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Exhibit celebrates Waynesboro tool company

May 11, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Several former employees of Landis Threading Systems, formerly Landis Machine Co., talked over old times Saturday at a new exhibit at the Waynesboro Industrial Museum.

The exhibit, "Landis Machine Company: A Centennial Perspective," was mounted by the Waynesboro Area Industrial Heritage Trust at the museum on Philadelphia Avenue.

Landis Machine Co. was founded in October 1903 and produced tools and machines. Over the years, its facilities expanded to include a new machine shop, a heat-treating shop, a tap plant and a research and development area.

At one time, the company encompassed 440,000 square feet and made parts for railroad and agricultural equipment.

Bill Helfrick of Waynesboro, a volunteer with the Waynesboro Area Industrial Heritage Trust and former employee of Landis Threading Systems, said there have long been two Landis companies in Waynesboro, which sometimes caused confusion. Brothers Franklin Landis and Abe Landis were involved in both, and both companies built machine tools and components.

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Landis Threading Systems is smaller now than it was in its heyday.

"Foreign competition has greatly diminished the market," Helfrick, a 38-year employee said. "And there is not as wide a market for the type of equipment they made."

At one time, Landis Tool employed 1,200 to 1,300 people, with Landis Machine employing about 750, Helfrick said. There is not that level of employment now, he said, "so they are not putting as much into the economy of the community."

"It was a good place to work; that's why we're here," he said, referring to the six people who put the exhibit together. Five of the six are former employees of Landis Threading Systems and the sixth is currently employed there.

At one time, the Landis companies had apprenticeship programs.

"They'd have seven or eight apprentices training as machinists or engineers for four years. That's where their skilled workers came from, and then some would move up to supervisor," Helfrick said.

The company and the product line grew, and people were important in that development, he said.

Helfrick said that when he was a boy, the local knitting mill, both Landis companies and Frick Co. all had steam whistles. After warning blasts at 6:40 a.m. and 6:45 a.m., all four companies blew their whistles at 7 a.m., "and you'd better be at your work station," he said.

Chic Hutton of Waynesboro said he worked at Landis Machine on and off for 35 years in sales and services in the company's New York territory and in sales and engineering in Waynesboro.

He recalled that Landis Machine was the best company to work for.

"They cared for the people, and the product sold itself," he said.

He sold and serviced Landis Machine products for plumbing suppliers, pipe and nipple manufacturers and bolt manufacturers.

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