wordless Wednesday: Willie Taylor

Well, almost wordless . . .

I recently received a care-package from a family member and inside were these FABULOUS photos of my paternal grandfather, Willie Taylor!

Willie Taylor

Paternal Grandfather, Willie Taylor

 

I have never seen pictures of my grandfather as a young man. So having these photos of him looking fresh, fly, and dressed for success was a wonderful treat!

Willie Taylor

Paternal Grandfather, Willie Taylor

I’m not sure when and where these photos were taken. What I do know —  these pictures were printed on Kodak Velox Paper. According to, “Stamps,” chapter 15 in David Rudd Cycleback’s Guide to Identifying Photographs online, there were four common Kodak photo paper brands used, and  . . . [1]

[i]f the back of the photo has the three line printing ‘Kodak/Velox/Paper,’ the photo dates circa 1950s-60s.”

Willie Taylor was born 16 December 1909 in Chappel Hill, Washington County, Texas. So considering the decade these photos were taken, he looks like he was probably in his mid 40’s or at least between 41 to 51 years of age!

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

Source Citation:

1. Cycleback, D. R. (2003). Chapter 15: Stamps. Cycleback.com: Guide to Identifying Photographs. Retrieved August 6, 2013, from http://www.cycleback.com/photoguide/stamps.html