Kodak Retirement Article on Henry Grosswirth (1944)
Dear Blog Visitors:
In 1944, my late paternal grandfather, Henry Grosswirth (1879-1975), retired after 34 years with Eastman Kodak. (He worked for the company from 1910-1944.) His career and life were so fascinating that Kodak’s newspaper, ‘The Kodakery,’ decided to publish a feature story on Henry upon his retirement.
I have already written a lengthy family history of my grandfather and his extended family in Europe and the United States. This history can be accessed on-line at the following link:
For members of his family who stayed in Hungary, the fates of most of them were tragic. A cruel series of events placed family members under three brutal regimes: first, the Austro-Hungarian Empire; second, Nazi-occupied Hungary; third, Hungary under Communist rule and Soviet occupation. (82 persons with the Grosswirth name perished during World War II; some died in concentration camps, and a few others were killed along the banks of the Danube River in the final year of World War II.)
My grandfather rarely talked about his European relatives, probably because information he had was too painful to relate to his descendants. What I learned following his death in 1975 was a result of many years of research.
Following the authorship of my family history, it was a pleasant surprise for me to find a copy of the 1944 article from ‘The Kodakery.’ It provided information I did not have access to previously. So, I will now be able to include pieces of it in a screenplay I intend to write, tentatively called, ‘The Red Danube.’
The above photo is of my paternal grandparents, Henry and Sallie Grosswirth (photo taken in 1954).
The 1944 article is rather faded, so I had to re-type it. The article mentions my father’s two brothers, but it did not mention my father, Sidney Grosswirth. (My father also worked at Kodak for 35 years.) One of my father’s brothers (Edward) moved to the west coast after working at Kodak for a few years; his other brother (Louis) also moved to the west coast after working at Kodak for a while and serving in the military. Here is the word-for-word article on my grandfather in its entirety:
IN FOCUS: HENRY GROSSWIRTH
THE KODAKERY: 1944
Henry Grosswirth went home last week. But his many Camera Works friends, who know that the retired 65-year-old plant veteran has earned a well-deserved rest, entertain some doubts as to his intentions to pursue it.
There are good grounds for their suspicions. Henry Grosswirth, you see, is a rather unusual individual.
Henry, for example, spoke six languages when he was only 13 years old. When he was all of 14 he left home in Austria and traveled to America. So did many others – but Henry came all by himself, worked in this country for a while, and then went back home. He worked at so many trades before he came to Camera Works in 1910 that plant officials felt obligated to inquire as to how long he planned to stay in our midst. Henry said he thought he would stay quite a while. He did. Thirty-four years, to be exact.
Henry’s parents were financially well off. They wanted him to continue his schooling and go to a university. But he was as restless at 14 as the average boy of 20, so his mother sewed $200 in his shirt, and, equipped with railway and steamship tickets to take him as far as New York City, Henry departed, accompanied by his parents’ avowed blessings and unexpected misgivings.
Even before Henry left the continent he demonstrated his ability to take care of himself. Waiting for an American-bound ship at a German port, he sat down to write a last letter home. Fellow travelers, many of whom were unable to write, begged him to pen their final letters before embarking for the New World. Henry obliged, for a consideration, and before the evening was concluded he had a stack of letters by his one hand and a stack of folding money by his other.
His first job in the United States was that of an apprentice in a cigar-making shop. That was in 1892, and Henry dragged down the munificent sum of 25 cents a week, plus board. He did better on his next job and was on his way to even more responsible positions when a serious hand injury threatened the loss of all of his fingers. Henry returned to Austria to recover.
A Vienna specialist restored to Henry the use of his fingers, and, free of this worry, he again started forth – this time within the confines of the European continent.
He tried cabinetmaking, made an error one day and was beaten with a piece of the lumber with which he worked. So, he decided to try tinsmithing. That was terminated by the discovery that he suffered from acrophobia, which is no phobia for those working on roofs and high chimneys. Then came a job in a leather plant. Frankly, it stank, and Henry switched his allegiance to a bakery. That smelled and tasted better, so he finished his four-year apprenticeship in two years and became foreman.
Then Henry bethought himself of his original purpose in life, and the bakery sought a new foreman. His further European travels, during which he taught languages in various schools, were brought to a halt when he married Sallie Wicks. So Henry brought his wife to America.
It took Henry a few years to find Rochester, and then to find Camera Works – and that did it for Henry’s traveling, up until this point. But now that he is retired…..!
Henry began work at Kodak as a drillpress hand. Throughout the years that followed he held many supervisory jobs in the milling, drillpress, lathe, punchpress, brass, and rivet departments. His work, in recent years, has been alongside Edward Grosswirth, one of his boys, and expert tool and die maker now on special duty for the company outside Rochester. Henry has another boy who is doing the traveling for his father. He’s an Army lieutenant.
But Henry has ideas. South America is separated from him by nothing more than a war and a few miles of ocean. He’d travel now, if it weren’t for the military demands upon rail transportation, to see his two boys, and his daughter who is in New York. He prefers to wait a bit.
Yet South America makes pretty good reading, thinks Henry Grosswirth. Then, not so many years from now, he guesses, he’ll drop down there for a look around. A man in his late sixties has more business traveling anyway than a boy of 14, Henry will tell you.