Episode #2: The Early Years
August 1, 2018
Welcome to the Precast Podcast, Episode Two. So, we've got three other people in the room today, so we're going to start before we get going, and we're going to do some general introductions. Ed and Bob, could you please give us a quick intro on yourselves?
Yeah, Edward Shea.
Bob Flores. I'm the General Manager, worked for Ed for, this is my 52nd year. So, started in June of 1967 and never left.
Greg Stratis, President Shea Concrete. Been here for 25 years this year, and hopefully another 25 more.
Awesome. Fantastic. So, the goal of episode two is we're going to follow up on episode one. That was a recorded monologue where we went through the start of the company all the way through the present day. So the goal of the next three episodes is to dive in and get into some more detail. So episode two right now, we're going to start in 1949 when EF Shea started and go to 1975 when EF Shea transitioned to Shea Concrete Products. So, as we get going, Ed, could you give us some background on your father? Could we simply start there?
Well, he started out early buying and selling tonic, like solar tonic in the [Lubitaugh Wallace 00:01:37] stores in Boston. He worked very hard, but never made any money. I mean, how much can you make when you sell a bottle of tonic? The manufacturer made all the money and a lot of the times you didn't get paid. Then he started doing bagged coal and bagged wood which was a big thing in the cities and so we did that for a long time, but it was very hard work, many, many hours. We never made any money doing it to speak of, but you did what you had to do.
And then we got rolling, and then we bought a septic tank farm, and we just started manufacturing, and we've done very well since. But it was very, very hard at the beginning. Everything you did was hard. No modern equipment. We didn't even have a forklift at the beginning. It was just hard, hard work, but we did fine.
You had done some brick cleaning and stuff like that at one point?
Yeah. Right in the middle of that, I probably forgot about the brick. We'd go to a building they were tearing down and we'd buy the bricks from the building, bring them back, and clean them with a hatchet, and then load them back on the truck and delivering them. We did pretty good with that, but the tonic and coal wasn't a big money maker.
So when you did the tonic and coal and the brick, who was there? Was it just you and your father, or?
You also delivered concrete block, right? I mean, that was ...
A lot of the blocks, yes.
You used to handle them by hand.
Yep. No machinery.
Your dad I think told me too that you would deliver the block for foundations and then on weekends, he'd go up and pull a load of lumber out of Maine and bring it down and sell it to the builders as well as the block, right?
So he was working pretty much seven days a week back then, right?
Yes he was, yes he was. We used to work till like two or three in the afternoon and then go to Maine, get a load of lumber, bring it back and sell it like you just mentioned. And when we did that, 495 wasn't here so it was all going through Haverhill, Lawrence, and all that and Route 95, the main turnpike, only went to Portland. We had to go through Portland and all up there, so it was a big trip. It was a big trip.
Yeah, a lot of Route 110 and Route 1 [crosstalk 00:03:58] ...
Now, were you still on Ballardvale Street when that happened, or ...
Yes, Ballardvale, the original place. Yeah.
Ballardvale used to go across 93, right?
Correct, that's correct.
They took the land by imminent domain, the state did, when they built 93, so Ernie had to move the house and, at the time, it was a brick and block house, right?
The first one in New England ever moved.
Yeah. They told Ernie Shea that he could not move that house, and he said, "Watch me." He had the house moved.
When was this, like the early 60s? When was 93 built?
I think it was late 50s, early 60s, right around that time frame. Because I think 93 started in, like 1959.
So, all the work that you guys used to do was still at the house [crosstalk 00:04:44] on Ballard ...
At the house, in the backyard, yes.
And then what did you have for equipment, just a flat bed or [crosstalk 00:04:50] ...
Not much. Just a couple of trucks and no forklifts or anything. Everything was done by hand. You'd dump the brick, you'd clean them, and then you'd load them by hand; five at a time, just pile them up in your arms and throw them on, which sounds very obsolete and all that but it really worked pretty good.
And did you unloaded it the same way, right? Or did [crosstalk 00:05:08] ...
The truck dumped ...
