TOLEDO (13abc Action News) – This weekend, we will celebrate 75 years of Jeep. Toledo Jeep Fest honors the rich history of the vehicle and the people who build them.
It all started with military vehicles and the Toledo-built Jeeps of today continue to shatter sales records.
The smoke stack is the only remnant of the original Jeep plant.
The very first vehicles to roll off the lines at the site of course helped win the war. Some of the people who helped build them still live in our community today.
93-year-old Casimer Orlowski is one of the oldest living Jeep retirees, “I started at 18-years-old. We were just getting out of the depression, so I was just glad to have a job.”
His career began in 1941, the same year Jeep was launched. He worked there for more than three decades, “it was hard work! Oh yes. We didn’t have all those modern tools. We had screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers, that’s about all.”
At first, he made less than a dollar an hour, “I started at 70 or 90 cents an hour. The most I ever made was $5.98 an hour when I retired.”
One of his proudest moments for Casimer was when he was serving as a Marine in World War II and was able to see the vehicle he helped build in action. He still drives a Jeep today, “If not for that plant I wouldn’t have what I have today. I stuck with it.”
90-year-old Betty Barnes also worked at the Jeep plant during the war,”I started in 1943 and worked there until 1945 in the salvage department. Since it was war time we couldn’t get parts.Things were rationed. So we would save everything in salvage. My job was to keep track of all the parts that came in and all the parts that went out.”
During the war many of Betty’s co-workers were women,”The men were gone, you would go on the lines and it was all women. I guess I was helping win the war in a way, but I never really thought about that.”
The smoke stack still standing at the old site today is an important reminder for Betty of her time at jeep and the plant’s place in our history, “I hope they never, never take it down.”
Toledo Jeep Fest is this Saturday. It kicks off with a parade in downtown at 11am. If you can’t make it, we will broadcast the parade live here on 13abc. There will also be a car show, military vehicle displays and activities for the kids.