The Smudge Remembers:
Tobin’s Meat Packing Plant — A West Albany Staple
Published June 21st, 2015
ALBANY — Abraham “Abe” T. Foreman can’t help but get misty-eyed when he looks at the shuttered Tobin’s Packing Plant in West Albany.
“We didn’t just make hot dogs in there,” said Foreman. “We made a community.”
“If you think about it, the place was kinda like a big hot dog—but for people. And just like a hot dog, it was the heart and kidneys and anus of West Albany.”
Foreman — a three-time Tobin’s ‘Employee of the Month’ in March 1932, December 1941, and August 1979 — is not the only West Albanian to look back on the days of wholesale animal slaughter with nostalgia. A Smudge investigation, in fact, found widespread goodwill toward the former industrial slaughterhouse among those who lived close enough to hear the final squeals of millions of pigs unlucky enough to not be the protagonist of Charlotte’s Web.
The plant, which operated from 1926 to 1981, employed about 600 people in the “processing” of living pigs to most-definitely-not-living, high-quality meat products such as bologna, hot dogs, and sausages.
Colonie High Cafeteria Supervisor and decorated Spanish-American War veteran Verna Nation lamented the closing of Tobin’s.
“Back in the day, you could open a window and if the breeze blew in the right direction, the entire school would smell like hot ham water.”
Nation, with a dreamy look in her eyes, added: “Sometimes it was so strong, we didn’t even have to serve lunch. Kids would just sit there and pant; it was great.”
Long-retired volunteer auxiliary sheriff’s deputy, Bobby Coppington, has worried about the moral health of the community in the 30 years since the closure of Tobin’s.
“Kids these days are too soft” he muttered. “Instead of teaching them firsthand about the most thrilling part of life — which, of course, is death-- we’re sending them to the 4th grade. It’s not right.”
Shaking his head in disgust, Coppington added:
“Generations have grown up without knowing the traditions that made this town great, like: ‘Bring your own blunt instrument to work day’ and the day when we’d douse the entire town in holy water in an effort to quiet the ghosts of the 600,000 pigs who swore vengeance upon our community.
“Those were good days,” Coppington said. “Those days made us who we are.”