Dumped. No, it dumped. Yeah, and I could remember your father would say, "For every hundred, you put a brick aside so you know you've got one handy."
So you keep one.
And I still do that sometime when I want a Monster.
It's one of them simple things that works, you know. And, I tell you, when you did that you have muscles on your muscles, I'll tell you.
You're not kidding.
You know, I was in good shape back then.
And we still handled brick even after we started making septic tanks. Because I can remember ...
Yep. We'd be all done for the day and my father would come over and say, "Oh, we've got to load this up, all the brick over here."
Yeah, put 5,000 brick on that truck.
It wasn't as bad as it seems.
It wasn't that bad.
So, when you were doing precasts, like how long were you doing brick, that kind of stuff too or was that [crosstalk 00:05:56] ...
I might say a few years.
Oh, I'd say five years. Five years, maybe.
It kind of faded out, you know.
And why did your father decide to start doing septic tanks?
Well, no one around did it. The only one around here that did it, really, was people that were here, Lionel Maurice, and he didn't have good service and of all of that and it just kind of fit right in. Then there was a guy from [Airmast-Creetcraft 00:06:23] but they were a real tiny outfit and it just kind of fell all in together.
So you did a 750 gallon tank ...
A 750 was the first one, one piece.
And was that like a solid tank?
It was a leach pit?
No. It was a mono [crosstalk 00:06:42] ...
Yeah, a monolithic septic tank. We had two of them, right?
We were way ahead of them, yeah.
Way ahead of the game.
A 750 monolithic tank, yep.
And it was a Norwalk?
Norwalk Concrete, yep.
Tom Landrum, I think ...
- [crosstalk 00:06:56] that company and Ernie was very loyal to Tom.
Very loyal. He bought D-box forms. He bought-
1,000 gallon mid-seam forms. He bought a lot of everything. He wouldn't ...
He was a loyal, loyal person.
And what time frame would you say this was, roughly?
Early 60s, late ...
So it would have been shortly after the house moved?
Yes, it was after the house moved because when we started making septic tanks, it was at the Wilmington location. Now, we didn't make any septic tanks on Ballardvale Street.
And how did you know to call [inaudible 00:07:36] Norwalk, that kind of, how did ...
Went through the magazines and we found the number. My father found the number for them. They're in Ohio and they were great people. They used to come visit us once a year, maybe twice a year to see how we were doing and all of that. They were very helpful but the newer farms, like Clayfield Farm was way ahead of them farms but my father was so loyal. He even admitted one day, he says, "I know these other farms are better but Norwalk's always been good to me," And then stayed with them, which you respect that.
Now, I didn't think so at the time, because we were killing ourselves, but once we got rolling we got some of them farms and, in fact, I think we bought farms Norwalk and we have ...
Different orders out, but we have.
Well, it's his son now, right?
No, Norwalk Precast and Norwalk [inaudible 00:08:37] aren't connected anymore.
Oh, they're not?
Oh, okay. But, my father was very loyal like an Ivy Pete, you've got to respect that. So, we just kept going and going and going. And it was very hard at the beginning, like I don't know if this is going to show any pictures, but we've got a little mixer out front and that's where we mixed everything by hand.
I can remember, when I came, we were partnered with Ready Mix, but I know Maurice went on strike and I'm not sure what year that was, but we had to pour by hand on Saturdays. We'd pour 10 yards of concrete with that quarter, 40 yard mixer. I mean, that's 40 batches, right, of concrete on a Saturday and, like Ed said, we didn't have much equipment. We were running wheelbarrows, we had ...
- up 2x8s a load of ...
- in a wheelbarrow, and then dumping it in to the forms. And think about doing that. You know, you're at like a 30 degree angle and you're pushing a wheelbarrow up a plank and sometimes you wouldn't make it and the wheelbarrow would fall over and ...
Something like a 750 probably takes a couple of yards, right?
We were pouring mostly thousands at that point, so 750s, you wouldn't have been able to do it with a 750 because they were too high, you know?
