One Saturday in November 1977, I was bending over the sink in the tiny lab cleaning the beakers for the next experiments.
Loud knocking sounded on the front door of the plant from outside on Mt. Elliot Street.
Mmm, on Saturday morning? I wasn’t expecting anyone today.
Wiping my hands on paper towels, I hesitated for a few minutes before opening the door. Open the door? No. Open the door? No.
The plant was located in the industrial zone on the east side of downtown Detroit. Even if it was in the industrial area, safety was a big concern. Recently we had a couple of instances. One was when I parked the car on the street in front of our building and all the hubcaps were gone in a couple of hours. Another instance was that a lady’s handbag was snatched by a couple of young men while she was pumping gas into her car at the gas station on the corner of Mt. Elliot St..
“Bang, bang, bang, again.“
I peeked through the small glass window. There was a man wearing dark navy blue overalls with a brownish straw hat. Without considering the consequences I opened the door spontaneously.
He introduced himself as soon as he entered the building. “ My name is Willie Fagan. Joe Brown, my brother-in-law, told me that you are looking for a worker for the plant.“
What a memory I had! I was getting old. I totally forgot that I mentioned to Joe that we needed a cleaning crew at the plant. The pounding of my heart from fear slowed down and a warm smile spread over my face, and his too.
“Come on in, Mr. Fagan.”
He sat down across the desk from me and I could see his huge dark brown hands with big knuckles. He weighed over 250 pounds. His strong body fully occupied the small wooden chair. He could easily have knocked me down to the floor, if he wanted to. Even though the rhythm of my heart reduced, the tension between us remained. He was told by Mr. Brown that an Oriental woman might be his boss, but nothing more than this simple information.
I explained to him about our lubricants business in drums and tankers and that our potential customers could be the auto industry. In order to avoid contamination of other chemicals, the tools, equipment and containers should be as clean as our kitchen pots and pans. It seemed that he understood my expectations clearly. He sat calmly, nodding his head and blinking his big eyes.
“Mr. Fagan, of course, the plant floor would also need to be cleaned,” I added. Then I gave him information about the wages and continued, “As you know, we are a start-up company and we cannot provide benefits, like health insurance or pension program.”
With a pleasant and unique smile covering his face, Willie said, “Miss Koo the wage is good enough for me. I do not need any benefits, since I retired from the Chrysler Jefferson Assembly Plant a few months ago”. For a few moments silence occupied the space, then I told him, “Thank you, Mr. Fagan”. I was completely comfortable with him and the fear that I had experienced before opening the door had totally vanished.
“Miss Koo, I will keep the tools, equipment and floors as spic and span as your kitchen.’’
He began to work the following Monday as the first employee in Chrysan Industries, Inc.’s history.