Christopher tm Herdt (cherdt) wrote,
Christopher tm Herdt

Ford Propaganda Theater

Yesterday, nominally for Father's Day, I took my parents and well_lahdidah to the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. There hasn't been a tour of a working auto plant open to the public in ages, and I thought that, before I leave the state of Michigan, my home for 26 years or so, I ought to check it out.

It reminded me a little of the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, and we first watched a couple movies that touted the tour as The Greatest American Production Experience and generally glorified Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. We were "walking in the footsteps of history" at the place that "not only changed 20th-century manufacturing, but the world." As well_lahdidah pointed out, they did a good job of glossing over Henry Ford's antisemitism and desire for racial segregation. Strangely, they did not gloss over his anti-union stance, and said that Henry Ford finally relented to let Ford workers join the UAW 4 years after the public outcry surrounding The Battle of the Overpass.

One thing I did appreciate, though, was that Ford Motor Company was the third automobile company started by Henry Ford. His first two ventures were failures. That takes some persistence, guts, will, and more than a little obstinacy to try the same thing again a third time.

They covered the tribulations of the Ford Motor Company, not just the successes. The Great Depression, the oil crisis, and Japanese imports. The bombastic symphonic score changed to a minor key, and as I rather expected Darth Vader to walk on-screen I saw a cavalcade of little Toyotas. Oh, how dare they threaten the Greatest American Company Ever™ like that!

The largest green roof in the world was relatively unimpressive, although I'm glad I saw it. It only covers the truck assembly plant, as far as I can tell, and not anywhere close to the whole Rouge complex. well_lahdidah pointed out that the time-lapse display that showed the Rouge Complex of the 1920s, 1980s, and today, used different colors for each era: gray, blue, and green. Look at how environmentally friendly the green paint looks compared to the gray! Some of the environmentally-friendly features were interesting, but they didn't seem to be implemented on a particularly grand scale. The apiary in the tiny orchard outside the visitors' entrance that produced "50 pounds of honey a year" seemed to be particularly indicative of how many of the features were just for show.

The truck assembly plant itself was interesting, but would have been vastly more interesting, I imagine, during the week when the assembly line is moving and people are actually building trucks. Some employees even told us, "Too bad you couldn't come during the week when all this is running." Thanks, jackass, care to give me a discount on the admission price?

My mom pointed out that it would probably be boring to install, say, door latches all day long. I suggested that putting dust jackets on books for 8 hours a day might be boring too, in case she'd forgotten that I too worked on assembly lines full time for three summers at Edwards Brothers.

well_lahdidah decided that there must be a pecking order among assembly line employees. For example, air bag installers are towards the top, but coat hook installers are towards the bottom.

Was it worth going to? Yes. Would it have been way better during the week, when the production line was running? Yes. Was the best part going to Lashish afterwards? Yes!

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