Jack H. Holmes ’51 knows practically everything about bread tags—those tiny, flat, plastic squares used to close plastic bags around everything from loaves of bread to sacks of produce. That’s because Holmes spent the bulk of his career as chief engineer at Kwik Lok, the world’s largest manufacturer of plastic tags, where he helped design equipment improvements and assorted closures. He has the patents to prove it.
“There are still people who use wire tags, of course, but you can’t print on a wire, hardly, with that little bit of paper,” says Holmes. Kwik Lok tags can be printed with bar codes, weights, and sell-by dates. “I designed the first printer for that,” Holmes says proudly.
His path there began when the 6-foot-6 center applied for a basketball scholarship to Santa Clara. He was a slam-dunk at try-outs.
Holmes majored in mechanical engineering but left his senior year after getting married and landing a job at nearby Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation, where he designed a method and apparatus for packing apples on trays. (He has a patent for that, too.)
After several years overseeing FMC’s apple-handling equipment in Yakima, Washington, where Kwik Lok is based, Holmes made the leap from apples to bread—and beyond. For 31 years, 26 of them as chief engineer, he helped the firm grow and expand internationally.
Holmes is also proud of the engineers he trained along the way—many of them not just college grads, but armed with graduate degrees. “Everybody nowadays is getting their master’s or doctorate,” says the 93-year-old great-grandfather with a chuckle. “I probably wouldn’t get that job today.”