Mystery solved

December 8, 2013

The Hazel-Atlas No. 1 glass plant on South Main Street in Washington, which later became Brockway No. 11, was “a great place to work and had a lot of good, hard-working people, a lot of camaraderie, both salary and hourly,” wrote Bill Linton in an email to the Observer-Reporter concerning last week’s Mystery Photo.

Many former employees of the plant wrote and called us and helped identify the three people in the picture, who all went on to distinguish themselves in other areas after working at the plant, which closed in 1979.

“The gentleman in the photo is Art Hannen, who was the Packing Room superintendent,” wrote Fran Wrubleski Iddings. “It was a great place to work. I had 10-and-a-half years in when it shut down, and if it kept running, that’s where I would have retired from.”

It was from the Brockway plant, now occupied by Chapman Corp., that Hannen retired in 1978. Hannen, who died at age 91 in 2005, played the trombone and had his own band in the 1930s. “After he retired, he formed the band again and I played with him,” said Patsy Cimino, who played trumpet for the Art Hannen Band and for his own for many years.

Of the many readers who called or wrote us about the photo, only one recognized the young woman in the foreground. “That’s me!” cried Debbie DeStefano upon seeing the newspaper last Monday. DeStefano, a 1967 Washington High School graduate, recalls working at the plant during the summers when she was attending West Virginia University.

“Packing glass was good money, but it was a very tough job,” DeStefano said. “I knew that wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

A month after graduating from WVU, DeStefano was hired by Aging Services of Washington County, for which she worked for 42 years until her retirement in January. It was in that position that she organized all of the senior citizens centers in the county.

Cynthia Gantt called us to identify her mother, Barbara Gantt, shown conversing with Hannen. The mother of five children, Barbara Gantt went on from working at the glass plant to become an ordained minister, first at Nazarene Baptist Church and later as associate pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. Church. The Rev. Gantt, who was a lifetime member of the NAACP, died in April 2007 at age 74.

“I still have a pair of those safety glasses they’re wearing; I can’t believe she saved them,” said daughter Cynthia, who worked at Brockway No. 7 on Wylie Avenue when it still operated.

Some callers remarked that a skirt was unusual attire for factory work. Cynthia Gantt said her mother “could dress her butt off. She was one of those classy people who always looked nice.”

Thanks to all who called and wrote about this week’s photo, and our apologies for not being able to return all of the calls.

Look for another Mystery Photo in next Monday’s Observer-Reporter.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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