She was 17 and fresh out of high school when she walked into the office of Duplex Mill and applied for a summer job. Suzi Carroll attended her 50th anniversary class reunion this July, a week after her 50-year employment celebration at Duplex Mill and Manufacturing Co. in Springfield.
“I was only going to stay two weeks!” said Carroll, sitting in the same office in the same small yellow house on Sigler Street she had nervously walked into five decades ago. Carroll may well be the only member of the Catholic Central High School Class of 1950 who took a job out of high school and never left it, she said.
“I just showed up every day, and the time went by. I didn’t mean to stay this long,” she said.
She might make it sound like an accident, but Carroll’s path has been deliberate and sure. She chose not to marry or to bear children, instead adding her love to the bounty in those families around her.
“I raised all these little dimpled darlings,” she said with a wave towards her office wall, where scores of portraits and snapshots documents the life stages of her boss’ children and her brother’s family.
A poster-size photo of Jon Janson, first-string offensive tackle for the Washington Redskins, dominates the collage.
“That’s my man,” Carroll said, grinning wickedly. “Well, he’s married to my boss’ daughter Martha, but still. He’s a cutie. Now she was a swimmer in college … here’s their wedding, and here she is when she was in high school.”
Judy and Eric Wise Jr. included Carroll in their family from the start, she said. It came naturally; Eric’s father, Eric Wise Sr., was 8 when Carroll came to work for his father, Herbert Wise.
The company employs about 20 people, building elevators, conveyors and industrial mixers.
“She’s been with our family for three generations, and raised two of them, more or less,” said Eric Wise Jr.
“I’ve picked these kids up at Possum Elementary, then Ridgewood School; I’ve gone with them to look at colleges,” Carroll said.
“And to think I wasn’t going to stay here more than two weeks. I thought it was way out in the country; I had to transfer buses to get here from home!” she said.
Carroll has built a huge circle of close friends by staying put. She lost her long-time companion two years ago when local dairy farmer David Kunkle died of complications of diabetes.
She still mourns his loss, “but I have a lot of friends,” she said. “We love to go out, and I love sports. It’s my life. I go to all the Catholic Central games.”
Carroll has learned whatever skills were needed to face new challenges as they arose, Wise said.
“Over the years, she’s done switchboard, secretarial, invoicing, just about anything that needed to be done,” he said.
At times, Carroll was the one to ask to find important documents or other key materials at the shop. With the advent of computers, her telephone-answering skills are now her most outstanding contribution to Duplex Mill, Wise said.
When Carroll retires — which she has no plans to do — the 116-year-old company will get along, Wise reassured a little sadly.
“We’ll probably get voice mail. I know it won’t be the same,” he said.
Carroll reduced her work hours to part-time recently. Wise said she pretty much sets her own hours.
“After 50 years you get to come and go whenever you want. How many vacation days does someone who works 50 years get? However many she wants,” he said, laughing.
Carroll walked into the computer age without breaking stride, Wise said.
“When I first came here I used a manual typewriter,” Carroll said, clicking her mouse to call up another inventory page on the monitor.
“It’s been fun. I don’t know where the time went,” she said. “It just flew.”
Kelly Duplex Mill & Manufacturing Co
415 Sigler Street
P.O. Box 1266
Springfield, OH 45501-1266