Sunday, June 14, 2009

My First Start-Up

Us kids at the house, 1963

My First Start-Up: Still going strong at fifty!

I have been back to my home in Ottawa only a few times over the past forty years. So when I met Nicole, a scientist from Ottawa at the recent American Society for Microbiology (ASM) meeting in Philadelphia, I implored her to take a few photos of my old home.

So here is the picture of the place we grew up in fifty years ago. The house is much the same as it was them, except that the lawn is fairer, the trees are much larger, and the window frames have been replaced. When I looked at the picture, my eyes clouded. 616 Chadburn. I wonder who lives there today.

I also asked Nicole to take a picture of the apartment building across the street. I wanted to see whether "Scully's mark" was still there after almost fifty years. As a child, I had a friend named Scully who was the first entrepreneur that I ever met. Scully always had new ideas, many about making money. Once he suggested that we go down to Industrial Avenue and cut some bulrushes, and then sell them as decoration from door to door. We went and slew a bunch of bulrushes, but alas, neighbours (I am using the Canadian spelling here) were hesitant to purchase them in their natural brown condition.

"No problem", said Scully. We'll paint them gold and black, that way we can charge more money and they'll be irresistible". We bought some paint and dipped our first bulrush into the black can. It came out black indeed, but the bulrush had sopped up quite a bit of paint and refused to dry, even after an hour on the pavement. "No problem", said Scully. "What we need is to whip the bulrush around our head, the paint will fly off from the centrifugal (centripetal?) force. He proceeded to take the moist, black bulrush and whip it around his head, much the same way that David prepared his slingshot for Goliath. And indeed, when Scully loosened his grip, the bulrush flew into the air.
Unlike David, however, his shot did not hit Goliath's forehead, but rather flew into the brick apartment building across the road, leaving a noticeable, ugly black mark. Scully's mark. For years, we hid the fact that our start-up was responsible for this scar on the neighboring building. But with time, it became one of my favorite tales.

So here, you see it still. Fifty years on. My first start-up left its indelible mark. Thanks for the memories, Nicole!! And yes, we did sell a few painted bulrushes.

No comments: