Where I grew up…

Downwind and slightly downhill from two-thirds of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s, old industrial base. General Electric plant on the West side of Boston Avenue. Remington Arms on the East side. The facility originally built by Remington to fabricate rifles for the Russian Czar.

When I turned seventeen and it was time for me to go to work, I was hired on at GE as an apprentice machinist. Spent some of that time learning from the two machinists charged with maintenance and repairs for the Fan Dept. I remember finding the signature of one of the Russian workers supervising construction of the plant – carved into a wooden beam supporting the ceiling of our little subterranean workshop. We were in the first floor of one of the modules built to design for firearms and ammunition manufacture…underground. Four more stories above us.

The neighborhood was recognized years later as a cancer cluster, of course. By then we’d moved next to Roosevelt Forest north side of Stratford. Clean air to spare. A school system designed for more than the minimal education required for factory hands.

Just before the Lusitania disaster the Russian Czar emerged as a new customer for a million Russian rifles and one hundred million rounds of ammunition and he wanted them from UMC-Remington. (Marcellus Hartley) Dodge was worried that entering a contract with the Russians would put him in grave financial danger, but after the sinking of the Lusitania, he took the contract and planned to build a new plant in Bridgeport. Dodge raised $15 million dollars by selling gold bonds of his company and borrowed $15 million against his own preferred stock. He also gave his personal notes for thirteen million more. Dodge was one of the richest men from the richest families in the nation. He would become one of the great philanthropists of the early 20th century. Dodge took huge risks in borrowing, and expanding his operations. His planned building in Bridgeport would transform Bridgeport’s East Side. In the 1960s the old people on the East Side would say, “the Czar built that factory.” The Czar didn’t build that plant, Dodge did, but the Czar’s Great War munitions contracts were responsible for one of the largest, most unique factory buildings in the world. To build, Dodge bought land all around the location, including the last farms in the area. He would need massive amounts of acreage for the manufacturing facilities and housing for thousands of munitions workers..

All of my peers, friends and neighbors from those days are dead, now.

3 thoughts on “Where I grew up…

  1. Memory lane says:

    (1998): Remediation status of two sites in Bridgeport listed on the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection inventory of hazardous waste sites: the General Electric (GE) site on Boston Avenue and the Remington site on Asylum Street. https://www.cga.ct.gov/PS98/rpt%5Colr%5Chtm/98-R-1440.htm
    The DuPont company spent $50 million dollars and nearly twenty years in a remedial cleanup effort of the Remington site’s Stratford, Connecticut portion. The lake itself and its surrounding area had not been cleaned as of 2013. https://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Remington-Woods-cleared-of-bullets-4831765.php
    The lake was re-evaluated in spring 2014. The report notes that munitions were disposed of in several areas of the northern section of the lake.
    As of 2015, development plans have been slow to materialize for the site, and an advocacy group aligned with the Sierra Club is attempting to have the lake and the land surrounding it preserved as open space. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Success_Lake_(Connecticut)
    (Dec. 1, 2021) BRIDGEPORT — Despite an outpouring of calls from residents and activists to block any future development at Remington Woods, the Planning & Zoning Commission this week adopted new regulations allowing the private owner to instead pursue an office park while saving open space. https://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Bridgeport-OKs-some-development-at-Remington-Woods-16667114.php

  2. p/s says:

    Country’s oldest gun maker heading to Georgia after emerging from second bankruptcy in wake of Sandy Hook carnage. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gun-maker-remington-headquarters-to-georgia-from-ny-in-100-million-deal-promising-800-jobs/
    “Sandy Hook families reach historic $73M settlement with gunmaker Remington : The settlement with the maker of the rifle used in the 2012 elementary school massacre marks the first time a gun manufacturer has been held liable in a U.S. mass shooting.” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/sandy-hook-families-reach-settlement-gunmaker-remington-rcna16274
    “A linchpin of the settlement is that it allows these families the rights to share what they learned with the public,” Joshua Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said of documents obtained during the lengthy court battle. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/02/15/remington-sandy-hook-settlement/

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