But once you get the hang of it, it really wasn't that bad. Whenever you get a new guy in, said, "Okay, take it up that way," They look at you like you had two heads and they weren't very successful at the beginning. It was really something. But we'd mix a lot of concrete in that mixer, then the motor broke, that gasoline motor. So, we found an old electric motor and put it on there and it worked for years and years. When we rebuilt the mixer, I don't know, we just took the electric motor and threw it away so it has no motor now. They always wanted to put it back in, but you just run out of time, as we all know.
So, that mixer out front right now, that is the mixer that was used?
That is correct.
Dug it out of the woods and gave it a paint job.
Yeah, I was going to junk it and Charlie Cushion, a guy from Wilmington, a farm guy, said, "Don't get rid of that, that's took much history there." So, I brought to Martel Weldon and they rebuilt the whole thing and then I got it painted. Then [inaudible 00:11:07] it's about time to do it again.
I can remember too, Joe Elston was a big help to you and your dad, right? I mean ...
He's the one when the motor broke on the mixer. Joe'd come over, weld a couple of slots in, and mounted the thing, and work at the fan belts; got us going same day. Joe was a big help.
Joe's done a lot for Shea. Well, obviously he's not doing it any more, but when I was there, when I first started, he was still doing work there and that was 25 years ago.
You used to tell me stories about, like Joe would help make forms, and the first time you guys didn't know a whole lot about stripping off precast so he'd beat the piss out of them and you guys learned over time how to make the form right and all that kind of stuff.
Exactly. We had the same thing with Martel, when they started making forms. First, they didn't know the angles and all of that, but they know it now. But at the beginning it's hard.
But Joe also built the trucks, I mean he built the A-frame trucks for us and ...
He did. He did everything for us. And then we'd go out for supper. It was one of them deals.
And your father met him in Portland, right? At the shipyard?
Yes. They worked at the shipyard together. Well, we've grown and grown and ...
In the 60s, you must have started, if you've been their 52 years Bob, it's like mid 60s?
So, what was there for equipment when you got there? Do you remember?
I know we had a small forklift when I started, and I don't think it had a started on it so we'd ...
We'd used to park it up the hill. Park it up the hill and put a block under the wheel because the breaks didn't work. Roll it down the hill and get her going.
Jump-start it. And we had two yard trucks, I think, two stripping trucks that were A-frames and then we had two delivery trucks. Ed drove one of them, Charlie Preston drove the other, and they were six-wheel A-frames with World War II double-drum wenches on them, right?
[crosstalk 00:13:12] wenches.
So you had a cable that went up and down and a cable that went in and out and they had no hydraulics on them at all, no hydraulic stabilizers or anything like that. So, you'd go to the job and you'd have to hold the front end down with a backhoe so that the front end wouldn't come up off the ground when the tank went out, off the truck.
Were these homemade?
Yes. They weren't OSHA approved either.
No, and I think at the time we probably could pour like ten yards of concrete a day, which would have been a big day for us back then, pouring ten yards.
How many of you guys were working in the production [inaudible 00:13:48]?
There were two full-timers. Jim Trim and Roy, I don't remember his last name.
Elroy, that's it. And then there were two part-timers, like summer help. I was one and there was one other guy that worked there for the summer. So, it was Mr. Shea, his wife, Mary; Ed, Charlie Preston, myself, and one other part-timers. And, so, that was it.
His wife Mary, who everybody called Toodie, right?
What did she do there?
She dispatched. She took the phone calls and she was unbelievable. I mean, this was before GPS. She knew where the two trucks were at all times and she would schedule the orders with like a 15 minute window. And, like, even years after she was gone, customers would say she was unbelievable with that scheduling. She would pinpoint, she could tell a customer within five minutes when the truck was going to be there. It was amazing.
Used to say "On-Time Shea" on the side of the truck and she's write the slip out, throw it out the window on a string, and the driver would give her the old one, she'd give them the new one; pull it back up. We'd laugh about that, but hey, it worked, got us going.
Did she communicate with the truck somehow?
We had two-way radios.
At the end of it, we did.
Two-way radios that were great. I mean, we'd be in Gloucester and still be able to talk to ...
On top of the bridge.
By [Amskill 00:15:16] and River, right?
