H. J. Ewald, Jr., known as “Red Ewald”, got his idea for using fiberglass when he was in Seguin, Texas. His idea was to build a toy. He purchased 5 gallons of resin from a friend and played around with it.
Then, in 1961, he moved to Karnes City to buy and take over the tractor franchise his father had established. In his mind, he had been thinking about the tank business, but no one had ever called on him to buy a fiberglass tank. So, he went ahead and built this little welding shop out besides the building (located on Hwy 123) and he hired Stanley Tessman as a welder. Well, Dr. Helton, a farmer, ordered a spray rig, all set up, ready to go for spraying cattle. Red had Stanley build the rig, he ordered the spray tank (a steel tank), and was quite astounded as the price of the spray tank. He didn’t tell a soul what he was going to do, but he went to Mr. Huckley, the local plumber, and had him build a tin half, round mold.
On April 1, 1962, Red brought the tin mold into the building through the back door, along with his gallon of resin and a yard of cloth, and said to his wife, “Ruth, make me a paper pattern and cut the material to fit this tank,” because he didn’t know how. So, Ruth grabbed some tin snips and some brown paper and cut the pattern. It was in two pieces. She was sitting down on the floor in the tractor company – they had moved the tractor out – when Arthur Sterling came in from the ranch out at Gillett and said, “Ruth, what in the hell are you doing down there in the floor?” She replied “Well, Red is going to build a fiberglass tank and I’m making the pattern for the fiberglass.” Arthur said, “If Red’s going to build a fiberglass tank, I’m going to buy it.” So he goes into the office and gets a price on the tank, and Red writes up a sales ticket for a 200 gallon tank. It was sold before it was ever built. Arthur said though, “If Red says he’s going to do it, I know he’s going to!”
So, they got the mold together, and started out with a paper cup to mix the resin, catalyst, cobalt, and the 5 gallons of resin, and then covered half of the tank. They didn’t know what to use for a mold release, so they used water pressure and a little help from some crowbars to break it loose from the tin mold. The next day, Arthur came in, Red squirted the water hose on that half of the tank, and it leaked like a sieve. Red said hurriedly, “Oh, it’s supposed to do that the first time, then you build it up.” So, he got a few more gallons of resin and started pouring the resin and the material. Well, it was the ugliest and roughest thing you ever saw. They didn’t know how to put it together, so there was nothing else to do but measure Ruth’s shoulders, make an opening, and lay her down inside the tank. Red or Stanley would mix the resin in paper cups and strips of material, and hand them to Ruth while she laid flat on her back and seamed the tank together. There was a couple of times when the tank would roll over while Ruth was in it, and she’d be screaming like crazy until Stanley would come help her out to catch her breath before they threw her back in.
Red started making whirlwind cattle feeders. He was out on the road selling, delivering and promoting the company’s early slogan “The tanks would not rust, rot or corrode.” He got an order for three whirlwind feeders, which was a big order for them back at that time. Ruth and Stanley would work at night turning them out and where there was a screw, they would take toothpicks or little wooden dowels and fiberglass them so it would not rust, rot or corrode.
They also made water troughs, which was their first basic tank. One way Red would prove the tank’s durability was to let anyone take a sledge hammer and hit it as hard as they could (all this time, Ruth would be cringing).
We would like to point out that they put the resin on the tanks by hand with Playtex rubber gloves. This was before they had a chopper gun, the modern-day method of applying fiberglass. Another interesting note – to make sure that each tank held the proper gallons of water, they filled gallon jars and counted them and filled up the tanks to make sure their math was right, because in once instance, one tank went out which they said was a certain number of gallons, and it was sold to Red’s math teacher in high school, and the math teacher called back and said “Red, didn’t I teach you any better than that?” And after that, they started filling each tank.
At this time, they operated in a cubby of about 10′ x 10′. The insurance company representative came to visit, and said they were “messing with fire” so they had to build another building away from the main building.
In early 1964, the company expanded with a new building, and on April 1, 1964, the company celebrated their anniversary whereby the employees gave Ruth a bracelet with “The Company 9″ engraved on it.
Then on June 1, 1968, the company suffered a terrible setback when it was destroyed by fire. But, due to Red’s determination and faithful employees, they constructed a new building and were out the very next morning building new molds.
For many months, Red had been working on applying for an SBA loan so the business could build a much larger complex. On January 7, 1969, he received news that the loan had been approved. On April 1, 1969, they broke ground at their new location, which is the present-day location at 2669 South Highway 181, between Karnes City and Kenedy, Texas. The company did all of its own construction, and on October 4, 1969, they moved into the steel building first, then on October 18, the fiberglass building, and finally on November 7, the main building.
On January 1, 1970, the young company became incorporated and officially became “RED EWALD, INC.”