"They don't make them like they used to" is as cliche as any phrase. But chances are if you walk into the Price Industries office in Suwanee, John Scallon can tell you if it's true. Not to mention where you could find the part if it is.
Come Tuesday, the Lawrenceville resident will have worked with the company for 50 -- yes, 50 -- years. A throwback to a time when a steady job meant the world, the native of Canada is a walking encyclopedia of all things about Price, the leading manufacturer of air distribution parts in North America.
As you can imagine, Scallon's experience is a big deal at the company, which honored him last week at a luncheon featuring owner Gerry Price. At the luncheon, Price presented Scallon and his wife Vea with an all-expense paid trip to Winnipeg to visit their children and grandchildren. A very valued employee, about the only drawback to having a long-timer like Scallon is it's very easy for fellow employees to rely on his knowledge.
"He kind of hinders our learning ability," said Terry Isbell, vice president of human resources for Price Industries, with a laugh. "People say 'Why look it up when I can just ask John?'"
A quality inspector for Price, Scallon has an easygoing and straightforward way that makes you understand his ability to handle many different duties and people over the years. He's worked in Georgia since 1991, but got his start with the company in his hometown when he was 16.
"School wasn't for me," Scollan said of his teenage years in Winnipeg, Manitoba. "I dropped out of school and my mother said: 'You are going to contribute to the family' and she sent me off to work.
"So I went to apply at Price and the guy said: 'We'll give you a chance.' Twenty years later, the same guy called me in and said: 'John. I think you're going to make it.'"
That sense of humor makes Scollan popular with co-workers and his buddies, many whom ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles with him. And the fact he has an easy rapport with people regardless of age or status in the company has served him, and Price Industries, well.
"John always connected to people on many levels, which always allowed him to fit in well and quickly become part of the team," Price said. "He has the ability to remember details about co-workers, such as birth dates and anniversaries, which makes people feel good about themselves, and this shows real listening skills.
"(He's a) great role model, always a teacher and mentor, and the go-to guy."
In his tenure, Scallon has been through three company name changes and multiple duties, a fact he credits for being able to stay so long.
"I've had lots of roles here over 50 years; I've done just about everything," he said, citing a five-week trip to Singapore to help set up a plant there as a highlight. "I spent eight or nine years as a plant manager, I've been a senior process engineer and been in safety. I've had promotions and different jobs so I didn't get stale. I don't think I could have stayed that long in the (exact) same job."
Scallon, 66, knows his long tenure is unique in this day and age, but it's par for the course in his family. His father worked at a meat packing plant for 43 years and his brother has been an accountant with the same firm for 52 years.
"It's kind of in our blood," Scallon said. "We don't venture out much looking for jobs."
The secret to his longevity?
"Just getting along with people, for the most part," he said. "(And) just be honest. If you're not honest, someone will find out eventually. And then you're done."
When he was a young man, Scallon wanted to be a police officer, but "I just didn't have the education, so I just put that to rest" and concentrated on his work at Price. As he gets older and puts more miles on his Harley (more than 96,000 on one of his bikes) he knows he's getting closer to the end of his career, something he's not ready for just yet.
"I'm really proud of it, to be working for a company for so long," Scallon said. "Everyone has to work someplace, and it's easier to stay on a job than to look for a job. I don't want to leave the people. It'd be really tough to retire, I think.
"You work every day for 50 years and it's a little scary to leave."
Email Todd Cline at email@example.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.