Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

February 2016

The way it was versus the way it is. I forget why the CPA firm I was junioring for had the gig. Of course it was called an engagement, and probably still would be called that in the world of public accounting. It was my first and last trip ever to Allentown, Pennsylvania. This was in 1964, an election year, same as this year. Lyndon Johnson was finishing off JFK’s term and was facing Barry Goldwater, the conservative standard-bearer for the Republicans.

One of Goldwater’s famous quotes was, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” That was widely regarded as a poke at Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, and other moderate Republicans but gave the Democrats a word — “extremist” — to use repeatedly to refer to Goldwater.

Back to Allentown: The engagement (gig) was long enough to stay over. The factory was old: Its product line featured bobby pins. It was a noisy place using machines to cut up and crinkle metal into hair fasteners painted brown, black, rust, or off-yellow. The top-of-the-line offerings were double-dip-tipped with soft plastic. Carding the pins was the final operation, and I can’t remember that being an automated or robotic operation or a ton of work benches crewed by nimble-fingered factory workers.

The hotel I stayed in matched the factory for modernity. No shower but there was a rubber stopper on a chain in the tub (to discourage theft?) to facilitate a soak. I have a distinct memory of the chief accounting clerk at the plant sleeping at his desk, head on folded arms, during breaks and lunch. I assumed he was punching his last few time cards before retirement.

Just now, I did a little Googling around about bobby pins. There are competing sites with suggested uses for the pins — one with 20 uses and the other with 25. Lock-picking and ear wax–removal were two not associated with hair styling. When I tried to find a current manufacturing source, I was informed that there were thousands. The first 50 or so are in China and the product lines are quite impressive.

I doubt any of those present-day manufacturers have clerks who can sleep on breaks waiting for their retirement benefits to kick in.

I remember Goldwater speaking at my college shortly after Kennedy’s election. He said that the JFK rocking chair was an apt symbol for the Democrats: lots of action without getting anywhere. I wonder what this year’s loser will say on the lecture circuit.