19: Art and Industry – SEPCO

On my February sales trip through central Tennessee and northern Alabama, I stopped at SEPCO Industries outside of Alabaster, Alabama.

I made a quick stop and found this stunning oil painting in the lobby.

I’m not sure of the complete history of the painting. It is my understanding the painting was commissioned in the mid-1960s by the company’s founder Vernon Gibson.

Gibson founded Southeastern Products Corp in 1924 to manufacture braided compression packaging for industrial applications. After securing an SBA Loan for $250,000 in 1964, the company purchased a new building and moved its 80 employees to Pelham, Al.

Around this time Gibson commissioned John Anderson for the painting. Upon completion he hung it in their new headquarters.

The painting was then moved in the mid-1980s by Susan and Geoff Wilder, the new owners, from the company’s old headquarters in Pelham to it’s new one in Alabaster.

The painting needs a bit of TLC and restoration but still remains a beautiful and well composed oil painting. For over half a century it has hung in the company’s lobby and played a prominent role in their advertising and marketing pieces.

I would have loved to see it hanging in its original building in Pelham but have been unable to find much about the company’s history or original location.

Part of my love for this painting is the mythology I project onto it.

Because it was the 1960s, I imagine the painting watching over a marble lobby of an early 20th-century building, accented with leather furniture, mid-century modern lamps, and SEPCO branded ashtrays set on an oak table.

A collection of packing materials.

If a company is going to commission a beautiful painting like this I doubt it was hung in the men’s room or overlooking the manufacturing floor. It’s going to be placed where people like me can admire it and recognize the story.

I really appreciate how Anderson combined not only the story of the company but also of the industry in post-WWII America. Just a general look reveals major American industries of the era including steel, paper, chemical, and oil and gas. It also gives a lovely shout out to the power industry and shipping,

Most importantly to me, Anderson doesn’t just show the industries or a collection of packing materials but communicates the idea that a man is at the center of the work. He creates a space for the people doing the job.

In addition to the themes, I find the color and styles fantastic. It feels mid-century modern with an art deco flavor.


For those without an industrial background, the man in the hardhat is repacking a steam pipe. His job is commonly referred to as a pipefitter or steamfitter.

A pipefitter is a “tradesperson who installs, assembles, fabricates, maintains and repairs mechanical piping systems. Pipefitters usually begin as helpers or apprentices. Journeyman pipefitters deal with industrial, commercial, or marine piping. Pipefitters work with pipes that transport chemicals, gases, and acids as well as heating and cooling systems” (Wiki). 

From power plants to chemical plants and steel mills to oil and gas refineries, a certified, knowledgeable, and trained pipefitter remains an important employee installing and servicing essential systems in the industry.

Unfortunately, for nearly a century much of the packing materials used to “pack” valves were loaded with asbestos. As such, many pipefitters became ill with respiratory illnesses. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, when the dangers of asbestos became better understood, that the industry was forced by government regulations and lawsuits to adopt more modern, less hazardous, materials.

However, while technology and industry have changed the job of a pipefitter remains significant to manufacturing. I found this great list of five reasons you should consider being a pipefitter from Brown Technical.

Company History

I was unable to find much about the history of SEPCO.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this.

According to a story in the March 11, 2000 Birmingham Journal, in 1984 the company was destroyed in a fire and apparently whatever was left of the company was simply a shell owed by someone in California. The Wilder’s purchased company’s name rights, salvageable assets and the customer base and jump started it giving the company life again.

Another reason may be related to the industry.

As I mentioned earlier, many packing companies went under for competitive reasons, the industry also faced a growing number of asbestos-related lawsuits and regulatory changes. As a result many companies faced huge financial pressure driving many into bankruptcy or forcing them to consolidate.

It appears SEPCO avoided this fate and remains a privately owned, family enterprise.

Today SEPCO Industries is a manufacturer and distributor of high-performance non-asbestos packing and seals. This includes mechanical seals, compression packing, graphite products, and gasketing materials.

If you have any information about the painter, the history of the company, or the story of the painting please contact me. I’d love to archive a bit more of the story of art and industry.

SEPCO wouldn’t exist as we know it without a tax payer funded SBA Loan.
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18: Toastmaster Reflection – Cupid is a Terrorist


2017102695065101-2 (1)
Well, if the hat fits…

Date: 10/26/2018
Group: Hudson Rose ‘n Shine Toastmasters Club
Speech: #4 How To Say It
Title: Cupid is a Terrorist
Evaluator: Todd F.

I felt like I rushed the conclusion because I was so intent on making time. I probably could have tied the ending together if I didn’t panic when the yellow light came on. I don’t normally get nervous but following Danika definitely unnerved me. My hands were shaking and I can hear my voice cracking in the recording.

She is such a wonderful storyteller…also apparently a keeper of shareable hats.

I would insert a section closer to the opening of the speech more clearly defining the idea of love as a noun and a verb. I thought my intent to make time watered down the ending.

I had a bunch of good feedback and the topic connected with individuals in the audience. There is an excellent idea somewhere in here for further speeches on this topic.

Also, will bring my own hat next time.




You choose complex and challenging topics Run on sentences Too much pacing
You are such an interesting speaker Started slow So. So. So. So.
So, keep working on it.
Relaxed when telling a personal story Lose the notes
The personal story always brings it home Try using cards less
Great interjection of humor and stories A few run on sentences
Humorous speaker Left me hanging on the end.
Witty, heartfelt, philosophical
Wonderful turns of phrases
Dazzling details, personal connection
Natural presentation skills.


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17: ZZ Top Knows What’s Best


Apparently, Lazarus Department store had a two for one sale on brown. Dad and I were camouflage to match the curtains.

