Eames Library

        

IRV GREEN

1989
ZENITH PLASTICS


INTERVIEW WITH: IRV GREEN

IN THE PHOTOGRAPH:  IRV GREEN IS ON THE LEFT, HIS PARTNER AT ZENITH PLASTICS, SOL FINGERHUT,  IS ON THE RIGHT.

Copyright Eames Office, LLC

This interview and other Eames Office oral histories are the exclusive property of the Eames Office, LLC.  Please contact the Eames Office LLC for rights and permissions to use any of this material.

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ZOOM

INTERVIEW

QUESTION: Where did you first meet Charles and Ray?

ANSWER: I received the phone call.  And the man introduced himself as Charles Eames.  I’d never heard of him. That was about 1949 I believe.  And he said he had an idea of making a chair out of fiberglass and resin.  So we made an appointment.  And it was to be at 1:00 at the 901 office building.  And I remember saying something (??) was relatively new at the company and came from Owens Corning Fiberglass.

He’d like to come along with me.  So he says you’re sure.  And we — I had a prior appointment — I think it was in San Gabriel.  And if you think back to those days, there was no Santa Monica Freeway.  So we had a long trek from San Gabriel to Santa Monica — Venice.  And though we got there at one and there’s no Charles Eames.  He was out, so we waited and waited and waited.  And finally, about two o’clock, we decided to just leave.  And Charles walked in about give after two.

We sat down and talked.  And it was most fascinating conversation.  He was an intriguing guy to meet.

And we left there I think at 6:15 in that evening.  So it was sort of eye-opening — his ideas and what he was looking for.  Of course, subsequently I learned a great deal about design because I can think of that poster he had in his office.  It was just a gigantic red 2.  He took it off the wall to see if it looked like it came from a circus poster where they’re putting it on a billboard.  And I asked him why he had that there.

And he said that in this world — in this world of grays, he said either yes or no.  And he just went on and on.  It was just nice to look up and see a definite you know what a 2 is.  So he was — he was a fun association with Charles.  But that’s how I first met him.

QUESTION: What were you guys talking about when you were in that three hour conversation or that four hour conversation.

ANSWER: Four hour conversation.  No, we were mainly discussing the possibilities of making this chair the fiberglass resin chair.  And what it would take and approximate costs for tooling and etc.  And is it possible to make it because there was nothing at that date of whom to aid that large that was done in a mold.  A lot of hand made things during the war that were made for airplanes.

And the company I was with at the time had all sorts of (??) parts of airplanes, so FAE — a vertical stabilizer tip because they to put — covered an antenna and you needed a dialectric [Sounds like] material.  You couldn’t use aluminum — you couldn’t get anywhere.  So and the nose of various airplanes and subsequently we made some of the old constellation — the radium for the nose bit and — but we had experience — but nothing was ever made this large in a single mode.  So that’s what we talked about.

QUESTION: Was Charles well informed?

ANSWER: Well, I’d hardly call him a novice.  He has researched some stuff.  But he hadn’t had the practical day to day information as to how you do it.  What the dye would be like.  And, of course, Sol is very knowledgeable, both having worked in the laboratory.  And knowing he was going to be developing this type of system.

Um, and we gave him an idea of the cost that it would probably be about five thousand dollars for the tooling.  Keep in mind, this is 1993 when we were talking about I would guess 1949 prices.  And so that dye would probably cost maybe a hundred thousand dollars.    

QUESTION: How did he come to the conclusion that fiberglass might be overdoing it if nobody had done it before.

ANSWER: Well, the cost of tooling from steel stamping which is an idea that Charles had had was very exorbitant.  And he loved the idea that he would have something that would be rust proof.  I mean, alone I’m sure you could stamp it out unless it were in stainless.

You’d have to cover it.  And going back to those days and having been in the aircraft business, I was used to the plus and minus five thousand things like that.  Uh, Charles introduced us into a different area such as warm and cold.  Uh, the steel chair would be cold.  The fiberglass chair would be warm.  And it was a good design indeed that he was always pursuing.  But I think that was one of the main reasons for his wanting to go that route. Plus the fact that it would warm in the sense he was using it.  And a steel chair would be cold.

