Tuesday, January 24, 2006
LONE STAR - Post-1970, an abridged history of the Group
"In the years following the war D.C.M.T. expanded vigorously mainly due to its involvement in the Toy Industry. By 1970, it had three factories (Palmers Green, Welham Green and Hatfield) all involved in the production of toys, (Lone Star Products); Die-casting machines and Commercial castings (D.C.M.T.). Subsidiary companies of the D.C.M.T. Group were A.G.M. Industries (Injection moulders - mainly toys); Californian Screen Blocks (Cement Decorative Building blocks - factories at Wareham [Dorset] and Cheadle) and Eaglet Industries (factory at Hatfield engaged in Rotational moulding of toys and Vacuum Forming packaging). Total employees numbered roughly 1,000.
This expansion cost money and the Company was heavily in debt. In fact, all Directors had to pledge their houses against the bank's overdraft. With the death of 'Bob' Mills [Aubrey Robert Mills] in 1973, control passed to 'Ernie' E. A. Burks (Chairman) and myself (Managing Director). In 1976, Henry Aizecorbe (a Cuban/American owning a small Jigsaw company in London Colney [near St. Albans, Herts.], acquired 51% of the Capital of D.C.M.T. (thus releasing the Directors from their pledges with the Bank). Aizecorbe was [ostensibly] backed by the Bank of Ohio in the States but it proved that he borrowed the money [under questionable circumstances] from that Bank and [consequently] the shares passed to the Bank. Things ran fairly smoothly under the Bank [presumably the Bank of Ohio] for 4/5 years but, under American law, they were unable to operate a manufacturing business for more than 5 years and so a buyer was [needed to be] found - [This turned out to be] a company based in Macclesfield - one of our main Zinc suppliers. Their Managing Director, Anthony Whitworth, became our Chief Executive Officer and he virtually ran the Company.
In 1981, The Crescent Toy Company (our main rivals in the toy gun business) went into liquidation so they were purchased by our parent Company, Leigh & Sillavan. Unfortunately this was the era when the country ran into trouble and the Labour government, under [James] Callaghan, went to the I.M.F. [International Monetary Fund] for a loan. Interest rates rose, so did inflation and Margaret Thatcher took over when the Conservatives won the Election. Interest Rates, Inflation continued to rise (15-20% at one time!) and the £ lost value. Export markets rapidly disappeared. At that time 75% of our toy output was sold overseas. 'Matchbox' was over 80%. This saw the collapse of the Toy Industry in the U.K. Matchbox, Corgi, Lines Brothers, Dunbee-Combex-Marx and many other manufacturers went. At that time we were borrowing £1.4m from the Bank. They instructed us to reduce this to under £500,000 at peak time. This we did by selling off [the factories at] Palmers Green (£250,000); Welham Green (£500,000); and Californian Screen Blocks (£160,000). Our overdraft came down to £400,000 scheduled to drop to £200,000 after the toy season, but the Bank foreclosed.
I [the source of this information] had a contact in Germany who I persuaded to buy the Company from the Receivers and they, Wicke GmbH & Co., carried on manufacturing, quite successfully at Hatfield, for several years but the urge to transfer manufacturing to China (like most other British toy manufacturers) was their downfall. Their local contacts were [according to the source] poor and, after a few years, they sold out to one of their main customers in Germany, Soni-Esco, (who have a Distribution depot at Wetherby, Yorkshire) and I believe they are still operating in a small way. I [still] see a few guns and holster sets in shops, bearing the Lone Star brand."
Saturday, January 07, 2006
LONE STAR: Its diversity and achievements
"The Bumper Book of 'Lone Star' Diecast Models and Toys 1948-88" also contains anecdotes and reported accounts by a number of former employees and management personalities describing their time while employed by Lone Star which, until the early 1980s, boasted three factories in the region immediately north of central London and also southern Hertfordshire, U.K.
These written accounts include the fascinating story of Roy Green, a formerly unemployed actor (ex-Army) who was engaged by the firm, following Roy's initial approach to them, for the purpose of portraying the role of a fictional, heroic, Cowboy character named "Steve Larrabee", described in the company's monthly comic as "The Lone Star Rider". Roy, suitably costumed in Western 'rig', was assigned to visit the major department stores throughout the U.K. where he promoted sales of the company's Western-themed toy ranges. During the summer months between 1952-57, "Steve" (or Roy) also ran, and participated in, a Wild West/Circus Show which travelled to various venues, both in theatres, arenas and under the 'Big Top' in outdoor locations, throughout Britain. He became an accomplished horse rider after undergoing several sessions of training at a riding school near Enfield, arranged and funded by Lone Star, as a condition of his employment. Roy also did broadcasts via 'Radio Luxembourg', during that period, portraying the adventures of "Steve Larrabee" in the style of the Western stories featured on the pages of Lone Star comic books and Annuals. There is a segment devoted to Roy Green, with photos, on the Lone Star website - www.lone-star-diecast-bk.com/book.html (...and scroll down).
Check out the unsolicited recommendations received via the Internet, in respect of the 'Lone Star' website (as mentioned above) and also "The Bumper Book of 'Lone Star' Diecast Models and Toys 1948-88" (ISBN: 0-9539058-0-2) Click on the link below:-
LONE STAR - "Review" contemporaneous newspaper articles on the company's closure
Compiler (G. S. Ambridge)