On August 18, 2018, the NAMM Oral History team was invited to attend the Crown International employee carry-in! It was an honor as the 200 plus people who arrived were all past employees of the company that had officially closed a month before the event. Folks from all divisions, and at all levels within the factory, came to see each other. As an outside observer, it appeared to me to be a big family reunion complete with hugs and grandma's recipe for the best potato salad. Thanks to the wonderful help of the members of the organizing committee, 17 employees were scheduled throughout the day for 20-minute interviews for the Oral History collection. It was an exciting day, as each person spoke of their own story about how they came to Crown and what the company and its people have meant to them.
At the heart of these stories was the sense of pride put into the products produced in the factory in Elkhart. From the engineer and design team to the factory worker on the assembly line, and the shipping clerk, each employee felt a part of the process. While there were tears for the closing of the factory, the gathering was very upbeat and all about the friendships. Crown had created the perfect place for creativity in the innovation of both amplifiers and microphones while allowing it's employees to be empowered within the work they did. As a result, they counted on each other and cared for each other. All of which were expressed in the hugs shared that day. What a day for them, and what a special day for this observer!
One of the highlights for the employees was going to the back of the room to find their old security badge, complete with a photo taken on their first week on the job. For some of those who proudly put the badges on it was clear they felt as if they were right back at the factory. The memories they shared were so inspiring, such as those who attended each other's weddings and watched each other's children grow. The feeling of family was in the air, along with the sweet smell of apple pie and cookies. Then, by complete surprise to me a sentimental moment developed when three friends of Karen Juday walked up to me and presented me with her badge. They proceeded to tell me the story of how she worked at Crown for many years before falling in love and moving to New York, where she began working as an Executive Secretary at the Cantor Fitzgerald Investment Bank. The company occupied the 101st through 105th floors of One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan where she lost her life on September 11, 2001. The three friends handed me her badge and asked if it could be added to the NAMM Resource Center Collection. I was initially speechless but expressed how much of an honor it would be for us to remember Karen in this special way.
Throughout the day Deb, Jan, and Tom made sure the interviewees came to the interview room at their scheduled times so we could record their stories. I am proud to say, with the interviews gathered that day and a number I had previously conducted our Oral History video collection now has over 20 interviews from Crown employees!
More than walking away with interviews, the Crown carry-in gave me the chance to witness a family gather that resulted in me gaining a few great new friends. Crown may have closed in Elkhart, but the innovations they created and the spirit in which they encouraged each other will remain.
See all of the interviews collected at the 2018 Crown carry-in and those collected prior to this exciting event by clicking here.
Dan Del Fiorentino
NAMM Music Historian