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Tom Lee's Retirement Party

Introduction of the Plus-6

Albert Rose Memories

 

Retirement of Charles Sursham

 

Vic Wallis and George Robb on BBC Scotland

 

A C Barret and family on the Clyde

 

Sales changes Sept 1960

 

Exhibition Moor Park

 

Below is a collection of photos taken at the late Tom Lee's retirement party-
This has been kindly supplied by Roy Gutteridge who took the actual photographs



Albert Rose,   Tom Lee,    Jerry Kendall,    Dave Vallis



# 2   Arthur Styles,  Unknown,  Ron Chalk,  Dr Robert Beldam CBE,  Colin McInnes


#3                                       Stan Watt,  Albert Rose,  Tom                   





Arthur Styles     Unknown    Ron Chalk

 

 

December 25 2011

Some five years ago Jimmy Lowe from memory gave us some good facts on golf ball manufacturing at Heathhall. –Now thanks to Albert Rose we have a fascinating glimpse of the work done by NBR/Uniroyal marketing departments to try to break into the golf ball market with the arrival of the ‘Plus-6’ golf ball. Some of our viewers might be fascinated by the detail of what actually happened as well as the impact on the market

Uniroyal’s introduction of the ‘Plus-6’ 
broke the the Dunlop Company’s
stranglehold on the market 
and changed the face of the golf ball business for ever
 by Albert Rose



North British had a long tradition in the golf ball market with their brands Pin Hi and Hi Spot.

These were well regarded and we sponsored many Pros locally as well as the European champion Flory van Donck. Stocks were retained in London and were delivered to prestige stores like Harrods. and Lillywhites in a splendid, chocolate and cream, cabriolet bodied Rolls Royce, a great talking point.

However, we only made balls and overshoes and it was difficult to make headway into the market controlled by Dunlop who had nearly seventy percent with their ‘65 as well as a full range of products and accessories.

Later, we made an arrangement with Wilson Sporting Goods to produce their
ball range as a private brand. These were separately promoted by Wilson and supported by several top Pros including Billy Casper. The brands were Wilson Staff, Billy Casper, Blue Ridge and Hole Hi.

Meanwhile we contracted Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as well as several local Pros to help bolster our brands. Even so, such was the dominance of Dunlop, we still could not get above about eight percent market share with all of our brands.

We needed some kind of seismic event to make a deeper impression.

At this time the USPGA used a 1.68” diameter ball whereas the English Golf Union still supported the 1.62 ball. The reason for the difference was that many of the American courses were set up with ‘Bermuda’ grass. This was much harder wearing and scorch resistant in hot climates but, it was a tough broad bladed grass into which the 1.62 ball settled too deeply for accurate striking.

During The Open Championship and other tournaments in Europe Nicklaus for example would play the bigger ball down wind and the smaller ball into the wind. Nicklaus told me it was crazy to use the big ball on our windy links if you had a choice. Thus a golf ball ‘war’ was developing and although the EGU at the Royal and Ancient fought a rearguard action and delayed the changeover for a couple of years the USPGA prevailed and the 1.68 became the specified ball for all golf unions around the World.

At about this time (but before the changeover to 1.68)  Uniroyal USA commissioned Professor Nickolides a ballistics expert at NASA to see whether the standard ball could be improved. Nickolides came up with the hexagonal dimpled ball at the same time reconfiguring the common regular dimple arrangement by placing the dimples on the sphere in the form of an icosahedron. This significantly reduced drag and gave much better lift. There were fewer dimples.

This was the ‘seismic’ opportunity for which we were waiting.

However, because of our minimal recognition in the market we needed a very special launch platform. I did not think the market would be very impressed with Professor Nickolides from America coupled with Nicklaus, it just looked too gimmicky. Also because of the different behaviour in the air of the 1.62 v 1.68 it seemed prudent to check that the same performance parameters applied to both sizes. So I went to the Imperial College of Science and Technology where I met Professors Harvey and Bearman who were in charge of aeronautics studies and already recognised for their work on Grand Prix and with Lotus cars.

They said their calculations indicated the possibility the work was sound but were not prepared to publicly say so without physical testing. Unfortunately the wind tunnels at Imperial were not suitable for testing such a small object. Therefore I (unofficially) agreed to spend a significant portion of the advertising budget on this further research. This was used primarily to make a large hexagonal dimpled ball into which a motor had to be fitted so that relevant backspin could be generated, in other words to exactly replicate a ball in flight. The results fully justified the theory and they were prepared to say so.

