Tack Hammer

Grandpa's tack hammer with his initials
Grandpa's tack hammer with his initials

My grandfather first arrived in Cleveland, Ohio in 1956 at the age of 18. He grew up on a farm in rural Somerset, Pennsylvania with his two parents and eleven siblings. With little interest in maintaining the family farm and an affinity for building things, my Grandpa had set his sights on manufacturing. 

The first proper training my Grandpa had was a series of vocational courses in industrial arts at his public high school in Somerset. During his sophomore year in a Metal Shop course, my Grandpa was assigned the task of building a tack hammer as a test of his machining skills. This tack hammer was the first tool he learned to build and is symbolic of the early beginnings of his career. 

With a few years of vocational training under his belt, my Grandpa moved to Cleveland in search of work in his field. There, he was offered his first job: an apprenticeship at an aircraft plant. This apprenticeship marks the genesis of both my Grandpa’s career and my immediate family. I was born and raised on the East Side of Cleveland. Being a Clevelander is an important aspect of my identity, which exists as a result of my grandfather’s migration there to find work. While my Grandpa no longer uses the tack hammer that he built in high school, he keeps it in his toolbox as a reminder of his roots in Pennsylvania, the opportunities that a vocational education offered him, and the career that brought him to Cleveland. 

Place(s): Pennsylvania, Ohio
Year: 1956

– Leah Johnson

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant