Walworth Valve Company
During the first few years of my life, my father Edson Carl Beck worked in the coal mines located in Melcroft, Pennsylvania. The coal veins underground in this area were low, thin seams and the miners worked bent over to gig with pick and shovel to extract the black mineral, then to haul it to the surface. Because of the low ceiling, he had a dark tattoo on his forehead earned by bumping his head on a low overhang and it wasn’t properly washed out at the time.
He next worked at a factory called The Walworth Valve Company in South Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The company made valves from casting to shaping and selling. There was a foundry where the men poured the hot molten metal into molds shaping the bodies of the valves, the wedge gates, and the ball stoppers. The metals used were brass, iron, and stainless steel. The choice of the different metals was determined by the type of valve requested for the valves. I believe the smallest valves were brass with a 2.5 inch diameter opening and the largest valves were steel or stainless steel and were 3.5 feet in diameter.
Walworth was an old, wood-block floored factory. It was started in 1888. The machines were powered by a belt/ pulley system. A second floor line of pulleys on a long shaft spun leather belts that reached down to the machines on the first floor transferring the motion to each individual machine.
My father’s job was to run a large overhead drill press. His expertise on the machine often caused him to actually earn less money than those less qualified. Let me explain. Other men were assigned smaller, multiple pieces in a run. Once they were set up, they could drill out the valves in a short time, earning piece work. That meant if they finished more pieces that the average, they got higher wages.
However, my dad would have to set up his machine to do only one, two, or maybe three valves. The set up time for the drill between orders was lost of productivity and he only earned a straight salary compared to many of the other men doing piecework. His knowledge hindered his wages instead of helping him.I worked there for a nearly a year before joining the United States Navy in 1968, but my father continued to work there until 1975 when management decided to fold up their tents and move the entire operation to Mexico. One of the original buildings from the factory is still standing. It is the white, stucco-looking medical building situated behind Hoss’s Restaurant in South Greensburg just off Rt. 119.