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Call Roto Rooter By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum

April 4, 2014
Northern-Sun Print
Iowan Milt Blanc’s wife needed to get rid of her potato peelings, so she flushed them down the toilet. For a time she got by with her little caper until one day the drain failed to live up to its name. The drain was chock full of peelings, so Milt called his dad Sam Blanc over. Several years before Sam had tried unsuccessfully to sell hand augers made by a firm in Chicago. The devices were known as “snakes”, and one still hung in Sam’s garage. Milton remembered that, and so he and Sam labored all of one afternoon augering the potato peels out of the sewer line. With that job done, Sam went home and told his wife Lettie that there had to be a better way. Being the resolute kind of man, Sam was not easily dissuaded from whatever he set his mind on achieving. For months he labored on the sewer problem he sought to solve. Finally in 1934, he hooked up his wife’s Maytag washing machine motor to a spiraled cable armed with cutting augers on one end, and mounted on wheels from a child’s wagon. Sam was now ready to root out the cause of clogged sewers well ahead of the rest of the world. Lettie, being duly impressed with Sam’s idea, she volunteered one of the most popular names of all times to label the invention “Roto Rooter”. Even though the mid thirties were the toughest of depression times, Sam advertised he could not merely open drains, but clean them out like never before. It wasn’t long before people came to Sam saying they would like to use his machine in their cities. Sam obliged, and soon the Roto Rooter businesses sprang up across the land. In the early 1950’s, the jingle was written “Call Roto-Rooter, That’s the name and away go troubles down the drain”. The nation adopted the song so well that 96% of the American public recognized the name of Roto Rooter. Today almost every city over 50,000 people in the United States has Roto-Rooter service, making the company the far biggest American drain cleaner. Not bad for an Iowa based company, who keeps singing their jingle, all the way to the bank.


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