Centennial Historical Series: The Role of the Research Department

The following text excerpt and images from my recent book “The Story of CalCedar: 100 Years of Pencil Supply History” highlight the important role of research in the company’s development. This selection has a particular emphasis on the leadership provided by my grandfather Charles Berolzheimer in building a collaborative research organization and in the development of the company’s Thin Kerf Sawing technology in the late 1950s and early 60s which dramatically increased yield of pencil slats from cedar lumber.

Women in Cedar

CalCedar women leaders attended the Advancing Women’s Leadership Conference at University of the Pacific here in Stockton which included speaking appearances by Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook as Keynote Speaker, as well as Bank of America – California President Janet Lamkin and classical music “maverick” Jade Simmons sharing their inspirational stories.

Centennial Pencil Display

During the research phase for the writing of our company history “The Story of CalCedar: 100 Years of Pencil Supply History” one of the interesting documents unearthed in our company and family archives was a 1905 patent awarded to Philip Berolzheimer for a series of creative geometrical shaped pencil displays.

CalCedar Centennial Gala

CalCedar’s 3 Day Centennial event concluded at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe on June 29th at the lakeside Gala dinner titled “An evening of Magic, Music and Memories”. 

CalCedar Centennial Event: Day 2 – Sawmill & Forestry Tour

Day 2 focused uniquely on California wood supply highlighting the process from forest management and harvesting to sawmill production of Incense Cedar pencil Stock.

Centennial Celebration Event: Day 1 – Stockton, CA

The final week of June California Cedar Products Company held a very special celebration honoring the company’s Centennial mark. Over 200 people gathered in Northern California including current and former CalCedar employees, slat customers, suppliers, other business collaborators, shareholders, directors, friends and Blackwing brand influencers participated in a wide range of activities and events throughout this three day event.

CalCedar kicks off it’s Centennial Celebration Week

About a week back we passed through the half way point of our Centennial year here at California Cedar Products Company.  We’ve been pretty quiet about all this on the Timberlines blog so far, but there has been lots of activity behind the scenes prepping a number of projects and events in celebration of achieving this milestone later this year on December 14th.

This all starts this week with a multi-day Centennial Celebration here in California which includes many of out top slat customers and pencil brands from the world attending to visit our facilities, participate in a sawmill and forestry tour and to join us in a final Gala dinner and show at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Thursday June 29th.  Representatives from company’s such as Schwan Cosmetics, Schwan Stabilo,  Mistubishi Pencil Co., Caran d’Ache,  General Pencil Co., A.W. Faber-Castell, Musgrave Pencil Co., Cumberland Pencil (Derwent), Tombow and more will be in attendance in addition to a number of our wood suppliers and other special guests.  The final dinner show event, “An Evening of Magic, Music and Memories” will be a fun event featuring some of our Blackwing musicians and some new faces.  We are excited to have the chance to thank our customers, suppliers, employees and other collaborative partners for their long and positive relationships and support in reaching this milestone.  In a sense we’re the youngster in this group as each of the companies I listed above have achieved the centennial mark and more, which is an interesting statement on the longevity of a number of the most famous companies and brands in the world’s pencil industry.  We are proud to be associated with these industry partners and to be respected as a long term reliable supplier of Genuine Incense-cedar and other species pencil slats.

Our longtime friend and slat customer Masanobu Sakamoto at Sakamoto & Company, couldn’t attend, though sent us this decorated chocolate set shown a gift to help us celebrate our 100th year.  Deco Choco is a new venture by Sakamoto branching out into customized chocolates, candies and snacks as an outgrowth of their decorated stationery, pens and pencils.  They even have a bricks and mortar location in the Ginza area of Tokyo.

On the new product front our recent Blackwing Volume 73 release is a tribute to Lake Tahoe and was timed to coordinate with this event. Though not an official Centennial product it seemed a fitting choice and we’re happy to have teamed up with the League to Save Lake Tahoe to Keep Tahoe Blue, by donating $2 in the name of each Volumes subscriber.  So if you’re not a subscriber already here’s an added chance to participate and help out with these by subscribing here.

A final project to give you a head up about is that I’ve been busy over the past year writing a history of the company “The Story of CalCedar: 100 Years of Pencil Supply History“.  Just yesterday we received the first 100 copies in time to use as gifts for participants at this week’s Gala event, but the balance will be arriving soon and we may be making some available on Pencils.com for those interested once we get a handle.  More to come on this project, and other centennial related items as we get through the busy but exciting week ahead.

 

National Pencil Day: Who is Big Pencil?

