Fulliam Retires Following 32 Year Career With Olin Brass/Weiland
A 32-year-career came to an end for John Fulliam, Doolittle, at Olin Brass, (now Weiland North American Products) in Cuba, on Friday, September 11.
A small ceremony was held for Fulliam at the Cuba plant, 102 Progress Parkway, that featured retired employees, current employees, and family in attendance.
New Plant Manager Michael Turnbough served as emcee for the gathering and highlighted the accomplishments of Fulliam through his career, which began in October 1988.
Fulliam's work career began early when he learned to deliver milk on a local delivery route in the Sullivan and Cuba areas with his family.
In 1972, Fulliam served his country in the United States Air Force, a career he had intended to retire from. During his reenlistment in 1976, the Air Force discovered an old eye injury Fulliam had sustained as a kid. Fulliam had a small piece of metal embedded in his eye, which would lead to an end of his military career in 1980.
Following that, Fulliam drove a tractor-trailer to support his family and then began working at Meramec Industries/Fashion Show in Sullivan before landing a job as a mill operator with a new company that just opened in Cuba -- Olin Brass -- in October 1988.
By December of 1988, Fulliam's work ethic and leadership led him to the hourly foreman position. He spent nine years as the third shift foreman and eventually lead foreman. Fulliam became general foreman in 2005, was named plant supervisor in 2012, and became plant manager from 2014-2020.
Fulliam, during his ceremony, discussed the early years of the Olin operation and his career at the plant.
"During those early years, we worked four groups seven days a week, and there were 130 employees in the plant," said Fulliam. "Those were some long days, and it wasn't a matter of if you were gonna work Saturdays, but if you had to work Sunday."
Fulliam stated that competition from China and Mexico, along with a strike at their East Alton, Illinois operation, saw their production numbers decrease from 1.2 to 1.4 million pounds a month to 600,000
in 2000 and the company never really regained their overall business again.
"We became a niche operation for our customers and have continued to keep the business here and operating," said Fulliam. In 2007 Olin sold to KPS and in 2011-2012 sold again and become GBC Metal. In 2019, the company was sold to the German company Weiland," said Fulliam. "I've been a part of a lot of changes over the years."
Fulliam stated that one thing he didn't like about the job was the lost time with his family.
"Again, I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor of this company and work my way up and have a great career here," said Fulliam. "But to do that, I had a lot of 12 to 16 hour days, six and seven days a week, which didn't leave a lot of time for family. That's the one thing I look back on now and didn't like about the job, but it did allow me to raise my family and help take care of them."
For Fulliam, there was no doubt what he was going to miss about his job as when asked, he quickly responded, "the people here."
"When you have worked at a place this long with all these people, they are your family, we've all watched each other have children, watch them grow up from babies to their wedding days, and sadly, we've also walked with each other to the graves of family members and co-workers," said Fulliam. "That's the hardest thing about walking out this door today, but the best thing about my career here, simply these people."
Fulliam now looks to fish, travel with his wife in his retirement, and possibly find a part-time job down the road.
"I have a lot of honey-do-lists to complete, and I look forward to fishing, traveling a bit, but I'm sure I will find a part-time job at some point, laughed Fulliam.
The Sullivan Independent News would like to wish Fulliam a long and happy retirement.