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Working class traditions

By |  June 8, 2015

One family contributes four generations of workers to the Bluegrass Materials Texas Quarry in Maryland.

About half a dozen companies have owned the Texas Quarry in Cockeysville, Md., over the past 50 years, yet one name stayed consistent during that time: Greene. From great grandfather to grandfather to father to son, the Greene family provided members of the family with work in various positions at the quarry. While none of the Greenes held corporate positions, all men worked behind the scenes as truck drivers, crusher operators, product purchasers and mechanics.

The Greenes say they often hear stories of fathers and sons who worked together at the same quarry, but, to date, they have not met someone who can match them in having four generations work at the same quarry.

Ervin Greene says people at the Texas Quarry recognized the Greenes as “good, steady, loyal workers.” Both Ervin and his son, Ron, agree that the Texas Quarry took care of the family over the years.

“They were happy with us, and we were happy with them,” Ervin says. “We were pretty well known through different plants.”

A ‘green’ history

The Texas Quarry has more than 150 years of history. According to Bluegrass Materials, the company that owns the Texas Quarry today, a group of Irish immigrants named the “Texas Greens” founded the community in the 1850s.

“The United States was at war with Mexico in Texas around the time the Irish came to that region of Maryland,” says Ron Greene. “These immigrants got together and were going to fight in the war, but most never made it down there. So they named the community Texas.”

The Greene family didn’t work at the Texas Quarry until about 100 years after the Texas Greens worked at the quarry.

“I guess we’re a different type of ‘Greene,’” Ron jokes. “But I found that history pretty cool.”

Many different groups owned the Texas Quarry since the Texas Greens got their start there. Bernie Grove, former president of the Texas Quarry and Pit & Quarry Hall of Fame member, says Harry T. Campbell & Sons expanded the quarry in 1914. M.J. Grove, Grove’s family’s company, partnered with the quarry in the mid-1900s.

“The two families had a well-working relationship and they respected each other,” Grove says.

According to Grove, the quarry’s golden age wasn’t until the 1980s to 1990s when Genstar owned it. He says the Texas Quarry ranked as a top 10 aggregate-producing quarry in the United States.

“At one time, we were producing up to 15 million tons of aggregate per year,” he says. “It was primarily because Maryland is the seat of federal government and the federal government spends money like crazy on roads and bridges.”

Over the years, the quarry supplied marble for notable buildings such as the Washington Monument. Despite its more than 100 years of history, the quarry’s current owners estimate it has at least 50 more years of business.

Reeling in the generations

Ervin Greene fell in love with trucks at a young age. As a boy, he says he watched trucks drive to and from a sawmill near his North Carolina home in awe. His love for trucks never waned. At 20, Ervin was hired as an independent truck driver when Harry T. Campbell & Sons owned the Texas Quarry. He was hired permanently with the company in 1966 and worked as a truck driver at the quarry until his retirement in 1998.

Because of Ervin’s positive experience at the quarry, both his father, Berl, and son, Ron, eventually landed gigs at the quarry. Ervin says it wasn’t difficult to convince Berl to work at the Texas Quarry.

“My father, [Berl], was working at a cattle farm outside of Maryland, but he got laid off,” Ervin says. “Me and my sister were starting to have kids so he was also homesick for his grandkids. So he moved out here, and he got a job at the quarry.”

Ervin’s son, Ron, was also easy to convince to come to the Texas Quarry. In 1974, Ron was hired as a summer laborer with the quarry while on break from college. And at that time from 1974 to 1975, three generations of Greene worked together at the quarry: Berl, Ervin and Ron. Ron says the family would carpool to work frequently.

Ron says Berl’s time at the Texas Quarry was short-lived. Berl had to retire early from his crusher operator position because of an injury in 1975.

Ron’s career at the quarry lasted 41 years, though. Ron says he learned any skilled position he could at the quarry to become valuable to the site.

“They liked to keep people who knew the most information,” Ron says.

And, in 2001, Ron helped his son Corey land a job at the Texas Quarry as a maintenance mechanic.

The family had men in just about every position there outside of corporate work. Ron worked in multiple departments during his time there – scalehouse duties, truck driver, loader driver, parts room worker and area buyer. Add on Corey’s mechanical contributions, Ervin’s truck driving and Berl’s crusher operating, and the Greenes covered just about all there was to do with the quarry.

Ron says he thinks the Greenes continued to have sons work at the quarry because of their diverse skillsets.

 

“It’s true that all the experiences we had, all the different places we worked at the quarry, the four of us practically ran the place,” Ron says. “We became valuable there.”

Corey says he thinks people respected the Greene family because of this life lesson the family handed down over the years: Show up every day, be on time, give it your best.

“My great grandfather [Berl] always said that if you’re not going to give an honest day’s work, take your lunch pail and go home,” Corey says. “We always gave an honest day’s work. And you don’t see that as much anymore.”

End of an era

When Ron officially retired from the Texas Quarry in January 2015, it marked the end of an era as all of the Greenes left the quarry. While all of the Greenes are gone from the Texas Quarry, the men still have ties to it. Ervin says he goes to a breakfast for retired Texas Quarry workers once a month. Ron says he plans to start making the breakfast sessions a tradition.

Ervin says he also lives only 20 minutes from the Texas Quarry, and that it’s not difficult if he wants to visit.

Grove says it was common for employees to have two generations work at the Texas Quarry together, maybe three generations. He says four generations is an exceptional number though. While never in management roles, the Greene family reeled in four generations from its family to work at the one quarry location.

None of the Greenes say they regret their experience at the Texas Quarry. The Greenes grew up a working class family with just enough money to send kids to community college. For a family with limited career opportunities, Ron says the Texas Quarry provided quality work to his family members.

“You knew you wouldn’t be a millionaire,” Ron says. “But if you didn’t mind the work, you knew it was a secure way to make a living without a lot of education.”

About the Author:

Megan Smalley is the associate editor of Pit & Quarry. Contact her at msmalley@northcoastmedia.net or 216-363-7930.

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