Spring  '99                              Volume 8.1

1-What's News
2-Bowtie Paver
4-Producers of the Month
5-Interview: David Smith

The Bear News

editorial the bear speaks

What nationality am I? Well, my mother is German/Swiss (Amish), and my father is Bohemian/Czech. The Amish are famous for their "plain" and quiet lifestyle. They use hooks on their clothes because they think buttons are "fancy."  Weddings are often held in barns, and make Catholic ceremonies seem short and almost Baptist-like. Bohemians, on the other hand, are thought of as a "wild and free-spirited" group. Known as beer makers (Strohs), and risk takers. During a skirmish with the Russians, a band of Bohemian Rebels crossed into Russia and stole a train. One slight miscalculation; they went the wrong way, and ended up in Moscow (too much Strohs). This Amish/Bohemian blend may seem a little odd, but it may explain some things.

First generation Amish/Bohemians tend to eat the food they like least, (anything with peppers) first, saving the best, (mashed potatoes) for last. This goes along with out theory that suffering comes before pleasure (does anyone doubt this?) The hardest way to do something must also be the best way to do it (see suffering). This would apply to anything but food acquisition and romance. We also believe that free things always come at a price, and you should never take more than you can finish. This applies especially to food acquisition and romance. We lose control anytime we use outdoor power tools. Having said all this, I'm proud of my heritage and who I am. I need to thank my parents more often for the cultural diversity I owe to them. I'll call them soon. I just have a little more lawn to mow, and a few trees to trim.

The Way Things Are

Hindsight is always 20/20. At least it should be pretty close. The problem is, that it is not. Our view of history is filtered through a brain loaded with opinions and prejudices. Try as we may, there is little chance that we can be totally open minded about anything. Maybe, even the present.

It is spring, and there is a rebirth of things. Our busiest time of year is soon coming (or already upon us), and anything seems possible. Whatever has happened is now beyond changing, and whatever we would like the future to be, is still a dream. All that is left to deal with, is what is right now. OK then, all that we need do is have an understanding of the way things are. and formulating a plan would be a lot easier. All this would be easy if we knew how things really are.

Each one of us would like to think we have the ability to look at a problem, or a set of options, and formulate a quick and easy plan. The truth is, however, most plans are neither quick nor easy, and usually are a reflection of past experience, or prejudiced opinion. I don't mean to make this sound so bad; I'm sure that this article's author has a few prejudiced opinions of his own. Did you ever wonder why other people's problems are so exaggerated, and much easier to solve than yours?

This time of year usually finds most of us in this industry on the short end of the cash flow stream. Couple that with one of the busiest times of the year, and the all or nothing scenario with the large dealers and box stores, and it's easy to understand that decision making might be a little clouded. It is very difficult, or maybe even impossible, to see things with an open mind, considering the daily pressure that we all work under. It is even harder to ask for someone's opinion or help, when we expect that knowledge should already be under our hat. The only thing more disturbing than not knowing the future, is the realization we may not know the present.

So, how do we go about seeing what really is? Let me give you my prejudiced opinion. Put your decision process in neutral, and take a look around. Talk to some of your cohorts at work, a spouse, or even someone who doesn't know what a hardscape is. Sometimes the answer is only an opinion, and sometimes it may not be yours.

Thinking of you...

On the day after Christmas, Darwin Ross passed away. I could write of what he did in his life, but I only spoke to Darwin once, so I did not know him well. What impressed me was the visible bond between Darwin and his son Chris. In this "fact and documentation" happy world we live in, we seem to have lost sight of what is really important. To the Ross family, and to all of you who have lost family...we are thinking of you.

The Bear News

This quarter's Dancing Bear interview is with David Smith, the Technical Director of the Interlocking Concrete pavement Institute (ICPI). David is lovingly referred to as a "paver nerd", and has knowledge, and connections, that few can tough in our industry. here's how the interview went.

     While in college, I was involved in research with other students and professors at Virginia Tech to determine the runoff characteristics of grid pavers. In 1984, Gordon Rich with Paverloc in Cincinnati gave me information on how to submit a paper on grid paver research to the Second International Conference on Concrete Block Paving in Delft, the Netherlands. Through an unusual set of connections, I convinced the German Marshall Fund of the United States to pay for the trip to the Netherlands to present the paper. Looking back, it was funding by a little-known German philanthropic group that started a career change.

Making my first trip to Europe and the Netherlands in April 1984 opened my eyes to a whole new way of paving. It was a conversion experience. Unlike asphalt or concrete, segmental paving addressed far more needs, both from an engineering and environmental design point of view.

