I began writing Power Plant stories on this blog in January 2012 after the death of Sonny Karcher, the first Power Plant Man that welcomed me into the Power Plant Family in 1979 when I arrived as a summer help. Sonny died on November 11, 2011 (11/11/11), a significant day for me. Sonny had always expected me to write stories about the men and women at the plant, so I felt as if I owed it to him.
I wrote one story each week for four years, making a total of 208 short stories, each about 2,000 words. Some shorter, some longer. Every Friday night or Saturday morning I would sit down at the computer and think back to the days when I worked with some of the greatest people on the planet.
I left the plant in 2001 and went to work for Dell. While I was at Dell I wrote letters back to the plant. Once I left the plant, I realized that I had left my family behind. I guess the phrase is, “You don’t really know what you have until you lose it.”
My dear friend Dick Dale who was suffering from an unexpected divorce told me when we were driving home to Ponca City from the Power Plant one day, he said, “My counselor told me that for every five years I was married, it will take me one year to get over the loss of my family, so I figure in three years, I’ll begin to feel better.”
Richard’s sorrowful remark has always been in the back of my thoughts, especially after I left the plant. I thought the worst thing I was leaving behind was my house, which sat on five acres out in the country on a hilltop where I could look out my large atrium front window at the city of Stillwater in the distance. I was moving into a neighborhood where the houses are about 15 feet apart.
What I found was that I had just walked away from my family. Each of the power plant men that I had spent the last 20 years working alongside had become members of one family. The Power Plant Men had accepted me into their family the first day I walked onto the shop floor in 1979 when I was an 18 year old summer helper and Sonny Karcher looked at me and began sizing me up.
It took about 2 seconds for Sonny Karcher to decide that I was worthy of becoming a member of their gated-community. Not because I was anyone special, but because Sonny belonged to this rare breed of people known to some as “Power Plant Men”.
In 2001 when I left to work for Dell as a programmer, I quickly realized that the sincere quality of the Power Plant Men wasn’t found everywhere. The fast-paced constant disruption at Dell left no time for a family to form naturally. It had been a long time since I had felt so lonely.
At Dell we were constantly re-organizing. I had 22 managers in the twelve and half years I worked at Dell. Because of this, I kept reaching back to the Power Plant for strength. I wrote a letter each week for a while, then it became less frequent over the years. I was writing the letters to the Power Plant not so much to let them know what I was up to as it was a time to remember the people that meant so much to me.
I kept remembering what Dick Dale had told me and figured that by 2005 the pain of walking out on my family at the plant would subside. It took me a little longer than that because the people at Dell weren’t as willing to form a family as they were at the plant.
In an attempt to form some sort of companionship between employees, Dell used to have a lot of team builders (as you may have noticed by my letters). At the Power Plant team builders took place during every lunch and break time when we would all sit together and play games or talk. Eventually Dell stopped having real team builders and we all settled into a comfortable mode of chaos.
It wasn’t until late 2007 that I began to feel like I belonged to a family at Dell. The people I was working with seemed to stay together or nearby for a longer time. We changed managers frequently, but the team was pretty much the same. This was when I stopped writing frequent letters to the power plant. After writing 128 letters I stopped entirely and only wrote to individuals at the plant instead of the entire plant family.
Suddenly I realized that I had been replacing my Power Plant Family with a new family at Dell. My friend at Dell, Stephen Todd replaced Dick Dale. Shilpa Telang replaced my bucket buddy Diana Brien. Cara Pack replaced Gene Day. Bob Ray replaced Ray Eberle. Lindsey Dudik replaced Charles Foster. Ali Levin replaced Andy Tubbs. Mitch Lee replaced Ben Davis. Shasta Bartlett replaced Scott Hubbard. David Taylor replaced Terry Blevins. Nilesh Sangani replaced Linda Shiever. Melissa Windisman replaced Toby O’Brien. I could go on…
The void I had been feeling in my heart since I left the plant had gradually been filled with a newer more reluctant family. Just as Dick Dale had remarried and formed a new family over time, I had finally found others I could love. When that happened I stopped writing letters to the Power Plant.
The difference between the Power Plant Family and the one at Dell was that I was the one that had to work to form the one at Dell. The Power Plant Men had accepted me as a group without hesitation the moment I arrived. I had to work to form relationships at Dell where it came naturally at the Power Plant.
This was more challenging as Dilbert-like people are less accepting than mechanics and operators. I knew that I was often misunderstood by my coworkers who would look at me and wonder why I acted so differently toward them. That didn’t bother me much. Eventually most of them came around.
When I left Dell in 2014 to work for General Motors I didn’t feel the same loss as when I left the plant. Since we were working in one of the same buildings I had worked in when I was working at Dell it still seemed a lot like working at Dell. Many of my Dell coworkers had moved over to work at General Motors. I could still go out to lunch with my friends. They still smile and wave at me from across the office when they see me.
So, here is what I’m going to do now….
Since the way blogs generally work is that you read the last post first and the first post last, I am going to re-post everything in the reverse order. When I am done, someone stumbling across this site will find my first stories at the top and will be able to read how the stories progressed in order. I will attempt to reorder them so that they are fairly in the order that I wrote them.
I have just finished writing the first book in a series called: “Secret Lives of Power Plant Men: Diary of a Summer Help”. This is a 76,000 word book about my first summer as a summer helper in 1979 when the plant was still under construction. I am currently looking for a literary agent to help me publish it.
I will soon be working on the second book in the series that will have the sub-title “Adventures of a Summer Help” that will cover the next three years I worked as a summer helper. These are non-fiction memoirs that will follow me through my 20 year career at the Power Plant.
I’ll keep you posted when it is published. I know that could be a long way down the road.
Thank you for following me. Thanks for liking my posts. Thanks for nominating me for awards.
This blog was nominated for the following awards throughout the years:
- Blogger Recognition Award
- Sunshine Blogger Award
- Brotherhood of the World Award
- The Creative Blogger Award
- Liebster Award
- and more
I never responded to the awards because this blog wasn’t about me. It has always been about the Great Men and Women of Power Plant Fame. I didn’t want to take time out to respond to the awards by posting answers to questions about myself like “Did blogging improve your life in any way?” or “If you were granted one wish, what would it be?” etc.
I am forever grateful for the blogging family that has welcomed me into their community.
Kevin J. Breazile