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to use on small pieces—to radius all of the edges on the handles. “I fitted the cutter with a collar; that re- duced the danger by not allowing the piece to be ‘hooked’ by the root of the cutter blade.” “All those years of woodworking,” I said, “and you still have all of your fingers … all except that notch in your index finger?” “Got that working at Kittingers,” Phillips interrupted, grimacing. “I was making a run of 2500 table legs, and I had the accident on the last cut! My helper jerked the piece through the saw … I could have killed that guy!”

“We always stressed safety when making our products,” Mary added. “I even wore leather gloves when paddle wheel sanding the handles on the drill press.”

The Phillips hired many part-time helpers over the years, mostly kids who worked after school. One of the regulars was Red’s friend, Roland Reigle, who worked for the company during the ’40s and ’50s. His job, among oth- ers, was to catch any paint that ran out of the various holes in the wooden handles with a small paintbrush. Greenley always said that Reigle’s job was to “tickle the handles.” “That was nothing compared to soldering 10,000 crimped loops on 5000 cables,” Phillips said, shaking his head. “The run took 8 hours … talk about tedious!” Mary began to snicker. “Red never did any of the silk-screen printing! That was my job, and I treated the repetition like a game … actually, it was fun. My biggest complaint was the drying time; I could only screen one side of the handle at a time … I had handles

in various stages of drying all over my house! Not only handles, but after 1947 there were the test stands.”

When asked how he tested each handle to make sure they met minimum pull-test standards, Phillips shrugged.

“I had a big old hook bolted to a floor joist in my basement; I used it to hang my full weight from every handle. If it didn’t break under my 155 pounds—and they seldom did—Mary would have my ‘go-ahead’ to send them out the door.”

“How many wooden handles could you make in a week?”

“The most I ever made was 587. Most of the time the total was around 400.” “What made you switch to plastic handles?” Phillips hiked his eyebrows. “I couldn’t keep up with the orders!”

“Red had the injection molds made toward the end of 1949,” Mary said. “The big and lit- tle handles were ready for the 1950 season.” Noting that the original square corner handle retailed for only 69 cents, led the in- terview into the arena of marketing. “We sold the handles and test stands ex- clusively through middlemen,” Phillips said. “Maxwell Hobby Distributors, out of Los An- geles, was my biggest distributor. “Distributor discount percentages were 50-10-2. The freight charges were either 4 or 7%, depending on the size of the order. For example, when I sold plastic handles for 95 cents, I realized a profit of about 37 cents af- ter advertising, materials, discounts, taxes, etc.”

“What about the cost of labor?”

Phillips shrugged. “The cost of the labor came out of the profits.”

I was speechless for several seconds. “Pardon my intrusion into your business affairs,” I said, “but your profits seem to have been pretty slim!” Phillips laughed.

“I’ll tell you a little secret: If our profit was 12% of the total retail sales, we considered ourselves to have had a successful year. That’s why we worked like crazy to get the production numbers up!”

Finally we turned to advertising, patents, production totals and foreign orders. “Our biggest expense was advertising in the model magazines,” Phillips said. “I didn’t like it, but advertising was a fact of life. “I tried to obtain a patent back in 1949,

but since the handles had been on the mar- ket for more than a year, the Patent Office wouldn’t consider it. Without a patent, the best I could do was to get a trademark and copyright.

“In terms of total production, over a mil-

lion plastic handles were sold during the 29 years they were made … and that didn’t count any of the wooden jobs, which ac- counted for another 75,000 or so. During the ’60s, 8 out of 10 handles used in the United States were E-Z-JUST. “Upon request we shipped handles all

over the world,” Mary said, “even if it was only one. Red didn’t want to be called a ‘damned Yankee’ for not doing so.” In 1979, at age 67 Red and Mary retired from business. Red passed away in 1991, fol- lowed by Mary in 2005.

An advertisement sheet both front and back for both the E-Z-JUST U- Control handles (above left) and the E-Z-JUST test stands (above right). The


Min-i-Mount was developed for the smaller 1 becoming increasingly popular at the time.


A to .19 engines that were 53

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