Posts Tagged ‘Kaiser Industries’

Play it again, Henry

posted on August 30, 2013
Henry J. Kaiser and Eleanor Roosevelt at launching of first "baby flatttop" carrier Alazon Bay (Casablanca), Kaiser Vancouver shipyard, April 5, 1943.
Henry J. Kaiser and Eleanor Roosevelt at launching of first “baby flatttop” carrier Alazon Bay (Casablanca), Kaiser Vancouver shipyard, April 5, 1943.

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

A huge network of industrial organizations such as those managed by Henry J. Kaiser sometimes results in unexpected convergences and coincidences.

During World War II Henry J. Kaiser directed the enormously productive shipbuilding capacity used to pump out Liberty ships and LST’s (“Landing Ship, Tanks”) to build a small, versatile, and inexpensive aircraft carrier.

The Casablanca-class escort carriers were all built by Kaiser Company, Inc.’s Shipbuilding Division, Vancouver Yard on the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. The class was named for the Battle of Casablanca, fought November 8-12, 1942 where the U.S. Navy fought vessels under the control of Nazi-occupied France. The fifty ships produced comprised almost a third of the American carriers built during the war and were launched in less than two years.  The ship known as the Alazon Bay while under construction was renamed the USS Casablanca two days before she slid down the ways April 5, 1943. The last of these “baby flattops” launched was the Munda (CVE-104).  Five were sunk in action, and none survive today.

Fast forward nineteen years.

Kaiser Industries facilities in Africa and Europe, Kaiser Facts 1964
Kaiser Industries facilities in Africa and Europe, Kaiser Facts 1964

Henry Kaiser bought the famous “Jeep” line of rugged vehicles in 1953, and was expanding manufacturing and assembly plants all over the world. In 1962 foreign licenses were issued for factories in Northern Rhodesia, Venezuela, Italy, and…yes, Casablanca, Morocco.

Kaiser sold off Jeep in 1969, but the plant at 84 Boulevard Lalla Yacout Quartier Ben Slimane remains, under ownership of Centrale Automobile Cherifienne CAC (SODIA Jeep).

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Third world nations seek Kaiser Permanente expertise

posted on February 23, 2012

By Ginny McPartland
Heritage writer

First in a series

Construction workers at Ghana job site, circa 1963. Volta River Authority photo

In the 1960s, dubbed the “Development Decade” by the United Nations, Henry J. Kaiser’s enterprises were literally all over the map. Kaiser’s companies were mining bauxite for aluminum in Jamaica, manufacturing cars in Argentina and Brazil and working on a huge hydroelectric project and aluminum smelting plant on the Volta River in the emerging West African country of Ghana.

Kaiser Engineers were also building a dam on the Bandama River in Ivory Coast, West Africa, as well as undertaking projects in various parts of India, including construction of a dam, hydroelectric plant, an aluminum plant, a steel mill and a cement facility. Kaiser Engineers were involved with the Snowy Mountain project – construction of tunnels, aqueducts, dams and hydroelectric plants in the mountains of eastern Australia.

As in his American ventures, Henry Kaiser’s enterprises on foreign soil developed medical services for workers at the job sites and often in the community. In many places, including Australia, India, and Ghana, the government required Kaiser to build hospitals at each of the construction locations.

Children began to go to school once Ghana became a republic in 1960.

“In a sense, this was a recapitulation of the early experience of our domestic medical care program, which had its origins in providing health care for workmen and their families at construction sites in the Western United States,” wrote James P. Hughes, MD, Kaiser Industries vice president of Health Services in 1972.

KP executives tapped to develop health facilities abroad

Clifford Keene, MD, Kaiser Permanente president at the time, was thrilled to participate in the launching of medical care projects in foreign lands.

“I went to Australia several times because Kaiser Engineers were involved in the Snowy Mountain Project and I was involved in the location and construction of hospitals there. . .I went to India twice, once for a period of almost a month. I found myself in places with exotic names, Uttar, Pradesh, Mysore, and Jamshedpur.

Kaiser companies helped design and equip this hospital in Akosombo, Ghana.

“So all of this was going on and it was just a big, spreading, challenging, wonderful, exhilarating kind of existence. While we were having all the troubles in the Permanente Medical Program (in California), getting reorganized, I was involved in these other challenges, which gave me satisfaction and sort of balanced the scales against the frustrations of dealing with the Permanente program.”

