Gallery: Do you remember? -- Sept. 5, 2011
Founded in 1934, Polan Industries employed more than 2,000 people during World War II.
PAST HISTORICAL GALLERIESJan. 31, 2011
The company, which had a few divisions, specialized in the manufacturing of lenses and specialized gun sights used by the military; remanufacture, rehabilitation and packing of defense equipment and making cargo kits for packaging military hardware.
"Mr. Polan was a clever man, as well as his sons and grandsons," said Richard McCoy of Huntington. "The City of Huntington was just the climate where they could thrive. Mr. Polan saw opportunity in the failure of a glass canning jar manufacturing facility in West Huntington. He converted it to making optical quality glass. He produced optical glass of a type and quality, that previously had been imported from Germany.
"When World War II started, the demand for such glass skyrocketed to make military optics; range finders for artillery, binoculars, tank sights, the supplies of the correct glass from Germany were cut off, and Polan (Zenith Optical in those days) had the domestic supply.
"The Secretary of War (before the Defense Department) soon knew Zenith Optical and the Polans' name, very well and Zenith had whatever it took to meet the wartime demand.
"My father worked at Zenith briefly and related to me the extent of resourses provided Zenith during that period. If some optical expert was required to answer a technical point, the Army picked him up, anywhere in the U.S. and flew him to Huntington, right now.
"This set the stage for Zenith, then Polan Industries, Korean War and Cold war optical production, shown in your photo collection.
"My second visit, the job interview, to Polan Industries in 1962 was also very revealing. With a constant stream of Defense contracts and the 'can do' spirit of the Polans, they were, by then, producing in addition to the basic military optics of the 1940s and 1950s, very sophisticated optical devices employing materials, electronic and mechanical systems.
"Polan was in need of a person to continue development of the electronics for a night-vision monocular. Their part-time employee, a Marshall student and a physics major, had been working on the electronics. But he was graduating and had an ROTC obligation to fulfill.
Polan approached Dr. Donald Martin, chairman of the Physics Department at Marshall, about a student to replace the part-time employee.
"Dr. Martin was my optics and electronics teacher and recommended me. I went for the interview.
I am sorry that I can't think of the student's name, but he conducted part of the interview and briefed me on his tasks.
"My optics and electronics classes had been complete, I understood the device completely, and I could draw you the circuitry and optics to this day.
"While there, Dr. Lake Polan, one of the brothers, took me around, introduced me to others and showed me other things they were making for the Defense Department.
"One in particular being a dome shaped lens some 6 inches in diameter. It was made of silicon and opaque to normal light, but passed the infra-red (heat). It was to be mounted in the nose of heat-seeking missles and once the missle was lanched the optics, electronic and guidance mechanism would send the missle up the exhaust pipe of a plane or tank or into a 'hottest' object.
"I was offered the job, but I had made plans to work elsewhere during the following summer months. With my senior years coming up, I knew that I would not have time for part-time work.
So, I declined Polan's offer.
"But, I never forgot the interview and tour. (How many times these day does one get beyond the HR Office in applying for a job ?)"
We have a treasure trove of old negatives and photos at The Herald-Dispatch. Some of the images, we know. Others, we have no idea.
We are scanning the negatives and photos and running some of the photos in the newspaper.
These photos were from a box of 4x5 negatives.
Browse through the gallery. If you can add caption information to any of the photos (or correct a caption we already have), e-mail online editor Andrea Copley-Smith at email@example.com or call 304-526-2764. Be sure to include the title of the gallery, details of the photo, your name and phone number.