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Cement company's open house brings out sentiments

August 27, 2006|by MARIE GILBERT

It was the 1950s, and Jack Boward, fresh out of the military, came home to Washington County toying with the idea of a career in business administration.

Instead, he chose cement.

"I was 22 and looking for work," the Hagerstown resident recalled. "I had completed a year of school under the GI Bill, took some business courses and thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. But I was offered a job at the local cement plant, and I took it."

It was a decision he never regretted.

"It was a wonderful place to work," Boward said. "It was hot in the summer, cold in the winter, but everyone was good to me. And I made lasting friendships. I was fortunate to have worked there."

Boward retired from St. Lawrence Cement in 1995 after 40 years of employment - 30 years as purchasing supervisor and 10 years as maintenance coordinator.

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Saturday, he returned - not as a worker, but as a volunteer for the company's open house.

Standing at the front entrance of the company's main office on Security Road, Boward directed visitors to the many activities being offered throughout the day.

There were bus tours to the quarry, tours of the control room, a photo exhibit tracing the history of the company, videos showing how cement is made and a display of mobile equipment.

"The open house is an opportunity for the community to come out and see what we're all about," said Gary Batey, general manager of the facility.

"Many people know we're that place on a dead-end road. But they don't know what we do," he said. "This is a chance for people to visit the plant and actually get to know us."

Batey said St. Lawrence has held open houses in the past, including three years ago, when the company marked its 100th anniversary.

"We had about 700 people come through that day," he said. "It's such a nice day today, we're hoping to have another great turnout."

According to Batey, St. Lawrence is a leading producer and supplier of products and services for the construction industry, including cement, concrete and aggregates. The company operates in Canada and the United States.

Visitors to the plant on Saturday not only learned about current operations, but were given a history lesson as well. According to a company exhibit, work at the limestone quarry began in 1903. In 1908, a one-kiln plant with a 1,000 barrel-per-day capacity began production at the site. Known as the Maryland Portland Cement Co., it merged in 1909 with Berkeley Limestone Co. to become Security Cement and Lime.

Over the years, other owners have included North American Cement, Marquette Cement, Gulf & Western and Lone Star Industries.

In 1985, the plant was purchased by Independent Cement Corp., a subsidiary of St. Lawrence Cement. Its name was changed to St. Lawrence Cement in 1998.

Among the visitors tracing the company's history through old photographs was Shirley Klotz of Hagerstown, who was hoping to spot some familiar faces.

"I have a real connection to this place," she said. "My family, the DeBiase family, immigrated to this country from Italy. And both my grandfather and my godfather found work at this site."

Klotz's father did plumbing for the company, and her husband, Tom, recently retired from the plant.

What would her grandfather, who did most of his work by hand and the help of mules, think of today's modern operations?

"He would be excited for the company," Klotz said. "He would be happy to see how it has grown."

Though he now is retired, Jack Boward said he tries to stay in touch with people he worked with, and visits the plant now and then to renew acquaintances.

"This place was a big part of my life," he said. "I was just a kid when I took that job in purchasing. I never thought about 40 years down the road. But I started here and ended here - and I'm glad it turned out that way."

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