A HISTORY OF POLYCHEM CORPORATION
This, of necessity will be partly a small business history and partly biographical and autobiographical.
It all starts with a seed. The seed for Polychem was sown in the year 1937 in the Sacony (Mobil) gas station at 6 Fountain Street, New Haven, Connecticut. After formally applying for a job at 26 Broadway, New York City, with Standard Oil Company of New York. That is when I ended up working 63 hours per week at $18.00. I was there over two years and one year paid income tax in the amount of $0.75 total. I also started paying Social Security (18 cents per week) in the first week of 1937, when Social Security started. One night, a talkative stranger came in with two flat tires. Being alone and having to wait on gasoline customers, it took some time to patch up two tires ( @ 50 cents each). During all this, the man asked many questions and discovered that my father was a chemist. This chap returned two weeks later to ask if my father was interested in doing some chemical analysis for a small company which four to six people had inherited unexpectedly. Their product was for cleaning machine parts after manufacture.
My father, William H. Buell Sr., was an 1899 graduate of Yale University. He was the first chemist ever hired by Winchester Repeating Arms Co.. He was head of the Development Department of E.I. DuPont during World War I. He developed metallic bellows for thermostats in General Motors Autos and early frigidaires. Then, he went into the Stock Brokerage business in the late twenties. With the Wall Street crash and the onset of the Great Depression, he was out of work and out of money by 1937.
W.H.B. went with them and carved out a job for himself. He got them into this working business with products made with synthetic surfactants rather than soap, courtesy of his old DuPont connection. When this company folded because of too many stockholders who didn’t get along, Buell took his restaurant detergent business to New York and combined it with the Kitcheneer Co., a little side line owned by Raymond W. Marshall, President of Alaska Air Lines, Utilities Equipment Co., Transit Equipment Co., Kan Valley Railroad, et cetera. Customers included Woolworth, Kresge, Nedick, and other small chains . The product was compounded and shipped by the Solvay Co. (Allied Chemical Co.).. In New York, Bill Buell, Sr. played a lot of bridge, often with Dr. Bryan Sword, Anesthesiologist with PolyClinic Hospital in the West 50’s, NYC. Sword suggested that a good surgical instrument cleaner was needed.
A separate company was formed to develop and market this new instrument cleaner. All the testing was done at PolyClinic Hospital by Nurse Edith Hall, O.R.S. and Nurse Anne Sasse. Edith Hall was significant as she became the first president of the Operating Room Nurses Association. All of this was happening in 1942. Polychem was incorporated in May, 1942 with Bill Buell, Sr. and Kitcheneer Corp. (Raymond W. Marshall) as 50 – 50 owners. The details were handled by the law firm of Dunovan, Leisure, Newton and Lombard, the Dunovan being Wild Bill of OSS fame.
During all of this from 3/25/41 to 10/7/45, this writer, William H. Buell Jr., was off to war in the 12 Th. Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division landing in Normandy on D-Day, in the Battle of Mortain, the liberation of Paris, the Hurtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge.
Once incorporated, Polychem finally got Meinecke Co. Inc., 225 Varick Street, New York City to distribute the product. They named the product HAEMO-SOL and unfortunately owned the trade mark. Meinecke was a subsidiary of the Armstrong Cork Co. (now Armstrong World Industries). Polychem’s office was at 501 5th. Avenue, NYC and had one room on the 22nd floor.
Meinecke has sparse coverage coast to coast. They also had working arrangements with American Hospital Supply, A.S. Aloe, St. Louis, Will Ross Co., Milwaukee, WI., Hospital Equipment Co., NY and the Fisher Burpe Co. of Winnipeg Canada who all carried Haemo-sol. Early sales were helped through the efforts of Bryan Sword’s acquaintances, and the interest of Burleigh Jennings, VP of Meinecke (soon to be president).
All manufacturing was contracted out with the Zenith Drug Co. of Newark doing the jobs from 1944 to 1947. During this period, Polychem had a consulting chemist, Father Joseph B. Muenzen, S.J., who was head of the Chemistry Department of Fordham University.
In 1943, Buell Sr. was 66 years old and in bad shape financially. Kitcheneer ( R.W. Marshall) financed the start of the company with $3,000.00. It should be mentioned that Polychem Corporation never borrowed any money until 26 years later, when it purchased Marshall’s stock from his estate.
In mid October of 1945, William H. Buell, Jr., back from the war, reluctantly went to work with Polychem and his father. His other choice was to go back to F.W. Woolworth, where he had been an assistant manager of their South Ozone Park store. Starting pay at Polychem was $60 per week.
After leaving the gasoline station in August, 1938, I spent a year and a half as publisher of “College Years”, a national College magazine, working for Henry B. Sargent, uncle of Polychem’s John Sargent. When publication ceased in March, 1990, I went to New York, where I has a choice of an apprentice at Time, Inc. or stock boy at Woolworth Store in Jamaica, NY. I chose Woolworth because I couldn’t afford to go to work in a suit and necktie with a white shirt. Both jobs paid $18 per week.
When I arrived at Polychem, Father Meunzen took me up to Fordham and stuck me in the freshman Chemistry class which met every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It was not an enjoyable year studying chemistry. Being at 501 5th. Avenue, we were across the street from the NY Public Library, which I found a tremendous help with their technical journals and its legal library. At my disposal also was the Medical Library at the Medical Society on Upper 5th Avenue, and the Chemists Club library on 41st Street. New York City was also a wonderful place to learn sales. If you can sell in New York, you can sell anywhere.
In the next couple of years, we made a couple of new associations which greatly affected Polychem. The first was the renewal of my father’s friendship with Clarence G. Spalding of Woodmont CO. – a retired chemist and pharmacist. Through Clarence Spalding, we met Theodore G. Anderson, professor of Microbiology at Temple University. Anderson became a consultant and helped Haemo-sol get into the laboratories of universities, hospitals and industrial laboratories. He developed tests to detect residual cleaner on Haemo-sol cleaned and rinsed glassware which allowed us to give our literature a more technical look. He performed tests on rusting and corrosion of metals.
Clarence Spalding, former Connecticut State Chemist, former drug store owner and operator and former teacher of pharmacy at Yale Medical School, was a man of many talents. At the age of almost 70, he was still active in the manufacture of chemical products. We persuaded him to move to larger quarters to which we moved the manufacturing operation of Haemo-sol from New Jersey to Woodmont, CT. He was ably assisted by his daughter Eleanor, who did much of the actual compounding, the hiring and firing and the paper work. She also served as her father’s eyes as Clarance was almost blind from glaucoma. About this time, it was noted that Meinecke and Co. was selling a back rub lotion called Varick Lotion which was really the product Dermassage Lotion, manufactured by the Edison Chemical Co. of Chicago. Our suggestions to Meinecke that we make their lotion was OK’d. We has the lotion developed by Dr. Paul Goodloe, Chemist with Mobile Oil Co. and a Colgate-Palmolive cosmetic chemist plus help from Clarance Spalding. Meinecke insisted on certain specifications, including the color green and the inclusion of menthol and camphor. It was a great lotion if you liked the odor of camphor. Fortunately, it did not sell too well as in this post-war period of shortages, bottles were difficult to get as was olive oil, glycerin, and other ingredients. One result of taking the lotion business away from Edison was that they soon brought out a product called Edisonite Cleaner, to compete with Haemo-sol.
Also, during this period a man named Ralph Buck retired. He had been in charge of the sales office of the Grasselli Division of DuPont in the Empire State Building. Ralph couldn’t stand staying home with his wife, so Meinceke and Polychem hired him to detail Haemo-sol in the New York, CT and NJ areas to hospitals and Industrial laboratories. Ralph was a distinguished looking, immaculately dressed 65 year old gentleman that made prospects feel compelled to listen to his story. Meinecke and Polychem shared his salary ($1200 per year, so as not to interfere with his Social Security) plus his expenses. Ralph worked under this arrangement until 3 weeks before his death in approximately 1956, after 6-7 years.
Around 1946, we signed a contract to make an instrument cleaner called N-33 for the National Casket Co. of Boston. After signing the 80 year old manager of the Embalming Supply Division drove us in his old Chevrolet from Cambridge to the Parker House for lunch. The notable thing about this was that he introduced me to Boston Mayor Curley. Curley was elected one time while in prison. He was one of the clan which included the Fitzgeralds and Kennedys. The product N33 was never a great success in spite of extensive advertising in their journal “Sunnyside and Casket”.
In 1948, Haemo-sol was exhibited in Minneapolis at the Society of American Bacteriologists (whose name a few years later was changed to American Society of Microbiologists). This was the first of many meetings during the next twenty years that Meinecke bought the space and Polychem supplied the products and man-power. At this meeting one of the prospects we met was Dr. Jonas Salk, before he became famous.
Clarance Spalding died in December, 1949. Fortunately his daughter Eleanor was able to take over quite capably so our manufacturing arrangement was not affected.
William H. Buell, Sr. died in December 1950. That left me in charge of Operations subject to veto by President Raymond W. Marshall.
At this time Polychem Corporation had a gross business of approximately $70,000 per year and has 21 active employees, one office girl and myself. And two weeks later, the girl resigned so she could join her husband on a rabbit farm selling fur to the felt hat industry. We all know what happened to felt hats, especially after we got a hatless President in 1960.
After my father’s death, it took about 8 months to get everything straightened out. There were squabbles with Marshall. He questioned my father’s expense accounts and demanded he receive the same under the contract that they should share equally. Also, my father had died in debt. By the time the company paid off to Marshall what he thought to be his share and I had paid off my father’s debts, the company and I were both nearly broke. My brother and sister were upset that I had inherited all of the stocks of my father’s 50% of Polychem. Also, no one including Marshall, thought I was capable of running the company. At that time, we were still under price and wage controls, so I was unable to get a raise with my new position and therefore Marshall had to take a cut to come down to my level. I must explain here that Raymond Marshall was a very wealthy man. About this time he moved from a ten room Park Avenue apartment to a waterfront house on Mead Point, Greenwich CT, that had 13 bathrooms, an 8-10 car garage, a basement English pub that had been brought over from England, and shortly afterwards acquired a 97 foot boat with a crew of seven. I finally found the secret of getting along with him. I hired and befriended his lawyer.
