Archive for the AT&T Category


This is a short story about three good guys – Dick Lewin, Emory Wilbur and John Rosenburg. The villain is Henry Killingsworth, the man who ran AT&T Long Lines Department for many years. In supporting roles are my sister Verna, an aspiring opera singer. In other incidental roles we have Gannaro Papi, the conductor of the St. Louis Grand Opera Association and Giovanni Martinelli, one of the leading tenors in the world from about 1925 to 1950. Incidental roles are assigned to the Episcopal Church and the Jewish faith. This isn’t a great inspirational story, but before some of the characters in the play cash in their chips, it probably needs to be told.

Henry T. Killingsworth was a miserable SOB. As a matter of fact, he was a spherical SOB – which means that no matter how you looked at him, he is still a miserable SOB. There is no other way to put it. The people who worked with Killingsworth or had anything to do with him, detested him. I knew him for a long time. I can’t think of a single act of decency attributable to him. Among other things, Killingsworth seemed to take pleasure in suppressing the earnings of Long Lines employees even giving back to the FCC money that could have been used to raise wages to a decent level at this important unit of AT&T’s long distance service.

From about 1950 to 1962, he ran the Long Lines Department of AT&T as a martinet. Finally, in 1962 his bosses at 195 Broadway tired of his act and moved him to a staff job in the AT&T headquarters. He soon headed toward retirement.

Now I hate to waste time on Killingsworth because he was a worthless piece of work. But if I’m going to get my point in about Dick Lewin and Emory Wilbur and John Rosenburg, I’ve got to deal with him.

Killingsworth came to New York having started in his native South Georgia. He brought with him every racial, religious and social prejudice that afflicted Southerners 30 or 40 years ago.

Whereas Killingsworth was unspeakably evil, there were three gentlemen who worked in the Public relations side of the Long Lines operation who were absolutely good and decent men. John Rosenburg ran our press contacts. Emory Wilbur and Dick Lewin were responsible for employee information. So Rosenburg was Mr. Outside and Emory and Dick were Messrs. Inside.

I worked very closely with all three men because in the 1950’s and 1960’s, labor developments were important subjects. During those years I was the Labor Relations Manager for AT&T’s Long Lines Operation. During contract negotiations which took place almost yearly, the three men more or less lived with me. It was in that fashion that they were able to formulate what would be said to the press and to what would be said within the business. So at the end of each bargaining session, not matter how late, I would meet with John Rosenburg and either Dick Lewin or Emory Wilbur or both of them. They would usually type up something in the pressroom, and show it to me. If there was no time, as was often the case, I trusted those three men to proceed in the name of the AT&T Company. They used good judgment and never caused a problem to anyone.

They were very different people. John Rosenburg was in his early forties having spent a lifetime in newspaper work. Before he came with AT&T, John had worked for United Press. John had the skepticism that marks all good newsmen. He was no pushover for anyone in AT&T, including Killingsworth. He kept news people away from the bargaining team, which was a very valuable contribution.

Killingsworth marked off John Rosenburg’s aggressive nature to his Jewish heritage. But John was not Jewish. His family was of German ancestry. In the First World War, John’s father married a Frenchwoman, and John was a product of that marriage. But that made no difference.

The Grand Opera season offered three productions per year with performances over the weekend. Remember those were depression years and no one had money to waste.

Verna was single at the time. No one else in the family cared about opera. As a matter of fact, if Verna had not been involved in it, the Carr family would not have even thought about it. But the Grand Opera rehearsals and performances took place in downtown St. Louis. We lived in suburban Richmond Heights, about an hour away on streetcars. At least two transfers on the streetcars were needed to get to the opera.

Getting Verna home from the Kirkwood-Ferguson street car stop was a major problem. There was a stop about three quarters of a mile away which involved crossing a railroad. There was no illumination on that route as it cut across fields. On a cold winter night, it could be challenging. When it rained the problem grew worse. Later a new stop was added about a quarter mile from the house.

From Verna’s point of view, the new stop presented major difficulties. The new stop was added on the Kirkwood-Ferguson line to accommodate passengers going to the newly-constructed McMorrow grade school. The school had a large cinder back yard in the direction of the street car line. Now I ask underage readers to avert their eyes at this point.

During the depression, men and boys would do anything to own or borrow a car. Without a car, love life with females couldn’t exist. Now once ardent swains got a relatively willing female in the car, he might drive around looking for a secluded place to park. (To engage in necking or much worse, it you have to ask.) Well, in many cases the ardent swains would drive to the cinder lot in back of the McMorrow School. As they got into their work, many couples would produce blankets and retreat to the grassy spots around the cinder parking lot.

Now if Verna got off at the McMorrow School stop, she had to wade through this sea of affection and that made her cringe. Now I should point out that when the opera was in rehearsal or in production, I was drafted to either come to the opera house or to escort Verna home after she got off the streetcar. I rode with Verna to the McMorrow stop or when I met her there, she more or less instructed me to look straight ahead with eyes uplifted so that I wouldn’t see what was taking place. I did this, after a fashion, until one night with my eyes upraised I stumbled over an amorous couple.

I didn’t really mind all this tending to Verna. Sometimes she gave me a dime for my trouble. But going to the Opera House opened up a new world for me. I read about the operas and the featured performers. The stagecraft was entire new to me and made a lifelong impression.

By the time I was ten years of age I was hooked on Italian opera. Fortunately, there were few German operas to deal with, but the Italians were big deals as far as I was concerned.

During a rehearsal, Verna took me to meet the director of the St. Louis Grand Opera Company. He was Gennaro Popi. Apparently, Popi had many contacts in the United States and in Italy, and one of those contacts brought Giovanni Martinelli to St. Louis. For his day, Martinelli was as big as Pavorotti became in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I don’t think I met Martinelli.

I didn’t become an expert on Opera, but I did like it and I came to understand how it worked. It worked by talent and a lot of hard work.

Many years later I found myself in New York working in an organization dominated by Henry Killingsworth. Henry liked to brag that he had season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera. He could do this with no trouble because he would hold his chauffer over after a long day to drive him to the Met. And to pick him up after the performance.

There was an occasion when I was in the room when Killingsworth began to talk about opera. Now remember he came from South Georgia. I suspect the only singing he heard there was in a church. But because other directors of AT&T attended to opera, old Killingsworth decided he had to be among their numbers. At least I knew about the opera courtesy of my sister Verna. As Killingsworth talked, even with my limited background in opera, it became clear that he knew virtually nothing about the subject. But that didn’t keep him from bragging that he had season tickets to listen to “that purty music.”

Well now I’ve told you about New York where I came to work full time in 1955. And I’ve told you a little bit about St. Louis and my opera career. And I’ve told you about Verna. That’s a pretty big order to cover in one little essay. But as I said on the first page, for John Rosenburg, Dick Lewin and Emory Wilbur, this is a little tale that needs to be recorded because they were fine men and they were gentlemen. I don’t know of any higher praise that I can lay on those three men than that.

September 6, 2001


Not even a week before 9/11 — it’s a little jarring to think back to what the world looked like right before this was written.

It’s must less jarring to think about Killingsworth putting on airs, because the fact that he is a “colossal prick” is well-documented.
This particular essay was rewritten entirely. The rewrite pulls no punches when describing why Killingsworth is so reviled.

As one last note, Pop’s description of the cinder lot full of couples brought me right back to a memory of my own from 2010. I was studying abroad in China at the time, and one night I went on a walk with a friend of mine. We didn’t really have a direction in mind and were content to wander and explore. At one point, we left a building-dense area and suddenly found ourselves in a strikingly dark part of the campus. It was a small field, and it was so dark that I didn’t notice that the field abruptly ended in a low wall with an unlit basketball court on the other side. After almost falling into the basketball court, we looked around and realized that the entire blacktop was packed with couples silently making out. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since, but I can imagine that it was a lot like Pop’s cinder lot adventures.


Jerusalem has been on my mind of late because of the bombings and other acts of warfare that have taken place there. At the outset, I must point out that I am not an active partisan in the dispute between the Israeli and Palestine sides. My instincts are to be with the Israelis. I know them better. They have welcomed me into their homes and offices. They have offered me the best food that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Nablus and Tiberias have to offer. They are good people – tough people but good people.

Arabs, on the other hand, were a different kettle of fish. When I worked in the Overseas Department of AT&T, I had occasion to deal with Arabs from Dakar, Senegal and Rabat, Morocco in the western part of the North African continent all the way through to Egypt in the east. I had no occasion to deal with Iranians or Iraqis. The people in Dakar were wonderful. They offered us some of the best lobster that I have ever eaten. But Dakar is a seaport and they have long dealt with foreign nationals. In the East, Egypt is a squalid place, but its people often seem to be kind. In all the rest of the North African continent, there was grimness. Joy was not to be had. So I am not a big booster of the Arab people. One of the only gestures of kindness was found in Algiers. We met with high ranking government officials in the Algerian regime shortly

after 44 American prisoners were released from imprisonment by the Iranians. As soon as the meeting started, I thanked the ranking minister for Algeria’s efforts to secure the release of the Americans. He replied, “It was my duty to do that.” He didn’t draw me out or seek to be more friendly. He simply said that he did what he did as a matter of duty. This same sort of arms-length relationship was found in Morocco, Algerian, Libya and Tunisia.

I cheered when Golda Mier and Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak had the premiership in Israel. I must say I gagged when Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon had that job. I cannot ever forget the hovels that serve as homes to displaced Palestinians. Their living conditions are abominable. Now that Sharon is head of government in Israel, I have great concern that he will drag the United States into war against the Arab nations. In that job, Sharon is an undisciplined war hawk who could easily cause the U. S. to find itself at war. The Arab League said on 3-28-02 that all its members would regard a United States attack on Iraq as an attack on the members of the Arab League. I suppose that means war.

Our efforts have not been helped by Bush sending the retired Marine General Zinni to attempt to mediate between the two sides. Following that, Bush sent Vice President Cheney to deal with the Israelis but he had nothing to do with the Palestinians. And then Secretary of State Powell made his famous telephone call to Arafat telling him what he was to say to his own people. In short, the Zinni, Cheney and Powell combine simply buttressed Sharon’s hand and made him even more belligerent.

It goes without saying that I find suicide bombing and martyrdom totally repugnant concepts. On the other hand, dealing with Sharon would cause me to do some strong things. Finally, the Americans have shortchanged themselves. When George H. W. Bush was President, he appointed Dennis Ross as mediator for the Israeli crisis. When Clinton succeeded Bush, Ross served eight years in that administration. But this Bush wants to rid himself of anything having to do with Clinton. In the end he has made a grim mistake. Ross is a Jew and a nominal Republican who has more than 12 years experience in dealing with the Israeli – Palestinian problem. He is a pro. So instead of Ross, we have Zinni, Cheney and Powell. The pros aren’t welcome in this administration.

Now having said all that, it is time to proceed to more pleasant things, like my relationship with the Essay Director and the Jerusalem Israelis who became my dear friends.

To deal with the effects of a stroke in 1997, Shirley Morganstein, a director at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, suggested that I try my hand at writing essays. The suggestion was outstanding as was nearly everything else Shirley suggested. Shirley scheduled a half hour session on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. This schedule applied from about the middle of November, 1997 until the end of January, 1998.

Early in this arrangement, Shirley was occasionally impatient with me when I failed to grasp some of her instructions. It wasn’t that I was not paying attention or daydreaming. In point of fact, stroke victims often do not understand the latter part of two and three part instructions and give up. On other occasions, the stroke sufferer will have an idea or thought in his head, but will be unable to make it come out of his mouth or from his pen.

After we started on essays on December 8, 1997 I began to write about my travels on behalf of the United States Army and the AT&T Corporation. The description of foreign customs and cultures seemed to intrigue Shirley. I worked hard to supply her with three new essays every week. It was probably by far the best therapy that could have been provided. I think my breakthrough with Shirley occurred when I gave her an essay about Poland. The Soviets who built the Forum Hotel in Warsaw insisted that it be a world class hotel. It was far from that. But in any case the Russians provided shoeshine machines in the elevator lobby of every floor. What got my attention was a sign in Polish, French and English posted in a prominent place on each machine. The sign said “Do not attempt to shine both shoes at once!” Shirley thought the story about the shoe shine machines and the sign that went with them was pretty hilarious. I didn’t know it at the time, but half of Shirley’s ancestors came from Poland. Later, knowing nothing about the other half of Shirley’s ancestry, I wrote about Rumania. As it turned out, the other half of her traced its ancestry to Rumania. For years, I had a Rumanian doll in peasant finery on my shelf. It came from Bucharest. Also, there were two embroidered miniature Polish flags in a frame that had caught my eye many years earlier. I presented Shirley with one of the flags and the Rumanian doll. She put them on a shelf in a prominent place in her office where she said, she could see them often. I am delighted that Shirley has two objects that remind her of her ancestry.

Shirley, of course, was Jewish. She told me about sitting Shiva for one of her relatives. Our occasional discussions about religious matters were pleasant and informative to me. She never inquired about my faith or lack thereof. She was a live and let live sort of person. I did enjoy telling her in an essay about one of my experiences with John Solomon, an Australian who was loaned for two or three years to the telephone administration in Papua New Guinea. John was our escort while my colleague and I were in Port Moresby and surrounding territory.

John Solomon was named for an uncle who was born in 1922, the same year of my birth. When the elder John Solomon tried to enlist in the Australian Armed Forces in 1939 and 1940, he ran head on into institutional racism. Simply put, the Aussies did not want Jews in the Armed Forces and if the truth were known – they didn’t welcome them as fellow Aussies either.

John Solomon made three attempts to join the Australian Army and was rejected each time. From what his nephew said, the authorities did not use subterfuge to cover their religious discrimination. They simply said that Jews were not accepted as part of the Australian Army.

So John Solomon had a new thought. On his fourth attempt to enlist, he said his name was John Sullivan. Australia is full of Irishmen because after England lost the American colonies, they had no place to ship their long term prisoners. So in spite of the long sea voyage from England to Sydney, Australia, the prisoners were shipped to the land Down Under. Irishmen had a prominent place in English prisons. And in the 200 years since Irish prisoners were shipped to Australia, their rate of producing offspring has been prodigious.

So the recruiters said to the alleged Irishman (nee Solomon) that he would be welcomed into the Australian Army. As the war developed, heavy fighting came to what is now known as Papua New Guinea. American and Australians and New Zealanders who fought there remember that as a dreadful place. Along with many other soldiers, John Solomon was killed in 1944 at the tender age of 22. In accordance with the regulations of the Australian Army, he was reburied in a well-kept military cemetery along with the other dead from the battle for Papua New Guinea. His grave was marked by a stone cross with the name “John Sullivan.”

When Australia found that its all British Christian population was insufficient to carry them into the space age, they began to accept new immigrants. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, it became possible to have, for example, an Italian meal prepared by an Italian chef in Sydney. The attitude of the Aussie officialdom started to change, I believe in the 1950’s. Jews were accepted as part of the new landscape in Australia although their numbers remain fairly small.

The surviving members of John Solomon’s family called upon the Australian Army to recognize that it had buried a soldier under an assumed name. This struggle started in the 1940’s and continued until the early 1980’s. Finally, the Aussies conceded that John Sullivan was indeed John Solomon. The nephew of John Solomon took me and my colleague, Ron Carr, to the cemetery and showed us his grave. It was now marked by a Star of David tombstone. We went to a maintenance shed and saw the former cross with the name Sullivan that had marked his grave for nearly 40 years. Ron Carr and I rejoiced with our guide, the younger John Solomon.

Shirley seemed to follow this story with considerable interest. Knowing Shirley, a mix-up like this would evoke her empathy regardless of the racial or religious affiliation of the principals. In this case, I believe she was cheering for the situation to turn out right. In the end, it did.

When I started this essay, it was my intention to write about three Israelis who contributed much to the enjoyment of my life for the 15 or 20 years prior to 1985. But I got sidetracked a little with Shirley Morganstein, but what the hell, Shirley and the three Israeli’s share the same Jewish faith and I am absolutely positive that they would welcome her into their ranks. They might even elect her Queen of Jerusalem.
So now we will start with Aryeh Ron, Gideon Lev, and Jake Haberfeld, all residents of Jerusalem.

Aryeh Ron is the Israeli name that the former Leo Ritter of Vienna assumed when he came to what was then called Palestine. He arrived in Palestine not long after the Nazis took over in Austria.

In the Israeli telephone administration, when I knew them, they were all workers. They did not have squadrons of employees attending to every specialized task. As it turned out, Aryeh would leave his other duties and come to meet me every time I showed up at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The two of us became good friends. He saved my professional life on one occasion.

The Israeli Administration was the first to join in promoting Teleplan, the American venture to cut surcharges when calling back to the United States. They had invited the General Managers of all the leading hotels in Israel to hear me make my pitch. The sign in the hall of the hotel said that Mr. Carr was going to present a “lecture” that afternoon. About 30 hotel General Managers showed up in one of the large meeting rooms of the Jerusalem Hilton.

In anticipation of the meeting, I had sent a large collection of graphs and handouts to Jerusalem for the participants. This was an important meeting because we hoped that Israel would become the first Teleplan country. But as the time for the meeting drew near, there were no graphs and handouts so I prepared to do without them. Actually, we started the meeting when the door to the meeting room burst open and in came a sweating Aryeh Ron carrying this enormous load of material. Well, the long and the short of it is that Israeli customs had decided that the packages posed a security risk. All that morning of the meeting, Aryeh Ron had been in battle with Israeli bureaucrats trying to get the shipment released. Finally, he threatened to go to the Minister of the Israeli government for customs with the thought that the Americans would not be very happy to lose this material, particularly when the hotel industry in Israel would stand to lose if the American failed to make a deal. That did the trick and he arrived at the Hilton Hotel at the final moment. We got the contract with the Israeli Hotel Association, the first Teleplan contract. And my friend Aryeh Ron had made it all possible.

There were several occasions when Aryeh and I had a chance to spend perhaps an hour or two together. On one such occasion, Aryeh told me about how the Nazis acted when they came to Vienna, his hometown, in the latter half of the 1930’s. His name then was Leo Ritter and he was identified as a Jew. I believe he and I are about the same age so from age 14 to perhaps 18 or 19, he had to contend with the Nazis. On two or three occasions, the Nazis had residents bring toothbrushes to a meeting point in their district. They were then instructed to use the toothbrushes to scrub the sidewalk.

