Once rug manufacturing abandoned Amsterdam in the 1950’s, the General Electric Company in Schenectady became the primary go-to spot for private sector jobs with decent benefits. But GE wasn’t the only world-class company within a half hour’s drive from Amsterdam. Twenty-six miles west of here, the Beech-Nut Packing Company was humming on all cylinders, putting all kinds of food products into jars, cans and wrappers and distributing them to grocery stores around the world.
Today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Ron Hopkins used to live right behind my grandmother’s house, on Clinton Street with his first wife Dolores and their two children, Doug and Debbie. Born on June 3, 1933, Ron was a 1951 graduate of Amsterdam High School and had served his country as an Air Force MP during the Korean War. After his discharge, he went to work at Inman Manufacturing where he mastered mechanical drafting. He then got a job as a draftsman for Beech-Nut in 1963. When he retired from the Canajoharie company 35 years later he was Production Manager. You don’t get that kind of job with an organization like Beech-Nut without being very good at what you do. Ron Hopkins was better than good, he was pretty much a mechanical genius.
In the manufacturing world time is money. Hopkins was a key part of a project team that redesigned an existing gum wrapping machine so that it increased its wrapping capacity from 200 to 1,200 sticks per minute. A six-fold increase in production rate means a huge increase in profit margin. He was certainly one of Beech-Nuts most valued employees.
Tragedy struck the family when Dolores Hopkins passed away at a very young age. Hopkins would get remarried in 1994 to Frances Lawrence. Four years later he retired from Beech Nut and spent the last fifteen years of his life being a much-loved husband, father and grandpa and also playing an occasional round of golf or two. Cancer claimed his life in November of 2014, at the age of 81.