Tuesday, June 10, 2014

There's Money to be Made

That there's money to be made from what can be the oddest things will no doubt come as no surprise, especially to those who have made money from odd things. Take pay-toilet locks.

Wilson R. Neckerman was the inventor of a highway restroom pay-toilet lock that was so successful that the fortune that it made made its way down to a granddaughter.  From what can be gleaned from the Internet, Mr. Neckerman was granted a patent for his invention in 1922. Other patents followed for others for variations of the pay-lock concept, often for toilets.

Mr. Neckerman's granddaughter, Norma, an heiress to the fortune that accrued from such an unlikely invention, herself married money when she wed David Langworthy, himself a metals magnate. Together they took over the empty lot at 18 West 11th Street, a lot made famous by fact that the townhouse that once stood there was completely leveled when bomb-making members of the radical group The Weatherman accidentally triggered an explosion in the cellar in 1970 that killed three of the members in the cellar and left two other members, women who were upstairs--one ironing and one in the shower--running into the street with basically nothing on. They found clothes from a neighbor and pretty much disappeared for quite some time, proving that women with little or no clothes on in New York City can find friends fast. Theirs is a whole other story.

The story here is that I remember pay toilets, or at least pay stalls in the men's room, particularly at Penn Station. They were deemed illegal, at least in New York City, sometime I'm guessing in the 1970s. If there were any in the women's bathrooms, I didn't know. I doubt it.

The company that made the pay-locks on these toilets was Nik-O-Lok, a company that apparently is still around, providing controlled access to bathrooms for bars and restaurants. Their patent was granted sometime in the 1940s, showing you how durable this business was, and apparently still is.

Their locks took a nickle, which I think might have once been ramped up to a quarter. I never stuck around long enough to find out who emptied these locks and how. Eventually, the city outlawed their installations and the place has gone downhill ever since.

Whether it is life imitating art, or the other way around, there was a hilarious piece in a 'Frazier' episode several years back where his brother Niles finds out that his never-seen-wife Marist's family fortune evolved from 'urine cakes,' those mothball scented discs that men pee on at the base, inside the urinal, if they manage to keep it within the walls of the urinal. This sends Niles over the top with uncontrollable laughter. But, money is money, even better if earned honestly, however oddly.

Thus. Ms. Longworthy's fortune, along with that of her husband's, allowed them to build a townhouse on the bombed out property that has now been bought by a Mr. Justin Korsant, who of course is planning changes.

Ms. Longworthy passed away in 2012 at the age of 92, her grandfather's fortune apparently sufficient enough to prove that someone can take it with them into a ripe old age.

Mr. Korsant is described as being a "financier," and someone who was born after the 1970 bombing. His grandfather created the sunburn treatment Solarcaine, who many people will remember as being advertised by a picture of a person who has let too much sunbathing overcook parts of their body, seen and unseen in the ads, letting you judge where you might need it most based on which beach you went to.

Somehow, 18 West 11th Street cannot escape its connection to profits for relief.


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