Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Heyday of Glass Speaker to Recall L.E. Smith History

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Heyday of Glass Speaker to Recall L.E. Smith History

Article excerpt

For 34 years, Forrest Kastner worked at L.E. Smith Glass in Westmoreland County.

At 7 tonight, he will share a look back on his time in the factory, especially from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, an era he considers the factory's glory years.

Mr. Kastner, born and raised in Mount Pleasant, will be the first speaker in an inaugural series of talks sponsored by the Mount Pleasant Glass Museum, which opened in November 2012 in Mount Pleasant Township to preserve the area's rich glass heritage. To complement the museum's exhibits, curator Cassandra Vivian has scheduled a series of talks about glass that will be held at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

After he graduated from Penn State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, Mr. Kastner was hired in 1959 as a management trainee in the production department of U.S. Steel in Homestead, and he worked for U.S. Steel for the next seven years.

In 1966, a family friend, Cedric Spence, who was vice president and treasurer of the L. E. Smith Glass factory, told Mr. Kastner that the company, first incorporated in 1907, was looking to expand and that he would be a good candidate to take Mr. Spence's job when he retired.

"At first I wasn't that interested in the position," Mr. Kastner said. "I was content with my job at U S Steel and knew how unsteady work in the glass factories could be because my father had worked for Bryce Brothers Glass in Mount Pleasant."

When he visited the factory, however, he realized the operation was a lot like the steel industry in that raw materials were melted down and re-formed into a variety of objects. That realization, along with the promise of a raise in salary, prompted him to take the new job. He worked in a variety of administrative positions, including plant manager.

L.E. Smith, along with Bryce Brothers and Lenox, was one of three glass factories in Mount Pleasant. Known in its early years for its black and souvenir glass, such as novelties and miniatures, the Smith factory later became known for its "swung" vases, in which the glass maker swung the glass back and forth to make it flow. …

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