This bit of cartoon-golf history is by my cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos!
My mother was a “winder”. She worked for the Acushnet Process Company, makers of the Titleist golf balls and their siblings, Green Ray and Bedford. All day long, seven hours a day she worked a bank of winding machines in a long, high-ceilinged loft room along with many many other women tending their own banks of winding machines.
She would place the “center” or core of a soon-to-be golf ball on a pronged apparatus and then take the end of elastic from a big spool attached to the machine, and wrap it around the ball once and set the machine to spinning and wrapping the elastic quickly around the ball at which time she would move to the next of seven machines and repeat the process and then move to the next and so forth. All this was done very quickly. When she was finished at the seventh machine, the first would be finished wrapping the ball to the appropriate thickness and she would snap off the elastic and tie it off, knock the wrapped ball off into a container and place a new center on the prongs and attach the elastic to it and then move on to the second machine and repeat the process. All day long with a short lunch break.
Once in a great while, a fully- wound ball would escape her hand before she could tie off the elastic and it would fall to the floor spinning out the tightly wound elastic and go bouncing down the loft making a high-pitched buzzing noise.
Sometimes I would accompany my dad as he drove mom to work in the morning and I’d watch her wrapping certain parts of her “elastic-snapping” fingers with tape to ward off the cuts the elastic would otherwise inflict.
If you worked at the Acushnet Process Company, you could get jobs there for your children, if need be, so when the time came for me to make some money to go to art school, I got a nice cushy job in the lab of the factory that summer.
My job involved many interesting tasks. One of the most peculiar was checking the viscosity of the glue that is used to secure the little patch covering the hole that is formed when a liquid is inserted into the liquid center of a golf ball. For those of you who do not know, the best balls have liquid centers. Less expensive balls have solid centers. A small hollow rubber ball is stuck on a spigot that fills it with the fluid. Okay … now I’m going to tell you what the secret ingredient is in the liquid center Titleist golf ball (or, at least what it was in 1954). Y’know, that liquid that you and Jean Shepherd thought was poison! You’re not going to believe this. Are you sitting down? KARO MAPLE SYRUP! That’s right, Karo Maple Syrup, a diluted version of it. So, I had to go each day to the room where the syrup was injected and then patched. There was a huge vat of the glue. I’d put a floating thermometer-type thing in it and then add water until the thermometer told me that it was the proper viscosity.
In that same room was a woman whose job was to make sure that none of the little rubber balls got distorted after their bout with the needle, syrup and glued- on patch. I used to stand and discuss TV shows with her while she performed her task which was to grab a handful of balls with her left hand and bounce them one at a time onto a metal table top and flip the good bouncers off into the “good” basket, while adroitly batting the bad bouncers off into the “bad” basket with her right hand. This was all performed with lightning speed.
Other tasks I had were to take a dozen balls and walk them through production where we would have them painted with Sherwin-Williams paint instead of the usual Glidden #80, for instance. Each day, I would take the balls from room to room through the process. Golf Balls are given 3 or 4 coats of paint so I would let them dry overnight and then move them on to the next spraying. When finished they would be put in our “library” for future checking to see the “yellowing” process. We would also experiment with different rubber mixtures on the covers of the balls.
I would also sometimes take a dozen balls out of production down to a special room where they had these big hanging leather blankets and I’d swat the balls 10 times each so they could be tested for damage. Employees who played golf were also given several balls each weekend to take out and play 18 holes with so they could test them afterwards. The employees would get free balls each weekend. HEY, those Titleists cost $2.00 a piece. Pretty expensive back in “54. We also would take balls out into a big field behind the factory where a machine would swat our balls and those of competitors to make sure ours was always leading the field. I would be out there recording the distance each ball would attain. I also went around the whole factory each day and took readings off various meters. It was pretty interesting work … never boring, and I got to move around the factory each day instead of staying at one locale like my poor mother. Did you know that the balls are x-rayed 3 times, at various stages of production to ensure that the centers are not distorted, before they leave the factory?
Okay, here’s the unusual art job I was given.
After my first year in art school, I again worked at the factory through the summer vacation. The famous singer Bing Crosby had ordered several boxes of special balls. He wanted them painted with a blue stripe. Since I was now an “artist” in their eyes, I was given the job of deciding on just the right shade of blue for the stripe. I was relieved of my normal duties for a couple of days while I, watercolor brush in hand, painted stripes of various hues of blue that I would mix. Light blues, dark blues, put a little more black into it… put a little more white into it etc.. I was given an unlimited amount of fresh balls to work on. It was crazy. When I finally hit on, what I thought, was the appropriate shade of blue, they mixed the paint to match my sample, painted the balls ordered, and off they went to the golfing crooner.
When I was a young kid, I spent many, many summers out on the links lugging the heavy golf bags of doctors and lawyers at the country club in New Bedford. Then I spent the two summers working at the golf ball factory. Then I became an illustrator and worked many years for Golf Digest doing big double-page spreads and covers. I know all about golf balls. I’ve seen them with their coats off. I’ve seen them take their acid baths and go through the X-ray machines. I know all about the clubs and golf bags and fairways and sand traps and pins because I drew them a million times … BUT … are you ready for this? Are you sitting down?
I HAVE NEVER EVER PLAYED GOLF. Not once!
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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: