A nearly 52-year commute
Lloyd Dawson doesn’t know how many miles he’s logged commuting back and forth to Eastman, but it would be a safe guess that he has driven well more than 100,000 miles between Greene County, Tenn., and Kingsport, Tenn.
Dawson has been commuting to work for nearly 52 years, making him the current Eastman team member with the longest length of service. He hired on at Eastman on September 11, 1968, just a few months after his graduation from North Greene High School. He started on a cleanup crew and today serves as a technologist associate in the Chemical Manufacturing division.
“On September 11, 1968, I started out in Building 226, which then was Kodel, in the continuous filament section working cleanup. Building 226, Building 102, Building 98 were the old yarn services,” he says. “I came off cleanup and went into what they call the Bobbin Room. There, they had what they called yarn haulers, but I never did get to that point. I was working in the Bobbin Room, preparing bobbins for the spinning and yarn areas. I transferred out acetate yarn into organic chemicals in the 70s. I worked as a stacker driver in Building 90 and Building 3 — Building 3 no longer exists. It’s torn down.”
Dawson moved into Building 57 operations in the mid-1970s and was eventually named a relief foreman, now called a utility operation. He moved to hydroquinone production in 1980 and was made a team manager. He’s worked in hydroquinone since.
Even while he was still in high school, Dawson had his sights set on a job at Eastman.
“Eastman has a reputation of reliability, security, good benefits, and that’s one thing that drew me to Eastman — the security of employment. And it’s been great to me over the years. You see a lot of change in 50 years with the company but all those changes, in my opinion, have been positive.” Dawson said his nearly 52 years of employment has been highlighted by the folks he’s worked with.
“One thing that Eastman has going for it is its people,” he says. “Good people. I don’t know anywhere else that you can work and be associated with all levels of people — people who will listen to you and will work with you. They had that reputation 50 years ago and they’ve still got that reputation today. I’ve heard many people who have retired and if you ask them, ‘Do you miss work?’ they say they miss the people more than anything, and I understand that.”
With his length of service comes being a part of decades of changes, and the biggest change Dawson has seen is in the area of safety. “What’s probably the biggest changes I’ve seen in my time? It is in the area of safety. I think we’ve made leaps and bounds in the safety area, in improvement. I mean you can never be too safe,” he says. “Not that long ago, you didn’t know what ‘lockout tagout’ meant. We didn’t have that. And you know, I think back, how in the world did we ever survive? I feel like now we work smarter, not harder, and technology has helped that.”
Of all the hats he’s worn here, Dawson says his favorite job is his current role.
“I get to work with staff people, maintenance people, sales people, operators down on the floor,” he says. “I get to work with all of them and I enjoy that. I enjoy my work. Have always enjoyed it. I’ve never really had a job here that I disliked doing.”
But what about retirement?
“I never thought I would stay here 50 years. It’s just a matter of time,” Dawson admits. “I probably will go within the next couple of years. I’ve been very, very fortunate health-wise. I think I worked 38 years and didn’t miss a day’s work. Now you know, if you’ve worked that long, you’ve had to come in feeling bad sometimes. And then I had back surgery and missed some time then. “My health’s good. I’m not a traveling person. I’m kind of a homebody, you might say. I could go. It’s no big deal. People look at others who’ve been here a long time and you hear people say, ‘They need to get a life.’ Eastman is not my life, but it’s the biggest part of it and it has been.”