Much was learned at the conference and from touring some state-of-the-art residential street and urban projects in the Netherlands and Germany. One outcome was designing the first mechanically installed street in the US with the help of Mark Smallridge, and generous assistance from Wolf Mueller and his son Mike. That street was built in Dayton, Ohio, while I was working as a city planner there. Several return trips to Europe and England were made from 1985 to 1987 to learn more about the industry and designing with segmental paving.

Thanks to the influence of Chris Ross, I was offered a position with the NCMA to manage paving products. Membership grew and the Concrete Paver Institute (CPI) was formed in 1990 and operated until 1994. Many within the Institute wanted greater identity and control of intellectual property than NCMA was willing to allow at the time. So, many left CPI in 1993 and 1994 and joined a start-up group of entrepreneurs that became the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute of ICPI. I left NCMA as well to join the new group. The ICPI has since grown from 66 charter members to over 200 today. The position has involved me in the design, specification and construction of all types of projects from patios to airports.

     The biggest accomplishment is the Basic Level Contractor Certification Program. It started in 1996 and we expect to have about 900 contractors certified by the end of 1999. Many members have participated to make this program a success. We can talk all day about having great specs and wonderful paving products, but if they're not installed right, our industry suffers. ICPI Contractor Certification is a step toward improving installations and business practices.

One of the biggest goals ahead is integrating curriculum into universities. The ICPI has a unique opportunity to influence thousands of developing architects, landscape architects, and civil engineers with curricula. Students will be the users of concrete pavers for future commercial, municipal, industrial, port and airport projects. Another goal is developing more programs to attract paver installation contractors as ICPI members.

     Participation in Masonry Expo certainly makes sense for members of both groups who exhibit there. There are many opportunities to develop seminars for the paver industry in that venue. ICPI brings segmental concrete pavement to the masonry show which will hopefully attract greater participation from all within the segmental paving industry. Concerning the future, the climate for cooperation is improving.

     The biggest one is they make no structural contribution to pavements, there are scores of tests and studies to show that pavers and bedding sand distribute vehicular loads equal to, and in many cases better than, an equivalent thickness of asphalt.

     By making them part of everyday life, i.e. part of everyone's daily existence around the home, as well as the grocery store, the office, school, church, and wherever life takes us. To do this, concrete pavers must be made part of the national vocabulary as they are in Canada. Everyone knows asphalt and concrete. A national advertising campaign would be a powerful means to educate America to the benefits of concrete pavers. The Beef Council convinced us on TV that eating beef was okay (and beef sales increased nicely). The same potential to communicate to consumers in the print media lies within the grasp of the concrete paver industry. There is a realm of national marketing to explore (beyond the efforts of individual companies) that could energize the industry's double-digit growth for years to come. The same goes for other segmental concrete products.

     Building products take at least 25 years to become integrated into the design and construction fields. The concrete paver industry and its voice, the ICPI, have made great strides and the support of the members has been superb. As we look at the enormous use of concrete pavers in some other countries, we are reminded that here we are still standing at the threshold of reaching full potential.


As I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, Dancing Bear is representing three paver shapes developed by Eddie Azar. One of Eddie's shapes that we had at the Masonry Expo is the Bowtie Paver. Concave and Weave are the other two. The Bowtie has good interlock, can be handled with one hand, and is well suited for machine placement. The mold is easily adaptable to produce a permeable pavement. Bowtie is an attractive and flexible paver, and would be a great addition to any paver line.

The Bear News
what's news

Masonry Expo '99 was a new, exciting experience for the Bear. Dancing Bear exhibited for the first time in a Masonry Expo in Orlando. We were very happy with the results and greatly thank the swell guys at Matt Stone for all their help. The special edition Dancing Bear hats were much in demand, but very short in supply. (Can you say Chia pet?) Some of you might have spoken to my father-in-law, who helped man the booth, or held the whole Expo together, depending on who you ask. Due to the successful experience in Orlando, you can expect a bigger and better showing from the Bear in Las Vegas in 2000.

The sometimes tranquil committee meetings were a bit more lively in Orlando, with the somewhat volcanic Retaining Wall debates. Sometimes we are not all brothers. The NCMA also rolled out its new paver design software. Not yet complete, it shows promise, and by this writing should be finished. There were some interesting new products at the product Development and Creative Concepts Meeting, as well as some pretty unique presentations.

The ICPI is also developing new paver software, but it was not ready for showing at the Orlando Meetings. It is expected out sometime later this year. Member dues were adjusted (some actually down, thank you God), but most saw modest increases. Self taxation is an interesting thing to watch. Work is progressing on a new freeze-thaw testing procedure, and the "Canadian Buzz Saw", Brian Burton, wowed us again with new promotions for pavers.