Thus we had an independent and World recognised University in support. We set up full page ads which showed a standard golf ball on a tee being overshadowed by the hexagonal ball and photographed to look just like a solar eclipse. In fact the headline declared

  The Eclipse of the conventional golf ball - Uniroyal +6 goes further

  It was very dramatic. These were scheduled to be released after a press launch at the Savoy Hotel in London at which all of the golfing press as well as most of the National press were in attendance. Not only that but the TV science editor Peter Fairlie was there. This gives some indication of the importance golfers put on distance.

Anyway, the professors did a great job for us , which most importantly appeared to be completely independent. Best of all on ‘News at‘10’ that night we got a slot on the science section. The clip showed the ball in the wind tunnel. It had been branded to duplicate the logo and, because the ball was about 45cms in diameter, viewers could read the name Uniroyal.

The result was that we were inundated with people telephoning in with orders the very next day. Golf ball pricing was set by the market leader and prices had not changed for years. A first grade ball was 30 pence. With the launch of Plus6 we lifted the price by fifteen percent and it stuck. We also stopped individual wrapping and offered instead 3-ball packs.

  Dunlop went crazy. They sued us for infringing their Surlyn cover technology and threatened to sue for damages if we persisted in our claim for further distance. They said their tests showed that our ball did not always go six yards further than their ‘65’. I suggested it would be risky if they did go to court and had to admit we did have length advantage but not always six yards. They quickly withdrew that threat.

  The Surlyn cover threat was more dangerous. The market had moved away from balata because it cut so easily whereas the Surlyn ball just did not cut. This meant if Dunlop took out an interlocutory injunction they could stop our production. I went to see Dunlop to discuss a licence and amazingly they agreed to allow us to make under licence. This was a huge blunder because by agreeing we could make under licence they could not subsequently take out an injunction. They could though, continue to pursue us for damages.

Therefore we set up an accrual to put aside cash should the need arise. As it transpired, we were able to prove it was not possible to use the Dunlop patent to make a Surlyn covered ball which was playable without it cracking. The chemist responsible had deliberately left out an essential ingredient ‘in order to protect Dunlop’. Poor soul had thus rendered the patent invalid.

By this time the respective golf governing bodies had agreed to move entirely to the 1.68 ball. We were extremely fortunate because our product stemmed from Uniroyal USA know- how in producing the bigger ball. This proved crucial. The reason is because, irrespective of dimple configuration, the behaviour of the two sizes was different in the air and on the ground, where roll was affected. The British competitors just assumed it was only necessary to make bigger moulds and then just scale up the ball to match. By just doing this the radius of gyration was altered which had an adverse affect on flight, spin and roll. In other words they had to learn how to make a bigger ball work, whereas we were already there.

This caused something of a vacuum in the market. Uniroyal private brand sales rocketed and at one stage we were producing (in addition to our own brands) Dunlop Red, Slazenger B51, Spalding Dot, McGregor and Penfold. We also retained all of the Wilson Sporting Goods business (although there was a blazing row because we refused to give them an hexagonal dimpled ball).

  Sadly, we could not raise funds to rapidly expand production because of demands for money from much more profitable centres such as PowerGrip and Tredaire. Therefore, the way was opened for large imports to fill the vacuum, mainly from America. Uniroyal UK., had not been successful in establishing a golfing products range with the facilities available (which comprised a manager and three salespeople). They were unwilling to establish a sporting goods division and since it was considered impracticable to continue to operate a ‘ball only’ facility, production was run down.

  However it is important to understand the affect of the ‘Plus6’ In this period, competitors who had originally denigrated Uniroyal’s enterprise in launching the new technology, changed their profiles and within a year or so all manufacturers (without exception) changed dimple configuration. Dunlop never recovered and became a bit player in the market, which at that time became dominated by, Spalding’s ‘Topflite’ and Acushnet’s ‘Titleist’

Thus, Uniroyal broke the market domination of it’s largest competitor. Also, it had forced all producers to follow suit and thus had a major impact on the market. It is probably not too strong to claim this was the start of the most significant product change in the history of the game.

 

 


May 14 2011

We thank Albert Rose for letting us share in some of his amusing memories of NBR/Uniroyal

Some amusing memories thanks to Albert Rose

The editor asked Albert Rose for help in identifying some faces in the Footwear Sales Conference at Elche in Spain in the mid sixties—which he did—and then I asked if he had any amusing memories which he would agree to share—and they are below

Most of the memories which stick in my mind have to do with sales and marketing, although one early visit to Castle Mills produced a gem of an incident.

