One evening while we were all sitting at the dinner table with my mother and father, my father, as he usually did, told us a story of one of his days at work as a garage door repair man. My father, Jack Newman, was a clever man and had always been interested in making things and fixing things. When he was growing up he would spend time in his own father’s garage, which was actually more of a workshop, and would make toys and fix old clocks and generally tinker with whatever he could get his hands on.
He told us the story of how he was once called to look at a garage door which had stopped working properly. The owner of the property was away and he had been called by the housekeeper who needed to get something out of the garage but couldn’t operate the door properly.
My father was shown to the garage by the housekeeper. As soon as my father entered the garage he knew this was the home of an engineer, an inventor, somebody like himself who loved to dabble with all things mechanical. It reminded him very much of his father’s old garage when he was growing up.
Product innovation and new inventions?
As my father looked at the garage door itself he immediately saw that this was no ordinary garage door. In fact it was unlike any he had ever seen before in all his years as a garage door repair man. The door had the usual mechanism of torsion springs to balance the weight of the garage door, wheels running in tracks to guide the door as it lifted up and overhead, and the opening and closing action of the door was operated by an electric motor. A remote control handset activated the electric motor.
What was different about this door were the obvious experimental functions which looked as though they were still under development. There were different panels, some insulated, some with grills for ventilation. There were some modifications to some of the mechanical linkages and tracks, and the electric motor actuation system was like nothing he had seen before.
My father, despite the unusual modifications to the door, soon solved the problem which turned out to be some wear in one of the brackets holding the torsion spring which was causing the spring to rub and to stick during opening and closing. With this fixed, he explained to the housekeeper what he had done and she thanked him and apologized that the homeowner was not at home and would be back later. My father left and started to drive the long drive home.
That evening my father received a phone call from the client, who, by the sound of his voice must have been around 70 years old. The man was very grateful to my father for fixing the door and after a long conversation about garage doors and many technical matters, the man arranged to send a check to my father in the post. A few days later when the check arrived, my father found it was accompanied by a letter thanking my father once again.
Not only that, but the letter also contained a sketch of one of the inventions that my father had been admiring in the garage, and an offer to help my father make it and use it in the future, a sort of business proposition for the two of them. Of course my father was very excited to work together with the inventor and immediately wrote back and accepted the offer.
Not only did they become business partners and develop the new mechanism together, but also became good friends and shared their own garage door stories, which I imagine must have kept them talking for many hours.