Plans are sometimes made without rational thought. Case in point, the Bear's Orlando experience. First, drive (yes the mini-van) from Northern Michigan to Orlando with my mother-in-law riding shotgun (see first sentence.) Then set up base at Disney World, and pick up family at airport. Spend day at the Magic Kingdom, attend NCMA meetings, repeat Magic Kingdom, set up booth at Masonry Expo, man Expo booth, tear down booth, set up table top for ICPI, take family to airport, tear down table top, and attend ICPI Meetings. Throw in organizational events, dinner parties, meals with friends, a Universal Studio's experience and assorted other stuff, and you have something that makes head lice look attractive. Don't get the wrong idea, given the choice, I'd do most of it again, it was just too much at one time. Look, I enjoy farm animals, strawberry jam and romance; just not all at the same time. This said, look for pretty much the same at Las Vegas in 2000.

Dancing Bear is happy to welcome Mutual Materials of Bellevue, Washington, to the family of ArrowHead® producers. Mutual will become the 16th producer of ArrowHead® upon completion of its new state of the art production facility near Tacoma. Mutual will cover Washington, Oregon, and parts of Idaho and Montana. We are very pleased to work with the folks of Mutual Materials.

NCMA MIDYEAR      August 1-5       Keystone Resort
Keystone Colorado
Hardware Show August 15-18 McCormick Place
Chicago, Illinois
ICPI Summer
August 25-29 Fort Gary Hotel
Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Bear News

producers of the month

Capitol Concrete

This quarter's Producer of the Month is Capitol Concrete of Topeka, Kansas. This is their second year producing ArrowHead® pavers, and they produce them on a Besser V3-12. What follows comes from Ray and Jim Browning.

There has been someone making concrete products since 1924, at the present location of Capitol Concrete Products Co., 627 N. Tyler, Topeka, Kansas. The present corporation was formed, and purchased its predecessor in 1940. Current corporate ownership dates back to 1952.

Ray Browning arrived on the scene in 1952 and is still there! He is still active in the business but does not have to be their for it to function. Day-to-day operations are handled by his son Jim who has been with the company for over 20 years. Jim is the Vice-President and General Manager.newsletter1

Ray has been very active in the industry, having served as state president of the Kansas group on several occasions. He served on many committees and has been President of the National Concrete Masonry Association. He continues to be an active participant in NCMA. He was recently made the recipient of the first ever awarded Lifetime Achievement Award of the NCMA. Jim has served as president of the Kansas Association several times and is now on the board of directors of the NCMA.

Last year Capitol purchased Morton Building Materials in Lawrence, Kansas, and will continue to operate it as a distribution yard for block, clay brick and masonry related products. Production has been closed down in Lawrence; all production will be done in Topeka. The company trade area is centered around the Topeka, Lawrence, Manhattan and Emporia areas.

Capitol was one of the first plants in the country to incorporate clay brick distribution into their sales cafeteria of products and it is now a major part of the business.

The company operates one V3-12 Besser machine and makes "everything"; Jim says "in a small market like ours we have to make the whole group of blocks--anything anyone else makes on a Besser--regular blocks, split face, colored pavers, lawn and garden products, retaining walls--lightweight, normal weight, etc." During the mid-fifties Capitol installed autoclaves to manufacture high pressure cured units and continued this curing system until high utility prices made it impractical to continue curing in this manner.

The company has always prided itself on making a high quality product. To protect its production so that it arrives on the job in first class condition they strap all cubes in an Interlake cuber with automatic strapping as they come out of the curing area. They have always kept their production machinery updated to include the newest innovations, almost everything is now controlled by computers--the manufacturing superintendent can make many machinery adjustments from his office.

Employees number 27. A good many have been with the company many years which reflects Capitol's policy of treating employees in an honest and fair manner.

Capitol operates a crusher and uses the recycled material in their regular production mixes--they were one of the first plants to use expanded shale lightweight aggregate, being only a few miles from the original haydite plant.

The Bear News

next issue's bear news

In the next issue of the Bear News we will get the scoop from the NCMA's Mark Hogan. The Producer of the Month will be Anchor Block Company, of Minnesota. Maybe a little piece on the "Don Garlets of Concrete". Pretty hard to tell what'll be in the "Bear Speaks" section, we're only sure that it will make good bathroom reading. Take care, and we'll see you next time.

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Dancing Bear
Editor:   Dean Jurik