When did [Marushi 00:15:18], Ed's uncle, start working there?
That was in the 70s, I think. It was probably mid to late 70s, is when John started, maybe even later than that because right after John got there, I think is when we started the building, the first production building, which was a 60 by 60, Ed? Was that the ...
I believe so, yeah.
And John was a big part of that because he was a structural engineer and smart at PE. He was a professional engineer, so John was a bright guy. He helped us a lot. He, again, built that building and that would take a direct Scud missile hit, that thing was built so solid.
So, you guys got that form, the 750 form, when did you get your next form? What was it? Like, you said you were pouring 1,000s?
Is that like a year later, or?
Two pieces. I'd say it was a few years later, I forget really. I'd say two or three years, I'm just guessing.
We had a couple of deep D-box forms. We had a New Hampshire D-box form, right? And a Mass D-box form.
Are you in that [inaudible 00:16:24] back there?
Well, we had a yard up in Londonderry and actually poured concrete up there.
Yes, we did. [crosstalk 00:16:31] Concrete.
Yep, and we had for a long time.
You had forms up there, too?
We had forms up there, yep.
So is that how CPL -
- started happening?
That's right, Concrete Products of Londonderry. There was a yard up there.
I didn't realize you were pouring concrete up there.
Oh, yeah. Not for long, right Ed?
It didn't last long
Two, three years maybe. It just didn't work out. You had to be one of them deals
And, roughly, when was that? Was that [crosstalk 00:17:00] first started, or?
Yeah, I think the yard was still there when I started, but they weren't manufacturing there so it was probably a year or two before I got there that they were doing that, 65 maybe? But, like Ed said, it really didn't work out. I can remember Ed's dad, Ernie, would go up there to get the mail every day and check on those guys that were working up there, but it was difficult so he ended up keeping the yard. We'd use it as a -
So, I like the story about when you started, Bob. What did Ernie ...
Oh, yeah, I didn't have a summer job when I graduated from high school and I was home and this priest, Father Bereby, came to the house and asked my mother what I was doing and she said, "Well, he's downstairs pouting because he doesn't have a summer job." So, he said, "Get him up here." So I went up and talked to Father Bereby and he said, "Go see Ernie Shea and tell him I sent you." So I did, I knocked on Ernie Shea's door and he came to the door and said, "Who are you?" And I said, "I'm Bob Flores. I'm here to apply for a job." And he said, "Who sent you?" I said, "Well, Father Bereby sent me." And after talking to him for a while, he said, "I'm going to hire you, but you won't last a week."
Real encouraging, real encouraging.
And then after the first day, I said, "You know what, I might not last a week."
Thought you had to prove a point.
Any job you have, the first week is murder. I don't care what, it could be the easiest job. You don't know how to do things and it's hard, but whenever we get a new guy I always tell him, "The first week or two is murder, then it gets easier." And if they make it that long, they'll stay for a while, but the first week is hard, even today with all the equipment we've got and we don't pick much up anymore, it's all with cranes. Back then they were tough.
And I can remember at the end of the summer, I said, "Mr. Shea, can I come back next summer?" And he said to me, "Are you nuts? Nobody comes back the next summer." But I liked it, I mean, we worked hard like Ed said, but we were outside and ...
Rain and shine, snow, we were outside all the time, covering the pit.
You'd light the heater and hope it stays going, then you'd run out of the yard.
But, Ed's dad, he had an efficient way to do everything and he wanted you to do it that way, right? I mean, you talk about lean manufacturing, well he was into lean manufacturing before we even knew what lean manufacturing was. He was always looking for the best way to do things, the quickest way to do things, right Ed?
He was smart.
Yeah, he was, but he was also quality conscious. I can remember if we ever got too much water in the concrete he'd go crazy, right? He'd be ...
That's if he saw the stuff we poured, right?
I know, I know. Yeah, he wanted that slump just right.
But the biggest thing, he was very honorable, always had a good name.
You got the handshake, right Ed?
Everything with a handshake, yep.
That's what you're always saying.
