Chicago Employee Reflects on 50 Years with Ford

Half a century ago “seems like yesterday” for Lorenzo Santoyo, talking about his first day at Ford Motor Company.

“My brother and I were stopped in the plant to use the restroom,” he said. “On our way out, a supervisor asked if he wanted a job. When they told my brother about the different personal protective equipment that was necessary to work in the plant, he said he would only wear the gloves. So, needless to say, he did not get the job. I was asked if I wanted it and I said yes. This was June 1971.”

Think about it. No internet, no cellphones, no social media, no SUVs. The cars Ford offered then were Mustang, Pinto, LTD, Torino and Maverick. Popular TV shows were “All My Children,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “McCloud,” “The Odd Couple” and “The Partridge Family.” Famous people born in 1971 were Mariah Carey, Tupac Shakur, Lance Armstrong and Winona Ryder.

“I started out loading doors on 23 line,” said Santoyo. “This is back when everything was manual.” There were no Schulers back then, he recalled, which are transfer presses. Santoyo also remembered some of his supervisors and superintendents from back then, such as Claude Jones, Will Hunt, Dan Dattilo, John Stanko and Ernie Evans. “I think Ernie Evans was the best,” he said. “He cared about his people and took care of them.”

Born in Mexico City, Santoyo’s family moved to Chicago Heights when he was 19 years old. He now lives in a south suburb, far from the plant. In his spare time, he loves going out to movies and hanging out with his co-workers in rack repair. His department is a close-knit group and they frequently do activities together.

“I plan on working for a few more years,” said Santoyo. “I still don’t believe it’s been 50 years!”

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