And then we went on to — he had two designs.  The side chair and the arm chair.  And it was a conclusion of all of us that if we could make the armchair — which is a more difficult one.  Then the side chair would be a breeze in the way of tooling and molding parts.  So that’s why we chose the armchair first.  And went on from there.

QUESTION: How did Charles choose your organization?

It was Century at the time.  Right?

ANSWER: No, it was called Zenith Plastics.

QUESTION: Now, it was your company?

ANSWER: No, I just worked for the company.  But Sol and I left later and started our own.  And sometime later, we decided to move the (??) to our company because Zenith sold out to 3M and all of a sudden there was a gigantic corporation.  There was no easy communication any longer.

QUESTION: When did you start your company?

ANSWER: Let’s see — started it in 1957.  And the name was Summit Industries.  But later the name was changes to Century.

QUESTION: As I heard it, he met with some other places but once he met with you guys…

ANSWER: Oh, I was just going to say I don’t what happened prior to our meeting, but I do know that once he met us, he decided to go no further and just stick with what we were telling him.

And there’s a long history of how it started.  The actual process Charles explained — he really didn’t have anything to do with the manufacturing and the design and the prototypes.  And that (??) was a company that was manufacturing parts.  And they would be financing and uh, nothing really started until a man named Jim Veranda

[Sounds like] — whoops, that’s somebody else.  Jim Eppinger [Sounds like] who was their national sales manager got into the act.

So Charles made an appointment for Jim ___ backed them. Went to New York to come out and talk to us. And just thinking back, that five thousand was such an enormous amount of money.  That the company I was with agreed to share half of it, keeping in mind in those days in 1949 dollars, [??] was doing about a million and a half in sales a year.  And I think I’m pretty sure that the holding company had bigger sales than they did.  But [??] at the time.  So it was a wonderful association.

QUESTION: After your initial meeting, how long was it you met with Eppinger [Sounds like] and started?

ANSWER: Oh, I’m going to guess just a time frame.  I’m going to say three months later or something like that.  And the office — Eames [Sounds like] office kept revising the model as I remember for a while, too.  I had a lot of people sitting in my (??) to decide if it was the right shape.

QUESTION: But you were sitting there [Sounds like]?

ANSWER: Oh, yeah.  Sure.  There were — we had a lot of meetings prior to going ahead.  The — matter of fact, we used to have breakfast at the house here and that’s where I learned a lot about just the words of design.  What’s honest and what’s not honest.  You know he said (??) and I used it once when D.J. Depree  [Sounds like] who is a chairman of the board in those days.  He came out to the plant and in my office, we had one of the parchment chairs.

And the button nose attached to the bottom of the chair showed through.  You could see a — you could see like the shadow.  And it wasn’t the small button you have today.  It was a three inch button — we call it a button  — a rubber with the steel molded inside.  And I remember DJ saying gee, I could see the button.  And I said, yeah, but it’s honest.  And he turned to me quickly and said oh, you’re learning the language.  So those are kind of fun days.

QUESTION: Tell me something honest that was important to Charles?

ANSWER: Yeah, he didn’t like phony things.  I remember we once had somebody that came to my {??) with a mock-up of fiberglass brakes.  Like a cast taken off of a used brake wall.  And so I drove down to Venice and showed it to Charles and said what do you think of this? [??] And his answer was why? You know, it was like I have performed well.  I think that goes close to the thing about honest in design and so forth.

QUESTION: Do you think Charles was being a little modest in manufacturing or whatever when in fact that was a big issue that goes on in his mind.  Or do you think he didn’t think about it?

ANSWER: I think when I was saying when I was saying in terms — he just didn’t get involved in the manufacturing to the sense of the machinery used to do a door.  How many do you make in this — this is time study stuff.  But no, he was involved.  I remember one incident where he really took off on me and I brought him the arm chair — we were then in the process of molding in the experiments.  He wanted a thicker edge around it.