And he was loyal to his customers and his customers were loyal to him, right? I mean, he had a personal relationship with most of them, right? And he told me that he went to a home builders meeting with John Cronin and John Cronin and Bateson, Wogsley, and Riley were all at the home builders meeting. These are customers of ours, still to this day. And John Cronin said to all three of them, "You've got to buy your septic tanks from this guy, right?" And from that point on, and again, they're customers today, this is 50-something years later, and they're still quality customers.
John Cronin was like the leader. What he said, you did. This is what you're doing, no questions.
John owned the gravel pit?
Across the street, J.J. Cronin, yes. He ran that and was the boss. He had three other brothers but he was the boss. Nobody questioned that.
So when you started making your own concrete, did you buy it?
Yes, bought the material over there, yes.
You know, how about the cement? Where did the cement originally come from?
We used to buy bags of cement, 100 pounds I believe, round figures 100 pounds. And we were pouring one day and the bag slipped in. You'd slice it, dump it in the mixer. Well, one day the whole bag fell in and I said, "Oh my God, what are we going to do now?" So we let it mix, dumped it out, you could never see the bag. So, ever since then we used to just throw the whole bag in. No one even knew it for quite a while, but it just, like, dissolved and it was just so much easier and you didn't have all the bags to get rid of.
I know it sounds trivial, but I mean, what do you do with 50 bags? You burn them and, but it eliminated that little problem, which was the least of our problems though. But, like Bobby just said, running up the 2x8 with a wheelbarrow full of cement, that was really something.
So when you first started, Bob, what was a day like in production? Like, start to finish?
When I first started there, I would be greasing the tanks, oiling them, whatever you want to say. We would use this combination of pig fat, which was tallow, and fuel oil. We would mix it together and you'd go home -
- you'd smell of pig fat and oil. But anyway, we'd have the A-frame forms and Jim Trim would strip the form, bring it down back, put it in stock, and while he was down back I'd oil the form up, put the wire cage on, reinforcing, all that, get it all ready and Jim would come back and ...
And you'd better have it ready.
- [crosstalk 00:22:59] shout. And it'd better be ready, right? And put the shell back on the core and go to the next form. And, again, if we poured 10 yards a day, that was a huge day for us back then. And we'd strip the distribution boxes and all that, do all that too. It was pretty archaic though. You were vibrating outside, rain or shine, and like Ed said, we couldn't afford extension cords so we'd use Romex.
Yeah, the stuff you put through the walls in your house, that's what we'd use.
And just put plugs on them, right? And I can remember vibrating in torrential rain, getting shocks. Some of the stuff that we did ...
It's a wonder we're still here. Like, I think we talked the other day, delivering septic tanks with the trucks, holding the front ends down with backhoes. You could never do that today, never do that today, which is the way, it's right, but we did it for years.
We had the manual stabilizers on the trucks but we never used those.
They tore off, no.
They were a pain.
Remember, you'd use to have to climb up on top, put the boom down.
So, back then, was Ernie involved with production part of it much or ...
Oh yeah, he'd pour concrete.
Would he run the wheelbarrow all up to, and all that?
No, I don't think [crosstalk 00:24:21] do that.
He did tell you how to do it.
When I started, Ed's dad was only 50 years old. So, he was still delivering. He'd deliver, deliver tanks. But, oh yeah, he'd be down in the yard pouring concrete and he had a way that he wanted you to pour the concrete, right? You start this side, you work your way around; and you had a hole and you'd fill it in.
Even the vibrating, he had a system for vibrating. I mean, he had a way to do everything.
He wouldn't believe what we do now, though. I don't believe it either, to tell you the truth.
How about, form a standpoint of that first firm and then the process of getting sales going, getting customers ...
Just word of the mouth.
Word of mouth. Okay.
And don't forget, we were tiny. So, we couldn't do any volume, so we couldn't take on a gigantic project anywhere. We'd just do one or two here, one or two there, but, like I repeated, it was all word of mouth and if we said we'd be there at a certain time, we were there. Lionel Maurice, if he said he'd be there, he may be there two days later. So, that's what helped.
