‘It was the American dream’: A rearview mirror look at the old General Motors plant in Doraville
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The General Motors plant in Doraville was a mainstay in DeKalb County for more than 60 years.
“It’s kind of like walking on an aircraft carrier,” said Hank Bird, who worked at the automobile plant for 32 years.
General Motors (GM) opened the Doraville plant in 1947. It produced more than 9.5 million cars until it closed in September 2008.
“It was hard. It was very hard. But you know, life moves on, world moves on, and you know, I just feel I was extremely blessed to be able to work for a company like that,” Bird, who now lives in Duluth, said.
GM bought 250 acres in 1949 for “possible postwar use to assemble Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac automobiles,” according to a 1945 GM memo.
“Building Monte Carlos and Chevelles when I first started. And when we ended, when we closed the plant, we were building the minivan. We were building soccer mom vans,” Bird said.
Gray Television broke ground on a new TV and film studio city in September 2021.
Construction on phase one is nearing completion.
Assembly Atlanta will employ roughly 4,000 people and help re-invigorate the heart of Doraville.
“The GM assembly plant was a major part of Doraville and its history, and we’re looking forward to Assembly Atlanta playing just as important a role for the next 70 years,” Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman said.
It was not uncommon for GM Doraville employees to put in more than 30 years at the automobile plant.
Many former GM Doraville workers chronicle its rich history on the “I Worked At GM-Doraville” page on Facebook. Some recent posts include notifications of upcoming funerals of former employees.
“I’m glad that I can say that I have been there, and I’m a better person because of it,” said Katrice Hatten, who worked at GM Doraville for four years.
For Hatten, whose dad also worked at General Motors, the job gave her an opportunity to gain managerial experience.
“It was the American dream. It definitely was the American dream I grew up with,” Hatten, who now lives in Midtown, said.
Gray Television is the parent company of Atlanta News First.
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