And we had curious ideas such as putting a fiberglass rope in there and so forth. And I guess — this is a long time ago — I said something to the effect that well, we can’t do it.  And he turned to me with a little bit of a temper and said then we don’t have a product.  Forget it.

No.  He wanted things done the way he wanted them.  He didn’t compromise that much.  But he was pragmatic of the sets that absolutely couldn’t do it that had changed some way.  But back to your question about the manufacturing.  He was insane in the fact that he was divorced from the production end of it.

QUESTION: So it is fair to summarize that he was concerned with how the manufacturing would affect the design and making sure that the design could be manufactured with the actual nuts and bolts of time schedules and production minds? That was less important to him?

ANSWER: Yeah, it wasn’t of much importance although he was fascinated enough by the molding operation.  I remember the first time I met George Nelson.  Harold’s [Sounds like] had called in the usual casual was — he said okay, if I brought if I brought this friend of mine down? And of course, by then I had knew who George Nelson was.  But he brought him down to the plant and he was almost exuberant in showing how the thing was made.

He was interested in that end of it and he mainly stuck to the design end.  And, uh, making improvements if he could.  And he was practical in the sense that we as the develop rejects — almost impossible not to have a maybe there on the one percent, one out of a hundred chairs.  And we told they were mainly accumulating because the chairs had started really taking off.  I can’t hear your numbers any longer.  But I’d say after two years of your — at least, at the ten thousand mark.

And so, we brought him the problem of if you want to cut the cost, um, let’s see what we can do with the retail [Sounds like].  Maybe paint them.  And whether he had this idea is the back of his head or not, I don’t know.  Because again, it’s a long time.  But he came up we want to re-upholster them.  And that’s how that started — at least from my recollection.  We’ve always had it in mind.  But his idea was he wanted a chair for the masses if possible — and how do you keep the cost down?  Take care of the — make a fancier, more luxurious chair by putting upholstery on it.  So one way or the other, that’s how that started.

ANSWER: One day, I found a competitor of ours had made a — had made out of fiberglass a two-piece chair like the molded wood chair.  And somebody brought it to me and there were buttons on it that were just the identical idea that he had that was patented.  The button with the steel plate and a tap [Sounds like] the hole in there that you attach the legs to the button.

And so I’m calling and said I think somebody’s infringing on this.  And he said, uh, gee, I wonder how they can sleep nights.  And he sort of just dropped it.  The whole thing — the chair never went anywhere.  But it was just his way of looking at it.  Not from the business end of it.  Which leads me to do you still have the Cotton and Redman [Sounds like]?  Ever hear of that name?

QUESTION: The name’s vaguely familiar.

ANSWER: Because Charles called me one day and said you guys are in business.  Uh, really have a mess down here and you have an accountant you use.  And I had suggested this guy, Rod Redman [Sounds like] who we were using.  He was an ex-FBI man and a CPA.  Rod Leader [Sounds like] went on to get a law degree and then taught at Southern Cal — let’s see — Southern Cal full time but I think he kept Charles because he was sort of fascinated with the items that he never got in contact with normally.

QUESTION: Right.

ANSWER: I wondered.  I don’t even know how old he would be today.

QUESTION: Rod Redman?

ANSWER: Rod — Rodney Redman.  You know, my guess is he’s probably eighty — maybe even a little less.

QUESTION: I’ll try to track him down.  There are a lot of address, but they’re good files.  So I can probably track him down.  Can you talk about — I guess what you saw in that first meeting was the stamped metal armchair that they had taken to the Museum of Modern Art in the low cost furniture competition.  Can you talk about how the design changed and how Charles and Ray worked in that process?

ANSWER: Basically, um, everything else just

stopped dead once he got to talk to us.  And he just went further on the making a hand laid up [Sounds like] fiberglass chair.  And I don’t even remember whether we took some of the patterns and made them ourselves.  But the office had some really clever talented people.  like Don Albinson [Sounds like], Charles Kratka [Sounds like] — all of them went on to — in later days to do fairly well.  Did you ever get to talk to Myrna Sholan [Sounds like]?