Life went on. Marshall had other worries than Polychem. I became close to the president of Meinecke, got to know their salesmen, went to more and more sales meetings and started advertising in the journals. Sales increased and Polychem prospered.
The following were the obstacles to Polychem’s success:
1.) We were a one product (Haemo-sol) company with one customer (Meinecke).
2.) We did not control our manufacturing.
3.) We has no R&D. No laboratory facilities.
4.) We still were in a one room, one clerical worker and myself, office at 501 5th. Avenue. One shipment per month, one invoice per month, one deposit to the bank per month.
5.) Meinecke’s contract restricted Polychem’s sales activities.
6.) The Buell-Marshall contract whereby Marshall had to receive the same compensation as Buell, tied up cash that could have gone for expansion. Marshall was a totally silent president. Employees and customers never laid eyes on him.
7.) I was wasting my time in this office and had become a slave to the Long Island Railroad, and the 3 1/2 hours a day commuting from Huntington to New York.
8.) Our only customer – Meinecke Company, deserved some or perhaps a lot of worry. There was little supervision over their salesmen. Some of them used their Meinecke job as a moonlighting situation apart from their regular job and headquarters seemed unaware. The president’s main worry was to make the annual dividend payment to parent Armstrong Cork Co. Meinecke was older than American Hospital Co., but were a fraction of their size. Meinecke had missed the boat.
These were all worries that demanded attention. Most of the above problems were eventually worked out, though some took 20 years or more to be resolved.
With the above in mind, we started to look for a suitable factory building. To go back to where one came from made sense. So our search centered on the New Haven area. This covered 1954 and 1955.
Before getting to deep in our pending move, the following should be mentioned. In late 40s and early 50s, Gordon Marshall, Publisher of Hospital Topics, with the help of our old friend Edith Hall, ORS Polyclinic Hospital, started the Association of Operating Nurses. Every month, Hospital Topics announced new chapters around the country. Their efforts were partially backed by Ethicon division of Johnson & Johnson. They had their first convention in late winter 1954 at the Hotel New Yorker. The product Haemo-sol was exhibited with a Meinecke salesman and I working the booth. There were 300 to 400 nurses in attendance. This became a very important meeting for Polychem, not just for the nursing and hospital contacts, but for the contacts we made with industry including instrument manufacturers and various distributors. In my career, I went to over 30 of these annual meetings. The last one I went to there were approximately 7000 nurses and 5000 exhibitor personnel in attendance. It became such a large meeting that there were only about 6 locations large enough to handle them.
In 1954, we put in a bid for a building in Milford. The Gods were with us. It was turned down. It would have been a disaster.
Early in 1955, we found what we were looking for, made a bid on this 4000 sq. ft. building, plus a wood storage shed in the back located at 10-12 Lyman Street, New Haven, CT. It belonged to the Larson Bowling Alley Company, manufacturers of duck pin alleys and the duck pins. The wood floors in the offices were pieces of bowling alleys. This was a dying business with the post-war craze for big pin alleys. The closing and date of occupancy was April 1, 1955. That day a small truck carrying all of Polychem’s worldly goods arrived from New York. Within the next few days, all of the raw materials, finished stock, equipment and personnel were moved from Woodmont (Milford) to Lyman Street. Eleanor Spalding became office manager, foreman, and shipping clerk,. Woodmont workers were all part time. Only one elected to come to New Haven. Polychem’s first full time male other than myself was an ex-tugboat captain who was willing and able to do everything. He retired after 20 years with us. The first piece of equipment we purchased was a fork lift aptly named “Power OX”.
During 1954 and 1955, I gave a lot of thought to the Lotion business. The sales of Varick Lotion were poor. The best year we has was 12,000 8 oz. bottles. At meetings we went to even the giving out of 4 oz. samples became a problem. Every day or two, a bottle would slip through nurses hands and crash to the floor leaving a mess of broken glass and lotion. This was the period when plastic bottles started to slowly appear. I was determined to have a new lotion and that it would be in a plastic bottle. I also was very excited over the prospect. The new building and soon-to-be out fitted cellar laboratory would help make all this happen.
Now with a laboratory we needed a chemist to formulate the product. We hired a Yale graduate school chemist working for his Ph.D. He worked one day and the next day without telling us sent his friend in. Once again we were lucky. The second student turned out to be Jim McKeon, who years later became Vice President of R&D for Union Carbide CO. Jim McKeon, a graduate of Weslyan University with an MA from John Hopkins U. was enthusiastic, interested in his work and needed the money. It was agreed that he would work as many hours as possible day or night, weekday or week end, whenever his schedule would allow. All of this for $2.50 per hour. Jim was with us for almost four years.
So the basement of the now headquarters at 10-12 Lyman Street became the laboratory as well as lunch room and also housed the only other lavatory than the one for the office, complete with a shower. The stove top laboratory work benches were hand me down from Yale University’s Chemical Laboratories on Prospect Street and had been used during W.W.II for work connected with the Manhattan Project. It also contained a paint mill used to mix the product Aftex Socket Paste (more on this product later).
This 100/ x 40’ building plus its adjoining dilapidated wood shed cost $30,000 which we paid for with cash and took over the existing $7,500 mortgage which was with the American Bank on the corner of Grand Avenue and Ferry Street. The American Bank eventually was purchased by the Second National Bank, Second New Haven Bank, Colonial Bank, and finally the Bank of Boston-Connecticut.
The detergent powder mixer was installed over the small basement furnace in the back of what is called the shop in the space that Larson intended to make into a wood kiln. The original furnace was fueled by scraps of wood from the bowling alley manufacture. The big shop room was where we filled the cans of Haemo-sol and stored raw materials and finished goods. The empty Haemo-sol cans (by now all metal, supplied by the National Can Company) were stored in the shed.
Eventually, Jim McKeon developed a lotion which was approved by all including our only sales outlet, Meinecke & Company. The lotion was white and also contained Hexachlorophene, a necessary ingredient at the time. It also was lightly fragranced with an essential oil from Givaudan – Delawana who also supplied the Hexachlorophen (Gill) through their subsidiary Sindar.
In the mean time, we scoured the market for a plastic bottle that would be attractive and affordable. The largest manufacturer was Plax ( later on, Monsanto) of Hartford and Deep River. Unfortunately, they charged about 12 cents for an 8-oz bottle. Finally we located from American Can Company a plastic, metal top and bottom, bottle that would be delivered to us complete with a closure and fully decorated. It was taller than the glass bottles we currently used and it’s circumference was considerably smaller. Meinecke wished the new lotion to be called New Varick Lotion (a name I disliked). With less label space I was able to persuade Meinecke that the name was too long to look attractive, so we settled on V-Lo as a name. Fortunately we found out that V-Lo was the trade mark for another company. At this time, Eleanor Spalding was reading an article in RN Magazine about pediatric patients and how much T.L.C. they needed. She looked up and said “How about ‘T.L.C. Lotion’?”
We immediately gave our new name to our patent and trade mark attorney, Dr. Robert Calvert, in New York. He also was Ph.D. Chemist and was a contemporary of my father (a plaque on the wall showed he had graduated from High School in the territory of Oklahoma, prior to it’s statehood). After his search, he told us there was a conflict and advised us to abandon the idea of T.L.C. as a name for our lotion. Instead, we abandoned Dr. Calvert and his firm and hired Davis, Hoxie, Faithful, & Hapgood law firm. Within a relatively short time they had the T.L.C. mark registered and best of all, Polychem (not Meinecke) owned it.
Now that we had a name and the lotion was ready, it was time to order the bottles. American Can notified us they needed product to test in the bottles to see if it was compatible with their material. The first report back was that it was not. We sent up another batch and it was finally O.K.
Then, American Can told us that the minimum order they would accept was 100,000 bottles with 50,000 to be delivered at once and the balance to be taken in six months. Having never sold more than 12,000 bottles in a year, this was a shocker. But as it turned out, this policy was responsible for the early success of T.L.C. Lotion. Taking in all those bottles gave me the courage to go to Meinecke and dictate to them how much we would charge and more important, how much they would charge their customers. We gave them a graduated price list for both Meinecke and their customers. To make sure there was no mistake, we insisted on printing up the price lists.
The bottles finally arrived. On Good Friday, I drove to Brooklyn, NY in a station wagon and picked up our first bottle filling machine.
We made our first shipment of T.L.C. Lotion to Meinecke on April 1, 1958. Several weeks later, we attended the bi-annual meeting of the American Nurses Association (A.N.A.) in Atlantic City. We had no sample bottles nor 4 oz. bottles, only several cases of 8 oz. bottles and nowhere enough to hand out one per attendee. Paul Murray, Meinecke’s Sales Manager and I were in attendance and we spent 4 days rubbing lotion on nurses’ hands and even on the arms of those that were sun-burned. We were the hit of the meeting, much to the consternation of our next door neighbor, the Borden Company, with six representatives trying to demonstrate their line of super non-allergenic cosmetics.
The only size we had were 8-oz. bottles packaged 3 dozen per carton. Varick Lotion was packaged 2 dozen glass bottles per case. Both cases weighed the same so now we had big savings on freight and corrugated cartons.
Several weeks after the Atlantic City Meeting, I attended a Medical Technologists meting in Milwaukee demonstrating the product Haemo-sol at the Hotel Shroeder. Dr. Ted Anderson at Temple University Medical School called me with bad news, a set back to our promising beginnings with T.L.C. Lotion. All of our new lotion was contaminated with Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. You the reader may well ask how we could be so stupid.
