Blog # 23

Time seemed to fly by during the years we built the transaxle drive vehicles. During this era, we were still selling our attachable electric kits for bikes and trikes. If that wasn’t enough, the guys designed a yardkart for the farmers who were suppose to be retired but just couldn’t stop farming even if their homestead is now a couple acres. They are the folks who live for the joy of, “tickle the earth with a hoe and she laughs with harvest”
The Yardkart has wider wheels on the rear, so it has more traction for pushing vehicle. The guys left the regular Moped wheel on front end as it makes it easier to steer. The vehicle is designed to run on softer surfaces and carry things on the platform behind the seat.
We also began selling pedal tricycles at this time. Seems they are not an available item in many parts of the country. Also, some people who preferred to use pedal or power on a trike wanted the whole “kit n kaboodle” in one delivery.
Of course it didn’t end there. Now we have a three wheel trike for people who like to ride outdoors but don’t have the balance they once did. What else could you want?
Lots, we learned. Interested people, unable to use their legs, said, ” Without much effort, you could rearrange the foot pedals to hand pedals.” I was opposed to this expansion. My thoughts were as a small company we just can’t have a smorgasbord of products to offer. Too many items to stock, too many parts to inventory, too much space to rent. Our brochure would look like a mini Sears catalog.
I thought we learned our lesson when we had three times the employees, sent a lot of the income out to another source of supplies, worked harder and didn’t make that much more money, just processed it. They rolled right over my list of negatives with, first an adult Handcycle, and then, had to have one for the kids.
As the project progressed. I heard, “Let’s build a trailer for our vehicles.” “Oh yes”, said the other engineer, “A folding one!”
Forgive me but, I’m getting too agitated to write more at this time

Blog #22

Whooee, do we have snow now. All spare moments spent shoveling to get in or out. As I shovel, memories swirl around like snow flakes inside my head. My brother and I on our single Flexible flyer sledding together down the long embankment behind our house. The kids and JP on our toboggan tumbling down Farmer’s Hill. Glorious use of snow,….. packing memories.

The Independence and the Twosome vehicles required many new parts to stock. We had to find a bigger place. We’d been renting a garage near IBM for manufacturing and were running out of space. It took quite a while as prices were exorbitant for a small company.
Endicott was noted for two things. The first was a shoe factory called, Endicott Johnson, named after the two men who formed the company. Our village became Endicott. The business grew in size over the years and provided most of the soldiers’ footwear during WWII. The old International Time Recorder Co. of Endicott was dubbed IBM in the 1920′s and became a familiar name all over the world for computers. E J was slowing down when we moved here, IBM was thriving. The computer company had many buildings and huge parking lots. We noticed they were quite empty on weekends so we took our new prototypes over and ran up and down their beautifully paved parking lots. Unhampered by traffic, we cruised many miles around IBM.
When a local reporter heard of our upstart company, he came out to interview us. Just the week before, one of IBM’s security guards ran out and told us to get the Hello out of their roads and parking lots. I thought the reporter was very creative when he wrote in his newspaper article, ” Small company running circles around IBM.” We understood the business reasoning behind IBM’s request for us to leave.
My point of this reference is to show the large company’s presence kept warehouse and real estate properties very high with so many small businesses serving the local giant, Big Blue as we all called it. We finally found some affordable space in a building and temporarily rented enough room for all our inventory and a place to build our products. Many things were changing at this time.
There was a subtle change in purchasers when we went to a transaxle drive. Took us a while to notice why. Because the vehicle had five gears forward and a reverse, it now had a shift lever. Yowee, many women remember learning to drive the older cars with a shift lever. Our vehicles were not like that. We think the women remembered the crucial – push in clutch pedal with left foot, grab shift lever with right hand, find and shift into first gear, let clutch pedal out slowly with left foot as you give it a little gas with right foot, while keeping you eyes on road and left hand on steering wheel. Now, do it again to get into second gear and so forth up to speed. It’s a wonder we learned to drive at all.
Our Palmer vehicles had no clutch to physically deal with. Just push lever down, once for first, again for second and again until you found speed you liked. For reverse, just pull all the way up. It was very easy, and one never had to use legs or feet. However, memory ruled with some females and our sales to the fairer gender slowed a bit.
Note: We guessed right. They picked up a few years later with elimination of shifter. Bless automation.
Way past my word limit for this Blog.