Ernest Saward, MD, medical director of Kaiser Permanente’s Oregon Region, traveled to Argentina in 1960 to help establish a medical care program for Kaiser automobile workers in Cordoba and Buena Aires. Saward said the Argentines didn’t trust the Kaiser organization initially and expected the company to superimpose a foreign health system on the community.

“The reaction back from Argentina was, ‘You folks in California put some millions in this and build us a hospital and everything will be all right.’ From what I’d already learned, I saw that if (Kaiser in partnership with the Argentines) put any millions in a hospital it would be confiscated within months. That was the nature of Argentina at the time. They play rough. Now I never personally got shot at; I was only threatened with a saber,” Saward said with a laugh in a 1986 oral history.

The river above the Ghana dam site was treated to eliminate the Black Fly that carried a debilitating disease. Volta River Authority photo

Saward and his artist wife managed over time to infiltrate the Argentine culture and make essential contacts for Kaiser. “They saw that we were somebody they could relate to, that (we) wanted to understand them and to understand what I would call their general, cultural events, and not be an isolated colony.

“They began to entertain us, and I spent hours lying on the living room floor, drinking red wine in front of a fireplace with these guys, until they finally understood what it was we were trying to do, and once they really got a feeling for what we wanted to do, they said, ‘Let’s do it’. We did it with the best medical group in town and with the best hospital in town, and it’s still going (1986) and it cost us in toto, $55,000.

“What had to be done in Argentina was to make an indigenous plan and not a foreign plan and (to make it go) it had to be done as an indigenous plan by what were respected elements in the community. (That’s how) we did it,” Saward said.

Requests for help from international community multiply

As Kaiser Industries continued to work abroad into the 1960s and 1970s, the challenges for providing health care kept coming.

Ghanaian physician at Akosombo Hospital, early 1960s

This was a period when African nations were gaining their independence, and the international community was interested in promoting industrial development to improve the economies of all underdeveloped countries. With new industry and its attendant growth, the budding nations were struggling to provide essential services to their citizens, both natives and newly arrived workers and their families.

To address these issues, seven hundred industrialists from 70 nations gathered in the San Francisco Bay Area in September of 1969 to figure out how to close the gap between the “have” and “have not” nations.

“There was much talk about the responsibilities of private enterprise in developing countries; about the need for more effective allocation of resources; about the need for business to interact with the society in which it finds itself,” noted KP President Clifford Keene in a talk to the Industrial Council for Tropical Health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston in 1969.

Kaiser’s people learned the hard way what this meant. In Ghana on the Volta Dam project, Kaiser leaders discovered pretty quickly that – despite the government’s well-laid plans – the company needed to initiate environmental programs to ensure safe water and pest-control measures to protect workers from the spread of debilitating disease.

Once the dam was completed, Kaiser began construction on a smelter plant to manufacture aluminum. “. . .the first responsibility was to provide care for the work injuries, since the existing health care facilities in the town were grossly overburdened,” wrote Hughes.

Health planners forced to improvise

For these foreign projects, many necessitating brand new cities or towns, Kaiser’s goal was to establish health care facilities for its workers, their families and often for the community at large. Hughes said in most countries where Kaiser had developments health care services had to be introduced in waves, depending on available services. Often, sanitation and safe water needs and the dire need for training of locals in basic care methods were the first priorities.

To provide health services, Kaiser Industries initially engaged the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care program. By 1964, however, Kaiser leaders realized the need for a separate entity and established the not-for-profit Kaiser Foundation International (KFI) to administer the foreign medical care programs. With Kaiser Permanente’s reputation on the rise, requests for consulting help started to come from places where Kaiser Industries didn’t already have a presence.

Between 1964 and 1969, the international group was engaged for medical care projects in 15 African countries. By 1975, KFI had been hired and paid for projects in 30 countries around the globe, including rural locations in California, Utah and West Virginia.

Next time: Kaiser Foundation International gets contracts to resurrect a hospital devastated by the Nigerian civil war, to train Peace Corps workers for African rural health projects and to consult on many foreign health care projects.