It was in the days when we still made hot water bottles. I was being shown how the operator had to get two hooks in the neck after moulding in order to get the bottle off the former. This took a load of strength and 'knack'.  I was assured bottles rarely got damaged in the process.

At this juncture there was an almighty crash and we were covered in ceiling plaster and hot water bottles all of which had been damaged whilst being extracted from the mould.

At this particular 'station' there was, immediately above the operator, an open vent into the ceiling void. He was amazingly adept at just flicking the carcase through this gap if it became damaged, but the weight brought the ceiling down in the end. I never did learn how long it took for that to happen.

There was a similar event involving tyres. I was not witness to that but I remember Ray Chatterson telling me that following the usual tyre moulding inspection he was peering out of the window overlooking the canal and thought he could see a tyre outline. A check from the towpath revealed so many carcases had been thrown in that they eventually literally filled the canal at that point.

What happened was if a damaged carcase was released from the autoclave it was just 'hoopla'd' down the gangway between the presses through the window and into the water

Know your product!!!

Years earlier when 'North British' had premises on Tottenham Court Road in London there was an area just at the top of the main staircase where consumer products were displayed and sold to whoever wandered in.

The surrounding offices were formed by  partitions not quite up to the ceiling which meant occupants could hear everything being discussed in the sales area.

The then General Manager of Tyres was Bill Scott. On this particular day a customer had come in just as Bill Scott was going through and of course 'Bill' offered to help. The conversation went like this:
BS. Can I help you Sir ?

Cust. E'm yes I am interested in buying a pair of Bowling overshoes.

BS. Yes of course I'll get a pair, what size ?

(Because it was lunchtime no warehouse staff were about and Bill got the shoes himself and proudly handed them to the customer to try on)

There followed an awkward pause and I heard the customer say "These shoes have spikes on the bottom"

BS. Yes well you see the spikes are intended to aerate the bowling lawn as you walk around.

Cust. Well I never. I'll certainly be the first one in my club to have these.

He actually bought a pair of Golf Overshoes ... I often wondered what happened when he turned up to bowl.

I can say for sure there was no subsequent rush for spiked bowling shoes.

 

Italian Enterprise.

When I was at UPE the Coated Fabrics plant at Vituone began to suffer a big spike in Unexplained Usage.

The factory couldn't control it and Alec Robertson the then Comptroller suggested we should go down and take an independent look.

He further suggested that in his experience it would be better to go down on the night shift, so that is what we did.

Anyway. Apart from minor stuff we could not expose any problem related to operations.

We retired 'hurt' to Tony Sudez office in the early morning where we had coffee. 

I was looking out of the window overlooking the yard when a truck arrived carrying chemicals. It was a tractor trailer and of course had to be weighed in.

The unit was much too big for our somewhat ancient weighbridge so the weighing was accomplished in two halves !  They drove on the front and then the back section and added them together.

Tony Sudez  not being aware of this practice went off to find out what was the situation.

It turned out the supplier had upgraded his delivery vehicles some months earlier which coincided with the "usage' change.

The warehouse foreman just got on with the job as explained and did not inform the Factory Manager.

Fortunately we were situated next to a factory with a weighbridge suitable for bigger trucks and Tony got them to weigh our load. Sure enough there was a sizeable discrepancy.

Thereafter we came to an 'arrangement' with our neighbour to share his apparatus and we got back to bugetted 'usage'.


Cotton/Nylon Belting

We had started to get cotton/nylon belting accepted in the mines and I had the task of taking a couple of Americans to visit a mine in Yorkshire where they were in use. Afterwards they expressed a wish to have a drink in a typical miners pub.

I found one which was atmospherically perfect. Low ceilinged and dim, full of miners to a man wearing white 'chokers' and flat caps,playing dominoes, draughts or just talking ... at least they were until we breezed in whereupon a silence decended.

The barman didn't say anything, just tilted his chin as a question. I asked one of the Americans what he wanted. To my horror he requested a dry martini, with an onion, not an olive. I swear there was an audible gasp. Then I heard a stage whisper .... "eh up, listen to them with their fancy bloody accents and after shave lotion" This in a broad Yorkshire dialect.

The barman then said "in 'ere you'll sup Ale or you'll sup nothing" They ended up with pint glasses of warm bitter, they did not enjoy the experience.  

 A Speeding experience

Another time I was in Warsaw (Indiana) coming to the end of a Royalex study project. A couple of the guys had to get back early and I took them to the local airfield to hop the company plane back to La Guardia.

