And then there was Don Bisplinhoff.
We moved to Jacksonville, FL in 1973 when I worked for a brief time with Ivy Steel and Wire Company. This was one of many wire product manufacturing companies operating in Florida due to the lack of steel mills in the South and the availability of the Port of Jacksonville that allowed a ready access for European steel mills to import their hot rolled steel rod into the US at attractive prices. There had been a building boom and wire plant steel inventories were high. Japanese steel mills were bringing steel into the States at below the cost of US production and a crisis was occurring in the steel and steel products industry, causing production cut-backs. This caused a slump in the use of steel and wire products, particularly in the building industry. When a wire producer placed an order for European hot rolled steel, it typically took four months before the steel arrived at the port, causing the company to have to predict their future steel usage. Faced with a high yard inventory, a reduction in sales and four months more of steel headed for the port and needing to be paid for on arrival, wire producers had a financial crisis.
Ivy Steel had been monitoring the situation and had not borrowed money extensively so they were able to weather the storm. Another Jacksonville wire company, Container Wire, had a serious problem. This company was originally founded by Mr. Bisplinoff to supply soft, black annealed wire for the wire-bound box manufacturers of Florida for the citrus industry, but had grown to produce many other wire sizes and specifications. Bisplinhoff, senior died about 1972 and his son, Donald became President. Don had been the sole salesman to the wire-bound box business and, not being too familiar with the steel rod logistics, had very optimistically ordered large tonnages of steel from European sources. They had a high inventory of raw material steel in their yard and had borrowed extensively for the ordered steel. (They had actually borrowed more than the legal lending limit of their bank and this prevented them going bankrupt because the bank saved them for their own sake.) At this point, Rahl George, the Executive VP of the principal owner of Container Wire, a fellow member of the Deerwood Golf Club in Jacksonville and I were comparing notes about the problem. They were in the process of reorganizing and re-naming the company and were looking for a new President. Within a week or two, I was offered the job and the company became the Adcom Wire Company. Donald Bisplinhoff quite happily relinquished his title and became an independent sales representative for the industry he had already been following.
I had a good rapport with Don because we were both golfers but it was a while before I found out that he was a champion. I went with him on sales calls and we shared quite a bit of wind-shield time. I learned that he had won both the Amateur and Open Florida Championship in 1955, as well as winning them both in other years. In 1978, Adcom Wire was acquired by the Leggett and Platt Company of Carthage, MO, a very small company town and in 1980 I left Adcom and moved to Houston. I heard that at some point, Donald was allowed to leave the company and become an independent supplier of wire to his favorite industry. I like to think that Donald was happy doing this until he died in 2007 and his business was run by his son and grandson. I hope they inherited Don’s ever-cheerful nature and his dedication to looking after his customers.