Editor's Note: The editors of Locksmith Ledger are pleased to present an expanded version of our Icons of the Industry feature article from our 65th Anniversary coverage in November 2004. In interviewing these industry leaders, we realized that their accomplishments were far too numerous to fit in a...
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In the late 1980s, Miller saw the need for a forum for the sharing of information in the safe and vault industry. He founded the Safe and Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA), giving technicians a venue for sharing ideas and information. Miller was instrumental in building SAVTA's membership to approximately 1,200 members worldwide. As the Association grew, a decision had to be made as to which business he wished to continue leading. The decision was made to spin off SAVTA and it was donated to the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA).
In the early 90s Miller and his brother, Benson, founded LockNet, a nationwide sales and service organization catering to the security needs of national chain accounts such as Sears, Service Merchandise, Hollywood Video. Benson continues to direct the daily operations of the business.
Today, Miller continues to direct the education division of Lockmasters, and spends the majority of his time overseeing a group of three engineers in the Research and Development Department. This R&D group is constantly working on the development of new locks, equipment and techniques for the security industry.
Clay Miller and his wife, April Truitt, operate a primate sanctuary on the grounds of their farm in Kentucky. A non-profit organization, the Primate Rescue Center provides lifetime care for unwanted ex-pet primates and surplus laboratory animals. Currently they house and care for approximately 50 monkeys and 11 chimpanzees. The Primate Rescue Center is working with prominent animal protection organizations to restrict the domestic trade in primates and other exotic animals and to establish a national network of primate sanctuaries.
"Bob! Someone on the phone for you."
"OK! Hello. Gale Johnson! Hi Gale!"
"WHAT? The Locksmith Ledger is 65.....That flimsy four page paper that came out before World War II..... That skinny magazine you could put in your pocket..... 65 years! WOW! It's all growed up!"
My hat's off to you, Locksmith Ledger. May you have many more years in your mission to keep the locksmith informed and educated. And to you professionals who read the pages of the Ledger, I wish you the best. You're a member of the greatest professional fraternity in the world......one that dates back 40 centuries. Never forget the trust the public has for you and the traditions you've inherited. You are a locksmith!
Bob Psolka's career included stops at three companies: Locksmith Ledger, Taylor Lock Company and Ilco Unican. He arrived at the Ledger in 1954 as a part-time writer, later going full time and learning the trade in various shops. "When I left the Ledger 14 years later, I was handling not only the Ledger but also another publication and two advertising services, all monthly. Hectic!"
In l968, he joined a family-owned hardware store in Philadelphia that branched into wholesaling and later into key blank and lock manufacturing. Taylor was known as THE supplier for foreign car key blanks when foreign cars began to appear in the U.S. During Psolka's 18 years there, Taylor enjoyed a four times increase in sales volume.
Later Taylor Lock was acquired by Ilco Unican. Psolka was the only Taylor executive relocated to Rocky Mount, N.C., and he assumed the duties as Product Manager of Key Machines. At that time Ilco was selling nine key machine models. When he retired six years later, Ilco was actively selling 39 models, including an automatic feed machine.
Psolka says the formation of the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) brought about the biggest changes to the industry during his tenure. "In it's nearly 50 years, ALOA has accomplished the goal of its founders - it has elevated the status of a locksmith to that of a professional. It evolved into the cohesive factor that brought all levels of the industry together - manufacturer, wholesaler and the locksmith," says Psolka, who attended all of the ALOA conventions but one (his youngest son was born then) until he retired.
Psolka credits M. Leonard Singer, publisher of "that skinny magazine that could fit in your pocket," with getting him started in the industry. "He provided me with the opportunities to learn, instructed me, guided me, and advised me, as he had done with countless others in the trade. I'm really proud that he trusted me with his creation....The Locksmith Ledger."
Other major influences were William Taylor, the president of Taylor Lock Company; Don Wright, vice president of sales for Ilco; and Aaron Fish, chairman and president of Ilco Unican. Psolka also credits Mike Turner at Ilco, Frank Belflower, Lynn Best, Terri Nelson, Bill Reed, Hank Spicer, Ed Pfeil, Jerry Connelly, Jimmy Taylor, Harry Miller, Al and Jerry Hoffman, Virl Mullins and Tom Hennessey.