A personal account and viewpoint
By Jay Winer
Those of us living and/or working in the Odenton area for most of our lives might recall the gradual progression of events that lead to Piney Orchard becoming the well planned place to “live, work and play” for so many residents. On the chance that many people residing in the area don’t know how it happened, I thought I might bring a unique perspective.
If anyone remembers the one word from the film “The Graduate”, whispered to Dusitn Hoffman contemplating what his future life endeavor should be, it was…….. Plastics! It struck home to me as I prepared to enter my professional career in 1969 for numerous reasons, not the least of which was Odenton’s own National Plastic Products Company, my family’s creation beginning in 1941.
So the story begins in 1941, when my father, his five brothers and two sisters embarked on a perilous new venture in, of all places, Odenton Maryland. The family had created and operated a woodworking business in Baltimore, becoming known as the National Store fixture Company. I’m not exactly sure how they went from an antique store to a gas station to woodworking but that is all I can remember. They grew successful in the store fixture business. However, as World War II approached and shortages of metal and wood took hold, they realized that synthetic materials, such as plastics would be critical. Somehow, they discovered defunct (1939) WB&A railway property in Odenton. They bought the property consisting of several hundred acres and abandoned barns used for locomotive repairs and set up shop. As necessity is always the mother of invention and manufacturing was still a revered part of our economy, the Winer family set about to make new products.
Two major areas of manufacturing evolved at National Plastics. One was plastic laminate, a covering for counters, store fixtures and casework. Plastic lamination was a process requiring special machinery only available in Europe. Their first laminate “press” took seven years to be delivered and installed. The other manufacturing process was extrusion. Extruded plastics initially replaced aluminum in short supply during war years. The family then established a joint company with Dow Chemical Company called the Saran Yarns Company, where they perfected the process of extruding plastic into fibers. All of these products immediately found markets hungry for them and the company expanded exponentially with the addition of hundreds of products manufactured right here in Odenton.
By 1950, The National Plastic Products Company had become the largest employer in Anne Arundel County, employing nearly 1,500. Though the company grew, the area had not kept pace and few houses were available locally for employees and their families. My family enjoyed a warm and close relationship with everyone working at the “plants”. They were concerned that everyone seemed to live “down the road a piece”. So, my father Albert, uncles Ephraim, Simon , Samuel ,Hyman and aunts Florence and Bessie hired an architect from Baltimore to scour the area to see if there was somewhere they could build a “company town” for their workers.
After several months work, their architect returned with advice that they should purchase land not far away, overlooking the Patuxent valley. Over the next few years, they assembled 900 acres on which they planned to build 900 homes , shopping and recreation areas. It was their dream to provide a place where all their employees could “live, work and play”. As they purchased the property, research of the land records revealed that at one time many years before, the area had been noted on maps as “Pine Orchard”. Thus was Piney Orchard was borne.
Next time……. How Piney Orchard became what it is today.