QUESTION: Not yet.  Is she still alive?

ANSWER: Oh, yeah, yeah.  She’d be — she’d be my age or younger maybe by a couple of years.

QUESTION: Actually, she was somebody who’s phone number I just found in a file yesterday.  So I’m going to try to give her a call.

ANSWER: She wasn’t married in those days.  But I don’t know her married name.  But I ran into her at UCLA at a memorial service for Charles at the faculty club there.  And I hadn’t seen her in years.  She wouldn’t [Sounds like] have a lot of information.  I understand that she even picked up that button thing and got a hold of the — this might be apocryphal, but got hold of the patent attorney and got it done for Charles.

QUESTION: Oh, really?

ANSWER: Yeah.  You might…

QUESTION: I’ll try to search writing down those phone numbers.  You don’t happen to know her married name?

ANSWER: No.

QUESTION: Do you know what city she was living in at that time?

ANSWER: We’ll, I don’t know.  Santa Monica, but it’s L.A.

QUESTION: Were Charles and Ray both involved in this process?  And can you talk about Ray’s involvement? What you saw as their involvement?

ANSWER: My memory is that Ray didn’t get involved until we started talking about colors.  And she had a great deal of involvement there.  And trying to make it simple.  It was a parchment and a gray — gray, she called it a contraction of the gray and beige.  And then the — what they eventually called the elephant hide. Gray.  Oh, let me tell you about that little incident.

I was — we were making samples.  He said black.  So we’re making samples of black  different shades of it.  And I kept running back and forth like a yo-yo from the office to the Eames office.  And showing them different samples.  And I finally said well, why don’t you mix up something and then we’ll copy it.  We didn’t have those fancy machines that they have today to pick up the color.

But he finally came up with this.

To me, it was a black-gray or charcoal looking chair.  And I went back to the plant and we made it.  And that’s what he labelled elephant hide gray.  But what I remembered most was his final statement before he made his own color.  He said — you know, he used to use his hands a lot like this.  He was trying to like mold this thing.  He said, um, what I really want is a black with feeling.

Well, you know, for somebody that’s in the molding business, it’s — how do you put that down on a blueprint?  Black with feeling.  But that’s what came up as elephant hide gray.

QUESTION: So did you encounter — it’s an intangible question.  But I’d like more stories like that.  Just what you were talking about — learning about warm and cold.  I think somebody from your perspective has a unique perspective, aside from not just having worked so long together, but also being an expert in your own field and then coming in contact with an expert in the design field.  How did that exchange of information or attitude work?

ANSWER: Well, for me it was a learning process because it’s a totally different field of work.  I mean, my wife is an artist and I used to come home and say to her, he’s talking about hue, you know, warm and cold.  You know, and I’m just learning.  And she used to help a little by explaining what he was talking about or what he was trying to get across to me.  But, um, I never, uh, I never saw him upset in trying to explain something.

Even though at time I thought I was awfully thick for not quite getting at that blackless [Sounds like] feeling of course, through me.  But it’s — I’m trying to think back how long ago.  That’s fifty years ago.  It’s — no, it’s not quite that long.  But you know, I was just a — almost a youngster when I think back.  But it was a fun time.

QUESTION: What was the unique thing that Charles brought what unique things stand out in your mind in terms of — other people can see the furniture.  And see all of this.  But you actually knew him and worked with him.  What made him unique?

ANSWER: Well, I think his mind was so open.  Um, I remember one time when Saul and I went down –- oh, it’s like a maintenance call if you want to call it that.  And question about something.  And all of a sudden, he comes up with, um, if you’re going to visit a country that didn’t have many trees, so that they can’t build the houses with studs and that, what would you make it out of?

