The Very First Female Lab Technician at WACKER - Wacker Chemie AG


The Very First Female Lab Technician at WACKER

Petronella Pichler trained as a chemical laboratory technician in 1942 – a pretty courageous thing to do back then.

Petronella Pichler (center) was the very first female laboratory assistant at WACKER Burghausen. Her daughter Helga Titze and her son-in-law Manfred Titze also work with the WACKER Group today.

The elderly lady is very excited: more than 70 years have passed since Petronella Pichler came to WACKER as a laboratory assistant. And now, as she returns to her old workplace, many experiences spring to mind that she had thought long forgotten.

Petronella was in fact only allowed to take up employment with WACKER because in 1942 many young men were drafted into military service, including the chemical laboratory technician whose vocational training position she was soon allocated. In December 1946, she sat her laboratory-assistant examination and then worked, among other jobs, in the acetic acid plant and in the research department. “We researched and produced everything there,” she says, “even ski wax and rat poison.” And she adds mischievously; “And at Christmas we made ‘star throwers’ – sparklers, as they say today.”

In the postwar turmoil things happened at WACKER Burghausen that would be unthinkable today. In the case of ethanol, for example: “We distilled out the alcohol and turned it into eggnog. Or we crossed the border into nearby Austria and exchanged it for Christmas decorations.” Once her boss, ‘The Doctor’ caught her during distillation. But he only took a look at the thermometer and said: “Ah, 78 degrees!” Of course he knew that this is the temperature at which the alcohol boils off.

Petronella had a costly experience in 1947 when she bought Perlon (nylon-like) stockings for the first time in her life – for the princely sum of 200 marks. She wore the stockings in the laboratory, where a colleague was washing out his glass flask. This was not unusual it itself, but: “There was acetone inside, and my stockings got splashed.” And from then on she knew that “acetone dissolves Perlon.”

In 1953, Petronella married an auto mechanic who earned 220 marks a month. She herself earned more than twice as much at WACKER, namely 450 marks, for at the beginning of the German “economic miracle” years, WACKER paid outstanding wages in comparison with other employers. Petronella’s husband applied to WACKER and was taken on in January 1957 as an instrumentation and control mechanic. But now Petronella had a problem: “My husband and I were not allowed to work at WACKER at the same time,” she says, “in those days, if you were married, only the husband worked.” However, Petronella’s boss insisted that she ended the test series she was working on. He obtained an exemption for her, and Petronella Pichler was allowed to work as a laboratory assistant until March 1957. Then she took care of the household at home and, in 1959, gave birth to daughter Helga.

It turned out that Helga carried the WACKER gene, too and began work as an office clerk 1976. Later she met a man at a lake, who also worked at WACKER. The two got married, but fortunately, times have changed. Petronella Pichler’s daughter was no longer obliged to give up her job for her husband – both Helga and Manfred Titze still work at WACKER POLYMERS to this day: she as an occupational health and safety assistant, he as a supervisor in a production area for dispersions.

And Petronella Pichler? The 87-year-old is enjoying her retirement, lives in her own two-bedroom apartment and occasionally goes for a drive in her Mercedes. She does without Internet and cell phone, but otherwise she always likes to try something new: “It’s never too late to try things out,” she says, “especially when it comes to food.” Next she’s to planning to try Chinese cuisine for the first time in her life.