Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Snow business to Show Business

The winter of 1982-83 was a harsh one, very cold temperatures and a lot of snow, leastwise to the north of the state line up around Bucktown and Pottstown. Delaware was spared some of the snow, but in February we got hit with a real blast that left two feet of the white stuff behind. Laurel and Noelle came out to help daddy dig us out.
Blast From The Past: Blizzard of 1983

For a strong Nino winter during 1982-1983, the Blizzard of '83 provided a snowy "treat" to the Delaware Valley, bringing 21.3" of snow to the Airport on February 11th and 12th. Until the Blizzard of '96 and the twin snowstorms this last winter, the February '83 snowstorm was the biggest snowstorm of record in Philadelphia, eeking out the 21.0" snowstorm that everyone remembers from Christmas 1909. From Phillyweather.net

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Laurel made an effort, but Noelle was still too young to be very effective, besides which, her big sister kept pushing her down. Laurel tried to run from her deed, but couldn’t move very fast toward escape in the depths. Noelle lies as a red lump half-buried in the background.

On the 27th we held a small party at home for Laurel’s 5th birthday. Evelyn Weinmann, Lois' friend since grade school, who our kids call Aunt Ev, and my parents attended. Lois made the birthday cake in the shape of a car, forming cakes into some favorite object for the kids became a regular tradition. Laurel lost one of her baby teeth while eating,



On Saturday 26, my parents picked up the kids and dropped Lois and me off at the Wilmington Amtrak Station (left) and since 2011 the Blabbermouth…I mean, the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Station. It was renamed for the then Vice-President in honor of all the years he rode back and forth to Washington from there as a U. S. Senator.
The Bank was sending me to AMA (American Management Association) classes in New York and Lois was going along for the weekend before classes began. This made for a nice little mini-vacation with lower costs for us. The bank was picking up the tab for the hotel and for my transportation and meals. I had to pay for Lois’ train fair and her meals. Any entertainment we did during the weekend was half on my dime and half on Wilmington Trust’s. It was a big savings to us. Oddly, I can’t remember much about this trip, such as what classes I attended. I took a number of courses in New York and Washington DC from both the AMA and the BAI during my years at Wilmington Trust. This was my first such trip and I'd think I would have remembered it, but I don't.  I also don’t have any photos of it.
During our time in New York, Laurel fell and hurt her knees, but recovered quickly. My dad came down to our place and drove Mr. Heaney’s former car, the Big Blue Shark, up to Bucktown and parked in down in their field, where it would sit for years. Lois came home on Monday morning and my mom picked her up at the train station. I attended AMA classes through Wednesday and came back home on Thursday.

Within a period of two decades the term “made-in Japan went from being synonymous with “shoddy juke” to being highly regarded for meaning quality. Some rank quality control and long-term investment as leading causes of Japan having high productivity, and American business persons have begun to look to Japan on tips on how to have better productivity. Americans may feel twinges of chagrin when the Japanese bid on American projects and win them away from American firms, but at the same time they thing, “at least they’ll work.” In recent years, many have decided that if Japanese products work here, perhaps Japanese management style will, too. So after decades of Japanese executives trooping through American firms to learn our management secrets, we have turned the tables and sought a magic formula in Japan.

This was the opening paragraph of my book, Japanese Management Style published by Wilmington Trust.
When I was a boy, after World War II ended and we were again doing trade with Japan, you could find a lot of trinkets and cheap items stamped with “Made in Occupied Japan”. These things were so poorly made they often fell apart after but slight use.
Many Japanese imports were gimcracks,  ceramic and porcelain figurines or prizes given away at carnivals. The Japanese products were so awful they became a joke. If you bought anything and it quickly stopped working, somebody would say, “What was it, made in Japan?” Of course, those old pieces of junk are probably collectors’ items today and cost a small fortune to buy.

But that was the 1940s and 1950s. Things change. If you recall, my job at the other WTC, Welded Tube Company, disappeared because in the 1970s Japan was dumping steel in the United States. Now, by the 1980s Japan was doing okay financially and their products had gained a reputation as the hallmark of quality, especially in the auto industry. When the Datsun arrived in the USA during the 1960s it revised the old “Made in Japan” jokes. (Left, 1960 Datsun. Odd fact, the name Datsun was only used in the United States at the time. In the rest of the world the cars were called Nissans, as they are today.)
It was much the same when the early Hondas appeared in the US market during the 1970s (1970-72 Honda on right). Americans were still driving about in long, wide boats and here come these funny looking little

puddle-jumpers out of Japan. My friend of then, Dave Mason had a Honda Civic. Just as I had heard people ask when I owned my 1966 Beetle, he would be asked, “Can that thing make it up the hills?” I do wonder how he fit his family in the thing, his wife, two kids and Saint Bernard. On the right is an American's idea of their dream car, the 1970 Lincoln Continental.

I'll admit to having two Hondas in my life. They were and are the most dependable cars I ever saw. Currently I have a 2009 Honda Fit. Previously my Daughter, Noelle, owned a Honda Civic. She bought it used after graduating high school, class of 1999. She named it, Robby, after Rob Zombie. She drove it until she was deployed to Iraq in 2003 (she was in the Army). When she left for overseas, she gave it to her brother, Darryl. He drove it until he bought a 2004 Pontiac in 2008. Several months later I sold the Honda to my next door neighbor and he gave it to his teenage daughter. That girl drove that car until sometime in 2015. Someone else is probably zipping around in it even now. Darryl's Pontiac completely broke down in 2010.