On my way back to Pedro's where we stayed in Warsaw I decided to find out just how fast was the Plymouth Fury we had hired. This was in the middle of nowhere just flatland and corn. So I put down my foot and blasted it. Well it didn't go that fast and felt decidedly unsafe like a pram on soft springs. But before I could slow down I had a State Trooper on my tail, sirens blazing.

He demanded my licence which was strange to him and asked where I was from. When I said London, England he said.. "Jesus, first goddamned Englishmen I ever saw"  He then told me he was writing a citation and I would have to appear in Warsaw the next week. 

Like a fool I then told him I was due to leave the USA in a couple of days. He then said "In that case I'll have to take
you to the Judge right now" "Just you follow me and (patting his pistol) don't try anything stupid" Well he drove off the highway and onto a dirt road through the cornfields, eventually we came in sight of a house on the porch of which was a guy in a plaid shirt with bright red braces sitting on a rocking chair. The Trooper stopped and shouted "Heh Judge we've got us an Englishman" He said.

"You have? bring him on up" So I ended up on the porch with the Judge and the Trooper. We chatted about what I was doing, the fact there were no speed limits on the Motorway and so on, it was very convivial. After a while the Trooper said he had to get back on patrol so the Judge said "Right we better convene this trial" I protested that in the conversation I had incriminated myself etc., etc. but the Judge said "We have to hold a trial and you have pleaded guilty" 

He then said "I can well understand you had no idea of the power
of our big American autos and what with not having a speed limit where you come from you just forgot what you were doing. But you have pleaded guilty so I have to punish you. Now the smallest fine I can administer is one dollar, how does that sound?" I said that was OK so I was fined One Dollar with twenty five dollars costs. At this juncture the Trooper left us saying "If I had realised what a nice guy you were I would not have brought you in". The Judge's wife then came out and said if I was no longer in a hurry why did I not stay to  dinner. I accepted of course and had an interesting evening. The Judge explained the Trooper was hard on me because I had a car with out of town plates and he thought I was a 'city slicker'. I mentioned he was not at all like a Judge and it certainly did not feel like a Courtroom. 

To which he replied "A couple of weeks ago I had a New Yorker in here all sassy and angry who said I was no Judge.
Son, the next morning when I unlocked the cell which we have in the cellar down stairs he said "You're the Judge !".

I think at 26 dollars that has to be the most interesting dinner I ever had.

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December 22 2010
The Retirement of Charles Sursham  1961 


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December 4 2010
This is a copy of the discussion on Scottish Radio between Vic Wallis and George Robb 
of the BBC all about Oil Hose and it's uses to read please click here
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December 4 2010

This is from the NB News of April 1961 and is a story told by A C Barrett,  Tyres 
Advertising Manager who is located at our Horseferry Road Office in London 
records his first holiday in Scotland-----and how wonderfully successfully it was


       The story-
Echoes of 1960 Holidays on the Clyde

              SCOTLAND OUR DELIGHT
                           to read the story please click here

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April 30 2008

\Sales Changes from NB News issue August September 1960



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May18 2007
The Uniroyal Exhibition 


A group of Senior Uniroyal Executives at the company Exhibition held at Moor Park Golf Club--
Left to Right: Al Webber, Vic Wallis, DK, John Stuart, Foster Stewart,
Ken Lewis, Jimmy Lowe Oliver Kirrane
The Editor would appreciate help in identifying the last DK

The date of the exhibition was  1975

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May20 2007

This is a story from the Daily Mail of October 1975-
-Locketts Restaurant was used by MP's and had a Division Bell installed
to allow MP's to rush to the Commons to vote,
The Restaurant was favoured by our Illustrious Sales Force based at
Horseferry Road office and lead at that time by Ken Lewis

The Editor apologises for the quality of the News cutting


Translation of above three paragraphs
Locket's said thank you last night to Frederick Warren, the 56 year old night porter who saved
the MP's restaurant  from one of the deadliest bombs ever placed by terrorists in London. He
called the police after two women told him about a bag on the outside window sill of the restaurant,
which is below the block of flats he looks after in Marsham Street Westminster.
While police cleared diners, Mr Warren ran through the block's corridors shouting to residents
to get out. There was no panic. People just filed out of their rooms and left as soon as they could.
The restaurant manager wanted him to have a meal on the house . But Mr Warren, a father of
 four would only accept a quick drink. "I have to get back on duty to make sure the bombers
don't try again" he said

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