At that point, the Nazis wanted to be rid of the Jews. Concentration camps came a year or two later. In any case, Aryeh took the hint and decided to leave Austria. He lent his support to Zionist causes so it was natural for him to go to Palestine. Hebrew was a new language for Aryeh but he said he soon mastered it. And he changed his name from Leo Ritter to Aryeh Ron.

Before long, a beautiful young lady showed up in Palestine. She spoke German. She told Aryeh of her trepidation about learning the Hebrew language – which is not easy. Old Aryeh told the fair young maiden that if she went out with him, she would learn Hebrew in record time. I don’t know if that was true, but I know that they married and had a family. I went out with them for a Sabbath meal, and after 35 years or so, they seemed like a very happy couple.

There is another occasion when we spent a whole day in Aryeh’s company. We started early in the morning in Jerusalem and drove east to the Dead Sea, then north to Jericho, along the border with Jordan to the Sea of Galilee where we saw the Golan Heights which Israel and Syria had fought over. Aryeh seemed to keep close tabs on his watch. So that afternoon, we headed west to Haifa where Aryeh knew a man who permitted us to enter the University of Haifa canteen where we shared Israeli orange juice. As we left, Aryeh said that if anybody in the United States asked where I had gone to school, I should say the University of Haifa. For twenty years I have been waiting to use that line, but so far no one has asked.

After the orange juice, it became clear why Aryeh was keeping close tabs on his watch. As I soon found out, his daughter lived in Haifa and she had a six year old daughter who got out of school at 5 PM. Aryeh parked the car and sort of trotted toward a group of people standing on the sidewalk. In an instant his granddaughter left the people on the sidewalk and sprinted toward him. The hugs and kisses started to flow with great abandon. That encounter was worth the long trip to Israel.

I haven’t seen Aryeh in perhaps 18 years. His company has changed hands and of course, it is largely impossible to find out anything from the current administration of AT&T. Aryeh Ron is one of my closest friends. I admire him and maybe someday I will see him if not in Jerusalem, perhaps in Vienna.

Now we turn to Gideon Lev. Gideon became the President of the Israeli International Communications Corporation. He was a big man, perhaps six feet two inches weighing somewhere around 250 pounds. When Gideon talked, other people listened. When he walked, other people got out of his way. He was not mean or mean spirited. He was just a big man, clumsy at times, but a person who wanted to advance Israeli causes. I believe Gideon came from Poland. He was an early devotee of Zionism and as a result, he emigrated to Palestine. For all his pluses and minuses, I liked Gideon and count him as a good friend.

On one occasion, I had been in Rome and planned to leave early on Friday morning for Tel Aviv. At the time, the Israeli people I dealt with were in negotiations with the Italians. It was headed toward great unpleasantness. I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis. Well to start with, there is a two hour difference in time between Italy and Israel. The plane was slightly delayed so when I left the plane and found Aryeh Ron at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, he said that we had to make tracks to get to Jerusalem. Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, of course. So Israelis knock off work at noon on Friday and return Sunday morning.

I found Gideon and Jake Haberfeld in the dining room of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It may have been 1:30 PM when I finally arrived. Friday luncheon was largely over but that did not deter Gideon. While the waiter was reluctant to take our order, Brother Lev found the head waiter and one of the hotel’s administrators, and made it pretty simple. Meeting with me was important to the Government of Israel and if the King David’s management became an obstacle, old Gideon was prepared to roll all over it.

We had a lengthy meeting. The food was served by the headwaiter himself. The food in Jerusalem was never something to brag about, but as I recall it, we enjoyed what the headwaiter served us. The fact that the hotel dining staff lost part of their weekend was sort of a patriotic contribution, if you believe Gideon.

Gideon distinguished himself in the eating department on one other occasion in Paris. As the English say, at table, Gideon left a lot to be desired. When the food was set in front of Brother Lev, he seemed to want to make it disappear as quickly as possible. Forget this business of chewing your food 15 or 30 times. That wasted time. I suppose that given the speed at which he ate, his food may have been chewed one or two times at best.

In Paris we were about eight at breakfast. Gideon and Jake Haberfeld represented Israel. There were perhaps two French men with the rest being Americans. I sat next to Gideon. He ordered two poached eggs along with whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs. But no ham or bacon. When the poached eggs were set in front of Gideon, he lifted each one on the toast and stuffed the egg in his mouth. He didn’t eat the toast – just the eggs. I was astounded but I should not have been because I had seen him eat before. Needless to say, Gideon finished long before any of the rest of us did.

Gideon Lev may not have conformed to good social behavior, but he was a fine negotiator who was like Jake Haberfeld, always fair. I found a lot to like about Gideon. He had a good sense of humor. But most of all, if for some reason I needed someone to share a foxhole with me, I would be delighted to jump into that hole with my good friend Gideon Lev. Provided there was any room.

Now that we have spoken about Shirley Morganstein, Aryeh Ron and Gideon Lev, there is only one more Star of David to account for. That missing Star of David is Jacob Haberfeld who is remembered by me as one of my best friends ever.

I’m guessing but it appeared to me that Jake may have been my senior by eight to ten years. He started life in Warsaw, Poland and seemed to have developed a keen interest in the Zionist movement among Europe’s Jews. So in 1936 or 1937 he pulled up his stakes in Poland and cast his lot with the Zionists in Palestine. Jake never talked about himself but from his friends, I gather that he played a prominent role in establishing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

As one approaches Jerusalem from the west and southwest, the roads run uphill. On either side of the road are dozens of tanks, all destroyed. The tanks were used by the Muslim defenders of Jerusalem in 1948 and in subsequent years.

Each one had to have been destroyed by Israeli infantrymen. The old tanks are still parked along the sides of the highway as reminders of the price that Israel paid for its existence. Independent observers have told me that Jake Haberfeld had much to do with the establishment of the State of Israel. I never heard about that from Jake. He always took the view that we’ve got enough to deal with in the here and now without retrieving past history.

I had formal and informal dealings with Jake for more than eleven years. There were occasions when he was required to reply negatively to an AT&T proposal. When he finished his explanation for declining our proposal, I would often say that old Jake was right again. He was never belligerent because logic was often on his side. He was a very skilled defender of Israeli interests. When I encountered a refusal from Jake, which happened rarely, I was never offended. Jake’s explanations always made sense.

Late in the 1970’s, Israel and Italy reached an agreement to build a cable between a location in Italy named Palo and Tel Aviv which came to be known as the Tel-Pal Cable. Not long after the inauguration of that cable, the Italian administration was taken over for a time by very unreasonable people. The people that we had dealt with for years were thrown out. The Israelis felt that the newcomers were deliberately excluding them, and they were right. AT&T had a lot more clout with the Italians than the Israelis did. On several occasions we used our influence with the Italians to extract information that was helpful or vital to the Israelis. One of those occasions occurred when I was late in arriving from Rome to Jerusalem. I have earlier recounted that episode when Gideon Lev held the dining room open on a Friday afternoon, the start of the weekend, to serve us.

In a different conversation with Jake some months later, again at the King David Hotel together with Mrs. Haberfeld, Jake seemed puzzled by my description of what had recently occurred in Rome. Finally, Jake turned to his wife and the discussion that ensued had to do with the new Italian director having a Jewish name. Both agreed that the Italian I had questioned was a Jew. All ethnic considerations aside, I told the Haberfelds that the Italian in question was crude, bombastic and wanted to take revenge upon everyone who had worked with the Italian administration prior to his arrival. That included me. Unfortunately, I have long since forgotten that man’s name but in any case, Jake and Sarah Haberfeld said he was a Jew in an Italian suit. I took their word for it.

On another occasion, John Wieters, the Israeli country manager and I were in Jerusalem. As we were taking our leave from Jake and his staff, Jake said privately to me, that we should save room for some desert after our evening meal because he wanted me to come to his apartment. He said also that I should bring John Wieters with me.

As I’ve said many times over, the food in Jerusalem leaves much to be desired so it was no trouble for John and me to skip desert. Now we come to a slight difference in the way things are done in Israel as opposed to Europe, for example. Most telephone administrations in Europe maintain fairly large motor pools. There would be well dressed chauffeurs to drive you to your destination. Chauffeurs and waiters are accorded professional status in Europe, a quite different distinction from this country. But the Israelis have no motor pool and no chauffeurs – and they get along quite well.

Before Jake picked us up, John Wieters had managed to get some flowers for Sarah Haberfeld. At the appointed hour, Jake drove up in his car at the King David Hotel and we started to his home. His car was not a new one but it got the job done. When we arrived at Jake’s apartment I was happy that I had elected, at the last minute, to wear a sweater under my jacket. The reason was that it was a cool night and Jake’s apartment was unheated. I suppose most of the apartments of that time were also unheated so the Israelis simply put on more sweaters.

The evening passed very pleasantly with the Haberfelds telling us about how Israel was doing. They told us a little about how they had come to abandon Poland and set out for Palestine. Jake drove us back to our hotel. When we were alone, John said that he had looked back at the history of the dealings with the Israeli administration and that our visit to the Haberfelds home had never happened before. I was flattered.

On another occasion, I was accompanied by Howard Davis, the account executive of N. W. Ayer Agency who did our advertising. Jake came to Tel Aviv to meet us. Howard is the son of a circuit riding Methodist preacher in Missouri. I’m not sure that Jake was aware of Howard’s relation to the hierarchy of the Methodist Church, but he took us to a restaurant that offered seafood, which is sort of a rarity in Israel. Not only did they offer seafood, but the main item featured on the menu was St. Peter’s fish, which comes, if my memory is half way right, from the Sea of Galilee. According to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ caught St. Peter’s fish in that sea. In latter days that fish is called tilapia. Now having said all that, I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish. But Howard said the fish was delicious. I agreed.

When I retired on September 1, 1984 I was awakened at about 7AM by a call from Jake to wish me a happy first day of retirement. This was in addition to a note he had written. I was very touched by his wishes for a happy retirement.

As the 1980’s turned into the 1990’s, Jake continued to work as an advisor to the Israeli submarine cable company. I’m not sure that the Israeli administration has a pension plan so people work well into what would normally be retirement years. One day, probably in 1995, I heard from a round about way, that Jake had died. I called Jerusalem for details but didn’t seem to get anywhere. Perhaps a month after Jake’s death, I got a call from Yitzhak Haberfeld, Jake’s son, who was studying for an advanced degree at the University of Wisconsin. Sarah Haberfeld had unfortunately been debilitated by Alzheimers Disease. Rather than institutionalize her, Jake tried to take care of her himself. I suppose it was more than Jake could handle. He died of a heart attack. Speaking to Yitzhak was a lot like speaking to Jake. I was delighted to receive that call.

It would be possible to go on even further about things big and small about Jake Haberfeld. I think it is fair to say that I admired him greatly and I am proud to say that he was one of my best friends ever.

I am glad that I finally got around to writing about the Four Stars of David. The three men in Jerusalem became very close friends. I learned a lot from all of the Stars of David.

This is a particularly poignant time in the history of Israel. History can’t be changed now but I greatly wish that Yitzak Rabin was the Premier instead of Ariel Sharon. And I wish that the George W. Bush administration had not let things progress to the perilous point at which we find them today. And indeed I wish that Dennis Ross would be restored to guide the United States interests instead of war hawks who now surround the U. S. presidency. If nothing else makes sense, Sharon’s statement of yesterday puts things in crystal clear perspective. Sharon said Israel would have to take leave of the position of the United States having to do with the Middle East. Sharon said that the U. S. is interested only in its projected war with Iraq whereas Israel is interested in dealing with the Palestinian issue. Bush has the facts exactly backwards. I don’t admire Sharon, but that statement makes it clear that Israel comes in second best after Iraq with the Bush presidency. Unfortunately, the American people will have to pay for this most unfortunate mistake.



I am not a Jew although I hope you have seen where my strong sentiments lie. My ancestors fled the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Some people refer to that period as the Potato Famine. It was more than just potatoes; it involved hunger by a large part of the Irish population. My parents never met a Jew before they came to St. Louis shortly after the 20th century began. Growing up, I had no preconceptions or prejudices about the Jewish faith. I’m very glad about that because it saved me a lot of wasted time disliking or hating the Jewish people. My mother had two overwhelming dislikes. The first was the German Army because they had gassed two of her brothers in the First World War. The second was the English. A lot of the resentment against the British came directly from the Great Hunger in Ireland.

But I had a shot at becoming a Jew. When I enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 1942, each soldier was issued dog tags which became useful when a body had to be identified. The tags were worn around the neck, hence the name dog tags, and had to be worn at all times. If the owner of the dog tags died, one of the tags was attached to his coffin. Some bodies, such as in the Air Force, were never recovered so the tags more or less went to waste.

As part of the enlistment process, we were asked by the soldier who was in charge of making the indentation on the tags what our religious preferences might be. The Army offered three designations: P for Protestant; RC for Roman Catholic; and J for Jew. I told that soldier who was charged with making the dog tags that I was not identified with any of the choices he had offered. I more or less suggested “None of the above” for my dog tags. The maker of the dog tags was a big man and he was a Buck Sergeant. He looked at his imprint device and the next letter was “P.” He informed me, “Soldier, you are a Protestant.” And so I missed my opportunity to claim Jewish identity. That’s what happens when you are a slow thinker.

Now a final-final thought about the crisis that has struck the Israeli-Palestinian situation this week of Passover and of Easter. I am largely convinced that all the bloodshed might have been avoided had Sharon not pushed Israeli settlements into Gaza and the West Bank. There are now some 250,000 to 300,000 Israeli inhabitants in settlements in Palestinian Territory. Those settlements rub salt in the wounds of the Palestinians. It tells them they are impotent and are not to be regarded as full human beings. Sharon’s people say God gave all of Palestine to the Jews. I don’t buy that. If God or Allah or whatever gave the land to the Jews, I am sure he would have chased the Palestinians into the sea, even though they have lived on that land for 2000 years. Of course, that did not happen.

But I despair of making headway for my thoughts. I am sobered by the thought that my belief is in non-belief. Neither fish nor fowl. So I suppose my views probably count for nothing. Maybe next year, but not now.

After all these years, it never dawned on me to point out to Jacob, Aryeh and Gideon that my first given name is a Hebrew one. Ezra has a full book in what Christians call the Old Testament. It can be found between II Chronicles and Nehemiah. The fact that I failed to point this out to my friends in Jerusalem simply confirms that I must be a mighty slow thinker.

March 28, 2002


After I wrote the Four Stars of David essay, three thoughts about Jake Haberfeld occurred to me, which I would now like to add to the record.

In the essay, I labeled the section having to do with Jake as “Gentleman Jake Haberfeld.” He was all of that. On one occasion in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, I was joined by a woman who was a Director in the AT&T Long Lines Advertising Department. I was simply trying to educate the advertisers about Israel. When the time came for lunch, Jake gently inquired of the woman, “Would you like to go to that certain place?” She barely knew what to say to this very polite request. In the first place, the female in question was on her third husband. She had been around the block more than once. Secondly, in the United States, someone would have said the John is down this hallway – find it yourself. Ah, but Jake was all gentleman with his inquiry about that “certain place.”

Before all the troubles started in Israel, we met Jake for another meeting in the early 1980’s. In opening the meeting for the U. S. side, I jokingly said to Jake that it would be fine with us if Israel took over in Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon so long as Miami Beach would be returned to American hands. I am assuming that everyone knows that Miami Beach is populated primarily by Jewish residents. Jake immediately replied, “That’s one of the problems with the Americans. They always want a package deal.” I was laughing so hard that it was impossible for me to respond. Touché Jake.

At another meeting with just Jake and myself, Jake presented me with a small oil lamp. Before candles and electricity came along, the ancient people in the Middle East used oil lamps. The oil lamp he gave me had been used in Palestine in ancient times. It came with a certificate of antiquity from the Israel government. Jake insisted that his gift was nothing, really. That oil lamp was as far from nothing – as Jake said it was – as it could be. It is a treasure and for the past 25 years, it has had an honored place in this house on the mantel in the living room. Nothing indeed – my foot.

These three foregoing thoughts came to me a day or two after I finished the Stars of David essay. I thought it would be well to add them to give the reader a fuller picture of Jake Haberfeld. He was some kind of guy.



The phrase “whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs” threw me for a loop, because “Paris Hilton” generally refers to a person instead of a place.  I was briefly forced to consider what egg garnish the celebutante would favor so strongly that Pop would refer to it while reminiscing about old friends.

“I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish” made me smile. I hadn’t heard about any of this before, so now I suppose this particular piscine knowledge has now been transferred. Thanks, Pop.

All the talk about “I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis” and similar statements sounds so spy-like to me. I know they’re probably not, and that the information was probably just related to telephony, but I guess there’s not really a way to be sure. I wish he had gone into it more! I regret not asking him if he had more contact with the FBI than he brought up in his essays.


…And Both of You Ought to Get to Know Frances Day

A few essays back, I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes and dictated an essay about the most bitter woman I ever knew in my life. That woman was my boss’s secretary. You may recall that she is the one who told me, when I quit smoking, that I would be smoking again before the week passed. It has now been more than 50 years since I quit smoking and I wrote the essay to commemorate that fact. If Rita is still alive, I would like her to see it.

The woman in question was Rita Snedicker, a secretary in the offices of the headquarters of AT&T Long Lines in New York City. Rita was a heavy smoker herself, and there was no mistake about that. The lines in her face told the world that she was a heavy smoker. On top of that, Rita had been born with one leg shorter than the other and she walked with a limp. She lived with her bachelor brother in New Jersey and, as far as I know, Rita never married and I suspect that her boyfriends were few and far between. What I am suggesting is that Rita had plenty of reasons to be bitter and she carried it off with great aplomb. She seemed to dislike everyone.

Now the scene shifts to the Division Five headquarters of Long Lines in Saint Louis back in 1941. When I was hired, I became aware of an Engineer named Rolland Crow. Rolland had a certain expertise with open wire lines which are mounted on telephone poles.

When I returned to the St. Louis office after more than three years in the military service, AT&T was preparing to replace its open wire lines with a coaxial cable plowed beneath the surface. To the extent that AT&T replaced its open wire facilities with cable, Rolland Crow’s expertise became much less important.