Blog #21

Happy 2011 to you, We wish you Health, Wealth and the best of circumstances in 2011.
Almost back to normal for me after going on the cruise from Hello. Being brief, two bad storms, left Endicott at 28 degrees to arrive in sunny Florida at 29 degrees. Never has one fool paid so much to get one degree warmer.
The boat rocked so much, we dancers slid from one end of dance floor in a group and then back again. Walking through narrow hallways was also a challenge. One lady died on ship, and a small ill child had to be helicoptered to closest hospital. We were given $100 back per room and all the motion sickness pills we wanted for free. Was with family so we made the best of it. I lost my glasses, caught one lousy cold and took 3 weeks at home to get over it.

As previously mentioned, the new vehicles were very tempting to people who were used to slower, smaller, indoor chairs. A few began using the Independence and Twosome as All Terrain Vehicles. They are not.
We had some strange complaints come in. “Whadda ya mean it won’t climb over a 6″ diameter log.” “Can you make it go about 25mph so I can keep up with my hunting buddies.” It was difficult to determine just how much to put into the literature to let people know it can’t do those things. It’s very negative to write copy saying what a product will not do. I began to study ads. I checked into a few of my favorite advertisements to see if there were any limitations. All my favorites seem to say exactly what the product does except for one. “Where’s the beef?” That ole gal stated unequivocally what a product did not do. They didn’t say what theirs did but that powerful assumation was there making it one of the best ads of all time.
For this novice, Advertising is like walking a very tight rope, and I have a few lumps to prove it. Luckily, I also have a couple of engineers in the business who edit everything before it goes to press. They gently state, “What the Sam Hill are you trying to say here?” Sam must be a dear friend to many engineers. They quote him often.
I decided the best approach was just give the facts about the vehicle. If the potential customer was interested, he , she or they would read from our literature, what the top speed is, what the clearance on bottom is and vehicles length of 72″. They don’t fold to fit in the trunk of a car.
If you recall, our first all electric outdoor Happy Wanderer had 2 motors friction driving the rear wheels. These new vehicles had one powerful motor driving the transaxle with a gear belt and pulley. Boy, it worked great. I was button poppin proud of our engineers. Still didn’t care for that metallic sound but the vehicles proved well beyond my petty complaint. We did, however, have a valid customer complaint.
A farmer in Michigan broke quite a few gear belts in the first couple of months. He discovered while driving out through his field of wheat, his Palmer Twosome was acting like a harvester and chopping the wheat from its stalk. Once it got too many stalks ahead in the belt, belt broke. Wow, we never tested for that. Solution, he quit taking short cuts through his field.
Mother nature always thumps me off my self proclaimed pedestal when I get a little too……. bumptious.
(I had to look up a word to fit my thought. Just learned this useful word, bumptious! I know a lot of bumptians.)

Blog #20

Here in Endicott our population is 12,306 unless Mary down the street had her babies this morning. Then it will increase by two. We have not had a snow covering yet but it’s apparently on it’s way for end of this week. Tonight is a special night for the famous “Christmas Story” Leg Lamp goes up in our picture window. A much noticed Holiday Decoration. We wish all of you Peaceful, Healthy, Happy Holidays this season.