Yes, it’s National Pencil Day again and I had a phone conversation yesterday that I felt raised a subject worthy of a bit of commentary here on our newly redesign Timberlines blog.  Also this is the first post since relocating Timberlines to our redesigned CalCedar website in honor of our 100th Anniversary year in business.

Over this past Christmas holiday I gifted a number of my friends a 1 year subscription to our Blackwing Volumes program, starting with our last Volume 530 release.  Yesterday I was speaking with one of these friends who mentioned how much his wife enjoyed the pencils for her art, but more importantly he had given his high school aged daughter a few to try as well.  She had recently taken up digital note taking in class about a month or so prior to that.  Having receiving trying and enjoying the pencils, she started back with hand written notes in class. She reported to her father that she she actually retained more of the content than when she was blindly taking note verbatim on her computer in class. I told him that there have been studies showing that the slower rate at which you can write versus type requires you brain to process and distill information to take notes and this leads to higher retention.  As has often been said by proponents of hand written notes, “I am not taking notes to remember things later, but to remember them now”.

This conversation reminded me of a Freakanomics podcast about a year ago I had listened to titled “Who Needs handwriting?” (Feb 10, 2016) in which some expert guest was predicting the death of handwriting and writing instruments and that these types of studies were all just funded by “Big Pencil”.   I vividly remember almost tripping in laughter as I walked along the beach listening.  The whole concept of “Big Pencil” and it’s nefarious ability to dramatically influence the mass market thinking on this topic seemed pretty ludicrous to me.  What pencil company in the world has the financial resources to do this?  Supporting and promoting such studies as an industry via an industry association for what little positive impact that can have with a very limited budget is certainly reasonable and prudent for the industry to make some small dent in perceptions and awareness of the values of handwriting.  And these studies certainly are not fake science by any means.

Meanwhile Apple, the most valuable company in the world, can afford to give hundreds of thousands, or millions of free iPads and computers to schools across the country.  So it’s more like “Big iPencil” if you ask me.  As programs such as common core and the like have driven increasing focus on digital learning and test taking I wonder if our children are really always better off.  Hundreds of millions or billions of dollars spent around the country to revamp education around the digital age and we’ve seen educational attainment decline over the past 20 years.  Certainly much of this challenge has other roots in social and economic issues we are facing.  However continual reinvestment in new educational technologies, just to be scrapped and move on too a new generation of learning technology is also driving up costs for strapped school districts which can’t even afford to buy traditional school supplies like pencils.  This pushes this financial burden back on teachers and parents.  Under these pressures and new thinking many schools drop teaching handwriting (or at least cursive) at all, as well as drawing, arts and music. These are all things our industry and our own company rightly support in many forms.  Not just because of our company’s economic self-interest but because what would a world be without these things and the creativity.

Please don’t think this perspective means I am against technology in education at all.  There are extremely strong benefits to exposing students to technology as part of the learning process.  I also certainly understand, as this guest expert proposes in the podcast, that some students struggle with learning handwriting and it might hinder learning in other areas.  However, there is a place for and value in both learning methodologies and I strongly feel the needs of a few who may struggle with such burdens of learning handwriting should not preempt the exposure to and learning of these and other manual skills using pencils and other writing and art materials for the many who certainly can greatly benefit.

Anyway, this morning as I was preparing to head to the office watching ABCs Good Morning America, I had a revelation about just exactly who is Big Pencil.  Here it is, March 30th National Pencil Day,  and they were doing a feature promoting a segment tomorrow in which Crayola will reveal which of it’s 24 colors was being discontinued on of all things National Crayon Day, March 31st. Now if a company like this can totally preempt National Pencil Day on national network television, my real concern is clearly “Big Crayon”.

We’re 99 Today! CalCedar’s Centennial Year is Upon Us.


Just a quick post to note that today is California Cedar Products Company’s 99th birthday (per our original stock records book of 1st shares issued to company founders right).  So we’re now entering our Centennial year in business.  Despite the lack of activity here on Timberlines, for quite some time we have been hard at work here at CalCedar setting in motion plans for our year long Centennial Celebration.  A gala event with employees, customers and special guests, commemorative products, a published Company History, Timberlines historical content and a number of special contests are in the works for the coming year.   Look forward to fresh and more routine content as we move into the new year with the Timberlines blog integrated to it’s new home on CalCedar website which will also be getting a new look.

In the meantime, I’ll share this brief story about our company founder  William “W.B.” Thurman that I shared with our employees, board and shareholder members and families at our Annual Christmas Dinner last night. The party doubled as our 99th birthday celebration.

