It was Late on a sunny, but bitterly cold mid-February afternoon. Michael Patrick, red-eared from the chill, cast a long shadow across the rough concrete that used to be the Appliance City factory floor. A few months earlier, two-thirds of the expansive ruin had been razed. It was now an extended chinhigh pile of crumbled bricks, broken cinderblocks, mangled rebar, and cornyellow insulation chunks. Patrick, dressed in a corduroy jacket, wool trousers, and a brown wool fedora, remarked that there was little now to stop the bitter Arctic winds that swept through the enormous demolition site. One could see clear through to the Henry C. Hill Correctional Center across the tracks and farther north on Illinois Route 41. The razed portion of the former factory was big enough to fit twenty football fields, side by side. The newest part of the factory was still standing, but vacant. The California-based investment company that owned the property hoped that clearing the “old, antiquated industrial real estate” would make the remaining property more attractive to potential buyers. “When you’re here,” Patrick said, “you think about the people. It was the blood, sweat, and tears of the workers that made this place run. It was ours, you know? We had different owners come and go but we made it run.” He pushed his hands deep into his jacket pockets and shrugged. It was early 2013, and Patrick could mark fifty-four years since he and Bob Dennison, Doug’s father, started packing insulation at Admiral’s Midwest Manufacturing plant on January 26, 1959. Patrick lived alone in a modest brick house on South Pleasant Avenue, just across the BNSF tracks, less than a mile away. The 72-year-old retiree hibernated in the winter, but managed to make each of his granddaughter’s sixth-grade basketball games. When the weather warmed, Patrick took his late model minivan to antique shows, estate sales, and collectors’ conventions. He collected license plates and license plate toppers, die-cast cars, and other trinkets. Earlier that day, over lunch at the Landmark Cafe, we had discussed the wage pressures, retiree obligations, and foreign competition that faced Maytag in the early 2000s.
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