The Reporter

He had become a legendary figure in the annals of Philadelphia journalism ...

Then Karafin got a bright idea. Why go at this in a piecemeal fashion? There were just too many firms in the home repair business to efficiently handle their public relations that way. What was needed was some organization.

So one morning there appeared across the top of the split-page in the Inquirer this headline: BUSINESS GROUP TO FIGHT HOME REPAIR RACKETEERS. "An association of home improvement companies has been created to crack down on unscrupulous, high pressure siding and house renovation firms that have been preying on unwary home owners," said the article. It pointed out that both the District Attorney’s office and the Better Business Bureau gave the new National Home Remodeling Association their endorsement. It added that the Bureau’s vice president Peterson said he would invite association members to meet with him "to work out a code of ethics." The article mentioned the name of the president of the new association a number of times and quoted him extensively.

His name was Joseph Py.

The National Home Remodeling Association never got off the ground. Perhaps most of the firms in the business were wary of such an approach or — more likely — they didn’t want to pay the membership fees that were supposed to go toward brightening their public relations image. And maybe they didn’t care for the fact that the association had acquired a president even before it was formed, a president who was a client of Harry Karafin’s.

The failure of the National Home Remodeling Association didn’t stunt the growth of Karafin’s budding public relations business. Far from it. There were other areas of the credit paper business in which his services could be even more valuable than they could to those who were on the front lines generating the stuff. And it is in his initial dealings with the commercial finance companies and banks — where the paper eventually wound up — that three people who seemed to have played an important part in Harry Karafin’s success come into the picture. They are: Joe Ball, a young public relations and advertising executive who has his own firm; attorney Albert Gerber of the firm Gerber, Galfand and Berger; and State Senator Benjamin Donolow.

ONE EVENING IN August of 1961, an organization called the Pennsylvania Association of Sales and Finance met at the Warwick. This was a group composed mostly of firms buying or brokering credit paper, though it did include some home repair outfits and others which were generating it. One of the moving forces behind the Association, at the time, was the Commonwealth Financial Corp., and the moving force behind Commonwealth was attorney Albert Gerber. In fact, the Association was originally formed in Gerber’s office at 1512 Walnut Street.

According to one member of the Association, at the time of the Warwick meeting it was rumored that Harry Karafin was researching an article for his newspaper on the home improvement financing business. That is why some of the members were a little taken aback when Karafin showed up at the meeting. But he had come with Joe Ball of Ball Associates and they were introduced together.