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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."

15 Comment count
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I'm a 20 year Navy man, and I saw that whole Joe sixpack thing from Palin exactly the same way.  This is a very well-written, thought-provoking piece, and I wish everyone in America would get on over here and read it.



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Thanks for the kind words,

Thanks for the kind words, David.

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I find all your columns to be thought provoking and amusing, but for some reason this one had me in stitches. It is pitch perfect, and I'm sending it around to friends. 

-Max Sindell, Author Liaison & Community Coordinator, Red Room

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Thanks, Max.

Thanks, Max.

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Joe - Consider the source

I found your blog hilarious and infuriating at the same time.  Oh, I'm not infuriated at you, just the mindless twits who use anything to make a political point, and who frankly could not give a damn about Joe Sixpack, or Harry Plumber, or Susie Soccermom, or any of the rest of us.  These are the same twits, by the way, who think wearing an American flag pin "made in China" is a sign that you are a true patriot, and questioning the questionable actions of the party in power makes you a traitor.  If you really want to stump them, ask them when was the last time they read the Constitution, and if they understood it.

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Infuriating is the word.

Infuriating is the word. Their casual, mindless contempt for people who are actually smarter than they are. The smugness in  their eyes as they perpetrate their transparent little ruses. Don't get me started.

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Joe Sixpack

Great stuff, and very insightful. Politicians of every stripe have no compunction about turning real people into half-cocked symbols of some fuzzy "True American," but this year the Repubs have truly brewed their stump speeches into a dark art form. The very citizens on whom they project their cloying, simplistic version of "average folk" are the same people whom their minions have no problem laying off or denying health coverage to. Thanks for the cool little history lesson.

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I'm trying to stay

I'm trying to stay dispassionate and keep the alarmism out of my tone, but this election really has me scared. 

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My Goodness

Bravo. You give me pause to consider the creative process- at what point did you decide that you had to write such a thing? Should I get any sleep tonight at all, it will be infected with an army of beaver-pelt clad Sespaques paddling down the river valley.

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Red room is pure expression.

Red room is pure expression. Great for a guy who's been hacking around for years. No quest for notoriety or gain. Just the pleasure of an occasional note from a kindred spirit like yourself.

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Loved it!

The humane humor in this peice was a real antidote to the toxic reading I've been doing, trying to stay informed about all the campaign shenanigans (I can't wait until this is over).  I'm going to have to share this.

Keep it up!



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We've got to laugh to keep

We've got to laugh to keep our sanity. Thanks for the note, Wendy.

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Sixpack Forever

248 years of one American family's genealogy is substantial. I loved your Joe Sixpack story. It's a Hormic Theory; a theory that all action and behavior, conscious or unconscious, have a purpose or specific goal.

What irritates me is Sarah Palin's speech writers, as well as her delivery. Their superficiality espouses a pupet cuteness, but with stupid intentions. I guess since we've been marionettes seemingly forever, with politicians pulling the strings, we have forgotten how independent we  can be.

Politicians' Hormic Theory is alive and well, but this time it's backfiring on them.

Ben Campbell www.lulu.com/bencampbell

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Joe Sixpack

Absolutely spot on...you've got Sarah Palin pegged for what she really is (which I will not say here -  even us low-life Old Biker Mama types know enough to draw the line somewhere...which is more than can be said for  Mrs. Palin).


 Gayle Hansen, Concord, CA

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Great piece of fun! I chuckled throughout and have passed it on to several buddies. Reminds me of Mike Royko, and that's the highest compliment I can deliver.

Chris R.