THE SOUTH POINT PLANT
“In 1942, the Buckeye Ordinance Works plant was built in South Point, Ohio to produce ammonium nitrate explosives for the military. In 1946, Allied Chemical acquired the plant to produce fertilizers. It was a massive living organism, humming, vibrating, and sparkling with lights. It never slept and was constantly attended by hundreds of men who swarmed in, over, and around it like agitated ants.”
Teen Ed Mason worked at the Allied Chemical and Dye plant, Nitrogen Division in South Point, Ohio, as did his father and as did his maternal grandfather. His father was what they called an operator. That was a union job and he was one of the union leaders. His mother's father worked in security. That was a non-union job.
It was during a strike one winter years before, when he was a young boy. It was nighttime. The bonfire blazed high on the railroad tracks outside the locked chain link gates at the rail entrance to the plant. They first heard it and then, when the engineer turned on the light, they saw it. Everyone froze in the headlights as the train appeared out of the darkness inside the plant, gathered speed, and bore down on the gate and bonfire. Then men started shouting and running in all directions. Ed noticed two men running down to the track switch.
It was magnificent. That massive, powerful black beast, pulling an endless stream of loaded cars out of the darkness, burst through the locked chain link gates like tissue paper, scattered the bonfire like a gathering of fire flies, and then derailed. Men ran to the engine where they saw that the engineer was all right and then helped him down to the ground. As they walked him back to the fence, back to the other side, one of the men gave him a drink from a thermos. Presumably coffee.
Later, when Ed worked at the plant, he was assigned to the pebble tower one summer, the highest perch for miles around. The endless view was breathtaking, including the summer night lightning shows. He had been previously assigned to work as a janitor, but his work was not appreciated. He put signs up over all of the urinals: "Please don't throw cigarette butts in the urinal. It makes them soggy and hard to light."
This picture of the plant is reprinted here courtesy of Craig Cox of Cox-Calvin & Associates, Inc. who assessed and remediated the 610 acre Superfund site, receiving a “ready for reuse” certificate from the US EPA in 2004. Thanks, Craig.