Glass industry loses part of its shine After 58 years, Bill Morris retires from Virginia Auto Glass

Morris, who recently retired from the glass business after 58 years, is 81 years old, though he won't exactly call it a retirement. "I don't know exactly what I'm going to do, but I'm going to spend a little bit of time at home," said Morris.

"I feel good and staying active keeps me young and keeps my mind working." Morris happened upon the glass industry by chance, in July 1947 after he had been laid off from Hercules in Hopewell. When a telephone man came to install a telephone at his house, they started talking about how the area could really use a glass shop.

On July 5, 1947, he started with Apple Glass in Richmond, then later he began working at Petersburg Glass Co. Puffing out his chest with pride Morris talks about how at one time he was considered one of the best glassmen in the area. "There was a guy stationed at Fort Lee and he had a leak in his windshield that I fixed for him," Morris said. "Then I guess he got transferred to Fort Bragg in North Carolina and he told some of the guys down there about me and so they came up and got a room at the Holiday Inn and I fixed their cars for them." It's this special type of bond that he's formed with his customers over the years that Morris said he will miss the most. "My wife says I've never met a stranger," Morris said. "It's really been a pleasure for me to be in this business and it's been good to me." The business has changed with the years, but Morris has been able to keep up. "It used to be rubber and flat panes of glass in a car could be replaced for about $20," Morris said pointing to the windshield of a jeep. "Now it costs about $200."

He said that with the new polyurethane compounds and the curved panes of glass, more specialized tools are needed as well as more skill. The costs associated have also increased.

"You used to be able to make your own tools, but it really isn't that way anymore," Morris said.

He added that although he will enjoy spending a little time at home, he's going to miss his customers, the people whom he says he considers to be friends.
David Walmer, vice president of Virginia Auto Glass, said that Morris really had one of the greatest jobs in the whole world. "He really got paid to run around and see his friends," said Walmer. "He's really given us so much and his years of experience will be some tough shoes to fill."

In some ways, Walmer was even taught the business by Morris. "My dad was a carpenter and he taught my father about the commercial end of the glass business and really gave him his start," said Walmer.

600450 Glass industry loses part of its shine After 58 years, Bill Morris retires from Virginia Auto Glass
Date: 15 July 2005

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