Master Gardener Ed Bull has a technique for determining the right spot in his yard for a rose bush.
“I put the rose in a pot in a place where I’d like it to grow. If it thrives, I plant it in that spot. If not, I move it until it thrives somewhere else.”
His garden in the Village of Virginia Trace attests to his skill. He has more than 100 roses and other flowers showcasing his home.
Ed began gardening as a youngster in at the family home in Upstate New York.
“I was in 4-H, Cub Scouts and all that,” he says. The middle child among five siblings – “I always got blamed for everything!” – everyone was expected to contribute to the household. Ed worked on farms in the area and in a local restaurant.
“My father was a butcher, so we always had good cuts of meat, but the vegetables came fresh from the garden,” he said, adding that he learned many of his gardening skills there.
Ed admits to being an indifferent student in high school, and upon graduation in 1965, he applied to a nearby GE plant. Nothing. Two weeks later he went back and was hired into an apprentice program to become a machinist tool-and-die maker.
Then he got a letter from Uncle Sam. “I didn’t open the letter and I didn’t want to go into the Army. My brother-in-law was a Navy recruiter, so I joined up for a four-year term. I was sent to Vietnam, but at least I was in a submarine and not in the Army.”
Ed thought that being a tool-maker would be a good job in the Navy. But he scored too high on his tests and was assigned to the job of fire control technician. By the end of his service he was an E5 second class.
Back at GE, Ed realized that he didn’t want to be there for the rest of his life. From last in his high school class, he ended up with an accounting degree and was third in his class.
“So, I had grown up,” he says with a smile. In addition, he had worked full time at GE while attending college.
An opening in the GE financial department put him in the company’s financial management program and another two-and-one-half years in a finance school, also working full-time again. This time he graduated second in the class.
Increasing responsibilities led to a position in GE’s sourcing department – and more school. In the meantime, he was also taking an Executive MBA at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“After 27 years, I was at the best place I could possibly work,” he says.
Then, when Jack Welch took the reins, GE was not a place where Ed wanted to continue his career.
“I had written a number of articles in sourcing industry magazines, so I was constantly being recruited,” he said.
Ed first went to the steel industry but knew it was dying.
“So, I started looking online and, here’s this job of VP Purchasing for Technicolor in California. I emailed my resume and 15 minutes later get a call – ‘Can you be here tomorrow for an interview?’ I went two days later, had an interview and they said, ‘We’ll get back to you.’ Three days later I get another call – ‘Can you be here tomorrow?’ I spent the next 12 years with them.”
Technicolor, as well as producing the color and editing for feature films, also handled the theatre distribution and DVD production for most of the Hollywood studios. Ed traveled the world sourcing equipment and materials for the company. He was marooned in China, got to know Paris well and racked up 350,000 air miles a year.
“When I got there, they were doing about $500 million in video cassettes a year,” he said. “Soon after DVDs became popular, we were doing billions of them a year.”
A couple of movie FAQs from Ed: Feature movies often make more on DVD sales than on theatre showings. There’s a watermark on films in the theatre that is invisible to the human eye. But if you try to record the film from the screen, it will show up on the video.
Over the 12 years with Technicolor, Ed and his wife, Sharon, attended many black-tie events and rubbed shoulders with Hollywood elite.
“There we’d be on the red carpet and absolutely no one was paying any attention to us,” he laughs. “I loved the people from DreamWorks. No suits. No ties. Everybody was in a creative role.”
New management at the company offered Ed an early retirement buy-out, and in 2005, he retired and decided to move to South Florida. “Nice place, but they couldn’t build our house for three years! So, we came to The Villages.”
Ed went back to his roots in the family garden. He took courses and became a Master Gardener.
“My grandmother and my mother grew roses in New York,” he said. “I went to the Rose Club in The Villages and the Marion County Rose Society. Eventually, I also became a Consulting Rosarian with the American Rose Society.”
Ed shares his knowledge with groups all around The Villages area and is vice president of the Rose Society.
Ed and Sharon also share the roses growing all around their house.
“Sharon makes beautiful bouquets,” he said. “We cut roses for our friends and neighbors for special events. Sharon will make beautiful bouquets for the hospice, but we give them to the staff and volunteers – the patients usually have flowers. We leave them in the lobbies and work areas.”
Ed also takes care of the rose garden at St. Timothy’s Church. And he indulges in several other passions – Porsche cars, golf (he has two hole-in-one certificates) – and his daughter and granddaughter who live in Northern California.
And after years in Hollywood, what is Ed’s favorite movie?
“The whole ‘Star Wars’ franchise,” he says without hesitation. “And ‘Good Morning, Vietnam.’ I was there when Adrian Cronauer was on Armed Forces Radio. Robin Williams played him perfectly.”
John W. Prince is a writer and Villages resident. Learn more at www.GoMyStory.com.