While attending the BAI P.A.T.H. Conference in 1982 I met Dr. W. Edwards Deming. He had been sent to Japan after World War II by the State Department to assist with their census. While in Japan he began training engineers, mangers and scholars in quality concepts. Eventually he was credited with turning Japan’s economy around and making it the second strongest in the world. A highly valued award given in Japan to companies exerting top quality control and management is called, The Deming Prize.
US Companies were just beginning to take note of his ideas by 1980 and full recognition of his importance didn’t come until a few years before his death in 1993 at the age of 93. In 1987 he received the National Medal of Technology from President Reagan and in 1988 he was given the Distinguished Career in Science Award by the National Academy of Sciences.

My exposure to Dr. Deming and contacts with Quality Circles expert Richard Toole in Atlanta led me develop a theory of Management Improvements for the banking industry. By mid-1983 I had collected several writings of my ideas and put them together in a book called Tire Teams and Unicycles: Q/P Theory. I was expanding my project management in scope and the role it and I would play at Wilmington Trust over the next several years.

Perhaps the course I had taken at AMA had something to do with Quality. I know at some point I took a course called, The Effect on Cost of Quality Control, which may have been what the New York trip involved.

In July my parents babysat Darryl as we took Laurel and Noelle to Sesame Place for the day. My parents did a lot of babysitting over these early years of parenthood. A lot of the time it was so Lois and I could get away together, but at times it was like this, looking after one child while we did something with the older two.

This was in July, but it wasn’t long before Darryl became the focus of attention. His first birthday came on August 24 and my mom and grandmother came down for it.

In September of 1983 a new career was added to my duties, show business. Well, sort of anyway. Each year a Chairman was named to head up the United Way campaign for the bank. I am not certain who was the very firstChairman, because the Chairman was always a manager who had served the previous year as Vice-Chairman. When the new Chairman took office he or she would name a new Vice-Chairman. And on and on it would continue.
In 1983 my boss, Walk Whittaker (right in photo) became Chairman and he named Joe Jacobs (left in photo), Vice-President of the Personnel Department ( still not called Human Resources) as his Vice-Chairman. Since I was Walt’s project Manager he tapped me to put the program together. Some things were expected to be included, such as Beryl Barmore from Personnel explaining how to make a donation (on right is Beryl doing her speech at a meeting.). I knew Beryl, she went to my church and we were friends. She was also a very excellent singer. Maybe I should have had her sing her spiel. You also had to have some high Muckety Muck from the United Way organization appear and talk about the charities the organization supported, but the rest was quite open. I decided to run a slide show as people entered and got seated. This was accompanied by music. I used “Memory” from Cats that first year I did it. I used Neil Diamond’s “I’m Alive” the next. We wanted to make the whole event truly entertaining. 
To get the slides to use I traveled about to various agencies and snapped scenes. (Right is the Opportunity Center, Inc. (OCI)  in Wilmington, a training and employment place for the disabled and handicapped. When I worked at Mercantile Printing years later, I used to eat lunch at OCI's cafeteria).
After taking and developing  the slides, I had to coordinate the slides to music. We didn’t have any fancy equipment to create these presentations. I recorded the music I selected onto a cassette and then timed everything out so the slides on the slide projector changed at the right moment to match the music.
I was walking between agencies in Wilmington one day and tripped on an uneven brick sidewalk. I didn’t fall, but the force of balancing myself sent my camera strap off my shoulder and my camera slammed into the bricks. I picked it up and there was a big dent in the one corner and it wasn’t working. The bank paid to have my camera repaired, but it was never quite the same afterward. Every so often a photo would have a black smear down the length of one side.

Our United Way show was actually popular, amazing considering it was a plea for money. We set a company record for pledges that year. United Way liked my show format so much they asked if they could present it to other companies as a suggestion for their presentations. I was asked to be the writer and director of the next year’s show, which I did. In fact, I did a third year after that. Each year we put on our show 34 times or more in order for every employee to attend. (On the left is my favorite photo I took.)
In my second year of United Way presentations I was also put in charge of scheduling. It can be tricky scheduling over 2,000 employees, some of whom work over three shifts. You could not have more than so many at one time from any one unit and you had to consider those working a second or third shift, how to get them in to a meeting and then get everyone committed to their time. We did a couple of the shows on the road for branch personnel working down state, and we did a separate show for the third shift employees. Fortunately, most of those who worked in the wee hours of the morning were in one of our own divisions, Data Preparation.
Any such event takes more than one person to do and pull off. On the right was our team in 1983. I'm not in the picture because I took the photo. This was taken in Georgetown, Delaware as we toured. Walt Whittaker is on the far left. At 6 foot 5 inches he  easily stands out. To the front and Walt's right is Beryl Barmore.

All-in-all, 1983 was a busy year.


1 comment:

WARPed said...

Amongst aficionados, the late 90s Honda Civics are considered as some of the best ever made.

I drove my 2001 Civic for 330,000 miles before it blew a head gasket, then I drove it to the junkyard.

:-)

-Andy