Delores Kielbowich: 64 years on the job

In an era where people move briskly between jobs whether they like it or not, Delores Kielbowich is an anomaly — she’s been at the same job for 64 years.
Delores Kielbowich has been making brushes at Felton Brushes for 64 years. "All I can say is I’m grateful for my health and for the ability to work," she says. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

In an era where people move briskly between jobs whether they like it or not, Delores Kielbowich is an anomaly — she’s been at the same job for 64 years.

She started at Felton Brushes on Harriet Street when she was 15. She was so young that the school board had to grant special permission to drop out of school and work.

A lot has happened in the world since she started in 1949. There have been 12 presidents and 11 prime ministers. The world has watched a moon landing and the dawn of rock and roll. In all that time, Kielbowich has been making brushes.

The 79-year-old still works about 30 hours per week and has no plans to retire. She serves a valuable role at the long-time Hamilton company, said plant manager Chris Mills. She brings “respect and trust” to the business, and according to the website, is still the fastest manual twister.

Delores Kielbowich works on a brush machine in the 1960s.

“Quite often, I’ll say to new employees ‘Did you check with Delores to see how that works?’” Mills said. “She knows how these brushes have been made and gone out the door for the last 60 years.”

Kielbowich celebrated her 64 years of employment with a low-key party with her co-workers on Monday. Then the grandmother of three talked to CBC Hamilton about a life on the job.

What do you like about your job?

It keeps you going. You come in and you meet people and you talk to people every day instead of just staying home and being by yourself.

How did you get the job?

"She's a great backstop when it comes to quality," says plant manager Chris Mills of Kielbowich. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

My mother was raising us on her own and she had four children. My older sister got a job, and naturally, being next in line, I wanted to work too. I went in and got a work permit from the board of education and my sister and I started out to look for a job. We made our way down Harriett Street and I noticed there was a pop company and asked if they needed any help. They explained that they didn’t need any help, but that there was a company upstairs on the second floor that did.

Have you always liked your job?

Sometimes you come in and you don’t like what you’re doing, but you have to persevere and take everything as it comes.

Have you ever gotten bored of it over 64 years?

Oh, I think everybody does. I think everybody thinks ‘Oh, I don’t want to go in today.’”

What do people say when you tell them you’ve been at the same job for 64 years?

Oh, they’re amazed. They can’t believe it.

How much longer do you think you’ll be working?

Until my health fails and I can’t do it anymore. I think it keeps you going and keeps your mind active.


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