Ziskind.com > Writing > His Story: Morris L. Ziskind > Chapter Seven - Retirement

His Story: Morris L. Ziskind

Chapter Seven - Retirement

I practiced veterinary medicine full time for nearly 35 years. I began to cut back my workload even before I sold my practice in 1969. I only saw trusted large animal clients located relatively nearby with whom I had worked for years. I stopped taking new clients or seeing clients that only called every couple of years when they had an emergency. I filtered out clients whose work I didn't want.

The amount of swine work declined in the early 1950's with the construction of the New Jersey Turnpike. The Turnpike Authority, in their need for land for the turnpike, bought many Secaucus pig farms and the licenses that went with them. Some of the displaced farmers stayed in Secaucus for a while, others moved. The number of my pig farmer clients dropped dramatically. I continued serving those clients with whom I had a good relationship, including some as much as an hour drive away. Meanwhile I was doing other large animal work, including horses.

As the amount of my large animal work declined my small animal practice grew. Early in my career I had office hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings from six to eight PM. Over time I increased my hours to 4 evenings a week (no Wednesday evening hours), and eventually Saturday mornings as well. From two hours I increased office hours to three and then four hours.

Towards the end of my career when I wanted to slow down I tried raising my prices hoping that would decrease the number of my clients. However I just got busier. After years of building my practice I decided I was tired of working so hard. I didn't need the money. I tried to hire someone to lighten my workload with no success. Young veterinarians wanted a "white coat job", just dealing with small animals. They were not interested in the large animal portion of my practice. They didn't want to put on overalls and go to the farms.

Finally I found Phil Titiel. He worked for me a couple of weeks and then decided he would buy my practice. After the sale I worked for him part time during a transition period to help him maintain my former clients. He preferred "white coat" clients, but was amenable to doing some large animal work. Once in a while I would do some of his large animal calls. I gradually minimized my involvement as he eased into the practice.

Since we had lived upstairs from the animal hospital, selling my practice meant Rebecca and I needed to move. We found a lovely detached brick house at 7 Schmidt's Place in Secaucus. I sold the building housing the veterinary practice but kept the other two buildings on Paterson Plank Road as an investment. Eventually I sold those buildings as well.

After retiring I kept a few irons in the fire, keeping busy with a variety of part time jobs. I served as the local health inspector for Secaucus and another local community, inspecting restaurants and other establishments that needed health department approval to maintain their license. My large animal veterinary work and my experience as an inspector of slaughterhouses for the state of New Jersey qualified me for this job.

I also resumed work as state health inspector, inspecting slaughterhouses twice a week. Inspecting animals at a slaughterhouse involves examining the animal before and after it is killed. You appraise the animal's health, look for symptoms of disease, and determine whether it is fit for human consumption. After the animal is slaughtered it is cut in half, hung from a hook with its entrails attached to the body, and placed in the refrigerator. Sometimes they would try to fool me and put a diseased organ from one animal, such as a liver, in an otherwise healthy animal. It was like figuring out a puzzle. When I caught them in this kind of subterfuge I would condemn both the healthy and the sick animal as a form of punishment to discourage them from continuing such deception.

The meat from the slaughtered pigs, cows, and goats was used for local consumption and sold in the slaughterhouse store. Goat meat was particularly popular in the local Italian community, especially for certain holidays.

When the state health department needed a fair, unbiased opinion I occasionally served as an adjudicator. I might be called if someone was trying to sell questionable meat. I also testified as an expert witness in court cases. After a while the judges recognized me.

"Hello Dr. Ziskind, how are you?" a Judge might say, being friendly to me, the chief witness. "You know, I have a dog that..." and he would proceed to ask me a question about his pet.

My state inspection work grew because my inspections were recognized not just intra-state but also for meat going out of state. Many inspectors were only authorized to inspect meat that would be sold instate. My inspection stamp allowed meat to be sold anywhere in the east. I began to charge for mileage when I had to travel to do inspections. That helped me cut back on my inspection work.

After I retired I occasionally substituted for veterinarians on vacation. Since I was licensed I was in demand. I only did this for veterinarians who I liked or gave me no problem.

I also appraised veterinary practices. When a veterinarian sells his practice there is no set price. I knew the business, had wide variety of experience, and was honest. The seller and buyer agreed to accept my appraisal as independent and impartial. Many a deal was made "subject to Ziskind's appraisal."

