Jul 25, 2017

More than you ever wanted to know about printing ink...

The Hugh Purvis in Drydock in Boston, Undergoing Fleet Remodeling & Modernization, 1960
I served aboard the USS Hugh Purvis (DD-709) from June of 1962 through January, 1964.  She was an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer that had been built near the end of World War II.  She was commissioned on 1 March, 1945, with the German surrender following in May, and the Japanese surrender in August.  It was a perfect assignment for me, and I was immediately assigned to the engineering department as Main Propulsion Assistant.

I reported aboard the ship when it was in a dry dock at the Boston Naval Shipyard in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  However, Boston was not the ship's home port.  We were actually home based in Newport, Rhode Island.  As a result, most of the married officers and crew commuted on weekends back to Newport.  It was about a 2-hour commute of about 75 miles.  Some commuted daily.  One of those who commuted almost daily was an officer named Kermit Carlson, who went by the nickname "Ken."

Ken was an outgoing, very friendly individual, and was well liked by both officers and crew.  He and I got to be good friends.  He was, in fact, a bachelor, but he drove back and forth from the Charlestown Navy Yard to Newport nearly every night because he was dating a young lady in Newport.  And he made the trip in a brand new 1962 bright red Corvette.  Not a bad way to commute if you have to make the trip!

One evening after dinner on the ship (I had the duty), I happened to be having a conversation with Ken, who was also aboard, as he had been assigned to my duty section.  I asked how a young Lieutenant (Junior Grade), making about $400/month could afford a brand new Corvette.  He informed me that he was actually quite wealthy because of a family business that his grandfather had founded and an invention of the very same grandfather.

A 1962 red Corvette like Ken Carlson's
The story was that his Granddad has gotten into the business of manufacturing printer's ink.  And he had gotten really good at it and built up quite a broad and loyal clientele.  One of his customers happened to be a little company that manufactured a soft drink called Coca Cola.  In the teens and twenties, Coca Cola shipped their syrup in glass jugs that were packed in cardboard cartons transported in delivery trucks.  Sometimes when the trucks maneuvered too abruptly, the cartons slid on each other, sometimes falling and breaking the jugs.  It was a problem that Ken's grandfather decided to address.

He mixed powdered latex into his Red printer's ink that he sold to Coca Cola and suggested that they print on both the tops and bottoms of the cartons as well as the sides.  They tried it and found that the rubberized ink prevented the cartons from sliding on one another.  The ink, which Ken's ancestor had patented, became known as "Coca Cola Non-Skid Red."  Ken's family had something of a monopoly that had been very fortunate for them -- hence the new Corvette.  And to make it even nicer for me, there were a few occasions on which he asked me to be the designated driver while he partied -- I got to drive the beautiful brand-new sports car.

I thought about Ken a few months ago and became curious if there still existed a Carlson's Printing Ink Company, which was the name of their family business.  I learned through a Google search that the printing ink industry has an organization -- the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM).  That organization awards a service-to-the-industry award called the Ault Award.  And then I learned the following:

DEXTER Frederick V. Jr., died Friday, July 10 at his home after a brief illness. He was 82, and a 50-year resident of Ridgewood. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Barbara S. Dexter; four sons, William and wife Patricia Reinhardt of Rochester, NY, Thomas and wife Anita Blackaby of Glouchester, MA, Robert and wife Gail of Manchester Center, VT, Donald and wife Karen of Ridgewood; and ten grandchildren. He was predeceased by his brother, Robert C. Dexter.Fred Dexter was born July 14th, 1926 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn NY, the oldest son of Frederick V. Dexter, Sr. and Mabel Carlson Deter. He was in the first graduating class of Fort Hamilton HS in Brooklyn and graduated from Lehigh University in 1949. After working in the rocket industry during the 1950's, he began a long career in the printing ink industry and retired as Chairman and Chief Executive of Roberts and Carlson, Inc., in 1991. Since 1996, he was a member of the Board of the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) and in 1980 was elected a Printing Ink Pioneer. In 1991 he was recognized with NAPM's Ault Award in recognition of his many years of service to the industry. He was also a member of the Chemical & Specialties Management Council, an organization of top executives among private chemical manufacturers.Fred was President of the Ridgewood-Glen Rock Boy Scout Council, President of the Yaw-Paw Camp Foundation, and a recipient of the Council's Silver Beaver Award for Service to the Council. He was also Treasurer of Hobbyists Unlimited in Ridgewood.A lifelong sailor, Fred loved to race and cruise in small sailboats. He joined the Nyack Boat Club in 1962, serving in small of positions in the Club including Commodore from 1972-1974. He was awarded life membership in 1998. He taught all of his sons to sail and race, and many of his grandchildren are also active in the sport. He served as U.S. Sailing Principal Race Officer for regattas, including national championships of one-design sailboats. During his retirement, he spent lengthy vacations with his wife Barbara sailing to New England and Chesapeake Bay on "Prime Time", their 35 ft cruising sailboat. He was a member of The Corinthians Association, frequently joining in their annual cruise.A Memorial Service will be held Tuesday 5:00 pm at the Feeney Funeral Home, 232 Franklin Avenue, Ridgewood. Visiting hours Tuesday 3:00 - 6:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contribution to be made to the Yaw-Paw Camp Foundation, 135 Prospect St., Ridgewood, NJ 07450 -OR- the R.D. Hinsch Sailing Scholarship Foundation, 2 Eucalyptus Rd., Montvale, NJ 07465.

I also found that the EPA Registry of Chemical Producers has included Roberts & Carlson as a New Jersey registered cleanup site.  Not so good.  They apparently are no longer producing Coca-Cola Non-Skid Red, but they clearly have left their mark in the sand, so to speak.  I hope that Ken, if he is still among the living, is still enjoying his Corvettes.

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