MORAINE, Ohio, Oct, 15...Sixpack has been a proud name in the Ohio River valley for seven generations.
But that will end today.
Joe Sixpack VI, the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the original settler is changing his name.
"We Sixpacks have been mocked and humiliated by the media and by unscrupulous politicians," he says. "I won't stand for it any longer."
The family put down roots in 1760 when French fur trapper Joseph Sespaque settled here, fleeing the English victory in Canada. He set his traps along an Ohio River teeming with otter. He fought off poachers, haggled with the trading companies and built a small fortune.
Sespaque dropped his pelts in 1776 to fight the English again. Joe holds up a rusty fowling piece. "This is the rifle he used to defend the Ohio Territory at Fort Laurens during the Revolutionary War. The Indians called him Sixpatches because of all the regimental badges he wore and the name stuck."
Driven out of the trapping business by farmers and fishermen, the Sixpatches became itinerant peddlers traveling along the Ohio River with their goods in gigantic packs on their backs
"My great-great-great-great grandpa was a big guy and the local jokesters called him Joe Sixpack for all the packs he could carry," Joe says. He gets a defiant look. "We had this name long before it meant cans of beer."
The name stuck right up to the Civil War when Joe's great-great grandpa put down his pack to fight for the Union in the 48th. regiment. When he returned the railroad and the steamboat were delivering goods faster than a wandering peddler ever could. He opened a small store outside of Moraine, Ohio.
He called it "Sixpacks" and offered six of any item for the price of five.
"People came from all over the state," Joe says. "He opened a little diner and then a camp ground..."
Great-great-grandpa Joe took off his apron to join up with the 147th. Infantry during World War I. When he returned the Volstead Act had been passed, prohibiting the sale of alcohol. His cousin Nate had built a still in the woods behind the store and was selling bootleg booze, six quarts for the price of five. They changed the diner into a speakeasy roadhouse. They made booze for the Cleveland Mob.
It was the "Roaring '20's." Prosperity was here to stay. Great-grandpa Joe Invested in the booming stock market. He bedecked Great-grandma Edna with diamonds and bought himself a Pierce Arrow.
Then, the market crashed. The Sixpacks were wiped out. Great Grandpa Joe's mobster pals moved in and took over the booze business. They kept him on as a front man for a few dollars a week. He lost that job in 1932 when Prohibition was repealed.
"He and Great Grandma shot squirrels, lived off the land, anything to stay off Relief," says Joe.
In the midst of the Depression the auto industry was booming. Great-grandpa got a job at the plant in Janesville, Wis. Pay was low and conditions were brutal.
"He was no socialist, but he could see that the union was the only way to protect the workers," says Joe. "He became a charter member of the UAW, participating in the first strike at Flint, Michigan, fighting Henry Ford's hired goons at the "The Battle of the Overpass...They called him Sixpacker for the Colt. 45 he had in his belt."
Joe's grandpa was working at the GM plant in Lima, Ohio when World War II broke out. He dropped his tools and enlisted in the Marine Corps. His job was waiting for him when he returned and he stayed at it, turning out trucks until retirement.
Joe's dad, Joe Sixpack V worked at the plant all his life, taking time out to serve with the First Air Cavalry in Vietnam.
Joe continued the tradition, going to work at the Moraine plant after high school. Except for a twenty-four month stint in Iraq with the Ohio National Guard, he stayed at the SUV Assembly plant, turning out GMC Envoys and Chevy Trailblazers.
Joe doesn't remember how it happened. "It's like one day I woke up and my name was the butt of a joke," he says. "Joe Sixpack was a bigoted jerk with a beer belly, a guy who gorged junk food and only cared about NASCAR."
Joe took the jokes good-naturedly. In the small town of Moraine, pop. 6800, everybody knew his family---his son, an Eagle Scout off to Annapolis, his daughter, a gymnast, known as "Little Sixpack" for her perfect abs.
Then, in June, GM shocked the town by announcing it was closing the plant, laying off 2,400 workers. Joe says he should have seen it coming. With 19,423 jobs lost in the first three months of 2008, Ohio is the fourth highest state in mass layoffs, behind California, Michigan and New York.
Ohio politicians scrambled to keep the plant open. They offered hundreds of millions in tax breaks to GM, but were turned down. Gas prices and green politics had destroyed the SUV market, they were told.
"It was the end of an era," Joe says. "GM had mismanaged its business and we were paying the price..."
Joe was putting together three hundred years of family memorabilia for a trip to the Antiques Roadshow when one of his friends called, laughing. "Sara Palin wants you to be Vice President, Joe." He You Tubed the VP debate and heard Palin say: "It's time that normal Joe Sixpack Americans were represented in the position of Vice President."
He doesn't know why, but he just snapped.
"This little twit was patronizing me," he said. "I was the blue-collar sucker who you could talk into fighting your wars and working in your factories...Who you could dump when he was no longer useful..."
Next day, Joe was in court petitioning for a name change.
What's his new name going to be?
"I don't know yet," Joe says. "Maybe Warren Harding...? Lebron James? Somebody from Ohio."
Causes Heywood Gould Supports
Leukemia and Lymphomia Association
American Cancer Society
St. Jude's Children Research Hospital