Which Came First:
Clemco or Tom Geer?
Clemco . . . But Not by Much
From unloading railcars, to shop foreman, to warehouse manager, after 60 years Tom Geer has done it all at Clemco and seen just about every angle of the abrasive blasting business. Tom shares his thoughts on blast machines, no longer being a teenager, and working at Clemco as he prepares for retirement in July 2022.
Question: Tell us about the jobs you’ve had at Clemco when the company was only located in San Francisco, when it had a facility in Memphis, and since it now has relocated to Washington, Mo.
Tom: My first job was my favorite. I was 18-years-old in 1962 and was hired as the rental department’s part runner for two dollars an hour. I drove a 1955 Chevy pickup and chased down parts all over San Francisco. I did that job about two years. I would love to have that truck now.
Question: What other jobs?
Tom: Then I made nozzles in the shop for a year or two. Then valves for another year or two. After that the company promoted me to shop foreman. Boy, that was a mistake! I was way too young to supervise people in a blast shop. That ended after a year. But the company kept me.
Question: One to two years seems to be your lucky number at Clemco. What about your other jobs?
Tom: I went on to work in shipping and receiving, but I’ve done everything. Assembled suction guns and blast rooms, blast cabinets, demos, startups. But when I worked in purchasing I learned the nuts and bolts of our equipment, how all the details of the business fit together. So when the company moved its manufacturing to Memphis in 1972, I stayed in San Francisco to maintain the West Coast warehouse.
Question: How many people did you supervise?
Tom: I was the only one there. The warehouse received equipment from Memphis bound for our West Coast customers. That place was colder than all get-out! You know what Mark Twain said about San Francisco?
Question: You knew Mark Twain?
Tom: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” And yes, he was a great guy.
Anyway, in ’84 the warehouse closed down, and that’s when I became technical services manager and started to write manuals for the machines. In ’86 Clemco bought the Zero Manufacturing company in Washington, Mo., and in 1991 I moved to Washington when Clemco consolidated all of its operations there.
Question: So being a part runner was your favorite job, but what was the worst?
Tom: In the early ’60s railcars came in with 100 lb bags of coal slag abrasive. No pallets in the railcars. Those bags of Black Beauty were packed so tightly we could barely open the cars. When laborers were not available, me and two or three other guys from the shop had to unload those bags and stack them on pallets. Took about two days … long days!
Question: Which is your favorite blast machine?
Tom: A pot is a pot. Doesn’t matter if it is 2 or 20 cubic feet. All things being equal, they operate the same.
But if I were blasting, my favorite would be a large machine, so I wouldn’t have to reload it often. If I were the pot tender, my favorite would be a small machine. I’m old. I don’t want to pick up 100 lb bags of coal slag!
Question: When will your 60th anniversary be at Clemco.
Tom: Either May or July 2022. I think May. My official hire date is July 31, but the company can’t find the original stone tablet.