Thursday, 20 September 2012

PETER PAN RECORDS, Newark, N.J.



PETER PAN RECORDS



Look what I found searching for 'Peter Pan Records' at Wikipedia:


Peter Pan Records is a record-label specializing in children's music. It was created in the late 1940s. The label was owned by the Synthetic Plastics Company of Newark, New Jersey until the 1970s.

The label became one of the largest and most successful children's specialty record labels in America, manufacturing unique, quality releases that often contrasted those of their competitors (Wonderland Records, Kid Stuff Records, Mr. Pickwick). Peter Pan enjoyed their greatest success during the 1970s.

The label was notable for its series of book-and-record sets, combining an illustrated storybook with a vinyl record that contained music and narration by "your Peter Pan Storyteller" who, memorably, would prompt the listener to "turn the page" at the sound of a bell. Cartoon characters were often subjects, or stars of stories.



One of their most successful and most memorable releases was "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", an original production by Peter Pan's studio collective known as the Peppermint Kandy Kids, that featured splendid remakes of classic Christmas holiday songs, featuring original songs for the album as well as convincing character portrayals of "Santa Claus" and "Mrs. Claus".

Peter Pan Records was spun off into its own entity, Peter Pan Industries, from the 1970s to 2000. In the early 1990s, while keeping its primary asset alive (even though the children's label market had declined), Peter Pan Industries branched into music releases, not aimed at the children's market.




SMOKEY, the bear

With the Ranger's hat and shovel and a pair of dungarees
you will find him in the forest always sniffing at the breeze
people stop and pay attention when he tells him to beware 
'cause everybody knows that he's the Fire Preventing Bear 

Smokey the bear, Smokey the bear
prowling and a-growling and a-sniffing the air
he can find a fire before it starts to flame
that's why they call him Smokey, that was how he got his name

You can take a tip from Smokey that there's nothing like a tree
'cause they're good for kids to climb in and they're beautiful to see
you just have to look around you and you'll find it's not a joke 
to see what you'd be missing if they all went up in smoke

You can camp upon his door step and he'll make you feel at home
you can run and hunt and ramble anywhere you care to roam  
he will let you take his honey and pretend  he's not so smart
but don't you harm his trees for he's a Ranger in his heart 

If you've ever seen the forest when a fire is running wild 
and you love the things within it  like a mother loves her child 
then you know why Smokey tells you when he sees you passing through 
remember, please, be careful, it's the least that you can do! 



The company changed its name to PPI Entertainment of Newark, New Jersey, and established new label divisions and imprints, including Rohit International Records, a "budget" label from the 1990s that specialized in reggae.

PPI Entertainment Group changed its name yet again in the year 2000 to Inspired Corporation, and is now based in Roseland, New Jersey, and run by longtime President/CEO Donald Kasen, son of company co-founder Daniel Kasen. The company continues to release children's music both on CD and online formats. Inspired is currently in the process of converting the music from the vaults of Synthetic Plastics (to the present) into digital media.

Well, as one can see, we Brazilian workers who lived in Newark, worked for Peter Pan Records at its peak. I didn't even know that. I only knew that I made thousands upon thousands of 45 rpm records. I shipped some of them to Brazil and Rute, my youngest sister who was 13 at the time had the chance to learn English through listening to them records. So I guess my work in the USA was not totally lost.

Here are some of the titles we worked on:








WORKING  AT  PETER  PAN  RECORDS


I worked at Peter Pan Records factory in Newark, N.J. on two different periods. At first in the Autumn of 1971 and then in late summer 1972 through to Spring 1973. It is a pity I never took any pictures of myself operating those old vynil-disc-making machines. I remember a co-worker mentioned he intended to bring a camera along but was discouraged by our boss who told him management banned cameras from the premises because that factory had been used as a weapon manufacturing unit during WWII.

The factory was like a maze. That was my firt impression, probably because I worked in the night shift. One would enter a long dark hall with many passages until one came into the main floor where the record-making machines were set up in pairs. It was like being in a gothic film with darkness and dust all around.  

The labour-force was made up of mostly Latin-american males even though there were a few females in the morning and afternoon shifts. Night shift was male only. I even remember some of the guys' names. Peruvians made up the majority among Latins including some of Japanese extraction; some Puertoricans worked in the ash-tray-making section. I remember a Puertorican fellow who might have been in his 30s and wore an ear-ring in one of his ear-lobes which was rare among factory-workers in the early 70s. He was actually a Union man and was open to conversation. 

