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July 30, 1981



Walter D. Bristow, who grew up in Fostoria, returned recently for a visit with relatives and old friends and I had an opportunity to spend some time with him and get up dated about the intervening years since 1928, when he left town.

That was the year he accepted a job at Caterpillar Tractor Co., Peoria, Ill., where he continued until his retirement in 1972.

Walter was one of the Review Times carriers back in to the era, and as we sat in Mr. and Mrs. Glenn True's home (his sister) one afternoon and reminisced, we recalled those carrier days and the old Foster fenced compound where we played, waiting for the flatbed press to turn out that day's paper.

We also talked about the 107th Calvalry Army band which he and other Wain- wright band members belonged to. That's another story coming up soon.

He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert E. and Maidie Bristow, who resided on Columbus Avenue when he and his sister Violet were kids.

Walt graduated from FHS in 1925 and was a member of Jack Wainwright's band, including the national champions of 1923.

I asked Walt how he happened to go to work for Caterpillar. He filled me in on his various pursuits before reaching Peoria.


Because of his activities in instrumental music and in Wainwright's band, he had earned a scholarship at Conn Institute of Music, Chicago, before he studied to become a bandmaster. There he studied under Robert Ennes and became first clarinetist in his concert band. Although he graduated and re- ceived his Illinois teachers certificate, he never entered that field. How- ever, that experience provided opportunities to play in various bands and orchestras throughout his whole vocational career.

Before he left Fostoria, he worked for Charles Latshaw in the construction business, "primarily to build me up physically," he said. I recalled that Walt was pretty lean, like me, as a boy.

He also worked for the Hague Washing Machine Co. distributor in Fostoria, which was headed by Fred Gerlinger. Their franchise covered all of Ohio. They were located at Wood and North Streets.

It was really Bristow's employment at the Fostoria Screw Co. that vaulted him into his job at Caterpillar. Frank Oram was manager at Fostoria Screw. Many readers will remember him and possibly Walt's stint there too.

What did Walt do there?

"A little bit of everything," he said. "Helping Mr. Oram in the ventory work...also some shop work.

A friend of Walt's had a Dawn Donut Shop in Fostoria, but finally left and went to Fostoria, but finally left and went to Peoria. Through him he was informed of the job opportunities at Caterpillar and made a visit to their plant to apply.

When Walt was at Fostoria Screw, he had purchased calipers and learned to use them accurately. So, when he was interviewed at Caterpillar, he was asked if he could use a caliper and give a product to measure.

Apparently, the interviewer was satisfied with his proficiency. Walt was told to report for work the next week in the tool crib. That was the start of his long career with Caterpillar, which at that time was a small company, having incorporated in 1925. Walt joined them at the right time. Today they are an international company, employing 81,899 in 1980.


Walt was not a college graduate. He gained his mechanical engineering degree through an International Correspondence School course and on-the-job training.

During his 44 years with Caterpillar, he steadily gained experience and res- ponsibility, eventually reporting to top management officials on all design engineering problems. He designed many machines used by his company and others, an activity which took him into various manufacturing plants through- out the U.S.

In later years, because of his knowledge, he was involved in writing and editing trade magazines.

In the broad machine field, the designs which Bristow produced for Caterpillar eventually were adopted industry-wide.

In Caterpillar's 1980 Annual Report, Walt showed me the photo of Robert E. Gilmore, president, and said that he too started as an apprentice machinist in 1939, as did George R. Armstrong, executive vice president, and William L. Naumann, former chairperson of the board. They all started in that same way, at the bottom as apprentices.

"The job was always like a hobby to me," Walt said.


Perhaps the success which Walt experienced at Caterpillar, at least in part, was a repeat of that of his uncle William L. Clouse, his mother's brother. Here's that story, in brief, pointed out to me by Walter Fruth, 836 N. Union St. He also visited with Walt when he was in town.

National Machinery Co., Tiffin, was originally a Cleveland company. But, Me- check Frost of Tiffin succeeded in getting it to relocate in Tiffin in 1882.

William Clouse, in 1883, became one of the early stockholders and associates of Frost and grew along with the new Tiffin industry. That's the way Bristow did with Caterpillar.

An interesting sidelight of the National Machinery story involved "Diamond Jim" Brady, a well-known promoter and gambler of a past era.

The story goes that as National Machinery prospered, one group of stockholders tried to gain control from Frost. But Frost offered to buy out their stock at the same price they had offered. They gave him an option for 30 days. Frost went to New York to see his friend "Diamond Jim" and returned with the necessary funds to buy controlling interest.

Although Mescheck Frost has been dead for many years, his granddaughter, Jane Kalnow, still owns controlling interest of National Machinery.


Kenny Knox telephoned about two articles. The most recent being "feedback" about Richard Mickey and his sister Mildred Mickey Hutchinson. Last week's column reported Richard's death and mentioned his assumed name of Newton.

He recalled that at one time, when Mildred was still living in this area, he and his family lived in one of her rental houses next to her. He thought Mildred was a fine and interesting lady. He remembered when her daughter broke her leg skiing and came back home while it mended. He said Mildred taught school at Perrysburg at one time and also FHS.

He asked me if I knew why Richard had adopted the name of Newton. He knew the whole story. Newton was actually Richard's middle name, and he used it after going to New York City, where he became a playwright and author, evi- dently believing it was better than "Mickey" for that purpose.


The other "feedback" Kenny referred to was the article about Mr. Blose, in which K & W Oil Co. was named. He asked me if I knew what "K&W" stood for. I said I knew the "K" stood for Kressler, but the "W" I did not know. Kenny said Mrs. Kressler at one time had told him it stood for "wife." I learn some- tthing new all the time.


I get many telephone calls from readers about subjects for columns or "feed- back." I make a list of them and try to get back with them at later dates. Three which I have been unable to reach by phone, after repeated attempts are Kim Heckathorn, Mrs. Hitchcock and Virginia Williams. Will you please phone me. Thanks.

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