Shortly after I returned to AT&T, I was given a desk in the engineering department not far from where Rolland Crow held court. Rolland actually held court because at lunch time he played chess at his desk with other people and seemed to enjoy beating them. Tiger Woods says that he likes not only to beat his opponents but to “kick their butts.” This was the attitude displayed by Rolland Crow. It was not enough just to win the game; his opponent had to be annihilated as well.

The fact that Rolland’s expertise was no longer in such great demand did not help his attitude. I soon came to learn that Rolland hated physicians. The source of the dislike had to do with an illness of his wife’s. As you know, physicians call their group of patients a “practice.” On many, many occasions Rolland would say about those physicians, “When are they going to quit practicing and play the game for keeps?” Whether Mrs. Crow’s physicians were adequate or not is not for me to say, but I suspect that the greatest physicians would not meet Rolland’s standards. He hated them all.

Throughout all of this period of years, Rolland used to dictate on one of the original Dictaphones which used a wax cylinder. Most of the other engineers and lesser folks would simply write out their letters or comments in longhand and give them to a stenographer in the typing pool and in a day or so the letter would be returned. But that is not the way Rolland did things. He dictated on this ancient Dictaphone with the wax cylinder, which gave him the prerogative of complaining about it not being returned soon enough and also gave him a reason to growl that the stenographer had missed a word.

Aside from those facts, it should be observed that Rolland dictated into this ancient machine in such a loud voice that the rest of us in that department had trouble concentrating. When I left St. Louis in the summer of 1951, Rolland was approaching retirement and as far as I can remember he still used his wax cylinder Dictaphone.

There is one other indication of Rolland’s dislike of other people. When one of the bosses or, particularly, one of his wife’s physicians became sick, Rolland would say, “I hope it’s nothing trivial.” Rolland was, as you can see, an equal opportunity disliker or hater, if you will. He simply disliked almost everyone, or at least that is the impression he gave.

Being a young member of the engineering staff, I was taught to look up to the engineers. But Rolland was a difficult man to be around. More or less, old Rolland exuded dislike and hatred for just about everyone. His remark about “I hope it’s nothing trivial” seemed to encapsulate the essence of Rolland’s personality.

A lot of time has now gone by since I first knew Rolland in 1941 and I suspect that he is no longer with us. It was an object lesson for me to know Rolland because it taught me what not to do. And if I were a physician in the St. Louis area, I would tell Rolland and his wife to go look for some other doctor rather than to saddle me with their loathsome spirits.

Rolland was a bitter man who would make a perfect companion for Rita Snedicker. He worked in St. Louis and she worked in New York, so they never had a chance to meet. But if they had met, I would say it was a match made in heaven: the most bitter woman and the most bitter man that I have known in all of my years of working experience.

Both Rolland and Rita by now have probably gone to their heavenly reward. Perhaps they will meet there and enjoy life for all eternity, bitching and moaning from morning until evening.

By now I suspect that all of you have had your full share of negativity about Rolland and Rita. Let us turn now to a happy woman who will provide a bit of inspiration.

In February, 1998, I was a patient in the Morristown Hospital awaiting an operation to repair my aortic valve. The diameter of the older valve that I had from my birth had shrunk from the size of a quarter, which it should be, to the size of a dime. Breathing during exercise became very difficult. So something had to be done. In this case, as in all such cases, the chest is opened and a new valve, this one from a pig, is inserted in place of the old valve. There were comforting words from the surgeon, who told me that if the pig valve failed over the next several years, they would happily replace it free of charge. I was not particularly comforted by this disclosure.

The night before the operation, I had a conversation with my fellow Missourian, Howard Davis. For reasons that are now unknown to me, this conversation led me to write a letter to the editor of the Hutchinson News. The subject of my letter, which was printed in an extended weekend edition, had to do with women and young girls meeting almost every troop train that passed through Hutchinson, Kansas. They boarded the train to pass out apples and cookies. On two occasions, on my way to an army camp at Las Vegas, New Mexico, I was on such a troop train that passed through Hutchinson around midnight. Even though the hour was late, those women and girls got on the train and passed out the cookies and the apples and tried to cheer us. I appreciated that very much.

The editor of the Hutchinson News printed my story and a woman named Frances Day called me to tell me that she knew those women. I was thoroughly delighted to know that someone who had knowledge of meeting the troop trains was still alive and would be willing to meet me. My wife and I flew to Wichita and then drove up to Hutchinson, which was a big division point on the railroads. My belief is that the division point belonged either to the Missouri Pacific, the St. Louis-San Francisco, or the Santa Fe Railways. In any case, Hutchinson was a major railway division point.

Arrangements had been made to meet Frances Day, who had written me the letter, and her husband. We met them and enjoyed lunch with them. Frances appeared in her wheelchair, which her husband, Bill Day, took from the rear of their van and wheeled into the inn. Frances and Bill Day were delightful people and we promised to keep in touch with them. Many of these promises to keep in touch don’t really work out, but in this case it did. I was obliged to Frances for representing the women who met those trains in Hutchinson during the war and it was a pleasure to meet Bill Day, who was also a gunner in the American Air Force.

Upon returning home, we began to send essays to Frances and Bill Day. As time went on, we found out a little more about the Days. Frances suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She plays the piano and sings at a home for the aged and sings at church as well. She has borne her burden of less-than-spectacular health with good grace. Her husband Bill has had a stroke in recent years. Both of them are wonderful people.

After we began to send essays to Frances and Bill Day, each one was marked by a return postcard. The postcard gave us news of what was going on in Hutchinson, but most of all it was meant to thank us for sending each issue of the essays. We have the most recent postcard, which tells us that Frances and Bill Day are approaching 80 years and are thankful that they are still at home together.

So here is a girl who went from handing out cookies and apples to the troops during World War II to singing in church and playing for old folks, much of the time in recent years from a wheelchair. I believe it is an inspiring story and one that I wish I had known about in previous years so that I could have quoted it to Rita and Rolland. The postcard from Frances tells you all you need to know about their outlook on life. When I have said in previous writings, “Don’t look at what you have lost but at what you have left,” that is the essence of what Frances and Bill Day are doing. And so you see, this story, which started out on a morbid note, actually has a happy ending. If any of you are wandering around western Kansas and decide to go to Hutchinson, it will be my pleasure to introduce you to Frances and Bill Day. Judy and I were inspired by our visit and by our correspondence with them, and I think that you will be too.

July 18, 2006


Not sure I ever expected to hear Pop describe someone as a “hater” but hey, the shoe clearly fits. That said I think it’s probably fair to cut a little slack to someone whose wife is chronically ill. If someone close to you is being hurt by something serious like that, it can definitely change your personality and make you more on-edge for long periods of time. It’s not an excuse to be an asshole to everyone, of course, but it might explain some of the other behavior.

The part about making friends with the Days made me smile. Plus it answers a very tiny mystery, namely who the “Day” column belongs to on the original distribution list for mailing the essays. Said distribution list suggests that a total of 492 essays were sent out to the Days — it seems like that friendship definitely lasted!


One Sunday morning recently, there was a series of reports about mosque bombings in Iraq. One sect would try to bomb out the other sect. John Warner, the senior senator from Virginia and the head of the Armed Forces Committee in the Senate, got things terribly confused. Warner, who is a mature man, confused sectarian with secular. They have opposite meanings, of course, but on two occasions Warner referred to the violence in Iraq as being secular rather than sectarian. Perhaps his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor impaired his mental capacities.

That put me to thinking about some of the people I had known during my career with AT&T, as a filling station attendant and as a soldier. Some of those people also had a tendency to screw things up when they pronounced a word.

In 1937, I finally found a job at age 15 with Carl Schroth, who managed a Mobil gas station at the corner of Clayton Road and North and South Roads in Clayton, Missouri. Carl was a veteran of the First World War and he invariably referred to himself as “yours truly.” Being new in the business world, it took me a while to figure out who yours truly was. It was simply old Carl Schroth.

Carl needed a truss or so he said. Rather than buy a truss, Carl put a plywood board down the front of his pants. In this filling station, we served some of the most exclusive residents of St. Louis County, who lived in large homes and drove expensive automobiles. They represented the cream of St. Louis society. Sometimes when Carl would go out to wait on a female customer, he would thunk his board in the front of his pants and would say to the female customer, “What do you think of that?” I suspect that the female customer did not think much of “yours truly’s” performance.

Carl was a good guy who wrote me an effusive letter when I enlisted in the US Army. There were several peculiar aspects about working for Carl Schroth. For example, he had a safe sunk in the floor under the desk in his office. After I went to work for Carl, I wondered why I had not been paid. It turned out that Carl’s employees were expected to go take money out of the safe in the floor and leave a note saying “Charlie Kosta took $12 today” or something of that sort. I never was a fan of that arrangement, but that was the way that Carl did business so it soon developed that when I needed some money, I would go withdraw it from the safe in the floor and leave a note there.

Carl Schroth also taught me about con jobs. Sometimes when I was scheduled for a day off, he would say, “Eddy, you’re too valuable a man to be walking the streets, so I want you to come to work tomorrow.” And I fell for it, at the start. So I got very few days off. Fact is – if you wanted to keep your job during the Depression – you went to work.

There is one other incident that has remained with me since probably 1938. Lake Forest is an exclusive community about a mile from Schroth’s filling station. It has very large homes and the people there drove Packards and Cadillacs, and had chauffeurs and maids. On one occasion on a very snowy night we were called to pull a large car out of a ditch in the Lake Forest subdivision. The driver had had perhaps a bit much to drink and had wandered off the road and had become stuck. When Carl told the driver of the car that it would cost him $12 or $15 to get pulled out on a Saturday night, the driver of the car agreed. When he was winched out of his position down in the ditch, he tried to stiff Carl. He said that he didn’t have $12 or $15 and that he would only give Carl $8 or $10. There were three of us there: Carl Schroth, Charlie Kosta, and myself. None of us believed that this gentleman was as broke as he claimed. When it was finally determined that this man wanted to cheat us, Carl simply reached into the car and released the emergency brake. Charlie Kosta was on one side of the car, Carl was on the other, and I was at the radiator in front of the car. Without a word being said, Carl and Charlie began to push the car right back into the same hole from which it had been pulled. When I discovered this was taking place, I joined in that effort. This is called restoring the status quo ante.

We got into our tow truck and drove off. The driver of the car had to find another tow truck operator late that night, which I doubt that he could have done. Presumably he went back to his host’s house and slept there, but that was no concern of ours. We had been stiffed and we had our revenge.

After I went to work for AT&T in St. Louis, there were two or three characters who made an impression on me, and not a very good impression. The first was George Knickerbocker who persisted in pronouncing every letter in the word “miscellaneous.” George pronounced that word as “mis – kell – aneous.” He is also the man who invented the term “pestimistic.” He simply inserted a “t” where none should have existed.

Close by was a fellow named Ken Greenleaf. Ken always pronounced the word “architect” as though the emphasis was on the first four letters. He pronounced that word as “ARCH – itect,” not as “ark-itect.” Ken also became angry one time and wrote a letter to “the editator” of the  St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Near George Knickerbocker’s desk sat a milquetoast named George Kern. Kern had very slim shoulders and a very slight build, but all during the 1930s and 40s, George Kern had been a member of the National Guard, working toward the 20 year retirement plan. The only thing imposing about George Kern was his mustache, which was sort of like that worn now by John Bolton, the Ambassador to the United Nations. It was full and bushy. George was a complete and absolute milquetoast if there ever was one. Yet all during his service with the National Guard, he had become a lieutenant or a captain or something like that. For AT&T, George was simply a low level clerk. At the end of World War II, George presented himself upon his return from military duty as a Brigadier General in the US Army. I suspect that if the Germans had known that George Kern was one of our Brigadier Generals, they would have died from laughter.

About a year after I went to work for AT&T, World War II came along and I enlisted in that effort. One of the fellows I met in Africa was named Merle Yocum. His wife’s name was Elmira. They were Iowa hog farmers. It always struck me that Iowa hog farmers ought to have proper names such as Merle and Elmira.

Elmira had a desire to keep Merle up to date so she sent him the newspapers from their local press. Military etiquette demanded that anyone receiving a newspaper should leave it in the latrine where it could be read by other soldiers. The Merle Yocum newspaper was read extensively, particularly when some of the hogs became, I believe the word is, “in foal,” which means that the hogs are going to have some little piglets. We followed the hog’s pregnancy with great anticipation, all thanks to Merle and Elmira Yocum. By the time we read the news, those piglets were out of the diaper stage, I suppose.

My last assignment overseas after coming out of combat was at an airbase in Accra, which is now the capitol of Ghana. It was a British base which the Americans used for their air transport command operations. Soldiers who worked at this base were like soldiers throughout the world. They tended to demean other soldiers by telling them that they were ugly and unattractive to females. There is no harm meant whatsoever; it just simply flows with being a soldier that other people are not to be praised.

Ordinarily when a soldier is told that he is ugly, he will respond by saying, “You’re not so pretty yourself,” or things of that nature. In one group of American soldiers, there was a man who had come to this country relatively recently. He was of Russian origin. I do not remember his name, but for purposes of this essay let us call him Ivan. Ivan did not understand the nuances of the English language, having only recently been introduced to it. There was one occasion when Ivan was told that he was ugly and instead of responding as the ordinary American soldier would do, he attempted to use an American expression that he had mangled, much as John Warner mangled the secular/sectarian reference. When Ivan was told that he was ugly, he replied, “You don’t like my face, piss on it.” This occurred while two men were on a workstand several feet above the ground working on an engine. They came fairly close to falling off from laughter after Ivan’s remark.

I had not thought of the incident involving Ivan for 60 years or so, but credit John Warner with bringing it back to mind.

Now we move to two individuals, one of whom was the meanest man I ever knew in the Bell System and the other was probably the dumbest person I have known in my life. Let’s take the meanest man first. The Bell System, when I was hired, was basically an organization of electrical engineers. They had the mistaken belief that electrical engineers could perform any function with great distinction. Consequently, they assigned engineers to run the personnel department, the public relations department, and so forth. My recollection is that perhaps some of the accountants were also engineers. They did not try to perform legal functions, which were reserved for lawyers.

The meanest man I ever knew was Henry Killingsworth. He was the executive in charge of the Long Lines Department where I worked. Long Lines had to do with interstate calling and international calling as well. Killingsworth was mean for the sake of being mean. He was a small man in stature. Perhaps that may have accounted for his meanness. There are two examples that I will cite for Henry Killingsworth.

At Christmas time it was the custom for the head of the Long Lines Department, a Vice President of AT&T, to write a letter to all employees wishing them happy holidays and expressing hope for the future. That was not Henry Killingsworth’s style. He used the Christmas letter one year to record the thought that “We have to take up the slack in the trace chains” from now on. This meant that everybody had to work harder and Henry Killingsworth reserved the right to pay them less. To write a letter at Christmas time saying that we had to take the slack out of the trace chains infuriated all of us. Taking the slack out of the trace chains refers to a plow being pulled by a team of mules or horses. We were working as hard as we could and Killingsworth’s letter simply brought to mind visions of a slave master whipping his employees.

Henry Killingsworth had a mean streak that was quite wide. On one occasion in St. Louis, two executives who had wood-paneled offices with secretaries, angered him. When we moved from St. Louis to Kansas City as part of a big reorganization, Henry Killingsworth saw to it that these two people, Bill Haywood and Chester Hotz, were punished. The secretaries and the wood-paneled offices disappeared. They were placed out in the bull pen at steel desks. Clearly their careers were over and they were men in their forties. Parenthetically, it should be noticed that both Haywood and Hotz died from heart trouble within 18 months after their demotions.

There was a gentleman in New York City who worked for Long Lines named Larry Pierce. Larry was a commander in the American Legion and each year he sold poppies on Memorial Day. Killingsworth required Larry Pierce to come to him every year to seek permission to sell the poppies. In any other case, Pierce would be told to go ahead and sell the poppies and don’t bother with coming to ask the big boss. But the big boss had to have Larry Pierce come in and plead with him.

During the time in question, there were nuns who sat at the top of the subway steps which were located within the Long Lines building. The nuns bothered absolutely no one. They simply had a basket into which contributions could be made and the most I ever heard them say was a murmured “Thank you.” The nuns were absolutely harmless.

On this occasion, when Larry Pierce went to see Killingsworth about selling his poppies for Memorial Day, Killingsworth heard Larry Pierce out and then said “Hell, no” to the idea of selling poppies. Then he added, “And while you are at it, get rid of those God damned nuns.” So you see, I believe I am right in stating that Killingsworth was an abominable person, given to bullying and destroying other people’s happiness.

Well, so much for Henry Killingsworth. Now we turn to another Vice President, named Ben Givens. Ben started as an assistant vice president and after a time in a reorganization he was upgraded to a full vice president. He served in what we called the “Washington office,” which was our official terminology for the AT&T lobbying effort. I worked for Ben Givens for three and a half years, and during that time Givens never gave me any instruction whatsoever. There were other vice presidents from New York who came to Washington to talk to me because of my previous labor work, who asked me to accomplish certain things, but Givens was not among them. In any event, Givens was given to malapropisms. For example, he always referred to rare items as “iters collectums.” During the time that I worked for Givens in Washington, there was a saloon known as Duke Zeibert’s, which was supported raucously by Redskin football fans. I once wandered in to Duke Zeibert’s to see what the excitement was all about and ordered a luncheon meal. It may have been among the worst I ever endured in Washington. Duke Zeibert’s was a saloon, no more no less, which appealed to Redskin fans who apparently knew absolutely nothing about cuisine.

In any case, when Ben Givens referred to that saloon, he made hash out of its name. He called it “Zoot Diebert’s” and some other combinations that brought to mind the idea of “iters collectum.” After I returned to New York, I had occasion to pass through the Washington office and went in to talk to Givens to pass the time of day. Givens’s wife had died about a year earlier and on this occasion he went over to the far wall of his office where a picture was mounted on the wall which measured perhaps two feet by three feet. Givens was also a golfer who seemed to believe that all of the people that we were lobbying in Washington were equally nuts about golf as he was. He played at the Congressional Country Club, which he viewed as the epitome of all golfing establishments in this country. Givens told me that on either the eighth or the ninth green at the Congressional Country Club, his recently departed wife would put in an appearance. He pointed to the picture on the wall and said that she appeared to him as an apparition of about that size. He said that they talked to each other about how he was doing and what was happening to the furnishings in the house and apparently the two must have enjoyed a very real conversation. My eyes were rolling while Givens related the story of his conversations with his departed wife. In the end Givens retired and, of all things, became a bishop in some sort of Protestant church. He lived to be ninety years old, at which time he died and so he and his wife can now enjoy their conversations in person rather than at the Congressional Country Club.

