It’s a lot different working at the Budweiser plant now than it was back in the 1960s, when John Owens and his co-workers got a 15-minute beer break every two hours. “You didn’t mind going to work every day, that’s for sure,” said Owens, now retired to Northern California. “You’d just grab a beer off the line and have it with lunch.” And the days are a distant memory when Dennis Owens followed in his father’s footsteps in 1980, becoming a second-generation “Bud man” at the Anheuser-Busch plant in Van Nuys. By then, beer breaks had been written out of union contracts, but employees could still have a free brew or two at the plant after work. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson Today, the third-generation Owens man to become a Bud man – 25-year-old Jeff – can’t get a drop of beer in a plant that turns out 150 bottles of beer a second. “We get two cases a month to drink at home,” Jeff says. Times and mores may have changed, but being a Bud man still has cachet in this town. “One of my professors at CSUN asked each new student in his class to introduce themselves and say a few words. I told them I was majoring in sociology and worked at the Budweiser plant. “The class started applauding. It was a nice feeling.” Yeah, it’s a nice feeling for other reasons, too. With so many institutions razed and gone – including Lockheed and the GM plant, which provided paychecks for thousands of workers raising families in the San Fernando Valley, there’s something comforting about driving by the old Budweiser plant on Roscoe Boulevard and seeing it still operating more than 50 years later. Providing almost 1,000 jobs, including paychecks to three generations of Owens men. A Valley landmark not only surviving, but flourishing. Recently, Anheuser-Busch ranked first in eight of 10 categories among its peers in the beverage industry in Fortune Magazine’s 2005 “America’s Most Admired Companies.” In 1954, when the Bud plant opened in Van Nuys, it produced 920,000 barrels a year; it now produces 12 million barrels a year under 20 brands. And there’s been an Owens man working there almost from the beginning. John, who retired in 1994 after 32 years repairing equipment at the Bud plant, was in town during the holidays and stopped by the plant to visit with his son and grandson. Dennis Owens is manager of business operations. Jeff Owens has worked there since 2000 as a bottler. He is getting a college degree so he can move up and work in the plant’s Human Resources Department. John doesn’t recognize the place anymore. Gone are all the machines he worked on, as well as the popular Busch Gardens, a small theme park and rare-bird preserve that opened to the public in 1966. It closed down because the plant needed the 12-acre parcel to expand production. “My old man’s reputation didn’t hurt me any in getting the job,” Dennis says, smiling as his dad recounts stories about the old Teamsters contract that called for a seven-minute beer break every hour. It seems incredible now, but that’s the way it was back then, John says. A few guys abused it, but the vast majority of workers didn’t. They knew they wouldn’t have their jobs for long if they did. “Today, everything’s automated and high-speed,” Dennis says. “Those kind of beer privileges would make it impossible for anyone to run the equipment safely.” It’s nice to hear three generations of one family talk with respect about the company for which they all worked. Bud has made them all good, comfortable livings. It wouldn’t surprise any of them if, after Jeff gets married some day, a fourth-generation Bud man comes along. For now, though, the talk turned to the present. The workday was over, and it was time for the Owens men to toast the holidays together with a cold brew. Just not at the old Budweiser plant. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!