Last week I told you the fabulous story of Mayo Priebe, a Rochester businessman from long ago, and his medically related products, which took advantage of his invaluable first name. Priebe produced an aspirin called Mayo-Cin, a perky caffeinated pill called Mayos A-Wake Tablets and a Mayos lotion of some kind.
You can see the problem — when Priebe took these to market in 1957, the local clinic that shares the name Mayo was not impressed with his entrepreneurial verve. The clinic took him to court in late 1957 and eventually was able to protect its trademark in an interesting ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1962.
Moral of the story: The clinic always wins.
So, after spinning that yarn, I asked readers to tell me more about Priebe (pronounced Pre-bee), a memorable character in Rochester history, and that invitation was just what the doctor ordered — I've had a ton of mail on the topic.
Annie Ringo Vine, who lives in Tucson, Ariz., sent this:
"Hello! I read your little bit about Mayo Priebe in tonight's edition of the P-B. He was my maternal grandfather and five of his eight children are still living in Rochester ... Although I never met him, I have heard many stories, and yes, he was a very eccentric and enterprising fellow. At one time or another, he owned many, many businesses and farms in and around Rochester over the years.
"For instance, he bought a lion from the circus and kept it at his stable on Marion Road — Priebe's Stock Farm. I know eventually that lion was given to one of the Mayo family members, who walked it on a leash in downtown Rochester and rode around with it in his convertible."
OK, I've never heard that story before. A Mayo family member taking a lion for a walk in downtown Rochester?
To jump ahead in my story-telling, I had a wonderful chat this week with Priebe's daughter, Marcia Priebe Gray, and she doesn't recall ever hearing about a lion. But in our own archives, there are clippings and letters about the lion, whose name was Poopsie. (I haven't found evidence yet of a Mayo family member promenading with the lion, however.)
Here's more from a writer who prefers anonymity, which is something I've never understood — doesn't everyone want to be world famous, like the clinic and like certain newspaper columnists?
"I never knew Mr. Priebe, but the stories about him are numerous ... just for starters, he ran pinball machines when they paid off in cash! He would help anyone start a bar, just to have pinball machines in the place. And then, of course, there were the one-armed bandits...
"Mr. Priebe may be worth more than a column -- maybe a series of columns, or a book!"
Well, we're now in the midst of a series, and if people continue to send me more, we may have a book.
If I use Mayo in the title, will I get in trouble? We'll find out.
The stories are legion. Here's another, maybe apocryphal, maybe the gospel truth. In my experience, the two aren't that far apart.
"The rumor when I was a kid was that old Mayo always carried a case of Crown Royal whiskey, which was a status symbol back in the 1960s, in the trunk of his Lincoln. One night while parking cars at the Townhouse Restaurant, I parked his Lincoln and out of curiosity opened the trunk.
"Sure enough, there it was — the fabled case of Crown Royal."
Now, to circle back halfway into this column: I had a wonderful chat with Mayo's daughter Marcia this week and I'll pass along her recollections about this legendary figure, as well as a few more details about Poopsie, in a column next week.