Los Angeles, California – A legendary figure in the world of advertising and radio, Mike Drechsler, also known as Michael Ellis Drechsler, left an indelible mark on the industry. Born on December 21, 1932, in the heart of Los Angeles, Drechsler’s journey through life was as unique as the gadgets he became famous for.
Drechsler’s early academic years saw him attend Bergen Junior College and later the University of Connecticut. It was during his time at the university that he crossed paths with his future wife, Riva Feister, setting the stage for a lifelong partnership.
By 1955, Mike Drechsler had already made a name for himself in the world of radio, securing a position with the esteemed NBC network. However, his career took a brief hiatus from 1956 to 1958 when he dutifully served in the United States Army.
After his military service, Drechsler’s journey took him to West Hartford, Connecticut, where he immersed himself in the world of radio, working for WNBC and WRYM. His talent and dedication eventually led him to become the National Sales Manager for WDRC, marking a significant milestone in his career.
Upon retirement from his illustrious radio career, Drechsler ventured into the realm of real estate. Yet, his passion for community involvement and philanthropy remained unwavering. He continued to contribute actively as a Life Member of the Auxiliary of Hebrew Health Care, the National Council of Jewish Women, and B’nai Brith.
Tragically, Mike Drechsler passed away on June 21, 2015, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and community service.
But what propelled Mike Drechsler into the spotlight? It was an unconventional advertising stunt that made him famous. In a story dated May 3, 1964, published in the Hartford Courant, he was dubbed “the most mechanized, transistorized, and gadgetized time salesman of our time.” The story revealed the ingenious marketing strategy behind his rise to prominence – motorized roller skates.
Drechsler believed that “every adult is still a kid at heart,” and he used these motorized roller skates as a unique icebreaker when dealing with clients. The skates were a conversation starter and a memorable gimmick that set him apart from the competition. His wife, Riva Feister, even supported his quirky passion by purchasing these gadgets for him.
Mike Drechsler’s roller skate adventures didn’t stop there. He once borrowed a New York Yankees uniform, donned his skates, and participated in a New Britain parade, captivating onlookers with his unique spectacle. Furthermore, a New York City photographer approached him, resulting in pictures of a model on the skates being published in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Although the photographer’s name remains a mystery, the impact of those images is undeniable.
The iconic picture of Mike Drechsler refueling his roller skates at a filling station, which ignited curiosity about the contraption, is attributed to F. Roy Kemp, a Canadian photographer. Kemp, known for his collections of photographs, posted this image in 2012, sparking a flurry of social media activity.
But what was the peculiar device attached to Drechsler’s skates? The answer lies with the Motorized Skate Company of Detroit. Founded in 1955 by Antonio Pirrello, an inventive soul from Lincoln Park, Michigan, the company was responsible for crafting the “Power Roller Skates.” Antonio Pirrello, born on March 29, 1913, and residing in Wayne, Michigan, held a patent for these innovative skates, which he had been perfecting for years.
Pirrello’s dedication to mechanized creations was unmatched. He strived for years to market these skates, managing to reduce their engine’s weight to under seventeen pounds, possibly as low as nine or ten pounds. Some have speculated that the skates’ commercial failure was due to the absence of brakes, but in reality, the skates had a steering and braking mechanism. While not the most efficient or easily controlled, they functioned similarly to traditional roller skates.
Antonio Pirrello’s inventive spirit didn’t stop at roller skates. He held nine patents, including an end-of-toilet-paper device, a remote auto starter, an improved bowling ball handle, and a walker that transformed into a chair. His most cherished creation remained his miniature gasoline engine, which could propel the skates up to 35 mph and retailed at $500.
In later years, his grandnephew, Frank Pirrello, joined him in modifying the skates to work with an electric motor. They also embarked on an inline skate project, attaching a two-horsepower gasoline engine to one of the skates, achieving speeds of up to 35 mph.
Mike Drechsler and Antonio Pirrello shared a common passion for innovation, and their unconventional creations left an indelible mark on their respective fields. Despite their quirks, both men proved that a dash of creativity and a willingness to push boundaries can make the world a more interesting place.