Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

December 2002

The Good Ole Days

Well, we don't have that millenium thing to worry about any more so what do old fuss-budgets like me get all riled up about this year-end?

How about some of the old standbys like inventory-taking? In my misspent youth, I either took or observed physical inventories of every kind of piece, part, commodity, work-in-process, boxed, stacked, palleted, piled, binned well, you get the picture. In the good old days, there were no little hand-held scanners, by golly. We used clipboards and ball points for quick-and-dirty counts and three-part tickets for full-blown audited deals. Here are a few recollections of the way things were but probably (to most certainly) are not anymore.

Securities: Stocks and bonds held by bank custodians for mutual funds were hand-counted by squads of suit-wearing recent college graduates working for CPA firms. Old men, who looked a lot like I look now, trundled carts loaded with stock certificates back and forth from storage shelves to counting tables. Bearer bonds and notes were kept in a locked cage within the locked vault room it was neat to flip through a stack of million-dollar notes with a little rubber finger tip. Since all the stocks were in "street name," it was a silly exercise, because every bank custodian usually stored the assets of dozens (or more) mutual funds, so the stack of IBM shares I counted as belonging to the Boston Fund could easily be then handed to another flunkie to count as shares belonging to the Aberdeen Fund not that any of those sweet old guys who look like me would ever do such a thing.

Ice cream: Part of every internal audit of a Sealtest plant in the '60s included visits to its branches where the big deal was to count the petty cash and then inventory the freezer. Even in my youth, petite was a word rarely used to describe me, so freezer suits tended to leave ample bits and pieces of me exposed to the absolute zero temp each cooler was set to when auditors came a calling. I remember trying to count half gallons in Topeka, Kan. There was so much product, I had to walk on roller ramps more precisely, the outer rails of the roller ramps so as not to greatly entertain the locals. I was doing pretty well until I craned my neck to see over the top of a stack and stuck my ear to a conduit the locals loved it.

Plastic pellets, crushed granite and other commodities stored in silos: Although every silo had some sort of crude indicator (usually a measured rope with an anchor), anytime shortages became alarming, more rigorous inventory-taking procedures had to be employed or, Jack would first climb a 30,000-foot-ladder to the top of the silo, usually at night during a production line shutdown, and then, with the aid of a flashlight and dead reckoning, confirm or deny the accuracy of the rope thing. For whatever it's worth, the rope thing was always wrong as it measured the distance from the top to product along a side. Depending on whether stuff was being added through the top or drawn out through the bottom, the middle was either a mountain or a valley. Get out your solid geometry books to figure the plus and minus range, if you care. I hope all you folks out there with a year-end inventory to take avoid paper cuts, frozen parts and vertigo.