For those of you who don't know, St. Sebastian is home of a brick parking lot. Eighty some years ago, Monsignor Zwisler bought the brick from torn up Akron streets (which means the brick was already old) and installed it on the parish property as a parking lot. 80 years later, the 150+ year old brick is disintegrating and it is time to have a new lot.
The Belden Brick Company of Ohio was awarded the contract for making the brick that will be used. The parish and Belden go back to 1929 when they began making bricks for the old church and school. They have provided all the brick for St. Sebastian ever since save for the old brick parking lot. As we were invited to the factory when our new pipe organ was being constructed, we were invited to Belden to see our bricks being made. To tell the truth, this did NOT seem the least bit interesting to me. But they were providing a free lunch in Amish country (I had country fried steak mmmmmm) so how could I say no? As it turned out, it was really fascinating.
We did not plan on going for about a month and then we heard from Belden that they were going to start production on our bricks immediately because they had a lot of large projects coming up. One of the projects is the expansion of the Notre Dame football stadium - I guess Belden and Notre Dame go way back too. Anyway - if we wanted to see OUR bricks being made, we had to skedaddle down there.
Here is a picture of the land around Belden. It is here that good ole Ohio clay that is made into bricks is dug up.
The trucks dump the clay into large bins that drop the large chunks into the crushing wheel below. It was fun thinking that this raw Ohio dirt will soon be bricks in our parking lot.
From there the clay was brought into the enormous building where complicated runs of conveyor belts would lift the clay high toward the ceiling and drop it into crushing mechanisms over and over again until it turned it into a fine, almost sandy substance.
This building, by the way, would be ideal for napping. The constant hum, vibration, and the warm temperature was hypnotic. They could make a fortune helping out tired parents. Instead of having to drive your child at night to get him to fall asleep, just come here. And if it didn't work, the noise would cancel out the crying.
The only drawback is the DUST. A snow storm of dust. If you get to take this tour, DO NOT WEAR BLACK unless you just want to throw your clothes away after. Also, when they tell you to wear boots - wear boots. Do not wear high heals on shoes with sparklies on the them. Not that I did, but some of our group did. It wasn't pretty.
[Insert lunch here. Fantastic!]
After a long spell of crushing a conveyor belt takes the clay to another gigundus building. Do you recall the presses that they would make to play with Playdough? You put the Playdough in and push a lever and it comes out in whatever shape. That's what happens next on an industrial scale. What you see below is what will eventually be the side of the brick. The ridges are what will keep the bricks spaced when placed in the parking lot. (This is where I blessed the clay.)
Next, the clay passes through a series of machines that cuts the long strip of brick into individual bricks using wire not unlike how you might cut cheese for a sandwich. Except this would be a lot of cheese.
Like your cheese, however, it still has some ways to go. Notice that it is GREEN. No, we are not going to have a green parking lot. Like the moon, our lot will not be made out of green cheese. After it is fired, it turns the desired color, which in our case will be redish.
To get it ready for firing, complicated machinery sorts the bricks and stacks them to get ready to go into the furnace.
They are then placed on carts such as the one below. The white is the cart, the green is the brick. They are stacked 6 high and each set of 4 turned 90 degrees. That is one heck of a lot of bricks in this picture. (We will require just under 200,000) They will all be coming to Akron in just a few weeks.
And so I thank the Belden Company for the time that they took with us on a tour and for their gracious hospitality. I can't wait to see cars parked on these bricks! God bless!