My Jobs Before Retirement
Let me summarize my lifetime of businesses before retirement, some of which may be short descriptions of stories in other chapters of my memoirs (with only the smaller images here).
Selling Magazines and Newspapers
I suppose my first business experience was selling magazines. Not long after moving to Merrick Dad lost his job as an editor for the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Journal. It was the depth of the depression, and there was no money coming in. When I was in the second or third grade I started to earn a few pennies going door-to-door selling the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies Home Journal. (See Chapter 3.)
I must have been born a merchant. When I started having a few pennies in my pocket from selling magazines or newspapers, I would go shopping with Mom in Freeport and buy a few items that were on sale. I would store them in the basement and when Mom ran out of an item for dinner I would sell it to her (at non-sale price, of course). Clare and I still maintain large inventories in our cupboards.
Bob had a newspaper delivery route and once in a while I would help him deliver his papers, or substitute for him if he was busy. By 1936 and 1937 I had my own newspaper route and it was my major source of income until my senior year in high school. (See Chapter 4)
In the middle of my high school years my parents decided that I should stop delivering papers to spend more time with my after-school activities, and they started giving me an allowance. It was meager and so I supplemented it with various jobs… pin boy in the bowling alleys in Bellmore, Freeport, and Baldwin (before the invention of pin setting machines), cleaning showcases and storefront windows for Berger’s and Von der Heydt’s jewelry stores in Bellmore, selling Miles shoes and Danziger’s sporting goods in Freeport, sorting mail in the Wantagh Post office at Christmas time, sweeping up cigarette butts at Jones Beach, etc.
Selling Fuller Brushes
During the summers after my junior and senior years I sold Fuller brushes. In 1940 I worked with my brother in his Rockville Centre territory and in 1941 I had my own car and worked alone in Brightwaters. I made enough money selling Fuller hairbrushes that summer to get me started at college that fall. (See Chapter 5)
Partnership with Frank Schneider
In 1941 I went into business with Frank Schneider adjusting his neighbors’ push-button radios. (See Chapter 5).
After High School
After graduating from Mepham High School I went to Ursinus College and had a college-connected job cleaning offices, which I lost for not showing up often enough. Then I worked for a garden shop and didn’t like that.
World War II started that autumn and I decided to leave Ursinus after one semester and transfer to the Polytechnic Institute Brooklyn. At Poly I worked part time in one of their laboratories making small parts for students to use in electricity experiments, small wooden blocks with a resistor or capacitor and terminals for connections. And, of course, I still worked at many odd jobs for extra money. (See Chapter 6).
Army Service in World War II
After two years at Poly I spent over three years in the Army… seven months in the U.S. Army Reserve, eighteen months in the U.S., and fifteen months overseas in Great Britain and France. (See Chapters 7 and 8).
In 1946, after serving in the U.S. Army, I returned to Brooklyn Poly. I lived off the GI Bill which paid for all my tuition, books, and supplies, and also $20 a month for living and commuting expenses. I was in my glory being free from needing to earn money.
A few months before graduation from Poly in 1948, a company I never hard of before, Drico Corp, asked me to design a cheap radio to be produced and sold in India. I proposed a design and estimated costs, but it never went any further.
My Short Career in Television
After graduation in 1948 I worked briefly at WJZ-TV in New York. It was the time when TV was just starting and WJZ was just coming on the air. Although I was a graduate electrical engineer I was assigned to push a dolly that had a cameraman and big TV camera. That was before the invention of zoom lenses and remote control cameras. After two weeks there I decided that I didn’t like commuting to Manhattan, didn’t like working crazy hours, and didn’t like working in show business.
So I resigned and promptly started searching for a job on Long Island. I had applied to a few companies before I went to work at WJZ and I followed up on them. I was promptly hired at Servomechanisms, Inc, a small company, twenty minutes from home, that designed and manufactured airborne analog computers. I worked there for five years. (See Chapter 11).
In October 1953 two of my co-workers at Servo, Jay Salz and Ed Hoffart, asked me to join them in creating a company of our own. They wanted to manufacture an electronic measuring instrument I had invented at Servo. I joined them and we formed Trio Laboratories where I worked for the next fifteen years. (See Chapter 13).
Calendar Pill Box
In 1958 Clare heard about a birth control pill was being tested in Puerto Rico and she inquired at the Margaret Sanger Clinic in New York whether it was available in the U.S. They told her they were going to run tests in the U.S. and she promptly signed on to be their first “guinea pig” under the direction of Dr. Abraham Stone. Then there was the problem of remembering to take the pill every day for 28 days, and break for 3 days until starting again. I designed and made several versions of a pillbox for her that had the dates on the cover. She could then insert the pills for the dates she was to take them, and she would always know whether she had taken the pill. I contacted our patent attorney and he said it could not be patented. When the birth control pill became available for the public I contacted the manufacturer of the pills, G.D. Searle & Co. and asked whether they would like to license my idea. They said “No” and then promptly started selling the pill on containers that followed the same idea.
Black Watch Farms
In 1961 Clare and I went with Jay and Fran Salz, and Gene Rothstein, our accountant, to visit Black Watch Farms in Wappingers Falls, New York to look at the Black Angus cattle and learn about their offer to sell shares in a limited partnership. The partnership owned a number of top quality Black Angus bulls and cows, and were breeding the best animals in the country.
In March 1962 I purchased a $5,000 limited partnership share in Black Watch Farms. Over the next six years the partnership paid some income but also had large expenses which were tax deductible. Click for details on Black Watch Farms investment.
© Copyright 2021 Helfand Retreats, LLC.