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Posts: 4,087
Reply with quote  #1

Waukegan was a magnificent long term plant with a highly talented engineering staff.
Produced the most advanced and perfect running outboards for decades.
One went boating, one saw OMC products: Evinrude, Johnson and Gale all over the USA and Canada.

Feed thousands of families across the midwest manufacturing and dealer shops with top wages.

Another industry leader that rose to financial heights and market success on the management skills of outboard affectionate and engineers only to be killed off by inept incompetent upper management and insider financing.

Now, all we've got left to look forward to is a Cadillac V8 mounted back arseward and no one care repair service in a timely manner. And that suffers from saltwater leaks into everything.

We can have a Yamagichi made in Communist China with a manual in Chinese

Don't look for the Black motors to last much longer, first long financial crash and they go under when private equity demands their hundreds of millions now and sent the knee breakers with baseball bats to collect.


Posts: 139
Reply with quote  #2 
I took a drive to pay my respects to the Waukegan site almost two years ago. I walked the crushed concrete lot and remembered all the great people I had met there over the years. All that remained was the water tower, tracks on the bulkhead & memories.

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Posts: 330
Reply with quote  #3 
I have done the same several times over the years, Ajtec. 

Brings a tear to your eye to see the peeling "Johnson Outboards" paint on the water tower.

Our kids grew up and had a lot of fun on our PrinceCraft with one of the last real Johnson motors, a 1995 Eagle 60 Deg V4 90.  Great engine!

I bought a copy of this book years ago, I still look at it from time to time:

Made It Tolman Jumbo 25 Pilothouse E135DHXABA / 5386506


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Posts: 4,087
Reply with quote  #4 

Last time I visited the Waukegan site was in the late '90s.  Pulled up in front of the new high end metal and glass OMC Evinrude exective office building at the Lake end.  Few cars in the executive parking.  Not a soul in site.  Lights on inside.  Doors and gates all locked up.  All the plant was still there and the story was OMC was still making outboards there?  Never got inside, rattled and knocked on the front door.  None of my old contact numbers answered, so I drove around looking at the old plant buildings from outside the perimeter.  Old brick sections in back were showing their age.  No activity going on in the motor testing area on the water.

In the early mid '90s, the plant was humming.  Filled with engineers and workers inside and outside on the test docks.  Lots of motors being shipped out.

So I went to one of my favorite restaurants from the past in town.  Great seafood place, had my first cedar planted fish smoked baked there years ago, smoked baked Lake Michigan laker with great Waukegan beers.  Can't remember the name of the place years later and can't find it on Google maps. 
Change is good?

When the Evinrude and Johnson owner ego was going strong still in the OMC days, the story was the proverbial arguments that the Evinrudes were the best off the assembly lines.  Testing split the production 2 ways, best in class the E. motors and the seconds were the Johnsons.  Think there may have been a few fist fights at the docks over it.  Men and their toys.

Gone but not forgotten.


Posts: 986
Reply with quote  #5 
Are you trying to recall Mathons? Friday night stopping point for most of Engineering. Yes, good food. I’ve spent plenty of time there since ‘78. At least until it too was demolished.

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Posts: 4,087
Reply with quote  #6 

Yes, that's it sparky.

The owners were Greek.  They had their own fishing boats and caught most of the catch for the restaurant.  The owner would even have our salmon cleaned and plank smoke cooked for us.  Loved the mashed potatoes smoke cooked on the plank. Place had a great seafarer decor, old boat portholes for window and ships lights.

Set just up lake from the the marina and east across the boat basin from the plant.

Shame its gone too.


Posts: 986
Reply with quote  #7 
The last hurrah for Mathon was filming of the movie Ice Harvest in 2005. In the movie, it was a strip club and they drove a car into the building. Great to watch all the activity from across the harbor

Posts: 50
Reply with quote  #8 
I got there in 2007 and my first thought when I walked into the building at the call center was, I have gone back in and time its the 1970's all over again as the decor was a bit dated.

The front half of the building was pretty much empty, just storage for old molds and other things. I ventured to the very front of the building into the offices to explore, found out later that was a bad idea as the roof was unstable, just walking through realizing who had walked through there and the decisions that were made for the brands. 
The old built in phone booth was still there but no phone.

As my time there progressed I would venture back to visit with Ski and Terry to see what was coming back and how bad it was damaged. Stop in the engineering department and see what was next, if allowed and only if allowed, some of the guys I worked with would snoop under the tarps but I had more respect than that.

Got the chance to stand on the back dock and watch the log jump, that is an experience I'm glad to have and also glad I was not required to drive the boat. 

When the days call volume would allow we would sneak off in a group up the 137, Amstutz Expressway, the highway to nowhere, to have lunch at Bob and Ann's the Gyro place at the corner of Sheridan rd and Greenwood ave, cant remember the old guys name but he always made sure we were taken care of.

The first time the tornado hit the building I was working from home and as soon as the power went out to the Waukegan facility the phone in my home office went to WOT and would not stop ringing, I answered as may calls as I could until someone called my cell and told me to turn my phone off. The second time the building was hit they informed the call center people they would be relocating to the Sturtevant facility.

I stopped in Waukegan on my way back from Sturtevant once and all that was there was the water tower, sad, really sad. 


Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #9 
The "History Does repeat Itself" caught my eye. I've been servicing OMCs since 1957, many years without factory assistance because our dealership couldn't intelligently carry a full line for an area that didn't call for a full line. My first Johnson was a 1954 25HP with a cover held on by screws that didn't float. In the 60s I had a brief romance with an Electramatic, mostly for demo purposes. Then came the multitude of initial versions of electronic ignition. I have been blessed with dealers who use my mobile service to accommodate their customers, and sent me to tech school for certification. Imagine my surprise when, at the last school, I came face-to-face with the G2, or history repeating itself with a cover held on by screws, Electramatic (so to speak) that takes two people to manhandle, and an EMM virtually inaccessible. I was the only student there old enough to remember the original simplicity that suddenly had become unreasonably complex. 

Now, I'm just about the only OMC/Ficht/BRP servicing agent left. The nearest dealer just shut down after 50 years; the next closest won't work on anything older than 5 years. That may calkl for a desperate reversal of attitude. Barnacle Bill (Joe) and Yvonne have been a godsend on jobs that are impossible without a tech rep. I was distressed to see them caught up in this, but having gone through OMC's canceling our franchise in the early 60s with no warning,, I can empathize and sympathize. History keeps repeating itself.

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