And The "Other" Product
The Des Moines Register -- January 2, 1972
By William Simbro
Register Staff Writer
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA. Ė A firm that started in a funeral directorís basement 40 years ago has the unusual double distinction of being the nationís third largest microphone manufacturer and the leading manufacturer of pressure embalmers.
In an historical oddity, the basement workshop effort of two Cedar Rapidsí men in the depression year of 1931 was to blossom into major industries.
While Arthur Collins built radio sets forming the embryo of the giant Collins Radio Co., David Turner was working on an idea for producing public address systems for funeral homes.
Turner, whose father started the familyís funeral home here in the 1880ís, tired of buying microphones from Germany, so hired an expert to help him produce them locally.
In the mid-1930ís, David Turner developed a pressure embalming system that revolutionized the little-discussed art. The pressure system of introducing the embalming fluid replaced the old-fashioned gravity flow system.
The Turner Co. built the first part of its present manufacturing facility in northeast Cedar Rapids in 1936. It has two additions and today has 37,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 4,500 square-feet of warehouse space.
David Turner, III, is the plant operations manager. He is the great grandson of the 1880 founder of the funeral home, grandson of David Turner, who started the company, and son of John B. Turner who now runs the funeral operation here.
David Turner, III, started with the company eight years ago as an engineer in the design laboratory. He has a degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
In 1967 the Turner Co. became a wholly owned subsidiary of Conrac Corp., and last December Turner became a division of Conrac.
The Turner Divisionís line of microphones are made for use in communications systems, such as two-way radios, citizen band equipment and ham radio operations; all kinds of microphones for public address systems; and professional broadcast and recording microphones, for radio and television stations, recording studios and the like.
Turner has recently entered an area of the computer market by manufacturing an acoustic coupler which a telephone fits into for use in transmitting computer data.
Though it provides only about six percent of the Turner business, the Turner Division still produces as many pressure embalmers for the funeral industry as all other makers of the equipment combined.
"You have a rather limited market potential for embalming equipment," Thomas H. Moss, general manager of the Turner Division says with a wry smile.
Moss has been with Turner 19 years. A native of Libertyville, Ia., he graduated from Parsons College, Fairfield in 1949 and has an M.A. from the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.
He worked briefly in an advertising capacity for Harper Brushes of Fairfield before coming to Turner as assistant sales manager, moving up to plant operations manager and the president after it became a Conrac subsidiary.
An unusual feature of the factory is that it is nearly self-contained. Such things as cable, switches, plug and plastic microphone parts are purchased, but the firm has its own tool and die makers and does it own fabricating and die-casting.
David Turner, III (left) plant manager and Tom Moss, general manager of the Turner Co., Cedar Rapids, looking over a company catalog.
The Cedar Rapids factory is frequently visited by persons working in one area or another of the acoustical field to make use of its 3Ĺ story anechoic chamber.
The chamber, made of fiberglass wedges, eliminates the environmental effects on sounds and is used to measure and test various devices.
David Turner says that the chamber is so sound proof that if you are alone for a period of time you can literally hear your blood running.
Turner officials have accepted the fact that it is impossible to compete with the Japanese in making microphones for small, cassette equipment, Moss said, though, that there is little or no Japanese competition in the broader line of microphones.
Turner is rapidly expanding its export business. Export sales in 1972 are expected to triple those in 1969. Turner exports microphones to the Scandinavian countries, throughout Latin America, Iran, Australia, Canada, and has recently added Spain and Switzerland.
Between 1954 and 1966, Turnerís business grew by 15 times, Moss aid. The years from 1967 through 1970 were a rather flat period, with the operation hitting the bottom of its slump last spring.
The factory briefly went on a four-day week to avoid layoffs. Business has been on an upswing since and the five-day week has been back since May, along with overtime for the plantís 200 employees.
About four-fifths of the production personnel are women.
Company officials are cautiously optimistic about further growth in 1972.
Turner is one of four plants in the industrial group of the parent Conrac Corp. Conrac, with some $53 million in total sales last year, is a New York based corporation, divided into information, avionics, industrial and machinery groups. It has nine manufacturing plants in this country, with other plants in England and Germany.
[ Up ] [ The Turner Funeral Chapel ] [ The Turner Company - Oakland Rd. Plant ] [ 1938 Microphones ] [ The Turner Microphone Story ] [ Turner Near Its Peak ] [ Turner Microphone Company Sold ] [ Turner Factory Closes 1979 ] [ Wiring Turner Microphones ]
Drop me a note, I'd like to hear from you, especially if you have Turner microphones or literature!
Original Images and Text Copyright 2002 by the Author;
Article courtesy of The Cedar Rapids Gazette.