North Bend Eagle


Hormel 3
From right, Joe Raus, Delrae Eaton and Jim Colgan have combined for 138 years at Hormel. Raus and Colgan have recently retired, but Eaton works on as the most senior employee at the plant.

North Bend trio puts in 138 at Hormel plant

by Mary Le Arneal
published 7/30/08

Together the men have accomplished something rare, working a total of 138 years at one business. At his retirement on June 6, 2008, Joe Raus had worked 48 years at Hormel Food Corporation in Fremont. For the last two years of his employment he was the most senior employee, in terms of years, of the 18,000 employees in the world wide business. Fremont, with 1,400 employees, is the second largest Hormel plant.

Jim Colgan retired July 18 with 44 years of employment at Hormel.
Delrae Eaton, who continues to add to his 46 year at Hromel, takes over the title as the most senior employee at the Fremont plant, possibly the entire Hormel family. What does that mean to him?

“I’m five steps closer to the front door,” Eaton said referring to the parking space reserved for those employees with the most years at Hormel.

Joe Raus, 66, started working at Hormel a week after graduating from North Bend High School in 1960. That first summer he chipped paint off cooler rails and repainted them. After a year of college, Raus decided $1.78 an hour was a “tremendous amount of money” and started working at Hormel full time. He did various jobs in the rendering department for 17 years, then started working in the store room where he stayed for the last 28 years.

“I received everything, except livestock, that came into the building,” Raus said. “I started with pen and pencil and now it is all done on computer.”

Raus did not plan to work at Hormel for as long as he did, it just happened.

“You have to do some kind of work,” Raus said. “You have to do something to eat and survive. I’ve raised four kids. I was happy to have a job. They paid me, so I went.”

Raus’s last job was one where he worked until the job was done, often putting in 10 or more hours a day. Now, two men have been hired to replace him.

Jim Colgan, 64, applied at Hormel after graduating from NBHS in 1961 but was not considered because he did not have his military obligation out of the way. After getting married in 1963, his military status changed and he started at Hormel on July 20, 1964.

“I planned to be there ten years,” Colgan said. “I thought something would come up better and you’d just go.”

Nothing better came up so Colgan stayed at Hormel, working as a night janitor for five years, then 11 years in the hog cut and 14 years in the smokehouse. Since 1993 he worked in the electrician’s department.

“When I started the wages were good,” Colgan said. “I worked with two guys who had college educations and they couldn’t find a better paying job. Plus the benefits were good for our family.”

Colgan said Hormeal was the best place to work in Fremont during the 1960s. It wasn’t until the mid-70s that wages for college graduates started getting better than Hormel’s.

The worst thing about his job was the stairs and concrete, Colgan said, with Raus and Eaton agreeing.

Though Hormel will let its employees work until age 70, Raus and Colgan decided it was time to quit after their respective 48 and 44 years. Eaton remains. He started working at Hormel on March 21, 1962, after a year on the family farm following his NBHS graduation. Eaton started in the hide cellar and now works on maintenance, working with fork lifts.

“I enjoy working here,” Eaton said. “It’s a good career. I plan to work a couple more years, I don’t know.”

When these men started working 3,000 hogs a day were butchered at the plant. Now that number is up to 10,500 hogs daily. They all said the biggest change they have seen in their time at Hormel is the speed of the process.

“Instead of one guy doing all the cutting,” Raus said, “each guy does one cut, then passes it on to the next guy to do the next cut. They used to do 300 hogs an hour, now it’s 1,000 an hour.”

The modernization of equipment, computers and robotics has sped up the process it takes for a live hog to become human food.

But it was time to move on for Raus and Colgan.

“I was pleased to work there,” Raus said. “I miss the building only because of the people I worked with. I can always go back and visit. It was not my goal to retire. I was too busy working to think about it. It’s been an adjustment. But it was time to move on.”

Colgan was interviewed the day after his last day at Hormel.

“I’ve only been retired 12 hours and I don’t miss it,” he said.
At the Fremont Hormel plant there are eight other employees who have worked there over 40 years, 25 who have worked over 30 years. The three men said that in 15 years or less, there won’t be any workers with more than 40 years employment at Hormel. The workers, society, are different now.

Raus said, “All three of us, we understood what work was about, so we came and we stayed. We fed out families, raised our kids. Hormel was good for us.”

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