Polio, Iron Lungs, Cereal, and K-Rations - The Life of Lamar Kishlar
In Ypsilanti on September 25, 1894 a boy named Lamar Morey Kishlar was born to one William Lamar Kishlar and wife Alice (Morey). His father was a storekeeper and mother was a housewife. He had one sister named Ellen. Lamar attended local Ypsilanti schools. He graduated in 1913 from Ypsilanti High School. His yearbook prophecy stated: “Lamar, I hail as a great electrical engineer of the very near future. His course through the University will be crowned with glory” Even his yearbook photo is captioned “Business Manager with a business head.” He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 indicating that he lived on South Washington Street in Ypsilanti. He was single, medium height, with brown hair and brown eyes. He listed his occupation as a student at the University of Michigan. Lamar graduated from the University of Michigan later in 1917. Upon graduation, having received a degree in Engineering, Lamar joined the Aviation Force of the United States Navy. This was at a time when Navy pilots flew wooden planes with cloth wings. He saw active service from 1917-1919 and was an instructor in Aviation Engineers School at Columbia and the Aviation School at Great Lakes. He, as well as his classmates, shot one of the first naval aviation training films. He went on to develop one of the first electric starters for aviation engines. After a three year stint at another company he joined the Ralston Purina Company of St. Louis, Missouri in 1922. He now lived at 312 Planthurst Road in Webster Groves, Missouri. He eventually married Carolyn Nettleship and they had a son they named Lamar, Jr. He was assigned to the research and development area and in 1934 became Manager of Research. He took a great deal of interest in soybeans and cottonseed processing. Later, in 1941 he was awarded the professional degree in engineering from University of Michigan. He continued on with Ralston Purina until his retirement in January, 1960. Lamar was recognized as an inventor. One interesting patent application was for the “Process for Preparing Wheat Cereal.” He had many other patents to his credit involving, soybeans, wheat cereal, batteries, and equipment for iron lungs. Lamar was well known in the St. Louis area and gained national recognition and the deep thanks of a grateful American public for his many inventions. The following information is from: 1) The A.O.C.S. Journal, June, 1941 (Vol. 34); 2) Outtakes from the history of AOCS INFORM, November, 2009; 3) Ypsilanti Press (undated) Polio Victims Helped by Gadgets Invented by Former Ypsilantian; and 4) Ypsilanti Press, June, 1964 - obituary of Lamar Kishlar. Polio was a dreaded name and disease striking thousands in the United States. Some lived and recovered, others died, and others suffered (even today) the effects of this disease which ravaged our nation during the 1950’s. Lamar suffered when his daughter-in-law and an unborn child died from polio and complications. At age 25 his son Lamar Jr. was in August, 1952 stricken with paralytic polio and was placed in an iron lung. Quoting from the St. Louis Dispatch, December 30, 1960: “One night Bud’s ‘iron lung broke down. There was no one in St. Louis we could call to make the necessary repairs. It was a frantic time for me. My son’s life was hanging in the balance. Finally, another iron lung was obtained, and I decided right there I would learn how to be a respirator technician.” “Mr. Kishlar studied textbooks on respirators and worked with spares from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. In no time he had built up a spare parts department in the basement of his home…and he was getting calls from hospitals and patients, referred by polio centers. He was rather busy as iron lungs were breaking down constantly. He even repaired motor controllers for iron lungs. When one of the patients was moved to his home Kishlar rigged up a series of automobile batteries in a portable frame for use in an ambulance from the hospital to a plane to Boston and again from the Boston airport in the ambulance to the patient’s home.” “For his own son, he invented and built an unusual breathing device, which Bud used when he was out of his portable respirator. He used a commercial vacuum cleaner which was then pulled around on steel skids. He took the motor out and re-installed it upside down so it would push AIR OUT rather than pull it in and equipped it with filters. With flexible rubber tubing, taken from masks of coal miners, and plastic tubing he directed the air to Bud’s bed. This was then attached to a cigarette holder which was clamped to Bud’s mouth.” “He made an aluminum frame in which he suspended an electric typewriter, which Bud used by means of a mouth stick to strike the keys. One of his most valuable tools was a mechanic’s stethoscope, by which he listened to the bearings of a respirator to make sure they are properly lubricated.” He was a member of the National Polio Foundation and did not charge for any of his services or calls. The foundation held the rights to the patents. “Mr. Kishlar, working with cooking oils and with an interest in soybeans and other products is credited with being a co-originator of the infamous K-rations used in World War II. Although searching through the literature there are others who are credited with inventing these types of rations. Legend has it that K, the initial of his last name, was used to designate the rations.” One evening in June, 1964 he had driven his grandson and friends to a school affair. He turned the key in the car and asked “where shall we go for treats?” He slumped over and died. His funeral and burial were in Missouri. He was survived by his wife, his son Lamar Jr. and a 13 year old grandson named James B. Although little known to many of us, a small bespectacled man, born in Ypsilanti, rose to the occasion and like the Biblical traveler stopped along the road of life and “made a difference.” (George Ridenour is an historian, researcher and regular volunteer in the YHS Archives and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.) Photo Captions: Photo 1: Lamar Kishlar was born in Ypsilanti in 1894 and later became well known for his work with cooking oils, soybeans and support equipment for the iron lung. He was named President of the American Oil Chemists’ Society in 1943.
Photo 2: Kishlar rigged up a portable lung device that could be used in an ambulance when transporting patients.