Plus we had a lot of local builders like Jackson Brothers that were loyal to us. I mean, they built a lot of homes in Wilmington, so we were ...
It was a hard area.
Right off 93.
Remember, bill [inaudible 00:25:47], we didn't bill [inaudible 00:25:47].
So, was there a lot of precast? Different things back then? Or, I mean, obviously septic tanks, I assume manholes? Were manholes ...
No manholes. We didn't do manholes.
Not you, necessarily, but the precast world?
I don't even know if we knew about manholes.
I think they used to build them all out [crosstalk 00:26:04] blocks, then.
So, tanks were really the precast item in the industry then, in the area?
Yes. That's pretty much just tanks.
So, Lionel Maurice is who used to own Amesbury?
That is correct.
Where we are now.
And he was big.
He was Union, right?
Yeah, he was Union.
And he was a lot of tanks and drywalls and ...
A lot of tanks and immolation chambers, he did a lot of them. He liked the big jobs, though. He liked big stuff. But I look back now, we're doing probably five times what he ever did then. That's what Big Kenny says, anyways, says, "We never did anything like this." He was the first one around to make big septic tanks, too. He was a very, very smart guy but very disliked. A lot of people didn't really care for him. Maybe all [inaudible 00:26:59].
It's the truth.
Now, how about the process of the transition in leadership, Ed? Can we talk a little bit about that and how that process occurred?
I did everything at the beginning and then I transferred it over to Bobby, and then Bobby did a superb job, a great job. Bobby can handle people. He knows how to handle them. They all respect him. So he took over and did real, real well.
I learned that from you, Ed. I did. I mean, you're a people person, so.
Yeah, I like people. And Bobby did great and then Greg came along and we had Greg take over. Now, all the timing worked out perfect.
How about even earlier, like between your father to you? You didn't mention that part.
That wasn't easy. I don't know, if you've ever worked for your father, it's hard.
It's almost like working for your father-in-law.
No it isn't.
I'm just joking with you.
Right in there, Greg. But, we had a lot of differences on things, but we got along better than most father and sons, but we didn't agree in certain things and ...
You respected your father, Ed.
Yeah, I did.
But he was a tough Irishman.
Yes, he was. He had his own way of doing things and ...
And he was a hard guy to please.
Very conservative though. Oh, geeze, yeah.
But he was honest and fair and I can remember working one day and a couple of guys didn't show up so I was pretty much by myself and I think I poured ten yards of concrete myself. At the end of the day, he says, "Bob, you did good today," and he gave me some money to take Judy out for dinner, my wife, out for dinner that day. But that's the kind of guy he was, you know, and he did reward you for hard work and dedication, but he'd also tell you if you did something wrong. If you left the form empty, wouldn't he go crazy?
Whenever I see a form empty down back, I'd say, "If my father ever saw them, he'd go for ...
He'd go crazy.
Well, his theory was, if you miss that form, you can never catch up on it. And we only had ...
And you say the same thing now.
I do, yeah. I learned that from him. But we only had X amount of forms and you couldn't catch up. Now we've got oodles of forms.
But I can remember, again, we were buying Ready Mix at the time, so I'd like to leave a form ready in case you got extra concrete, which you always got. I mean, the Ready Mix companies always brought you extra, right? Because they'd come with the load, you'd order 10 yards of concrete, they might have a yard on from a previous delivery, right?
They'd just leave it there.
They'd leave it in there, and then add ten more yards. So you might get 11 yards on a 10 yard load, so I'd usually leave form open or have an extra form stripped, ready for that extra concrete, because if you didn't, you'd be pouring [crosstalk 00:30:06]. Like, drywall covers and it would take you forever, right? But if I didn't have enough to fill that form, he would let me know about it.
And there's no way of knowing. No way of knowing. Those were the things that he was very thick on, you couldn't get through to him on stuff like that.
I can remember when I first started working down in production, we'd have leftover concrete like yesterday, and we'd never throw it away. So, even if you had a cover that you poured, that say day, maybe an hour earlier, you'd be taking the cover and kind of lift it out of the way and pour the cover again, stuff like that.
Never throw anything away.