As mentioned before, the temptation “to boldly go where no electric scooter has ever gone” proved too much for some of our new electric vehicle owners. We began to get unusual calls and strange parts requests. I’m stuck in 7″ of snow, what do I do?
I’ve drove across a ditch full of water and for some reason the cart stopped, what’s wrong with your machine? (How quickly it becomes “our ” machine when something is wrong.} My favorite complaint came in around this time: “I pushed the push button and nothing happened.” In general, the newly designed vehicles were welcomed by the public. Although we test the vehicles at our shop, the true test pilots are some of our customers. These are the pilots who use the vehicles daily. One, in particular, lives in Philadelphia. Since he had 12,000 miles of driving a Palmer vehicle everywhere he went, he was one of the test pilots of the new transaxle drive. Most of his miles are put on by going back and forth to work. Earl really puts our vehicles to the test. The weather where he lives is a good variety of hot, muggy ,cold, dry, wind, rain and sunshine. He doesn’t use a garage so it sits outside. It’s covered with a plastic cover and when we go to pick it up, it’s sometimes pitted, faded, shows some rust, some worn spots and reveals the areas needed for improvement. Mind you, that’s only the exterior. As soon as there is an electronic failure, or mechanical problem, he calls and we change material, fabric, or wiring scheme to solve problems. Sounds funny, but the more problems he encounters, the better the product becomes. He’s tough on the machine and requires dependability. Earl has been our top in-the-field engineer, and one of Palmer Industries’ greatest assets. Other customers also test the prototypes before they hit the market. Arizona, Florida, California, Alaska, Hawaii and Rhode Island have high mileage users testing our changes for errors. And they find them.
Most of our customers help us out with their suggestions and or complaints.
Although the vehicles were much improved in a very practical sense, there were a couple of things I did not like too much. First was rather arbitrary. JP and son JP11 liked the amount of power the transaxle drive gave the new machines. I wanted more speed. We really argued this one out for a while. I argued why not more power and speed. Both engineers stated power was more beneficial and for some engineering gobbilty goop we can’t offer both. I lost. But this had a bit to do with my second complaint. The Transaxle drive, although quieter than the 2 motors friction driving the rear wheels on the Happy Wanderer, it didn’t hum . It sorta metaled along if you know what I mean. It was a metallic. sound. It was a good safety feature as people heard it coming and going. Not offensive, but there, annoying me every time they had me drive one to idiot proof it.
On that note I think I exceeded my word count.

Blog # 19

The frost is nibbling at our shingles. And that means a bit of slow time for the PI. Even though we sell to the warmer climate states, the coolness of winter slows our sales. It’s catch up time.
The introduction of the Palmer Independence single seat electric wheelchair or electric scooter as some call it was an easier transition than was the Palmer Twosome, our electric two seater. Since we used same basic frame, both vehicles could carry 550 lbs. but the twosome was wider and required larger entrance way and sometimes wider ramp railings. It travels same speed as Independence, but goes slower when climbing the steeper hills. Our accessories list began to grow.
People with manual wheelchairs wanted to take them along. We began to offer cane holders. Directional signals became a standard item. Folks in windy areas wanted a windshield. Our list continues to grow even today. And it changes, from CB holder to cell phone charger.
Thousands of little things you don’t think of when starting a business usurp a great deal of your productive time.
We were still selling our attachable electric kits when the new vehicles were introduced and selling parts for the kits and Happy Wanderers. We first sold the HW’s in 1976 and continued until 1981 when we transitioned to the more powerful transaxle vehicles. Just last month we sold a part for a ’78 HW. He was happy to know we were still in business and we were happy to know our first outdoor electric vehicles were still servicing their owners.
The newer vehicles were rugged, faster and as mentioned, could climb very steep hills. Houston, we have a problem. Building it bigger, faster and stronger was too much temptation for a few owners.
I’m at 267 words and past my limit. To be continued.

Blog # 18

It’s taken us a while to rearrange our Blogs and get them on our site, not Blogspot’s site. Theirs are free, but you do not get Search Engine Credit. They do. Also found out my blog was too long. Did I put readers to sleep? Sorry for sending out so much babble but thought that was the point of a blog. Oh, by the way, to the person who sent a comment for our approval on Blog #5, forgive me but I don’t read Russian.
Had a bad day at work yesterday and spent the majority of it fixing things or looking for the tools to fix them with. All my fault but lady luck could have popped in for just a minute.. I was knee deep in reconciling accounts and being early morning, thought I’d have a cup of coffee. I ran the bean grinder to replace what I had taken, as the coffee was brewing up a delicious odor. Began to heat a cinnamon roll in Microwave, had all lights on and 3 computers waiting for me to get back to work. Clicked on radio to catch some music and Kablooie. Everything went off. Downstairs I went to click the circuit breaker. All looked ok and I couldn’t remember which was the breaker for goodies. Fool that I am, I switched a breaker, nobody yelled , so I continued to flick breakers until one of the gals began banging her feet on the floor above. I came up to learn, not only was the kitchenette dark but so were the office lights, computers, and the phones were not working. Back down to flick them back. The phones came on and one of the gals made an outside call to a 918 area code. By mistake she hit 911. They responded RAPIDLY and said regardless of our of mistake, the Police were on their way. Geeze Louise, but I understood their need to check out an emergency call. The day did not improve.
But, our new vehicles had improved the year we made those rather drastic changes in power and design. I personally was miffed that the name changed. Our vehicles were becoming known as the Palmer vehicles. As much as I like my name, “Happy Wanderer” fits their use so well. Now, more shows, and these vehicles were heavier and more rugged. Once again, customers added their own unique attachments to what we thought was a perfectly designed wheelchair or just an electric vehicle for local errands.
Am I beginning to hear snoring? Catch you later.

