Release Date: 
Tuesday, January 19, 2021

92-year-old alumnus owes his career to the Henry Ford Trade School

A 2010 photo of Harold Promo, a 1947 Henry Ford Trade School alumnus, and his wife Lorraine.
A 2010 photo of Harold Promo, a 1947 Henry Ford Trade School alumnus, and his wife Lorraine.

One day when he was in eighth grade at what is now Cleveland Middle School, Harold Promo heard over the PA system there were two applications left to apply for the Henry Ford Trade School (HFTS). The Trade School provided Ford Motor Company with trained draftsmen and technicians. When it closed in 1952, it gave its remaining assets to Dearborn Junior College (now HFC) so that any HFTS alumni could continue their education if they wanted to do so.

“I told my mom about the trade school announcement. She’d already tried to get my older brother, Norbert, into HFTS, but when he didn’t hear back, he joined the Navy. My mom told me to go to the office before class the next morning to get the application form. We filled the form out and sent it in the same day. We didn’t hear anything for three weeks, then got a postcard that told me to report for a physical at Gate 3 at Ford Motor Company World Headquarters in Dearborn,” recalled Promo, 92, of Warren.

Born in Detroit, Promo – the youngest of two – grew up during the Great Depression. He was married to his wife Lorraine from 1954 until her death in 2012. He has three daughters, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Promo graduated in 1947 from HFTS. He also attended Pershing High School in Detroit. Promo completed an apprenticeship at Ford, where he earned his journeyman’s card in metal pattern-making. From 1953-61, he served in the Michigan Army National Guard and was put on standby status during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He rose to the rank of sergeant before getting an honorable discharge.

Working on everything from transmission housings to cruise missiles

From 1961 to 1984, Promo worked in the B Building of the Ford Rouge Plant. He worked on the V8 engine, as well as transmission housings for Fordson Tractors. His group also made crankshafts, camshafts, and valve patterns. Promo eventually became a shift leader after five years. When things slowed down, Promo and his colleagues got repair work from the Dearborn Iron Foundry and then the Flat Rock Foundry.

In 1984, he took advantage of a special early retirement incentive. After taking several months off, he applied for a tool and design job at Williams International (WI) in Pontiac, which made cruise missiles for the military.

“To my surprise, when I came to the interview, the supervisor was a man named Ron Borkowski. He was a HFTS graduate. The lead designer, Tom Drake, was also a HFTS graduate, so I was in good company and got the job,” recalled Promo. “We designed tooling for laser-drilling holes in the burner housings for the jet engines that WI made. We also were in on the design of tooling for the engine of the Williams FJ44 jet. After the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the WI contract ran out, so I took my second retirement after working there for seven years.”

Lifelong friendship with fellow HFTS alum

One of Promo’s classmates at HFTS was fellow alumnus Jack Accurso. The two became lifelong friends. In fact, Accurso doesn’t live too far from Promo in Warren.

“Jack and I go back a long way. We met on the Plymouth bus on our way to school. He would get on at the back of Detroit City Airport (now called the Coleman A. Young International Airport). I would get on about 1½ miles farther up. Both of us would get off at Wyoming to catch the bus to the Rouge Plant. We would stand and freeze waiting for the Wyoming Bus -- which was always full -- on many a cold winter morning. Our wives and children would get together for Jack’s famous spaghetti dinners. We call each other at least once a week and try to see a movie.”

Like Accurso, Promo spoke highly of his education at the HFTS.

“I owe all of my good fortune and prosperity to the education and experience that I received at the HFTS. I’m very grateful for it,” he said. “I learned how to be responsible and how to treat people with respect and dignity.”