2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Saburo Hori. Who’s Sab Hori? He was a major player in the history of Checker Motor Corp. Perhaps the best way to tell the Sab Hori story is to share tributes written by Kenneth and Deborah Okamuro onOctober 22nd, 2015 at the passing of Mr. Hori.
“We were very sorry to hear of Uncle Sab’s passing. One of the most personable and gentle man I have ever known. He gave me the opportunity to learn engineering skills at Checker, skills I used until I retired and now in retirement. Deborah and I have given a gift to the Topaz Museum Fund in memory of Ann and Saburo Hori. I hope that this is an appropriate remembrance for two wonderful people who survived a tragic event in US history.”
The tragedy Mr. Okamuro, talks about is the internment of Japanese-Americans in 1942. Two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. This resulted in the relocation of approximately 120,000 people, many of whom were American citizens, to one of 10 internment camps located across the country. Traditional family structure was upended within the camp, as American-born children were solely allowed to hold positions of authority. Some Japanese-American citizens were allowed to return to the West Coast beginning in 1945, and the last camp closed in March 1946.
Suburo Hori was one of those interned in a west coast camp. Shortly after leaving the camp, Suburo “Sab”, moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan to take a job with the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. The following is an article that appeared in the CMC Checker Headlight Newsletter upon his retirement in 1984.
After 37 years at Checker Motors Sab Hori retired on May 1st 1984. However Sab is too youthful and energetic to stay away from Checker. So we will all still be able to see Mr. Hori on a frequent basis. He will be offering his valuable services to Checker as a consultant and still oversee the affairs of the data processing department. Most of Sab’s years at Checker have been spent in the Engineering Depart. serving as Vice President of Engineering and Environmental Activities.
Everyone that has worked under Sab says he’s a terrific boss. Dick Van Neiman remembers when he would travel with Mr. Sab, “Whenever Dick was introduced as working for Mr. Hori, Sab would always make the correction, “He doesn’t work for me, he works with me.”
Mr. Hori spent his entire career at Checker and its clear from the tributes both from 1984 and 2015, he was highly respected. It is truly amazing and perhaps a great example of the ability to forgive, that a person could come out of a tragic situation and still achieve greatness within a Midwestern automotive company.
Sab Hori joined Checker Cab Manufacturing in 1946, Mr. Hori would have been involved with the challenges of converting Checker from a military operations back to an automotive operation. Mr. Hori joined Checker when Herb Snow ( CMC 1938 – 1960) was leading the CCM Engineering department and Jim Stout (CMC 1924 – 1965) was leading the experimental department deep in the process of developing a new post war Checker . In the mid 50’s Hori was on hand for the launch of the Marathon type Checker in 1956 when Checker was a risk of losing the NYC and Chicago taxicab monopoly. Mr. Hori was in the thick of things, when Checker transitioned to the consumer car market in the early 1960’s.
Ultimately Sab Hori would take over the leadership of engineering upon the exit of Herb Snow in 1960 and Jim Stout in 1965. His last major project would be the development of the Galva prototypes. In November of 1981, Sab described to writer John Melrose the ending of the Galva project and exit of automotive production.
“We were at a crossroads whether to continue to offer the Taxi or discontinue and go into contract work. To stay in the taxi market required a large expenditure of money. At the time, the whole automobile industry was in a downturn. We didn’t feel it was worth the expenditure of several million dollars. There was still a lot of uncertainty. It would be a tremendous gamble.”
Sab Hori legacy represents, perhaps the most exciting period of time for Checker, 1947-1982, he saw it all and led CMC through some very challenging events. All Checker owners owe a big debt of gratitude to Mr. Sab Hori service and leadership.