Jason Schmittler is an English teacher with Hagerstown High School and on the town’s planning commission. Some 30 years ago, Jason discovered and rescued over a thousand negatives from the 1940’s – 1960’s that were about to be discarded. He kept these safe over the years thinking someday there would be a worthy use for these gems.
Jason had heard about the documentary film, “Blind Logic – The Ralph R. Teetor Story,” and reached out to Jack Teetor thinking some of these old photographs would be of interest. Indeed, they were, as some key images are in the final edit of the documentary film.
These priceless photographs were originally taken by Don Beeson, Chief Photographer for the Perfect Circle Company, with his Hasselblad camera, and no doubt some by his cousin Louis. Don had eventually passed the job on to Louis.
Jason was born in Richmond, Indiana on March 18, 1972, to Perry and Sally Schmittler, and is a lifelong resident of Hagerstown. Jason’s father Perry worked at Perfect Circle. As Jason said, “My father made piston rings at PC. In those days of my youth, my family was well provided with benefits such as major medical/dental that paid 100% of all care. This doesn’t exist today. I had a great childhood in large part to the pay and benefits my father received from working at Perfect Circle.”
Jason graduated Manchester College and earned a BS in Secondary English Education with a Middle School Endorsement.
Jason further recalled, “In one of the aerial shots from 1957, I found my current home which I know was built by Perfect Circle in 1946 to accommodate returning military servicemen to provide housing for those who would work in the factory. My home and the one directly east of mine were built for that purpose, along with some other forty homes around town.”
After college, as an aspiring musician, Jason signed a record contract with an independent label out of Nashville and spent a year in Austin, Texas. Returning to Hagerstown, Jason is now in his 13th year teaching English and enjoys his career.
Jason also shared, “I have also heard, over the years, that Perfect Circle employed a man to teach a class at the high school that would better prepare future workers to succeed at the plant. The investment made by the plant in and for the community was unmatched.”
For Jason, seeing some of these negatives scanned & digitized and come to life was an emotional experience taking him back to the prosperous years of Perfect Circle. As he commented, “This whole experience has been pure joy for me, and what it means for the community and the history of the auto industry is beyond imagination.”
Steve Beeson served in the Air Force and is a Vietnam veteran who worked at the Distribution Center (DC) for Perfect Circle. In 1991, when Dana Corporation closed the DC, Steve worked as a ground’s keeper for the bed and breakfast, previously Ralph Teetor’s home.
Steve’s father was Don Beeson, Chief Photographer at Perfect Circle, who eventually passed the job onto his cousin, Louis. Don also took many pictures for the Magic Circle Magazine for many years. Steve resides in Hagerstown today and possesses a rare “Doctor of Motors” sign, proudly hanging in his garage, an innovative training program formed by Perfect Circle in 1941.
Steve also shared a story from his youth during the brutal UAW-CIO strike to hit town in 1955 and recalled, “During the strike, Dad told me that he never wanted to see or hear of me being south of Main Street during the strike. Well, you know when he told me that, what I had to do, don’t you?”
Steve went on to explain, “I managed to sneak down alley ways and between houses, until I was about 200 feet from the farthest east entrance to the main plant on Factory Street. When I pulled my stealth to look around the corner of the house I was hiding behind, I saw two huge army tanks, and several troops walking around with weapons ready. I was enjoying the show when one of the troops spotted me. He pointed directly at me with his finger, and said, ‘YOUNG MAN, YOU GO HOME!” That is all he needed to say, my feet only touched the ground every 10 feet, and on my run the nine blocks back to my house, even Jesse Owens couldn’t have caught me.”
His family also included Bob Beeson, who was the Safety Director at Perfect Circle during the 1950’s. During the 1955 strike, Bob remembered that the Hagerstown plant was in danger, receiving constant threats to blow it up. He recalled later, “We couldn’t get out of the factory for five days, but the mail always came through, so my wife mailed me clean underwear.”
Steve went on to share, “Uncle Bob was a very influential ‘man about town’ when I was growing up. He was head Scoutmaster for many Boy Scouts and Explorers. My father also helped with the scouting program.” In 1963, Steve purchased a suitcase at a consignment auction to raise money for a scout trip. He recently commented, “I did not realize until many years later what the initials on it stood for. The initials were R.R.T. I just this summer gave it to the museum.” This was originally Ralph R. Teetor’s suitcase.
The documentary film reveals that in 1928, Ralph Teetor built and donated a Boy Scout Camp near Hagerstown, which served the local area for years.
Continuing with his family history, Steve commented, “There were seven siblings in my dad’s family, and their grandfather (my great grandfather) moved them to Indiana from Kansas. Several years later, they found out about a famous member of our family that was well known there. His name was Chalkley (Chalk) Beeson. In 1861, the Long Branch Saloon was built in Dodge City, and in 1863 Chalk bought the Long Branch along with another fellow named Harris. Here is the clock that hung in the Saloon back then, that is currently in the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City.”