We will close this essay with a couple of stories involving reminiscences from the American Army. Not long after I had enlisted in the Army, I was sent to the Embry-Riddle School for Aeronautics in Miami. Because of the urgent need to train many of us as aerial engineers, we were assigned to both day and evening classes. During the day we would march around a little bit, and at about three thirty or four we would start our work as aerial engineers in training. Because we were working in the dark after the sun went down, we had to make accommodations for that fact. At that time of course every airplane was driven by propellers which were mounted in front of the airplane itself. To see if the engines were operating properly, it was necessary to start the engines and to “run them up” to see how their performance was doing. This posed a problem in safety which our instructors were always careful to point out to us. One instructor in my group told us that if we backed into a rotating propeller, it would make “hamburger meat” out of you. I had no intention of sticking my backside into a rotating propeller, but I thought that the hamburger meat was a tautology of considerable importance. And so for more than 60 years, I have always endured the thought that one should not square off with an airplane propeller because it would make hamburger meat out of you.

All of us survived the training on the night shift without being made into meatloaf.

Early in my career as a soldier, there were endless days of marching back and forth on a dusty field in Las Vegas, New Mexico – not Nevada. The field was dusty, the barracks were dusty and so was the mess hall. In any case, there was a person who had identified himself as a former member of the United States Army who was assigned to help train us in our marching. He instructed us on forward marching, on marching to the left and right, and on such things as oblique marching. Somewhere along the line, this drill instructor became confused and I spoke up in an effort to help him with his work. The drill instructor absolutely leveled me with his retort, which has stayed in my memory since the summer of 1942. The drill instructor said to me, “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking.” I am here to tell you that indeed soldiers do not get paid for thinking. They get paid to go do what they are told, and what they are told is usually some directive from a politician.

Colin Powell is perhaps among the prime examples of the “you don’t get paid for thinking” dogma. Colin Powell knew that the adventure into Iraq was absolute folly yet he kept his peace and did as he was told. Powell could have resigned in protest or he could have leaned all over Bush in an attempt to avert this disaster in Iraq. Yet, Powell went along and the most dramatic thing that he said was the story about the Pottery Barn rule that if you break it, it is yours. And so you see that my admiration for generals in the American Army is very limited.

Indeed and in fact, soldiers don’t get paid for thinking. They get paid for carrying out orders, including those that result in their deaths. I regret that these are the facts that cannot be changed.

A final note here. For the last 13 or 14 months of my overseas tour, I was serving in Accra in what used to be called the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast is now called Ghana. They ran off their British conquerors and they are now on their own. Most of the people in the section of Accra where I served spoke the Ga language. It seems to be a happy language. I learned only one phrase. It is “i-ee-ko.” It was years before I found out that “i-ee-ko” means well done. On the other hand, the Ghanians actually use it as a greeting. They would walk by our barracks where the natives were working and would shout “i-ee-ko” and the fellows who were working around the barracks would respond with the same remark.
“I-ee-ko” is a gentle reflection of the Ghanian people. I am sorry that I learned no more than that small phrase. But it served me well when three refugees from Ghana appeared in our local market. We all regard each other as friends and indeed Daniel Commodore, his English name, said that when I come around, he feels like his father is visiting. I regard Daniel’s remark as the highest compliment available.

Well, these are reminiscences from a long career and they were triggered by John Warner not knowing the difference between sectarian and secular. I enjoyed recalling some of these events because most of them were pleasant. The Killingsworth expressions were abominable, as he was. I suppose it is true that old men like to reminisce. It seems to me that that’s what memories are made of. So I enjoy recalling the incident about the Russian soldier who was told that he was ugly just as I enjoy recalling Merle and Elmira Yocum’s pig farm. These are not monumental thoughts of course, but they please me, which is, in this case, all that is necessary.

March 18, 2006


My favorite Killingsworth essay is here. I wonder if one of his decedents will find this site someday. If by some SEO miracle this happens, feel free to leave a comment!

Man, so many of the quotes referenced here come up or are more fully investigated in other essays, but short of appending a big list of related essays in the comments, there’s not a great way to easily navigate you around. I think that after all these are done, I’m really going to rethink site navigation as a whole to make it more useful.


Because of its sacredness, this is an essay that should be read in silence, preferably in a monastic setting. On the other hand, if you prefer to read it aloud in the midst of a bawdy house, there is nothing that can be done to stop that. The author would like to have the address of the bawdy house, if that can be arranged.

For all my adult life, my instincts have always led me to men and women at the lower levels of the economic ladder, who do the heavy lifting and the repetitive functions that bring prosperity to American corporations. The people at the lower end of our economy are unfortunately often people of color. No matter how you cut it, prejudice still exists in this country, particularly in the South and West. And so my instincts often lead me to people of color who suffer discrimination and who are barred from the society pages of our newspapers.

Some 60 years ago, those instincts led me to lend my support to a union of telephone workers who were being short changed by AT&T, the most powerful corporation of its day. In that case, women such as the telephone operators were prominent among those being cheated. It pleases me now that my instincts for the underdog have remained unchanged for such a long period of time.

All of this came in to focus the day that Georgia Coney, a long term friend who is a supermarket checkout cashier, made a remark about the great American Depression. The remark was made to Sue Catlett, who oversees checkout cashiers in this market and to Dale Ash, another cashier. Miss Chicka and your old author were part of this discussion group. Georgia, Sue and Dale trace their ancestry to Africa as Judy and her husband trace theirs to Ireland.

Georgia is the fourth child out of 10 of a farmer and his wife who worked the soil near Albany, Georgia. She said that as a child, in spite of the fact that her family was large and times were tough, “We never went to bed hungry.” In those Depression days, that was a significant achievement.

In the Carr family during the early and mid-1930’s, we came mighty close to not having enough to eat on more than one occasion. Holding my thumb and forefinger a quarter inch apart, this old essayist said to Dale, “We came that close several times.” John Gualdoni, a grocer, saved us.

And so the discussion was about hard times brought on by Herbert Hoover, an engineer by trade, who unfortunately happened to be president of this country. Hoover, like Bush, understood nothing about people who had to work to put food on the table. That supermarket discussion led me to deal with one of three subjects mostly banished from my memory. Aside from the Depression, the other two are the divorce of 1983, and the combat phases of my military service in World War II.

The American language has a way of evolving, adding some words that are meritorious and other words whose span of time in the language is ephemeral. In this case, the new phrase used largely by younger people to deal with unpleasant or banished subjects is to say, “I don’t want to go there.” When Bush was on one of his many Texas vacations, and was told of Osama bin Laden’s desire to target the United States, it was an unpleasant thought and Bush did not want to interrupt his bass fishing. He did not want to go there. The result was the attack on September 11, 2001 for which we were given adequate warning by Osama.

In my case, there is no desire whatsoever to relive the deprivations of the Great Depression. Similarly, there is no reason to rehash a divorce case of nearly a quarter century ago or the death and destruction which took place during the combat phase of my military service. That took place some 62 or 63 years ago. All things considered, those three subjects have long been largely and deliberately banished from my thoughts.

Recalling the events of those years is not only unpleasant, but it smacks of asking the listener or reader to feel some sort of sorrow or pity. Those reactions are absolutely the last thing that is desired. Those things happened. They are in the past. The idea is to do better so that they don’t happen again.

On perhaps the only bright note, one of the lessons of the Great Depression had to do with my schooling in the Clayton, Missouri public school system. This lesson is that things are not always what they seem to be.

In this case, the well-to-do movers and shakers of the St. Louis business community did their business within the city limits of St. Louis, but their residences were often in Clayton, a leading suburb. In this case, we are speaking of lawyers, physicians, stock brokers and business owners. Because those occupations are often peopled by those of the Jewish faith, the Clayton school system was just about equally divided between Gentile and Jewish students.

In those days, there was no official recognition of Jewish holidays. If a Jewish kid was not at school on a religious holiday, his absence was ascribed to a cold or to some other transient ailment. For all intents and purposes, the rest of the student body at Clayton was Gentile and basically Protestant. The Catholics had their own schools.

The chorus or glee club at Clayton was both Gentile and Jewish, but sang no Jewish songs. When Christmas came, Jewish students sang about the birth of Jesus in a straw hut near Bethlehem. At Easter, there may have been a song or two celebrating the alleged resurrection of Jesus. As far as anyone knows, the Jewish members of the chorus sang that religious stuff along with the Gentiles, including one non-believing left footed baritone, to use an Irish term. Georgia Walker was the music teacher. It is fairly clear that if the Jewish students failed to sing of the “Great getting up morning in the sky,” Miss Walker would tell them to sign up for a shop or a cooking class instead of chorus.

My parents were fundamentalist or primitive Christians who believed that no one could enter the kingdom of heaven until he or she had undergone full immersion baptism and had the experience of being “born again.” Because Jews lacked those experiences, they were barred from heaven and its suburbs, by all flame throwing fundamentalist preachers.

For the last twelve years of his working life, my father worked as a caretaker for a private, largely Jewish subdivision. It is suspected that he never told them they would be barred from heaven until they submitted to full immersion baptism and being born again. Remember, this was the Depression and jobs were pretty much non-existent.

But aside from failure of other faiths to reach heaven after death, my parents never tried to turn me into an anti-Semite. They were not that kind of people and they knew of my rejection of their brand of Christianity. It had to be painful for them to know of my disbelief, but they seemed to say, “We have four believers and one odd ball. Four out of five is not so bad after all.” They were wrong as my sister Opal, counted among the believers, wound up singing and serving drinks in Joe Gonella’s saloon.

Earlier in this essay, it was said that things are not always what they seem to be. The incident that came to mind was of a successful St. Louis businessman who owned a large house just across the street from the playground for the Maryland Grade School which was part of the Clayton public school system. At that time, we played with a nine inch softball which had outseams as distinguished from an inseam ball. It was believed that outseamed balls lasted longer – which was important in depressed economic times.

All this took place in the fourth through the eighth grade at the Maryland Grade School. The batter would bat at the plate near the chain link fence which ran along side the playground. On the other side of the small street, was the palatial home of an owner of a St. Louis business. His business was located on Franklin Street, that housed dozens of cheap furniture stores and stores that sold repossessed furniture.

At the businessman’s house was an officious maid who growled if one of the boys had to chase a foul ball on the rich man’s property. There was one other character in this playlet, that being a boy about our age who lived in that palatial home, who went to our school and who seemed to have colds quite often. At that age, it had never dawned on me that his colds may have been related to celebrating a Jewish holiday which was not on the school calendar.

On WIL, the St. Louis radio station, there was a program every day sponsored by “Dick Slack, the Jolly Irishman.” On St. Patrick’s Day, the celebration went on for a week. Irish music always found its way onto Dick Slack’s radio program.

What Dick Slack was offering was cheap furniture and repossessed items at “Unheard of bargains.” This being the Depression, he apparently sold enough goods to buy a large house in Clayton with a maid and Cadillac and Packard automobiles and a son who attended our school.

Finally, about in the sixth grade, it dawned on me that “Dick Slack, the Jolly Irishman” was not Irish at all. He was the father of the boy whose name rang no bells in Donegal. Maybe in Jerusalem, but not in Dublin or Glock-a-Morra. This is hard to believe, but old Irish Dick Slack, the man who gave everyone easy credit, was in fact, Jewish. And his kid went to school with all of the ball playing Gentiles who chased foul balls in Dick Slack’s yard.

So that one got marked off to things are not always what they seem to be. In addition, it is one of the few incidents that can be related that had any humor in it at all during the Depression. The Depression went on from 1929 to early 1942, when World War II started. That is a long time to go without a laugh or two.

And so Georgia Coney’s remark about “not going to bed hungry” caused me to violate a rule on not discussing a banished subject. That rule was also violated in 2002 when on the 60th anniversary of my enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps, an essay was written for my daughters having to do with being shot down on December 8, 1943. This was anything but a happy experience. While essays have been written here about the non-combat phases of my military experience, this is the only time that the banished subject of combat in World War II has been violated. My excuse is that it was written for two daughters who have a connection to December 8th, which makes it no more than a venial sin.

Now about December eighth. In the first case, Maureen became our daughter through the auspices of the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society. Ten years to the day from my being shot down over German occupied territory in Italy, Maureen or Old Blondie, was taken from her foster home at the age of ten weeks. Three years later, on December 8, 1956, her sister, Spooky Suze, was born. So you see, December 8th which started out so bleakly, has worked out very well.

It was my original intention to write an essay on banished thoughts and subjects. It is very difficult to write about something that has been banished and repressed. All things being equal, it is my hope that you took the Dick Slack, the Jolly Irishman story to heart, because if things work out well, there will be no more of these banished disclosures. Unless, it was Dick Slack whose house was repossessed and who got shot down in the midst of a divorce involving his Hebrew, Muslim and shanty Irish wives. Now that might be worth writing about, providing his maid would permit me to do a little research on the grounds of his palatial home in Clayton, the heart of the Show Me state.

September 5, 2005


It’s pretty easy to tell at this point when an essay is gonna be a favorite. This one definitely qualified within the first paragraph. Happy late St. Patrick’s day, Mr. Slack.

John Gualdoni the grocer comes up in a number of essays. I think he’s unique to me because his profound impact on Pop’s family was such a clean-cut positive. He was generous when he didn’t have to be.

Every once in a while I think about the sheer unlikelihood of my existence and my mind always snaps at first to how little effort it would have taken from a million different directions to make me not exist. The obvious ones are not the positive factors like John Gualdoni — I’m much more likely to think about how the gunner that shot Pop down could have aimed differently or how the motorcycle that hit mom could have struck her a little more square-on. But it’s also nice to think that behind those scary one-offs which didn’t happen, there’s a whole army of people supporting one another through incredibly tough times that did support each other successfully.

And if you think about it for a second, you realize that by coincidence of your existence, you’re by definition the latest link in an unbroken line of people who have successfully had kids and raised them to adulthood in a chain that goes all the way back to the first humans. When I think of the sheer amount of cooperation that had to have gone into such an effort, it makes me feel like the John Gualdonis of the world who try to lift everyone up probably have a bigger impact on humanity than the occasional sidewalk-motorcyclist, even if the latter can sometimes be a lot more visible.

On another note entirely, I wonder if mom could tell me where “Spooky Suze” came from.


There is general agreement that Floyd Abrams is the foremost lawyer in this country on the issue of free speech. Earlier this summer, the New York Times hired him to represent Judith Miller, one of its reporters who had become ensnared in the outing of Valerie Plame, the undercover CIA agent.

Abrams lost the Miller case, but he usually wins a high percentage of the issues he takes to court. Earlier this year, Abrams published a book having to do with his court cases pivoting largely on the issue of free speech. It is called Speaking Freely, Trials of the First Amendment.
(Viking Penguin, New York, NY ©2005)

Reading Floyd Abrams’ book set me to thinking about two arbitration cases that had some quotes that hang around in my memory. Obviously, those arbitration cases did not compare in any way with the significance of Abrams’ court cases. But they had a light moment or two that should be recorded.

For an eleven year period, my work in the Bell System had to do with labor relations at AT&T Long Lines, the corporate headquarters of AT&T and the New York Telephone Company. These two arbitration cases involved employees of Long Lines in Atlanta and in St. Louis.

During the Depression, there were several management employees at Long Lines who developed a dictatorial style. A mistake could cost a job at a time when there were no jobs around. Somehow, two of the dictators were Charles Jeep of St. Louis and Grey Madry of Atlanta who were both Division Accounting Managers.

Jeep in St. Louis had an exit from his office so that he could avoid walking through his Accounting Department. He was roundly feared and disliked, but he always seemed to avoid trouble with the union.

On the other hand, Jeep’s counterpart in Atlanta not only had a dictatorial style but carried a chip on his shoulder about Yankees. For Madry, the Civil War was nowhere near finished.

Two cases arose in Atlanta during my tenure as Labor Relations Manager. My recollection is that employees were paid once each week by a check. Mack Harris was a male clerk who had no future in the Accounting Department, but Intelligent Design assigned him to the posting of ledgers in the Atlanta Accounting Department.

Customarily, when Mack Harris was paid, he would cash his check at a department store or more likely at a saloon and prepare for his evening activities. As soon as the currency was in his hands, Mack would remove his shoe and stuff a twenty dollar bill in the toe.

This was a well thought out precaution. Harris would take the rest of his pay and proceed to become drunk and disorderly. This drunkenness usually earned him a night in jail. The following morning he would appear before a judge and be fined at which point, he would have the $20 from his shoe tip to pay his fine. All of this court procedure caused Accounting Manager Madry to fire Mack Harris.

In this case, my recollection is that the Atlanta Accounting clerks were paid on Friday afternoon for their work of the previous week. So Harris filed a grievance which led to an arbitration case held in Atlanta.

During the arbitration case, Harris was clearly just a country boy who seemed to mean no one any harm. Your old essayist is a pushover for country boys who are just trying to get along in the big city. Harris was friendly and it may be suspected that he would do whatever he could to help his friends and foes alike.

So a large hotel room was booked with enough room for long tables facing each other to accommodate the union and the company representatives. An arbitrator was selected by both parties and a court reporter was hired to record the testimony.

While the arbitration proceeding was being established, Grey Madry was told to spend his time at the Central Area Headquarters in Cincinnati. The arbitrator soon caught on that the Company’s most important witness would not be appearing. He must have thought, “How strange.”

With Madry out of sight, the unpleasant job of representing the company fell to Jim Horney, and Accounting Representative from Cincinnati. What a thankless task to dump on Jim Horney, one of my best long term friends.

My recollection is that Jim Horney led off the witnesses. It was at this point that all of us began to question whether the court reporter could hear well enough to do his job.

For those of us with some military background, instructions are given with words to clarify letters. For example, A is Able; B is Baker; C is Charlie; D is Dog; E is Easy and F is Fox, X is X-ray; and Z is Zebra, etc. If the control tower wants an airplane to land on runway 32B, the pilot will be told he is clear to land on 32 Baker. These words were standard throughout the American Army.

