Blue-Collar Poet Writes Prose For The Common Man


Leon Chamberlain just might be the ultimate contradiction a blue-collar worker with a passion for poetry.

The retired auto factory employee, who moved to Payson from Michigan after a 33-year career with Ford Motor Company, realized he had a penchant for poetry back in the 6th grade when he helped a friend win first place in a poetry contest by writing a poem for him.

"It really ticked my mom off that I did that," Chamberlain said.

Those were the days in Michigan when the easy money was made on the assembly lines of the state's booming auto industry. Chamberlain, who was born in Flat Rock in 1946, followed the path so many took.

He got married and went to work for Great Lakes Steel right out of high school. It wasn't long before he found his way to an auto assembly line.

"So many go in there and get seduced by the big bucks," he said. "There were a lot of teachers in Michigan who quit teaching because they could make so much more on the assembly line."

But there was also a schism between blue collar and white collar workers in the auto factories that provided Chamberlain with much of his poetic inspiration.

"If you were an hourly employee in an auto factory, they considered you this dumb brute," he said. "During the '60s and '70s, there was this warfare in the factories. We loathed them. They loathed us."

It was an era when cars were selling like hotcakes and overtime was mandatory. Divorce rates skyrocketed because assembly workers were required to spend 12 hours a day, seven days a week on the job.

Out of the experience came Chamberlain's first book, a prose work called "Factory Rat." In the 442-page tome, he recounts the experience of "Industrius Rodenticus ... a sweaty breed

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