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 Subject : Personal History, by Jim Barnhill, Barnhill Bolt.. 10/27/2011 03:50:25 PM 

Jim Barnhill - 1995

In the mid 50's, my dad J C Barnhill was in charge of personnel and purchasing for a large steel company and fabricator in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was not a good supplier of fasteners in this area. He persuaded the owner of his company to set up a fastener warehouse. The major players at this time were RB&W and Lamson Sessions. Lamson had a commitment to a local auto supply warehouse and showed no interest in this endeavor (until later). RB&W accepted the initial order and the business began.

In 1959, the owner of the steel company offered my dad the opportunity to purchase the fastener division. J C started the process of buying the fasteners and officially changed the name to the Barnhill Bolt Company in 1960.

I had been with the Albuquerque Public Schools for a few years as a PE teacher and coach. I started in the fastener business in the summer of 1959, stocking, packaging and delivering. I returned the summer of 1960 as "experienced" to make sales calls.

In the fall of 1960, my dad had a heart attack that was a warning to slow down. Fortunately, I was on a half-day schedule at my school due to the expanding school population. Bobby, my wife, volunteered to be in charge of bookkeeping, payroll and anything else she could do and still does.

Albuquerque Public Schools granted me a one-year leave of absence, for which I was grateful. I did resign from the schools in 1961.

The fastener specialists of that day were kind of unique. I remember a friend of mine who was selling for Ducommun (a full line industrial supply house) telling me that people specializing in one field would fail. He said "you need to have all the items as shown in his catalog" to be successful. I wish he was around today so I could ask him "where is Ducommun now"?

In the 60's most of the fasteners were sold by industrial supply houses, hardware wholesalers and steel supply companies. These were the people you competed with in most markets. At that time, other manufacturers rated you by who was selling to you. If such and such was selling to you then, "maybe we could sell to you also”.

The names were RB&W, Lamson & Sessions, Bethlehem Steel, Cleveland Cap Screw, StanScrew, Gary, Republic Steel, Sheffield Steel and Russell Bolt Mfg. I wonder how many times RB&W and RBM head markings were checked to see which one it actually was. Discounts that many of us remember were—55-5, 52-5-5, and 50-5.

In the screw business, you had major manufacturers such as Southern Screw, American Screw, Continental, Pheoell and many others in the Chicago area. These people rated your business by how many 10's hi discount you were receiving. Discounts such as 42&5-10's, or 6-10's or even 7-10's. Suppliers would say "if you are getting 7-10's, we'll give you 8-10's". That was the way business was in those days.

If you wanted to sell stainless steel, you hoped you could be accepted by H.M. Harper or Anti-Corrosive. H.M. Harper was a great company with high standards. We were lucky enough to do business with both.

Some of the things from the above-mentioned companies that we do NOT see today, are the information and training they provided to distributors. Their trained factory salesmen and reps that called on us knew their product and educated all of us on their use. I have often thought I would like to have the money Bethlehem Steel spent on sending out pamphlets and brochures.

In the 1970's things changed. We had often thought the only material we had in our warehouse that was imported were the anchor bolts. (Most of us weren't aware that the machine screw nuts and other products were re-packaged imports.) During this time, the import market took over most of the commercial fastener business. The quality of imports was not the best in the 60's, but in the 70's the quality exceeded our domestic products. And today our anchor bolts are domestic.

Also during this time, we began to see the demise of most of the old bolt and screw manufacturers that we had known. Many had failed to put investment back into updating equipment and machines but chose to pay dividends to their investors.

The socket screw business was dominated by a few major companies. Nearly everyone had the same discount of 24% from list. This was changed in the 60's also, when Baumbach, StanScrew, Banner, SocPro, Brighton-Best, Stevens and others made it a more competitive market.

I am sure a lot of us remember the shortages of 1973-74, especially the high nut prices. We had calls from manufacturers saying "Sorry, we need to raise prices, by 15%, 20%, etc."

During the late 70's and into the 80's, most of us distributors in the western states that were working hard and keeping up with the changes, were growing.

Computers became a big part of the business in the 1980's. Hard to believe how we once scribbled out invoices, kept Cardex's, and other records by hand.

The fastener business has changed over the years from the 200# wooden keg and wooden case to a much more manageable 1/4 keg carton business that we know today.

To wrap this up — it has been our pleasure to have known some good people who were in this business early; people such as Fenton Harvey & Jim Bell (RB&W), John Harrington (Cleveland Cap), John Dooley (National Screw), Bud Porteous (Russell Bolt, PFC), Alan Sprinkle (Southern Screw), Al Roth (Harper), Jim Walker (Bethlehem) and Luke Sullivan (Sullivan Bolt) and many more too numerous to name.

We had joined the Southwest Fastener Association in 1978, but were never active during our 2-year membership. We were pleased to be invited to be a charter member of WAFD when it was organized in the early 1980's. This gave our company exposure to many of the companies and people we had talked to and heard about over the years. I hope that everyone, as we do, feels that the benefits and friendships of such an organization have helped all of us in the fastener industry.

I once asked John Harrington (Cleveland Cap) several years ago, "Why do people who leave the fastener business for a time, always end up back in the business?" His reply was "What do you expect them to do, sell used cars? The business gets into your blood." I know that it does.

Thank you and adios
Jim Barnhill,
Barnhill Bolt Company
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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