years of Nylon
DuPont plant workers, retirees celebrate
Manager credits plant's longevity to the people who work there
By Lynn R. Parks
The nylon plant in Seaford is one of the oldest DuPont plants still
in operation. And it is still going strong, said plant manager Bland
Dickey, because of the people it employs.
"I think there are only about two other that are older, and that
is world-wide," said Dickey, who came to Seaford in 1996. "That
is because the people at this plant are a cut above everybody else.
I have worked other places and the value of this workforce is really
Last week, the Seaford plant marked its 60th birthday. On Wednesday,
the first of a two-day celebration attended by about 2,000 current
workers and retirees, Dickey said that with plans to double the
size of its polymer operation, the plant will still be going strong
when it celebrates its 70th birthday.
Reading from a proclamation issued for the plant's 50th anniversary
celebration and adapted for this celebration, he said, "We will
continue to touch the lives of people around the world in more ways
that anyone could have dreamed of 60 years ago."
When Dickey assumed his duties at the plant, he was presented with
one of the first pairs of stockings to be made from Seaford nylon.
(The stockings, until recently on display at the Seaford Museum,
were part of a display set up for the celebration.) But, he said,
nylon has come to be used for much more than stockings.
"Tires, airbags, toothbrushes, hubcaps; there are so many things
nylon goes into," he said. A significant percentage of uniforms
worn by American soldiers are made from staple, a type of nylon
made at the plant, said Art Cathell, operations development leader
and 36-year employee. Staple also goes into tennis ball covers and
pool table cloths and nylon, which is trucked out from the plant
in 25-mile bolts, is used in carpets.
"This is something that I don't think we reflect on enough," said
"We have made a significant difference in 60 years and we are still
doing that today. That is a real credit."
Construction of the Seaford plant began in January 1939 and the plant
opened nine months later, in October. During Wednesday evening's ceremony,
Dickey introduced descendants of the Mears family, who sold 700 acres
of farmland to the DuPont Company for the plant. He also introduced
Caroline O'Bier, who was the first woman to work in the plant.
"Thank-you for being the pioneer that you were," he said.
Wright Robinson, 91, former owner of The Leader newspaper, reminisced
about the Seaford of the 1930s and what the announcement that the
nylon plant was coming meant to the town. He told William and Jack
Mears, sons of the man who sold his land to DuPont, that their father
"sacrificed greatly" to insure the town's prosperity. He also told
of walking along High Street when the announcement was made that the
plant was coming.
"I'll not forget the day the plant came," he said. "The whole town
went wild. The Laurel High School band and the Seaford High School
band marched in a parade down High Street. I sat down on the steps
of Burton Bros. and listened to a gentleman with tears in his eyes
tell me a story:
'I got about 60 acres to farm and that makes me a living. But I can't
divide this land up for my sons. Now, with this plant, I know that
my boys will be able to make a living in Seaford. You just don't know
how much that means to me.'
"That doesn't sound like much," continued Robinson. "But this was
in the 1930s. Seaford was just coming out of the Depression and to
have something to guarantee our boys' and girls' future was a great
The Harris family of Laurel was one of the families to whom DuPont
made a big difference. According to Morris Harris, who attended Wednesday's
ceremony as official photographer for the plant's 25-Year Club, he,
his brother and his father all retired from DuPont.
Morris worked at the plant from 1957 to 1996, his father, Roscoe,
from 1949 to 1975 and his brother, Dale, from 1958 to 1992. Another
brother, Ronald, worked there from 1965 to 1970.
"I am very proud of this company," said Harris. "They were very good
to me. I raised three sons and sent them all to college and I have
a good retirement."
At its peak in the 1950s, the nylon plant employed 4,600 people. Today,
said Dickey, it has 1,200 full-time employees and 400 contract workers.
Despite the decrease in employees, Dickey said that the relationship
between the plant and the community as well as between the plant and
its workers is strong.
"Last year we put $50 million in the local economy in wages and materials
bought," he said. "We contribute to local causes, including the Boys
and Girls Club. Our employees go to church in Seaford, their children
attend schools here, they are members of the Kiwanis and the Lions
clubs. They are making this town a better place to live."