At my monthly Mastermind group yesterday we spent my fifteen minutes discussing my fashion. More specifically how I use the coat of professionalism to provide cover for my authentic self. The embracing of a style unique to me – jacket, tie, vest, dress shirts and slacks – is not about trying to impress anyone else but to remind myself to keep my focus on the moment I’m in.

Even sitting at home cold calling or working on a client project I still dress up. I may wear a tie and dress shirt all day and never leave the kitchen table.

Work is work and when the tie comes off it’s play – or chore – time. And in truth, those have specific uniforms too.

Sean Kinney Blaze Orange
When Elmer Fudd meets GQ

Perhaps in New York City or some corporate board room my fashion choice wouldn’t stand out. However, to many folks in rural northwest Wisconsin dressing up means changing from the the orange blaze and Mossy Oak camos to the Sunday best Aaron Rodgers jersey.

As a result I stand out. Which isn’t the intent but is a natural outcome.

Also, I look terrible in blaze orange.

I choose my fashion for a number of reasons.

  1. First impressions matter. Dress grungy be treated as grunge. I may not be overly concerned about what you think of my tie and vest ensemble but I do know it works to my advantage in both casual and business situations.
  2. I know my purpose. Dressing business professional doesn’t make me smarter but since I adopted a professional dress code consistent with my personality it certainly makes me more focused. Concentration is a competitive advantage in a world fueled by distraction and misdirected multitasking.
  3. I’m not in high school anymore. Watching AMC’s Mad Men I realized I had no style. Seriously: No style. I was wearing updated versions of the same clothes I wore in college and high school. Just in a larger size. Which may be acceptable at 30 but not at 50. Plus the 1980’s are not known for fashion. Well, not good fashion anyway.
  4. I have an ego. There is no nice way of saying this: I like to stand out when I want to stand out. I like to be different. I don’t want to be lost in the crowd of khakis and golf shirts. I want to be my own man. At 50 I’m embracing the non-conformist in me. Makes you uncomfortable? You find it off putting? Think it’s fake? Pretentious? Silly? Not my problem.
  5. It simplifies my day. Steve Jobs had a uniform. He chose for simplicity and creative reason. I’m clearly no Steve Jobs but I find knowing what I’m going to wear everyday simplifies my life. I don’t have an assistant to oversee my wardrobe and lay my clothes out but it helps me knowing I only have three vests and six mostly vintage ties to choose from.
  6. ZZ Top knows. ‘Cause every girl crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man. If I do need to go out, regardless if it’s to the grocery store or downtown Minneapolis, someone always has something nice to say about the color of my tie. I may not be dating but it’s always fun to be noticed and reminded I’m not dead yet.


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16: Etna PA

Carnegie-Illinois Steel Mill
Nov. 1941. Etna, Pennsylvania. “Blast furnaces and ore at the Carnegie-Illinois Steel mills.”

The wonderful aspect of this type of photography is the details. In my opinion, modern digital photography lacks the depth. Click here and see some amazing details. This is from a 4×5 Kodachrome transparency by United States Office of War Information photographer Alfred Palmer via Shorpy.com.

Carnegie-Illinois Steel Mill 11
Another Kodachrome transparency from Palmer of Carnegie-Illinois Steel Mill, Etna, PA.

Click here to see an amazing close up via Shorpy.com.

A collection of black and white photography from U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information photographer John Vachon.

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15: Today was a lesson

Today was a lesson in time management, productivity, prioritization and basic self-honesty.

I cannot do what needed to be done tonight to put on a class. Life is happening at an alarming pace recently, and without getting into the weeds of it all, I made the most honest decision and rescheduled this class.

There was, of course, the usual agony and angst surrounding the decision: What will people say? How will it look? Am I letting people down? Will I be judged? Criticized? Will people drop out of the class?

However, I know it was the best decision to be made with the available information. I don’t have to like it.

I’m not asking others to like it either.

Prior to focusing on simplifying and time management I would have shoehorned my whole day together. A process that would have resulted in a chaotic and overwhelming situation for everyone. Nothing of value would have been accomplished, blocks of time would have been underutilized and fractured.

I would have spent the day with a nagging sense I should be somewhere else, doing something else.

One of the primary outcomes of better time management is less chaos and overwhelming situations. Productivity requires an honest appraisal of what is possible given the restraints of time. If I were a Time Lord perhaps I would jump from block to block without concerns of fatigue, travel times, healthy eating and caring for loved ones or myself.

Developing good productivity and time management habits is a fools errand if we lack honesty about what is possible in the time allowed.

Time is a currency, and if what I’m doing doesn’t maximize its value, than what I am doing is wasting my time and yours. By canceling the class tonight I respected the value of your time and mine.

Do something of value with the time you have.

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14: So, thank you, Hudson Rise ‘n Shine Toastmasters

Thank you Hudson Rise ‘n Shine Toastmasters Club for the Best Table Topic award and acknowledgement.

For those that don’t know, Table Topics is a portion of the Toastmasters’ agenda where members are randomly chosen to come forward to speak for one or two minutes on a question chosen by the Table Topics Master. You have no idea what the question will be when you are called up.

Paul surprised my by researching my background beforehand and asked me “What do I love most about art shows?”

I only said “so” once – maybe twice.

So, there’s that…

Toastmasters is the best thing I have done for professional development in a long time.

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13: Be Compelled

Feature art by Christopher Gulick http://christophergulick.com/   I’ve been researching the business of art and the art of business. In the process, I came across a Wichitalks two minute video of artist Christopher Gulick. Although impossible in a two minute video to know someone, I greatly appreciate the enthusiasm for his life. It’s a refreshingly upbeat […]

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