We simply called it EJ. At one time, EJ was the largest shoe manufacturer in the world. I wore EJ shoes exclusively (except for sneakers!) until I went to college in the 1970s. Both my grandparents, Michael and Anna Serko, worked at EJ. I recall walking in their back door on many occasions to find them sitting at the kitchen table bundling their piece-work tickets with rubber bands. My grandfather worked in the cutting room most of his career. A painfully loud department situated on the ground floor on North Street. You could hear the pounding of the cutting hammers miles away. My grandmother stitched soles. They lived in an EJ house built and financed through the company at a low cost. Tragically, like many other industries from the mid-20th century, it no longer exists. Only a few visible remnants of the company remain. A hospital (Wilson), a golf course, and a few buildings. The arches, one in Endicott and the other in Johnson City (pictured below), still stand.
George F Johnson, founder, and long-time company president, advocated the Square Deal, his take on welfare capitalism. The scope of benefits EJ offered their employees and the community was staggering. I’m sure I’m missing a few: two hospitals, a golf course, amusement parks complete with carousels, a racetrack, several pools, medical centers (free to employees and their families), a food market, bowling alleys, and recreation centers.
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Below is a booklet dated 1922 that my father recently sent me.