You know, he’s just — just was always questioning and always bringing up, uh, ideas and probing that you don’t — you don’t see in the ordinary person you deal with.  It’s what made he and Ray unique.  Always willing to listen in spite of what I said earlier — then we don’t have a product.  But we just worked around it to his satisfaction.

QUESTION: When he said we don’t have a product, did you solve the problem?

ANSWER: Oh, I think it was just — just — no, he never solved it the way he would have liked it.  But he compromised because we did get a thicker edge.  He wanted it rolled and in those days, you couldn’t do it because when you’re molding a fiberglass mat or pre-form, you can’t make a build up of glass that abruptly.  Today, or let’s say for the last twenty years, it would be a cinch.  Because we have what they call this sheet molding compound.  It’s just technology came along and, uh, took care of it.  So, but he made you put your thinking cap on — getting the best out of everybody.

QUESTION: Tell me more about that getting the best out of everybody.  Did you think that was a special skill of his?

ANSWER: It just seemed to come naturally for him.  He — he’d, um — everybody would come to his drawing

board and have him okay or approve something that they were working on a portion of it.  I think that that’s what made his office different from, uh, — oh, like a Raymond Lowy [Sounds like] and (??) Factories — you know, cranking out designs.  Everything seemed to need his approval or Ray’s approval before they would go ahead with it.

Or he would allow them to ahead with something.  So he was unique in that way that, um, wasn’t interested in — in gigantic design firm.  I don’t know what the number of people he had at the height of it.  But I doubt that it was over twenty-five and that included the photographers, pattern makers, uh — matter of fact, he even made a — an ad for us once for the company because I went to him and said we don’t seem to be getting the best out of our ads.  And he asked me for a second, what do you think, uh, in a newspaper ad attracts the most attention?  And I couldn’t think of anything at the moment.

And then he said, well, take a look at a (??) ad.  It was practically a one-sheet of just white paper with one item on it.  And you know, it draws your eyes to it. So we asked him if he would make up an ad for a magazine and he did.  But strangely enough, it was a montage of all of the various items we had plastered — like one overlapping the other.  It was a heck of a nice ad.  It drew attention.  I never knew whether it sold anything, but it was different.

QUESTION: How would you describe Charles and Ray’s relationship?  How did they work together?

ANSWER: Well, I always thought that they were extremely close.  I have no idea what their personal relationship was like, uh, outside of the office.  Uh, I just — I think that Ray went to him for approval on a lot of items.  And most of what I remember is when it came to fabrics and colors, Charles wanted Ray’s approval before they went ahead.  Um, I can’t think of anything further on that.  Again, time has taken its toll.

QUESTION: How did they start getting involved in films?

ANSWER: I really don’t know, uh, how they got into it.  I do know that I used to love coming up here and — you know, in the shop — not down at 901, but at the house.  We would come in and then he’d show us, uh — he’d show us a film or working on it.  I remember the one — let’s see, The Surface or how — Here It Comes Down Our Street.  I think it was a title like that.  And he was showing me how they were doing it.

You get a strip of paper and he had all these tiny little, I’ll call it toys — lions and so forth.  And then some of the (??) strips of paper as — as they were, uh, filming it.  And then, um, I guess to be able to get the, um, sixteen millimeter.  The films he did like the Powers of Ten, which is wonderful.  I also remember is his inviting us to UCLA to that — I call it smell-a-vision.

QUESTION: Tell me about that.  What was that like?

ANSWER: Well, he made a film.  There were two films.  One was about baking and the other was about churches.  And the one about churches had a field in the center screen.  And to the right and to the left, he had slides projected.  The film would keep going — the center one.  And they’d keep changing the slides.  And they had all sorts of church designs – everything from Notre Dame to Shart [Sounds like] in France to — I don’t recall all of them.  But it would go on and on and then all of a sudden, you got the smell of the incense which is put into the air conditioning system.  This is a UCLA — I think in the (??) Hall.  It was really a first as far as I know.  And just even so innovative.

