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Sometime things change for the better by the Grumpy old Blogger

I was talking to a very old customer of mine the other week who I have known since I started work in the paint industry back in 1983. Over a cup of coffee, we got to remembering “the good old days” or not as it turns out
I joined the family paint company as a sales rep in 1983 not because of any childhood dream to selling paint, no I wanted a company car. I was duly rewarded with a 1.1L Mark 1 Fiesta in Champagne Gold and it even had head restraints and a radio cassette, I was totally made up. Twelve months and 60,000 miles later the novelty was beginning to wear off
So what was the life of a rep like in those days:
The two most important things all reps needed to know – where they could find a public loo and a public phone box. In those days garages only sold petrol and didn’t have public toilets and we are talking about a time before mobile phones had ever been thought of.  I would have to save my orders up and find a phone box twice a day to ring them in. This delay didn’t really matter though as all orders back then took 7-10 days!
In 1983 it must be said that Health & Safety and paint manufacture wasn’t what it is today.
Back then Liquid Lead was used as a drier in paints and pigments also contained lead. Masks were very rarely used and I remember every day at the factory a crate of full fat milk was delivered and given to the production workers as it was believed this would protect against lead poisoning.
Paint was made and ground on open top roller mills which got extremely hot and caused a lot of solvent evaporation making a paint factory a pretty unpleasant place to work. The company would encourage workers to bring in their wives or girlfriends lathered stockings and tights as back then the finer the denier the better the paint strainer they made.
Colour matching was all done by eye and the experienced colour matcher ruled the roost. They decided when a colour could go, when it would be made and according to them never made a mistake. It was a very difficult place for a rep to be caught between an angry customer complaining about a colour match and a colour matcher’s complete denial that he could have ever get it wrong.
Health & Safety on customer sites was no better either. On one occasion I received a call from a customer demanding we visit a site on the side of the River Thames to view a complaint about paint coming off a sign. As I was relatively inexperienced, I persuaded my Father in Law who was Technical Director to come with me and we met the customer at a very large flour mill over looking the river. It turned out the sign looked out over the river but was some 200ft up on the side of the building. We made our way through the building to the roof area, but the sign was positioned about 4ft down over the edge and it was a shear drop which prevented us getting a close look. These days that would have been an end to the visit and scaffolding would have had to go up, how much quicker then to dangle my father-in-law over the edge by his legs me holding one the customer the other so he could get a close up view. Anyone viewing from the river must have thought it was a “gangland hit”
These days I can assure you here at HMG Coatings, no lead in our products, proper straining at all stages and proper extraction with water cooled vats to reduce heat and solvent evaporation. Colour matching is computerised but still overseen by an experienced but far nicer colour matcher called Julie, paint is delivered next day, and I even have a mobile phone. Finding a loo can still be a struggle but I guess you can’t have everything!!