The day everything changed

EVERETT – For the rest of the world, it was another workday after a long holiday weekend.

The death of Jack Ruby, who gunned down President. Kennedy’s alleged assassin, topped most newspapers that day. Purdue defeated USC in the Rose Bowl. And newspapers reported record profits from 1966.

For the city of Everett and the residents of Snohomish County, Jan. 3, 1967,was the first day of a new way of life here.

After just less than a year of anticipation, the Boeing Co.’s jumbo jet factory in Everett was open for business. On that day, Boeing workers came to Everett for the first time to do the same thing that company employees continue 40 years later: build airplanes.

“The inconveniences are going to be many,” Bayne Lamb, facilities director for the 747, told the group that day. “You’ll be wearing hard hats and overcoats for some time.”

Those first workers didn’t find 42 acres of factory and 20,000 paved parking spaces. Instead, they arrived at a partially finished factory, where plastic tarps helped protect workers from Mother Nature.

The factory wouldn’t be completed until April 1968. In the meantime, the group known as the Incredibles began building the first 747 while construction crews scrambled to finish the factory they worked in.

“It was cold,” said Larry Hansen, a retired 32-year employee of Boeing. “There was no heat in the building yet. It was almost like being outside.”

Outside wasn’t pleasant. The next two days of Herald headlines previewed what was to be a tough winter: “First snow hits city” and “Heavy snow hits area.”

The number of employees who showed up on Jan. 3, 1967, pales in comparison to the roughly 25,000 men and women who work in the Everett facility. About 113 people reported in. But, like everything else about Boeing’s plant here, those figures just grew.

“We were adding people almost every day,” Hansen said.

Five hundred workers were expected in Everett by the end of January 1967. The group would swell in size to roughly 50,000 over the next two years.

“If we could look 20 to 50 years ahead, it would be interesting to see what kind of products we’ll roll across these floors,” Malcom Stamper, the original site manager for Boeing, told the group 40 years ago.

Since that day, more than 2,900 planes have been built in Everett.

As Stamper could have guessed, not all of those planes were 747s. Boeing workers in Everett have devised and produced two additional jets, the 767 and 777, and anxiously await a third, the 787, which they will roll across Stamper’s floors in 2007.

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