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Who Am I?

Gordon Haywood

I am Gordon Haywood and I was born in the Haywood hospital in Burslem, England towards the end of the Second World War in October 1944. For many years as a child I thought that they had named the hospital after me, but that turned out not to be the case!

When I was born, my father w
as in the RAF working on the guns on Wellington and Lancaster bombers, and after the war he worked for the local town council, eventually becoming the Chief Financial officer before his retirement. During the war my mother drove ambulances.

I grew up in the town of Biddulph, near Stoke on Trent with lots of industry in the neighborhood, namely coal mining, steel and potteries. Living close to coal mines and with lots of mining families as neighbors, pretty well all the homes were heated with coal. The result was lots of pollution and smog. As a teenager I was bussed to the local grammar school and I can recall numerous occasions in the winter months when someone would have to walk in front of the bus to guide the driver. Not a very healthy enviro. While I was attending Wolstanton Grammar School, I was chosen to play for the school rugby team. It was great fun on the away games since we would be transported by bus and had a wonderful time on the return trip singing naughty rugby songs. After breaking my leg in the first game of the season when I was 16, I decided that it was time to give up the sport for something a little safer.

As a youngster I had developed an early interest in science and mechanical things. I can recall my parents buying me chemistry set when I was 9, and I took great interest in reading all about the experiments and then doing them. Things progressed as I got older and I can recall making my own gas works by grinding up coal, putting it into a metal container and then basically distilling the coal to generate coal gas. The gas was led via a rubber hose into a jar of water which acted as a scrubber and was then ignited. It was all very smelly and stunk up my mother’s kitchen since the heat source was the gas ring on the stove!

I also remember an evening when I was making homemade firecrackers, we called them bangers, and was dropping the lighted bangers down the grates of the drains on the street. They echoed and made a huge bang. I thought it was great fun until a policeman tapped me on my shoulder and gave me a very stern lecture!

My uncle lived next door for several years and he had a motor bike on which he did his own maintenance. I used to go and watch as he would take apart the engine and would take the 
time to explain what everything did and how it worked. It must have had a great influence on me since over the years I have owned and maintained a number of British sports cars.

After graduation from school, I attended Birmingham University to study Chemistry. The first year I lived within walking distance of the university, but in the second year (1964) my friend and I moved a distance away and became fed up with riding the buses. I purchased my first car from a fellow student for 7 Pounds. It was a 1937 Morris 8 with 75,000 miles on it. It burnt so much oil that it was like a 2 stroke and I used to carry a gallon can of used oil from my father’s car to keep it going. I sold it a year later for 3 times what it cost and purchased a 1948 Morris 8.

I thought, this is great; you buy an old car, do something to it and make a little money. This was the start of my interest in old cars

After graduation I commenced work as a research chemist at ICI, Welwyn Garden City, just north of London where I met my wife, Wendy, who was also a research chemist. It must have been love in the laboratory over the test tubes!

One of the first things I did with my new-found wealth was to buy a 1957 Austin Healy Sprite sports car. However, we were both disillusioned with our prospects in England at that time (1967) and decided to emigrate to Canada with no job, a suitcase and $300 each. At that time it was relatively easy to emigrate if you had a degree in an area such as science, and the Canadian Government would even lend you the money for the fare.

It was a great adventure at the time and lots of our contemporeries were going to Canada, Australia and the USA. We were part of the so-called brain-drain.

I found a job as a research chemist with CIL, Toronto where I was responsible for making resins to be used to make the basic colors which are blended to make the required paint color. Wendy became the first female chemist hired by BA Oil at Sheridan Park, and they even had to put in a washroom for her!

After a couple of years making paint I found that the solvents were affecting my health and I joined DuPont Canada in Kingston as a technical service representative in the industrial fibres business. I spent several years assisting large rubber companies with the use of nylon, polyester, Nomex and Kevlar fibres in their products such as tires, v-belts, rubber hose and snowmobile track belts.

After learning about the technical aspects of the industrial fibres business, I was transferred to Toronto to sell and market the same products to the same customers. I had been on the job for a couple of months in 1973 when the oil crisis hit and was faced with the unenviable task of having to raise prices every 3 months to customers who were used to seeing prices pretty stable. Talk about baptism by fire!

Several years later I thought that it would be interesting to sit on the other side of the desk and moving into DuPont’s purchasing department where I was responsible for buying the bulk chemicals for the fibres businesses as well as a variety of chemicals including TNT for the explosives business. I also managed and developed policies for the company car fleet of 500 vehicles.

However, I enjoyed the freedom of being on the road and returned to sales and marketing but this time in the plastics and elastomers businesses. I held a number of senior positions dealing primarily with the suppliers to the automotive business.

One of our most significant major commercial developments was the first 
lost core plastic air intake manifold which our customer Siemens Automotive

commercialized. It replaced the previous cast aluminum model and won an award from the Society of Plastics Engineers. It was also during this time that DuPont experimented with home offices and I was one of the initial groups selected for this trial and was equipped with a laptop and car phone. The rest is history!

I married Wendy in 1968 and we have a son, Jon who lives and works in Toronto with his new wife Michelle, and also a daughter, Ceri, who lives and works in Waterloo with her husband Gen . Ceri has provided us with 2 daughters who are delightful.

We moved to Waterloo in 1985 when Manulife purchased Dominion Life and Wendy eventually became responsible for running their Group Life and Health business.

Fortunately Wendy tolerated my love of old British cars and over the years we have owned an MGB, an Austin Mini-Cooper, an Aston Martin BD4, a Morgan Plus 4, a Triumph TR8 convertible and a Triumph TR8 pre-production coupe. From a financial point of view, we probably should never have sold the Aston Martin DB4, but it had an aluminum body and my 3 year old son liked to ride his tricycle around the garage next to it. I decided that either the car had to go or my son. So, regrettably we sold the car which could now be worth 15-20 times what I sold it for in 1975.

We also spent 2 years in Tokyo starting in 2000, where Wendy worked as an expat for Manulife after their acquisition of a Japanese life insurance company, and I retired from DuPont so that we could make the move. Believe it or not, but the Japanese life insurance company with some 8,000 employees did not have a purchasing department! Wendy came home one day and mentioned this and that they had no idea what they were buying and spending money on. I said that I could help, with my purchasing experience, and I ended up being hired as a consultant.

We had lots of funny experiences in Japan as a result of the Japanese language and our lack of understanding. We had a dinner party one night and were out of sugar to serve with coffee. I was dispatched to buy some from the local store. They didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Japanese, so I searched and found a white powder in a clear plastic bag with a cup and saucer on it. It must be sugar! However next to it was a bigger paper bag containing a white powder but with no picture, and it was less expensive. I thought, they are selling it for less since it is bulk packaged so I bought it. I arrived home, put it in the sugar bowl, our guests stirred it into their coffee and promptly spat it out. It was salt!

We decided to retire after Tokyo in 2002 and spent 2 years living in Cyprus. Things changed a lot during our 2 years in Cyprus as they prepared to join the EU, with VAT going from 5% to 15%, income tax changing to tax on worldwide income rather than what was remitted to the island, and generally prices going up. We also witnessed the arrival of the rich Russians into the island as they purchased waterfront property and built huge villas which were only occupied for brief periods. We even saw them at the airport bringing in suitcases full of money!

After a couple of years we found that island life was not for us and decided to return to our roots in Canada and settled in Conestogo where we are currently living.

We both enjoy travel and have seen quite a lot of the world over the years, either by direct visits to countries or by cruises. Our favorite places for the winter months are Australia, where we have been 5 times, and New Zealand where we have visited 6 times.

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