'Stag-soap' production changednema

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It has become a matter of course that many factories changed the products they used to make in the past for new ones, just because their owner changed. Some of them launched the new production easily and are going on successfully, others had problems and their assembly lines came to a standstill.

It has become a matter of course that many factories changed the products they used to make in the past for new ones, just because their owner changed. Some of them launched the new production easily and are going on successfully, others had problems and their assembly lines came to a standstill.

The chemical works SETUZA in the north Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem is not exactly the latter case, but something significant has happened there as well. The popular washing soap, called by people 'stag soap' because the bar is quite a big one and depicts a figure of a jumping stag, is no longer to be produced at Setuza in its traditional way - after a long 120 years. Melted substances used to bubble in huge barrels day and night but today only congealed left-overs remind workers of 'stag soap'.

Naturally, this change has cost many employees their job - one of them told the press recently that he had worked in the soap-producing department for more than 35 years, and that he felt real pity over the fact that he had to leave Setuza. The chemical works were established in the mid 19th century by a German entrepreneur, Georg Schicht, because the border region where Usti nad Labem is located, was part of the so-called Sudetenland, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans. His son, Johann started the soap production there in 1882. Now, they would 'turn in their graves if they could see what's going on' - as a Czech saying goes.

Although automatic washing machines are used for doing laundry most frequently, there are still many households in the Czech Republic, especially those of elderly people, who are either afraid of the technique or simply do not wish to change habits of a life-time.

The good news for them is that the stag soap will be available in the future, too. Setuza's spokeswoman said that they would have the washing soap produced by a different company, but that it would be made according to Setuza's recipe. Other kinds of soaps will be produced under a different technology, from purchased soap flakes. So what was the main reason for closing down the stag-soap production? Mainly ecological, Setuza's managers say. Usti nad Labem used to be called 'a city of chemistry' and local inhabitants got used to a permanent chemical stench that lingered there. Now, things are to be changed - and people in town will at last be able to breathe clean air. By the way, our weekend cottage is in North Bohemia, just some 30 kilometres from Usti, and when I asked in the local shop for a washing powder, the assistant said: 'Why don't you buy stag soap? I could never wash my husband's socks without it!'