Blog #17

We had continuously updated the Happy Wanderer.  Again we used suggestions and help from our customers.  It changed considerably, and we decided to change the name when we went from 2 motors friction driving back wheel to a trans-axle drive. Lot of power now, but you had to shift.  It was simple to push down a click to First, next click was Second, continue clicking to Fifth gear, which was top speed, 14mph. Reverse was a pull-up click from Neutral.  Very easy to do and the trans-axle made it able to climb steepest hill in San Francisco fully loaded with two people and over 200Lbs of weight in the rear basket.  It was remarkable what that thing could climb. Our test ramp was so steep we had to nail two rows of coarse, expanded metal on it so the wheels did not slip.  The fellows loved testing the new vehicles. We had added width to our frame, enlarged the stainless steel floor panel and filled the dreams of many a person who wanted to drive a loved one or friend somewhere.  Even the large dogs climbed aboard.  The single seat Independence was still our best seller, but the Twosome fit the needs of couples and many men no longer able to drive a car.  The vehicles attracted newspaper photographers and some freebie press releases.  But a lot of marketing money is required to make the public aware.  Advertising is so expensive nationwide.  We applied for Medicare approval of the vehicles and were granted it, however, being an outdoor vehicle, they made it very difficult  for the customer to get it paid for.  By now there were quite a number of smaller electric three wheelers being made that claimed they were indoor scooters so they could easily get Medicare payment.  Having done a number of shows, we learned from the horses mouth that the smaller vehicles were used 75% of the time outside the house.  Very few were truly indoor vehicles.  So then, as now, Medicare is our competition.

We had contacted local politicians our national representatives, but they were too busy to pay attention to a small company.  Because there was a large demand for scooters, US manufacturers had them made in, where else but, China.  They were imported in and sold with Medicare paying the majority of the bill.  Our taxpayer dollars, giving our jobs away and not paying  for an original scooter that is made by Americans.  Our benches came from a Florida Company, our motors were from Ohio, all parts came from this county and they were quality parts.  As time went by, with our government hard at work, we began to lose our suppliers; they too were competing with imports.

It might be best for me to drop this subject.  Some think I’m too harsh on those supposed be representing us.

The single seat Independence and the two seat Twosome inched their way into the hearts of people who need safe outdoor transportation and liked the idea that we carried parts for every item we made since starting the business.  It might not be the same part but a replacement that works.

Blog #16

We did attend the Bike show some of the time and handed out literature to some attendees but most beneficial for us was seeing the trend toward more fuel saving vehicles including smaller cars, and a couple of Hybrid wannabees.  We also learned to do more checking into what we were going to get for any future “sharing booth expense.”

Since we are not “go to government” people, for all the paperwork and infusion into your business it creates , we had to pioneer the Happy Wanderer without the grants, aid and unknowledgeable advice of a political assistance.  We did, however, have to get A GSA contract to sell our vehicle to Veterans and Park Systems.

Although we had given up the add-on-gas kits, we still got inquires from those who preferred gas.  A gentleman from Ohio was into making three wheel gas Mopeds and we saw him and his product at the shows.  He was a one man operation, very honest, and a stand behind his product entrepreneur.  We told him we received quite a few inquiries regarding Gas vehicles and after learning he preferred to do building of his units rather than the marketing, we agreed to offer his Gas Moped to our inquiries and see if it would benefit all three, Manufacturer, Marketer, and Customer. It did. People who wanted a stable gas three wheeler for transportation that traveled 25mph, held 300Lbs, had directional signals and fit Moped qualifications in all states were delighted.

