Ward Combs grew up in the Miller Park area of Omaha, Nebraska. During the summer of 1932, Mr. Combs, having recently graduated from Central High School, was working at the local drug store, intending to pursue a university degree in pharmacy when his father was stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage and unable to return to work.
Ward, the oldest of three children, was forced to find full-time employment in order to support his mother and family. The family doctor encouraged Ward to try selling “Presto-Pax” – a red squill formulation used to induce vomiting in humans or as rat bait. This marked the humble beginnings of what would be become Presto-X.
Mr. Combs’s first contract was with the then Eppley Hotel Company chain. Soon Ward was offered $35.00 to treat hotels in Sioux City, Iowa for rats and bed bugs.
The first Presto-X workplace was in the office of the same family doctor that had encouraged Ward to find full-time employment after the illness of his father. Ward mixed his baits and “insecticide dust” in the doctor’s x-ray room, carrying his secret formulations around in a big black bag to his various clients.
By the early ‘50s, Presto-X-Company had outgrown the doctor’s office and moved into its first official headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1968, Ward celebrated his 25th consecutive year of attendance at the Purdue University Pest Control Conference. The most valuable information he acquired at these conferences was that the most successful organizations were made up of the most technically competent personnel. He continually strived to provide opportunity and encouragement for his staff to grow.
Ward Combs retired in 1990, leaving the company in the capable hands of Ward Combs II and Jerry Keown.
Today Presto-X is one of five brands of Rentokil’s North America Pest Control operations, with over 1900 colleagues providing regional service to several Midwest and Western states including Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois and Texas.