Company founder and 1st President W.B. Thurman, hailed from Madera, CA about 100 miles south of California Cedar Products Company home in Stockton.  Coming west in 1849, his father William H. “W.H.” Thurman, had a long career in and out of the lumber industry and in law enforcement throughout California and in Washington state up to his death in 1895.  In 1876 W.E. Thurman established the California Lumber Company flume and sawmill (later Madera Sugar Pine Co.) as well as founding the town of Madera to bring logs from the Sierra forests to the Southern Pacific Railway there.  W.B. worked in his father’s mills off and on and also followed him into politics and government serving as deputy Sheriff under his father who was Madera county’s first Sherriff.  This photo of W.B. shows him in 1899 in this law enforcement role, though he quickly returned to the lumber trade, feeling this a much safer career option, after being shot in the thumb during the attempted escape of one of the prisoners in his jail.

W.B. then founded a new partnership which later became Madera Sash and Door Company which he operated until selling the company to pursue his plan to enter the pencil slat business by founding California Cedar Products Company up on Stockton.  The other initial shareholders were his brother James Thurman, a San Francisco based lawyer serving as corporate secretary and San Francisco lumber trade F.F. Sayre who resigned as President of the California Sugar & White Pine Company to head up sales as Vice-President for the new venture.

An interesting postscript is that after sharing this story last night, our Executive VP an General Manager for our Tianjin China pencil slat factory told me that before completing his forestry degree and entering the timber business himself and joining our company in 1978 he had served as a deputy sheriff in Madera County of all places and had a book on the history of Madera Sugar Pine company, but never knew of this interesting historical connection to CalCedar.

If you’re wondering where the Berolzheimer family comes in to this CalCedar story, more to come in future editions as our projects progress in the new year.  Until then  then hope you all have a happy holiday season.

Charles Berolzheimer
Chairman and CEO
California Cedar Products Company

The Season of Pencildom Anniversaries

Just a quick note in recognition that today marks the 10th Anniversary of my first ever Timberlines blog post. In that post I mentioned Timberlines was the name of our former company newsletter. We’ve been prepping for a relocation recently and today I unexpectedly came across boxes of the old newsletters and selected a few for this post’s image. After 10 years we are ready to move again to a new facility more attuned for our current needs (but more on that for a future post).

Interestingly one old 1989 issue featured our pending move to a new corporate headquarters building finished out throughout with Incense-cedar of all things. We stayed in that building through 2005 until a company restructuring around that time meant downsizing back to the original administration building called the “White House” that had been used up till 1989. I remember my dad’s first office was in the “white house” and now that office includes four of our Pencils.com and Blackwing marketing and sales team, including my son Phil. I know they’re all looking forward to this relocation soon.

Looking at these old issues the provide a representative sample of themese. Some often featured travelogues that my grandfather wrote about trips to visit customers and friends around the world as well as the typical fare of employee retirement farewells, new employee welcome profiles and life advice for employees as we’d enter a new year. The special issue in the back left was in honor of my Grandfather’s death August 30, 1995 including contributions from family, friends and employees. Hard to believe it’s been 20 years now, how the industry and our company have changed in that time.

Going back to my first Timberlines blog post I credit (a now old pencil friend) Johnny Gamber for the motivation to begin my own blogging effort on this date which also marks the 10th anniversary of his first ever review of our ForestChoice pencil. To my knowledge that Pencil Revolution post was the first standalone pencil review ever posted in the pencil blogosphere.

Also as far as I can see it seems Johnny may have let the Pencil Revolution blog 10th anniversary pass quietly back in July. I know his wonderful endeavors along with Andy and Tim on the Erasable podcast these days generally take precedence over his own PRevo blog posts, but he deserves recognition and renewed thanks from me and many other’s for his contributions via Pencil Revolution over the years. So here’s to Johnny, the original Pencil Revolutionary, for 10 years of influence on web pencildom.

I don’t post often these days with all the other things to fill my schedule. Sometimes I think I’ll get going with a new series of posts on a theme of interest at the moment, but looking back these generally ended up being one off posts with good intentions. It’s been easier to contribute more frequently within the Erasebale Podcast Facebook group. However, as the next 2 months is a period of some news for us at CalCedar on several fronts, including our relocation, some new products we’ve been working on and some other company history anniversaries, I’ll hope to share some things on these topic in the coming weeks. Then given past experience, Timberlines will likely go dormant once again for a while.

Anyway thanks for those few of you who’ve read these pages over the years and for your support of our efforts and products at California Cedar Products Company. This is an old, but interesting industry and company. Every now and then these anniversaries kick in some good memories I think might be worth documenting.