My Years at The Upjohn Company  

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I started at The Upjohn Company in Portage on 5th May 1980. One week later the famous Kalamazoo tornado swept through downtown, just missing the Upjohn research buildings. I recall managers telling me in those days “Jeremy, if you do a good job you’ll have a job for life at Upjohn”. Back in 1980 Upjohn was THE place to work in Kalamazoo and Portage. If you went to the bank for a loan and told them you worked at Upjohn nothing more was needed.


My first assignment was on the Building 41 South Mezzanine, working in the Control Spectroscopy laboratory. Doug Hatzenbuhler was my first boss. There was a back door that we used to walk through the warehouse to the cafeteria. All the food in the cafeteria was made on site from scratch. It was delicious and inexpensive. Wednesday was chocolate doughnut day. Thursday was steak day. Friday was nutty doughnut day when we eagerly read the Yellow Pages to see what bargains were for sale by other employees. There was a barbers shop and a pharmacy on-site. Checks could be cashed at work too. In 1980 the monthly healthcare premium was $1 and retirees were not charged anything.


On occasion I needed to go over to the B41 Central Mezzanine and used the cat walks over the production areas to get there. One day I got lost on the cat walks and ended up on the roof. I worked on the South Mezzanine for two years then moved out to Building 233, working for Jim Ray. We cooked breakfasts there at the weekends and had a barbecue grill. One day we were barbecuing outside the building when the fire truck arrived and the firemen rushed in the building demanding to know where the fire was. Alas, there was no fire and they confiscated our barbecue grill. We used to play jokes on one another all the time. My best one was when Buzz Wright and I had to take some samples from Building 233 to Building 41. It was a hot, hot summer day. We climbed into my old Dodge pickup. I backed it out of the parking spot in front of the building and then stopped. I said "Buzz, it's so hot in here. Would you wind down your window?". So he did. I smiled at him but didn't move the truck. He started to say "What's going on?" when the cold water from the lawn sprinkler suddenly hit him on the back of the neck. 


In 1983 my unit moved to the first floor of the brand new Control Building 259. Boy, were we impressed by having such spacious and state-of-the-art labs. Money seems to be no object back then. In July 1984 I got a job in International QA working for Tom Branch. That was a blast, meeting Upjohn people from around the world. I made many new friends. For entertainment we used to take foreign visitors to Wings hockey games and chuckle at the appalled look on their faces when the players started fighting. I particularly remember Jaime Albors from Puerto Rico – a really nice guy. By 1985 the monthly healthcare premium had risen to $3.

The highlight of the Control year was the annual meeting, held at the Hilton Hotel in Downtown Kalamazoo. It was open bar all evening with plenty of delicious food. The most anticipated food was the large bowl of fresh shrimp. Everyone who worked in Control remembers those shrimp. The bolder folks, both men and women, would walk across the street to the Mermaid Lounge for further entertainment after the party in the HIlton was ending. Scientific conferences at Brook Lodge were always treasured experiences.

I spent a couple of years as a lab manager and then became the Upjohn Compendial Coordinator for 6 years. This was an excellent job and I got some trips on the company plane to Washington DC. I finished my Upjohn days working for Sue Harrison in Control Services. I was the first system owner for WISDOM, an early electronic document management system that started in API and spread to Building 41 (we finally retired WISDOM in 2009).


After 1995 when The Upjohn Company ceased to exist I always seemed to be in the right place to avoid the endless layoffs that followed. First the company name was Pharmacia & Upjohn, then Pharmacia and finally Pfizer. The years flew by and in 2015 I find myself with 35 years of service and still working in Building 259 for the Quality Organization, the current incarnation of the old Control Division. All of us who were privileged to work for The Upjohn Company remember it fondly. The carefree times we had at Upjohn will never come again for working people.

 

Jeremy Winkworth - March 2015

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