It was massive. A tribute to the man who created her and the employees who made her run. NCR was a much a part of Dayton as the Great Miami River. The National Cash Register Company had been originally The National Manufacturing Company, begun to market the first cash register. John Patterson, a businessman who knew a good thing when he saw it, bought the company and the patent and turned the company into what would become the model for companies the world over. Mr. Patterson became both famous and infamous for the way in which he ran his business, but his ideas for employee well-being were far ahead of their time. During the Great Flood of 1913, John Patterson was almost solely responsible for saving the city of Dayton because of his early warnings and massive rescue operation. So beloved was he that the citizens of the area created a monument of his likeness that overlooks the land he donated for a public golf course. If you grew up in Dayton from the turn of the century until the 1970's, chances are you, your parent, or your grandparent worked for The National Cash Register Company. In my case, it was both my parents and two of my grandparents.
My maternal grandmother told the story of how she and her friend were riding on a transom car after work at NCR when my grandfather, still in his Army uniform, was introduced to her. He said he told himself that she was the woman he was going to marry; and he did! My father was a toolmaker and my mother was working as a typist in the parts inspection department (her boss was Pete Rose's uncle!). Dad's boss told him that he had seen a "cute blonde" downstairs and asked him if he would like to do some extra work in that department. He did. Dad told me once that when he went down to see her he thought "Wow!" A few months later, they were married and they had 42 years together before my father passed away. So, NCR was in the blood of our family. After mom and dad were married, he joined the Air Force and spent time in Japan, Texas, Mississippi, and Columbus, but he decided to come back to NCR.
During the 50's and 60's, NCR was THE place to work in Dayton. Growing up with NCR was wonderful for kids. Old River Park, created for the employees and their families was a haven for those needing a place to relax and have fun. A huge pool, miniature golf course, giant chess and checkers games, canoes to row on the Miami River, picnic grounds, band concerts, and movies were just a few of the items available in the park. Every year there was a special Christmas program (YES. A CHRISTMAS program, not a holiday program.) at the NCR Auditorium. We were treated to various types of entertainers, topped off with a visit from Santa and each of us received one of those little mesh stockings filled with candy. Once a year, we were treated to the "Toolmaker's Picnic". I assume that every job classification had a picnic, but I thought we were special. Each child was even given a special ticket that entitled them to pick out the "toy" of their choice in one of the special "stone" shelters in the park. NCR. It was wonderful; until about 1971.
I have several NCR magazines covering the time period of the 1960's to the early 1970's. Looking at them now, we should have seen it coming, but I don't think anyone did. The union certainly didn't. Times were changing quickly. Mechanical cash registers were on the way out and the microchip was taking over the world. The company began to try to make changes and the union fought back. Then, they went on strike. 8,500 people walked out on NCR.
I was only nine years old at the time, but I can still remember mom and dad turning on the news to see what was going to happen. I can still see the worry and tears. The strike went on for several months, but, like most strikes, it was eventually settled. I'm not sure what, if anything, was gained. Even so, after strike was over, things were never the same. Little by little, NCR began to lay people off. They just weren't needed anymore. The world was still changing. The factory was getting older. Now, there were empty buildings that weren't needed so they began to tear them down, one by one. Even the gorgeous architecture of the auditorium was not spared the wrecking ball. By the 1980's, the NCR property was a shell of it's once grand stature. Company presidents came and went, logos came and went. The University of Dayton bought a few of the company's buildings. The Dayton Daily News moved into a portion of another one. But, the NCR National Headquarters was still here, sitting on a small hill, behind an iron gate.
Then, another new company president, who decided he didn't want to be a part of the city that gave birth to the business that employs him, took the final step in 2009 and moved NCR away from Dayton and the state of Ohio entirely. Not with a bang, but with a whimper, the company that John Patterson and the citizens of Dayton built, moved away.
Thankfully, Dayton History has become the steward of Old River Park, hoping to restore it to it's former glory and The University of Dayton will assume ownership of the national headquarters building. Cox Ohio Media has taken over the building that houses the Dayton Daily News and plans to move their television and radio stations to the building as well.
To those persons living in the city who have no knowlege of Dayton history, it probably means nothing more than just an article in the newspaper or a clip on the news, but to those of us who grew up as "NCR babies", it's a loss we can feel to our souls. NCR may have left us physically, but the spirit of NCR will always live on in our hearts and in this city.