The Atlas pay car moved throughout Atlas Cement to pay the plant’s 5,000 employees. Photo courtesy of Larry Oberly.

Employees at our cement plants for many years were paid in cash. The Atlas Portland Cement Company had a pay car, which moved through the gigantic plant so employees could show their brass tags with their number to the paymaster to receive their pay. 

Pictured is Plant No. 4 of the Atlas Cement Company. Photo courtesy of Larry Oberly.

The Atlas was the largest cement plant in the world, so it took a few days to complete paying their 5,000 employees. The Atlas and all the local plants then decided to pay by checks. 

Seems normal today, but at the time, most employees never saw a check. How could paper replace cash in your envelope?

A letter was given to each employee to explain the new system; unfortunately, many employees could not read English. Many came from Europe and were not totally assimilated into our culture. 

The letter stated, “It was in the best interest to pay wages by check instead of cash. This would eliminate the risk of handling currency. These checks will be cashed at any bank, and no charge will be made by such banks for cashing these checks. The company would advise against employees cashing these checks at any place when a charge is made for cashing them.” 

“Any employee who has any doubt in his mind as to how these checks should be handled should take up the manner with his foreman, who will fully advise him and also render any assistance, thus avoiding inconvenience to you.” 

Signing your name and endorsing a check was a new experience for employees who could not read English, but with assistance from their co-workers, they soon were able to adjust to the new payment system. 

See you in two weeks. 


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