A Personal History of HCL

When I first started working for HCL Labels, in January of 1980, it was part of a larger company called Safety Specialists, Inc. There were two of us working at HCL, and I was second in command.

We had our office on the second floor of a frontier-style, wooden building in Boulder Creek, California. There were two desks, two typewriters*, two phones with two local lines and two toll-free lines, a coffee maker, and lots and lots of shelves full of ready-to-go, pre-printed HCL Labels and signs. Did you notice that there were twice as many phone lines as employees? Yes, it got hectic at times!

When the phone rang, one or the other of us would answer it and take down the particulars of the order. If the order was for stock labels or signs, we would then count the labels by hand, 25 per box, and enclose them in hinged, rigid plastic snap-close boxes. The boxes would go into a cardboard box, or sometimes a padded envelope, and be shipped off.

If the order was for a custom chemical label, I would pull out my reference books, type out the copy for the label, hand-draw the appropriate pictorial symbols, and mail the paper to our printer in southern California. The printed labels would arrive within 3 – 4 days, after which we would count them into the plastic boxes.

As I write this, even I am amazed at how primitive it sounds! Reference books? A typewriter? Snail mail?! How things have changed! Hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the past!
*typewriter: a primitive machine for writing. Its arrangement of keys was similar to today’s computer keyboards.

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