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Robert (Bob) Lawrence Interview: Brushware Anniversary

As part of our 125th-anniversary celebration, Brushware is offering an article related to the history of the magazine in each edition for 2023. For our fourth installment in the series, we have the following interview with long-time Brushware correspondent, Bob Lawrence.

Current Location?

Living on a lake in Southeastern South Dakota.

When did you start with Brushware and how did you get connected with the magazine?

I started writing for Brushware 38 years ago in 1985 after answering an ad in Editorial and Publishing Magazine seeking a writer placed by publisher Carl Wurzer, who along with his wife Andra, had taken the magazine from printing’s archaic age to the next level, meaning his quality throughout. Carl gave me carte blanche as far as deciding what to cover other than ABMA conventions and trade shows. Given a list of our subscribers, I traveled the nation to see and write about their companies whether they advertised or not. I particularly liked being at their facilities, meeting the personnel, taking photos and writing about the origin of the companies and their evolvement both in product and operation. In 1987, Brushware was one of the sponsors of my return to Vietnam when the communist nation allowed American journalists in for the first time after the war ended 12 years earlier. In Vietnam, I visited brush companies and wrote articles for Brushware. I did the same in Thailand, communist China and Hong Kong, ten years before the British returned the nation to China after 156 years of colonial rule.

How did you get into publishing/writing?

After a broadcasting career, first as a DJ on radio followed by managing two radio stations in South Georgia, I was drafted into the Army. After which I anchored radio and TV newscasts in Seoul, Korea and Saigon, South Vietnam. Following a career in civilian TV news, I taught journalism, mass communications, public relations, etc. at the college and university level. Later, I freelanced for a local newspaper, a statewide newspaper and several business magazines.

In the aftermath of that, I established a public relations firm specializing in economic development in the tri-state region of South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Throughout, I continued as a contributor for Brushware. When Carl and Andra retired, I was retained by the new owners, Norman Finegold and Karen Grinter, who took the magazine into the digital age in all publishing aspects. I was pleased they continued to maintain the high-quality printing and paper standards the Wurzers set. Now, under the ownership of Dylan Goodwin that quality continues as he takes Brushware to the next level and adds some new and interesting features.

From a day-to-day perspective, what is your favorite part of working for Brushware?

Friendships I’ve developed with the magazine’s owners and the suppliers and manufacturers in the brush, broom and mop industry are my favorite part. What’s amazed me in my nearly 40 years of writing for Brushware is the camaraderie existing among competing companies when gathering at ABMA conventions and other meetings. While finding that astonishing, I was also blown away while visiting a Wisconsin company one day to find it had been helped out by a nearby competitor in manufacturing and supplying products to its customers while recovering from a factory fire. The same was the case when a competitor’s facility was flooded in Florida. I’m just guessing, but I’ll bet there are many examples of that kindness in this industry. I’ve never heard of anything like it in my coverage of other industries.

Do you still do projects outside of Brushware?

I am currently finishing my non-fiction epic “Good Night Vietnam, Rebel With A Cause” to be published this fall. Unlike 1987’s “Good Morning Vietnam,” mine isn’t a comedy, but Robin Williams’ character, Adrian Cronauer and I were both broadcasters at the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN), in Saigon. While he was a DJ during the early part of the war, I was in radio/TV news and enduring near-death experiences on and off the battlefield at the height of the conflict. My other novels include: “Daydreamer: The Amazing Adventures of Raymond Semple” and “Ominous, Conspiracy To Use Artificial Intelligence To Rule The World (A Raymond Semple Novel).”

Do you have a top highlight or favorite story of working with Brushware?

Wow! There have been so many highlights, but my absolute favorite was interviewing and writing an article about Rudy Deligdish. In 1938 his family fled Austria, their homeland, where he had worked in his father’s business processing and supplying horse hair and bristles to the brush industry. On March 12, while the Nazis marched into Vienna, his hometown, the Deligdish family was escaping to Brussels with hopes of going to America. Rudy was 16 years old. They faced numerous obstacles, including the family being split up before arriving in America. After finally reuniting and resuming their animal hair business in New York, Rudy later established Deligh Industries supplying wire to the brush and other industries. Rudy’s son, Robert, presides over the company today. This is just a capsule of a most amazing story of an immigrant family’s narrow escape from Nazi oppression and certain death, and then finding continued success in America.

Another highlight for me was researching and writing an article on the history of ABMA in celebration of its 100th year in 2017. It took a lot of research but I tracked down the founding companies behind the organization, many of which were founded in the 1800s and continue to flourish to this day. Some of these companies still supplying the industry have backgrounds far afield from what they do today. For example, in the 1800s, Dupont was the largest gunpowder supplier to the U.S. Military.

What do think is the key strength of Brushware?

Thanks to the succession of ownership, it’s a first-class publication in all aspects. It continues to be the dominant publication covering this industry, providing articles and information vital to our readers. Additionally, the magazine has never become stagnant or comfortable with where it is at any given time, resulting in continued evolution.

Is there anything about writing for Brushware that might come as a surprise to the readers?

May not be a surprise to some, but the publishers of the magazine have seldom dictated what stories its writers pursue. When they have, they’ve always sought our input and opened a discussion. Also, they’ve always sought our suggestions for articles.

Do you have any favorite aspects of the current Brushware magazine and portfolio?

I enjoy reading the publisher column which is a good lead into the content. Also the features and departments, especially the “Economic Dashboard.” I also like the creative advertisements. Their quality gels well with the magazine’s creative layout and graphics quality.

How do you think Brushware can best serve the brush industry community going forward?

Continuing doing what we’ve always done, while always looking forward.

Do you have any final thoughts or comments on the 125th-year anniversary of Brushware?

I’m proud of having written for the magazine all these years and being part of its 125th-year anniversary. Now that’s longevity worthy of celebration! It’s amazing that the 200th anniversary is just 75 years away, and a gold watch for me.


Phillip M. Perry Brushware Anniversary Interview

Carl Wurzer Brushware Anniversary Interview

Norman Finegold Brushware Anniversary Interview

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