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A recent look into the old factory at 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo


jt
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OK, first a caveat: the narration is in French. Last November, the producers of the French program on Arte TV, Invitation au Voyage, flew me to my beloved Kalamazoo to record a short (under 8 minutes) documentary about the Kalamazoo Gals and me. It was great fun and, imho, the resulting production is wonderful.

Anyway, you'll get to look at the exterior and interior of 225 Parsons Street as it was in November 2019. The renovation project is supposedly ramping up next month. We'll see. You also get to see what Heritage Guitars, the company formed by the folks who stayed in Kalamazoo when Gibson moved to Nashville in 1984, are doing. Gibson left all its equipment and all of its original body molds in Kalamazoo. At some point, you'll see me walk past what looks like a giant wheel with bits of wood clamped to it. That is a 1908 clamping machine used to hold the halves of tops as the glue joint dried. Yep, a piece of equipment that was in the building during Orville Gibson’s days. Every piece of machinery, from 1908 through the mid-1980s is still at 225 Parsons St. Every machine used by the Gals during WWII. (Yes, a full-length documentary as well as a dramatic adaptation for movie theater release are in the works).

So, pardon the bald guy. But I think this is pretty cool.

 

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The video was wayyyy cool.    Even if it was in French.  Seeing the inside of the factory was amazing, it looks so similar to photos I've seen of the Kalamazoo Gibson/Epiphone factory, like little has changed.  Which makes it even more cool.   A few years back my wife and I were driving on I-94 through Michigan  and took a detour into Kalamazoo, in search of the current Heritage factory just to see the outside of the building,but, for some reason could not locate it.  A drive around Kalamazoo was none the less interesting, which looked just like the film's footage before it showed JT in the factory.   Americana for sure.

JT, thanks for sharing.  The other JT, James Taylor, had a song about in my mind I'm going to Carolina.  The film you uploaded makes me think of in my mind I'm going to the old Gibson factory.  The same dreamy vibe, especially during this shelter in thing,

QM aka "Jazzman" Jeff 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, jt said:

. Yep, a piece of equipment that was in the building during Orville Gibson’s days. Every piece of machinery, from 1908 through the mid-1980s is still at 225 Parsons St. Every machine used by the Gals during WWII. 

 

 

John,

I was under the impression that some of the original equipment made it's way to Bozeman? When they first made the Legend J45, they boasted that the some of the original equipment was used. Any insight?

Thanks,

Dave

 

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Wonderful!  Thanks so much for sharing this inside peak.

How historically cool that the equipment dates back to Orville’s time.  Sometimes I look at my 1922 “A” mandolin (very early truss rod), and think about Lloyd Loar strolling through the plant - just like your own journey!

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1 hour ago, Dave F said:

 

John,

I was under the impression that some of the original equipment made it's way to Bozeman? When they first made the Legend J45, they boasted that the some of the original equipment was used. Any insight?

Thanks,

Dave

 

Dave,

I'm not sure.  As best I know, no major pieces of equipment went to Bozeman. It's certainly possible that I'm wrong. As my now-grown  kids say to this day, when in doubt, bet against dad.  🙂  I suspect that Bozeman got some molds and tools. I've spent time in at 225 Parsons with folks who know old equipment and they've identified saws, sanders, etc. from the 1920s thorough the 1980s. Certainly not much has been moved.

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1 hour ago, bobouz said:

Wonderful!  Thanks so much for sharing this inside peak.

How historically cool that the equipment dates back to Orville’s time.  Sometimes I look at my 1922 “A” mandolin (very early truss rod), and think about Lloyd Loar strolling through the plant - just like your own journey!

This story has and continues to touch me. 225 Parsons Street really has changed my life. You referenced the truss rod. Just this morning, I received this email message: " I am the 2nd great grandson of Thaddeus Joseph McHugh; truss rod inventor, and man of many hats throughout his career at Gibson Guitar Company. " (Yes, I have followed up with this person). This sort of thing happens to me all the time.

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2 hours ago, 75 Hummingbird said:

Wow  ,that shop must have been cold in the winter and hot as blazes in the summer ! 

Yes! The Gals told me about this. I was again in the building in December with the last surviving Gal (she's now 96). She told me, "This is just like I remember it: freezing cold!"

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Very nice. But whose idea was it to have "the blues man" walking down the tracks away from 225🙂? Talk about retracing the steps of The Gals. . .

Also- visible in the outside footage, the scaffolding for restoring (?) the G I B S O N smokestack. The last two letters, are in already in place?

Hopefully, the overall project will continue.

 

8 hours ago, QuestionMark said:

  A few years back my wife and I were driving on I-94 through Michigan  and took a detour into Kalamazoo, in search of the current Heritage factory just to see the outside of the building,but, for some reason could not locate it. 

A shame, after having made the detour. Before GPS or smartphone? At least you got to see Orville's stomping ground.

 

3 hours ago, Dave F said:

John,

I was under the impression that some of the original equipment made it's way to Bozeman? When they first made the Legend J45, they boasted that the some of the original equipment was used. Any insight?

Thanks,

Dave

Was it Ren, or someone, talking in one of the interviews where it was mentioned Bozeman had one of the original jigs from Kalamazoo to cut dovetails for the neck join?

Edited by 62burst
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2 hours ago, jt said:

This story has and continues to touch me. 225 Parsons Street really has changed my life. You referenced the truss rod. Just this morning, I received this email message: " I am the 2nd great grandson of Thaddeus Joseph McHugh; truss rod inventor, and man of many hats throughout his career at Gibson Guitar Company. " (Yes, I have followed up with this person). This sort of thing happens to me all the time.

So cool JT.  The work you have done & continue to do in bringing the Gibson story forward is very much appreciated.

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3 hours ago, 62burst said:

A shame, after having made the detour. Before GPS or smartphone? At least you got to see Orville's stomping ground.

 


The heck of it is, I was using my  Garmin GPS in my car, and still couldn’t find it.  The GPS said it was a half a mile away and then nothing.  No you it’s on the left or right or turn right and you have arrived at your destination.  Nothing.    Not even make a U turn.  So I reset the GPS with the address again and still it didn’t show arriving.   In all fairness, there was a bunch of  street construction , so I may have just missed it.  But, checking out K’zoo was quite cool.

 

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff

 

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My sister-in-law's sister worked there,  In the mid-70s, when she  found out I had an LG1 built in Kalamazoo, she got me a set of Gibson strings for it.  Wish I'd have saved them.   JT - if you had not written your book - and done all the work surrounding it, before and after,  225 Parsons would have wound up like thousands of similar factories from that era.  An empty lot.  We lived in a 'Mill Town' in Western Mass, in the 80s and it was sad to see all the empty buildings where they made tools, guns, etc 100 years ago.  I hope the new CEO at Gibson appreciates the contribution you've made to preserve his company's history.  You can't put a price on it, as evidenced by the comments here.   

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