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Leiter retirement ends family tie to Almanack

January 06, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Women's hosiery production was getting quicker and cheaper, so Frank Leiter Jr. decided to move to another career - transmission repairs.

As different as those two jobs were, he said, both prepared him to be sales manager for the Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack.

In 1960, Leiter took over a management position at the Almanack previously held by, in order, his great-uncle, W.H. McCardell; his grandfather, O.D. McCardell; and his father, Frank Leiter Sr.

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Now, Leiter has retired from the Almanack, ending his family's tie of almost 100 years.

He also has stepped down from his fanciful post as judge of the annual woolly bear competition.

Leiter, 83, said his mind was slowing down on the job.

"Those old figures aren't coming out as fast as they used to," he said. "I'll get out (while I'm) ahead."

Until W.H. McCardell became manager in 1911, the Almanack's editors - founder Johann Gruber and a long line of his relatives - had always been manager, too, Leiter said.

W.H. McCardell held the job until 1929, when his brother, O.D. McCardell, took over, Leiter said.

O.D. McCardell passed the job to Frank Leiter Sr. in 1935.

In 1960, Leiter became sales manager and his brother-in-law, Jack Hershey, became manager. Hershey, who is married to Leiter's sister, Anna, held the job for about 25 years.

Leiter said he handled distribution, billing and collecting for the Almanack while Hershey oversaw the publication and printing.

The woolly bear competition, with prizes for the "biggest and woolliest" and "cutest and cuddliest," started 20 years ago.

Leiter said he derived a big thrill watching hopeful youngsters bring in caterpillars for inspection and rewarding the winner with $100.

Leiter said it was also satisfying to get hundreds of appreciative letters from loyal Almanack readers.

"You can see why I enjoyed working there all these years," he said.

For 15 years, Leiter worked full-time at his transmission shop and part-time for the Almanack. Sometimes, in crunch times, his wife, Virginia Ruth, helped.

The couple celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary in November.

Leiter said he worked at Willcraft Hosiery Mills in Williamsport before World War II. During the war, he served in Germany with the U.S. Army's 8th Infantry Division.

When he returned to his hosiery job in 1946, the industry was going through changes, so he decided to strike out on his own. He opened the transmission shop in 1967 and kept it for 15 years.

Leiter phased himself out of the Almanack over the last year or so. He was sales manager for the 2002 edition, but not for the 2003 edition. Last October's woolly bear competition was his last.

Leiter said two women who work with the Almanack's current business manager, Gerald Spessard, have taken over the sales manager's duties. One will be the new woolly bear judge.

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