Curling Stones to Contact Lenses

Pictures General 303x349Just after WW2 my Dad (pictured in 1951) decided to buy a defunct company which had made curling stones in Ayrshire, Scotland.  He bought the old machines (big brutal capstan-lathes and equally brutal polishing machines) and moved the whole thing lock-stock and barrel to near where we lived in Lanarkshire, Scotland.  I was about six years of age and from then until I left school with a HOOVER Student Apprenticeship, the factory was my second home.  From an early age we were given a lot of responsibility regarding work … I say ‘we’ because I had two big sisters and all three of us had to earn our keep doing something to help make the business feed us.  My mother’s job was to look after the family so she was the home-maker.

My Dad was a practical engineer who could turn his hand to anything.  He always sat with his office (very small) door open and would stop our conversation mid-sentence to say one of the machines was needing attention and set off without more ado to get whatever tools were necessary.  Each machine had its own ‘music’ and my Dad could tell if one was going off-tune.  He would remind me not to watch as he would put on his welding mask and strike a huge blue arc as he would repair a fracture in a casting  … no fancy health and safety … just ‘don’t watch’ and I would know, even at 8 or 9, to stand with my back to the work and watch my silhouette on the opposite wall as huge blue flashes lit up the factory interior.  This is where I loved to be. Not at school.  Here, where men worked hard, where rough tough pieces of hard granite, dull and grey would be transformed.  First by hammer and chisel, then on some rough-cutting lathes and then turned at high speed on polishers until the inside colours of the granite would appear as if by magic and would take on a polish of great beauty.

So, for me, work and home life were inextricably linked.  My Saturday job was to sweep the factory floor … repeated filling of a kettle with water which I would sprinkle over the dusty floor by waving the spout from side to side.  Then, with a brush twice my size I would attempt to sweep the granite dust into a pile before shovelling it into a bucket!   Not much science, not much skill but it did earn me my pocket money which, on a good day, could be 10 Bob (£0.50).

Most of our curling stones were sold into Canada.  As a family we would sit around the kitchen table with a big pile of advertising leaflets, envelopes, stamps and, most importantly a huge map of Canada.  My Dad would find a town somewhere and call it out ‘XYZ’ , or whatever, whereupon my biggest-big sister, Maureen, would type the envelope:

The Secretary,  XYZ Curling Club, Winnipeg,  Canada.

We had no idea if there was a curling club there, let alone a ‘Secretary’ … but one after the other the typewriter would clatter away.  My job was folding the leaflets with big sister Elizabeth placing them carefully in the addressed envelope.  Mum would seal and stick on the stamp.  A domestic production line.  Soon a bundle of beautifully sealed envelopes would emerge at the end of the line … a box on the settee, or some sort of arrangement.  Domestic bliss.  Even to this day I love to see finished product systematically reach the end of the production line … I know how much time, skill, love and affection is required to do this and never forget my first clerical job title, Leaflet Folder.

So, almost 60 years on I am still dedicated to ‘making things’, addressing leaflets (emails now!) and seeking new and exciting places to sell into.   It’s been a long journey from Curling Stones to Contact Lenses but much remains the same … finding new customers and looking after them.

11 thoughts on “Curling Stones to Contact Lenses

  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your weblog
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  2. Brian S R

    Dear Sir, I worked at Award in Gregory Rd Livingston at a “Tech” about 20 years ago after moving from a “Plastics factory “in Edinburgh for 25 years ( Duraplex ) and in the 10 years I was there loved every minute of it. Great Teams and most of all great people. My Next door Neighbour Mr Bill Brown and his brother had the contract to get the Granite from Ailsa Craig across to the mainland possibly to your dads factory and remember seeing a Video (might have been betamax) of the collecting and manufacturing of the “Staines” . It was such a waste to see all our friends made redundant after the Plant was moved to Waterford, such a waste of talent. I wish you every success and hope you show the world that once again that low cost and very high quality does exist
    Kind Regards

    1. Dear Brian, Thank you for writing. I too remember the AWARD days with great satisfaction. The sale to B&L saw great investment and growth to over 1,200 peoples. It was a profitable, growing, company for all these years and a credit to all the employees. Once B&L sold to the Private Equity ‘investors’ it was contract, contract, contract and Scotland put up token resistance (no doubt playing by the European Rules). The up-rooting of the equipment and mass employee redundancy was dreadful and I watched in disbelief. What a waste. As you know I had a 5 year non-compete with B&L but went into competition in 2001 with a new Internet-based Business Model. Much opposition has followed from the big-four but Daysoft now employs over 200 local employees and we sell direct to over 90 countries. Again I have a great team and we work hard to ensure good-value, good-quality and good-company! Again, thank you for writing me. I trust you are well. Ron

  3. David K

    It would be a shame if you were not to commit your life experiences to print (actual or virtual): as well as being of interest to the industry, and anybody else fascinated by innovation and invention, the brief snippets I’ve seen online indicate a story that would both interest and be of value to an even wider audience.
    I shall keep my eyes peeled.

      1. Thank you David. I do think about it from time to time but then the realities of today kick-in and I think “maybe later”. Trouble is at 73 “maybe later” might become “too-late” !. Thank you for your contact. Kind regards Ron

  4. advice on how to get

    With having so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation?
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    1. Dear Angela, I don’t think there is an easy way to avoid what you describe but it will help if allyour publications are markd with (C) and the year and your name. Not sure is that helps Angela. Kind regards

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