When Jim Horney sat down in the witness chair, the court reporter swore him in and asked for his name. Jim replied, “James D. Horney”. His name was clear to everyone but the court reporter who asked him to repeat what he had said. On perhaps the third or fourth try, Jim used his Army background. Jim said, “My name is James, D for Dog, Horney.”

The “D for Dog” must have opened the court reporters ear canals because when the transcript of the day’s proceedings appeared the next day, it said, “The witness, James Dog Horney, was sworn and testified as follows.”

An accommodation was worked out with Mack Harris getting his back pay and being warned by the arbitrator to control his drinking and to avoid jail. No one alive now knows whether that ever happened.

Grey Madry had to be moved or preferably put on pension which may have happened. Before the Mack Harris’ case, one of Madry’s clerks had a baby. She lived a considerable distance from the office. Her name was Retha B. Queen. When Mrs. Queen told her boss that she could not work evening overtime as she was needed at home to care for her new baby and husband. Madry replied that in his scheme of things, there “Would be no time for frivolities as home life.” Madry still believed in the divine right of kings. Putting him out to pasture had to be done as soon as possible. Once Madry was gone, Retha B. did her duties for several years.

The second arbitration case involves Floyd Evans of St. Louis, a very bright country boy. Reporting to Floyd, were several Line Inspectors working out of AT&T’s St. Louis District Plant Office. The Line Inspector’s job was pretty much a prize. The inspectors worked alone and each had a small pick up truck for his use. The idea was to walk every foot of pole line or cable line looking for anything that could be fixed before trouble developed. But the key here is walking and inspecting. Every pole had to be inspected. The open wire on the pole had to be inspected. The markers on the cable sections had to be inspected to see if the gas pressure was within limits. Again, the Line Inspector would not know of potential troubles unless he walked his territory.

Unfortunately, there was a Line Inspector who did not do his job. He simply did not walk the pole or the cable lines. It seems he was found most often in his truck, sometimes asleep. This happened nearly 50 years ago, so one way or another, his name has now escaped me. Let’s call him John Jones.

The conduct by Jones could not be accepted by his boss, Floyd Evans, so he first suspended him and sometime later dismissed him. The president of the Long Lines telephone union when Jones was fired was Ed Ward. A few years earlier, the job of union president in St. Louis belonged to me. Ed Ward was a fire eater who had to be controlled. But now, Ward was the president of the St. Louis local who hated everything AT&T did. The hatred oozed out of Ward’s skin.

So Ed Ward pushed the grievance for John Jones and in 1959, it went to arbitration in St. Louis.

The arbitrator and the court reporter were picked. They were
no-nonsense men so proceedings moved right along. AT&T’s first witness was Floyd Evans. Floyd talked country as some people speak French or Spanish. My parents were country people who often mangled the English language. Floyd, like my parents, often articulated the word “cain’t” when he meant “can’t.” But never, never, think that a man who speaks country is dumb. Floyd could think extensively. His words may seem strange, but he was a very bright man.

Floyd was AT&T’s first witness. After the usual sparring between attorneys, Floyd was asked why he fired John Jones. Remember, that the first responsibility of a Line Inspector is to WALK and to INSPECT.

Floyd thought very little of John Jones’ walking and inspecting ability. He said that Jones was fired because “John Jones has set in that truck so long till his legs is growed together.”

As we were preparing for the case, Floyd had offered this evaluation to me. It seemed to me that Floyd’s observations were a succinct evaluation of Mr. John Jones’ worth to the company. It was my opinion that Floyd should testify exactly as he had spoken to me. So when Floyd testified about Jones’ legs being “growed together,” a smile may have crossed my face. But the arbitrator seemed to find the testimony fascinating. He started to smile and had to hide his face until his judicial demeanor returned.

The arbitrator came from New York City where he was a law professor at NYU. He was a very bright fellow, but his pronunciation of English words identified him as a native New Yorker. For example, the word “never” had a soft ending as in “nevah.” If he drank beer, perhaps he would order a “Millah beeah.” Floyd’s testimony opened up a new vista for the arbitrator. My guess is that the arbitrator used Floyd’s description of “his legs is growed together” in all his classes and outside speeches. He should have paid us just to hear the country testimony by Floyd Evans.

The game could have been called as soon as Floyd offered his testimony about Jones’ work. Nonetheless, it went on for another day or two. In short order, the arbitrator ruled that John Jones’ dismissal was appropriate.

So that is my contribution to go with Floyd Abrams’ book. It seems to me that Madry’s exhortation that “we don’t have time for frivolities such as home life” ranks well up there as exhortations go. But for me, Floyd Evans’ response was the gold standard. “John Jones has set in that truck so long ‘till his legs is growed together.” That says it all.

September 15, 2005


In the guy’s defense, his position probably shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Generally if something goes wrong with a line, people make that known to AT&T, and then AT&T comes and fixes it. Having someone identify potential risk areas, or even having them out there patrolling, only has the potential for speeding up the company response to the problem if there’s an imminent threat to the line, or if somehow the inspector comes across the damage before someone tells AT&T there’s a problem. Maybe something about the infrastructure was different back then, but it seems like sleeping in a truck is roughly as helpful as inspecting miles and miles of lines.

Also they clearly should have started paying Harris on, say, Tuesday morning. I have to applaud his foresight, though.



“We’ll Keep a Welcome” is a Welsh song that personifies Jean McFarland Livermore’s life and to some extent, Grinnell College in Iowa which she attended. “We’ll Keep a Welcome” goes back to 1941 when Welsh troops who were heavily involved in fighting in World War II were visited by a Welsh variety show called, “Welsh Rarebit.” The idea of the visits by “Welsh Rarebit” was to keep troops such as the famous Royal Welsh Fusiliers, in touch with events back in their Welsh homeland. The producers of “Welsh Rarebit” were a female composer, Mai Jones, and the male lyricist, Lyn Joshua. Their theme song produced especially for the production was the song, “We’ll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside.”

The lyrics for “We’ll Keep a Welcome” have three verses. Of course, this is a tease, but the first verse reads like this:

“Far away a voice is calling
Bells of memory chime
Come home again, come home again
They call through the oceans of time.”

The other two verses will appear a little later in this tribute to Jean McFarland Livermore. The third verse includes the Welsh word, “Hiraeth,” which ought to appear in all the worlds major languages. This old World War II soldier will explain what “Hiraeth” means as well as the diphthong that goes with it. Not so bad for an itinerant scholar, who did not attend Grinnell College, to explain all about diphthongs. And by the way, one of the attachments is a recipe for Welsh Rarebit.

Now before we get back to Jean McFarland Livermore, there is a fact or two that everyone should know about her husband of 63 years. Harry and this old essayist became great friends shortly before Mother’s Day in 1952, a span of 52 years which were counted out on the fingers of this ink stained wretch. You see, for 52 years, Harry has maliciously derided my ability with arithmetic. To improve my performance, the services of the world renowned Creative Arithmetic Institute have been engaged for perhaps the last 20 years. The CAI, not to be confused with the spooks who operate the similarly named CIA, was founded in the 1920’s by Charles K. Ponzi, the world’s best known swindler and the gentleman who completely looted the entire assets of the Hanover Trust Company in New York City. Ponzi took a graduate degree at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York.

The professors at Creative Arithmetic Institute now are former executives at the Enron Corporation. Their efforts at CAI have been interrupted from time to time, by lengthy Federal stays at an advanced school located in Leavenworth, Kansas.

None the less, the faculty at CAI has produced a classic arithmetic doctrine called “TCE,” meaning “That’s Close Enough.” For example, Harry tells me as my 82nd birthday approaches, that my observations about ageing are the complaints of teenagers. He says, “Wait ‘till you get to be my age before you say anything.”

My research done with the help of the faculty at CAI, says that this year is 2004. It is a fact that Harry was born in 1915, AD. The suffix “AD” is cited because in Harry’s case, arguably, his birth could have been marked “BC.” So using the techniques developed by the faculty at CAI, 2004 minus 1915 yields some interesting answers. Using the long hand arithmetic taught at Clayton, Missouri public schools, 2004 was written down with 1915 with a minus sign written directly below it. My expertise does not extend to fractions or decimals, yet the answer to my long hand calculations was 49.73⅝. That answer is crazy as Livermore has been my pal longer than that.

So it was necessary now to turn to mechanical devices. In my desk drawer is a calculator which General Mills sent to me for sending in 310 box tops from Wheaties™. Given the same problem, the little calculator yielded an answer of 94 years for Harry. That seemed fairly close, but this calculator has been known to not carry over the one in subtraction problems. So we then turned to a larger printing calculator with the legend, “With the Compliments of the Enron Corporation” on the calculator’s screen. The print out said the answer to the problem was 103 years. This answer made me and the faculty at CAI much more comfortable. As an aside, the faculty at CAI let me have the printing calculator for $1100, which was obviously quite a steal.

The point is that in this case of a seeming discrepancy between 94 and 103 years, the infallible doctrine of “That’s close enough” applies. If the professors from Enron say its close enough, that not only suits me in this case, but it does a great deal to reestablish my arithmetic credentials so abused by Harry Livermore. In April of this year, the faculty at CAI will nominate me for enshrinement at the World Wide Arithmetic Hall of Fame. The enshrinement takes three days and Mr. Livermore will be asked to escort me at the coronation ceremonies. It is hoped that he will not plead old age and senility when all the festivities take place. And finally, in its Doctoral Program on arithmetic studies at Grinnell College, it is hoped that the Doctrine of “It’s close enough” will be a central theme.

The Arithmetic Hall of Fame does not have elaborate, permanent headquarters such as exist in Canton, Ohio for the professional football Hall or at Cooperstown, New York for the pro-baseball Hall. The Arithmetic Hall is located outside St. Louis near a junkyard on old Highway 66. The Hall uses $8 rooms at a hot sheet motel for its work. The coronation ceremony is held in a Popeye’s Restaurant where the feature is all the hamburgers you can eat. Popeye’s believes that mad cow disease has to do with a cow that is angry. The CAI faculty feels that Harry and his honored guest will feel quite at home in this setting.

Fate has an interesting way of doing things. Harry was a native of Omaha, Nebraska who attended Grinnell College as did Jean, his future wife from Jackson, Michigan. Josiah Bushnell Grinnell (1821 – 1891) an American pioneer, clergyman and abolitionist, came to Iowa because Horace Greeley told him personally to, “Go west, young man, go west.” He founded Grinnell, Iowa (1854) and gave land and buildings (1859) to Iowa College which was later named Grinnell College. Although related to the Congregational Church in the beginning, Grinnell is a non-sectarian school.

Sometime later, Harry wound up before World War II working for AT&T in New York. When war broke out, he served aboard the carrier Ticonderoga which suffered several hits from Japanese kamikaze aircraft. After the hit, the Ticonderoga limped back into port, was repaired, and with its crew, went back out to fight another day. Because of his indispensability, the American Navy kept Harry on duty until 1946. Jean also served with honor in WWII by staying home and rearing three youngsters on her own while Harry was away. Grinnell must have prepared her very well. After leaving the Navy, Harry went back to AT&T in New York until he was transferred to Kansas City in 1951 or thereabouts.

As it turns out, my roots are in Clayton, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. When Clayton High School graduated me in January, 1940, there were no jobs so it was necessary to continue my work in filling stations. Obviously, pumping gas, fixing flat tires and lubricating car chassis equipped me superbly to deal with the curriculum at Creative Arithmetic Institute and at Grinnell College in Iowa. For example, in the Iowa Collegiate Mathematics Competition at the University of Iowa on April 5, 2003, there were 28 teams of three students who worked on a collection of ten problems. My score was something like 97 or 114 points. The exact score is not important at all. The next higher score was 88 points – so take that – Harry Livermore.

In any case, a great break happened to me in September, 1941, when a drafting job opened up with AT&T in St. Louis. From 1942 until November, 1945, there was an enlistment with the United States Army Air Corps – later it became the Army Air Force. In 28 months overseas, it was possible to see the devastation that war brought to North Africa and Italy. Josiah Grinnell was an ardent abolitionist who incurred severe penalties as he argued to stop slavery. If Reverend Grinnell were around today, he and this old soldier would combine forces to argue to stop wars, starting with the current pre-emptive invasion of Iraq which has cost 530 American lives so far.

After World War II, it was my duty to obey the voice of “We’ll Keep a Welcome” by observing the lines about, “Come home again, come home again.” So it was back to St. Louis. In 1951, AT&T offered me a management job in Kansas City. It was there that Harry’s brother, Monte, became my friend. Before long, another transfer within Kansas City brought me to work for Harry Livermore.

It was near Mother’s Day in 1952 when work for Harry actually began. Harry was the District Traffic Manager for AT&T in Kansas City. Mother’s Day was not an auspicious time to try to learn the intricacies of a new job in the traffic department of any of the Bell System Companies. Every person was hard at work preparing to handle record long distance calling on Mother’s Day, so that there was very little time to show a neophyte what went on.

Harry had an outstanding staff to help him. There was Chief Operator Helen Billow and Assistant Chief Operator Jeannev Bradbury. Veta Mae Irwin was Harry’s Welfare Supervisor. You called on Veta Mae if your boyfriend was two timing you and you felt aggrieved. The Chief Force Clerk was Blondie Hunter who took all kinds of grief because an unexpected evening tour might interfere with an operator’s love life. Harry’s Office Manager was a lovely woman named Leona Miner. Clarence West of the Plant Department was the Union Ayatollah of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas. Clarence was a good guy who enjoyed life and laughed quite a bit.

As things in the Kansas City Traffic Department grew more familiar to me, it became clear that the staff worked so well together because they liked Harry Livermore and they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Harry would always treat them fairly and do so with a generous spirit.

Although my service in Harry’s department was only three or four months, when Harry left for vacation in August, he told me to run things. Specifically, he did not say conduct a holding operation until his vacation was finished. Given Harry’s vote of confidence, my efforts were dedicated to running things. Among other projects, there was a new index board produced for Kansas City Traffic department results. It fell to me to welcome a new Inward and Through Chief Operator as a result of Harry’s earlier arrangement. That would have been Helen Seghers.

Knowing that Harry had confidence in this 30 year old worker with only a short time in Traffic operations, gave me an inordinate amount of confidence. And like everyone else in the AT&T Kansas City Traffic operation, it made me a booster of the boss. In other cases where work has taken me, the boss gave no authority to his helpers and jealously reserved his right to criticize if things were not executed perfectly.

Harry took a much more refreshing outlook. In effect, he said we’re all in this together. Let’s make it work the best we can. Needless to say, everyone in Kansas City Traffic preferred Harry’s way overwhelmingly.

Aside from work, it was my pleasure to see Harry socially for a little bit of drinking and some softball games. In retrospect, it may be clear that we were both Mid-Westerners who spoke non-flowery English. And we were both involved in World War II. If memory serves me correctly, the Aircraft Carrier Ticonderoga that Harry served on lost as many as 300 men in a devastating kamikaze attack. Like me, Harry was not a gung ho promoter of more violence and destruction in another war.

Good things came to an end, however, when AT&T promoted Harry to take over the AT&T Chicago Traffic operation. Everyone was happy to see Harry recognized, but there was a sense of foreboding in the Kansas City Traffic department. The foreboding was eminently justified as Harry’s successor was picked by an unmarried Eastern executive and he turned out to be a young, unmarried protégé who had no managerial experience in Traffic operations or in directing people who reported to him. This young man was given to nit-picking and an overwhelming aversion to making decisions. For example, he absolutely and completely refused to sign off on the force scheduling assignments for operators on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or on New Year’s Eve. Blondie Hunter, the Chief Force clerk was frantic. When she told me what was happening, the force schedules were given my approval which had no backing at all in the AT&T Schedule of Authorizations. But, it got the job done.

This young manager’s management style or lack thereof, soon caused his bosses to relieve him of the manager’s job in Kansas City Traffic. In the meantime, not long after Christmas on a Sunday morning, Harry came to my house in Prairie Village, Kansas to tell me that he wanted me to join him in Chicago. It was not easy to leave the friends that had been made in the Kansas City area, but asking me to go to Chicago to work under Harry was a confidence builder of the first sort. So in late January and February, 1953, we began weekly commutation trips to Chicago.

Now there is something everyone should know about our living arrangements in Chicago. The people at Grinnell College ought to think about the incident which will now be described to see if the College wishes to endorse such action by Mr. Livermore, Junior.

More than a year ago, this old writer and mathematician wrote an essay about the Livermore-Carr living arrangement in Chicago. Now that more than a year has passed, this excerpt from the essay becomes a matter of REVEALED TRUTH. Here is what was written a long time ago:

One way or another, while searching for a permanent place to live, Harry and I took a two room suite at the Webster Hotel on Lincoln Parkway in the Near Northside of Chicago. We got along very well. Harry did not snore much and he discovered that putting peanuts in the refrigerator made a nice hors D’oeuvre. I reserved an opinion on that subject.

Almost everyone smoked in the 1950’s. In our suite at the Webster Hotel, when the last cigarette was smoked, the packages would be crumpled into a small ball and would become a source of athletic entertainment and achievement. Over our door to the hallway, was a screenless transom which could be opened to varying degrees of wideness. With one person in the bedroom and the other man in the hallway, the balled up cigarette package would be pitched through the transom with the door closed. The fellow receiving the throw would not know when it was thrown or whether it would be to his left or right. The object, of course, was to catch the thrown cigarette package ball. While we were on the honor system about catching the ball, as soon as the ball was pitched through the transom, the pitcher would run for the door and open it to see if the catcher really did catch the ball. When our neighbors alighted from the elevator and occasionally saw our game of pitching the ball through the transom, we were helped by the liberal view of the Chicago Police Department on minor crime. They did not send the paddy wagon for us.

There is one other story on which Harry Livermore considered me as a practitioner of shady play. In this case, the balled up cigarette package was again being used. Our living room at the Webster was quite large probably 12 feet across and perhaps 18 feet long. Harry was sitting on a divan at the far end of the room. Across from him was a window that was opened to a height of two or three inches.

Standing at the entrance to the room some 18 to 20 feet away, I told Brother Livermore that it would be possible for me to pitch the ball out that window. Harry immediately took the bet saying no one could do such an impossible feat. Now remember, my offer was to throw that ball out that window. Nothing was said – at least by me – of the window opening being only two or three inches or of my distance from the window.

