With "a head the size of a Datsun," Howie Makem prowls the line looking for quality in this illustration for a 1986 Mother Jones article on Ben Hamper. (Photo supplied by Shawn Chittle)
Howie Makem, the legendary G.M. Quality Cat who was lionized by Ben Hamper in Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line, is apparently alive and well and living in Reno.
Scott Atkinson, the Flint Journal reporter who seems to get all the good stories these days, reports:
He disappeared from the General Motors shop floor a long time ago, but the Quality Cat is back -- at least in digital form.Here's Hamper's description of Howie:
Howie Makem, the one-time mascot of General Motors who roamed the shops cheering on workers, recently started his own Facebook page.
(Okay, so it might not actually be Howie, but it's far more fun to pretend.)
Howie Makem stood five feet nine. He had light brown fur, long synthetic whiskers and a head the size of a Datsun. He wore a long red cape emblazoned with the letter Q for Quality. A very magical cat, Howie walked everywhere on his hind paws. Cruelly, Howie was not entrusted with a dick.
Howie would make the rounds poking his floppy whiskers in and out of each department. A "Howie sighting" was always cause for great fanfare. The workers would scream and holler and jump up and down on their workbenches whenever Howie drifted by. Howie Makem may have begun as just another Company ploy to prod the tired legions, but most of us ran with the joke and soon Howie evolved into a crazy phenomenon.