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WIRED

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old advertising

BACK IN TIME - An advertising display shows Continental products (note the NRA government sign).

People have been courted, stroked, and schmoozed by manufacturers and mercantile marketers since biblical days. My personal preference is the direct marketing approach. Show me what you’re selling, give me a few facts, the price, then leave me alone. Spare the drama. That's my opinion and not that of the staff and management.

wire nails

Continental nails are packaged in wooden shipping kegs.

Continental Steel Corporation was a heavy Kokomo industry which depended on sharp marketing and superior products. Competition was fierce between dozens of steel manufacturers dotted across the U.S. during its run.

For decades hundreds of local families' financial futures depended on the grimy, clamorous, smoke-belching activities once housed on several acres at the intersection of Markland Avenue and Park Road. A docile grassy tract sprouting high-tech solar panels now soaks up Sol's rays where hard-working steelworkers once toiled to produce their steel products.

I hadn't planned to delve into old “Continental” once again until local carpet and flooring aficionado Johnny Stout collared me recently and said, “I've got something to give you, and I think you'll enjoy it.”

Within a fortnight he dropped off two boxes at our doorstep. Stout said he had removed the boxes from an old shed behind a house his wife owned (and still does) prior to their marriage. The boxes and contents had been stored in the shed years ago by the previous homeowner, a fellow named Paul Schreiner. There they remained, until now.

continental nails

An advertisement shows an array of Continental products.

I carefully toted the pair of heavy metal boxes into our family room where, with bated breath, I slowly raised the lids. Dozens of glass slides measuring two-and-a-half by three inches were neatly placed in rows, such as disciplined soldiers.

I began examining the slides one by one, seeing what was stored on their glazed surfaces. They were a bit odd. In the fact they contained positive images in black and white. When I began to see pictures of wire fencing, nails, bolts, and screws, my suspicions arose. Could these be something from Continental Steel?

My suspicions were confirmed in the next few slides as images of advertisements for the old Kokomo steel mill products came to the fore. A few slides contained beautiful photos of huge fence-making machines operating inside the plant. In one photo a sign stating, “NRA (National Recovery Act of President Franklin D. Roosevelt) We Do Our Part” indicated the slides dated from the 1930s.

fence-making machine

A fence-making machine sits at Continental.

Wooden nail kegs used for nail shipping, emblazoned with “Continental Steel, Kokomo, Indiana,” were in a couple of shots. One showed men working in what appeared to be a shipping department with Continental products stacked about.

I quickly noticed a “wire” theme to these photo slides. Large spools of wire in geometric stacks were in close proximity to the mammoth machines mentioned earlier. Those of you who worked at Continental/Penn Dixie are all too familiar with wire.

From where does one derive nails, screws, fencing, and reinforcing rods? Wire! Through the marvel of machinery, wire was transformed into thousands of useful products. At the time, Continental also produced metal culverts, metal roofing and, of course, flat sheet metal. Guttering, metal siding, flashing, eave troughs, and conductor pipe were but a few of the locally-produced products featured in CS advertising.

Who was this Paul Schreiner fellow who had these slides hidden away for so many years anyway? Through some research, I discovered some interesting details.

He was born in Rush County, Ind., in 1926. Schreiner served in the Army Air Corp. during World War II and married his sweetheart, Anna, in January 1951. Schreiner graduated from Purdue with a B.S. in Civil Engineering that same spring. They moved to Kokomo where he went to work at Continental Steel, also in '51. That was a busy year for the pair!

continental wire

Men prepare to ship spools of Continental wire.

They immediately settled into a life filled with Kokomo community-related ventures. The Schreiners were well respected members of St. Joan of Arc parish, Elks and Moose Lodges, and American Legion, to name a few. In 1981 they were part of a team which remodeled the basement of American Legion Post 6.

Both were prolific golfers, taking part in local tournaments. Anna's name was often in the sports pages as both a skilled golfer and bowler.

Paul Schreiner maintained the position as Chief Environmental Engineer at Continental/Penn Dixie Steel until its closing in 1986. He worked a further five years at Chrysler Corp. until his retirement. Paul died in 1995, Ann in 2005.

I certainly didn't expect to learn all this from two boxes of old glass slides advertising wire. Kismet I suppose. Thanks for the gift, Johnny.

-That's 30-