And then the film on bakery.  Um, the same thing.  He had everything from rye bread to tacos as I remember.  Uh, to oh, a Jewish Challah and then he had pictures, slides of them cutting the stuff.  Just kneading it as they were making it.  And then all of a sudden, you got

the smell of newly baked bread.  Where he got it, how he did it, I don’t know.  But — and then the audience just gave out a big groan.  Everybody was getting hungry.  It was very, very unique.

[TECHNICAL INTERRUPTION]

ANSWER: It was just a very interesting film.  And I had no idea whether UCLA had asked him to do something, his own idea.  I know that he was on the faculty [??].  And – but I can’t really answer that one.  [??]

QUESTION: Where do you think the interest in film and lectures and stuff came for him? [??]

ANSWER: Well, it may have had something to do with an association with [??].  I know that he was reasonably close to [??].  And a matter of fact, that [??].

[INAUDIBLE QUALITY]

QUESTION: You were saying that they were people?

ANSWER: Well, I always thought they were different than most people.  And they were interested in worldly, I don’t like, uh, — [??].  I don’t think they had a television set in their house for at least ten years, maybe even longer.  Uh, they used to go to high school band concerts. Um, and remember, I wasn’t that close to them outside of the work end of it.  But they used to talk about things like that.  So — although I gather, after a while financially, they — there was no problem whatsoever.  But they didn’t seem that interested in — in the financial end of work.

QUESTION: Were you saying something about their car?

ANSWER: Oh, well, they got this Ford convertible which is — it was nice styling.  I’m trying to think of the year.  Somewhere in the ‘50’s.  And it was a black Ford convertible.  And pretty soon, they got a new car.  And the new car was identical.  And just a year or two or three later, it was a black Ford convertible.  It looked the same.  Uh, it’s just that so — they weren’t — that was just something to get them from one place to another.

QUESTION: Did they ever talk about the circus with you?  Or if they ever thought about joining it?

ANSWER: No, no.  I know nothing about that.

QUESTION: What about the big 2 that was in their room?  You thought that was from the circus or what?

ANSWER: Well, it sure — I think it really was. How he got a hold of it, I don’t know.  But, uh, it was just a big letter.  And you know, I grew up in the — a long, long time ago and there actually were signs like that.  The circus coming July 22 pasted on a wood fence that’s might have been six feet high.  Or higher.

And I don’t know that they had it in California, but I grew up in the (??) and we sure had it there.  And that’s where he evidently got that big red 2.

QUESTION: Did they ever talk about their childhood?

ANSWER: Ray — never talked about it.  Um, Charles told me one incident.  And boy, you’re making me dig back.  It had to do when his daughter — your mother — uh, was in college.  And he evidently rented a car, drove out to see her.  And they — see, like the house that they (??) wouldn’t let him in because he obviously was very young and you know, a very handsome guy.  And thought it was a boyfriend and not — and not her father.  And he didn’t get into many personal things that way.  But he did tell me this.

Another little odd thing was I showed up one day with a tie that was — had vertical stripes just about a quarter of an inch wide.  And they were black and white.  Alternating stripes.  And he told me that — he said, um, God, that’s a wonderful tie — that Saul Steinberg [Sounds like] the cartoonist was staying in town at their house.  And he said, God, he’s got a shirt that’s just like that.  And he said, um, I’d like to — boy, I’d like to show him that tie.  So I said here, have it.  And I took it off and handed it to him.  And he says, okay, I’ll have him give you an original cartoon.  Which never happened.  But, it sort of got to him.  Just a black and white tie.

QUESTION: Did he ever tell you about the time he spent in Mexico?

ANSWER: No, I mean, in passing I know that he had spent a couple of years, I think.  But no, he never brought that up.  I know he never finished school.  We’re talking about university.  He dropped out and then taught at Cranberg [Sounds like].  Uh, but no, I don’t know.  You’d have to get onto somebody who was a lot closer than I was on a personal level.

QUESTION: How did he know so much about engineering?  And sort of the technical side of all this?

