Boyce Owens of Taboro, recalled working at the old Long Manufacturing Co. in Tarboro and earning 75 cents an hour. He remembered making hay bailers, tractors and other farm equipment in the buildings that housed one of the first manufacturing companies in town.
Soon, those buildings will be just memories for Owens and other former employees as they are in the process of being demolished.
Advanced Demolition and Recycling, of Raleigh, is knocking down three of the buildings that total approximately 250,000 square feet. By tearing the buildings down, owner Montana Tractors of Rogers, Ark., will reduced its tax liability on the property, currently assessed at $1,399,979.
For Montana Tractors, the demolition is sweet, but for Owens and many of Long's former employees, it's bitter.
"I don't like the idea," Owens said. "But I guess they got the use out of them and there's nothing else to do."
Owens, 79, began working at Long in 1954 and retired 32 1/2 years later. He recalled the owner, William “Bill” Long, began making small farm equipment at his house before starting up the operation in town. Owens soon joined him.
"I left the farm making 40 cents an hour to work at Long making 75 cents an hour," he said. "That was good back in them days.
"Everybody was so friendly — we were like brothers. I enjoyed it. I would go back and work 32 more years if I could. The Longs were very nice to me."
By the 1970s, Long's employment peaked at 1,100 employees in Tarboro and another 400 in Davenport, Iowa. Long also had warehouses in South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio and Canada.
"We were really big at that time," said Frank Hale, who worked for Long for 21 years. "I was a truck driver and I used to drive to the warehouses. Those were some good days. I've seen Long at it highest point and I've seen it at it lowest."
Hale didn't speak too much about Long's lowest point. His recollection was centered around the caring atmosphere among the employee and their boss.
"If you worked at Long and you did what you supposed to do, the Longs looked after you," he said. "They didn't pay me a lot of money, but they gave me enough to buy a car to drive and put a roof over my family's head. It was like home for me for 21 years."
Tarboro Mayor Donald Morris didn't work at Long, but he said he probably new hundreds of people who did. He said at one point Long was the largest employer in town.
"In the 1960s and 70s, Long supplied farm equipment all over the United States," he said. "The Longs were pioneers in the farm equipment business. They became self-made millionaires right here in Tarboro."
Morris has bitter-sweet emotions about the demolition of the buildings.
"They are tearing them down to decrease the tax value on the land," Morris said. "I understand that. That will be a big tax loss for the town in next years' budget.
"On the other hand, I hate to see it go. It's been a part of Tarboro for many years."
Tarboro resident Linda Goines said she also hates to see it go.
"When I heard about them tearing down the building, I thought what a wasted opportunity, it was because that was one of our first big industrial spreads here in Edgecombe County," she said. "It made a huge impact in this county and the southeastern United States. I wish they would use them for an Industrial Museum."
Goines' idea of an Industrial Museum is not altogether lost, as two of the buildings will not be torn down.
Jeffrey Laskin, owner of Advanced Demolition and Recycling, expects the demolition of the three buildings to take two months to complete demolition of the three buildings within two months. In the coming days Hale, who works across the street from the old Long Manufacturing Co., will get a first hand glimpse at the demolition. Being there is like completing a full circle.
"I work over here at Doug Henry, the grounds where I filled out an application to work at Long when I was 21 years old," Hale said. "Now I'm 73 years old and I'm standing on these grounds again. Long was like home to me."