Monday, February 05, 2018

Forced off the farm in Michigan when the Great Depression hit, in 1929, the Zerlaught family struck out for California in hope of a brighter future... wow, the future packed a punch of good fortune for the talented and gifted

Soon Leonard Zerlaught was a welder in a Chevy dealership, then he owned the business.

The 1930s were terrific and his business was growing by leaps and bounds, he received a patent for a welding procedure to bend pipes, he continued to expand into additional areas of machine work, and he started a new business in 1940 – a machine shop called Leonard Precision Products Co.

A good business to be in when WW2 struck. Within a year, newspapers reported that Zerlaut had sold parts and machinery to Henry Ford, aircraft companies, and the U.S. Navy.

During World War II, his shop manufactured tools and equipment for use in aircraft factories, and he flew his own plane with parts he had made and flew them to Rohr aircraft in San Diego. He also subcontracted work for Consolidated Aircraft, Ryan Aircraft, Vultee Aircraft and Lockheed Aircraft.

Leonard Zerlaut was also involved in the local Rotary Club, and in the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America for many years. “He literally built the health lodge at Camp Ro-Ki-Li,” said Fred, referring to a large Scout camp sponsored by the Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs. “And around 1979 he built the main meeting and mess hall at the Rancho Las Flores Scout camp at Camp Pendleton. He was later presented with the Silver Beaver Award for his service to the Scouts.”

Leonard Zerlaut held a total of six patents. These included a “tube-bending apparatus” in 1964, a “feeding system for a swaging or tapering apparatus” in 1966, and an “apparatus for the forming of concrete” in 1959. The last of these came about when his company was building the concrete track for the Disneyland ALWEG Monorail System. Zerlaut’s new steam pressure cure process for concrete allowed one new section of rail to be completed every day from each form.

Zerlaut, also built the machine that welded the steel for the Space Needle at Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition (1962), for New York Harbor’s double-decked Verrazano Narrows Bridge (1964), and for the New York World Trade Center.

Micro-midget race cars were popular in Southern California in the 1960s, and Zerlaut built one for Fred. These tiny race cars were something like a modern go cart, but with real suspension systems. Hugging the ground, and with the engine roaring only inches from the driver ear, these little cars gave the illusion of going much faster than they actually did (which was plenty fast enough). The Zerlauts’ father and son team traveled all over to compete in races, eventually taking home prizes from the national competition in Selma, Alabama.

No comments:

Post a Comment