Thursday, February 28, 2013

One of the Meaningful “Insignificant Events”

By Harry Katz

Over the years I have had the privilege of having phone conversations and e-mail communications with Harry.  Harry, who is now 97 I believe,  has been a legend in the pest control industry.  Harry has sent me lettes or articles about his life -an interesting and productive life.  Here is one recently sent.  RK.

While I was the Company Clerk (keeps daily company records) for a company of military police  guarding the White House during the war,  I had a three day pass to visit my Aunt Esther in Pittsburgh.  While waiting for a street car on Fifth Ave, a car stopped, driven by my Aunt Bess Winograd.  She was coming to Pittsburgh from Rochester PA for kosher meat for Shabbat. She had a passenger, a neighbor who came for the same purpose, for her family. She was an attractive young lady, her neighbor, Ruth Gordon, daughter of Bess’ friend who lived in Rochester.

She appealed to me. I asked if she ever visited Washington DC . Yes, sometimes to visit a cousin who works in the Pentagon.  “Call me, the next time you come” She did, We had a delightful evening at dinner at a restaurant.  “Can you come again?” She did. When she came the third time, I actually proposed, so captivated was I  by her personality. Being 2 years older than I, She readily accepted, marrying a man with no money or profession.
After I was discharged from Army Service we were married at Poale Zedek Schule in Pittsburgh, PA  My brothers and some Schule members made the Minyon. We had a dinner at Caplan’s restaurant with the family, total wedding cost, $28.00. Married over 50 years, never a argument!!

I was just starting my hardware store, with very limited funds  Ruth had a job with the Government , interviewing people who were signing up for a new  Social Security program. We both learned to do something rare and valuable these days with the younger generation: we had learned to “do without”.                                                              

Slowly. I built the hardware business, from a pitiful store my dad started,, which  earned little more than to pay rent. (One day, the only thing we had to eat, 3 meals, was corn meal mush which cost 5 cents a lb.).

I passed up a scholarship that I got from Geneva College in Beaver, PA. With ailing parents in dire poverty, I took over dad’s pitiful hardware store.
One of my suppliers was Fred Pollock, with his Elco Mfg Co., who came regularly to the hardware store to deliver pesticide items that he made. When he refused to get involved with the paper work needed for a new Social Security Program for hiring a single female employee, he decided to sell, on terms I could pay over many years. He also showed me how he serviced customers with his primitive exterminating system.
I took over, got books on basic entomology and (then) rare elementary books on exterminating. I really got fascinated with the bug business. I studied enough that I wrote a monthly column on Pest Control for the principal pest management industry for decades, earning me the award of No. One Pest Management Person in the U S in 1980.  I gave many lectures at University and Regional Assn  Pest Management Conferences, in the U.S. and overseas. I also wrote several chapters in the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control, the ‘bible’ of the Pest Management industry.

I believe that I played a significant role in elevating the public’s perception of a lowly trade, the “rat catcher” (a step above outdoor latrine cleaning), to “exterminator”, then ”pest controller” and finally the present “Pest Management”!

Along the way, I organized a group that saved the historic log cabin in Canonsburg, forerunner of W & J College in Washington, PA., and first school for settlers West of the Alleghany mountains in PA. while Washington was President, I organized a campaign that raised enough money to replace decayed and termite eaten logs.  I treated the logs with “Lumber Last” a preservative that my Elco Co made.  

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