“It was some of my best years … that I enjoyed down at that plant.”
Darnell Hamlett spent almost 40 years of his life down at Sparrows Point. He loved his time down there and wouldn’t trade it for the world. He made lifelong bonds with other workers and notes that he misses the people he worked with the most out of everything else at Sparrows Point. This shows you how important these work relationships were to Darnell and that they were the main reason why he kept showing up to work day after day for 39 years, even sometimes on his days off! (Written by Solomon Oh, UMBC student)
My name is Darnell Hamlett … former employee of Bethlehem Steel. They used to call me “Hambone” when I was working down the plant.
My favorite times, this was, when I was working in the coke ovens, when I was working in the coke ovens and when I was working in the blast furnace because it was like those guys and the young ladies, we was, I mean real tight. I mean real, real tight. I mean I might be having a bad day, you know what I mean? They would tell me “hey ham, hey Hambone, go, go chill out for awhile, man. You know, I’ll take care.” We really, we really looked out for each other and, and it was a lot of after-work activities where our families got together. We might might have a, on our long weekend that we’re off, we say, “Come on, let’s go down King’s Dominion. Let’s get the kids, everybody go there.” We might have a caravan, like ten cars, everybody going to Kings Dominion, or we’re going to his amusement park, or we might be going up to Hershey, or we might be going to the beach somewhere, you know what I mean? And, or then, the grown ups, you know what I mean, we would sit up there and have a nightlife too. We got to have a nightlife too, you know what I mean? So we, we were, couples would get together. We would go out. We would invite each other out over there to each other’s houses. We would sit up there and go to clubs, you know what I mean. Stuff like that, so it was, the bond that we had in the coke ovens and in that blast furnace was… I don’t know… it was, it was great. It was great. A lot of guys, I still keep in contact with them, you know what I mean. I love those guys and some of the young ladies that was living, you know, that was working with us, you know what I mean, and, oh, just the bond we had, you know and like I said, if you spend twenty-one days out of a month with somebody, you’re going to create a bond with them, you know, so, and I don’t know, that was some of my best years. They were some of my best years, down that plant, even though the environment working in them coke ovens, oh my goodness, it was rough, but the people made the job. You know, and that was the time, I didn’t mind going to work. I would love to go to work. I used to work overtime, go in on my days off, my wife, she used to tell me, “Hold, look, I don’t mind you working, when you at work, but when you go in there on your days off, that’s our time. That’s me and the kids’ time. That ain’t going to happen.” So, I had to stop going to work on my days off. But it was, it was some of my best years that I enjoyed, that I enjoyed down at that plant.
It was a heartbreaker. It’s, it’s a heartbreaker to see that plant close down. You know, I mean, for so many people, and for so many years that that plant had provided for so many families and so many different, especially this community here, you know what I mean? That was a lot of, a lot of our lifeline, you know what I mean. To see that plant close down and and and and so many jobs lost, you know what I mean, and so many people close to retirement and then some of the young, young guys young, and the young, young ladies that came down there that were looking for a future down there is, is, is all gone. You know what I mean, and it’s, it’s a big heartbreaker for that plant to sit up there and, and to be gone and be idle. That was something that we, a lot of people, never thought would happen.