Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Facts on stamps have stuck with area residents

A couple of recent essays in this space elicited such heart-warming responses by way of the ubiquitous email system that my heart was summarily warmed when I read them.

It will require at least two further columns to further address those topics, so I will proceed to them in this order: First (today), no-lick stamps, and then (possibly next Sunday if I am so inclined), Mentor folks who could be invited to speak on the subject of the great village-township merger that took place in 1963.

I recently spoke of some favorite inventions, the smallest of them being postage stamps you don’t have to lick because you can simply peel them off a sheet of waxed paper.

I find it a sublime irony that all the responses I received on the subject arrived by email, which means they were delivered electronically, thus obviating the necessity for a postage stamp of the new-style peel-off variety, let alone the old-fashioned lick-and-paste variety. The glue doesn’t taste so great anyway, so I am a fan of peel-off stamps.

First I heard from Nancy Doremus of Grand River, who was aware of the Fasson and Avery Dennison connection to the stamps.

“They were created in the late ’70s,” she wrote, “and my children’s father, who worked at Fasson then, gave them each a sheet of stamps from the first run. Hopefully, they still have them.”

Your kids are no longer kids, Nancy, and you know how kids are about not saving things that might someday be collectors’ items.

But the peel-off stamp story was just warming up. I got a lengthy e-mail from Jon Kline (address unknown) who spoke of the local connection to stamps you don’t have to lick.

“The base material, pressure sensitive adhesive, is/was made in Painesville at Fasson. Today it is called Avery-Dennison. It makes the roll material (generally 52 inches wide) consisting of a face stock to which the adhesive is applied, and a backing or release paper (the “waxy paper” you throw away.)

“The laminate roll material can then be slit down to thinned rolls or be cut into sheets, printed, die-cut to size (perforation style, in your case) and used to make anything from stamps to Chiquita banana labels.”

I was beginning to get the picture. Jon knows whereof he speaks.

“The inventor of the process of manufacturing pressure sensitive adhesives and the founder of Fasson was Stan Avery (in his garage) and  he opened a factory in his home state of California. Wanting a more eastern or mid-western presence, he opened a factory in Painesville.

“I would contact one of your classmates, Ed Murray. He was plant manager at Fasson and should know more of the details and history. He would also be a more authoritative source.”

I have known Ed Murray for a few years — since grade school at McKinley Elementary. And I didn’t have to call him. He read the column in the paper and was the next person to email me.
He spoke of the “strong local connection to the ‘no lick’ postage stamp.”

“The peel-and-stick industry was founded by R. Stanton ‘Stan’ Avery of California in the mid 1930s,” Ed wrote. “Others who entered the industry had to buy their raw materials from Avery. This arrangement was not popular with Mr. Avery’s competitors.”

In the mid 1930s, Ed recalled, a man with ties to Hudson, Ohio, approached Avery with an idea: Build an “arm’s length factory” in Ohio to supply the raw materials for the rest of the self-stick label industry.

“Mr. Avery ‘bought’ the concept,” according to Ed, “and in 1955 a factory and research laboratory was opened in Painesville. It was named Fasson. From this rather meager beginning Fasson, part of the Avery-Dennison Corp., has operations throughout the world.

“Seven factories are in Lake County, plus a major headquarters building and research laboratory is located in Mentor. The material for the self-stick postage stamp was developed in Painesville by Fasson.”

Ed added: “I went to work at Fasson as an engineer in January 1960 and retired in June 1991. I was privileged to have worked with Stan Avery on several of his pet projects.”

Funny, but when I knew Ed Murray at Willoughby Union High, I knew for sure he would amount to something. And he did.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A talk on Mentor’s history needs some experts

This column appeared in the March 18 edition.

As birthdays and anniversaries go, the 50th is a good one. It is a nice round number, it can be difficult to reach and it is easy to compute by counting decades on your fingers.

The City of Mentor has a 50th birthday coming up next year, and I look forward to taking a small part in it.

The 50th birthday of what? you may ask. Of Mentor becoming Mentor? 

No, of course not. Mentor became Mentor when a guy named Charlie Parker (not the legendary alto saxophone player) built a hutch down near the Headlands.

But in 1963 Mentor became a city when an historic thing happened: The voters of Mentor Village (a dot on the map at the time) voted to merge with massive Mentor Township and a full-fledged city was formed.

Ohio law defines a city as a municipal corporation with at least 5,000 population. The new city of Mentor, overnight, went far beyond that number. And so a city was born, and it has grown into a mecca of commerce — one of the largest in Ohio — a place where you will never go hungry if you are looking for a restaurant of any size or description, or are intent on buying a car, for that matter.

And so it was not surprising that I got a call the other day from Frank Krupa, a very nice person who books parties at the Wildwood mansion on Little Mountain Road and from time to time does a song-and-dance act with my old pal Johnny Fontaine, a singer of note back when there was a night club in virtually every block on Route 20 from Wickliffe to Painesville.