ANSWER: I — the only thing I can think of is that he was a self-taught (??).  But (a) obviously in the couple of years he did go to school — and I’m guessing again — he must have studied something on structures because boy, he sure was savvy on strength of materials and design.  he just knew it.  Oh, and also, he was, uh, very close to, uh, what’s his name from MIT.  Red Heffer [Sounds like].  And as a matter of fact, the museum down at — there are permanent exhibits by Eames and Red Heffer.

I think it was Charles, Ray and Red Heffer.  And the only reason that Red Heffer’s (??) to me was that we were making, uh, radoms [Sounds like] for military use.  And the radar design and — and there are — there were some books that — on radar design.  There were aspects of it

by Red Heffer.  So the name was familiar to me.  But, uh, you know, to have this association with that, I think that basically a mathematician — Charles must have known an awful lot of that end of the — always curious.

QUESTION: I did interview Red Heffer and he felt that either Charles had no mathematical training — had tremendous insights into (??) very sophisticated level.  It was interesting.  What was your sense of the business side of the Eames office?  What was the company or the entity and did you know anything about evolution they may have undergone before you got there?

ANSWER: No.  I’m completely out of that picture with the exception that I told you earlier we felt that I must have known something about office work because, um, accounting — because he had asked that I recommend somebody which I did.  And I gather was a long and (??) association for both of them.

They sent to me a contract that I think was two inches thick with a blue cover.  And Charles had scribbled across the face of it this is not a friendly contract.  I don’t even know if he read it.  He mailed it back.  I understand when (??) uh, got a hold of it, he called the legal department and shook them all up and said hey, can’t we make a simple (??) contract? If he doesn’t like it, what of our members.  Something to that effect.  I’m going to have to check with Sol.  He might have said it to me, but I don’t think so.  I think he said to Sol.

QUESTION: That’s pretty funny.

ANSWER: Yeah.

QUESTION: But you took lots and didn’t.  I guess you know, you sent them the right kind of contract.  It’s hard to imagine that happening.

ANSWER: Yeah, well, I don’t think lots of them dealt with any companies personally.  So it was a different relationship.  But I remember in the office was push button phones.  Um, and talking about the dial phones.  But there was a line, I think, you just pushed the button and it answered it IBM in New York.  That was sort of fascinating to me.

 

QUESTION: It’s hard now.  But it’s not going to get any easier to remember fifty years ago.  What was your sense of the way — was the house already built when you knew them?

ANSWER: Um, boy that’s an interesting question.  Because, um, he was — all I remember it was brand new.  And we used to come up here and sort of convene for breakfast.  And then hash over, uh, what he wanted, where we were and that.  So I’m going to guess that the house was built just before we got in contact with Charles and Ray.  I just — there’s one way of checking.  An eight page spread of “In Life Magazine” of the house.  You probably have seen that.  If you could date — the date of that, that issue — would certainly, uh…

QUESTION: [??]

ANSWER: I think it was built just before we got to know him.  That would be ’49.  So…

QUESTION: Can you tell me more about those conversations you would have up here about — did you feel like Charles was almost training you or trying to teach you about design?

ANSWER: It wasn’t anything that was, uh, delivered.  I think he’d ask questions and he was gaining information.  We got a lot of information.  It was a lot easier sitting down over [??] light something to eat as

QUESTION: It’s hard now.  But it’s not going to get any easier to remember fifty years ago.  What was your sense of the way — was the house already built when you knew them?

ANSWER: Um, boy that’s an interesting question.  Because, um, he was — all I remember it was brand new. And we used to come up here and sort of convene for breakfast.  And then hash over, uh, what he wanted, where we were and that.  So I’m going to guess that the house was built just before we got in contact with Charles and Ray.  I just — there’s one way of checking.  An eight page spread of “In Life Magazine” of the house.  You probably have seen that.  If you could date — the date of that, that issue — would certainly, uh…

QUESTION: [??]

ANSWER: I think it was built just before we got to know him.  That would be ’49.  So…

QUESTION: Can you tell me more about those conversations you would have up here about — did you feel like Charles was almost training you or trying to teach you about design?

