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TAL: The First Aviation Conglomerate

The Arrowhead Broom Factory and Al's Barbar Shop at Oakland Airport

Orvis Nelson managed to get a slice of almost every kind of business around-including a barber shop and a broom factory. Strange goings-on for an airline, according to some of Transocean's competitors. But Nelson was a man ahead of his time; the diversification of Transocean Air Lines was the forerunner of the modern business conglomerates.

Often perceived as a hard-hitting, no nonsense. business man, Nelson also had an altruistic side that often cropped up - especially in hiring those who were considered "black sheep" in aviation - but also in the expansion of Transocean Air Lines.

For example, he opened the Arrowhead Broom Factory to provide employment for people in his home town in Minnesota. After all, Nelson reasoned, brooms were an item every household needed. The broom factory soon supplied four of the largest wholesalers in the Minneapolis area, and sales figures for 1954 showed an increase of 70 percent over 1953. Soon after, however, the operation began to lose money and eventually closed.

Nelson also took over the barbershop at the Oakland Airport terminal building-perhaps to ensure that his executives were always well groomed-and hired "Tonsorial Expert Supreme" Johnny Guerra to run the place. It was touted in the local newspaper in 1951 as a "Brand Spanking New Modern Three Chair Barber Shop."

Who would have guessed, back in 1946 when Transocean Air Lines first began traversing the airways, that the world's largest "non-sked" would someday also operate a broom factory and a "clip" joint?

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