Ex-DuPont inventor: 'I don't miss having to keep management from killing' science (Update)

Even the biggest corporations are not so durable as you or me.

That’s one message former DuPont Co. employees, who outnumber the 50,000 who still worked there when the 215-year-old, Wilmington-based manufacturer merged into Dow Chemical Co. last week, have been leaving on the online pages where defunct companies linger while ex-employees argue the good, the bad, and the lessons learned.

The DuPont Pensioners Facebook page (members only; there are more than 6,900) serves partly as a rallying point for lobbying DowDuPont executives and public officials to make sure promised pensions and medical plans continue and partly as a bulletin board and memoir.

Three days after the Sept. 1 merger, a retired DuPont nylon worker posted a string of favorite catchphrases from his years at the Sabine River Works in Texas, still home to the Koch brothers’ Invista fabrics and DowDuPont chemical operations.

A few of his favorites (these and other posts edited for clarity):

Let me put my brain on the table and explain it to you.
When you find a train to ride, ride it as long as you can.

Colleagues added:

Give them what they ask for and they get what they deserve.
We’ve got to save the sheep! (For any project that required a lot of work from a small number of people for the benefit of a larger, presumably clueless group)
Two things you never say at DuPont: “They can’t.” And, “I won’t!”
“I’m from Wilmington and I’m here to help you!”

And from farther afield:

“I started work in ’65, for Remington Arms (which DuPont owned until 1993). We were using your nylon to make the Nylon 66, a great little .22 rimfire rifle. Had a lifetime guarantee. We fixed them, even if the customer had run over it with his truck.”

“The thing I remember most about DuPont was the philosophy that, if one person could do the job in 30 days, then 30 people could do it in one day.” (Until the 1970s, DuPont also owned its home-state daily newspapers, where that was also part of the job description.)

The (2000s DuPont CEO) Chad Halliday experiment was a failure. His strategy of ‘Buy and Sell,’ instead of enrich what we had, simply did not work.”

“I started in 1966 at the Experimental Station. Worked in Building 353, Elastomers. Affectionately known as The Nuthouse On The Hill.”

“I came from a family of DuPonters. I had 36 years myself. It’s weird to think my grandchildren won’t even know the company name.”

“Best memories are of the many excellent people. Apparently now in short supply at the top ranks.”

I was never able to gain access to the Good Ole Boy club. The progress I made was all uphill!”

I feel very lucky that we live less than 15 minutes from Longwood Gardens. This morning we walked there for exercise and discovered the new fountain museum, in the original pump house. You quickly realize that Pierre du Pont (II, 1870-1954) was such an inquisitive and inventive person. He embodied all the things that made the DuPont Company such a force in innovation in this country and around the world. If you’ve never been to Longwood please plan a trip and marvel in what has been left for everyone to enjoy. Fortunately, Ed Breen (the last DuPont CEO, who now runs DowDuPont) and his ilk will never be able to take that away from us, our families, and those who worked for the company before us.”

And one more ex-nylon worker: “I remember my first day, 1962, learning how to fold blue-line prints in the blueprint room by hand. Thousands of them. We had a machine to do it, but we had to learn how in case the machine broke down. The fellow that taught me eventually was the best man in my wedding. The work was hard but we had fun back then. It’s the people I miss.”

MONDAY UPDATE: A DuPont scientist who headed a successful product development team adds: “DowDuPont will never replicate those innovations…. Wilmington visitors, usually high level management, [were] compared to seagulls: They fly in, squawk a lot, eat your food, poop on you, and then fly home — on a corporate jet. Actually that’s a bad rap for seagulls….

“Risk taking was not encouraged by management because any failures would cap their careers. But, of course, they were more than happy to take credit for your hard work. That led to our saying: ‘Success has many DuPont fathers, but failure is an orphan child.’

“I miss my great teams that believed in doing the right thing… and worked hard to build those un-rewarded successes. I don’t miss having to manage the management in order to prevent them from killing off those teams.

“DuPont lasted longer than nearly all of the Fortune 500, but died due to the greed of a few self important leaders. Sad!

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