Actually, Johnny was a singer of many notes, most of them at Intorcio’s or LaVelle’s, whichever it was at the time, next door to The News-Herald. I can’t get him to sing “Don’t Misunderstand” any more, but that’s another story. 

But I digress.

Frank asked if I would do an interview, a panel discussion, at Wildwood as part of a series of three or four programs in April or May of 2013. Before I could stop and think I blurted out, “Sure.”

By the time I did stop and think, I began to realize what I had gotten myself into.

The interviews are easy. It’s getting the right people involved that is difficult.

Frank has seen many of the interviews I’ve done at the Mooreland Mansion on the campus of Lakeland Community College. They are shown repeatedly on Lakeland cable, which is Channel 95 in Willoughby where I live. I don’t know what it is where you live.

But Kathie Pohl has been kind enough to air the shows involving Mentor people on the city’s Channel 12. That gave those interviews a lot of added air time.

They included Bill Sanford, Mike Keresman and Ray Kralovic, the three main players who started STERIS Corp., Roger Sustar of Fredon Corp., Ed and Nancy Brown of Ladies and Gentlemen Salon and Spa, the Harry Allen Family of Great Lakes Power, the Dick Muny family of Chemsultants and the Crockett family of real estate fame.

Just the other day, Ed and Nancy Brown told me that yet another person mentioned seeing their interview on TV. And we did that one years ago!

I vividly remember the huge Mentor merger as if it were yesterday. The newspaper was up to its figurative ears in coverage. It was a landmark event, and we covered every phase of it.

That was four years before I became editor of the paper. I don’t recall what my exact title was at the time, but since I started here in 1950, they must have called me something or other.

So after I gave Frank Krupa that resounding “sure” to his request to do an interview, I began to think about whom we could have sit on the panel.

A flood of names came to mind. Harry Waterman, Bill Boyd, Joe Atzberger, Jim Creedon, Jack Daniels, Don Krueger. Guess what? They’re not around any more. If Bill Boyd is still alive, he lives in Florida. The others are all deceased.

So whom will we get for a panel? I thought of Barbara Snell Davis. She knows a ton of Mentor history and wrote a terrific little book called, “Roses to Retail,” which I read a couple years ago.

Who else has institutional knowledge? Maybe John Krueger. He’s on city council now, and his dad, Don, may have told him merger stories 50 years ago.

I called Councilman Ray Kirchner, and he suggested George Maier, who is conversant with the merger and all the players.

Any others? If you think of any, call Frank Krupa at 255-7782. He will be glad to take names. I’m sure we can get this job done.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's sticky picking the best inventions

Sometimes a song dances through my head and I just can’t shake it — the song, not my head.

And I keep hearing that same song, over and over again, from the time I wake up until my attention is diverted by some event taking place – like letting the dogs out to run in their pen, or eating breakfast.

The song that bugged me for several days recently was, “The Greatest Invention,” and it is entirely possible you never heard it – unless you saw “New Faces of 1956.”

I not only saw it (it was not quite as good as “New Faces of 1952,” but almost) but after I saw it I went out and bought the original cast album, which has always been my wont after seeing a Broadway musical.

And I have played it over and over.

The lyric of one of the tunes goes, “The greatest invention in the whole wide world is a boy and a girl in love.”

That sounds a little cheesy, but it’s a cute song. Another of its lines is: “Do you know who invented the telephone? Don Ameche. Gee, that’s peachy. No, it was Alexander Graham Bell. Do tell.”

(If you ever want to hear the album you’ll have to come to my basement, where I can play it on my old LP HiFi system. But I digress).

But it got me to thinking: What was the greatest invention of all time?

Now, I could have done a lot of research for a column like this, but there’s one problem. I don’t do research.

So let’s just agree that it really could be a boy and a girl in love. But there must be some other possibilities.

Thomas Edison would be a good place to start. His incandescent light bulb certainly was one of the greatest inventions of all time. Except that our screwy federal government is trying to do away with them.

My disapproval of this preposterous scam is monumental. But I am fighting back. Every week I go to Target and buy two packages of bulbs – 40 watt and 100 watt. I figure I will have enough to last until we get somebody running the EPA who has a brain at least the size of a pea.

Eli Whitney was another great inventor, if you like a little cotton gin on occasion — perhaps with a splash of tonic water.

But what strikes me is the number of great things that surround us of which the inventors are totally anonymous.

Think about it. Who invented the Thermos bottle? Its value to society is that it keeps things hot and it keeps things cold, and it knows one from the other.

Color TV is another great invention, especially on that day sometime in the future when it will bring the Browns into our living rooms in the Super Bowl in living color.

Don’t laugh. It will happen. They are headed in the right direction. You read it here.

I have a personal nomination for the greatest inventor in history, and I’m not kidding. Perhaps you know his name. If you do, let me know and I will drop him a note to congratulate him.

