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The Floods at the AO Complex in Southbridge Mass.

The Big Story AO People Action and Courage - AO NEWS - THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 1955

Today, just five weeks after the pelting rains of August 18, the flood is no longer news. AO People - how they met the emergency with action and courage, sweat and determination - these are the big story.

So "big" is its magnitude that pages of copy and pictures will never be able to completely describe the teamwork, pluck and spirit of the whole partnership, or individual stories of courage and sacrifice. Many of the first to report for the colossal clean up job had lost their homes, cars and personal possessions. Others had to wade through teaming, muddy waters to work long hours in filthy flood residue.

Radio and news services have furnished flood statistics which, boiled down to describe our area, is reported as the worst flood which has hit Southbridge, and three times as bad as the famous flood of '38.


The pictures in this issue show only part of the aftermath of the flood and the rebuilding which brings us nearer to a return to normal. The real miracle of the story of flood recovery is the steady progress towards the goal of full employment and production made possible by the coordinated efforts of AO People.

The comparatively short time actually lost in production sections speaks volumes for the determination and cooperation with which AO People met the challenge of flood recovery. Probably the most serious blow was the damage to the Power House, the "heart" of AO production and the life blood of nearly all of our operations. Auxiliary power generators were brought in and operated at capacity to furnish lights and other necessary salvage operations. Many of the production departments and offices have been delayed in their return to normal operations because of damage to power installations between their sections and the power house. As power has been restroed, whole areas of production departments have started machines and motors to return to regular schedules. In the meantime, planned inventories of finished products in our Warehouse have allowed us to meet deliveries to customers.

Within two weeks after the flood many of the damaged Lens Departments were back in production. As power lines have been reapired more and more lens surfacing machines have started work again.

In the Case Plant, the major part of the damage was to the first floor where the metal case section and tool rooms are located. There was no water on the second floor and even before power was restroed, work was progressing on flexible cases.

Lost in the flood were thousands of pounds of zyl stock and frame fronts, temples and hinges from the first floor of the Zyl Departments. However, on August 30, less than two weeks after the flood saturated AO grounds, the Frame Division returned to production.

As we go to press, the entire Frame Division, the Warehouse, Carpenter Shop, Research Center, Case Plant, Main Offices, Prescription, Power House, Marcy Street Plant and a large part of the Mechtronoptic Division are now operating. The work force in additional sections are expected to return as wiring installations to some of the departments are repaired and as painting, repairing and refinishing of equipment and buildings is completed. Each day sees progress. Most of the clean up of debris and wreckage has now been completed and the grounds are being worked and cleared of the flood.

AO's Answer

Industry is not an abstract - it's men and women. This has been proved in the past five weeks.

AO is its people - active and retired - in Southbridge, in the branch factories and in the distribution organization. AO People in the flooded area met the flood catastrophe by their immediate action and determined spirit. AO People in our branch factories and laboratories proved their concern and regard for Southbridge employees by their offers of help, sizeable cash contributions and bundles of clothing for those AO People who had lost everything.

The response of AO People, and their action and courage emphasized during the past five weeks is a mighty effective proof of the strength and greatness of the American Optical Company.


"And the rains descended and the floods came and the wind blew and beat upon that house and it fell not for it was founded upon a rock.-"

- Matthew 7: 1-29

This issue of AO NEWS is much more than the story of the flood. It is a tribute to every single individual who has contributed to the record flood recovery.

Many of those who have worked on rebuilding and restoration operations are the same craftsmen who have, over the years, worked to build American Optical Company.

They are the "rock" on which AO is founded.

To them and for them and their families, this reminder of their contribution to their community, their company and their fellows.

Click Here for Image of Above AO News Page 2 with photos

AO's Planned Inventory Gave Customer Service - AO NEWS - THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 1955

One of the brightest spots in the aftermath of the flood was the news that our Warehouse and the large inventories of finished merchandise were not damaged.

Located on high ground, well above the roaring path cut by the Quinebaug, there was absolutely no water or other damage caused by the flood. Because of its situation across the river and flooded grounds, Warehouse employees were not able to get to work the day after the flood. On Monday, August 22, most of the Warehouse personnel were able to report for work and regular shipments to customers began immediately. Some employees were not able to get to their jobs because of road conditions in the county, but these cases were definitely in the minority and it can honestly be said that there were only minimum delays.

Stocks of frames, cases, lenses, safety equipment and other AO products were so well protected that orders were ready for shipment before the emergency trucks and transportation facilities could get to the shipping platforms. Many extra trucks were hired from outside to expedite shipments and many customers have expressed surprise at the prompt service rendered immediately following the flood.

With most major production departments back on regular schedules AO does not anticipate any major or delays in future deliveries.

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