Up to that time, few in the industry paid much attention to bacterial contamination. Varick Lotion had always been made with unfiltered water from the tap and never heated to pasteurization temperatures with never a complaint or odor problem. The explanation being that it was packaged in glass, which provided limited air supply for the bacteria to survive, while polyethylene, even high density, apparently transmits sufficient air for bacteria. Also the plastic bottle gives tell-tale signs of bacterial contamination by collapsing, due the to vacuum created by the bacteria’s’ metabolic activity. When American Can first told us our product was not compatible with their bottles, no mention of bacteria was made. Meinecke was told to hold up on all shipments. For the first time we started testing each batch for bacteria. We bought an incubator and a supply of blood plates as well as sending all batch samples to Ted Anderson at Temple for testing.
As soon as our blood plates supply arrived, I purchased about 15 different lotion type products at the drug store. All but one, Johnson & Johnson Baby Lotion, tested positive. Mennen’s Baby Lotion has problems on into the 1960’s. Years later when we were packing admission kits, Mennen supplied us with Baby Powder and some lotion. One Christmas Eve, F.D.A. arrived and bought packages of each Mennen product we had on the premises. Our other lesson we learned was that Hexachlorophene was ineffective on gram negative organisms.
It was at this time we augmented our paraben preservative system with sorbic acid. This lowered the pH which in later years gave us a sales advantage.
Right after the 4th of July, I drove the station wagon down to New York and to 225 Varick Street where I loaded up with all the contaminated lotion which Meinecke had on hand. From there I drove up to the old Henry Hudson Hotel on West 57th Street where my old 4th Infantry Division was having a three day reunion. When I picked up the station wagon from the public garage on Sunday, it was hot and the smell from the lotion was almost unbearable on the drive back to New Haven.
“And this too shall pass.”, in the immortal words of King Solomon. And so it did. Sales picked up. It got so we made lotion every day. We added a 100 gal tank to the 50 gallon one. In fact, it was not long afterwards that we bought a 150 gallon tank, all from the Alsop Company in Milldale, CT. We were forced to take one second shipment of 50,000 bottles before the date American specified.
During the first six months of T.L.C. Lotion, a real shocker of an order was sent in by the Ohio salesman. It called for 864 bottles to be shipped every month for one year. There was one catch. Every bottle had to have the hospital name and a sketch of its building imprinted on the bottle and be drop shipped to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.
That meant we needed to silk screen a bottle with their name and picture. Neither I nor anyone else at Polychem had any knowledge or even idea as to what silk screening was. But like so many other times, the fates were good to us. The next week, I went down to New York to attend a cosmetic-pharmaceutical packaging show. I had not been at the show for more than 20 minutes when low and behold, I walked into an exhibit by the Dependable Machine Co. of Manhattan. They were silk screening plastic bottles. It looked like it did a good job, so I bought the silk screener on the spot for $800.00 and that was before I found any bottles.
We had been doing business for a number of years with the Wilson Glass Co. of Brooklyn. The salesman was Albert Seamier, who during W.W.II had his boat sunk and spent 5 days in the Atlantic. This ordeal caused him to lose all his skin at the time. The president was the son of the founder. While his real name was Wilson, he went by his stage name, Craft. He had an impressive handlebar mustache and was a frustrated stage actor. They found an affordable 8 oz. bottle (our only size) made by the Continental Can Co. in Chicago. Carl Conway had been a classmate of my father’s at Yale, so we had some pull.
The bottles arrived along with the silk screener. We put the Dependable Screener in the basement along with the lotion tanks, the lotion filler, new hot water tank, lunch room, and laboratory. The basement became a busy place.
The question now was how do we make this screening thing work. Once again we were lucky. We found a small shop on West Rock Avenue in Westville called Sirocco. The owner was a nice older gentleman, always dressed in old clothes in an office with a roll top desk and several lathes, etc. His name was Paul Sperry. While most unassuming, Paul was most knowledgeable and most helpful. He became a good friend of Polychem. In addition to running Sirocco, his hobby, he also was CEO of the Pond Lilly Dye Co. and the inventor of the Sperry Top Sider shoe, which any one who ever had a boat knows about. Sirocco made the screens and Paul Sperry showed how to operate our new printer. We made a bunch of trays to set the printed bottles on so they could dry over night. For the first few weeks, I did all the printing so that I could learn the process and thus be able to teach others.
To those who now are at Polychem and read this, it may amaze you to know that all of this was done in the basement at 12 Lyman Street, a space roughly 40’ x 16’, as I remember it. All the lotion tanks, filler, printing, furnace, laboratory benches, lunch table, dishwasher, hot water tanks, etc. were all in the basement so that lotion manufacturing, packaging, printing, laboratory functions, coffee break and lunch were all there.
Now that we were personalizing bottles, sales increased steadily. For the first few years of T.L.C. Lotion, we offered only 8 oz. bottles and gallon jugs. The hospital could pick out any color ink they desired. We brought a small filling machine to fill one ounce sample bottles. At A.N.A. Conventions, we brought along as many as 7000 samples and the nurses gobbled them up.
When we found out our first lady Jacqueline Kennedy was pregnant we decided to present to her, while still in the hospital, a case of T.L.C. Lotion personalized with the baby’s name, date of birth, and weight, plus a baby picture. As the time came, all had been previously arranged with the typesetter, screen maker, air schedule, DC salesman and even as how to get the case past the FBI When John F. Kennedy, Jr. finally arrived, all went smoothly, the newly printed personalized bottles with baby John’s statistics and artists conception of baby’s smiling face and still warm lotion were delivered to the New Haven Airport, put on the plane, picked up at Washington National Airport by the Meinecke salesman, and, believe it or not, delivered to Jacqueline’s bedside in less than 72 hours. How did it get past the FBI Simple! We went to someone more powerful than the FBI. We had Georgetown Hospital’s Mother-Superior make the delivery. We also sent one case to every salesman on the road.
These were exciting times for Polychem as we waited for new personalized orders to come in from all corners of the country. Such prestigious institutions as Walter Reed, Presbyterian NY, Mass General, and even the hospital in Hamilton, Bermuda.
During this period, late 50’s and early 60’s a new development was happening which affected Polychem through the years. It started in Nashville, Tenn. when Baptist Hospital with the help and/or urging of a Meinecke salesman, Bill Cude, developed what is believed to be the first admission kit and it contained T.L.C. Lotion as well as toothbrush and paste, tissues, mouth wash, comb, etc. packed in a plastic zipper bag screened with hospital picture. The bags were made in New York City by a charming man named Frank Mink. Bull Cude left Meinecke and started a company just to assemble kits and at first had only one customer, Meinecke. More on kit business later.
During this time our Haemo-sol business steadily increased. We introduced a low foam product for machine washing. With the help of Jim McKeon and Ted Anderson, we did a great deal of testing on cleaner efficiency and rinseability to find out how clean and residue free surfaces really were. Tests were done and published on etching of glassware, effect on back pressure of glass syringes. Our literature and advertising were upgraded. We exhibited at Microbiology meetings, Medical Technology shows, and at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, which at that time happened to be the largest scientific meeting in the world. Attendance ran over 20,000. It was usually held in Atlantic City or Chicago and lasted 5 days, often during Holy week, ending at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday. One year I handled our exhibit all alone with two of the days having hours of 9:00 a.m. to 10:00p.m. That’s a long time to stand up. With all of this, we developed a good size laboratory glassware cleaning business with universities and industry. There were customers like Pfizer, Smith Kline & French, Sandoz, DuPont, Eli Lilli and even Lever Brothers. We were fortunate that the large soapers thought this business was too small to bother with. Then gradually things began to happen. Plastics arrived. Gradually plastic disposable petri dishes replaced glass and plastic syringes and disposable needles arrived. Mount Sinai in NYC used to have approximately a 2000 sq. ft. room with about 30 employees who washed, inspected and assembled syringes and needles going full blast every day of the week. With disposables, all of this, jobs and space ( and cleaner) disappeared. Never the less, sales on the cleaners (Haemo-sol) increased every year and this product, for which Polychem was formed, continued to pay all the bills and supported the fledgling T.L.C. Lotion. Polychem became cleaning experts and were often asked for advice. The product started to appear in text books. In a letter from South Africa we learned that Haemo-sol was mentioned in Dr. Andre Cournand’s book. Dr. Cournand was the first to do catheterization of the heart and he recommended Haemo-sol for the cleaning of these catheters. For this work he received the Nobel prize. I might mention that his first successful experiment occurred when he catheterized his own heart while sitting in front of an x-ray machine. How did we get into some of these “Giants” with Haemo-sol. At a FASEB meeting one year a representative from Mead Johnson was so impressed they sent in their spring order for 300 5 lb. containers (3/4 ton)! On another occasion, at an ASM meeting, we ran into a microbiologist from Eli Lili in the Blackstone Hotel restaurant that started a relationship between us that lasted for many years (maybe until today). At another FASEB meeting, a man from Pfizer laboratories in Groton CT invited us to sample all of the small labs there (30 or 40 of them) with Haemo-sol and paved the way for us to also talk to the personnel that operated the big automatic glass washers. This resulted in years of orders in tons for the automatics and many 5-lb. containers for the individual labs. Their we got into many labs because of the personnel who had studied under our Dr. Ted Anderson or who just knew him. Such included Smith Klein & French, Merck, Univ. of Wisconsin, Univ. of New Hampshire, Harvard, Dartmouth and Bethesda. Every month or so we shipped about a ton of Haemo-sol packed in drums to Marz & Dadi in Bern, Switzerland. Dr. Merz ran a medical technology school in Bern with students from all of Europe. He packaged the Haemo-sol in small containers and sold it to his students when they returned to their home countries. We also shipped considerable amounts of Haemo-sol to the Alfred Cox Company in England.