 

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Latest Kaiser Permanente signature hoisted to the heights

posted on February 7, 2012

By Lincoln Cushing

Heritage writer

New Kaiser Permanente signage on The Ordway building, 12/20/2011; photo by Lincoln Cushing

On January 18 of this year, executives and contractors gathered in a top floor conference room a block away from The Ordway building in downtown Oakland, California. As darkness settled, brief speeches were made, a ceremonial switch was flipped, and huge Kaiser Permanente signs on both sides of the structure’s summit lit up with the energy-efficient brilliance of thousands of light emitting diodes.1

This was the first signage ever mounted on The Ordway, and it represents the most current appearance of the Kaiser Permanente logo, a copyrighted symbol that brands everything from pill bottles to skyscrapers. The new signs can be seen from across the city at night, and with the 1950 Franklin building, present two pairs of KP illuminated signatures on the Oakland cityscape.

“Family of four” logo, 1972

The Ordway, constructed in 1970, was named after Henry J. Kaiser’s first employee and long-time and trusted operations manager A.B. (Alonzo Benton) Ordway. “Ord,” as Kaiser called him, was hired in 1912 –100 years ago – when Kaiser was with the Canadian Mineral Rubber Company.

The Ordway is adjacent to the Kaiser Center at 300 Lakeside, Henry Kaiser’s pride and joy in 1960, which at 28 stories was the tallest building in the East Bay at the time it opened. Formerly the Kaiser Industries headquarters, the center still carries a sign that simply says “Kaiser.” The Ordway, Kaiser Center and the nearby 1950 Franklin St. building accommodate many of KP’s administrative offices.

KP brand identity evolved over decades

Sporting a consistent and polished brand signature is relatively new in Kaiser Permanente’s 67-year existence.  During World War II, Permanente Metals, which operated a medical care program for its wartime workers, did not develop a separate logo for the health plan. Rather, the Permanente Metals logo of three ship hulls inside a compass rosette appeared on the health plan brochure. The trio of ships likely represented the three West Coast wartime shipyards where Henry Kaiser built warships.

Although the health plan evolved on its own after the war, there is no evidence leaders sought any brand identity other than adopting for Kaiser Permanente’s signage the same typeface and style used to identify each of the Kaiser Industries companies.

‘Family of four’ mark emerges in 1970s

In the early 1970s, a silhouette nuclear “family of four” mark began to appear in publications and signage for the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program. In 1982 the Southern California Region hired Boyd Communications of Los Angeles to produce its own regional logo. Douglas Boyd designed a mark that featured one of the human figures but also integrated a stylized “K” for Kaiser Permanente.

Pre-1984 logo

The idea of a unified graphic representing all Kaiser Permanente’s regional health plans did not emerge until 1984, when a corporate identity committee was formed. The committee included Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Chairman and President James A. Vohs, Don Duffy, head of Corporate Communications, corporate identity experts, KP regional managers, and medical directors.

Logo design sparks debate in the 1980s

Southern California leaders had this logo created in early 1980s.

Kaiser Permanente was growing, and the “family of four” graphic that had been used by several – but not all – KP regional health plans was not only amateurish and antiquated, it had been imitated by competitor health care organizations because it was not protected by copyright. Vohs reflects on some of the challenges involved:

“As with almost any issue in Kaiser Permanente, there was a range of opinions about a new logo.  Quite often the leaders of the medical groups had different views from the leaders of health plan.  Also, the Southern California Region felt that the organization should adopt the logo they were using.

In addition, consultants from a previous design firm felt that we should change the name of the organization.  They thought strongly that ‘Kaiser Permanente’ as a title for a health care organization was a negative, and urged us to abandon it. (They were concerned that the name “Kaiser” was too closely identified with Henry J. Kaiser’s steel and aluminum industry, not with patient care and wellness).”

Vohs continues: “But from my point of view there were really just two concepts that needed to be reflected in any logo: that the arrangement between the ‘partners’ in the enterprise, the health plan and the Permanente Medical Groups, be recognized; and that there be just one style of logo used consistently throughout the organization to reinforce that Kaiser Permanente is one single multiregional and national enterprise.”2

1984 version logo

The resulting logo, created by Boyd Communications, was a distillation of concepts that reflected KP’s mission.  When the new graphic identity was released in 1985, a brochure was distributed explaining some of the design parameters and solutions:

“It had to convey: a feeling of warmth and caring; a sense of quality and professionalism; concern and commitment to one another; the partnership we share in providing health care to the community; and a progressive feeling.