The only White-American, probably of Polish extraction, was our boss, the guy we called when our metal plates came unstuck due to our leaving the cooling on for too long. 

Brazilian young men would make up the second largest working-force after the Peruvians. Later on, in late 1972, I noticed Hatians started being hired too. Some Afro-Americans also worked there but never as machine-operators who had to be really quick to maximize production. 

There were a few Portuguese men and women too. They usually were older people in their mid-30s and early-40s. Brazilians usually shunned the Portuguese because they were too conservative and only talked about making money and buying properties in their country! Brazilians were not as materialistic as their European counterparts. 

We had a locker-room upstairs somewhere, where we kept our wallets, overcoats and food we brought along. Actually our 'lunch time' was at 4 o'clock in the morning. We stopped our machines at 3:55 AM and sat on any dark corner usually in pairs to eat our sandwiches and drink a Tropicana fruit juice - apple juice was my favourite.  The different nationalities stuck to their own. Even among us Brazilians we stuck to those from our own particular  region or state. Segregation was the name of the game and came naturally.

I wish I could find a Brazilian fellow called Dentinho [Little Tooth] whom I used to share my lunch-time with. His real name was Luiz, like me, and he hailed from Franco-da-Rocha a small town in the out-skirts of Sao Paulo. Dentinho had been living in the US for longer than I. Sometimes, on our way home in the morning we stopped at a mixed business on the corner of Komorn Street and Main Street and had a cup of coffee or tea, eat a piece of cake or an apple-pie and talked about our plans for the near future which entailed necessarily a better life back in Brazil. Dentinho was very young, maybe 19, but sported a beard. He shared an apartment on Wilson Avenue with two other young hopefuls from Franco-da-Rocha.  

Our happiest hour at the factory was around 7 o'clock in the morning when the morning crew would start arriving. There was a lot of socializing between 7:30 and 7:45 when we left our machines and the morning people took over! The factory never stopped. Well, it actually stopped on Saturday mornings and Sundays. Saturday morning was a different day altogether because there was no morning crew coming in!


This is the old Peter Pan Records factory in Newark. I took this picture in 2001, when it was not a factory any longer but the building looked exactly the same as in the 1960s and 1970s. Corner of Komorn Street and Saint Francis Street. 


Synthetic Plastics Co. Manufactures of Kasoloid & Ludanite on Komorn Street with Saint Francis Street. 



Saint Francis Street in the Ironbound. The record making machines were assembled at the last section of the factory on the far right on this picture. 




I used to live on the 2nd floor of this building on the corner of Wilson Avenue and Barbara Street. There was a go-go bar downstairs owned by a Brazilian man called Alberto. In 2001, the bar was called 'O Imigrante', owned by Portuguese.


this is how 45 rpm singles are made...the vinyl bit is too nicely cut here.
another look at the 2 sides of a record stamper.
record press
12" disc stampers
abandoned record pressers...


iA record press is a machine for manufacturing vinyl records. It is essentially a hydraulic press fitted with thin nickel-plated stampers which are negative impressions of a master disc. Labels and a pre-heated vinyl patty (or ‘biscuit’) are placed in a heated mold cavity. Two stampers are used, one for each side of the disc. The record press closes under a pressure of about 150 tons. The process of compression moulding forces the hot vinyl to fill the grooves in the stampers, and take the form of the finished record.











MAKING RECORDS BY THE THOUSANDS...

Some people just can't stand performing the same task over and over for 8 straight hours. That's not my case. Maybe for having been born under the Taurus star I am comfortable with repetitive activities. I used to have fun working at Peter Pan Records. I kept my mind busy during the whole time thinking about my childhood and trying to remember the lyrics of songs I used to sing when I was 8 or 9 years old.

Those of us who operated the 45 rpm record-making-machines had a routine we repeated for close to a thousand times every night. We had four stacks of yellow labels in front of us. First thing we did was to get two A-side labels and stick them on the lower-metal-plate, then get two B-side labels and stick them on the upper-metal-plate. The plates were in the process of  being heated while we stuck the labels on. Then we turned to our metal-side-table, took two pieces of alredy-cut vynil bits and put them on top of the down-side labels. As soon as we took our hands out we hit a button that made the four plates to move against each other and spread the hot vynil into two discs. The thickness of each two-records was determined by the time we allowed the two plates to stay pressed against each other before we hit the cooling lever. 

