Relating the problems with excess steel rods on order for Adcom Wire Company in Jacksonville, FL, I failed to describe my very first day as the new President. I had been taken to the office and wire plant on Lane Avenue by the man who had hired me, Rahl George, the Executive VP of Unicapital Corp. the principal owner of Adcom. While we were in my new office, a call came in for “the head man at Adcom” and the secretary put it through to Rahl George. He listened for a while and then said to the caller, “Let me put you through to the president who handles matters like that,” and gave the phone to me. It was the evening female news reporter of the local TV station and her opening remark was, “Are you aware that this afternoon you are going to be given a citation for polluting the St. Johns River?”
She said she wanted to interview me on camera that afternoon and would not take no for an answer. We were served with a citation in the afternoon and the reporter showed up with a camera man. I had, in the meantime found out that we had a cleaning house in which the hard scale on the purchased steel rod was soaked for a few minutes in an acid bath. I also found that we sent the spent acid to a treating plant in which it was neutralized, diluted and sent to a holding pond about 30 feet in diameter in which sediment settled and atmospheric rain further diluted it. A level controller allowed liquid to run out of this to a ditch which we shared with another wire mill next door and which drained into a tributary of the St. Johns. When this was originally installed, Adcom had approval to operate it that way, keeping the pond slightly alkaline. The cleaning house foreman assured me we always kept it within the specifications.
I was quite positive we had no problem and said so in the filmed interview. The reporter, while we were on film, said, “How do you explain that the City put a dye in your acid tank and it showed up in the river?” When filming ended, she admitted that she lied and it was a trick question to see how I reacted. I saw the film that evening and I handled it all quite positively and got several calls from friends. The City persisted and did a lot of testing until I proved to them that our alkaline liquid going into the ditch was neutralizing our neighbors acid and depositing what looked like red mud. With this, the City testers left us alone and wound up investigating and eventually fining our neighbors.
A year later, I applied for an Environmental Award given annually, and we were given an Honorable Mention. I also represented Adcom on the Environmental-Economic Interface Committee and was often quoted favorably in the newspapers.
Our VP Finance, Tom Ingram and his wife got Doris and I interested in shell-collecting and we towed our boat to Cedar Key on the Gulf side of Florida where they knew there were numerous live shells in the very large mud-flats at low tide. Cedar Key only gets one tide each day but it exposes a whole bay, on which you can walk and find shells. On our first visit we got quite a variety of of interesting shells and several really big conchs.
We were also encouraged to get a salt water aquarium and collect small live shells and hermit crabs. This we did and bought a 5 foot long tank and stand. Tom agreed to show us how to start a collection and took us to a tidal inlet south of St. Augustine where numerous shells came to feed on the oyster beds. We were challenged by a local fisherman who thought we were poaching his oyster lease but left us happily alone when he knew we were only after the shells. He got us a clump of about twenty or more oysters together with dollups of the black mud. We took this home in a bucket with seaweed and salt water and dumped what was a terrible mess into our new aquarium. The next day, we were astonished to see clear water with a miniature mountain of oysters all alive with small hermit crabs and their tiny shells as well as several live small shells.
Gradually, we added larger live shells and we then had a fascinating new hobby just watching and discovering what was going on. We had great fun putting in a clean shell and watching the scramble for it. Usually, the largest hermit crab would check to see if it fitted him and then pulled his body quickly out of his shell and into the new one. Then there would be another line of hermits waiting patiently for his shell and the subsequent smaller shells. It was not unusual for five or six hermits to be in-line for a new shell. We were surprised to find that the live shells fight each other and even eat each other. We often found two shells locked together for a day or two. If one shell was empty when they were separated we knew they were eating. If both shells crawled away we assumed they were making love. We did have new families of minute shells once in a while but most of them were eaten before they grew. We put bar stools at the tank for viewing and showing our friends some amazing examples of nature at work.
I am adding some photos to show what my kids looked like in the seventies.
We often put our boat in the water near our house and went water skiing on Pottsburg Creek, the river adjoining the St. Johns. I, Nick and Melanie got good enough to drop one ski and slalom but Doris stuck to two skis. We also had an aluminum canoe which got a lot of use. Nick even went to school one day by canoe. Melanie and one of her friends watched an alligator slide off the bank and were really scared when he scraped his back going under the canoe.
Unicapital had quarterly meetings in which each of their subs reported on the previous quarter. One of their annual meetings was held at the Ponte Vedra Resort and many of their share-holders attended. As part of my presentation I had a box of items that our customers had made from our wire, surprising them all as I pulled them one at a time from the box. The average person has little idea of what may have been originally a coil of wire. The obvious ones were refrigerator, oven and dish-washer racks and they all knew about fencing and concrete reinforcement, but the numerous gadgets that were automobile parts really surprised the audience. The mechanism operating a car door lock and several under the hood linkages all came from wire and numerous toy and tool components as well as all kinds of nails and nail-gun ammo start out as wire.
About this time, Doris and I were invited to go on a mystery tour with the British-American Club. This was a double-decker bus ride through all the back roads between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, stopping at several bars on the way. We immediately joined the club and had many great times. We welcomed Royal Navy ships docking at Mayport and had events on-board, at the club and in many private homes. Our son, Nick’s soccer team played the Ark Royal soccer team several times.
On one occasion, when I was president of the club, we and the City officials were invited to a formal party on the Ark Royal with the Royal Marine band marching up and down the flight deck and uniformed sea cadets passing out trays of “horse’s neck” cocktails. We were told that that was the Royal Navy drink, brandy and ginger ale.
We invited a few of the officers to a party at our house and one was the Ship’s Cook, nick-named Captain Fodder. We had a big ham and Doris had made cheese grits which were new to the guests and Captain Fodder wanted the recipe “to give to the boys.” He made us laugh converting Doris’ recipe into pounds instead of ounces and preparing it for 3,000 sailors. We also went aboard HMS Hermes when they came to visit.
Prince Andrew was later one of the helicopter pilots on the Hermes and several of our members met him when they were on their way to the Falkland Islands mini-war. We enjoyed our many good times with the club and still have friends from those days. Jacksonville was a wonderful experience and there are more stories to tell but that’s another memory for another day.