“. . . The sense of community is there in the three figures. They can represent the three entities which make up our program (the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, and the Permanente Medical Groups), the families we serve, and the communities we’re located in. The radiating light transmits a sense of health and healing. The sunburst also reminds us of our roots in the desert, where (KP founding physician) Sidney Garfield started providing prepaid medical care more than 50 years ago (1933).”

Signature suits company’s mission

Current Kaiser Permanente logo

Boyd, who has created logos for many international businesses such as Apple, Hilton and Toyota, is humble when describing his team’s part in designing the KP logo. He likens his role to a “tailor” who simply put a nice “suit” on Kaiser Permanente.

“To be somewhat objective, it’s what the organization has done that makes the logo,” Boyd said. “A logo can’t make a company. And Kaiser (Permanente) has done an extraordinary job at becoming the best in the country at providing health care.”3

In 1999 the “family” symbol was slightly revised, this time under the direction of Landor Associates, another world-class strategic brand consulting and design firm, as part of the most comprehensive identity system KP had ever rolled out. This included a revised logo called the “signature”.

The 17 rays of light in the image were reduced to 14 and the typeface of the words “Kaiser Permanente” was changed. KP also standardized the horizontal configuration of the logo and type. Subsequent additional tweaking by the design firm of Kate Keating and Associates used even fewer rays in the “people” for enhanced legibility in specialized applications such as embroidery, pharmacy labels, and large signage.

Fittingly, during the centennial of A. B. Ordway’s hire, the towering edifice named after him glows with the most modern Kaiser Permanente symbology.

 

1 The energy-efficient sign is specially designed to illuminate white through the blue lettering for enhanced visibility at night.

2 Email correspondence with author 1/30/2012

3 Interview 12/2011 with Boyd by KP communications associate Kathleen Haley

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Mama, Papa and Henry III wait for Santa Claus

posted on December 23, 2010

By Ginny McPartland

Christmas 1956, and the family of Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., was reveling in the beauty of the season and reflecting on its own good fortune and faith.  As they had done the two previous years, the trio – Henry Jr., his wife, Bobbie, and son Henry III, then 4, recorded a holiday album to share their happiness with their friends and the employees of Kaiser Industries.

The album eavesdrops on the young family as they recount stories and sing in anticipation of Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve. The child, nicknamed Henry Three (aka Henri Trois), vows to stay up to see St. Nick up close. Can he do it? His parents are skeptical.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., alias Mama and Papa to Henry III. Photo courtesy of the Bancroft Library.

Just about seven minutes long, the 1956 recording celebrated San Francisco Bay Area’s newest bay crossing, the Richmond – San Rafael Bridge, the release of a musical classic from “My Fair Lady,” and the talent of young Henry Three who showed his precociousness by reciting a poem in French and then translating it for “Papa” Kaiser.

For me, “Mama” Bobbie Kaiser’s reference to Santa coming from the north to Oakland over the “new Richmond Bridge” rang a bell. As a native of Richmond, I remember taking my last ride on the auto ferry that connected the East Bay with Marin. My parents had a ritual of cramming all eight of us in to our 1950 Ford and driving onto the ferry as a special Sunday outing. That ended in September of 1956 when the bridge opened.

Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., son of industrialist and visionary Henry J. Kaiser, showcased his singing talent by launching into “I Could Have Danced All Night” as Henry Three reiterated his determination to greet Santa whenever the jolly soul showed up at the Kaiser home during the night. The song, which was well known later, had just been published and performed on Broadway in 1956. Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle (actually sung by Marni Nixon) popularized the tune in the 1964 screen version of “My Fair Lady.”

Precocious child grows up

Henry Kaiser III with his guitar at the South Pole in 2001. Photo from the Kaiser Family Foundation Web site.

Henry Three’s Christmas album performance foreshadowed his success as a brilliant student who enrolled at Harvard University at 16 and as an innovative and eclectic musician, research diver, videographer and film producer.

In 2007, Henry Three produced a documentary film about scientists working in Antarctica with famed documentarian Werner Herzog. The movie, “Encounters at the End of the World,” was nominated in 2009 for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature. Kaiser appears briefly in the film and his underwater camera work is showcased in the DVD’s special features.  

