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Good to the very last bite
After 57 years, snackmakerís done enough with dough
 
Published Thursday, January 23, 2014 6:12 am
by Herbert L. White

Johnnie Kirkpatrick has mixed his last batch of dough.

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PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III
Johnnie Kirkpatrick, who worked at Snyder’s-Lance for 57 years, retired on Tuesday. His first job at the snackmaker was in maintenance for $1.10 an hour. “Thank the Lord I’ve gotten better wages since then,” he cracked at his retirement party. 

After 57 years, “Mr. Johnnie,” as Kirkpatrick is known at the Snyder’s-Lance plant in Charlotte, retired on Tuesday, bringing to a close a career that spanned 11 U.S. presidents, the invention of Rock & Roll and the dawn of the civil rights movement. 

“It’s like homecoming because I started when I was 19 and I just got in the habit of coming, so it was just like home,” said Kirkpatrick, 76, who worked as a mixer. “It was like something I was supposed to do.”

Kirkpatrick, who still wears a Carolina Panthers hard hat although plant rules no longer require it, was the guest of honor on Tuesday as family and co-workers streamed into the cafeteria to see him off. They laughed and swapped stories as they gave him a grand send-off replete with cake and punch. Kirkpatrick broke up the room when he revealed his starting salary in maintenance – $1.10 an hour.

“Thank the Lord I’ve gotten better wages since then,” he cracked.

Family and coworkers marveled at Kirkpatrick’s energy after all those years on the job. His daughter, Phyllis Swaringer of Charlotte, said Kirkpatrick exemplifies the value of work.

“It’s time for him to enjoy his life,” she said. “To me, in this day and age, people don’t work that long – either they’re outsourced or whatever. To me, it means stability. We had someone to look up to who’s going to work every day, so it instilled those values in us.”

Kirkpatrick did it daily, driving the 42-mile commute from Marshville in Union County to Charlotte, where he mixed snack ingredients for Snyder-Lance cookies, chips and other snacks. Working second shift from 2-11 p.m. afforded him the flexibility to spend time with family.

“It probably kept me out of the streets at night because I started when I was 19,” Kirkpatrick said. “We got off back then at 11 o’clock. Most of the time I just went on home.”

Snyder-Lance has been home to Kirkpatrick’s family over the years. His late wife, Odessa, three of their children and two of his sisters worked at the plant. 

“They think it was a good place to work, so they just came on in,” Kilpatrick said. “My youngest daughter is here, my son and my oldest daughter worked here a couple of times.”

Bakery manager Eddie Carswell, who started at Lance in 1976, recalled Kirkpatrick as a supervisor who was willing to help him learn the ropes. 

“One of the first people I worked for was Johnnie,” he said. “He took me under his wing. Other than working one summer at Carowinds and my grandpa’s farm, I’d never been exposed to work like this in manufacturing, but he knew all the ropes and had all the answers. He was like a father figure at work, really.”

Kirkpatrick doesn’t plan to ease into retirement. He’s got travel plans and wants to connect with the soil, like he did as a youngster in Matthews before heading to Charlotte and manufacturing. 

“I was on second shift, so I’m going to try to keep the same schedule and get around,” Kirkpatrick said. “I want to do some traveling and live out in the country, so I’ll do a little bit of gardening. I’ll stay busy. I’ll have more time to do what I want to and I know in the mornings I won’t have to get up and say let me hurry because I have to go to work.”

 

Comments

Great man that instilled good valves for others to follow - he's got Jesus...good luck in your retirement - Keep moving...Bless you and your family ..I enjoyed Lance for 30 years ...
Posted on January 24, 2014
 

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