With the bet firmly in hand, I simply walked over to the window and opened it to seven or eight inches, and while standing next to the window, the cigarette package ball was thrown out on Lincoln Parkway.

As you might imagine, old Harry screamed bloody murder. Foul play was all Harry could say. It has been 50 years since my triumph of cigarette package ball through an open window in the Webster Hotel. When talking to Harry over all those years, he still accuses me of enticing him into a nefarious betting operation. As always, I claim complete innocence, and rightly so.

It has been my pleasure to know Harry for more than 50 years. We have never had a cross word, if you exclude the cigarette ball out the window episode. Harry originally comes from Nebraska where he was born in 1915. That makes him nearly 70 years of age or thereabouts. I hope he lives to see his 100th birthday. If he does achieve that goal, however, I am absolutely sure that he will still be protesting my brilliant move to throw the cigarette package ball out on Chicago’s Lincoln Parkway.

Now that the revealed truth has been disclosed, it is time to go forward.

The AT&T Chicago Traffic operation was immense to a fellow from Kansas City. It became apparent at the outset, that Harry had a difficult job ahead of him as he succeeded an unfortunate and an unpopular martinet. When Harry’s predecessor was the Traffic Manager in St. Louis, it was my pleasure and duty to deal with him harshly as the President of CWA Local 6350 in St. Louis. Straightening out the chaos caused by this fellow gave Harry a Herculean job to do.

But it was apparent that Harry went about that job just as he had done in Kansas City. In one instance, for example, there must have been at least 300 or 400 Service Assistants in Chicago. They were non-management employees who trained new operators and who provided assistance to operators having difficulty with a long distance call or caller. As a matter of fact, long distance calls were all AT&T handled. Local calls were the province of the local companies such as the Illinois Bell Telephone Company. At the time we are speaking of, there were few – if any – long distance calls that could be dialed directly. When a subscriber wished to make a long distance call, he or she dialed 211 and spoke to an AT&T operator who then handled the call.

So there was plenty of work for Service Assistants. Sometimes they sat at the switchboard. On other occasions, they would patrol behind a section of operators. They worked in the large #1 Office on Franklin Street in Chicago’s Loop. There was an office on the southeastern edge of the Loop District and a third office on the South Side about 10 or 12 miles from the Loop. There were operators and Service Assistants on every shift because this was a 24/7 day operation.

When Harry succeeded his unpopular predecessor, he set out to meet personally with every Service Assistant. This took him to meetings all day and into the dinner hour to say nothing about the women who worked the midnight tours. The results were dramatic. Grievances were handled on the spot. Promises made were kept. Morale took off when Harry assumed command.

In Chicago, there were some mature, old time supervisors who were Irish women. If they were on your side, nothing could stop you. If they were not on your side, no force on earth could make the head man succeed. In no time at all, all the Irish women were on Harry’s side. To name a few, there was Welfare Supervisor Ann Hincks. There were Chief Operators Ann Gairns and Kay McCormack. While she was not Irish, Betty Kruchten was part of that group. In Office #17 was Mildred Grant while Office 20’s Chief Operator was Lois Watson. Mrs. Grant and Miss Watson were what ladies magazines called “full figured women.” These women together with Kay McCormack (Office 19) and Ann Gairns (Office 18), made a formidable force. When Mildred Grant married for the second time after her first husband’s death, she let us know that the second husband could stand some improvements which she promised to make. It is a good bet she did that. As a survivor of World War II, it was obvious to me that it was a prudent move to get on the same side with the Irish Mafia. On one occasion, my instincts told me to slyly point out my Irish ancestry. One of those women told me to forget it as they had checked me out long before it was my turn to show up in their operating rooms.

In December, 1953, my wife at that time joined with her husband to adopt a two month old little girl through the offices of the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society. For months afterward, these women from the operating rooms in Chicago, specifically including the Irish Mafia, brought little dresses for me to take home. They were often delivered with the stern warning that packages were for Maureen, not for me. It was a stroke of genius, it may be supposed, that we gave the little girl the name of Maureen, meaning in Irish terms, little Mary.

When the adoption first happened, it was announced by me of all people, that Maureen’s bow in society would take place at Wrigley Field at nine months of age, when the Chicago Cubs took on my St. Louis Cardinals. They thought it was delusional for me to pick the Cards over the Cubs, but it had no effect whatsoever on those women buying presents for Maureen. They would say, we went shopping last Monday evening and saw this dress that would look stunning on Maureen. They would then order me to take the dress package home without any hesitation enroute. There was absolutely no choice for me but to obey.

On many occasions, Harry and Jean came to see Maureen. On many occasions, Maureen appeared at the Livermore house in LaGrange, Illinois where my memory now places it. To this day, Maureen and her sister, Suzanne, refer to Harry and Jean as Uncle Harry and Aunt Jean. Those kids have not used any other names for the Livermores at all in their lives.

There are one or two more thoughts about the Chicago Traffic operation when Harry was the Division Traffic Manager. But we interrupt this narrative to remind every reader of the importance of remembering the doctrine of “That’s Close Enough.” That doctrine will appear, perhaps twice more, before we are finished with Jean and Harry.

It must have been in the Summer of 1954, when Harry asked us to come by where he was vacationing in Jackson, Michigan. The highlight of the day we spent there was the ability to have a long discussion with Dr. McFarland, Jean’s father. One way or another, that evening was filled with a lively discussion about his practice which intrigued me and with his questions about the Army and our lives in Chicago. There is this much to say about Dr. McFarland. If my physical condition had required me to have an appendectomy or a brain transplant, Dr. McFarland would be have been my choice to perform the operation.

Seeing Dr. McFarland brings up another point. Jean and Harry married at an early age. Apparently, wedding vows were exchanged without notifying the parents. When the two of them visited their parents, Harry told me that the marriage license was laid out on the night table six inches from the new bridegroom’s head in case one of the parents looked in during the night and found not one, but two occupants in the bedroom.

It is suspected that if Dr. McFarland found the newlyweds with their marriage license prominently displayed, he would have collapsed from laughter. Harry’s parents soon became well known to me. It is clear that Harry Senior would have also collapsed from laughter by the sight of the prominently displayed marriage license.

Early in the year 1955, Harry was entertaining Dick Dugan from Long Lines Headquarters in New York. Harry asked a few of us to join him for a few drinks and dinner. Harry saw to it that Dick Dugan always had an ample opportunity to talk to me that evening. What was unknown to me was that Brother Dugan had come to Chicago to see if a fellow with my background would fit in on the labor job in Dick’s department back in New York. It is fairly certain that Harry sang my praises and fairly soon, the promotion was mine. This was one more occasion of Harry helping his subordinates to get ahead. Needless to say, Harry’s help was invaluable and greatly appreciated – again.

Leave taking Chicago was a painful process because my two years there was filled with genuine new friendships. And of course, there was the adoption of old Blondie, nee Maureen. In all the years that Harry has been my friend, both of us always point to Chicago as the place where enjoyment was at its greatest. As Harry says “Chicago is the place where we had the most fun.” Of course, he is right.

Not long after New York became my new place of employment, Harry came east also. We both located in New Jersey with Harry in his former stomping ground of Maplewood and with the Carr’s in a sort of country town called New Providence. The Livermores still had three kids with them. They were all good kids.

During the period starting in the 1960’s, AT&T made several changes in assignments involving Harry and me. As 1970 approached, it was necessary for me to find a new house after an assignment in Washington, D. C. The house was in Short Hills, New Jersey. Pretty soon, Harry downsized his housing requirements and moved so that both of us could ride the Lackawanna Cannonball every day from Short Hills to Hoboken, N. J.

In March, 1956, it became apparent to me that smoking was attempting to take my life. My father who smoked one cigar a week and an occasional pipe-full of tobacco, deplored cigarette smoking. He invariably referred to that practice as “sucking cigarettes.” On top of that description, he thought “sucking cigarettes” showed a distinct lack of manliness. If he were alive today, he would claim that smoking is a habit of gay men.

My old man did not figure at all in my decision to quit smoking. It had to do with my life expectancy. So Harry and your clean habited friend rode the Lackawanna every day to work. We rode in non-smoking cars. However, about 1.5 miles west of the Hoboken terminal, it was necessary to pass through a long tunnel. The darkness of that tunnel told Harry it was time to have a smoke and head for the door so that we could board the Hudson River ferry and drink some Lackawanna Railroad coffee. My non-smoking demeanor gave me much satisfaction as Harry’s smoke wafted over my nostrils.

Over the years, both of us occupied offices at 32 Sixth Avenue in New York and at #5 World Trade Center. When AT&T decided to move to Bedminster, N. J., Harry’s office was a few steps from my own. Whenever a question took me to Harry’s place, he quickly offered me a cup of coffee. Coffee drinking is not one of my failures, but his offer was always accepted because it gave him a chance to join me. It seems to me, that my unscientific research shows that old Navy guys drink a great deal of coffee. That’s fine with me. It sure beats chewing tobacco or snuff.

Well, it seems to this old essayist that you’ve heard enough about the two of us for awhile. Right now, it would give me pleasure to speak about Grinnell College and its benefactor, Josiah Bushnell Grinnell.

Until it was necessary to do some research so that this essay could be written, my view of Grinnell College was one where Jean and Harry Livermore attended college. The town itself became known to me because on a hot, hot August afternoon, curiosity caused me to go to Grinnell, Iowa to see what the town had to offer.

Executives at the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company had asked me to make a series of speeches in its principal cities. So Omaha was the first such presentation. This was followed by speeches in Minneapolis and in the Dakotas. Then came Des Moines. So after the presentation in Des Moines, a rented car was found for the trip to Grinnell. This was the late 1950’s and rented cars had no air-conditioning at all. What they had was an opening in the hood outside the windshield which theoretically directed air to the feet. At that time, there were windows that were cranked up and down by the passengers. No electric windows to roll up or down with the push of a button. In front of the two front windows, there was a triangular shaped window which could be rolled or cranked so far inward that it directed air toward the chests of the front seat passengers.

On this day, the main windows were down and those little triangular pieces were rolled as far as they would go. It was boiling. When dinner time came, there had to be a comment to a Grinnell native sitting outside the local café. My Missouri upbringing taught me that it is of great importance to speak to townspeople. As a matter of fact, the gentleman sitting outside the café in Grinnell spoke first asking if it was hot enough for me. He was told that it was plenty hot. Sensing that he was speaking to someone from out of town, he asked what brought me to Grinnell. This gentleman was told that my home was in Eastern Missouri where the weather got very warm also. The answer to the rest of his question was that it would be nice to see what Grinnell might offer in the way of higher education for my kids.

Now look here. Only a fool would tell this gentleman that New York was my home base at the time. It is quite true that if you go back to the beginning, Clayton, Missouri is my original home so my answer was factually correct. My daughter was perhaps six years old and her sister was three years old. It’s never too early to look at colleges. So truth was my yardstick.

Well, the Grinnell gentleman seemed satisfied with my answers. He reasoned that Missouri is like Iowa, a Mid-Western state. He also agreed that the Mississippi Valley produced hot weather, but probably not as hot as Iowa. So using the doctrine of “That’s Close Enough,” he shook hands with me as a fellow Mid-Westerner. His parting words were, “Hot weather makes the corn grow very nicely.” That was an appropriate comment. It also helps the watermelons.

Now about not mentioning New York to the Grinnell gentleman, that was the better part of valor. For example, when it came time for me to be interviewed by the Chairman of the New York Telephone Company, Cliff Phalen, the thought that one of my meals was taken in Grinnell, Iowa, was unmentioned. The point is, you have to know when to hold ‘em and when it’s time, to fold ‘em. The New York Company gave me the job.

Now about Grinnell College. The clergyman who made the land grant for the school, Joshua Bushnell Grinnell, was an abolitionist which means that he opposed slavery. As a matter of fact, he was pastor of the First Congregational Church in Washington, D. C., in 1851 and in 1852. He preached an anti-slavery sermon which caused such an uproar that he was fired from his pulpit. Washington, of course, is below the Mason-Dixon Line.

So Reverend Grinnell came to Iowa and founded the town and had land set aside for Grinnell College. It had never dawned on me that Grinnell had a founder with such a backbone. Grinnell College has my apologies for my being ignorant of the anti-slavery background of its namesake.

Now a personal note. Lillie Carr, my mother, was a religious woman. At various times, she attended Southern Baptist churches as well as those of the Pentecostal and Nazarene faiths. When it came time at age 13 to escape all this religiosity, my parents were attending a Free Will Baptist Church which banned all musical accompaniments when the congregation or soloists sang hymns. No pianos and certainly, no pipe organs were allowed.

The explanation seemed to be that organs and pianos did not exist when Jesus founded Christianity, so the Free Will Baptists wanted to be on four squares with the Redeemer. It could also be argued that automobiles and buses and street cars did not exist when Jesus went about preaching his sermons. Did that say that getting to the Church of God using only foot power was the only acceptable means of worship?

Even my mother was skeptical about the Free Will Baptists. Lillie Carr sang and hummed Amazing Grace every day of her life. But the Free Willers made it difficult to sing that hymn in their church with no accompaniment whatsoever.

When the American Army decided that the completion of 71 combat missions was no reason to send me home from Italy, they elected to send me to a large British-American base in Africa located a few miles outside Accra, the capital of the Gold Coast. Today, that African country is called Ghana. So Accra was my next military stop.

The port of Takoradi serves as Accra’s and the Gold Coast’s outlet to the sea. Research showed that John Newton (1725 – 1807) who composed my mother’s favorite hymn Amazing Grace, had been a slave trader ship owner before he became an Anglican clergyman. Takoradi was a regular port of call for John Newton when he captained his slave trading sea-going ship.

When the Army gave me a few days of home leave before preparing to move me from Europe and Africa to Japan, my mother and her youngest son, namely me, had a little conversation about my visits to Takoradi. There it was possible to see the wretched conditions the slaves lived in before boarding a ship like John Newton’s to start the trip to Confederate America. It made a lifelong impression on me. It was necessary for me to make three or four trips to Takoradi to take it all in.

Because of Lillie Carr’s fondness for Amazing Grace, it seemed like a good subject to bring up in passing. My mistake was immediately apparent. She waved me off and changed the subject. She had no intention of hearing anything derogatory about Amazing Grace. My put down was accepted with as much grace as could be mustered under the circumstances, but my opposition to slavery was with me for life.

So when it came time to deal with college for our two daughters, Dartmouth and Miami of Ohio were chosen by the two prospective students. If Grinnell College’s anti-slavery background had been known to me, it would have made me an honest man in my conversation with the man sitting outside the café in Grinnell, Iowa who asked what brought me to town.

Now it is time to move on to Jean and the thought of Harry proposing to establish a monument in her memory. When Harry told me about his thought, he explained that he had already been in contact with someone from Grinnell College. He flattered me by suggesting that it would be appreciated by him if this old soldier-essayist would see about producing an essay such as the one you are reading. Obviously, this was simply a request, but it will be treated by me as a commission to write an essay. That commission to write an essay will be pointed out and bragged about in my dealings with other itinerant essayists.

If Harry has made clear to me the description of what Grinnell College plans to do, it seems that buildings will be constructed in a prominent place on the campus. If my understanding is correct, a room in one of the new buildings will be named in honor of Jean McFarland Livermore.

And so that takes us back to the song at the beginning of this essay and to the world famous doctrine of “That’s Close Enough.” McFarland is a Celtic name. My overeducated Ivy League daughter pronounces Celtic as thought the first letter is a “K.” On dozens of occasions, it has been pointed out to her that the world famous basketball club in Boston, is called the Boston Celtics, as though it were spelled “Sell-tics.” But she is a lawyer who may wind up as Rehnquist’s replacement as the head man of the U. S. Supreme Court. So because this is my essay on commission from her Uncle Harry, the word will be “Sell-tics.” That Kel-tics stuff can stay in Texas.

Well, McFarland is a Celtic name as we said. Four groups comprise the Celtic family. There are the Scots and the Irish. Then there are the Welsh. And finally, there are some Celtics in France in Brittany. They use the name “Breton” to identify themselves.

McFarland could be a Scot’s name or an Irish name. But remember, the Celts belong to a family. So it is entirely appropriate to commemorate Jean’s life with a Welsh song, “We’ll Keep a Welcome.” It may be that Jean was not Welsh, but her name is in the Celtic family; therefore, under the doctrine of “That’s Close Enough,” We’ll Keep a Welcome applies to Jean Livermore, nee McFarland. Any objection? Hearing none, let’s move on.

It will be noted that in the final verse, there appears the Welsh word “Hiraeth.” That word should appear in all the world’s major languages. The “ae” letters in the last half of the word are a diphthong. They are pronounced like an English “eye.” So the word is pronounced as


At heart, Hiraeth is a nostalgic longing for home and people and things connected with home. For example, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers are the oldest Welsh infantry regiment. Only Welsh men need apply. The regiment is a family regiment in every sense of the phrase. Brothers, sons, fathers and close friends often from the same town or village serve in the regiment. The sense of belonging to the Welsh Regiment and to Wales are keenly felt. This is Hiraeth. English needs an equivalent word.

The words to Jean’s song, We’ll Keep a Welcome go like this:

Far away a voice is calling
Bells of memory chime
Come home again, come home again
They call through the oceans of time.
We’ll keep a welcome in the hillside
We’ll keep a welcome in the vales
The land you knew will still be singing
When you come home again to Wales.
This land of song will keep a welcome
And with a love that never fails
We’ll kiss away each hour of Hiraeth
When you come home again to Wales.

The Celts are singers. The Irish sing “Danny Boy” and “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.” The Scots sing “Scotland the Brave.” And the Welsh people are famous for their singing choirs in nearly every town, no matter how small. The English, who for centuries have tried to dominate Welsh, Irish and Scots affairs, sing not at all, unless you count Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, who hums as his Royal footman spreads toothpaste on His Majesty’s toothbrush each morning. There must be a lesson in the happiness of the Celts as distinguished from the dourness of the English. Can anyone imagine Queen Elizabeth singing “We’ll Keep a Welcome” at any time? Not likely.

