“If one ever wondered if prayers are answered, our 100-year celebration should convince them they are,” said Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group President Ben Johnston.
Several hundred PTTG employees, their family members, friends and other guests gathered in Audubon Mill Park on Aug. 17, 2019 to celebrate Pittsburg’s 100th anniversary. After many months of planning and preparation, Johnston said he was relieved to finally hold the party and see how successfully it went off. Johnston said the planning team, headed up by his Executive Assistant Lynell Russell did an awesome job. Johnston added that it was wonderful to see smiles on so many faces, children running and playing in the park and employees cutting loose by listening to live music from Keith Vincent or playing Bingo or cornhole.
“It was about providing a lifelong memory through our 100-year celebration to our employees and the community,” he said. “It was a success.”
PTTG partnered with the Henderson County Diabetes Coalition for the event. The nonprofit had a booth set up where raffle tickets were sold for partygoers to win a child’s bike, a microwave, a Yeti cooler or an Alexa-capable Bluetooth speaker. All proceeds from the raffle and from the cornhole tournament benefitted the Henderson County Diabetes Coalition.
Several employees won gift cards and other prizes. Benji Black, a foreman for Pittsburg’s ground division, was jubilant when he won the top prize – a $1,919 gift card.
Employees and their family members were given bright green or purple wrist bands that allowed them to enter one of the food tents and enjoy the catered meal and snacks like popcorn or snow cones. People could also buy food from Tom’s Smokin’ Bar-B-Q food truck that was parked on water street. The Corydon Lion’s Club’s famous lemon shake-ups were also available for purchase.
Throughout the evening, local musician Keith Vincent kept the crowd entertained with familiar tunes. There were also plenty of activities for partygoers of all ages. Children enjoyed various inflatable games and getting their faces painting. Adults and children also enjoyed games of cornhole and Bingo.
Independence Bank Chairman Chris Reid messaged Ben Johnston after the party to let him know how spectacular the party had been and how he, his wife and his grandchildren had enjoyed the whole night. Reid marveled at the company’s history.
“Janet and I thought it was something that could be made into a movie,” messaged Reid, who added it would make a good Hallmark Channel movie.
Paying tribute to the history of the company and even the larger workforce was a theme for the night. Vice President of Risk Management Chris Johnston met Donnaleen Lanktree with the American Rosie the Riveter Association during a chance encounter at the Michigan airport. Lanktree’s mother had been a “Rosie the Riveter,” women who filled what had typically been male-dominated jobs in the workforce while their husbands were fighting in WWII. Fascinated by Lanktree’s story and how it tied into the legacy of women riveters and welders who have worked for Pittsburg, Johnston invited Lanktree to be a featured speaker at the centennial party.
A recounting of PTTG’s history was on sale for $30. People could purchase copies of Chuck Stinnett’s Men of Steel: 100 Years of the Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group during the event. The book tells how the company grew from small maintenance operation post-WWI to a full-service tank company with a global reach. All employees, as well as friends of the company, were given a copy of the commemorative book a few weeks prior to the party.
Many new memories were created at the centennial celebration.
“The most memorable moment for me was being able to see co-workers and their families in a relaxed environment,” said Hugh Haire, PTTG’s vice president of operations. He added that it was nice being able to meet and talk to people he didn’t see regularly.
Perhaps the most awe-inspiring moment was when 100 volunteers lit 100 purple lanterns. The illuminated lanterns rose slowly over the river, brightening up the night sky. It looked like a scene out of the Disney movie, “Tangled,” as one excited little girl remarked.
Purple was the PTTG’s late owner Don Johnston’s favorite color. To honor his father, Ben Johnston ordered the lanterns months before the party and then waited anxiously for the moment to light them.
“To me, in many ways, they model life,” he said. “You unwrap them, give them life with a lighter, they slowly take on life and start to float away and then dim in the distance, then one second later their life is over. In the big picture of life maybe our short time on this earth is much like them? It was my tribute to my father, who helped mold me into the man I am today.”
Allstate President Keegan O’Daniel called the lantern release the most memorable moment of the night.
“It was a direct reflection of one of our core values – heritage,” he said. “Watching 100 lanterns rise into the night sky made me think of all those who had come before us to make such a celebration possible.”
Chief Human Resources Officer Marilyn Brenton said she felt an overwhelming sense of pride to be working at PTTG when she saw the 100 lanterns floating up to the sky.
“What a beautiful way to commemorate Don Johnston and the growth of this company over the past 100 years,” she said.
The centennial celebration was capped off by a brilliant fireworks display. It was both a fitting ending and, in a way, signaling a new beginning for the next 100 years.
“I am thrilled to be a part of this company’s present and future,” said Brenton. “I am inspired by the company’s heritage, knowing it took generations of men and women working tirelessly together to serve a need in communities across the world. Pittsburg’s culture built on faith and hard work is what has made it last 100 years while other companies dwindled and it is what will make it continue to grow in the future.”
All PTTG employees are part of its rich history, O’Daniel said. He added that everyone plays a role, no matter how big or small, in securing the next 100 years.
“Being part of this moment is a call to action,” said O’Daniel. “To me, it means I have a responsibility to do my part to ensure this company experiences 100 more years.”
Being part of a company that is a century old means stability, according to Haire.
“Over the last 100 years, there have been numerous companies in industries across the board that have come and gone. It is comforting to know that, regardless of the economy or other events that may have an adverse effect on the industries that we thrive in, we are able to adapt and continue to be successful.”