When Beverly Oaksford-Moore started working for Smith Corona in 1956, her first job was test-typing. Every manual typewriter that rolled off the production line needed to be tested, and Oaksford-Moore was one of people who did the testing.
“We had to type out a little paragraph that used all of the keys,” she said. She went on to do other jobs for the company, working a total of 25 years — 15 of those years for the plant in Groton.
Oaksford-Moore was one of about 40 people who showed up Saturday at Theodore Fenstermacher Memorial Recreation Hall at Beaudry Park in Cortland for the annual picnic held by and for former Smith Corona employees.
The former employees and some family members gather the first weekend after Labor Day every year to catch up, swap stories and enjoy a picnic lunch together.
These are generally low-key affairs; they’ve never served alcohol since the first picnic in 1995. That’s mainly to keep the cost down, said Lillian Parker of Homer, who has cooked for the event for years. The picnic is a potluck, except for the food from the grill, which Parker was in charge of.
Smith Corona was spoken of fondly by those in attendance, who remembered it for the close family atmosphere the company fostered, as well as the high-paying jobs.
“It was great,” said Martha Baker of Richford, who worked for the company from 1972 to 1993. “We all thought we’d be there forever.”
“We thought we’d retire from there,” Parker said.
That didn’t happen, though, as the company laid off more and more workers in the late 1980s and early 90s, transferring production to Mexico in 1993. One of the last jobs Parker had was shipping packages and equipment to Mexico. She worked at most of the buildings Smith Corona operated in the Cortland area: at the Groton, McLean Road, South Cortland, and Bennie Road facilities, but not at the Huntington Road and east Courthouse Avenue buildings.
“I kept closing the buildings up,” she said.
Workers also made lifelong friends at Smith Corona. Parker, for instance, met Pat Freeland 55 years ago, and they’ve been friends ever since. They still meet weekly to play dominos with other former Smith Corona employees.
Coretta Smith remembered the close-knit community the company made possible.
“Even the bosses didn’t act like bosses,” she said. “I would have stayed there to retire.”