The innovative nonagenarian operating Pearce Plastics Inc. in Pasadena appears to lack the will to slow down.
Woodrow Wilson Pearce was born in Walnut Ridge, Ark. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade during the Great Depression, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, attended an aviation school and, as signs pointed toward the start of World War II, joined a Missouri aircraft supplier fabricating landing gear assemblies. He was promoted to foreman of the plant's steel-welding department at age 19 and soon became superintendent.
In 1942, Pearce went to California as a weld component assembler for an aircraft manufacturer. At night, he attended Plastic Institute of America classes that helped channel some of his creativity and led in time to employment as a pattern maker and then model maker.
He went independent in 1945, making architectural models and, later, clear plastic valve casings, large clear display panels and a prototype top hat for the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain.
In an unexpected development, nearly overheated plastic prompted him to quickly toss sand onto the batch. He added color and made synthetic cultured marble for several years.
After getting his first Van Dorn injection molding machine in 1972, Pearce developed prototypes that resulted in the design for a still-popular dispenser pump.
I never wanted to get big in business, Pearce said in an interview at his plant. I wanted a place to do inventions.
Woody Pearce, who was born in 1919, has eight patents.
Pearce created venting cap technology. Chemical and cosmetic makers release pressure from gases inside plastic containers and overcome problems with label distortion.
He developed a double-wall automatic pet feeder dish and later a product extension that led to the development of widely used automatic water and food dispensers for pets.
He created numerous lines of caps and closures.
Politically conservative Pearce openly shares his values:
* If a person wants to work, they can learn things. That is why so many people are out of work. They do not have work ethics.
* I wish I had time to work for the government and put an okay on the businesses that would be great for the economy. The government needs someone with manufacturing experience to come up with entrepreneurs the real McCoy instead of the U.S. Small Business Administration vetting a proposal and the recipient squandering a chunk of money.
* The stimulus money makes the government bigger while entrepreneurs and businesses lag behind. I do not think this administration knows how or where to kindle interest in putting people to work.
* Government pays more. I have lost two employees to the parks [department] that pays more money than I can in the office or plant. Everybody goes for government employment jobs and does not want to go into industry. They would take an unemployment check rather than get up early and commute and work.
* I can tell when Republicans and Democrats came aboard. With Democrats, the government gets bigger, and business goes overseas.
* If you want to take the U.S. back to its Christian base, get rid of the unions or get them down to size.
* Change the state labor laws, put a tariff on the crap coming into the country and cut back on wars.
Pearce encourages news coverage of entrepreneurs and talks about what a small business has to do to struggle and put it together, like hocking everything you've got to make things work. If you do not make things work, you lose it. Do not expect someone around the corner to help you.
Pearce explains his career. I have done it my way without having to ask for help. I guess I have been through this thing, and I do not give myself enough credit for what all I have done.
Pearce stopped displaying his wares at trade shows. I am a guy who comes up with something new, and I like to take it to the show, he said. Lo and behold, the next year, some SOB has copied it. I have stopped people from taking pictures and getting close enough to do an engineering job on an innovative design.
As for his full name, Pearce was born during the second U.S. presidential term of Woodrow Wilson, a leading Progressive Era intellectual who held office from 1913-21. Pearce celebrated his 90th birthday Dec. 16 at a meeting of the Rotary Club, of which he has been a member for 45 years.
Pearce Plastics employs 14, occupies 30,000 square feet and recorded 2009 sales of $1.1 million vs. about $2 million in 2007. The shop has 10 hydraulic injection molding machines with clamping forces of 60-350 tons.
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