During these years the silent 50% owner of Polychem, Raymond W. Marshall, still President of both Polychem and Alaska Airlines, moved from his 5th Avenue NYC apartment to Mead Point, Greenwich with his wife. The house was on the water, Tudor style, with a dozen bathrooms, 8-9 car garage, an English pub brought over from England and installed in the basement, et cetera, et cetera. Mr. Marshall and his wife were driving to Florida to look at a yacht for sale in Miami when they stopped for lunch in a Carolina Howard Johnson Restaurant. Mrs. Marshall died at the table. This was a very sad funeral at their new house. You may notice I always refer to him as Mr. Marshall. In the 25 years I knew him, I never heard anyone call him by his first name, including his wife and brother-in-law. He had one son who died within a week or two after entering Yale. He died from a foot infection before the days of penicillin. Mr. Marshall finally bought a 97 foot boat that required a crew of seven. The boat had a 4000 gal. tank and a 5000 gallon one to hold the diesel fuel and water. His cabin and the guest cabins had private baths. He took my son Bill and me out for a ride once. When it was lunch time, young Bill and another child aboard had to eat with the crew while the adults sat down to a table set with fine china and sterling silverware and served by a butler. One of the passengers that day was his lawyer who years before had been Babe Ruth’s lawyer. He had his office in the Woolworth Building in NYC. He told a story that has nothing to do with anything other than it is interesting. One day Babe Ruth and Lou Gerig came to his office in late morning to discuss some matters. When finished about 1:00 p.m., the three came out to go to lunch by which time approximately 25,000 people had congregated on the street outside of the Woolworth building to catch sight of the celebrities.
Now back to the story at hand. Another day this lawyer called me and said he had a client in Stamford who owned a small business and it was for sale. This man was in retirement after a life time in fur business and according to him, the inventor of the skinless hot dog. His new business operating out of a store front had several interesting products and a portion pak machine plus several good trade marks. One of the trade marks was “Fantastic” for a cleaner. He was asking $90,000. I and our new (the first) sales manager who I have not mentioned yet, were enthusiastic. It included several products we believed could be marketed to our trade immediately. However, Raymond Marshall was adamantly against this small acquisition. His lawyer friend wanted a $5000 finders fee and he further stated that no gentile could make a business successful that a Jew had failed at. Amen! I still think Polychem made a mistake.
Around this same time – the early 1960’s – the Armstrong Lock company (now Armstrong World Industries) decided to sell Meinecke & Company. Burleigh Jennings, Meinecke’s president, came to Polychem and tried to interest us in buying them. They were really doing about 2,000,000 per year and Haemo-sol was on of their 5 biggest products. Another was red rubber bed sheeting, which disappeared in a few years. All one was buying was an inventory and sales force which sparsely covered the U.S. We decided against this purchase. This time we did not make a mistake.
A hospitable distributor named Cerico in Chicago almost bought Meinecke. A few years later they went out of business. Finally a group of men in Baltimore became Meinecke’s new owners. For some months, business went on a usual and apparently Burleigh Jennings, Meinecke’s president, had a good relationship with the new owners. I never did meet any of the new owners, even though I made a point of going to New York almost every Friday to call on Meinecke at 225 Varick Street. After checking in with all departments, including stock room inventories, I usually ended up having lunch with president Burleigh Jennings at Renata’s restaurant on Van Dam Street. While at Renata’s, I got to know Max Lowe, CEO of IPCO Hospital Supply Co., friend and competitor of Burleigh Jennings. Max Lowe’s son-in-law Bob Savin acted as president of IPCO. In addition, Lowe controlled the Savin Copy Machine Company, which became nationally known.
Within a year, there was a stock market crisis that affected the Baltimore group. Jennings phoned me and announced that the new owner of Meinecke would be at Polychem the next morning. Not having any relevant files or notes, I believe it was the year 1963 when, that next morning, in walked George Banks III [not to be confused with his son George Banks IV; see comment below] and his attractive wife. Banks was about 33 years old and reportedly a financial whiz, a graduate of Wharton, had made a killing in the stock market, owned a plastic bottle company in Baltimore, a stereo component factory, part owner of the Colt Bowling Alleys along with Johnny Unitas, and part owner of the new fancy eating club in Baltimore, as well as an art supply company. His wife, Barbara (I think) presented me with a sweat shirt with the printed message “All I need is some T.L.C.”.
A few weeks later, probably October, I got another phone call with the message “be in Mr. Jennings office tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m.”. That I was. George Banks insisted I be there so I could hear my friend Burleigh Jennings say he was resigning of his own free will and was not being fired. Once this was over and before I left Meinecke’s office, I was introduced to the new president, Bill Burch. In fact, I was asked to give Burch a guided tour of Meinecke. It was a strange day.
And George Banks methods and actions were no less strange. Here it was October and Bill Burch was picked as the new president, but not to start until January. Also, he came from the Brunswick Bulk CO., the bowling alley division. So Meinecke faced a two month pilotless hiatus which, as it turned out, cost them. Within weeks, Max Lowe made Burleigh Jennings a Vice president of IPCO, with his first mission to sign up Meinecke salesmen for IPCO. He did persuade six to eight Meinecke men to come to IPCO. Jennings other new mission was to persuade Polychem to give IPCO the sales right to T.L.C. Lotion. Haemo-sol was out of the question, as Meinecke owned the trade mark. Without any deliberation, I turned down this offer. It surely would have meant a law suit plus we had to protect the Haemo-sol business which was still supporting the company. Burleigh Jennings claimed he left Meinecke because the first thing George Banks did as owner was to raid their bank account.
January and Bill Burch finally arrived. Also arriving was the new Vice President, Ralph Stanford from the Kendall Company. To introduce the new team, Burch held three whirlwind meetings in one week in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In the coming weeks they announced they would move their headquarters to Cockeysville, Maryland, make 225 Varick Street the Northeastern headquarters and establish regional offices in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Burch had no experience in the health care field and it often showed. Once in his new fancy office in Cockeysville with its private shower and leather walls, I could not help but notice that the only magazines displayed were Fortune. No hospital or trade publications. Ralph Stanford was experienced, well known in the field, an intellectual and conscientious. He perhaps was better suited in product development and research. Stanford stated that his job was to increase sales and to make Meinecke something more than the Haemo-sol and T.L.C. company. I might mention that this never came to pass.
Once they got their regional office in place and had moved headquarters to Maryland, they promoted their best salesmen to be branch managers. That plus the men they lost to IPCO left them with few experienced men in the field.
To take advantage of what we hoped would be a new, aggressive, growth minded Meinecke, Polychem hired for the first time a sales manager, Roger Hyde, a graduate of Babson Institute. He moved to Westbrook, CT. from Northern New York State. He was young, had experience selling to hospitals and to the wholesalers, as well as having worked with many Meinecke salesmen who gave him high marks.
Hyde’s main responsibility was to travel with the Meinecke salesman and teach them how to sell T.L.C. Lotion and Haemo-sol. Shortly after he started, an agreement was worked out with Meinecke that allowed Polychem to sell T.L.C. products to local dealers where Meinecke had no coverage. In this new endeavor, Hyde’s main success was to sign up the Munns Company in Topeka, Kansas.
One interesting period for Polychem was our effort to sell T.L.C. Lotion through retail drug stores to the general public. It was a fascinating, expensive, and unsuccessful experience. We signed up with New Haven’s TV Channel 8 for 13 weeks of commercials which included about 7-8 per week. We has a professionally done commercial made which included a nurse advising people with skin problems how and when to use T.L.C. Lotion. In the midst of it they had to start over because they found the nurse was not an RN, as regulations called for. We also had radio commercials made and signed up with WELI, WTIC, the 50,000 Watt Schenectady station, and many stations in Maine, Boston, Providence, and Worcester. We also signed up for small newspaper ads throughout New England and part of New York. Also, an outfit called “Luncheon is Served” gave out T.L.C. Samples and a speech on its merits. They did all this at church luncheons throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts. The price of one bottle in the drug store was $1.00. The whole sale druggist paid $1.00 less 40% and 20%, or $0.48 each. By the time the 13 weeks were up, each bottle sold cost Polychem $1.50. Another time, we took a shot at Colorado by running a bunch of small ads in all the significant newspapers. First, though, we sent one free bottle of T.L.C. Lotion to each drugstore so they would have it in stock when the ads broke. That didn’t work either.
Shortly after all of this the IRS came in. During these years, there was a 10% luxury tax on all cosmetics and they wanted to collect it, not only on retail sales, but also on all hospital sales. Polychem always claimed T.L.C. Lotion was a drug and not a cosmetic. It did contain hexachlorophene. We fought this vigorously. After about a year, we had a hearing in Washington. We went to Washington with our lawyer, Dr. Anderson and myself, plus Meinecke’s Vice President and their lawyer. After a couple of months, they handed down the decision that in drug or department stores, T.L.C. Lotion was a cosmetic and in hospitals, it was a drug. In another month or two the luxury tax was repealed.
Before all the turmoil at Meinecke, Polychem had started to build on a 7,000 sq.ft. addition. At this time, the office force consisted of Eleanor Spalding and Betty Milano, who lived across the street on the 2nd floor of the middle house. Milano’s father worked in a machine tool shop and often moonlighted doing machine repairs for Polychem. There were no laboratory personnel because there was no room for them nor room for more office people. The printing of bottles had been moved up to what is not the back part of the office, a narrow area partitioned off.
