Julius Ballanco presents a gift to his readers.

Every December I try to give a gift to you the readers. Having run out of various gift ideas, I asked many of you what gift I could give this year. The overwhelming response has been, "Tell us what you like best."

Of course, my first reaction was to back away from such an idea. Who am I to say what I like best? I'd be accused of helping out clients in a biased manner. The magazine relies on its advertisers to provide you with a first - rate magazine. The list goes on.

Then I thought, what the heck. So to avoid all of the controversy, I decided to have some fun presenting the First Annual JB Awards. (There may not be a Second Annual set of awards.) To avoid all legal problems, let me say that these are my awards, not PM's; yes, some of the winners are clients of mine; no, not all of my clients are winners; and the purpose of the awards are to generate discussion with you the readers.

Flushing Contest

The first award is The Best Flushing Line of 1.6 gpf Water Closet. The winner is Gerber. Actually, that's an easy award to issue. Many independent testers have come to the same conclusion. They received the same nod from consumer Report. I have always been impressed with the performance of all of Gerber's 1.6 gpf water closets. Many manufacturers are now producing water closets that flush as well as Gerber's. However, Gerber still has the best flush when evaluating a complete line of fixtures. By the way, a real close second goes to Toto.

If the first award is the best flushing, it only makes sense to have the second award be The Worst Flushing 1.6 gpf Water Closet. There is a tie for this award by many manufacturers' water closets. Most of you can easily name the make and/or model number. The only beauty is that almost every one of the products that won this award is off the market. The problem you face as a contractor is that many of these products are still installed in homes and buildings throughout the country. (I have to listen to my younger brother curse out the cheesy 1.6 water closets he has in his 2 -1/2 year-old house.) The other thing you have to watch out for is that manufacturers have changed the product, yet kept the same name of the water closet. This gets confusing when the newer model is a better flusher and you think it is the old model.

Bonehead Award

Now for a fun award, The Biggest Bonehead Decision of the Year Award. The unanimous winner is Shell Chemical Co., for its decision to remove polybutlene resin from U.S. marketplace. I didn't think anyone could top Coca Cola's bonehead decision to replace Coke with New Coke. But Shell managed to do just that. With its legal problems put behind, and what appeared to be clear sailing ahead with a good piping product, Shell closed up shop in the United States.

On a recent trip to New Jersey, I witnessed the burning of a 3 million gallon Shell gasoline tank that had been struck by lighting. I was wondering if God was concurring with my award.

The next award is The Smartest Corporate Decision. Well, I leaked the winner in October's column - it's Fluidmaster. It was just brilliant that they decided to produce the only code-complying ballcocks, for sale in the United States and Canada.

Speaking of Ballcocks, how about an award for The Sleekest Looking Newer Ballcock. That award goes to Hunter. I know it is not that new (about 4-years-old), but it does look sleek. That is not to say that all of the other Ballcocks aren't fine, I just think that the Hunter Ballcock is packaged to look real refined. The Hunter Ballcock is also very quiet, which was quite impression to me.

Now the award for The Boldest, Smartest Corporate Decision. That award goes to Vanguard Plastics for its decision to underwrite the residential fire sprinkle program for NAPHCC. Vanguard has tremendous foresight in recognizing the importance in sprinkling every residential building. The company is sponsoring the program to educate the professional plumber in how to install these systems. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon, contact NAPHCC and get with the program.

Best Engineer

How about an award for The Top Engineer for a Faucet Manufacturer. I give this award to my friend, Graig Selover, with Delta Faucet. Many companies may argue that they have top engineers with which I don't disagree. But they all know that Craig is the best, and Delta is lucky to have him. Craig is a regular nice guy who is always helping the plumbing industry. He also has been brilliant in developing some great fixtures. I have been told he is lousy at catering, though.

The final award is for The Product That Is and Will Continue to Revolutionize the Plumbing Industry. The award goes to air admittance valves. We have seen many new products and systems over the past 50 years, but air admittance valves have really changed the way we do plumbing in many parts of the country. The rough - in for a job looks weird when the systems utilizes AAVs. It looks like the plumber forgot to rough - in the vent piping. Instead of vent pipes in the wall, we are seeing them in the vanity cabinet or under a sink.

Many of you may be saying that you have never seen an AAV installed in your area, so how can they be so revolutionary. That is why the title of the award says "É and Will Continue toÉ" If they are not in your area, they will be eventually. I think AAVs really became legitimate when approximately 2,000 valves were installed in the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta.

The award winners will receive a JB Award Certificate suitable for framing. To collect their certificates, they have to contact me. For all of the rest of you, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and a Most Prosperous New Year.