The cooling process would start as soon as we hit the cooling lever. Soon after, we hit a third botton to get those plates separated inserting our hands to retrieve the two brand-new discs. If one delayed too long with this cooling process the plates got stuck together and the whole process was invalidated. There was a perfect timing a good machine-operator had to know in order to make good records.

If one delayed too long withdrawing the already-made records the heating process would start again and it would burn the records making them useless. One had to work quick there.

After getting the two 45 rpms from the plates, one had to insert them in a cutting machine that would cut the excess vynil on the sides, also boring the the big holes that 45 rpm records were known for  in the US and Europe .   

There you were... you made two 45 single records in the flick of a switch. You then put them both into their sleeves and stacked them on two boxes under the machine until they filled up to the top. After filling them up we would take them to the 'foreman' and he would scribble our names on a list. Everything was recorded accordingly.










9 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post, thank you for sharing your memories. When I was a kid growing up in the 80's my parents bought me a lot of records from Peter Pan. I always remembered the labels read that the records were from Newark, NJ. I often imagined where the records came from... what the factory was like, and what the record studio looked like. So with your post, it solves a mystery that I have wondered about for many years. I always wondered who the singers were on the records. Even as a kid I noticed that the style of singing wasnt modern (even thought it was the 80's) and the recordings seemed to be made in the 60's. One of my favorite records was ABC/Alphabet Street. I hope you will make additional posts and thanks again for sharing!

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  2. Thank you, Jerry Wang for such a lovely comment. I still have some pictures I took from the factory building in 2000, even though the factory was not there anymore... but the building was still the same (looking from the outside)... I'll post them soon.
    Now, regarding the RECORDING of the material, I unfortunately know nearly nothing about it. I'm sorry, but we dealt only with plates already recorded. But I will try and see if I can find out more about the subject because I must confess I'm really curious too.

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  3. Lulu-

    What a great post! A friend of mine just pointed it out to me, since both he and I are HUGE Peter Pan/Power Records fans. In fact, I run a blog and podcast about them, which you can find here:

    http://powerrecord.blogspot.com/

    I would love to interview you for the blog about your time working there. I've been listening to these things for decades and yet so little info is out there about them. Please LMK if you're interested, I know other PR fans would love to hear from someone who was actually there!

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  4. Dear Rob, thanks a lot for the visit. I don't think I can say much more than I have already written here. You see, I worked at Peter Pan Records FACTORY, which meant I ONLY pressed records and put them into their sleeves. I actually only pressed 7 inches 45 rpms singles. Sometimes I got bored and I would make 'different' discs... I used to love to have discs with NO LABEL whatsoever... so the disc was entirely BLACK... I sometimes used to make very THIN discs... just by leaving the machine on a little longer... sometimes I did the opposite... I made them 7 inches very thick and heavy... everything for a little thrill... I wonder what people thought when they bought those records... I wonder if they they went back to have them exchanged for 'regular' ones... As I hardly spoke English then (1971-1972-1973) I didn't have means to ask about the production of the records... but I am pretty sure they were NOT recorded in Newark, N.J. We only PRESSED them records. I'm open to be interviewed if you want. luv, Lulu.

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  5. Lulu-

    Thanks for the quick response. I understand your interaction was limited to production, but I am sure the people who read the blog would still like to hear from you. As I mentioned, finding ANYONE connected to Peter Pan/Power Records is nearly impossible for some reason.

    If you would like, email me at namtab29 (at) comcast (dot) net and I can send you some questions, and you can decide whether you would like to continue. Thanks for your time!

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  6. YES!! Lulu, some of us would love to hear an interview or learn more about the factory. As Rob said, very little is known about Peter Pan Records and it seems millions of different titles were produced over the years. So getting any info at all would be a real treat. Looking forward to hearing the next Power Records podcast. -- Mike

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  7. hi, Mike, thanks for the words. I've already contacted Rob for the interview... cheers!

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  8. Thanks for taking time to do the interview, I enjoyed reading it. It can be found here: http://powerrecord.blogspot.com/search/label/interviews

    Just copy and paste the address and read the interesting interview. -- Mike

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  9. hi, Mike, I have seen the postage and it's great... I wish I had seen that video about how vinyl records are made so I could use some of that vocabulary in my text. Thanks for the interest.

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