ANSWER: It wasn’t anything that was, uh, delivered.  I think he’d ask questions and he was gaining information.  We got a lot of information.  It was a lot easier sitting down over [??] light something to eat as

we hashed over where we were going.  And what the progress was and so forth.  Um, but the timing — the dates, uh, throw me now.

QUESTION: How does Charles’ mind work? I mean, obviously he — he probably knew a little bit about this technology — the fiberglass.  But there’s a lot to learn about it.  What were the sort of things that interested him as he tried to get a grasp on it and how did that…

ANSWER: How large you could make something.  Um, he was also interested in the cost and, um, what it would take in terms of the time which is money to make it.  The cost of materials, uh, the changing of materials.  There’s — later on, a problem came up with the chairs when they were out in increment weather or just out in the weather over a period of time.  Um, the (??) tended to shrink and the glass fibers — they don’t shrink and it — it had what we call the ballooning of fibers. And we were sort of getting around that.  I don’t remember when we put the ultra-violet stabilizer in the resin.

But that came along.  So there was a constant — constant changes to upgrade the quality.  And, uh he brought up the sum of the so-called problems that he saw or was told about.  We brought up what we’d done to correct it.  But it wasn’t a, um, it was never a final thing.  And you could go on forever.  It was constantly changed.  I know the bonding — he was — also a lot in the technical end our company had because, um, I remember Ray telling me when we — a guy from — I think it was from Chrysler who had a material — I’m trying to think of it.  It was a formaldehyde maybe.  The base of it.  But I’m not sure.  That was a supposedly a great bonding agent.

I remember Ray telling me — this is after Charles had died — she said this [??] referring to him as Charlie and Ray said nobody ever called him Charlie.  But, um, she then got into the bonding material.  But, uh, we came along — a solid (??) go into epoxy.  And the thing developed in there.  As a matter of fact, for the first two years or so, our company was bonding with butnazon [Sounds like].  And eventually Herman Miller took it over and started doing it themselves.

And of course, they got very sophisticated and eventually made some lasting devices.  [??] and as the bonding got better and we almost got up to something like a couple of thousand PSI, uh, to straight tinsel [Sounds like] of the material you get so that when you pulled it and the test had pulled the fibers out.  Not (??) to the bond, um, they reduced the button size so that you didn’t need that large a button.  But it looked better.  It was less expensive.  But it was always a change — a constant change to improve the quality.

QUESTION: What was Charles’ role in that?

ANSWER: Oh, he was — he wanted to know everything. A lot of it just came out because he was bringing it up or seeing or reading about something to do with technology.  Very inquisitive kind of guy.  And, uh, and I certainly enjoyed what I was learning from him.  Another little incident, um, just to show his feeling for people.

Um, I brought my wife Janet to see the place — the house.  And asked if we could come by and they said of course.  I set it up for some Sunday afternoon.  And, um, we came by and we had some kids.  I’m trying to think of their ages, but they were maybe like, uh, three and seven.  Something like that.  And brought them by.  Introduced them all and, uh, we left.  And a few months later, Charles has asked, you know, how’s Mark and Jill.  But not remembering my wife’s name whatsoever.  You know, it’s just the kids that sort of got to him.  That’s selective memory.

QUESTION: Is there anything else I should ask you about?

ANSWER: No.  I — I think I’ve exhausted myself.

QUESTION: Is there anything that I’m not asking about at all?  Is there [??] avoiding some areas that I’m not…

ANSWER: You’ve asked questions about subjects like personal relationships with Ray and Charles that I’m really not — wasn’t privileged to.  Just, um, whatever they volunteered.  My relationship with, uh — with, uh, Ray was a good one.  Uh, but it became a lot stronger after Charles died.  I guess she was really in charge and, um, the place that we used to — my wife and I used to go to lunch every August down in Venice in one of those restaurants and she’d always pick up the tab.  She’s never allow us to take care of it.

 

 

 

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