ANDERSON, Ind. — When America was making the transition from horse and buggies to the horseless carriage at the start of the 20th century the city of Anderson was a part of the innovation that changed how the nation would travel forever.
From the early days of Delco Remy and Guide Lamp to Delco Remy America by the end of the century, thousands of area residents worked in General Motors plants. As manufacturing changed to an age of electronics the local manufacturing landscape changed forever.
More than 150 people gathered Thursday evening at The Anderson Center for the Arts for the release of The Herald Bulletin book “The Auto Industry of Madison County: A History of Innovation."
Former company and union officials gathered to scan old photographs and to renew old acquaintances.
Scott Underwood, editor of The Herald Bulletin, said the county has a long, rich, wonderful history in the automobile industry.
“From the turn of the industry when the auto industry started through the GM years,” he said, “some of the most important plants in the world were located in Anderson.”
Jim Hensley, former president of United Auto Workers Local 663, which represented Guide workers, started working for General Motors in 1954.
He recalled beginnings of the UAW and the famous sit-down strike of 1936 when 169 workers sat inside the plant for 18 days with food being delivered through the fence.
The first contract between the UAW and GM was a one-page document that recognized the union, started negotiations, terminated the strike and assured there would be no retaliation against the workers.
Hensley worked at Guide for 47 years.
“It was a good job and a good living,” he said. “My children worked there and so did my mother. Four generations of our family. Unfortunately it won’t happen again around here.”
Jim Ault, former general manager at Delco Remy, said he’s been asked many times what happened.