Flash and I went to the same school. We were
not close friends, but our paths crossed from time to time. This is the story of how Flash came by his epithet. In 1966, you could buy about 12 packets of flash washing powder for a UK pound. To give the story perspective you could also get 40 mars bars for one UK pound. As a marketing gimmick, flash
offered four UK pounds if your birthday happened to match a date, which they printed on each packet. Each packet had a different date printed inside the lid. As I remember, you had to send in your birth certificate by way of proof. To
digress, the first lesson of this story is that no one suddenly becomes an entrepreneur, you have to serve your apprenticeship. Flash had just taken money from us by betting that two boys in any class
of thirty would have the same birthday. We could choose any class in the school. Many of us lost money, then we foolishly doubled our losses by betting on another class. Flash, even as a
fifteen year old, knew what we didn't
break-even point for this bet is 24 people, over that number the odds are more and more in favour of two birthdays on the same date. Anyway, armed with his winnings Flash hatched his famous plan. He bought 12 packets of flash washing powder, ripped off the labels and carefully noted the birthdays. He then went around the school of 350
boys asking each their
birthday and if any matched, he sold them a flash label with their birthday for 50p down and another 50p when they got the four pounds. He soon sold eight birthday labels for 4 pounds, so making a
profit of three pounds. His next move was smart, he bought up the entire stock of Flash from the only store in town. This tactic prevented copycats from easily getting their hands on the stock.
Legend has it that flash said to the shocked grocer, 'rip me off the labels and give the powder to needy pensioners'
. After a fortnight Flash had made over one hundred pounds. His exploits even
featured on the local news. Moreover, the first boys started receiving their four pounds and thus he was receiving a second 50p not to mention a flood of new orders. Then disaster nearly struck. Flash the powder manufacturer,
wrote to the boys saying that unfortunately they had exhausted their local quota of payouts.
However, by way of consolation, they offered kitchen knife. I say
disaster nearly struck, because the first boy to receive such a letter was Fred, captain of the school rugby team. Fred was not impressed with the kitchen knife, a fact he told to Flash in no
uncertain terms, when he cornered him in the changing room. Flash was the antithesis of a sportsman, and avoided physical exertion at all costs, but he was quick witted, and not only did he give Fred a
full refund, but he made Fred an offer to act as his protector. Fred listened carefully and after folding money changed hands, agreed to protect Flash from the rest of the disgruntled boys. Footnote The above story, I can vouch for as I was there.
Although I did not realise it at the time, I was fortunate that my birthday
did not come up. Unfortunately, I lost touch with Flash shortly after this escapade. Persistent rumours and stories about Flash's
life in the army and an
escapade with an Australian free fall team, have filtered down over the years, but sadly none are publishable. See more of our free stories.
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