As written by Rod Burrus for the Tyler Pipe March 2014 Monthly Newsletter…
“I asked Mr. James Madison why he worked out here at Tyler Pipe for 55 years. To which he replied back, ‘That’s the question, huh?’ He said, ‘I guess I just like what I am doing. Every morning for the last 55 years I got out of bed and came to work, I never thought about how long I would be here.’ I asked how he got to Tyler Pipe back in 1959. This is his story.
It was early in the summer of 1959 and he and three of his friends were out riding in a car and they decided that they needed to find some work. The first stop that they made was out at Western Foundry. ‘There were all of these big guys out there pushing iron and we didn’t like it much. So we came on down the road to Tyler Pipe. We just drove up and went and looked inside of the foundry. Everything was open back then. You could walk right up and see where they were pouring iron. Well there was this fellow named Jack Sheffield and he kind of interviewed us. Out of the four of us he offered two of us jobs. Mr. Sheffield said that he sure needed us to come to work and so we started right then and there. I didn’t even get to go home. I called my mama from the office and told her I got a job and would be home sometime. They put us to work immediately and my buddy Jasper, he told me he couldn’t deal with it so at lunch time he was gone.‘
‘They put me on the piggin machine. Use to, we would pig our own iron because if there was still iron running at shift change, we would start up the pig machine and that iron would just run off into it. I was using a pick to drop those pigs out of the machine. It was hot. John Warner, President of Tyler Pipe came up there and he said, “You’ve been at it for quite a while, have you had a break?” I told him no, I hadn’t had a break. He told me to go take a 45 minute break. He rolled up his sleeves and started knocking those pigs for 45 minutes until I got back. Well evidently Mr. Warner talked to my supervisor because I never missed a lunch again.’
‘I guess some of my best memories are running that cupola bucket. It was a different time back then and we had a bucket that was hooked to a jib line and we filled that bucket with scrap. If the cupola was too full the jib line would come loose from the bucket. Well we needed to get our bucket out of there and since I was the smallest, they would tie a rope around my waist and lower me into the bucket that was inside the cupola so I could hook up the line. The fellas use to make fun of me because I would kind of wonder around aimlessly afterwards. Come to find out the gas was getting to me.’ Mr. Madison smiled and said, ‘Those were the good old days.’
I asked Mr. Madison what job he did that he disliked the most. He said, ‘There was a big boss out here, Bo Jackson, VP of the company. He wanted to go on top of the scrap pile and I was a running the crane. He brought some woman with him and he wanted to show her what it looked like on top of that pile of scrap. Mr. Jackson came over to my crane and told me to lift them up and put them on top of the scrap. I tell you, it was mighty cold that day, but I was sweating bullets. And I thought to myself, “I sure will be glad when they leave.”‘
Mr. Madison thought for a while and said, ‘These folks out here are like extended family. My supervisor at one time was J.W. Buckner, that’s Greg Buckner’s dad. For some reason Mr. Buckner called me “Muscle.” I have been known as “Junior,” “Puny,” “Muscle,” “Jivin’ Horse Man” and of course, “Hoss” is what they call me now. There have been people that have worked with for years and I never knew their real name. My wife called out here one time and asked for James Madison. They didn’t know who she wanted. She said, “They call him ‘Junior.’” They came and got me immediately; they didn’t know my name. We had a fellows out here like “Reverend Star”, ole Melvin Hampton, Hampton was the “Lemon Drop Kid,” Wayne Walker was called “the Mayor,” that’s Tommy Walker’s dad. They said that Tommy learned a lot from Wayne. I don’t know if it was true but I would like to think so. Joe Wilson was called “City Man.”‘ Mr. Madison mentioned numerous names like Turner Morris, or “lead belly,” Uncle Roy, Leroy Anderson, Chester Moon, TC Porter and Big George Richardson. ‘Bo Johnson gave us our names. They were all good friends, just like family.’
When asked about the future, Mr. Madison said that he intended to keep working as long as his health would let him. Mr. Madison said, ‘I talked to an awful lot of guys that retired. They had nothing to do. I need a reason to wake up in the morning, someplace to go.’ Every day James Madison arrives out at Tyler Pipe at 6:00am or 7:00am, depending on the day of the week. He takes his lunch and his coffee and heads up the flight of stairs to the crane at the Cupola. He says he takes everything up there because it is too far to come down. He said it makes you plan your day. He has come a long way since he and his three friends went for a drive in the summer of 1959.
Tyler Pipe is honored and proud to have Mr. James Madison work here and is appreciative to the 55 years of service that he has provided. We would like to mark the month of May as “Madison Month” [and would like to celebrate] Mr. James Madison for passing his 55th year milestone at Tyler Pipe on May 25, 2014.”
We always love to see employees who have put it years and years of work and truly enjoy what they do. We commend Mr. James Madison on his hard work and devotion and look forward to his contributions in the coming years. Congratulations, Mr. Madison!