A couple of times I acted as an agent to help veterinarians sell their practices by finding them a buyer. At times I loaned the money to the buyer. Selling a veterinary practice is a complicated matter. Typically the seller does not want to publicize the fact that his practice is for sale. My reputation for being honest and trustworthy served me well. My role was to quietly help facilitate a deal. Word got around that I was acting as an agent and opportunities presented themselves. Once I had a seller who said if he could get his price he would sell. I happened to be looking for a short-term investment so I bought the practice and soon afterwards resold it to a third party.

I continued my involvement with the Secaucus National Bank. Mondays we had business meetings. Decisions had to be made about loans during the week. I was on the loan committee, did appraisals, and made a report so the committee could reach a decision. I had a reputation for being fair.

Sometime during the late 1960's Rebecca and I and our friends the Shermans took a trip to Israel. When we traveled I was always interested in seeing the local farms and when possible talking to local veterinarians. In some of the restaurants they offered a meal of "white" meat. The meat was not identified, but I asked around until I was able to identify it as pork. Apparently it was not advertised as pork or it would not have sold well in this predominately Jewish country. Eventually I met someone knowledgeable about swine production in Israel. I identified myself as a veterinarian who specialized in swine. I was able to arrange for a visit to some pig farms. The general public did not know about these farms and I was the only one in our party allowed to visit. I was offered a temporary job of a few weeks to advise on pig production in Israel. I said I needed to know how much "garbage" (as in Secaucus, leftover human food was used as feed for pigs) they had available for the pigs. From that I could estimate how many hogs they were raising. As this pork was to be used by their soldiers, knowing their need for pigs would indirectly give me classified information about their military. I did not take the job primarily because I was not interested in going through their security clearance. As a parting goodwill gesture they took the four of us to see local farms where rabbits were raised for food.

So even after I retired I was busy, very busy. However, I was busy with different kinds of work and a more varied schedule. I also continued my interest in my real estate holdings.

Morris and Rebecca Ziskind at 50th Reunion (University of Pennsylvania)

Eventually I began to taper off all these activities and really retire. My view of retirement was to not work. I knew I could always find temporary work with another veterinarian, but I wanted a lifestyle free of restrictions, allowing us to travel as we pleased. I looked forward to being idle, to being free to take advantage of leisure opportunities. There was no pattern to my life these years, though it seemed I was busy all the time.

I began experimenting in creating art from melted glass. I gathered empty bottles of different colors, broke them into pieces and sorted the pieces by color. I arranged the various colored pieces of glass into a design or shape and heated my creation in a kiln until the glass melted and fused. I experimented with different wires to make "hooks" so the glass creations could be hung from the wall. I enjoyed experimenting with the materials and creating art from recycled materials. I made jewelry using discarded eyeglass lenses. Jerry attempted to sell some of my works and arranged for a Jewish bookstore in suburban Maryland to sell them on consignment. I sold one piece, a multicolored spelling of the word "Shalom".

I had free time to read and spend time in my garden. I particularly liked raising vegetables and experimented with different varieties of tomatoes. I became the tomato man, giving tomatoes to all my neighbors. I also dabbled in roses, because the pervious owner of our house had quite a variety of rose bushes.

We also spent more time with our friends. One afternoon Rebecca and I were in New York with our good friends, the Rosenbergs. Sid and I were looking in the window of a jewelry store and saw a beautiful diamond brooch. We went in the store to price the brooch. When I started to ask questions the salesman thought he had two serious buyers and soon brought out the store manager. Finally I tried to pin him down as to the price of the brooch. "How much is it?" The manager replied "About one twenty five." Sid said, "I'll buy one too!" There always had been a friendly rivalry between us, and I could hardly control my laughter because he thought I was getting a real bargain. I got us out of the store explaining it was too expensive for me. Sid misunderstood; the price was one hundred twenty five thousand dollars! "I'll buy one too," became a standard joke between us.

By the late 1980's Rebecca and I decided there was little to keep us in New Jersey. We wanted to live near one of our children in a more moderate climate. My health started to affect my lifestyle. I had trouble with balance and walking. I began to cut back on activities. I sold my final real estate interests and made my financial holdings more easily managed.

We looked for a central location with easy access to Florida, where during the '80s we had begun to spend our winters, to Philadelphia, where family members lived, and to our children. In 1987 we decided on Leisure World, a retirement community in Silver Spring, Maryland, about a forty-five minute drive from our son Jerry's home in Virginia.

My health slowly deteriorated. Eventually I was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus. In 1997 we moved into Bedford Court, a continuing care facility adjacent to Leisure World. We had a large apartment in independent living.

Next: Chapter Eight - Looking Back At My Life | Index