The Baby Boomer Henry Kaiser has an impressive discography and is well known as a gifted musician and composer. Wikipedia has this to say about him: “Recording and performing prolifically in many styles of music, Kaiser is a fixture on the San Francisco music scene. He is considered a member of the ‘first generation’ of American free improvisers.”

Happy holidays, and enjoy this excerpt of the Kaiser 1956 album. Kaiser_Christmas_1956

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Henry Kaiser’s Respect for People of All Races Dates from African-American Worker Who Was One of First Employees Ever Hired

posted on June 15, 2010

By Tom Debley
Director of Heritage Resources

“Tote! Tote!”

Little Edgar Kaiser, 5, would call out to a gregarious black laborer named James A. Shaw with those words.

Jimmy Shaw would hoist the lad up onto his shoulders and carry the boy, all the while raking asphalt on a road-building project for Edgar’s father, Henry J. Kaiser.

The year was 1913. The site was a work camp where the toddler would often live, sleeping in a car or a tent, with his parents, Henry and Bess Kaiser. Little Edgar’s affection for riding on Shaw’s shoulders, calling out “Tote, Tote!” when he’d see Shaw, earned Jimmy the nickname “Tote,” or sometimes “Totem,” for the rest of his life.

"Totem" Shaw is seen in an undated photograph after his retirement in Fontana, Calif. (Photo courtesy of John Charles Anicic Jr., author of "Images of America: Kaiser Steel Fontana," Acadia Publishing, 2006.)

This was in the early years of Henry Kaiser’s fledgling road-building business—long before he became the great 20th century industrialist who gained fame building highways, dams, and World War II ships.

And Totem Shaw’s story, as recorded in historic archives, helps shed light on both Henry and Edgar Kaiser’s later reputations as businessmen who understood the value of workforce diversity and, in their personal lives, moved beyond racial divides decades before the rest of the country.

Born in 1879, Shaw was not quite two years older than Henry J. and represents the earliest documented friendship between the Kaisers and a person of African heritage. Shaw’s is a powerful story that helps explain why Henry Kaiser was open to hiring minority workers.

Shaw was Kaiser’s first black employee, hired several years before Kaiser even formed his own company. He actually was hired by A. B. Ordway, Kaiser’s very first employee, when they were working for another company paving part of Post Street in Spokane, Wash., about 1909. Kaiser was general superintendent and Ordway was foreman.

One day Shaw walked up to the Post Street paving gang and asked Ordway for a job. According to Gordon Barteau, a Portland Oregonian newspaper reporter who wrote a profile of Shaw in 1943, “Ordway sized Tote up and said he thought Tote looked kind of runty for a job like that.”

In a style reminiscent of Kaiser himself, Shaw offered to work for free for a week on trial.

“Well … the first day he wore out two men and the next day Ordway told him he was on the payroll,” the Oregonian reported.

“Tote” worked in a variety of jobs on just about every big Kaiser project – from road building in Cuba to the Grand Coulee Dam, the Vancouver Shipyards in World War II, and the Kaiser steel mill in Fontana, Calif., before he retired. It was during the war years in Vancouver, according to Barteau’s article, that whenever Henry Kaiser “comes to town he always looks up Tote and they hash over the old days.”

Clearly, it was Shaw’s relationship with Edgar and his ability as a skilled laborer with problem-solving skills that made him a lifelong, unforgettable friend of Henry Kaiser.

During construction of the original Highway 99 between Redding and Red Bluff in Northern California, in 1921, Kaiser was having trouble keeping a muddy detour open. He’d sent in a work crew of six men, and they had failed.

Kaiser summoned Shaw. “Tote,” he said, “every truck on the job is stuck in the mud. …You go down there and see what you can do.”

Shaw grabbed an axe, a pick, and a shovel. In short order, he had all of the trucks out of the mud and running.

“How did you do it?” Kaiser asked him.

“Mr. Kaiser,” he replied, “when you do things, you mixes brains and money. Well, sir, I mixes mud and brains.”

“Kaiser loved the phrase,” wrote one of his biographers, Mark Foster. “It became a company slogan.”

Shaw lived his final years in Fontana. They had a big party for him when turned 85 in 1964. In addition to cards, gifts, and a huge birthday cake, a teletype arrived from the giant Kaiser Industries headquarters in Oakland—birthday greetings from A. B. Ordway, who had known “Tote” since the day he had walked up to Ordway on Post Street in Spokane and asked for a job.

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