This new addition would solve many problems. All operations except the laboratory would be moved out of the basement. There would be a room for lotion which would allow us to get large mixing tanks and a second filling line so we could have a 4 oz. T.L.C. for which there was a crying need. Another room was to be for printing plus a new conveyor dryer. This eliminated the need for a full time person to set up printed bottles on shelves to air dry. It also allowed us to get a second printer and more than double production. That meant we could print 15,000 to 20,000 per day. We has one operator who on occasion did as many as 13,000 per day. We considered farming out the printing but we had too many personalized hospital bottle. Then we were able to move the Haemo-sol mixer mill to the back of the new addition and in its place, put in a lavatory with a shower. In addition, it gave us more storage area, a help in buying more economically. We ended up with an enlarged, more efficient office. We also ended up with added worries over the “new” Meinecke. This new addition was finished in 1963 or 1964 and cost about $60,000, which we were able to pay without resorting to the bank. Twenty years later, after buying the house and property next door, we had plans drawn up for a 10,000 sq. ft. addition. I hoped we could do it for $500,000. When the estimates came in for $1,000,000, I abandoned all such thoughts.
Once Meinecke had their new headquarters operating in Cockeysville, Maryland, (changing NYC Varick Street into a district office) I had a new duty. At least once a month, I drove down to Maryland for meetings. At this time, Meinecke took over the assembly of admission kits from the Custom Kit Company in Nashville. Vice President Ralph Stanford asked us to make a private label mouthwash for them. After much trouble getting an alcohol permit, T.L.C. Hospital Mouth Rinse was born. There were two big problems. Number one was that Cepacol Mouth Rinse was available to hospitals ( as well as dealers) for about 10 cents delivered. Number two was that our alcohol permit allowed us to have only two 55 gallon drums of Alcohol in storage, so that our cost was over $1.00 per gallon more than the big company’s tank wagon’s price. These two problems plus lack of significant sales, made us change to an alcohol free mouth rinse. That turned out to be a was move. The absence of alcohol and the embossed bottle made us competitive. And many institutions preferred a non-alcoholic product.
The year 1965 brought many changes. Meinecke’s President Bill Burch and Vice President Ralph Stanford left. Ken Coty came in a president. He had been a Vice President of Clay Adams Co. until they were acquired by Becton Dickenson. Jack Lucks, the new Vice president had been with A.S. Aloe in St. Louis which interestingly had been acquired by Brunswick Balk and I believe, eventually evolved into the Sherwood Co. I often wondered if Ken Coty ever realized what he was getting into.
Also in 1965, Roger Hyde, our Sales Manager, announced that he was thinking of leaving to sell for Encyclopedia Britannica. I made him a counter offer, however he was swayed by looking at some of their 1099’s. He lasted about 3 months and then went with a competitor of ours, Linbro products of New Haven. After a few months there, he moved his family out to Montana.
On the evening of February 17, 1965, Eleanor Spalding and Bill Buell were married before a small group of friends and Polychem employees., followed by a reception at the Seven Gables Restaurant on the Corner of Church and Grove Streets, an Italian Restaurant now long gone.
With this new team, our sales still increased. They, like the last group, were unable to change Meinceke into other than a Haemo-sol – T.L.C. Company. But there were storm signals every once in a while. George Banks, the owner was a rascal and prone to odd behavior. We heard that his plastics factory was in trouble and ditto for the stereo component factory. His father-in-law Chester Wadicka ( I am guessing on the spelling) apparently loaned Meinecke or George much money and was now getting itchy. This is the father-in-law who had a lock on all of the supply business for Jersey City Medical Center. Some times our invoices were not paid on time. Then it got to the point where their checks started to bounce. We had to hold up on shipments. At times we had to hold up so long that we had to invent jobs for Polychem people instead of laying them off. This was one time my fiscal conservatism paid off. We did survive.
In the midst of all this, Polychem’s president and 50% stock holder, Raymond W. Marshall, died at the age of 85. The $3,000 he put into Polychem on a percentage I suspect was one of the best investments he ever made. At the end of year two, he recovered his investment and them some. After that he never received less than a five figure amount. I thought it would be nice if he willed me the stock, but such was not the case. A bank in Greenwich was the executor and for the moment, my partner. They had to approve of all purchases, etc. He had no family heirs. We had to negotiate the purchase of his stock with the bank. The worse thing to happen was when one of Meinecke’s salesmen saw the obituary and called George Banks. The first thing George did was to send in two offers, one direct and the other through his New Haven lawyer. To further complicate matters, Alaska Airlines and Henry Luce. Jr. sued the estate. Through our lawyer, John Barclay, we got hold of a special report on George Banks in which it listed approximately 30 items of litigation against him at the time. This report scared the bank into selling Raymond Marshal’s stock to us at the appraised value. This was a big relief. It was at this time that I became President.
During this period, Harry Madden in Boston, our New England drug store sales representive introduced us to Arthur Gormley. Gormley, an ex-pharmacist, had been vice-president in charge of sales for the medical division of the Schenley Whiskey Company. Their main product was penicillin and the target was hospital supply dealers. Realizing that Meinecke’s days were numbered, we hired Gormley and made him Vice President in charge of sales. (A good trivia question for you to try on your doctor – Who was the first company to make and sell penicillin? It is doubtful he will answer Schenley.)
Within days of hiring Gormley, the Boston salesman Harry Halliday left Meinecke and went to Thomas Reed Co. in Boston as Sales Manager. Halliday had been with Meinecke for over 20 years, was either Number one or Number two man for gross sales, and undoubtedly Number One for net profit and a good friend of Polychem. This was the first call Gormley made when the two of us went up to Boston for a lunch meeting with Halliday and the President of Thomas Reed. They asked for the T.L.C. line. I finally said yes, assuming that Meinecke would soon be history. Meinecke’s owner, George Banks and President Ken Coty raised the devil with me. They were mad. They still didn’t pay the considerable money they owed Polychem.
Our main interest in Meinecke at this stage was not only to get paid but to somehow get ownership of the trade mark Haemo-sol. It was still our most profitable product. Meinecke at one point went Chapter 11 but quickly came out. When Chapter 11 as per our contract, Polychem could purchase the mark at a price arrived at through the American Bureau of Arbitration. Our two law firms were unable to enforce this clause. At the time we Thompson, Weis, and Barclay ( John Barclay who was also corporate attorney for Armstrong Rubber) and Venable, Bactzer, and Howard in Baltimore. The opposing attorney in Baltimore was Peter Parker who happened to be the son-in-law of the Monson of Monsons Art Gallery on Orange Street, New Haven. Parker was also mixed up with the Maryland Republican Party and Spiro Agnew. Bob Schmaltz, the attorney who worked with Barclay is still active with another firm located on the Northwest corner of Whitney and Grove Streets. At one point, ex-president Bill Burch brought action against Meinecke and was going to cooperate with us. One Friday, the unorthodox loan company for Banks and Meinecke phoned and asked me to meet at their office and they would assign us the Trade Mark Haemo-sol. Saturday morning, Barclay, Bua, and I drove to Baltimore to the office of the loan people. Unfortunately, George Banks got to them first with a new nasty lawyer who almost got into fisticuffs with John Barclay. There were several other meetings in New Haven which included Banks, New Haven attorney who was with Tyler, Cooper. There was even a big New York meeting at the offices of Davis, Polk, one of New York’s’ most prestigious and most expensive law firms.
Finally, an agreement was worked out where Meinecke would pay Polychem what they owed plus a little extra and we would go our separate ways, unfortunately with Meinecke regaining the trade mark. Banks formed a new company, Haemo-sol Inc. with the stock in trust for his children. The trustee was the Bank of Bermuda. Once everything was thrown out in the street from the Cockeysville building that was the end of Meinecke.
It was both the end and the new beginning of Polychem Corporation. Incidentally, everything was signed, sealed and delivered on the Tuesday following the Super Bowl when Joe Namath and the underdog New York Jets beat the mighty Baltimore Colts in 1969. We carried the certified check back to New Haven and paid off the bank loan with had been used to buy Marshall’s stock. At this point Polychem was debt free, without its biggest and practically only customer, and minus its main product. The company was roughly 25 years, 8 months old and starting in all over again.
Step one was to get customers , which meant Arthur Gormley hit the road with no restrictions other than to offer semi-exclusivity and I got on the phone.
We were fairly well prepared with a replacement product for Haemo-sol. Because of all the meetings through the years that I had attended representing Meinecke, and that my name appeared on most letters answering users’ technical questions, it was decided to call the product Buell Cleaner. Temporary literature and labels were printed and modest journal ads were ready to go. At the last minute, we got space at the February (AORN) Operating Nurses Annual convention. A couple of years before, Ralph Sanford and Bob Perry had gone to the Lownds Company manufacturers of Underpads and now the company was being bought by C.R. Bard Co. They had ordered a double booth at the A.O.R.N. and wanted to change to a single so Polychem ended up with their excess space. Gormley and I drove out to Cincinnati in the station wagon loaded with the display materials. We came away with a great many productive leads.
During the first couple of years, the many ex-Meinecke salesmen were a great help. Beside from Harry Halliday in Boston, Paul Murray started his own company to cover Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. Lowndes started a kit assembly business in Philadelphia. Tom Kidd in Phoenix went from Meinecke to Scherer headquarters in El Segundo, California. Scherer was part of Brunswick Drug CO. and for a while were a big customer in spite of the fact their president Dan Robinson called me the most vile names over the phone and in person because we would not absorb the freight. For a few years they bought a lot of T.L.C. Lotion. Meinecke personnel in the LA office went with a small local dealer and they managed to convert a lot of Haemo-sol to Buell Cleaner. We picked up a good small kit packer in Portland, Oregon. The Denver Meinecke became an independent sales representative. He was able to sell and one year came to Las Vegas to help me man our exhibit. Cliff Hewitt in Dallas went with McClure Surgical Supply and with his help they became a good customer. Incidentally, out of the blue, Cliff Hewitt phoned me the other day (1997) and we had a nice chat. Paul Boyer in Roanoke started his own business and after he died his wife carried on for a few years.