In all her home’s in New Jersey, in Kansas, in Illinois or in the Pocono’s, Jean McFarland Livermore projected a genuine welcome to all her guests. Now that a room at Grinnell College may be named in her honor, the students may go there to study, and to discuss what the future holds for them. Perhaps they may find the McFarland Livermore room a place for quiet contemplation. Or may be it will be used as a place for meeting of friends. Whatever the room is used for, it is hoped that it will always be remembered as the Jean McFarland Livermore room. It is hoped that those leaving Grinnell College, will have fond memories of that memorial. And finally, there is the thought that the leave takers will consider Grinnell College and the McFarland Livermore Room as home. In that case, Hiraeth and We’ll Keep a Welcome will surely apply.

February 8, 2004


Well Pop certainly took his Commission seriously — this essay clocks in at just under 7,000 words.
Lots to learn in this essay, from the background of Amazing Grace to everything there is to know about Grinnell and Livermore. It’s really nice to know that even though this essay was written in 2004, their friendship lasted until the end of their lives. I guess once you make it to 50 years, the last handful is easy.
The doctrine of “That’s close enough” seems like a handy one. It certainly makes things simpler.



During this election year, the Bushies say that everything having to do with the economy and jobs are going honky-dory. The Democrats point to three million lost jobs since the Bush Administration took office.

It might be supposed that the count of lost jobs perhaps ought to go up by one in view of the fact that your old essayist has largely been without gainful employment since 1984. And, he has not looked for work for quite a while. Could it be that my situation is part of the so called “jobless recovery”? Or is it shiftlessness? Some say that shiftlessness is a virtue. It would be hard for me to disagree with that line of thinking.

Perhaps it could be said that writing essays is sort of a job. On many occasions, it is certainly not easy work. The pay in dollars is just about zero. When an essay is well received, however, there is greater joy than dollars could provide. There is one other benefit in being a largely unpaid-in-money essayist. You work when you want to. Quitting time is whenever the essayist says it is. And there is no hassle about overtime pay. And, supervision is pretty weak.

So in the end, being part of the “jobless recovery” is not all bad. At least, there is essay work to be done which is more than can be said about some of the jobs we are talking about today. The jobs we are thinking about basically no longer exist. There may be some lone operators who still perform some of the old time functions, but by and large, society has seen fit to discard many of the jobs we should now consider.

This old essayist is struck with a sense of nostalgia about the lost jobs. Nostalgia or no nostalgia, it is fairly clear that the jobs we have in mind are not coming back. But at least we can salute at their demise, because those jobs made our lives more graceful and more comfortable.

Here are some of the jobs that have borne the brunt of the rush to modernize:

Elevator operator
Telephone operator
Filling station attendant
Conductor on buses and street cars
Utility meter reader
Shoe shiners or boot black
Stone mason
Cigar store clerk (endangered)

This is not intended as a complete list by any means. Everyone can probably think of other jobs that have disappeared. It is not a Bureau of Labor Statistics list. It is simply a list that Miss Chicka added to after a faltering start by your ancient essayist.


In 1941, the Long Lines Division of AT&T offered me a job as a draftsman in its Division 5 headquarters in St. Louis. At that point, AT&T rented quarters for its offices in the headquarters building of the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company at 1010 Pine Street in downtown St. Louis. If my memory is anywhere near correct, the building was 26 floors high. Nearly all Bell System headquarters buildings had 26 floors and were styled in the Gothic fashion. The Vatican of AT&T at 195 Broadway in New York also had 26 floors. No Associated Company headquarters could exceed the Vatican in height.

The building in St. Louis had perhaps 10 or 12 manual elevators. In 1941, all were operated by elevator operators who were responsible to get the riders to the correct floor and to level the elevator with the hallway so that the door could be opened and people could enter and disembark without tripping. My memory is that the doors were manually opened by the elevator operators.

Elevator operators had a round device with a handle on it, about a foot in diameter, to control the ascent and descent functions. As they neared the desired floor, the control was moved to the left to descend and to the right to go up. When the operator was satisfied that the elevator was pretty much even with the hallway floor, the operator would then open the doors. When everyone left the elevator cab, she would manually close the doors. It should be pointed out, that all the elevator operators were female and all wore uniforms.

In those days, jobs were hard to find so the elevator operators cared about their jobs. If they acquired a lot of seniority, they could get in line to become elevator starters. Elevator starters worked in the lobby . They told the operators when it was time to move the elevator. Being a starter paid more than being an operator and had more prestige.

Starters usually stood outside the elevator to direct lobby traffic. Often they would hold one arm on the elevator doors until the elevator was full and ready to move. With several elevators to deal with, the starters became an important function. At department stores, they might even remind potential customers of a sale or of specialty items. The starters aspired to become head starters, but that took a considerable amount of seniority. The head starter controlled assignments for the starters and for operators. He or she occupied a prominent position which reflected years of seniority.

Operators were dressed in uniforms and often, white gloves. Starters and the head starter wore better uniforms. Some of the starter uniforms even had epaulets on the shoulder.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, there was a concerted move in this country to go to automated elevators. The operators and starters were then forced to look for other work. Conversion was a time consuming process with the main work and planning being done by the Otis Corporation who built the elevators. The man running the Long Lines Department of AT&T was a vengeful and a cruel man. Apparently, the Chief Engineer of the Western Area of Long Lines had once crossed Henry Killingsworth, the President of Long Lines. Killingsworth demoted Dick Wheeler, the Chief Engineer of the Western Area, and made him move from Kansas City to New York. He was then given responsibility for conversion of the elevators to automatic in the headquarters building of Long Lines. Dick Wheeler is on my list of all time good guys. Henry Killingsworth is one of my all time villains, ranking somewhere between Ulysses S. Grant and Richard Nixon.

Finally, there was Donna, an elevator operator in St. Louis. For the last three years of my work in St. Louis, the union members made me their local Union President. In that capacity, it was often necessary to meet with the management movers and shakers. Donna extended a warm
greeting to everyone who entered her elevator. Although she worked for Southwestern Bell, a different employer from Long Lines, there were occasions in meetings with management to tell the bosses they were crazy not to hire Donna away from Southwestern Bell. They were told that Donna came from a country town, Bonne Terre, in Missouri’s lead belt and that we believed she needed a break.

Well, the long and short of it is that Cliff Duncan, the Division Plant Superintendent, a good man, said he would give Donna a job working for Long Lines. He did that. She worked hard and mastered the new job. My memory tells me that she also found a husband in the process. Your old essayist retired from match-making after that success.

After a while, Donna’s new boss thanked me for getting him such a hard worker. Perhaps this goes to show that country girls from Bonne Terre (good earth) can make it in the big city. All of us were happy at Donna’s success.


Leaving elevator operators and starters, there should be a word about the people who operated cigar stands in the lobbies near the elevators of large buildings. Such operators could be male or female, but most were male as they were often asked about the relative merits of various cigars.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, cigar smokers did not earn as much as they might be paid today, so sales of boxes of cigars were infrequent. In my experience, older men in their 40’s or thereabouts, might go to lunch and say upon returning to their building, “I believe this would be a good day for a cigar.” So cigars were sold not by the box, but individually.

Cigar stands do not appear much in today’s large buildings. This must reflect a diminished number of smokers. Cigars are sold by stores around town that do a much heavier trade in lottery tickets than in cigars. Cigars have pretty much gone out of style these days. For my money, that is a great development. In my experience, there were three or four occasions when it appeared appropriate to smoke a cigar. Every puff reminded me of how much cigar smoking was revolting to me. It pleased my father, but not his son. Cigars foul the air in an office and make clothing smell bad. If all tobacco products were outlawed, it would be pleasing to those of us who are non-smokers.

A personal thought occurs here. Carl Heidbreder was an AT&T employee in St. Louis who liked cigars. He also liked to have parties on his lawn where great quantities of beer were drunk to go with the cigars being puffed. Carl never invited me to those lawn parties. That suited me well in every dimension. In point of fact, beer comes in only a step or two ahead of cigars in my all-time dislike list.


With that, we move on to telephone operators. The first telephone in the Carr family was a party line. It was Clayton 714-J and of course, the house was in Clayton, Missouri. When the receiver was picked up, a signal would appear on the telephone company switchboard and the operator would come on the line and say, “Number please.” She would then complete the call and occasionally, she would warn you that you had an incoming call or that someone else was trying to use the party line. This was labor intensive in the extreme. At one point, the Bell System claimed that if they did not automate, it would be necessary to hire more women than then existed in the American labor force. And so the telephone system was automated and the “number please” operators had to find other work.

The telephone traffic force was exclusively female until sometime in the 1970’s. What is left of that force is still predominately female with a handful of male operators here and there.

Now of course, other telephones throughout the world can be dialed from the comfort of your home or office. Operators are seldom involved. For several years, there has been no future in being a telephone operator. On balance, that may be a desirable outcome, but it is one more job that has disappeared in our time. As a man who had a lot to do with telephone traffic operations, it is bothersome that this has happened. It might also be added, that women who were involved with telephone operations were the most loyal and active members of my union. In times of trouble, they could always be counted on. That is a very desirable characteristic.


Butchers are like elevator and telephone operators in the march to oblivion. In large part, they have been done in by pre-packaged meats. During the Depression when my mother traded at Gualdoni’s Market, there were two butchers who presided in their blood stained smocks over the meat counter. To a large extent, they were the stars of the grocery business. In a large grocery store today, you might find only one or two butchers. Formerly, they would have as many as four or five butchers, but no more. My memory is that butchers were good guys who liked to joke with customers and other store employees. Even though no meat is consumed at this house, the semi-demise of butchers is a regrettable occurrence.


Filling station attendants are a lot like butchers. In days gone by, every car had the windshield cleaned and the oil and water checked every time gasoline was purchased. Customers were asked if they wanted the pressure in their tires checked and the water levels in their batteries looked at. In the pre-historic days of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, cars needed lubrication and an oil change every 1000 miles. The front wheel bearings had to be worked on at 3000 mile intervals. Cars today do not require such attention. In the meantime, very few if any filling stations attendants now clean the windshields. If my understanding is halfway correct, in all the states except New Jersey, customers pump their own gas. As a former employee of three filling stations, these advances don’t necessarily represent progress, but rather a desire by big oil and the owners of filling stations to make a larger profit. The car owners are in many respects, the fall guys in this proposition. But younger car owners don’t seem to care as they stare through dirty windshields and pump their own gas on rainy or snowy days.


When families had no cars or were fortunate to have even one car, most people rode buses and street cars to work or for recreational purposes. In days gone by, every bus or street car had two transit company employees aboard. One drove the vehicle and he was called the “motor man.” The second employee collected the fares, gave transfers and when everyone was aboard, signaled the motor man that he could proceed to the next stop. He was the “conductor.”

Generally speaking, customers entered the bus or street car at the rear and paid their fare to the conductor. When the riders wanted to get off, there was a button to push which rang a buzzer to tell the motor man to stop. When the conductor had completed his work, he clanged a bell that told the motor man it was time to proceed. Up until the 1960’s and 1970’s, only men were hired for these two jobs.

Perhaps it was World War II or perhaps it was the executives at the transit companies, but from the 1940’s onward, the motor man was increasingly responsible for all the duties formerly performed by the conductors. Obviously, this brought greater profits to the transit companies, because they had no intention to pay the motor man twice as much salary to cover the loss of the conductors.

This is said to represent progress. If so, it means more profits for the transit companies and a less civilized way to get from point one to point two and a greater potential for accidents as the motor man now has so many jobs to do.

If it makes it seem that my thoughts are wed to the old ways of doing things, that is probably quite right. But after all, this essay is about “Jobless Nostalgia.” There was human contact in riding an elevator with an operator, just as there was human contact with telephone operators, transit workers and filling station attendants. There are those of us who miss that human contact.


Now we turn to another attempt by employers to maximize profits. If you look at your electric bill or at your gas bill, you may notice – in fine print – that some readings of your consumption were “ESTIMATED.” The theory is that meters need only be read every third or fourth month and that any short fall may be made up when the meter reader actually does show up. In the meantime, the number of meter readers diminishes and the customer must brace himself or herself for a large bill when the meter is actually read. This has only to do with utility company profits. There is no other reason for this development.

The Halliburton company is in disrepute these days for such things as over-billing the U. S. Government for delivering gasoline. Halliburton also did not help its reputation for honesty by billing the military forces for “estimated meals served.” A company of soldiers eats three meals per day. If the company is 1000 strong, that means Halliburton estimated that the Army ought to be billed for 3000 meals per day. The flaw in this argument of course, is that soldiers don’t stay in one place for every meal. Some are out in the field on combat assignments. Some are in the hospital. Some may die. Some may be on furlough. In tense situations, it is not unusual for soldiers to pass up a meal even after they have returned from combat. The point is that Halliburton, by billing the Army for estimated meals, is clearly cheating the United States Government. But no one seems to care.

Whether it is the utility companies or Halliburton, lots of executives take a short cut to inflate the bottom line.


Let’s leave the world of estimated readings and meals served and move on to another disappearing job. Years ago when shoes were made in this country, they had a sole and a heel that were attached to the upper part of the shoe. When a sole wore out or when the heels were ground down, the shoes were taken to a cobbler who repaired the damage. Cobblers worked in shops with large lathes for trimming and cutting leather. Their hands were smudged with dirt and shoe polish which were the marks of their trade. Cobblers earned their money. They did not have time to watch their investments in the stock markets.

Like so many other manufacturers, shoe companies decided that they could ship the shoe making machinery to Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica or other developing countries where labor rates are perhaps 80 per cent lower than in the U. S. This meant a big boost in their profits. When this was done, there was another development that largely put the cobbler in danger of losing his business. That was the permanent molded sole.

There is a pair of Rockport shoes in my closet. Rockport is a major manufacturer of shoes these days. The shoes were made in Indonesia. Attached to the leather upper, is a VIBRAM sole. It is not meant to be replaced. If the sole should wear out, the shoes will be discarded. They will probably never see a cobbler. The sole is molded into the leather upper so there is no way it can be replaced. When the sole wears out, perhaps my social security check will permit me to buy a new pair of foreign produced shoes. In the meantime, this is another reason why cobblers, like elevator or telephone operators, have a very limited future.


While we are on the subject of shoes, perhaps we should consider another job that has just about disappeared. That would be a bootblack. They are also called shoe shiners. Bootblacks were generally found in barber shops. Even as a young man earning less than $20 per week, it was almost unthinkable to get your hair cut without a shoe shine.

Bootblacks in a barber shop always tried to get to the customer while he was in the barber chair. If the barber finished ahead of the bootblack, which sometimes happened during rush hours, the customer would then be escorted to an elevated stand elsewhere in the shop to finish the work of the bootblack. By and large, bootblacks were not talkative creatures. Often instead of asking the customer if he wanted a shine, the bootblack would wait until the customer was seated in the barber chair and simply touch the shoes while looking at the customer. In most cases, the customers would tell the shoe shiner to proceed.

Many of the barbershops in downtown locations might have as many as two or three bootblacks. As was said earlier, they had an elevated stand where customers could sit. There were two or three big steps upward so that the bootblack could work at waist level on customer shoes. Often, men would go into a barber shop for a shoe shine between haircuts. In big cities, it was possible to visit a bootblack outside of a barber shop. Often these independent bootblacks were found in rail or bus terminals. Shining shoes was their only source of income and they were hardworking.

In these days of disposable shoes, it is pretty clear that having a man’s shoes shined is part of our culture that has been forgotten. Young men of my age group would never call on a young woman for a date with unshined shoes. A man who did that would be banished as uncivilized. The mother of the date would be outraged and would advise her daughter to think about a more civilized sort for her dating.

Bootblacks in barber shops often would greet the customers at the door and hang up their coats and hats. As the customer started to leave the shop, the bootblack would hold the man’s coat and using a curved brush, would brush his hat, called a fedora. At one time the going rate was 25 cents for a shine, which was accompanied by a tip of the same size. If some special service was performed, the tip should reflect that added attention. As you can see, it did not cost much to have a man’s shoes shined so that he was presentable.


It is absolutely clear that this essayist will be told, “You should also have listed this job or that job”. But this poor old essayist has been forced to stand by while the story of disappearing jobs increases daily. Without belaboring things, there are some other jobs gone down the drain or threatening to do so at any moment. Consider money, for a start.

The clerks who used to hand out the so called “weekly insults” are gone now. First, the companies insisted that everyone should be paid monthly or in some cases, paid semi-monthly. They then sent a debit to the employee’s bank and mailed a receipt to the employee. Therefore, goodbye to the clerks who visited every desk every week to pass out checks.

You will notice that the writer avoided the temptation to say “weakly insult” rather than “weekly insult.” And on semi-monthly employees, the writer avoided the trap constructed by our English cousins by refusing to call it the “fort nightly payroll.” Sincere plaudits will be welcomed for sticking to plain English.

One other job having to do with money is bank tellers. Clearly, banks want to do away with them. Fleet Bank now calls them “Service Advisors.” When Fleet merges with Bank of America, 12,500 jobs will be lost. It may be assumed that some of the layoffs will be among the recently named “Service Advisors” and others will see their jobs disappear as bank customers are encouraged and pushed towards more automation. ATM’s (automatic teller machines) and on-line banking will also have an effect on the number of teller positions available.


Stone masons are clearly on the way out. Contractors around here order strips with rocks already embedded in them. It must be assumed that the rocks are genuine fake rocks, but in any case, the strips are glued or fastened on to new structures, and viola, we have a structure with a rock foundation facing as part of the enterprise. In the meantime, goodbye to stone masons who used to cut and place the rocks to form a wall or a foundation on a house.


A secretary used to be a privileged position. It involved taking dictation and error free typing as well as good manners on the telephone and in welcoming visitors to the boss’s office. My informants tell me that personal secretaries are now reserved for big-shot vice-presidents and the like. Lower lever executives type it themselves or dictate their thoughts into a tape recorder rather than to a stenographer. Poor old Katherine Gibbs, the leading school for secretaries, is now teaching how to deal with computers. It may be progress, but there are many of us who doubt it.


In nearly every town in former days, there were restaurants that opened say from 7AM to 6PM. They served coffee and tea and lunch. They may have offered a light dinner. It seems to me that a high proportion of them were run by Greeks. In those restaurants, if a person or persons sat at a table rather than at the counter, a waitress would appear to take your order and then to deliver it, even if it was only coffee. From what any one can gather, those days are almost gone now. If a customer wants a cup of coffee, he goes to the counter (or pours it himself) and once his coffee cup is in his hand, he wonders around the place until he can find a seat at a table. Not very graceful, but the bosses can kiss their waitresses goodbye as they collect their final pay check.


