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Old Toilet Seat Maker Closes

April 2, 1985

MONSON, Mass. (AP) _ After 86 years of making what it called ″The Best Seat in the House,″ one of the country’s oldest toilet seat makers has shut down.

″We had our last production day last Friday,″ said Gary Fusik, operations manager for the Church Seat Co. ″And after this stuff is shipped, all that will be left will be six office and administrative people.″

The company was founded in Holyoke in 1898 by C.F. Church, who stamped his name on all of his products. At the height of its production employed 750 people in this town of 7,500 and had plants in several surrounding towns in Massachusetts and Brattleboro, Vt.

In 1968, the Bemis Manufacturing Co. of Sheboygan Falls, Wis., the country’s largest toilet-seat manufacturer, bought Church Seat, which employed 200. By January, 76 were left when Bemis announced it was consolidating its toilet seat-making operations in Wisconsin.

″It’s just one of those things,″ said Dorothy Kibbe of Monson, an assembler at the plant for 30 years. ″There’s nothing you can do about it.″

The office equipment and machinery ″down to the screwdrivers″ has been sold to the Health-Tek Co. in nearby Palmer, which makes adult diapers, he said.

A real estate investor, who Fusik declined to disclose, has obtained an option to purchase the buildings and plans to lease the space to small industries, he said.

″It was basic business decision in terms of dollars and cents,″ Fusik said, blaming the closing on declining sales and outmoded equipment.

For some workers, the closing ended a way of life.

″People ask me if I intend to go out and work,″ said Betty Palin of Stafford Springs, Conn., who spent 38 years at the plant in quality control.

″I say to them after 38 years, it’s going to take me a little while to find myself and really know what I want to do,″ she said. ″I just can’t imagine getting up in the morning and not having to go to work.″

″Who wants an old guy?″ said Bob Berry, 62, of Monson, who had worked at the plant for 37 years.

The company has offered any workers willing to relocate jobs in Wisconsin, Fusik said. ″At the moment most of the people are looking to see what they can find around here, but the invitation is open until June 1.″

Valerie Avery of Stafford Springs, Conn., one of 14 workers who went on a company-paid trip to Wisconsin in February, said ″everything was so nice and clean. It was wonderful.″

She said her husband is in poor health and after 28 years at Church Seat it would be hard to leave.

″It was a shock,″ she said. ″We kind of expected it, but we just kept hoping. I’m 60, so at my age, to get another job is difficult. I’ll get a week’s vacation out of it and then I’ll really start looking.″

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