Arthur Gormley signed up more and more dealers. We became regular exhibitors at the ASTA (American Surgical Trade Association) meetings. The ASTA eventually became HIDA (Health Industry Dealers Association). We also exhibited at the New England Hospital, Mid-Atlantic Hospital, American Nurses association, and Operating Nurses Association meetings. Lotion sales kept increasing at a good pace. Buell Cleaner sales increases were slower and required more work. We continued exhibiting at the FASEB, Microbiology, and Medical Technology shows but found it hard to convince people Buell Cleaner was the same as Haemo-sol.
During the Viet Nam period, there were shortages of labor. For one period, Pratt Whitney opened up an employment office in downtown New Haven, open 24 hours a day. Tough competition. Most of those jobs lasted less than a year.
About this time, I hired a worker who was a newly escaped Hungarian refugee. He was dark complexioned. After I gave him his initial tour of the factory, several came to me worried that Polychem was breaking the color barrier. They didn’t need to worry because within a month or two we did hire a black worker. Actually, the first to ever apply. One of the first and one of my favorites was a chap named Jimmy Lamb. When we promoted him to be in charge of the lotion room he thanked me and I said keep up the good work and you’ll be up front in the office. He replied “Sure, I’ll be all the way up front, outside holding a light bulb” (his joke was in reference to the fashion at that time of placing in front yards of private homes a small statue of a black stable boy holding a lantern. Such statues disappeared or were painted white once such an ethnic ‘statement’ became politically incorrect). I might mention that with our help, Lamb got a job selling insurance for New York Life. Unfortunately, it did not work out for him.
Through the years, we has many interesting factory employees. We has several European refugees. There were several college graduates, some of whom went on to good careers. Summer student jobs were offered. If they were studying Chemistry, Biology, etc. we attempted to give them laboratory work. A few came to work full time after graduation.
About this time Paul Murray and his new business asked us if we would go into the kit assembly business. He had several accounts but no source. Thus Polychem became a kit supplier. In spite of our efforts to have it otherwise, each hospital had to have their own personalized kit. We started out with admission kits with three items and others all the way up to twenty items. The biggie was for the Wesson Maternity Hospital, Springfield, Mass. It contained 48 OB pads, sanitary belt, tooth paste, and brush, comb, shower cap, bed pan, wash basin, water pitcher, and plastic glass, soap, lotion and mouth wash all in a personalized huge plastic zipper bag. Kits were still new with little competition so we shortly had business from as far away as Tennessee, West Virginia, and Oregon. We had T.L.C. toothbrushes made by Fuller Brush Co. @ $0.05 each, 7” T.L.C. Combs made by Stanley House Products, T.L.C. Soap Cakes with Hexachlorophene (2%) from Rhode Island Soap maker and a T.L.C. decorated pencil from a Bridgeport manufacturer. Prices of tooth brushes and combs always amazed me. Imported brushes were available for 3 1/2 cents. Five inch combs were $0.075 each and 7 “ combs were 1 1/2 cents each. Purchasing became more difficult and put a strain on our cash flow. In the process we developed many new sources and friends. We bought sanitary napkins and thermometers from Chesebrough Ponds. On thermometers, we had to carry Connecticut seal, Massachusetts seal, and Michigan seal. We got our talcum powder and deodorants from the Mennen Company. Cepecol Mouth Wash from Merril, toothpaste from Colgate, although we also had T.L.C. toothpaste made by the Sheffield Company in New London. Zipper personalized bags came from Frank Mink in New York City. Then a Boston Hospital insisted on flame proof polyethylene bags. We has to stock 1”, 1/2 “, metal clip and plastic clip sanitary belts from Mr. Connor in Bridgeport. We bought Ivory and Safeguard Soap from Proctor and Gamble and Dial Soap. We also bought from Lever Bros. It took a couple of frustrating years before Johnson and Johnson “allowed” us to purchase their baby powder or anything. When they finally gave us the O.K. they sent us a copy of a saying by Calvin Cooledge extolling the virtue of being patient.
Then one night about 5:30 a chap arrived and said he got my name from Harry Halliday. It was David Greenberg who just started a new little company in Stamford called Clinipad Corporation and they were making a Wash and Dry like product. At the time we were buying this type product from Nice-Pak. Greenberg made a good proposal that would allow us to have our own brand. While we didn’t have a market for these except in kits, anything which spread the name T.L.C. was welcome.
Polychem and David Greenberg became friends. When Greenberg was still struggling we allowed him to share our booth space at certain conventions. We had a friend who was non-competitive and was selling to the same customers as we were which allowed us to compare notes and put in a good word for each other. We watched him grow from just a small handful of people in a small facility to the present plant in Guilford and finally to the Charlotte, N.C. Number 2 plant. I believe he had approximately 200 employees and was doing some $30 million a year when I retired in 1989.
The first couple of years after the Meinecke divorce were difficult with increasing annual loses. Changes had to be made. We were forced to let Arthur Gormley go.
Before another year was up C.R. Bard Co. bought the Lowndes Co. and Bob Perry’s job was eliminated. Back in Meinecke days, he was the star salesman for Polychem products. We worked out a deal where Bob Perry was to act as sales manager as well as on the road actively selling and if necessary to oversee operations in New Haven if I had to be away and yet he was not an employee but an independent sales representative, solely on commission. He had to attend all conventions at which we exhibited and was responsible for all regional sales representatives. Perry was still young and hungry with many friends in the industry from coast to coast and he had a good feel for the need of new products. We worked well together and the results soon showed it. Within months of this development Frank Goodwin, former Vice President of Sales for C.R. Bard became available and joined Bob Perry as an equal partner. What people and companies Bob Perry didn’t know, Frank Goodwin did and it included Canadian connections. It was a great combination and they were fun to work with.
With Perry and Goodwin several policy changes took place. There were no more semi-exclusive arrangements. Such never worked and in many cases were damaging to Polychem. The few small dealers who complained the loudest all showed the same pattern. They got our products into their favorite accounts, the remainder, sometimes twice the number, they didn’t try or worse they didn’t even cover them at all. Also, we went after private label accounts with the chains, especially on the instrument cleaner products. We made an effort to be friendly with our competitors which eventually resulted in two of the largest lotion manufacturers asking us to manufacture for them and a third started giving us accounts they did not wish to call on for one reason or another. We also started to get more and more input on new products, many that had potential did fit in with our lives. Also for the first time we started to aggressively go after the nursing home market. With the loss of Meinecke and American Scientific Products Division, the laboratory market for glassware cleaners became a lesser factor for Polychem. More and more, disposables in the lab did not help. The medical Technologists suddenly seemed to be not even prospects.
At this time we decided to get out of the kit business. There were several companies interested including my friends the Feldmans. Harold Feldman I knew since Hillhouse High School days. We were in the largest class to ever graduate, over 1,400. The other celebrity to graduate with us was Ernest Borgnine. We finally sold it to the Feldmans for the price of the inventory. They formed a new company called Anamed and made Bob Gilbert and I non-paid vice-presidents. Bob Gilbert was formerly vice president of the Fuller Brush Company before it moved from East Hartford to Iowa after being bought by Consolidated Foods Co. The Feldmans had the space, the manpower and the resources to greatly expand the business. The did increase sales and were a good Polychem customer. However, Bob Gilbert and I felt they ignored our advice. We felt they should have gone gung-ho and looked into sterile kits, surgical kits, such as suture removal kits, and even kits along the lines which Clinipad Co. was getting into. For politically liberal people they were very conservative business wise. However they still remained good friends.
Once one fine morning we got a phone call from Martin Kaufman, president of Seneca Hospital Supply of Rochester, N.Y. This greatly affected the future of Polychem Corporation. Kaufman told us that the state of New York was going to outlaw the use of soap dishes in hospitals as part of their plan to control cross infection. He asked us to bring out a liquid bath soap or cleaner. We put Bill Markland to work on developing a product. Markland was not only a recent employee of Chesebrough Ponds but before that had been the chemist for Breck Shampoo Co. and had been with Revlon for a sort period. We soon had a product out and called it T.L.C. Hospital Bath. I must say that we did not use the Cheapest ingredients but gave consideration to mildness as well as skin cleansing efficiency. We avoided the $4 and $5 essential oils and used a quality product from Haarman Reimer for the fragrance that I became familiar with a few years before when working on another product with Atlas Chemical Company. The product had a beautiful magenta color using Red 19. When FDA outlawed Red 19 we were never able to duplicator this color.
Most of the testing for T.L.C. Hospital Bath was done at the Montowese Nursing Home in North Haven. These staff there said they could not see the product on the wash cloth – which is why we added color.
The new product, T.L.C. Hospital Bath, took off with a bang and eventually passed the Lotion in Dollar sales.
A year or two later Paul Murray said he had a customer who had several Century Circulating Bath Tubs and asked if we could duplicate their Cleansing Bath Oil. So we could understand more of what was expected if such a product we were invited down to this huge nursing home facility to witness a demonstration. Markland, Murray and I were brought in the bath rooms and shown the tub. Pretty soon a ninety year old female was brought in and given a bath for our benefit. We were all shocked though I suspect the poor thing didn’t know we were there. At any rate, that is how we got T.L.C. Cleansing Bath Oil.
To fill out the line for hopefully, Century Tubs we decided to also have a Tub Cleaner/Sanitizer. For some reason, perhaps due to our inexperience, it took forever to have one approved and once the quat (quatern-ammonium) was on the market, just as difficult to sell.
A chap named Ken Osier ran the Century Tub franchise out of Rochester, N.Y. covering New York and New England wanted to take on our line because it was more favorably priced. The Century people said no. We tried to interest Century into letting us be their eastern source for private label products. However, when the time came when they decided to switch from their current source of products, they made a vigorous effort to buy Polychem Corporation. At the time I had no interest in selling. We were getting more and more involved in the Nursing home business. We were exhibiting at the national conventions for both profit and non-profit nursing home associations. We systematically picked out state meeting to exhibit at. We would go to each for two or three years then switch to other states. We went to the New Jersey meeting every year, to Maine-Vermont-New Hampshire even though one year at Dixville Notch our booth was in a tent which leaked during the two days of rain. This three state affair finally disbanded when they started fighting with each other. Minnesota was another regular with us for two reasons. Number one, it was the largest attendance wise of all nursing home meetings including the national ones. Number two was that our dream was to have the Redline Co., the country’s largest nursing home supplier and equipment distributor, carry our products.
