After spending most of the past two years doing research, recruiting actors for his script and making video, Jack Teetor returned to Hagerstown on Dec. 15, entering the home stretch of his effort to give his uncle’s life story national exposure.
Teetor’s uncle was the late Ralph R. Teetor, part of the family who led the Perfect Circle Co. to prominence in the automotive parts industry.
When the Teetors sold the Hagerstown-based company in 1963, it had more than 2,900 employees in several U.S. locations. Less well-known is Ralph Teetor’s personal story. Jack Teetor hopes to help rectify that.
Jack Teetor came to town from Los Angeles along with Ralph Meyer of Indianapolis, the grandson of Ralph Teetor. They came to be part of taping a TV show.
Jack Teetor and several local people came to Town Hall, each sharing parts of Hagerstown’s story for the next installment in a series called “Now Entering.” The segment, set to air in mid-March on WIPB, Ball State Public Television, is named “Now Entering Hagerstown.”
While awaiting his taping, Jack Teetor talked about Ralph Teetor, sharing the true story of a blind man who invented what is now known as cruise control in vehicles. Educated as an engineer, Ralph Teetor was granted 50 patents between 1919 and 1946, helped the Navy balance ship propellers during World War I and retired as president of Perfect Circle. He died in 1982.
He and his family were generous benefactors to the town, responsible for the public library and many other civic improvements.
Jack Teetor calls his documentary, set to air this spring, “Blind Logic — The Ralph R. Teetor Story.”
Written, directed and produced by Jack Teetor, the show is based on the book “One Man’s Vision — The Life of Automotive Pioneer Ralph R. Teetor,” by Ralph Teetor’s late daughter, Marjorie Teetor Meyer.
Jack Teetor has visited Hagerstown several times. He said the project “has been part of my life for two years. It’s such an important story and it needs to be told well. There can’t be anything not up to the quality that Perfect Circle was known for.”
He talked of speaking with local people who remembered his uncle, including some, like Jerry Mattheis, who worked directly with him on the cruise control. Mattheis died in 2023.
He recalled communicating with Jason Schmittler, a Hagerstown High School teacher who became the caretaker of hundreds of photo negatives showing Ralph Teetor and others at work on projects. When Schmittler learned of Jack Teetor’s project, he gave him the negatives.
Jack Teetor has enlisted well-known actors. Emmy Award-winning host and narrator Mike Rowe is providing the narration and Emmy Award-winning actor Jeff Daniels is voicing Ralph Teetor.
In a news release, Rowe commented, “I narrated this film because Ralph Teetor epitomizes the work ethic, which we value at our Mikeworks Foundation.”
Other voices are provided by Emmy Award nominated Barry Corbin (“Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Yellowstone”), Rick Zieff (“Mississippi Burning,” “Terminator 3”), Andy Rothstein, Ben Good and John Matthew.
This film features Lyn St. James, legendary race car driver and 1992 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year; Franz von Holzhausen, the chief designer at Tesla Inc.; Sarah Cook, the Automotive Hall of Fame president; and Leslie Mark Kendall, chief historian at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
After sitting for his interview with a producer and crew from WIPB, Jack Teetor and Meyer headed to Indianapolis for a screening of the documentary with other family members. Then, it would be back to Los Angeles, where postproduction is underway.
An online preview is available at www.blindlogicproductions.com/video/.
He has arranged a showing of the completed work at Earlham College in Richmond near the date of the total eclipse on April 8. He expressed interest in showing the work in Hagerstown during the same period if a venue can be found.
A version of this article appeared in the January 10 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.