Several times a year, the York, PA branch of Eastern Lift Truck Co. treats its employees to a delicious catered lunch. The entire office and all available service technicians gather together. A few announcements are made and then everyone is dismissed to enjoy a good meal and camaraderie of their co-workers.
The first lunch of 2019 was held in April and among the large group of attendees were members of senior management, from other locations, as well as several vendor guests. All but one person (York’s Shop Foreman, Ken Beers) knew there was a special reason for this particular lunch. After everyone was present, Ken was asked to come forward. As he moved to the front, his co-workers began to clap and cheer. To Ken’s surprise, this day’s gathering was to be held in his honor, in recognition of his incredible fifty years of service with the company!
Ken, who is typically not at a loss for words, was genuinely surprised and quiet…at first. He smiled and laughed as he was presented a gag gift: a modified walker, painted in Yale gold, with a large gold Yale logo on the front. Other gifts followed and in a touching moment, he was presented with scores of individual cards from his co-workers – personal notes of appreciation and well-wishes.
A fifty-year career is certainly worth celebrating. Ken’s fifty years of dedication and consistent contribution to just one company – our company – is truly exceptional. And he is not done yet. Ken has made it clear he is not ready to retire. Still, we thought this would be a good point in time to look back on his career. So, we asked him about it.
Ken is from a proud military family – the fourth of five children (three boys and two girls) – and was born in Harrisburg, PA. His Dad served in WWII and received two bronze stars. His oldest brother Hank was an Army Tanker and served in the DMZ of South Korea – Ken would follow his brother to South Korea, just three years after him. Ken’s younger brother Bobby was a Marine. Dad worked at the Enola, PA train yard and Mom was a nurse. As Ken recalls, his earliest mechanical training was provided by his Dad and Grandfather. They all enjoyed working on cars.
Ken entered the shop program at Harrisburg’s William Penn High School. He had an eye on landing a coveted full-time job at Sutliff Chevrolet – a local dealership where drag-racing legend Bruce Larson worked. Ken’s mechanical skills were quickly noticed by his shop teacher and he and another student were selected to represent the school at the annual Plymouth Engine Troubleshooting competition. The boys completely understood the inner workings of Plymouth’s 318 engine, and could quickly diagnose nearly any problem. Ken remembers putting in extra practice, sitting at the family kitchen table, and taking apart and reassembling a carburetor, over and over, even with his eyes closed. Although Ken and his schoolmate didn’t win the competition, they impressed many people. Ken’s obvious mechanical skills would soon land him a good job.
As high school graduation approached, Ken’s teacher set him up with an interview at a small Yale forklift dealership, in Harrisburg, PA. Ken passed the interview and was hired in March of 1969 with a starting wage of $2.25 per hour. His boss was Shop Foreman, Dick Fox. New coworkers included Ken Groff, who would teach him about being a road technician, Joe Noll, an electric forklift specialist and Robert Hammaker, who was in charge of servicing the company’s rental fleet. Ken’s first job as a new employee was to help Hammaker prep rental trucks.
Ken met Sandy met while cruising. She attended Cumberland Valley High School and they met on “the circuit.” As they began to date, they would be spotted around town in Ken’s 1956 Chevy 210 sedan – a car Ken still owns and has restored with assistance from a son-in-law. They married in December 1969, but didn’t have much time to enjoy their new life together. Ken had been drafted by the U.S. Army and just three months after getting married, he was called up and shipped out to South Korea, where he would serve in the DMZ, as part of the U.S. Army 7th Division Combat unit. When Ken returned to Pennsylvania in May 1971, he rejoined Sandy in a new home in Mechanicsburg, PA and resumed his forklift mechanic position, where he received a 50 cent pay increase. He now earned $2.75 per hour.
In the summer of 1972, the Yale dealership moved from Harrisburg to York, PA, into a brand new and much larger facility – the same building Eastern Lift Truck Co. has renovated and owns today.
About this time, Ken was asked to go out on the road and service customer’s forklifts. He travelled and worked throughout central Pennsylvania, but mostly serviced accounts in Adams, Lancaster and York Counties. Over the next fifteen years of his career, Ken worked on the road, dealing with a full range of repair challenges and changing conditions.
Fast forward to 1987. One of Ken’s former mentors, Joe Noll was preparing to retire. Joe had been serving as the company’s resident mechanic at PPG Industries in Mount Holly Springs, PA. As Joe was stepping down, Ken was asked to step up to this important position. At first, Ken was not enthused. He liked working on the road with many different customers. But he agreed and quickly found a second home at PPG, where they came to trust and depend on him to keep their fleet of forklifts operational. Ken enjoyed working at PPG. He would hold this position for the next 17 years, until 2004, when he was asked to return to York and take on the Shop Foreman role he still holds today.
Looking back over fifty years, Ken is reminded of all the people he has worked with, the companies he has visited and the countless forklifts he has repaired. Along the way, he and Sandy have raised two wonderful girls, Tammi and Tina, who are now grown women with families of their own. They have three grandchildren. Ken is thankful for all the opportunities and friendships he has enjoyed over the years. He has many interesting and humorous stories to share.
Eastern Lift Truck Co. would like to thank Ken for his incredible service and work-ethic and extend early best wishes to him and Sandy, as they plan to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in December. Thank you Ken!