Although he was always in the background, Stan Drall had a ringside seat to watch the people and events that made history at Ford Motor Co. for 53 years.
Drall, 78, spent much of the later part of his Ford career in public relations. He was well known to the media, celebrities and VIPs - as well as a long list of charitable organizations - as the man who could arrange a company vehicle for test drives or parade duty. Within Ford, Drall's reputation for event planning and scheduling made him a favorite of top executives for directing special projects, such as the assignment from Lee Iacocca to be the planner for Al Kaline Day at Tiger Stadium in 1970.
But Drall's career at Ford started out quite differently in 1942. His first job was as a typist in a large workroom at the executive manufacturing offices on Miller Road in Dearborn, Mich. Recruited from his Hamtramck, Mich., high school typing class, a nervous Drall did poorly on the typing test but was given the job anyway. He was paid 90 cents an hour.
Drall's desk was situated so that anyone going to or from the executive offices had to pass him. As a result, he observed and spoke with Henry Ford, Edsel Ford, Harry Bennett and Charles Sorensen each day.
Drall now works at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn. He reminisced about his career with Dale Jewett.
What do you remember about Henry Ford?
Many times my back was to the aisle when he walked by, and I was just a typist. But I can remember hearing him talk as he and Edsel Ford walked to the executive offices. Once he was with Charles Lindbergh, who was talking about the company's help with the war. Henry Ford touches me on the shoulder and says to Lindbergh, "I'd trade it all for what he's got." Of course, I was 18, and he was 78.
What else do you remember about those days?
I started work in 1942, the day before Ford ceased all car production and shifted to military production.
Ford was a tough place to work under Harry Bennett. The bathrooms had no locks on the doors, so they could be swung open at any time. There was no smoking anyplace, but there were a couple of guys who did. So when we got a break, we went outside and circled around them in a group so they could smoke. I almost got fired for whistling a Glenn Miller tune.
Charles Sorensen was a clotheshorse. He would come into work wearing a gray suit. At lunchtime he was wearing a brown suit, and a blue one when he left for dinner.
What was the most memorable event at Ford in which you played a part?
I will always feel special for being one of the few people selected to help with the arrangements for Henry Ford II's memorial service. It was my job to arrange transportation for the hundreds of notables that attended. We had a whole fleet of white Ford Club Wagons.
What can Ford do to get through these tough times?
They have to have good products, and they seem to be correcting that. I like Bill Ford's stewardship of the company. He's got good people on his staff. I'm counting on it as a stockholder.