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The company’s huge factory on Bridge Street in Salem, now the site of the Jefferson at Salem Station condominiums, cranked out some of world’s most famous games. Connie Knudson of Beverly started out as a young woman working “on the line,” sitting at a conveyor belt and deftly grabbing the various game pieces two hands at a time and placing them in boxes.
Knudson said it didn’t take a lot of skill — “Just speed.”
John Tanzella of Beverly ran a printing press inside the factory, literally printing millions of dollars in Monopoly money over his 17 years.
“Thousands and thousands of dollars every night,” he said. “We printed the directions, the game boards, the boxes. It was a real good time. Especially at Christmas time or birthdays, you always thought that you were doing something that was making people happy. You knew people enjoyed the final product and you took pride in it.”
The company moved its corporate headquarters to Dunham Road in Beverly in 1978. Warren Parsons, who came down from Plaistow, N.H., for last night’s reunion, worked there for 10 years as the supervisor of maintenance.
“I played Santa Claus at all the Christmas parties,” said Parsons, now 80. “I was a steelworker for 30 years and a cop in Danvers for 10 years, and Parker Brothers was the best job I ever had. It was like family. That’s why you’ll find a lot of these guys still associating with each other after all these years.”
When asked to explain the company’s family atmosphere, former executive Frank Ventura had a simple explanation.
“We’ve played with toys,” he said. “It was fun.”
Parker Brothers was eventually taken over by a succession of companies, from General Mills to Tonka to Hasbro. The family atmosphere began to wane. In 1983, the grandson of founder George Parker quit in protest of General Mills’ management practices, Orbanes said.
Hasbro took over in 1991 and shifted most of the manufacturing to East Longmeadow. The Salem factory stayed open for three more years, making mostly Nerf footballs, until it was torn down in 1994.
By that time, 23 years after she started on the conveyor belt, Knudson had worked her way up to production manager.
“I stayed until the day we shut the doors,” she said. “It was a great place. It was the people who made Parker Brothers.”