"Ike" vs the Bolsheviks

Winningreen Discourse                                A112211

“Ike” vs. the Bolsheviks

By Tom Randall

Date: November 22, 2011


They called him “Ike.”  It was a nickname derived from his given name Ivan; born in 1910, the lore of how this Irish kid wound up with a Russian given-name has long since been lost.

By 1923 he had to drop out of school between the seventh and eighth grades to work on the farm.  Times were tough and his father had to go back to work in the paper mill to make ends meet.

But he was a bright, determined kid and just 10 years later he was a self-taught chemist working at Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in Portage, Michigan.  Quite a wondrous achievement.  But the fates weren’t finished with Ike.  It was the height of the Great Depression.  Upjohn was looking to layoff employees.  When the personnel people came around and asked him where he got his college degree — an apparent omission in his file — Ike was out of a job.

It was his time to turn to the paper mills, prevalent in the Kalamazoo Valley.  He got a job hiking broke in one of them.  (Hiking broke is hard to fully describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it but let’s just say it compares favorably with pick and shovel coal mining.)  Again he clawed his way up.  Just ten years later, in the summer of 1941, he was made superintendent.  He was running his own mill.  The mill was a “coater” — one that puts the coatings on paper.  He had a genius for coating formulations and seemed to be a first rate manager as well.  Each year there was a union-organizing vote and each year the union lost.  His remained the only nonunion mill in the Valley.  Ike had started with nothing and earned quite a career.

Fate still wasn’t through with him, however.  It was becoming economically unfeasible to make paper in one mill and truck it to another to be coated and Ike’s mill was scheduled to be closed.  However, another company came along with a unique need for a stand-alone coater.  They wanted to put an aluminum-powder coating on kraft paper to make their building insulation more efficient.  Laminating aluminum foil was not yet feasible and no one had ever tried an emulsified metal coating.  If Ike could figure out how to do it they would buy the coater, as long as he came along with the deal on loan from his paper company.  He did and the mill stayed open.

Eventually, fate made another call, this time in the form of foil-laminated kraft paper, making both the emulsified metal coating and the mill that produced it obsolete.  The mill had to be closed.  That didn’t happen before Ike spent long days and nights calling employers up and down the Kalamazoo Valley, particularly other papermakers, until he found jobs for all of his roughly 200 employees — small wonder his mill was never unionized.  Only then did he move on to run his next mill.

You can be damned sure he made certain that his son became the first Randall to graduate from college.

You can be equally certain that he would have viewed today’s Occupy Wall Street crowd with incomprehension and a large dose of unmitigated disgust.




A side note: In the pre-revolutionary movement that became the Russian Communist Party, there were two groups: Bolsheviks — meaning “majority” in Russian — and the minority, known as Mensheviks.  There is considerable question whether the Bolsheviks represented the majority of their movement but little doubt they did not represent the majority of the Russian people.  The Bolsheviks simply declared themselves to be the majority and much of the media and the world came to buy into that notion.

Similarly, the “99 percenters” have declared themselves to be the majority of Americans.  In a country where, even in these difficult times, 91 percent of job seekers are employed, the “99 percenters” claim is absurd.  They are, perhaps, the majority in their urine and feces befouled encampments but they do not represent Americans.

Contact: Tom Randall
Winningreen LLC
Chicago, IL
Phone: 773-857-5086
e-mail: trandall@winningreen.com