26 September 2010

10 years later...

Reunion:  a reuniting of persons after separation

I've been to a number of reunions in my life (more than I care to admit).  A couple of high school, several college, many family reunions.  There are lots of reasons why we go (or don't go) to these events.  To catch up with old friends, to share stories of the past, to relive those glory days, to see if Bob still has his hair or who has the biggest gut or who has the most kids/grand kids.  Who got divorced/remarried?  How's the old girlfriend/boyfriend turn out?  Did Susy ever stop being a b$#%h?  Sometimes, it is funnier to see how people have changed since you last saw them.  Life has a way of changing your plans.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to attend a different sort of reunion.  Many moons ago, I had an opportunity to work for a little company that made pacemakers located south of Houston.  Intermedics started back in 1973 in Lake Jackson, Texas and, over 25 years, had grown into one of the top medical device companies building cardiac pacemakers.  It grew from a small, store front operation to a multi million dollar enterprise with over 2100 employees.  Since it was located in Brazoria County, Texas, most of the work force was from the surrounding counties & towns.  There were a lot of people who worked their entire careers there.  There were a number of marriages, divorces, births and deaths that happened at that place.  I joined the company in early 1990 and worked my way up through numerous jobs/positions.  The atmosphere there was one of purpose/pride.  We were making stuff to improve/save lives.  Even though the ranks grew, it still felt like a small company.   People were proud/happy to work there and many (like me) thought they would eventually retire from this place.     

As I said earlier, life has a way of changing your plans.  A larger, international company had bought up Intermedics in 1989 and was looking to grow it into one of their "medical pillars".  In 1998, the company decided to spin off Intermedics to gain more revenue for development/investment (or something like that), so they sold Intermedics to a competitor.  Everyone was a bit surprised/nervous about the pending sale, but we were assured that the employees would be "looked after".  In early February 1999, the deal finally went through and the SEC approved the sale and we were sold to Guidant.  The next morning, we squeezed the entire company into the cafeteria to meet with the new owners.  Lots of anticipation/nervousness/excitement as we waited to finally hear the plans for the future.  The announcement, however, was not what everyone had hoped for.  The new owners were going to close down the entire company and shift one of the production lines to their facility in Puerto Rico.  You could have heard a pin drop when they told everyone.  Needless to say, everyone was stunned.  After 25 years, the place was to be sold off and closed up.  Many people who has spent their entire lives working for this place were completely overwhelmed/crushed. 

Anyway, some people still live in the area and wanted to gather together to remember some of the old times.  I was initially hesitant to go, but wanted to see some of my old friends/co-workers.  One interesting sidebar was that the organizers of the event were able to score a deal to have the party at the old plant.  Seems that, in the 10 intervening years since the sale, they have not been able to sell the plant to anyone and it has stood vacant for the entire time as a testament to a lost cause.  For such a sad occasion, the turnout was surprisingly good.  Lots of people, many old faces, a few more wrinkles, a little less hair.  Spent a lot of time talking about old days, catching up on where everyone was, who was still around.  I brought a case of old products/shirts/memorabilia.  Some people brought old posters and pictures.  There was even our famous lawsuit poster.  Back in the old days in the 80's, we were kinda cocky with our quality and how sold our products.  The marketing group even came up with a spin off of the old Sears Diehard adds for one of our new pacemakers (Thinlith).  Warped, but it was funny in a twisted sort of way.  Not too many of these posters can be found  - seems that some people did not see the humor and the company got sued.   
There is a missing line on this version that said - Thinlith - The Diehard


Rock Chef said...

It is sad the way big business does that to people.

I like the poster - maybe they should have invented a "sense of humour implant" too?

meleah rebeccah said...

It must have been very nice to get together with your old co-workers like that. But it saddened me to read about how/why the plant was shut down in the first place. What a shame. Really.

terri said...

I can imagine such a reunion would be a lot of fun, just like any other reunion. After all, when I think about my own coworkers, they are like a little family to me. Even told one of them today that I loved her! :-)

It is sad to have to part ways with people whom you spend the majority of your waking hours. What a great idea to have a reunion.

Love the poster... especially since it's Minnesota themed!

Abby said...

Well, that part about the place closing wasn't particularly comforting to me just as the company I work for is undergoing re-org!

Still, it's nice that you had this "reunion", and I love that poster! I remember the sears die-hard ads.

Warren said...

I have one of the original Die Hard posters with the ThinLith line. I also have an InterLite pacemaker that is still pulsing since 1976.