AUSTINTOWN, Ohio — The Thomas and Jones iron smelting plant, built in 1804, will be torn down this week following an acknowledgement by management that the dilapidated, folksy landmark will never earn itself a reference in a Bruce Springsteen song.
The plant, tragically built on Wells Run — just a few miles away from the nearest Springsteen reference of Yellow Creek — has failed to catch the attention of the iconic rocker despite its rich history of American manufacturing and hard-working, salt-of-the-earth employees.
“We actually helped build the hinges on the doors of the train carts that carried the cannon balls that helped the union win the war,” James Jones Jr., the great-great-grandson of the plant’s founder who now runs the day-to-day operations of the useless and unneeded landmark, said. “I guess that messes up the cadence of the lyrics or something — I don’t know. Looks like it’s time to call it quits.”
Paperwork from the early days of the plant show that Jeremiah Jones, Jones Jr.’s grandfather and owner of the foundry through World War I and the Great Depression, worked the furnace at the plant and kept it hotter than hell. But that alone would never be enough to overcome the fact the company opened its corporate offices in Austintown some two centuries ago, just next door to the Springsteen’s fabled Youngstown.
“The backbone of this country couldn’t operate without the synovial fluid, cartilage, and ligaments of the joints,” Jones Jr. said from his irrelevant and soon-to-be-shuttered office in a pointless city with no story worth telling. “That’s what we made: the joints on the doors of the train carts that carried the cannonballs that helped the union win the war — where’s our shout out, Bruce?”
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But sources close to the singer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that “for every folksy reference Bruce taketh away, there’s one Bruce giveth.”
“Some people don’t realize this, but Springsteen references represent a $3 billion-a-year industry,” Ed Rendell, the mayor of Philadelphia when Springsteen’s “The Streets of Philadelphia” was released in 1994, said. “Long before marketing execs were paying kids to Instagram a picture of their new wearable guitar tuner, we landed the biggest @mention of all time. Without that song, we might as well be Austintown.”
The closing of the Thomas and Jones iron smelting plant, however tragic, isn’t the first time a landmark neglected by Springsteen has come crumbling down. All along Highway 30 — only one Highway off from Springsteen’s famous 29 — diners and other folksy places have been torn down or left crumbling in disrepair. In northern Mexico, the Sinaloa dairy farming industry was devastated both economically and emotionally as a result of the snub on “Sinaloa Cowboys.” Perhaps most famously, in 2015, the creek that ran parallel to Springsteen’s inspiration for “The River” was dammed and then subsequently blown up by local construction crews.