Chapter 3

Building a Business

On arrival in Stafford to join Spic & Span as Chief Chemist, with a wage of £7.00 per week, Hermann like John Forman before him, was appalled at the condition of the buildings in which he was supposed to produce the wax products.* The buildings were of 4,000 square feet in which the Bostock brothers had made shoes and it had outlived its usefulness. His office was an 8ft. by 10ft. room which contained a desk and a large book case which he had brought with him from Germany. Along one wall was a bench with a gas supply connected to a Bunsen burner. The only other equipment was a set of weighing scales, a few beakers and a quantity of saucepans purchased from Woolworths. The mixing of all raw materials was done by hand stirring and HS was very critical that this was done very thoroughly. The roof leaked badly and the place became flooded whenever heavy rainfall occurred. Six people were employed.

His intention was to improve the quality of the shoe and floor polishes produced but more importantly, he planned to introduce many of the chemical products and paints which he had so successfully made in Germany.

His expertise, knowledge and vigour obviously impressed the people who were then Directors of the company for he was very quickly, made a Director himself. At this “extraordinary meeting” the share capital of the company was raised from £5,000 to £7,100 and the company name was changed to Spic & Span Chemicals Ltd. Registration of this name was approved on 19th. May 1938. At the meeting mentioned above he was allocated 1800 shares in the company.

Since arriving at Spic & Span he and Mr. Forman had organised the purchase and use of raw materials and the administration of the factory. With the arrival of the first person to be employed by Dr. Simon, Mr. Cyril Lawton, much of their previous work was taken over. Dr. Simon brought with him a convention which had been used in the German factory which was not to use the chemical names of the products arriving but to allot code numbers to them in order to provide security for the chemical products made from them. This was done in strict secrecy with only a limited number of people knowing what was going on. For all his life confidentiality of the manufacture of the products made by his companies was most important to him. While this approach was most admirable from the security point of view it did create problems for the people who had to put it into practice.

In early July 1938 the first product under the supervision of Dr. Simon was manufactured in the factory. This was 4 gallons of paint remover produced in a large bucket, stirred with a broomstick. With the installation of a powder mixer, acquired no doubt at an advantageous rate, trial batches of Mellitol were made. This product was a cement based waterproofer and it became one of the most successful products the details of which Dr. Simon brought with him from Germany. Portite, a powder additive for precast concrete, was also an innovative and good selling product. Both proved to be enormously useful to the requirements of the Government in wartime.

The range of products was now increasing to include chlorinated rubber based and bituminous based paints, and others which could be used in the building industry. A great deal of attention was also paid to shoe and furniture polish production. Regular checks on quality would be carried out by polishing shoes or desk tops with the appropriate waxes. If he was not satisfied with the appearance of the products in the tins or they did not perform to his satisfaction in use the waxes would be scraped back into the polish vats for reprocessing. As the war progressed it became increasingly difficult to obtain the correct blend as many hard waxes could not be obtained.

While Dr. Simon`s commitments to the factory, administration and laboratory were increasing and always carried out with dedication, he felt that the time had come to make visits to customers who he felt were important to the company. He followed a plan drawn up by his newly appointed Sales Manager, Mr. L. Fishburn.

Between the time of adopting the name “Dove” as a new name for the company and, due to the objections of Wailes Dove, the ultimate adoption of the title “Evode”, many Board meetings took place to discuss the matter. At a meeting in November 1939 it was agreed that the weekly wage of Dr. Simon should be raised to £10.00 per week and that of John Forman to £8.00 per week. If projected to the year 1978, when Dr. Simon died, based on average earnings £10 would equate to £254while £8 would be £203.

As the year 1939 progressed it was becoming increasingly obvious that war with Germany was not far away and the tempo for preparations began to quicken. Late in 1939 part of the Glover Street factory was requisitioned and converted into a morgue for the expected victims of German air raids on Stafford and public buildings in the town were being protected with sandbags and windows were being criss-crossed with adhesive tape to prevent shattering when blown out by the explosion of a near-by bomb. A compulsory blackout regime was going to be imposed and black materials would very readily suffice to cover windows to prevent lights showing from domestic and factory properties. However, factory roof lights were not an easy matter to deal with.

Dr. Simon saw the need for a product that could be easily applied to a glass roof light which would allow daylight in yet prevent emissions of electric light during the dark hours. By using the novel approach of applying a transparent blue paint to the roof lights and coating the electric light bulbs with a transparent, light orange varnish it was possible to meet the stringent blackout regulations. Many thousands of gallons of these products were manufactured during the war years.

At this time money was a scarce commodity and advertising the company products was not a priority. Nevertheless a steady stream of orders were being received, no doubt encouraged by what Hermann had achieved when he worked in Germany. One product which had proved very successful while he was with Chemische Werke Zimmer was an aluminium based paint which was ideal for use in aircraft production, as the Luftwaffe found out. A request was received from the Bristol Aircraft Company for a heat resistant paint for aero engines. With his past experience he realised that, with the political situation as it was, a company which built aircraft was going to be a very important customer. Consequently he delivered the sample of paint to the company himself and explained the background to its use in the German aircraft industry. “Dove” Aluminium Heat Resisting Paint was thoroughly tested by this company and the first order was placed in February 1940.

At the Annual General Meeting held on 8th. January 1940, it was recorded that, upon receipt of the sum of £100.00 from Wailes Dove Bitumastic Ltd., the name of the company would be changed to Evode Chemical Works Ltd., Evode being derived from the reversal of the name “Dove” and an “E” added onto the end. Evode would refrain from the use of the word “Dove” except for polishes, shoe white and cleaners. The new company name was registered with the Board of Trade and the certificate of change of name was approved on 13th. February 1940.