He is the guy who invented (are you ready for this?) the postage stamp you don’t have to lick. You peel it off a sheet of waxy paper, stick it in the upper right hand corner of the envelope and, PRESTO, it’s ready to go.

Every time I pay a bill I peel off a stamp and mail it. And I totally, and I mean totally, ignore those tear-stained admonitions in the upper right hand corner that every company prints on its return envelopes: “please don’t use a stamp.”

Are they insane? Of course I’m going to use a stamp. They must be nuts.

And in the upper left hand corner I place a little peel-off label that has my name and address.

I once wrote a column about the proliferation of those return address labels that arrive with every “tin cup” letter asking for money.

I calculate I have more than 10 million of those labels because I never throw them away, and everybody is always writing and asking for money. I may send them some and I may not. But I keep their labels.

By the way, that column never ran because I had too many more important  things to write about. It is still in the computer though. But I checked and it is 44 inches long. Way over my limit today.

But if you ever find out who invented stamps you don’t have to lick, let me know. And let’s not assume it was a man.

It might very well have been a woman.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Yearly jazz show at Lakeland a treasure for fans

I believe it was Duke Ellington who wrote, “Music Is My Mistress.” I understand the sentiment.

My collections of classical and country music are modest — at best. But jazz — that is another story. My home is overrun with jazz in all its contexts and variations, as well as playing speeds.

Now, it is perfectly acceptable to have a focus on a singular genre of jazz — that is, to say, a specific era. I cut my musical teeth on Big Band Jazz and the Swing Era. But to be well-rounded in all aspects of jazz, one must gain exposure to all of its manifestations, listen to everything that is offered, and give it a chance to win its way into your heart.

I know people who are still hung up on Dixieland Jazz, never progressing beyond that stage in the evolution. They are known as Moldy Figs. They are good people, but severely limited in jazz scope.

But if you give jazz in all its forms a chance, you may discover some sounds you might have never known existed.

Thus it was that four of us ventured a week ago last night to the 40th Annual Jazz Festival at Lakeland Community College — and to hear some music with which I was basically unfamiliar.

The featured group was Yellowjackets, a Grammy Award-winning jazz fusion group that is light years from the cotton fields of the South, the tailgates in the funeral processions in New Orleans and the stuff I grew up on — Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Ellington, Buddy Rich and, later on, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and even beyond — Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and other avant-garde artists.

You can’t appreciate the Yellowjackets without a sense of music history in jazz. And I will be bold enough to say that there is no singular contribution to the playing of live jazz in Lake County that approaches that made by Lakeland Community College and its annual Jazz Festivals.

Furthermore, there is no individual who holds a more elevated position in the promotion of jazz in the county than Chuck Frank, a retired faculty member at Lakeland and the founder of the Lakeland Jazz Festival.

Chuck was honored at the Feb. 25 concert, as he should have been. He really started something! At the first Festival in 1973, he brought in trumpeter Clark Terry to headline the show. The luminaries who have performed over those 40 years are lengedary — some of the biggest names in jazz.

They were all listed in this year’s program. If you don’t recognize the names, take my word for it — they are jazz superstars.

Our foursome – Kirtland Mayor Mark Tyler, his wife, Sandy, the lady who runs our household and me — grabbed a quick meal at the new Skye Restaurant at Lawnfield Inn in Mentor. We were in a rush because we didn’t want to be late for the concert.

Too bad we had to hurry. The restaurant — an enterprise of Rob Kneen and his mother, Arlene Kneen of Traveline fame, is in every way fabulous. We’ll go back soon when we can spend more time.

As we seated ourselves for the concert following a brief reception hosted by Lake National Bank, we found ourselves surrounded by friends. We were right next to Dick and Ellen Foley Kessler.

But the highlight of the evening was the music. Much has happened harmonically in music since the 1950s, and we are now in future shock. A lot that happened was “cool.” Miles Davis’ “Birth of the Cool” helped lead the assault. A true rebellion was under way. We were surrounded by unresolved cadences.

Pianists Theoloneous Monk and Dave Brubeck were playing time signatures we had never heard before. There were odd meters. There was modal jazz, free jazz and fusion, which is really jazz rock. Miles’ album “Bitches’ Brew” led the way. That evolved into Weather Report.

Somewhere in this lexicon of futuristic fusion sounds comes Yellowjackets.

You really have to hear the group to appreciate everything it does musically. The individual artists, Bob Mintzer on tenor saxophone, Russell Ferrante on keyboards, William Kennedy on drums and Felix Pastorious on bass, are mega-talents.

I didn’t see an empty seat in the house. And the hugely enthusiastic audience roared its approval. It rocked the place, and didn’t let the Yellowjackets off the stage without an encore.
The evening was a WOW! with capital letters. Thanks, Chuck Frank, for starting it all. And thanks, Lakeland, for continuing the tradition.