Dear John/Round Oak buildingsPublished 10:00pm Thursday, June 14, 2012
“Which buildings are left from the original Round Oak factory, and are there still tunnels left from the buildings to the stores on Front Street?” — Teri Frantz
I’m told there are three. From the Daily News across Spaulding Street I remember watching Ameriwood tear down a like number in the ’80s.
I called Jim Peterson, Ameriwood director of manufacturing operations, and while “I have heard the stories,” he didn’t know anything definitive about tunnels.
Jim suggested calling Stan Sarabyn, plant engineer during Ameriwood’s overhaul of the former home of Round Oak and Jessco.
Stan worked there from 1970 to 1992.
“There definitely was a tunnel,” he assured me Thursday.
In fact, he ventured in about 15 feet from the factory before he “chickened out.”
Stan said, “The only one I know of went under the tracks between Round Oak and the Beckwith Building” as a security measure because the stove manufacturer paid its employees in cash locked in three bank vaults in the office.
Stan recalls coming down Beeson Street before the crossing closed for high-speed trains and encountering a man sitting in his car.
He helped tear down the Beckwith Theatre where Thursday night concerts in the park recall the Round Oak band era.
The man confided he often came there and sat because he was heartbroken to have been part of the mid-1960s demolition, but that’s how Stan came to hear the story of Round Oak records filling in the tunnel before it was sealed.
Stan agreed with the man that the takedown of the Beckwith stands as the “saddest thing that ever happened to this town.”
Anyone else know about downtown tunnels?
Give me a call at (269) 687-7706 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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