The child of Latvian immigrants to South Africa, Percy grew up in the small town of Vryheid, South Africa with his parents and two siblings. Years later, when asked what the population of Vryheid was, Percy’s mother replied, “Forty Jewish families.” Those families formed a tight-knit community that was able to support not only a synagogue and a rabbi, but a Talmud Torah school and a butcher’s shop with a kosher section.
At seventeen years old, Percy began an apprenticeship to become a pharmacist. He qualified in 1954 and worked for a year before leaving South Africa to travel the world. He never planned on visiting Canada, but found himself in Toronto for a stopover and ended up liking the city so much he decided to stay. In 1959, Percy became the first South African pharmacist registered in Ontario.
Percy met his first wife, Frances Goodman, in 1960 on a blind date and married her that same year. Together, they had two children: Beth (born in 1961) and David (born in 1963). In 1961, Percy began his thirty-four-year career with Johnson and Johnson Corporation, taking on a number of roles in the company during that time. In 1977, Frances passed away. Two years later, he married his second wife, Elsa Ruth Snider.
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Percy is the founder of the only museum devoted exclusively to the history of contraception. The museum is located at the Dittrick Medical History Centre in Cleveland, Ohio.
Skuy, Percy, 1932-
00:30 Percy was born in 1932 in Vryheid in northern Natal, South Africa.
00:41 Percy's parents emigrated from Latvia to South Africa in 1929.
00:53 Percy discusses his parents and their early lives in South Africa and the Jewish community in Vryheid.
04:10 Percy discusses his family's practice of Judaism while growing up.
05:02 Percy's father ran a small business. Later he worked with his brother-in-law to run a mill. At age fifty-nine his father was killed in an automobile accident.
06:00 Percy discusses his mother. Percy has two siblings: an older brother, Max, and a younger sister, Rita.
07:19 Percy shares some of his childhood memories.
09:29 Percy was involved in the Habonim youth movement.
11:27 Percy reminisces about the establishment of the State of Israel.
13:23 Percy discusses his impressions of apartheid. He discusses his relationships with black men and women.
15:15 Percy discusses his involvement with an anti-apartheid group.
17:19 Percy shares a story that illustrates his opposition to apartheid. His parents were not politically active.
19:06 Percy discusses how he became interested in pharmacy and the training for pharmacists.
21:21 Percy describes his two years of travel following graduation from pharmacy.
26:58 Percy relates how, en route to a pre-arranged job in the Arctic, he serendipitously secured a job with Glaxo as a medical sales representative on a stop-over in Toronto.
29:49 Percy describes his sales route.
30:46 Percy explains how he became the first South African registered pharmacist in Ontario.
32:31 Percy describes some of his early social/business pursuits in Canada.
34:12 Percy married his wife, Francis, originally from Sudbury. She graduated from the University of Toronto in nursing.
34:26 Following travel to Europe, Israel and South Africa, Percy and Francis decided to return to live in Canada.
35:35 Percy discusses the importance of maintaining family connection despite distance.
36:41 Percy describes the slow trickle of relatives who emigrated from South Africa. He notes that he has no close relatives remaining in South Africa and comments on the disappearance of the Jewish community in Vryheid.
38:39 Percy discusses some of the challenges he faced integrating socially into the Jewish community.
40:36 Percy explains how he became involved with working for the company Ortho.
45:15 Percy explains the factors that guided his integration into Canada.
47:08 Percy discusses his involvement in the Jewish community in Toronto.
48:30 Percy contrasts his own upbringing with how he raised his own children in Toronto.
52:00 Percy discusses his grandchildren.
52:26 Percy is the founder of a museum of the history of contraception. He explains how he developed an interest in the history of contraception and how he collected artifacts.
58:18 Percy describes his work history, his involvement in professional committee work, and his pursuits following his retirement in 1995.
1:00:11 Percy explains how he found a permanent location for the museum at the Dittrick Museum at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
1:02:50 Percy married Elsa in 1979. He discusses their range of hobbies.
1:03:38 Percy discusses the three documentaries he created. The topics included the formation of the Jewish pharmacy fraternity, the history of Jewish pharmacists in Canada, and the extracurricular involvement of Jewish pharmacists in Canada.
1:06:47 Percy addresses some of the issues faced by South African Jewish pharmacists who integrated to Canada.
1:09:20 Percy lists the languages he speaks.
1:10:00 Percy reminisces about his mother. He recalls his mother's relationship with their family servant.
1:13:14 Percy describes his training in pharmacy in South Africa.
1:15:27 Percy shares stories about their family's black servants.
1:17:40 Percy reminisces about the opportunities that came his way since his arrival in Canada.