September 12, 1909 -
March 20, 2013
In the last 100 years, what invention had the most impact on your life? Why?
Perhaps it's more of a discovery than it is an invention, but the work of Salk and the polio vaccine had a great impact on me. I had a high school friend who had polio and I was troubled ever since by its debilitating affect. The Salk vaccine has essentially removed polio from the earth.
What was your favorite decade? Why?
My favorite decade was the 40's because life had improved so very much from the depression years. My children were born in that period and it was a happy time. Perhaps my favorite period was from the forties through the nineties. My employment at Boston Dental was the beginning of a happy and successful life. I earned good money and was able to save for the future. I generally worked a second job also. I purchased several rental properties and invested wisely. My wife and I purchased our first house in 1952 and we lived comfortably thereafter. I enjoy classical music and for many years we had a box at the Chicago Opera. With age and my wife's failing health we moved to a condominium in the late nineties. I later moved to my current residence in Rhode Island after my wife died and to be close to my son.
What advice would you give to a high school graduate today?
I would advise high school graduates to work hard and seek a career that will provide them financial security to help them live a comfortable, fruitful and productive life. Both of my parents escaped the Russian revolution and emigrated to England where they met and married. I was born in London. My mother brought me to the this country when I was five; my father came several years earlier and settled in Chicago. We had little and life was hard. My father was laid off when business was slow. My father found a tailor shop for sale for $150. I remember that my mother had some gold jewelry that they hocked to raise money. The tailor shop was a large store and we lived in the back. My parents were both tailors and worked the store. My father developed a reputation for civilianizing World War Army coats. He would shorten the coat, modify the collar and install civilian style buttons. I remember them having a large drawer full of Army buttons which I sold to school classmates five for a penny. I remember playing pitch with the buttons. By the standards of the day my parents were relatively prosperous but their hours were long and conditions living in the back of the store were poor. I left high school during my third year to start a job as a dental technician trainee at COE Research laboratories. As a trainee I was taught about their new type of partial plate clasps and was making sample sets of dentures that COE was sending out to recruit business. Their plan was to establish franchise labs throughout the country. I got very high class training there. At that time the investment compound for making metal casting was a mix of plaster and asbestos. COE developed a new compound that was easier to use and avoided the cancer hazardous asbestos. I was let go as economic conditions got worse in the depression. I went to South Bend to live with an aunt and uncle and got a job in a dental lab working for a Korean gentleman, Mr. Wilson Hong. I did well there but after a few months I wanted to return to Chicago. On my departure, Mr. Hong wrote me a letter of recommendation that I never looked at; I just threw it in my personal belongings. Perhaps three years later, after returning to Chicago and married, my wife was going through old papers and found the Hong letter. It was addressed to Dr. Lietzsman who was the head of Boston Dental Lab with many offices throughout Chicago. The letter read: Lietz, I want you to give this boy a job. I finally went to see Mr. Lietzman to ask for a job. One of his questions was where have you been all this time? But time notwithstanding, I was hired. Boston Dental was my life blood for the future.
What is the most important lesson you learned in your life?
My most important lesson in life was to recognize just how frail life is and that we need to enjoy what we have as there may be no tomorrow. I've been very fortunate but a number of events in my life brought me close to serious injury or death that reinforce this lesson. As a young boy growing up in Chicago it seemed like everyone had firecrackers. I remember one boy had a large firecracker that we called six inchers, that failed to explode. I picked up the dud and took it home. Later that evening I held it to the gas stove burner and then began to blow on the glowing embers. All of a sudden it started shooting flames out the end and then exploded. I screamed, my parents screamed, my eye brows and eyelashes were burned off and I cried in pain. My mother applied cold compresses and my father took me to a doctor. I was unbelievably fortunate to have only facial burns and no injury to my eyes as I surely could have been blinded. When I was a young married adult I went off on a 19 foot sailboat with my brother and his friend, who were excellent sailors, for what was supposed to be an overnight pleasure trip from Chicago to Michigan City. We arrived safely in Michigan City and planned to spend the night on the beach where we landed, but were confronted by the local police and told we were on a private beach and had to leave. It was already well into the afternoon but we decided to head back to Chicago. My brother was the first to notice a storm brewing in the distance and was sure we were in for a gale. We were ill prepared for a storm and only had two lifejackets for the three of us. We were able to reef the mainsail down to only a few feet, but the winds blew fiercely, the seas swelled to 20 feet and it took all we could do to keep the boat afloat. As darkness fell we felt sure we would not survive. We fortunately spotted a large lighted freighter off in the distance and signaled a SOS. The ship saw our distress call and immediately flashed back to us. The ship's crew assisted the three of us in climbing aboard. Once aboard I fell to the deck and could not walk being thoroughly exhausted. The crew was especially helpful and kind. We were all given a shot of whisky, a warm shower, some dry clothes and hot soup and sandwiches. I was glad to be alive. Another time I was driving on a side street when a three year old girl ran out into the street from between two cars. I slammed on my brakes and turned to the left. By the time I could get out of the car the girl had already run to her parents crying. Her shoe was caught under my front tire. The insurance company told me that if my reaction had been slower by as little as a half second this little girl surely would have been killed. I was a wreck for a while. The parents claimed she had never gotten out of the car by herself before.
What leader in the past century impressed you the most? Why?
My most impressive scientific leader was Albert Einstein. I've been impressed with his development of the theory of relativity which I really do not understand except that I understand space, distance and time are warped and that if you set out in space and travel far enough and long enough you will return to where you started. As a young adult I bumped into Professor Einstein at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. I greeted him by name and introduced myself. I asked him how could the earth and its atmosphere have always been here? He answered he didn't know either and went on to say we had to accept it as having always been here until proven otherwise.