Redline finally agreed to a November 9:00 am meeting with us. Bob Perry and I went out at Grossingers. I was on the exhibitors committee and we had no problems getting exhibitors. It died because they were unable to get the attendance up. Grossingers also closed down and I believe became Condominiums. In all my 44 years at Polychem, dining all over the country, in every state of the union, I believe Grossingers had the worst food.
The first nursing home distributor of suppliers that did business with Polychem was Maple Hill Co. of New Britain Conn. The principals were Harold Johndrow, Ray Spurges, and a third whose name is forgotten. For the first year or two our sales to them wee quite modest. Then Spurges and Johndrow sold out. Ray Spurges at first went to work for Paul Murray Associates. After a year or two Spurges left Paul Murray and started his own company. He wanted to carry the Polychem line and Paul Murray vehemently objected to us giving it to him. I was responsible for the two getting together. In spite of Murray’s objections we gave Spurges the line. I don’t believe the two ever competed for the same customer and eventually Spurges way out-sold Murray. Interestingly, Spurges always had a side line business – selling candles to Catholic Churches.
Harold Johndrow of course started Hudson and became one of our best customers. He eventually started a Florida branch and ran the Hudson Trucks back and forth. The had a product fair every year which was well run and well attended. Polychem always participated.
During this period we had a shocker. Polychem was sued. During a several month period Polychem kept getting letters inquiring about the cleaning of spinal syringes and needles. I was naive and didn’t suspect anything. I also made the mistake of quoting test results that were done with the old product Haemo-sol (same formula) but did not mention that fact.
After I had unconsciously dug a hole for Polychem and myself a big product liability law suit arrives. In a 100 bed hospital, located near Los Angeles a 35 year old woman went in for a hemorroidectomy. She came out of the operating room paralyzed from the waist down. The claim was that BUELL CLEANER was used to clean the syringe and needle and that the product did not rinse off to the degree we claimed. By this time, the 1970’s hospitals had changed from reusable to disposable syringe and needles but not this little California hospital. Also California was noted as the worst state to be sued in. They did not sue for any special amount, that was left for the jury to decide. This lady was also suing the anesthesiologist, the hospital, the anesthesia company, and one other company, the name of which I do not recall. Then there was a second suit brought against us from the same hospital by an older man who was a neurosyphilitic. This suit was riding on the coattails of the first, but as it turned out later, his law firm was not as smart as the young lady’s.
The first thing I did was to notify Aetna Insurance Co.. who carried our product liability coverage. Then I went to our attorney for advice. The first thing he said to make me feel good was that the court might award punitive damages for which, of course, there is no insurance. This attorney was five or six years older than I and in later years had many negative opinions. His advice was, as on a couple of other occasions, to sell the company. Soon, the affable Irish lawyer from Los Angeles that Aetna appointed came east to see Polychem and interview me. For the most part from my point of view, he was always optimistic. Aetna started a consulting arrangement with the Stanford University Medical School Anesthesiology department. I had a couple of talks with the Yale-New Haven Hospital head of anesthesiology. They all said it could not be our fault. The only person who correctly predicted the outcome was Luba Dowling, the operating room supervisor at Yale New Haven Hospital. She said Polychem the “wealthy” east coast manufacturer will be made to pay. The case dragged on for a couple of years. Aetna’s Los Angeles lawyer visited Polychem once or twice. I visited the Aetna Los Angeles office once.
While all of this was going on we carefully reviewed all labels and literature. At the strong suggestion of Aetna, we retained the services of Attorney Bill Murphy of the law firm Tyler Cooper, to check claims and contents of all literature. I believe it was at this time that we decided to list all ingredients on literature and labels. This was already done on the products classified as cosmetics, as was the law. Soaps and detergents were never under the F.D.A. and disclosure of ingredients was not required. We always speculated that the surgical instrument care products would one day be considered medical devices and as such regulated. I wonder if that has become true. We always found Bill Murphy most helpful and worth the fee. He also defended Yale New Haven Hospital in many mal-practice cases.
The time finally arrived when the opposing lawyers were to take my deposition. The L.A. Aetna Insurance lawyer arranged for me to fly out on a Thursday. They put me up in a Sheraton Hotel near Universal City. The lawyer came over that evening to give me the plans. Friday morning he picked me up at 8:00 am and took me to his office. We went into a private conference room. The first thing he did was call by the intercom to tell his secretary to bring in some pads and pencils. When she came in he took one look at the pencils and promptly gave her with his hand a good whack on her behind and told her to get long, new pencils. She trotted right out and promptly returned with said pencils and without ever changing her expression. It was a grueling day. He rehearsed me all morning, then a short break for lunch and continued the rehearsing all afternoon, until five o’clock. He drove me back to the hotel and bought me a drink and continued the rehearsal in the cocktail lounge. Saturday morning he picked me up again at 8:00 am, drove to the doughnut shop, bought a box of a dozen and off to his office in time for the deposition to start at 9:00am. About ten other attorneys and a legal or court stenographer arrived. The deposition went on for almost four hours straight until our lawyer cut it short so I could make my plane. He drove me over to Hollywood where I got a cab to the airport. It was a horrible experience and I’m not sure I did all that well. My trip back was on a United Airline wine trip flight, all the wine you could drink. By the time I landed at La Guardia, I was in great shape.
After all of that the case was settled out of court a couple of months later. Travelers who insured the hospital and our insurer Aetna, both gave the lady $200,000 and they gave the neurosyphlitic $25,000. I thought they should have gone to court, but they thought settlement to be the less expensive way out. The after math of course was that our product liability premium went from $900 per year to $45,000 per year. And in another year or two Aetna refused to insure us. In our struggle to get insurance, Governor Grasso was no help at all. The only one who made any effort was the now Senator Joe Liberman, who was then in Hartford in the State government. After 30 years with Aetna, I thought it wrong they were allowed to drop us like that. After this, Polychem survived and thrived and always carried product liability insurance, though at times with difficulty and ever increasing premiums.
Not all was bad though. One year at the AORN, (Association of Operating Room Nurses) a man named Ray Gross put us in contact with the Codman Shurteff Surgical Instrument Co., a division of Johnson and Johnson. Ray Gross in the early years was with A. Saloc of St. Louis before it was sold to the Brunswick Baulk Co., makers of Bowling Alleys and Billiard tables and eventually I believe the basis of the Sherwood Company. Gross now had his own business and through the years had always been interested in getting several small companies including Polychem to combine in some manner. In that endeavor, he was never successful. Codman had just put on the market a surgical instrument lubricant made buy their Canadian division. They now wanted a liquid pH 7 Instrument cleaner. By now Polychem already had BUELL CLEANER-LQ in its line so the development of a product was not all that difficult. The difficult part was to sell Codman. In this endeavor Bob Perry and Bill Markland our chemist/consultant worked hard. The job was made a little easier by the fact that Bill Clarke, Number Two at Codman seemed to like Polychem. He was intrigued by our baseball glove leather dressing that went by the name of MITT SPIT.
We got the product ready and sent samples for their laboratory to test at their headquarters in Randolph, Mass. In turn they sent samples of stainless surgical steel in the bar form for our laboratory to test for corrosion. They also sent samples of their lubricant for us to test against our BUELL LUBRICANT. I believe they would have switched to our lubricant except that their was being supplied by another division of J&J. All testing turned out OK. They then sent in inspectors to see if we adhered to good manufacturing practice. Then they sent in their warehousing and packaging experts. They gave us a bunch of tough packaging specifications and palletizing instructions, all of which cost money.
Once all of this was over, then came the tough part about agreeing on a contract which had to be approved by the legal department at Corporate headquarters in New Burnswick, N.J. It was our lawyers against their lawyers. Ours had a handicap. Our instructions to them were “We want this business and don’t you dare lose it.”
Finally we were ready to go. The Cleaner was named PrePair, which went along with Codmans Lubricant name, Preserve. Business started off brisk. Codman had a good many accounts which seemingly would do whatever the salesmen asked then to. Direct salesmen got results compared to distributor sales people who we had no control over. Then they put on a detail nurse to travel with their sales people. She was a dynamite young lady named Jane Tondorf who combined looks, salesmanship, personality and knowledge of instruments, the OR and central sterile service for a combination that couldn’t help but get results. We all enjoyed working with Codman. We were asked to their parties at the conventions. The parties were large and fun. They would do things like importing the twin pianists from Pat O’Brians in New Orleans. The business was profitable. Their Bill Clarke was transferred and put in charge of Texas based Surgicos branch. In a few months, we got a telephone call saying Codman wished to discontinue the Prepair line ( but not Preserve). They offered us a cash settlement plus the trademark and customer list. We accepted. For a couple of years it was a profitable piece of business for us. We kept the same price structure so we now made Codman’s and Polychem’s profit. It was not sufficient to warrant any direct sales force. As a result, sales started to tapir off after a couple of years.
There were other private label cleaner inquiries. Most did not work out. The orthopedic company Zimmer, division of Bristol Myers, flew their private plane to New Haven with a group of men to discuss a cleaner. The apparent leader was a young black chemist. A couple of weeks later, I called him to find out if anything was happening. The answer I got was that he was no longer with the company.
One time we received a call from one of the Mills brothers at Medline of Mundelain Illinois. Bob Perry and I left a day or two early for a California trip, so we could call on them. We arrived for our morning appointment with one of the executive brothers. The first problem was he had not told anyone else we were to be there. Via intercom he asked the product manager for products such as the T.L.C. line to come to his office. Obviously, the young lady was not prepared. He yelled at her with more four letter words than I know, even Bob Perry didn’t know all of them. If I had talked to any of the Polychem young ladies that way I’d probably still be in jail.
