They came for a piece of a south-side landmark, a chance to bring home part of the iconic General Motors smokestack that could long be seen for miles.
And they arrived early.
The first car got in line at 3:30 a.m. Saturday for the second—and possibly final—GM brick giveaway organized by Blackhawk Community Credit Union.
Unlike the first brick distribution in May, the bricks handed out Saturday were from a much more visible part of the former auto plant. These came from the smokestack and the administrative building façade on South Jackson Street.
The first bricks came from an interior wall that divided the factory’s Fisher Body and Chevrolet divisions. They were some of the oldest bricks at GM, but they lacked the smokestack’s prestige.
Blackhawk Community Credit Union public relations coordinator Lucy Beckord said organizers learned some lessons from the first event. That one featured cars backed up in multiple directions as they squeezed into the credit union’s parking lot at its West Court Street branch.
This time, distribution happened at the former Moose Lodge property on the outskirts of town. Blackhawk recently purchased the property and plans to build its future corporate headquarters there.
The property is much larger than the Court Street branch and allowed for eight lanes of brick pickup. Beckord credited the Janesville Police Department and Rock County Sheriff’s Office with helping everything run smoothly.
Cars flooded the parking lot once gates opened at 7 a.m. Beckord said they processed 700 cars in the first hour.
By 8 a.m., the flow was a trickle. Cars and trucks came steadily, but there was no line.
Mom Danielle Schultz and daughter Britney Schultz were unable to make it to the first event. They wanted to honor their husband and father, Dale Schultz, who worked at the plant for 17 years.
Dale died in 2015. He was known by “Bubba” or “Duck Boy,” depending on if he was working day shift or night shift, they said.
Robert “Boomer” Behl was also unable to make the first giveaway. He worked at GM for 42 years and planned to give one brick each to his daughter and son and keep one for himself, he said.
As a maintenance worker, he once power washed the bricks on the administrative building. Now he gets to take one home, he said.
The smokestack “bricks” were more like cinderblocks. Each car was initially given two regular-sized office building bricks and one smokestack cinderblock, but organizers later started taking orders upon request.
Beckord said there were roughly 7,500 bricks available Saturday.
She didn’t rule out a third giveaway, but at some point it was time to move on and focus on curating the planned GM legacy center slated to move into the former Chase Bank on West Milwaukee Street downtown.
The second giveaway was mainly intended to give those who missed the first event another opportunity and to hand out a piece of the smokestack, she said.
“That’s the most iconic. I grew up in Janesville. Wherever you were, you could see the smokestack,” Beckord said. “When you say you’re getting one of those bricks, that really means a lot.”