I…AM…BRIGH…TON…MAN!!! Cue Black Sabbath heavy metal music.
This was the logo of Brighton Corporation. Lately they’ve gone to some new sleek linear graphic crap emphasizing Tru-Edge. But Brighton Man was much cooler. Were heads ever actually formed like this? Beat into shape with a hammer? Like a blacksmith? Could be. I’ve seen Bad-Eye do this to a flange-only head. Throw it onto the floor in disgust when he couldn’t get it flat enough and beat on it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes he beat it flat. Other times it just made him feel better. He beat on his flanging machine, too, sometimes, with or without a hammer.
I thought it was time to do a post on the history of Brighton Corporation, what little I know. The company was founded in 1914 by Alvin Hock, Sr. There were a lot of breweries in Cincinnati at that time, so I imagine they were his first customers. The first plant I’m aware of was downtown Cincinnati, somewhere on 5th Street. The old timers, such as Roy C. and Jim W., a couple of press operators, and Felan R., a forklift driver, used to talk about the shop on 5th Street. What they talked about the most was the view. They were on second shift at that time. They would take a break up on the roof late at night for the view. A woman in the apartment building across the street knew what time their nightly break was, and would stand before her open window and give them a strip tease. They said she was a beauty.
In the 60’s the company moved out to its current location in Sharonville, just north of Cincinnati. Here is an aerial shot.
Here is a screen capture from Google Maps.
In the aerial shot, do you see the two peaked white roofs in the bottom left, with the flat brown roof to the right? In the google map shot they are the lower three black roofs. That’s all that was there when I hired on in 1973. The rest has been added since.
Alvin Hock, Sr., had already retired by the time I went to work there. He turned the company over to his two sons, Alvin Jr. and Paul. I did see Alvin Sr. be escorted through the shop, but he was pretty old by then. And I heard stories. One involved him spying a broken bolt on the floor, picking it up to inspect it, then saying it still had good thread and should be cut off and cleaned up and used again. Another story I heard was that whenever secretaries had to walk through the shop they were instructed to hold files or binders or something up over their chests, so the men couldn’t see the shape of their breasts. But I never worked for him.
Alvin Jr. seemed to be just like what I’d heard his father was like. Hard and mean. Paul was more tolerant. They did the good cop-bad cop routine well. For example, fans were not permitted in the shop. Alvin Jr. didn’t want people wasting time dragging them from one place to another. We just suffered through the heat, and second shift was the hottest part of the day. But that did make you tougher. I never got air conditioning in my house until my wife demanded it, in 1990. I was used to the heat. But I did have fans, at least.
Alvin Jr. never spoke to the men, he would relay his orders or complaints through the plant supervisor. Whereas Paul frequently spoke to the men. He was much more personable and friendly. But being on second shift, I didn’t have much contact with either of them. Not until September of 1979, when I transferred to first shift.
One incident I remember well. There used to be a pit in shipping where semis could back their trailers down into. That way the floor was level with the trailer bed. A ramp was put in place and forklifts could drive into the trailer to load it. Of course, it was dark inside the trailer, so a spotlight on a telescoping pole could be positioned to shine into the trailer. One day I was helping out in shipping and was loading heads into a trailer. When the truck pulled out I didn’t fold up the telescoping pole with the light, like I was supposed to. Paul comes walking through shipping, looking all around, and walks right into it. He hit it hard, and it put a serious gash on his forehead. Of course, he had the natural human reaction – he looked around to see if anyone had seen him. Then he bolted away. Shortly after a maintenance man arrived in shipping to take down the pole. A light was installed on the shipping forklift, which was actually a much better solution anyway.
I remember two incidents involving Alvin Jr. Once I walked into the office just as he was chewing out the plant supervisor. It was Geoff L., Elmer D. had retired by this time. After Alvin Jr. left I couldn’t help but smile. Geoff shot me a dark look, declaring, “It’s not funny, Mike.” Another time I walked into the office while Alvin Jr. was there, and he made a disparaging remark about my work boots, saying they were so worn out they looked like clown shoes. After he left, Geoff laughed and said, “Now that’s funny.”
In 1987 Trinity Corporation, out of Dallas, Texas, bought Brighton. Alvin Jr. and Paul both retired. Paul’s son Jeff stayed on as president. But only for a couple years. He didn’t like working for Trinity. In 1990 Jeff Hock quit and invested money in Enerfab, in Cincinnati, to start up a tank head division for them. In 2002 Enerfab bought Brighton, and Jeff has been running the business ever since.
Initially, Trinity invested money in Brighton. They brought in new machines and built the separate large building in back that now houses the metal cutters, seamers, and x-ray room. But after that, they sucked money out. Towards the end they would fix nothing, let alone upgrade anything.
Enerfab buying us out was the best thing that could happen. They fixed the place up and brought in some new equipment. At first our offices were located at their plant on Spring Grove in Cincinnati, but eventually they even built a new office for Brighton. It can be seen in the google map screen shot – at the bottom right, with the purple roof. Enerfab has been a good company to work for. They have treated us better than the original Brighton or Trinity ever did. And a Hock, third-generation Jeff, runs the company once again.