A fellow named Bill Knight was selling a line of German made instrument washers that was using German made chemicals. He always had us believe that we could get that business. We made considerable efforts in formulating and in sampling even trips to Annapolis and their U.S. headquarters in Miami. Eventually to no avail.
In the 1940’s when I started the big national hospital supply houses were Meinecke, American Hospital Supply, A.S. Aloe of St. Louis and Will Ross in Wisconsin. Will Ross was a fine company and I believed covered the entire country. They were bought out by G.D. Searle which I believe was run by Donald Rumsfeld. At any rate, someone in the company decided to move Will Ross from Milwaukee to Dallas, Texas. They of course lost most of their good employees, the heart of the company. Once settled in Dallas, they asked Polychem to come down for a meeting.
Bob Perry and I flew down, and upon walking into the lobby of their fancy new building, I was greeted by a big bulletin board saying “Welcome. Bill Buell, President of Polychem Corporation.” They announced they wished to have us make their private label cleaners and lubricants. They wanted the entire line from No. 222 to No. 999, With that, they handed us all the papers and rough art work for labels, literature and even the printed cartons. Not realizing what shape the company possibly was in, we went ahead and prepared everything as Will Ross asked. About the time we were ready to go, Searle notified us they were discontinuing the Will Ross division. We billed Searle for all of our expenses, approximately $8000.00 . They refused to pay that. Finally, they agreed to pay half saying that we each were gambling on the business. Searle eventually came out with NutraSweet and were bought out by Monsanto.
During the 1980’s we experienced increased sales, greater efficiency, upgraded processing equipment, computerization, fax machine, an 800 number, more efficient laboratory, new products, effective quality control and increased profitability. After many years, my son Bill III came back to Polychem from Boston, where he learned to be a computer programmer and worked as one, the last 31/2 years at the Stone & Webster Company. He had worked at Polychem for a couple of years after he graduated from college in 1971. Some of my critics at that time said I erred in not assigning him a specific job. Now I was delighted that he had chosen to return and for the next five years I thought we had a good father-son relationship. Bill did many good things for Polychem. He computerized the company. He was responsible for making John Sargent foreman. He hired Greg Byer. He hired Steve Rubin. With the help of lawyers and a consultant, he got together a much needed employee handbook. He helped out by handling some of the sales meetings. He made it possible for Eleanor and I to take short vacations. I went one period of 25-30 years with almost no vacation at all. Bill was made general manager.
About this time, Bill Markland decided to leave us, as also did his laboratory assistant, and the six month trial term, the basis on which we hired a young Ph.D. chemist did not work out. We were lucky to be able to secure the service of Frank Tranner, on a part time basis. Frank had recently retired from Chesebrough Ponds and unlike any of his predecessors, was an experienced lotion chemist. Steve was totally inexperienced and needed training. Frank Tranner also turned out to be a good teacher.
Tranner’s first task was to “fix” the T.L.C. Lotion formulation which had been giving problems through the years. This he did with the help of a $50,000 processing kettle and a new boiler system. He developed the T.L.C. Dermal Treatment Lotion, a product I had wanted for some time. He and Steve managed to stabilize the formula for BUELL Lubricant and still retain its desirable features. They then developed T.L.C. No Rinse Perineal Cleansing Milk and also T.L.C. Balanced Skin Cleanser and Shampoo Concentrate. A lot was accomplished in a relatively short time.
At the urging of Bob Perry, we decided to bring out an aerosol foamed alcohol product in competition with Vestal’s product. Al Schloser, Vestal Vice president, used to be with Seamless Rubber when it was in New Haven and at that time was a friend. When he went to Vestal, he took along a lesson or two he learned from Polychem so copying their alcohol foam was only fair play. After all the years listening to Dr. Ted Anderson saying 70% alcohol was the most bactericidal strength, we aimed for a 70% product. Vestal and others were in the 60% range. To develop or make such a product was beyond our capabilities, so I called up Herman Shepard (Shep) founder and former owner of Aerosol Technique Co. in Milford. He finally got hold of him on the beach in Miami via phone. Shepard had made several unsolicited attempts to buy Polychem. The final offer was that I would get stock (no money) and he would move Armstrong Laboratories, which he owned, from Massachusetts to a new building he would put up on property next to Polychem, and I would be in charge of the whole complex. I had no interest in that. At any rate, he put me in touch with his son who was running the aerosol plant in New Jersey. After a couple of months it was obvious they could not develop the product. We then met Ed Stoltz who used to be with Shepard and Aerosol Technique Co. I had met him years before when he was the chemist for the LesToil Co. in Holyoke, Mass. At that time he was exploring to see if I was interested in selling. Ed as a chemist and aerosol expert, did not take long to bring us a satisfactory product for T.L.C. Alcohol Foam Scrub. We also hired the services of a regulatory affairs gentleman in Westport to make sure we did everything probably according to F.D.A. rules.
I must mention our advertising agency Addie Hirschorn. He handled label designs and most of the literature in latter years as well as what advertising there was. He was always prompt, reasonable and didn’t try to sell us the moon. He did the alcohol foam label and literature.
This was a good product for us. We were able to sell this for less than the competition and yet at a greater margin than we had for any product. One disadvantage was that we never got into the larger size which came with a bracket for the cart.
After the Seamless Rubber Company bought the Lawton Instrument Co. we private labeled our entire instrument care line for them. That went well until Seamless downsized after being bought by a company that owned Tupperware. They moved out of New Haven to a small new building in Wallingford and in the process divested themselves of Lawton Instrument Co. A couple of old Seamless men took over Lawton with the help of an Alabama State loan and had to move warehouse and manufacturing to Huntsville, Alabama. They kept their office in Madison, Conn. Unfortunately for us they went out of business in a couple of years.
When the property next door to Polychem became available, I bought it including the house on the corner with the idea of putting on an addition of about 6000 square feet. The original building in 1955 cost us about $7.00 per square foot. The addition put on in 1963-64 cost approximately $8.00 per sq.ft and I thought in the 80’s we could have a new warehouse, more office space and upgraded laboratory and lavatories for about $50.00 per sq.ft. I was wrong. It would have cost about three times that, over $1,000,000 for 7000 sq. ft. The decision was made to postpone this project.
Even after reaching my 70th birthday, I never had any thought other than going on forever at Polychem. Then suddenly in December 1987, I found out I had bladder cancer and was operated on in St. Raphaels Hospital December 17. A few days after the operation, my 20 year old roommate went berserk about 1:00a.m., punched the nurse on the jaw and announced he was going to kill me. I survived and went home shortly after dawn. In 1988, the following August, they found two new tumors. After they were taken care of, I decided I was not immortal and now should do something about Polychem. Though I thought Bill Buell III was capable of taking over, he decided for many reasons that he did not wish to take on the job. It was then that we decided to sell the company. I went to several seminars and consulted with a few friends experienced in such matters as to how to proceed.
Through the years, especially in latter years, we had many inquiries, some serious and also some real offers from parties interested in buying us. They included Block Durg, several local New Haven companies, IPCO Hospital supply, Century Bath Tub Company, three different individuals from Chesebrough Ponds Co. (none who were officers), Marion Laboratories of Kansas City, a division of Johnson and Johnson and others I’d promised not to mention. The advice of some was to try Japanese buyers. They and those from other countries were anxious to buy when land came with the deal and, of course, all wanted to buy businesses that would be a means of securing their “Green Cards”. We entered into very serious negotiations with a couple from the New York City finance world. If their lawyers were not so slow, they may well have been successful in acquiring Polychem.
We did not advertise or offer through brokers. A few years before, a friend of mine advertised his company for sale in the Wall Street Journal and he received over 100 replies.
In the Spring of 1989, Polychem was asked to exhibit their products and be part of the RedLine Company’s annual sales meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Red Line was the country’s largest nursing home supply dealer. One day there a Red Line salesman named David Wilich stopped at our exhibit and noted we were from Connecticut. He said his brother was up there and was interested in buying a company. I answered that if he or anyone else were interested in us they better hurry. A couple of days after I returned to New Haven in walked Frank Wilich and Hans VanderKloot. The rest is history.
As best as I can recall, you now have my 44 years with Polychem Corporation, from the year 1945 to the fall of 1989, a period in which we saw nine presidents in Washington, five Popes in Rome, and a king as well as a queen in England. In 1945, civilian travel by air was rare, automobiles had stick shifts, computers had not gotten off the ground and there was no television. Shoes, radios, suits of clothes, nylons were almost impossible to buy as was installation of telephone service. Chemicals, bottles and even paper for advertising circulars was difficult. Polychem was lucky to get a pencil sharpener, ball point pens were in the future. New York City and New Haven still had trolley cars.
Writing this in 1997 has been difficult. I have had trouble remembering individuals names, often times taking a day or two before the name came to me. Eleanor has been little help after two heart attacks, one cardiac arrest, one stroke and Alzheimer’s. Thank god for Medicare! If I have left anyone out, misspelled names, not given credit where credit was due or made other mistakes, I apologize. I fondly remember most of the employees, believe they were important contributors to the success of Polychem and I thank each and every one of them. If any ever get to Clearwater, I hope they will call em or better yet, drop in.
First to make and market surgical instrument cleaner made with synthetic surfactants, a non-soap product.
Developed and sold Instrument cleaner that was used on first heart catheters by Nobel prize winner Dr. Andre Cournand.
Polychem Cleaners was the first to be used on Tissue Culture glassware.
First Company to market their hospital lotion in a plastic bottle.
First company to market a liquid body wash.
First Company to market to hospitals a non-alcoholic mouth rinse.
First company to list all ingredients on labels of all products whether under FDA or not.