As 1975 closed and we started going into 1976, things in Jacksonville were going well for us. I was well entrenched as President of Adcom Wire Company and had been involved with all the aspects of the business for about two years. I knew it was running well but I could also see areas that could be improved.
We had hired a Sales Manager, Joe Downes to coordinate the activities of the sales representatives and we had made a substantial improvement with their remuneration incentive plan and I started a Suggestion Box for employees in the plant and in the office to suggest better ways of doing their job since they knew more about the procedures and the type of unexpected problems they had to handle daily. It was treated as a joke for a while and we got some ridiculous, rude and funny comments, all anonymous of course.
We started a program in which any signed suggestion that was worthy of consideration would get the employee $50 cash whether we used the idea or not. In either case, I responded personally to the person who made the suggestion and everyone began to see its value. When we started paying larger sums for ideas we acted on, the whole company embraced it and we made sure to explain to all about the successes. We made a few substantial alterations to procedures and equipment that had an immediate beneficial effect and the whole thing became very popular with both management and the entire staff.
I also put in an incentive program for the key employees, the wire drawers. We had to study each size of wire individually and we started measuring pounds of wire drawn per shift. I noticed that the wire drawers, even the best ones we had, worked hard drawing wire but tended to treat the necessary changing of dies as a kind of relaxing break. They would saunter over to the die shop to get replacement dies and then take their time changing them. I later included the die-shop machinists in an incentive based on total daily production and they started making sure dies were not only ready, but were delivered to the wire drawer so as to avoid delays.
We set the pounds per day minimum daily targets about 70% higher than the poundage we had measured and when we announced them they were ridiculed and the incentive plan became a joke even though we had made the potential rewards quite attractive. This lasted for three to four weeks and then one day, one drawer beat the target for the gauge wire he was drawing and was surprised how much incentive he had earned. We announced this and gradually almost all of the wire-drawers started giving themselves attractive raises. About a year later, our wire production was double the pre-incentive rate.
Doris and I started to find that our life and routines were changing with Nigel in his third year at Georgia Tech, Nick in his first year at Vanderbilt University and Melanie just leaving home to go to the Florida School of Arts in Palatka. Doris’ job got a little harder looking after her mother who was badly crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. One day, she called me in the office to say that Grannie had fallen without hurting herself but she could not get her back up and onto her bed. Knowing she was not hurt, I told Doris to make her comfortable and I would get home as soon as I can to help. I found her quite happy on cushions on the floor with TV on and the proverbial British remedy for most things, a cup of tea.
This did scare us however, and we started looking for a nursing home or assisted living facility for her. This proved harder to do than we thought because in Jacksonville, all such facilities were, not only full but had waiting lists. We eventually found what turned out to be a perfect place in St. Augustine and we arranged for her to go there. Doris’ routine became a 40 mile drive down the coast road on Sundays and Wednesdays to see and help her mother. The home had all kinds of visiting entertainment and the food was good so a big load went off our minds.
I played my best golf while we lived in Jacksonville and I was a very steady ten handicap. At college, I was eight by the time I left but a job and getting married soon sent it up. In Connecticut and Atlanta I was always ten to twelve and won my share of weekend club tournaments, but played well more consistently in Jacksonville. The Deerwood Club I joined had an annual three day invitation tournament called the Dixie Classic. It was a two man team event in which two teams were randomly picked to play together as a single team and was a handicapped best ball competition over the whole three days. There were all sorts of cocktail and dinner parties with professional music and entertainment. The pool and tennis courts both had events for the non-golfers and the entire event attracted couples from many northern and central states.
In my first Classic, I was drawn with a steady sixteen handicapper and we paired with two golfers from Long Island, NY. We all played quite well and we were in contention by the end of the second day. There was a betting pool each day and we all participated, modestly for me and my partner but fairly heavily by the New Yorkers. In the third round, I had the best hole I ever played in my 70 year golf career. It was on hole number 13, a par 5, 531 yards long and I had a stroke. The drive was to a left-handed corner and my drive was a perfectly hit draw very slightly round the corner and I had a perfect lie. The green was about 200 yards away with water on the right. Our New Yorkers, knowing I had a stroke, begged me to play safe but I had been confidentially hitting my driver from the fairway in recent rounds, so that is the club I chose. I hit a low straight screamer between traps and water and onto the green eight feet from the pin. Shaking like a leaf, I hit the putt in the hole for eagle 3 and a ne 2.
Picking up three shots at this point was critical for us and we were tied with another team for the win. They matched cards to split the tie and we came second. The second prize was a beautiful engraved leather golf bag but I had recently bought a new bag and when we were picking up our prizes I heard one of the winners say he would have preferred the bag to a full set of travelling luggage which he did not need. He quickly agreed to swap prizes except that he kept the silver trophy but got his bag. I had also won a closest to the pin award which turned out to be an elaborate propane grille which only half fitted in my car trunk. In subsequent years, I won a couple of side awards but no big wins. The Dixie Classic events were ended after a few years when a tornado blew away the giant tent used for the parties and it never got re-scheduled.
With only Doris and I living alone for the first time since our wedding, we realized we had the opportunity to travel. We had always in the back of our minds, assumed we would return to England and had often talked about retiring there so, it was with this in mind, we decided to go over for two weeks to help us decide. 1976 was our 25th wedding anniversary and we had lived overseas for 22 years, so our trip home will be another memory for another day.