KEN GRABOWSKI: Is anything made in America anymore? – Manistee News Advocate

The Glen of Michigan was located on Hancock Street overlooking Manistee Lake, circa 1950s. (Manistee County Historical Museum photo)
Ken Grabowski
Century Boat was established in 1929 and located Sixth Avenue in Manistee. It was a manufacturer of outboard motor boards, the Northside was the original location of the boat factory that would later employ many people and whose craftsmanship became synonymous with Manistee. The plant eventually spread out and moved its factories into other buildings in Manistee before phasing out operations in 1986. (Manistee County Historical Museum photo)
The Falleen Drop Forge was located on the shores of Manistee Lake in Filer City, 1920s. (Manistee County Historical Museum photo)
There are times in all of our lives when a revelation occurs or a lightbulb goes on in our head sending a message that makes us sit up and take notice.
For me that took place recently when pulling out my clothes to wear for the day. Looking at the manufacturing tags in my clothes brought me to the realization that they apparently are more traveled than me.
My attire for the day featured a University of Michigan (NCCA approved product) that came to my back from Pakistan (Wonder how many Go Blue signs are in that plant?), my all-American Wrangler jeans were straight out of Mexico and my socks came from Bangladesh. I was kind of surprised the socks didn’t have any holes in them as that is one long “hike” to Manistee.
In keeping with that format, my Nike Air Monarch tennis shoes that came from that great United States company based on ones worn by basketball legend and all-American guy Michael Jordan came from … China.
That kind of makes you wonder why former NBA basketball great Yao Ming, who hails from China isn’t the sports figure doing the endorsing of the shoes, as it would almost make more sense. Of course most Americans wouldn’t buy any Air Ming shoes.
Even the tag on my underwear proved that we get lots more than avocados from Mexico.
Looking at my reflection in the mirror brought to mind the thought that the only thing in that ensemble that was made in America was me.
Over the years one of my hobbies is to collect T-shirts, and I am ashamed to admit there are 94 of them in my closet including ones from sports teams, colleges, vacation spots and much more. So when this obsession about where things were manufactured began, I looked at the tags and was stunned to find 92 of them were not made in America.
It was like the United Nations of T-shirt manufacturers as there were ones from Honduras, Mexico, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Haiti, China, India, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Thailand in the mix.
What was interesting is the only two among the bunch manufactured in the USA were ones that were purchased at Kmart when it was located in Manistee. Remember how everyone laughed at people who wore any clothing purchased from Kmart? Well, it seems they were making some of their stuff right here in America instead of for peanut salaries around the world.
Probably the saddest one was a T-shirt with an America flag on the front that I purchased several years ago for the Fourth of July that was made in India. Makes you want to hum”God Bless America” doesn’t it?
Even my T-shirts and baseball hats from major league baseball teams like the Tigers, Yankees and Red Sox who play the sport otherwise known as the great American pastime came from Bangladesh and Honduras. I guess nothing is sacred anymore.
Some clothing items tried to hide the fact with tricky labeling like my Bass outdoor gear pants that said “G.H. Bass Co. of Maine since 1876” in bold print and then in much smaller type said made in Bangladesh. Interesting … isn’t it? I wonder if Bangladesh, Maine is north or south of Bangor?
It’s obvious corporations produce these products in countries where they can pay very low wages and to increase their profit margin. It is disappointing when you think how many of them had their start in this country where their brand name became known using American workers before they moved elsewhere.
It also makes you think about is many items we import into this country. It’s a lot more than clothes, as car microchips, parts, technology, televisions, toys and just about every item you can possibly think of are coming to us from other countries instead of being manufactured in the good old USA.
It’s hard not to turn on a television set (probably made in China and in short supply right now) without seeing the image of the log jam of cargo container ships lined up outside Los Angeles waiting for the opportunity to unload the goods due to a lack of dock workers. Well guess what people? Those ships filled with goods aren’t coming into port from Iowa or Nebraska where they were made.
I had a bag of Idaho potatoes in my kitchen and it prompted me to look where they came from and fortunately they are still grown in the great spud state. However, give them time and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Idaho potatoes imported from somewhere like Pakistan.
This log jam of cargo ships has also given the national media the opportunity to stir up a frenzy among the America public about massive shortages coming to stores for the holiday season. Bottom line, it shows just how little is made here anymore.
Just think, from a local standpoint there was a time many years ago when Manistee was home to a shoe factory that made Manistee shoes, a shirt and underwear factory and several women’s clothing manufacturers like the Glen of Michigan and others. We made the world renowned Century boats, had a Drop Forge and Michigan Tool plant that manufactured products.
Made in America stamped on an item meant something — a quality product.
And where are they now? Gone, gone and gone just like others around the country. It’s really sad when you think of it. If there is one lesson America should learn from this episode is we are reaching the point of totally dependent on products made elsewhere.
When we came out of World War II, the 1950s and ’60s were a time when America became the leader in manufacturing for the world. But more importantly it was things made with pride and quality. We really can’t say that anymore.
That is why it was pleasing to see the Manistee-made boats at the recent Hops and Props event by Thoroughbred Boat Company. Yes, they are a small company, but you have to start somewhere to get the American pride back. Let’s hope that American manufacturing pride keeps growing well beyond when I see you again on Thursday.
Ken Grabowski is the retired associate editor at the Manistee News Advocate who spent more than 36 years in the newspaper business.


Leave a Comment

HTML Snippets Powered By :