We sold quite a few, carried the consumable parts and our guys could repair almost everything on that neat little gas vehicle or talk a mechanic through the repair. Richard was happy being left to build and improve on his design.  He didn’t like all the paperwork.  We worked with him until he quit the business due to illness in his family. We sold some to the Government through our contract and then they wanted to buy a large number of them.  This caused a BIG Broo-haw-haw at the PI.  JP and I have the same work ethics. We do not have the same philosophy on money earning opportunities.  His stance, they could buy them direct from Richard at a lower cost. Since one order, not too much paperwork and we were the government’s pocket book. “Are you nuts?” I squealed when the employees had left for the day.  My stance: We spent a lot of time obtaining this GSA Contract, and now it’s going to pay off.  To obtain the GSA Contract we had to give a good discount to government.  Now quantity will sweeten the profit.  His comeback, “You see how they change  their requirements as you are filling the order, how they want this and that revised, and if some politician convinces them his state has a better “widget,” order may be canceled.  You are stuck with enough supplies that will take forever to get rid of.   And through us, all these are discounted.  Thanks, but no thanks.”

The PI civil war raged on. And here’s the victorious end of the war scenario.  JP saw that the order was given directly to Richard from the government.  We later learned  of all the annoyances it caused. He filled the order, but was not a happy camper.  We received a lovely greeting from our government a few months later in January canceling our GSA contract.  They said that we did not sell enough product to them the previous year (in which we gave them Richards name) to qualify for continued contract.  Our government at work!

Blog #15

The Veterans at the convention at Swan Lake, NY really enjoyed our little vehicles. Many had the conventional 4 small wheel electric chairs which worked fine most of the time for them, but the Happy Wanderer allowed them to travel away from the paved surface onto the wet or dry grass, through gravel and even on the winding up-down dirt paths.  They said it was a treat to have a personal vehicle that allowed this type of freedom.  But I scarfed the best treat, being invited to dance with a muscle armed Vet in  a manual wheelchair who controlled it better than I did my feet.  Believe it or not, we jitterbugged.  One of my most memorable dances. Sales improved as the Veteran’s Administration began paying for them.  Their disabilities and suggestions provided a number of changes that helped improve the product.

It was the mid to late ’70s. Advertising was very expensive.  We were still novices at some forms of marketing and still doing bike shows.  A man from Italy came to the NYC show and said he was going to do one of the biggest bike shows in the world.  He was purchasing a booth in the Italian Bike show.  Since there were so many bikes in Europe and attendees at this show, maybe we’d like to share booth with him and one other.  We had a number of inquires from Europe and had done no advertising there so thought we’d see what possibilities existed without paying full price for an expensive booth.  Can’t remember which one of us was smart enough to only take two kits over, one for bike and one for trike.  Probably me, as I am the lazy one of this duo. Four boxes of literature accompanied us.  Very heavy luggage.  On arrival, we located our pensione and slept comfortably with much anticipation.  An early morning brought us to the breakfast table  where we sat with a German, a Japanese,  a Russian painter who had a leg in a cast having been hit by a small car, and the cook.  The meal consisted of a danish, a brioche and some goat’s milk (I hope).  We hurried to bus stop and caught the bus to the show lugging 1/2 of our paraphernalia.  We found “our” booth, which was a desk sized little square laden with brochures of every kind.  One could not stand in our booth as the elephantine pile of literature was sandwiched in between 20 other “booths” all full of multi-language brochures.

Our name had been hastily printed with a marker pen among the Menu of voluminous treats.

My grandmother had pounded into my head that the true character of person is revealed in how well they handle adversity.  JP looked disappointed but waited until I was finished reciting every expletive I could think of or make up, then said, “We are in Italy, let’s see the country.” I was glad he didn’t drown!

Blog #14

The local police didn’t know what to do with one when a customer came breezing down the side of the road.  We had contacted every state and sent specs to determine where a Happy Wanderer could be used.  Fifty states, thirty different replies. Some ignored the request.  Medicare was also in a quandary as to what to do with an Outdoor wheelchair.  They finally approved it as apparently a few of our customers had some clout.

Our most ardent  supporters at first were Veteran’ s Organizations.  The NY Paralyzed Veterans invited us to bring the vehicles down to their conventions in the Catskills. Whooee, it was the closest thing to a vacation we’d had since the business started. While we left the the vehicle in the hands of pre-instructed test driver Vets, workaholic JP and I took our first journey in a paddle boat on the lake.  After 20 minutes of sunshine , paddle direction battle, and relaxation, JP dove into the water, swam to back of boat then surfaced with, “You gotta see this!” I gracefully belly flopped in and doggy paddled to the back. We submerged to see the exciting sight.

He was pointing up to the boat’s stern. What was I missing? Being a smoker at the time, I surfaced quickly, he followed with a big smile and sputtered, “We can easily motorize this.”

He survived my drowning attempt.