Recollections: Burt A. Robinson — Honourary Life Member

Looking Back

September 30, 2018

In the 1930s to 1940s, CEDA’s Western Canada membership was very stable with old line independent companies like Horsman, Ashdowns, Brettell, Marshall Wells, Electrical Supplies Ltd., etc.

Small electrical distributors just were not acceptable for membership as they did not carry the main-line manufacturers’ goods, publish a wiring device catalogue, or employ four to five salesmen as CEDA requested.

However, with the end of World War II in 1945, and with the return of men from overseas, the optimism of business upturn was very evident. In Western Canada, provincial governments were intent on pushing rural electrification. This was the turning point in the rapid growth of the electrical industry, and so newcomers entered the distribution field.

Still CEDA would not accept small distributors. CEDA’s Secretary Manager maintained that to join they had to buy/sell the main line merchandise, yet when the distributor approached the manufacturer, the reply was, “Join CEDA and we will sell to you.” A catch-22 situation. For some years small enterprising distributors had to either buy in the USA of from small manufacturers. However, some commercial and residential manufacturers saw the potential of specialty distributors and sold to them.

In the early 1950s, with the rapid expansion of all phases of the electrical industry, CEDA finally accepted membership from smaller distributors who by now has established a firm hold in their communities.

In the early days CEDA always held their annual meetings in Niagara Falls at the General Brock Hotel. Later they diversified to various locations in Ontario and Quebec, and in 1959 they ventured west to the Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta for their 25th Anniversary convention. It was not until the 1970s that a regular policy of moving the conventions across Canada was implemented.

For much of the 1950s and 60s, CEDA held a fall convention for Western members only, meeting regularly in such places as Banff, Minaki, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Jasper. Finally those Western only meetings were cancelled in favour of concentrating attendance on the annual meeting at which attendance by manufacturers was rapidly increasing.

CEDA conventions have enjoyed remarkable growth and is the only industry convention (in Canada) that has manufacturers and wholesalers in attendance in large numbers.When we look back to the early days of CEDA, it is gratifying to see the progress that has been made. As one who has worked with six CEDA managers from 1950 on — Dick Edmunds, Norman Franks, Doug McKellar, Norm McKellar, Dick Taylor and Stan Wild — it was these men who did the spade work that backed up the elected Directors that has made CEDA such a successful association.

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