And we'd walk up the ladder of the cement truck, look inside, and you could tell after a while exactly how much was in that mixer. So you know what you could get, what you could pour; what you couldn't pour.
We knew more than the drivers.
Now, how did the name change from E.F. Shea to Shea Concrete Products? How did that come about?
Originally, it was the trucks were all lettered and the company was Ernest F. Shea, and then we both were just talking one day and said, "You know, we've both got the same initials, E.F., Ernest Francis and Edward Fredrick, so we just changed everything to E.F. Shea.
And originally it was a proprietorship, right?
When your dad started the company it was a proprietorship and then in the 70s is when he incorporated it, right?
And I forget the exact date. So then there were actually three companies, there was ...
[crosstalk 00:31:47] of Londonderry.
Right, and Shea Concrete. So, there were three companies.
And the accountant is the one that said, just put it all into one. He said, you're going to be way ahead.
And your father owned all those companies, right? He was the owner?
Yes, correct. He never really had a partner.
And then in the 70s, I think it was 75 or 79 or something, that's when you started up Shea Concrete Products.
And that pretty much ...
That just blew [crosstalk 00:32:15] expanded.
Did you buy your father out? Did you buy the assets out of ...
I bought everything out, yeah. I mean, I got a good deal, of course. But, I forget what we even paid. We sat down and he took so much out of the month or whatever, because see, it got harder and harder, differences. You know what I mean? And he kind of threw the towel in and said, "Hey, you take it from here."
But I can remember him saying he was retiring, but then he came back.
That was hard too, right?
Yeah, it was.
It was hard on you.
Yeah, it was. Then he started doing the stairs. That was his big thing, he wanted to do the stairs and lay the brick on them and all that.
Lay the brick on, yeah.
I think of the way we used to move the stairs, oh.
Oh, I know.
Yeah. Now we just put clamps on them and it's so simple, move them with the forklift. Remember all the trucks?
And those bars that we got from [crosstalk 00:33:16].
So, you and Judy bought the company? Is that what [crosstalk 00:33:20]?
Yes, that's correct.
I mean, Judy worked in the office, your wife.
Judy was here every day. We used to go in together, go home together every day, and it worked out great. Once in a while we'd stop for supper on the way home or stop for a couple of beers on the way home.
She worked there before for a while, right? Before [crosstalk 00:33:42] ...
Yes, she did, yes. She did well too.
Now, Ed, what were some of the things that you and Judy did at the time of you buying the company and starting to have a transition? Can you bring us through that?
Well, by that time I had basically already changed things around to do the way I wanted to do it anyways. So when I actually bought it, there was never a big change of things. You remember, Bobby?
[crosstalk 00:34:09] It was a smooth transition, pretty much.
It was a smooth transition.
A long progression, or whatever?
It was a long progression to get there, but my father, at the end of it, he thought I was doing things halfway right and he kind of let me go, so I did change a lot of things around. There were certain things he didn't agree with, but it worked out fine.
I think a big thing, too, with the growth of the company was the relationship you had with other precasters. You made an effort to meet and have a relationship with Septic Tanks, Inc. and Ray Greenwood and Fred Pico out of Londonderry and American Precast. All those guys, you wanted to be friends with, and how many companies do that, I mean, now many people do that.
You hate your competition.
Right, and they play ...
It's one against the other.
Right, exactly. And that paid off [crosstalk 00:35:08] because when Ray Greenwood out of Chelmsford, Septic Tanks, Inc. went out of business, he thought the world of Ed, and he called and and said, "I'm going out of business. Are you interested in any of my forms or trucks or whatever?" So, Ed said, "Absolutely." He ended up buying a lot of Ray's equipment.
[crosstalk 00:35:26] 99% of it, yeah.
But in addition, Ray gave him his accounts, right?
Correct. And he took me and introduced me to all his customers.
And they were all quality accounts and once that happened, we really started growing.
When was that, do you figure?
That was maybe the mid 70s, I'm thinking, because that's when we just started getting in to stairs and bulkheads, when Ed got the [Primentry 00:35:54] Dealership. It was right around that time.
