Poloron sent Ruston handiwork across the nation

By Wesley Harris 

Lincoln Parish has never been considered a manufacturing center. Our economy centers on governmental operations and medical services—the school system, two universities, hospitals, and clinics. With retail and the hospitality and service industries, we seem embrace every economic sector except manufacturing.

In the parish’s early days, a few factories existed. Early powerbroker Allen Greene, considered the founder of the parish through political moves, operated a tannery and shoe factory on Big Creek west of Vienna. Early Ruston boasted a cottonseed oil mill, ice and brick plants, and a stave factory. Staves are the narrow strips of wood used to make barrels. Back then, every product was shipped by crate or barrel.

But manufacturing was the exception, not the rule. Our community found ways to thrive without creating products.

Fred Dubach and later Thomas Lewis James operated a large sawmill operation in Dubach. James transitioned to construction and the T. L. James Corporation built highways and bridges across the South as one of Lincoln Parish’s largest employers for decades.

A corporation called Poloron came to Ruston in 1955 to establish a manufacturing plant on McDonald Avenue in the now mostly defunct industrial park. For almost two decades, Poloron’s 170 Ruston employees produced millions of picnic jugs, ice chests, folding chairs, TV trays, and other plastic items. 

Christmas decorations became a Poloron specialty. Metal Christmas tree stands, plastic door hangers, and “blow mold” items like plump snowmen and corpulent Santas for outdoor use. 

Blow molding is a process for creating hollow plastic products. The process involves heating plastic and placing it between two dies with the desired shape of the product. Air is injected to cause the plastic to expand and conform to the shape of the mold.

Poloron distributed its products through the big merchandisers of the day—Sears, Montgomery Ward, and S&H Green Stamps, among others. Locals could pick up Poloron products at all three stores in Monroe.

In the early 1970s, Poloron began closing plants and downsizing operations. Chinese competition sunk them. Ruston’s plant closed in 1973, taking a $1 million annual payroll out of the local economy. Eventually former Poloron distributors like Sears suffered their own downfalls. 

The vacant factory remains on McDonald and has been used off and on by other firms. But if you need a set of slightly used 50-year-old plastic reindeer or a 12-piece Nativity scene for the lawn, check eBay.

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