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A day in Kohler history … 100 years since breaking ground at The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin

At the turn of the 20th century, many Kohler Co. associates immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life. Leaving behind their homeland and families, these men didn’t speak English and rented unsuitable houses just to make ends meet.

Kohler history

Workers at the Kohler factory in the early 20th century – many of them immigrants from Europe.

Walter J. Kohler Sr., President of Kohler Co., envisioned an elaborate establishment for these associates that would not only provide affordable accommodations, but would create a support system for the immigrant workers so they could thrive both personally and professionally.
On May 17, 1917, builders broke ground on this vision. The construction of The American Club® would forever change the physical and ideological landscape of the Village of Kohler and Kohler Co.

Located across from the factory gates, the building would include bedrooms, dining areas for daily meals, reading rooms, a tap room, barber shop and bowling alley. While its future residents would live there to save money, they also would participate in English grammar, civic and citizenship classes.
But it was more than a dormitory. According to Walter himself, “The name ‘American Club’ was decided upon as it was thought that, with high standards of living and clean healthful recreation, it would be a factor in inculcating in the men of foreign
antecedents a love for their adopted country.”

The American Club opened in June 1918 and was quickly filled with more than 250 hopeful associates dreaming of a new and better life. One hundred years after its groundbreaking, The American Club continues to emulate gracious living to those who enter its doors. Transformed into a five-diamond resort in 1981, the spirit and courage of those who dared to charter the unknown will always remain a part of its legacy.

To learn more from Kohler’s history – visit our Kohler History page.

Tom Casper celebrates 40 years with Kohler

Congratulations to our very own Tom Casper who has just clocked up 40 years with Kohler. What’s more, Tom is the first associate working in the Asia-Pacific region to hit this special milestone! Well done Tom.

Tom was recently in Shanghai at the Kitchen and Bath International Show (KBIS) where his Kohler Asia Pacific associates surprised him with a celebratory honour during a Kohler event.

Tom was sitting in the audience watching speakers introduce the latest in Kohler design, whether that was a new product, insight into business strategy or charitable efforts. And then, unexpectedly, the agenda shifted to service awards and Tom was asked to come to the stage.

Tom Casper 40 years at Kohler with the ANZ team.

Tom Casper 40 years at Kohler with the ANZ team.

 

On a big screen, photos of Tom began to stream like a live scrapbook of his career: awards he won, events he attended and special moments with colleagues. Then Geoff Cope, Managing Director – Kitchen & Bath New Zealand and Australia – stepped up to the microphone to share the long list of Tom’s career accomplishments.

It was quite a list. After all, he’s been with Kohler for 40 years.

Tom Casper being congratulated by KOHLER ANZ Managing Director Geoff Cope

Tom Casper being congratulated by KOHLER ANZ Managing Director Geoff Cope

Tom’s colleagues from Auckland, New Zealand, who couldn’t be there for the ceremony, sent him a congratulatory photo.

The KOHLER NZ team sending anniversary best wishes.

The KOHLER NZ team sending anniversary best wishes.

A native of Kiel, Wisconsin, Tom started working at Kohler Co. on the factory floor on June 2, 1976, in the enamel shop in Kohler, Wisconsin and then moved to Brownwood, Texas, to assist in the start-up of KOHLER leisure products manufacturing and assembly. In the early 1980s, he worked in plumbing engineering before joining the customer service and sales team in 1984, a position that would lead him to Australia.

“I arrived in Australia on October 1993 after working on the start-up project for entry into Australia since July 1989. The tenure was supposed to be for a few years, so in August 1997, I moved back to Kohler and took on another role as the international product training manager,” discussed Tom.

Among his many sales, distribution and project awards, Tom said his biggest accomplishment was his induction into the Kohler Co. Quarter Century Club, which honors associates with 25 years of service.

“My mother was in the audience, and I gave tribute to her on that day in my speech. She is the reason I was at Kohler for 25 years, let alone 40 years today. When I told her 40 years ago that I was not happy in my job, she said, ‘Give it another day.’ Here I am 40 years later,” he said.

At the distributor event, Geoff Cope; Larry Yuen, President – K&B Asia Pacific and EMEA; and David Kohler, President & CEO, presented Tom, who had tears in his eyes, with his 40-year anniversary gift.

Tom receiving his award from KOHLER President and CEO David Kohler.

Tom receiving his award from KOHLER President and CEO David Kohler.

Tom replied, “My induction into the Quarter Century Club on Dec. 1, 2001, was the most memorable in my career, but I must say, Friday night receiving my 40-year service award from David Kohler and my colleagues tops that event.”

Ironically, on the anniversary of his 40th year at Kohler, Tom was touring the cast iron and enamel plant in Shanghai, China. It was in the cast iron and enamel plant in Wisconsin that Tom spent his first day at Kohler 40 years prior. He said, “It felt like I have gone full circle.”