Around that time, I'll ask that question again, what did you have for equipment and people and?
We were starting to extend, us being pretty good. I think Ed had bought a 10-wheeler, it was a gasoline truck though, and he put a Prentice on it. You put a Prentice on it?
Yeah, a brand new Prentice [crosstalk 00:36:18].
What was that, a six ton?
A small one.
A small one, six ton motor.
What kind of truck?
It was an international truck, but it was a, I forget what they call the Prentice Lola, but they were too small.
Yeah, it wasn't a PC25, it was a smaller.
The one below that.
It was a logging motor, pretty much?
Yeah, with a cable on it.
In fact, I got Prentice to make these PC25s, I was very influential on that deal and they made them and then they sold a lot of them around here, but they didn't sell in the rest of the country so they stopped making them. But, Prentice was a great machine. Bulletproof.
Great for stairs, delivering stairs and bulkheads, they were perfect trucks for that.
We were starting to get much better equipment by then and all of that, then we ended up putting hydraulic outriggers on the trucks and that was a big deal, too. The equipment was getting better and better, as you guys all know, that's my thing.
So, when you bought Ray Greenwood, what was your help like? Did you have a lot more guys in production then and stuff?
Still doing stuff outside?
Oh, yeah. No, we were still outside. Everything was outside, year round. By that time we were working year round because in the beginning it was seasonal. We would work ...
I remember in the summer, my mother and father would go on a trip someplace and I'd stay home just to answer the phone. No one ever called. It was in the middle of winter, no one did anything, but today everyone's got gigantic backhoes, they dig right through the frost. Now it's a 12 month a year job.
And it became one in the 70s, I think. We were working through the winter, like you said, and pouring things outside and covering things with tarps.
Oh, I get the chills just thinking about it.
Salamander heaters and you'd come in in the morning and the tarps would be covered in snow and you'd have to get the snow off the tarps, it was tough. It was hard work.
But the quality of our product now is so superior to the way it was, it wasn't even close. You probably couldn't even deliver the stuff today that we made then.
You had mentioned, Bob and Ed, that were talking to a lot of other precasters back then, was that part of the Precaster Association then, too, or?
Nope. I don't think any of those guys even went to the NPCA conventions. I think ...
[crosstalk 00:38:58] Shea Concrete though, back then?
We were members right at the beginning. In fact, there's another thing, Norwalk Vault, they're the ones that got us in to it.
Oh, into the Precasters?
Into the Precast, yeah. I think if you looked it up, you could probably do that, see when we joined. I think they were just at their infancy. They like that word.
But, right after that, right after we bought Septic Tanks, Inc., things really started to roll.
And then Fred Pico went out, Scott Concrete out of Londonderry, New Hampshire. He was making barrier and a lot of other products that we weren't making, and same thing. He went out of business and he called Ed and Ed ended up buying some barrier forms from him and few others. Did you buy the vault loader from him?
No, you didn't get that from him?
But, and again, Fred gave Ed the customer list, so we got a lot of those customers.
Things just kept rolling.
And then American Precast.
I was just going to say, American. There was a few of them that you talked to about [crosstalk 00:40:02] ...
But, like Bobby said, I put a lot of effort into getting along with your competition.
I remember you telling me that you wanted to go stop in and see Ray Greenwood and your dad said, "Oh, no, no. We're not stopping."
My father wouldn't even get out of the car over there and I said, "Ray, I just want to stop and introduce myself and all of that," and I said, "My father's in the car," and he said, "Let's go meet him." And then they got to be the best of friends. But my father wasn't as forward as I was, that way.
And Ray was the salt of the earth, he was just a quality guy, a good, good guy.
And then we bought this place here. Am I going too far ahead now?
Yeah, so right now we're in the mid 70s. I think that's a great place to stop episode two. So, before we wrap up, I just wanted to say it's been a great conversation. Thanks to everybody. So, we'll take a break. I want to thank all of our listeners. If we continue this process, we're going to come back soon with episode three, so please keep an eye out. And, again, thank all of our listeners. I'm looking forward to another great episode.