Fifty years of Canada’s plastics industry, explained!
Picking up where an earlier volume left off, a new book chronicles the Canadian plastics industry from 1950 to 2000.
Waiting for a sequel can be torture. It took 35 years for Hollywood to film The Black Bird, a follow-up to the 1941 classic The Maltese Falcon, for example. Veteran members of Canada’s plastics industry can relate – they’ve had an even longer wait for a book to augment Pioneering in Plastics – Canadian Inventors and Innovators 1885 to 1950, a history of the industry’s earliest days written by chemist Donald W. Emmerson in 1978. Now, after almost 40 years, that follow-up volume is finally available.
Entitled Canadian Plastics Pioneers 1950-2000, the new book picks up where Emmerson left off, chronicling Canada’s plastics industry through the experimental decade of the 1950s, the steady growth of the 1960s and the heyday of the 1970s, to the rise of new competition and image concerns in the 1980s and 1990s. Written by Toronto-based business journalist Kara Kuryllowicz, Canadian Plastics Pioneers 1950-2000 is a labour of love for the Canadian Plastics Pioneers (CPP) – a 160-member-strong organization, composed of industry veterans with at least 25 years of experience, with a mission to preserve the history of plastics manufacturing in Canada.
The book was made possible by the CPP’s perseverance and fundraising activities – which is a tale almost as eventful as the industry story told between the covers. “The idea for this volume goes back almost 30 years,” said Ralph Zarboni, the head of the CPP’s Book Committee. “The CPP began assembling information for it in the early 1990s, and there were several unsuccessful tries at finding a writer before we found Kara about eight years ago. She wrote the majority of the manuscript, but then the funding dried up and the project fell into limbo for several years. CPP chairman Doug Winter always believed in the project, however, and after his death in 2015 I took over the job of fundraising and was able to get enough money from our members to allow Kara to finish the job.”
In writing the book, Kuryllowicz drew from microfiches of old magazines and other written records, but relied primarily on the personal testimonials and anecdotes of many of the pioneers themselves. With help from a number of CPP members – including Zarboni, the late Doug Winter, and others – she was able to interview such seminal industry figures as Robert Schad, Mike Schmidt, Bob Beamish, Lloyd Leadbeater, Ralph Noble, Chuck Hantho, Lorne Berggren, Jack Reid, Tom Thomas, Clay Elliott, and Karl Pieper. In addition to their recollections, the book features bios of other important men and women of the industry, including Paul Szasz, Marta Farrago, Bryan Carter, Jim Horn, Murray Spencer, Eric Salmond, Ron Evason, Jim Edward, Bob Davies, Vic De Zen, Gunter Weiss, Frank Maine, and Marion Axmith; and short histories of important companies such as Danson Corporation, Mold-Masters, International Tool, Shawiningan Chemicals, ABC Group, Husky Injection Molding Systems, Brampton Engineering, Magna International, Royal Plastics Group, and The Woodbridge Group.
“This second volume provides a record of our industry’s people, activities, companies, and products, and their effect on Canadian society from 1950 to 2000, through five chapters covering each decade – our approach was to target applications and indicate how they enhanced our lives, and also to look forward to possible innovations of the 21st century,” Zarboni said. “A draft of the book was sent to some of the CPP members for them to review to double-check its accuracy. We’re very happy with the result.”
The 320-page book sells for $45, and the CPP is already taking pre-orders for copies. “We are having a book launch on September 11 at Magna Golf Course in Aurora, Ont.,” Zarboni said. “We will also have a Quebec launch at a time and place to be determined shortly.”