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"Cherry Picker" Founder Passes Away

"Cherry Picker" Founder Passes Away
"Cherry Picker" Founder Passes Away
"Cherry Picker" Founder Passes Away

In 1953, Jay Eitel was the founder of Telsta Corporation in Sunnyvale, Calif., which produced one of the first aerial lifts for the utility industry. He would have celebrated his 96th birthday this August.  He passed away June 10, 2012, in Palo Alto, Calif.

In 1944, Jay spent a tedious summer day picking cherries. After a frustrating day of positioning and repositioning the ladder, the inefficiency of this chore led him to design a device he called the "cherry picker." On evenings and weekends he built a highly maneuverable, telescoping, steel structure mounted on a truck chassis with a simple one-lever control. When World War II ended, he started his own company known as the Telsta Corporation. The innovative man-carrying bucket-lift became the familiar "cherry picker" used by the Bell Telephone Company and many other utilities in a great variety of applications. The Telsta aerial lift is still in use.


Jay's design initiated direct placement of telephone cable from a moving truck.  This productive method was a major contributor to building the telecom network of today. The "Lamplighter" lift allowed the operator to step from the driver's seat to the lift platform, then safely elevate for street light maintenance.


In 1954, Telsta Corporation received initial orders from Southern California Edison, PG&E, Portland General Electric, Arizona Public Service, Davey Tree Surgery, and other arborists for its street light service unit and truck-mounted telescopic lift. At the time, Telsta's competitors included Don Will Company, Portland, Ore. (Industrial Monkey), Tey Manufacturing Company, Milford, Conn. (Sky Worker), Stemm Brothers Inc., Leavenworth, Wash. (Hi-Tender), and Mobile Aerial Towers Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind. (Hi-Ranger). Other aerial lift manufacturers were getting ready to release their products including Holan, Pitman, McCabe Powers, Baker Equipment, and Utility Body


In the course of developing these industry-changing devices, Jay claimed 65 patents.  Jay sold Telsta to the General Cable Corporation in 1965. The Telsta product line became part of General Cable which was later incorporated into American Financial Corporation, Cincinnati, Ohio. American Financial sold the company to the employees in 1995, and it became Mobile Tool International. MTI included Holan and later, the acquisition of Teco and Ameriquip. Telsta products are still produced by Altec Industries, which purchased the assets of MTI in 2003.


Jay Eitel had numerous patents for aerial lifts, control systems, aerial lift tooling, and automotive components, many of which are still in use today. Jay was always active in the industry even though he retired in 1976 and continued to work on his personal hobby of building hot rods including a Corvair with a V12 Jaguar engine, a Pontiac Tempest with a 427 engine and a 3/4 scale 1937 Ford Roadster with a supercharged Ford Flathead V8 60 motor.  Jay was a lifetime member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and was requested in 1981 by the World Bank to consult on manufacturing problems in South Korea.  He returned a year later to further assist the Korean Government in solving problems in their automotive development.


Jay is survived by his devoted wife of 48 years, Esther Eitel of Palo Alto, his son, John, and many nieces and nephews.  He leaves behind a long legacy of innovation and service with his remarkable inventions.


Lift & Access is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.