Fishing, TV to replace bricks in new retiree’s life

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 17, 2003

Frank Dixon celebrated his 70th birthday at a retirement luncheon given in his honor by Henry Brick Company, where he had worked for 47 years. When queried about his plans for the future, he replied: &uot;Watch television, maybe fish, all I ever done is make brick.&uot;

Born in Burnsville on March 11, 1933, Dixon farmed during the earlier years of his life. &uot;But I married, the children started coming and I needed to make enough money to take care of them,&uot; he says. Just before his 23rd birthday he began work at the old Selma Brick Company, started in the late 1920s and purchased by J.D. Henry, owner of Henry Brick Company, two years after he opened his company.

The older company where Dixon started was located north of the railroad from the Henry plant and had a periodic kiln operation, requiring a lot of hand labor. Dixon handled brick there until August, 1958, when the plant was closed. Henry added a second tunnel kiln to the Henry Plant to replace the less efficient production at the old Selma Brick Company.

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Dixon was moved over to the new plant and given the job of operating the brick machine.

Ted Henry, chairman and CEO of the company says that Dixon has been &uot;an

outstanding employee. It is hard to believe he has been at this job so long. He has seen a lot of changes. When he started this job in 1958 the company had a capacity of less than 28 million brick a year. Plant 1 where he worked has doubled production since then.&uot;

Dixon recalls his years at the old machine. &uot;The first machine was real old, a 60, the new one is a 90, the biggest there is and it puts out more brick. After they come out they go through the dryer, then the kiln. I been 45 years on the machine.&uot;

Dixon has other memories of early days at old Selma Brick Company. &uot;I remember the brick yard pond, clean and pretty and full of fish, lots of bass and brim. I used to see a little ‘gator ’bout four or five feet long, not mean atall. He lived off them fishes. But when the big flood come in ’61, he left.&uot;

Moving Dixon to the new machine, which was built by J.C. Steele and was the industry standard, gave him &uot;the honor of operating the largest brick machine in the world. It enabled us to remodel other areas of the plant and to increase production. Frank did a good job helping us raise our production levels as the demand for brick increased,&uot; Henry says.

Henry Brick management built a second plant that started in October 1973, and a second Steele machine was installed. Both machines continue to operate in the east Selma area where brick has been made since the mid-1850s. And Henry estimates that when Dixon retired, he would have seen more than 1.6 billion brick pass through his machine.

He will miss making brick, Dixon says. &uot;I like it, making brick. Being the first job I ever had, the only job, I know I’ll miss it, and the people I work with been good to me, look after me. If I hadn’t been looked after so good I couldn’t have made brick so long.

Now that he’s stopped making brick Dixon said &uot;maybe my children (he has nine) will come around sometime. I don’t bother them much; they got their own lives. Whatever I do, Selma is my home. I don’t think nothing about going nowhere, ’til the Lord takes me away.&uot;