This lament about lost jobs will close with an ode to draftsmen. When AT&T hired me as a draftsman in 1941, there were large sheets of expensive linen paper that were laid on a drafting table and were then filled with India ink lines. It could be a house or it could be plans for a subdivision. After the drawing was finished, it was sent to the printing department where blue prints were made. Getting blue prints of a large drawing might – under forced draft – be accomplished in 30 minutes to an hour, if the blue printer was free of other jobs. On normal days, it was about a three to five hour turn around.

That is changed now. It is all done by computer. If the customer wants a wall moved, it is no big deal. The computer draws a new wall and fits it into the proposed building in minutes. For a draftsman of my era, that would be a least a one or two day delay. The computer can spit its products out almost instantly.

Even though drafting was my occupation, there is no choice but to say the modern method is better. That’s too bad, as draftsmen were among the world’s professionals who worked hard, were highly trained, were afflicted by “weakly insults” from the boss and who told some lousy jokes. One more job down the drain.


As you can see, times are changing and old timers will have to make the best of it. What old timers know and that young, hard-charging juvenile executives don’t know, is that in earlier days, life was somewhat more graceful. And it might well be argued, more enjoyable. What person in his or her right mind would enjoy pumping gas into an automobile during freezing or rainy weather? What person enjoys dialing his telephone and running into a problem, finding himself largely stranded? What person enjoys being stuck in an automatic elevator between floors? The old operators would look pretty great at times of such frustration.

If after you have wrestled with this essay and you feel a sense of nostalgia for yesteryear, then this essayist has achieved his purpose. Not everyone will agree that progress demands that we surrender a graceful and an enjoyable life. For those of us who remember those graceful and enjoyable days, it makes a mighty nice memory.

This essay will close with a story from my grade school days where there was a job that surely ought to have been eliminated. Perhaps it is gone now. If so, that has my heartfelt applause.

The job in question was “elocution teacher.” Elocution was not taught in public schools. To learn that art took an outside teacher paid for by the parents of the elocution student. In the 1930’s, two of my grade school female classmates were taught by separate elocution teachers. Even at 10 or 12 years of age, the two classmates were bitter rivals. Each teacher also considered the other teacher a bitter rival. And the mothers were also enthusiastic rivals, if not bitter rivals. Great theater.

One girl was the daughter of a prominent businessman in Clayton, Missouri, an affluent suburb of St. Louis. The other girl was the daughter of the principal of the only high school in Clayton. Now for your old essayist, it was during the Depression and there was no need for me to enroll in the Boy Scouts, because their dues were something like 50¢ per month. Obviously, there was no money in the budget for scouting or for elocution lessons, which would have been rejected by me anyway. Along with other boys in the Maryland School of the Clayton Public School system, we considered the girls, their mothers and the elocution teachers as gross ass pains.

Nonetheless, every two or three months, because of the prestige of the fathers and because of pressure from the mothers of the girls, we were forced to listen to the latest recitation of the two female students complete with verbal exclamation points and hand waving. As time went on, our teachers in the public schools would declare one girl the winner and then in a subsequent month, the other girl would be called victorious. The losing side, student, mother and elocution teacher, were appropriately outraged with anything less than a resounding victory in every recitation.

The daughter of the prominent business man recited a poem about peach pie complete with arm waving and verbal gymnastics. It was so bad that most the boys told the teachers that in future elocution recitations, include us out. That ended the recitations. If ever a job should have been lost, the first choice among my male and many of our female classmates, should have been teachers of elocution. The thoughts about that lost art had been recessed in my memory for nearly 68 or 69 years. Writing this essay brought back thoughts about how terrible that poem about “Peach Pie” really was.

All is not lost. My recommendation for former elocution teachers is for them to become tattoo artists. People who used to administer tattoos formerly occupied quarters in the sleaziest part of towns. Now, one is sometimes able to get a tattoo in a mall. Perhaps former elocution teachers should concentrate on giving punk singers tattoos of blue birds on the backs of their necks. Punk shouters perform largely naked above the waist which provides a field of dreams for an ambitious tattoo artist. If the former elocution teachers put as much energy and outrage in their new profession, it is my belief that they will go far. And we will be forever saved from having to listen to recitations of elocution students.

This aged essayist laments the jobs that are gone, except for elocution teachers. He salutes them for the happiness and enjoyment that they brought to many lives. In those by gone days, it could be argued that we enjoyed life more, thanks to the practitioners of those lost jobs. When the movers and shakers of American industry decide that retirees such as my self, will be abolished, which they are on the way to do now, perhaps that will be indeed, the end of jobless nostalgia.

April 8, 2004

So this one’s interesting because it touches on automation, which is a subject that I’ve recently taken an interest in. Honestly I think I started caring about it in 2014, when I saw a fifteen-minute video on the subject by CGP Gray. His tone is — as ever — sort of condescending, but he makes a lot of strong points about job creation and replacement. Of course, we’ve always automated to a degree as we’ve modernized, but the scary part of what’s to come is that there’s basically no prospect of creating new jobs to compensate for the ones that we’ll lose. At around the 14 minute mark in the video, Gray looks at the 32 types of jobs that employ the most people; only one of them (computer programmer) is new to the last century. The others, which make up 45% of the current US workforce, are not only all very old, but largely ripe for automation en masse.

It won’t be as simple as a secretary becoming an executive assistant, or finding another job where being organized and good with typing is a benefit. Filling station attendants could be mechanics, draftsmen could learn to use the new technologies of that trade. But automated trucking alone is going to displace millions of people over the next decade or two, and there aren’t going to be a whole lot of other things for truckers do to. The human component just won’t be necessary, much like the bus conductors that Pop mentioned. I rode a bus twice today, and each time I did so by tapping a card against a card reader as I boarded; the driver didn’t have to do anything. The exact amount of the ride was deducted from the balance on the card, and we went on our way. That same card grants me access to every train, subway, bus, and even public ferry in the entire bay area. It’s insanely convenient and practical. So the job of having a dedicated person on each transit vehicle to make change is simply obsolete, and we’re going to see a lot more jobs go that way in the years to come.

I think the trickiest part to adjust to is that we’re going to have to switch up an element of our culture and society that has been taken for granted for years and years; we will have to divorce work from worth. One’s ability to compete in a 21st century economy will have to exist separately from the rights or privileges that are afforded to that person. There just won’t be enough 9-to-5 jobs to employ everyone, starting within the next decade or two. People in that future society who cannot find lucrative work in spaces like technology will need to be taken care of, which means breaking down the stigma of the welfare state, and most likely finding a way to supply a universal basic income to the entire population. There’s just no other choice. Machines and artificial intelligences will mean that output and standards of living will be higher than ever as long as those benefits are getting distributed out.

This is an okay thing. This is an inevitable thing. But we’re really, really not prepared for it. Our politicians love talking about saving manufacturing jobs from going overseas, but computers are going to take away more jobs than companies moving overseas ever could. It’s not even going to be close. But instead we keep the national focus on employment for the sake of employment. China exemplified that more than anywhere else I’ve ever seen.

In China, there were incredible amounts of utterly redundant or useless jobs, that clearly existed just to boost employment figures to the benefit of nobody. I remember a mall equipped with motion-detecting escalators, which would start moving as soon as someone stepped on them. But at the start of every escalator in the mall, there was an employee whose job it was to wave her foot over the motion detector to get the escalator started for you. The starting process was nearly instant — it took maybe a second to be moving at full speed. But nevertheless, here were several dozen escalator attendants performing an utterly useless service for the sake of employment. Why not allow them to be automated out, and all the cashiers and waiters in the mall along with them? Then, from all the revenue that the mall brings in, pay that money back out to citizens who can then pursue things that are actually meaningful to them.

When I say “meaningful to them” what I mean is that all the people who are starting escalators, or even driving trucks, would probably choose to be doing other things with their time if that was a comparably lucrative option; if you didn’t have to pick between providing for your family or doing something you like, not a lot of people are going to spend twelve hours a day at a mall, starting automatic escalators up for people. Instead those people could create, or travel, or volunteer, or do something that doesn’t just make them a slave to a wage for the end goal of just “being employed.”

We’re going to have the money to go around. We just have to be willing to distribute it out, and de-stigmatize that practice, which is obviously going to be a huge nightmare. But what other end-states are possible if trends continue like this?


Saturday, May 29, 2004, was the day the long awaited World War II Memorial was to be dedicated.

The broadcast was carried by most of the major television networks. On one station, we were told that World War II veterans were dying at the rate of 1000 to 1100 per day. Another station said the rate of deaths was more than 1100 per day. A third station said the rate was 1200 per day. So we had our choice on the casualty lists.

If we take the 1100 rate of deaths, arithmetic tells us the annual rate of our guys cashing in their chips comes to 401,500 per year. There are only some 4,000,000 World War II veterans left. And if we assume that the rate of deaths will increase as the WWII population continues to age, it may be that in six or seven years, we will all be angels. We will come back to these numbers in a couple of minutes.

The cameras panned over the enormous crowd. Many of the old soldiers used wheel chairs. Some needed help in walking. Others needed help in dealing with the throngs attending the dedication of the Memorial. About the youngest faces were former Senator Bob Dole and former president George H. W. Bush. Both of these men are now about to reach 80 years.

The rest of the faces in the crowd clearly showed the effects of ageing. Some looked a little better than others, but by and large, it was a gathering of women and men whose best years were behind them. As an old timer myself, this old reprobate felt free to call this a convention of geezers.

Somewhere in the proceedings, the ineradicable thought struck me that this old soldier is indeed a geezer as well. The men that were called geezers by me were my comrades in arms. And this old geezer is older than some of the women and men who showed up at the dedication.

And to top off that revelation, my mind which never had a mathematical sort of inclination, told me that as a soon-to-be 82 year old soldier, those casualty figures of 1100 deaths per day applied also to me. Fortunately, this disclosure came as Miss Chicka and her husband were working on a bottle of Zeni wine from Trento, Italy, so the shock was absorbable.

The speeches were pretty good. Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks were articulate. For my money, Bob Dole stole the show. Dole was grievously wounded in the Po Valley campaign in Italy. He is still largely unable to use his right arm. At the outset, Dole mentioned that this enormous crowd failed to show up when he was running for the U. S. Presidency. Dole always represented a party that did not appeal to me when he was in politics, but he has always spoken as a simple Kansan who disarms people with his genuine humor. He did it again Saturday.

While the speeches were in the main, interesting, two people of color made a lasting impression on me. You may recall, that during World War II, segregation applied in this country. People of color were for the most part, denied entrance to the military. When the military took them in, it was generally in backbreaking physical labor such as longshoremen at military ports. Only the Tuskegee Airmen evaded this degradation and their numbers were infinitely small. Everyone with whom this old soldier served was white. Blacks need not apply.

We have come a long way since WWII ended – and it has been an uphill struggle all the way. For me, the most moving part of the dedication ceremony on Saturday came because of the offering of two black people. First was Denyce Graves, an opera singer. She sang the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful. Madame Graves was in magnificent voice. She moved the audience.

Finally, the benediction was delivered by the black Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. His theme came from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. In Chapter 2, verse 4, the Chaplain quoted the famous words, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Believers and non-believers joined in praise of this black preacher who is a credit to his race.

Finally, the point about why the Memorial was delayed for more than 50 years has to be addressed. It would be fair to say that the people who gave me the honor of soldering with them, never asked for anything but to be let out of the military to lead their own lives. We did not ask; we did not demand. We simply went about our jobs and later got married and tried to get ahead for our families. So the Memorial was 50 years too late. That is fine with me. This old soldier served out his enlistment and survived in shape to go to work every day for 43 years. It is probably true for nearly all of us; that was enough. Having a magnificent memorial dedicated to us is mighty fine, but it was never owed to us. We simply did our duty. And so we thank the people of this great country.

Bob Dole has a habit of injecting a spot of humor in his remarks. Sometimes it is cynical, but always in good taste. So this little essay will end with an aside having to do with leaving the U.S. Army.

There may have been 1000 or 1500 of combat airmen sent to a base in Greenwood, Mississippi to prepare for the assault on Japan. But while we were there, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and Japan surrendered. And so a titanic struggle broke out. On one side were the full time officers of the U.S. Army. Members of the Air Force at that juncture were members of the Army. If the full time officers lost thousands of soldiers like myself, there would be no need for majors and colonels and generals to tell us poor grunts what to do.

On the other side were soldiers such as myself and millions of mothers, wives and sweethearts who wanted their Johnny soldier boy to come home now!!

At this point, the Army made a fatal mistake. Each soldier was told how many discharge points he had accumulated. Discharge points represented length of Army service, time overseas, medals won and things like that. In my case, the Army said that this old Sergeant had twice as many points as needed for discharge. Many of the other men at Greenwood were in the same boat with me. We wanted out – NOW! And the women went to Congress to see what was the holdup. They petitioned and badgered Congressmen and Senators endlessly. Hurray for them.

At Greenwood there was a large meeting hall or auditorium. The Army was feeling that heat. So the commanding Colonel of Greenwood had us all attend a gathering in the large auditorium. The Colonel himself addressed the crowd of enlisted men. In my case, the Commanding Colonel was completely unknown to me. Few of us had ever seen him. But on this occasion, he judged that only he could deliver his speech to the grunts. His pitch was for us to stay in the Army as a patriotic duty.

The Colonel started with platitudes about how wonderful all of us grunts were and why the Army COULD NOT do without us. Even though the war was completely over, the Colonel said we were desperately needed. Everyone in the audience knew that the desperation was in the ranks of full time Army officers, such as the Commanding Colonel, not among the enlisted men. We were simply desperate to leave the Army and go back to our peacetime occupations.

The colonel got so wound up in his effort to keep us from leaving the Army, he made some major mispronunciations in his speech. Some where in the audience, a GI stood up and yelled to the Colonel that he should try the mispronounced words “in a prone position.” That brought the house down and the colonel soon departed, presumably to lick his wounds.

Well, that is my story about the old geezers and the casualty rates and the magnificent Memorial . The story about the colonel was what Cajuns call lagniappe, a little something extra.

When the initial crowds calm down a little, this old soldier wants to see the Memorial for himself – assuming that the casualty rate does not catch up to me first.

A day or two before the Memorial was dedicated, there was a conversation with Lefty Vicendese, the major domo of Berkeley Hardware in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.

When AT&T in its great wisdom transferred me from Chicago to Long Lines Headquarters in New York in March, 1955, my finances were pretty dismal because my pay was pretty small. Buying a house in New Jersey was out of the question at that point. So an ad was inserted in the Newark Star Ledger seeking a place to rent. It was answered by a fellow of about 35 years who wished to move to a religious seminary. He owned the 5 acre Rickenbacher farm on South Street in New Providence, a town that was completely unknown to me.

There was an ancient house on the property. The property itself was located immediately adjacent to the Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church. The property had outbuildings as well as many fruit trees and untold numbers of berry bushes. Our two year old daughter, Maureen, delighted in gathering the fruit and berries. On weekends, old Blondie hung around with me when grass was to be cut or when work had to be done in the out buildings. She was good company.

All of this started, as we said, in 1955. When hardware supplies were needed, people said that Berkeley Hardware in the next town to the west, could not be beat. And so it was that Lefty and his family became my hardware specialists.

One day in 1957, a priest came to our rented house to talk a little business. It seems Our Lady of Peace had bought the Rickenbacher Farm. We are not followers of the Catholic faith, but that did not prevent the priest from being absolutely decent to us. Obviously, we had to move, but the priest said we could have as much time as we needed. He told us the news as he played with old Blondie, nee Maureen. And so in the Fall of 1957, we moved to a new house, also in New Providence, so that we could be close to Berkeley Hardware. The mortgage on the new house was substantial, but the banker said he did not think an old soldier would run away. So we got the money.

As time went on, Berkeley Hardware prospered and moved around the corner to much larger quarters. In March, 1966, AT&T decided that this country could not do without me as an AT&T lobbyist in Washington, D.C. In the Fall of 1969, AT&T sent me back to New York as my three year stint as a lobbyist was over. Our new residence was in Millburn-Short Hills, which added about five miles each way to get to Lefty’s hardware store. But that made no difference as the Vicendese clan still had all my business.

Somewhere during this time, Berkeley Hardware added a bulletin board of Berkeley Heights World War II veterans, called an Honor Roll, at the main entrance. Five Vicendese people, three women and two men – Lefty and his siblings, are listed. Lefty’s name is shown as Anthony, which was previously unknown to me.

Now as Lefty has grown older and more dignified, it struck me that it would be more appropriate to call him Anthony rather than Lefty. So a week or so ago, Anthony, the former Lefty, demanded to know what my real name might be. Truth is a fixed star, so he was told my real first name is Ezra. All of this happened while Anthony was trying to get two or three customers taken care of at the checkout counter.

Well, it seems Anthony had never met a man named Ezra before. When Anthony spoke of Ezra, it came out as three or four syllables in length. He seemed to like the name Ezra. And so Anthony – Lefty- was asked by his pal Ezra, if he would he like to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Anthony’s reply was short and sweet. He said, almost reverently, “I would love to see it”. Upon reflection, it struck me that Lefty speaks for all of us old geezers who are trying to dodge the big reaper.

But in the meantime, remember that Berkeley Hardware, operated by five survivors of WWII, will fulfill all your hardware needs and supply some friendly back talk as well!

May 31, 2004


It’s a shame he didn’t end up liking the memorial when he want to visit.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 697,806 American veterans from the World War II were still alive as of 2016. After all this time, that still seems like a tremendously high number of people, but I’m sure that number is still falling fast. It’s a bummer to think of all the stories that might have been lost from the vets who didnt, you know, write hundreds of essays about their lives.


There is a Mormon Church only two miles from this house. It escapes me why the Mormons elected to build a large church in Short Hills, New Jersey. As far as can be determined, their sect has a very limited appeal to residents of Summit, Livingston, Millburn and Short Hills. But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been with us for several years. On Sunday mornings, it is filled by people from all over Northern New Jersey. In the afternoon service, the church is filled again by Latinos coming mainly from Newark and its suburbs. The Mormons would like to be called Latter Day Saints, but that name has not caught on, at least in this area, where there are many affluent Catholic, Jewish and Protestant residents.

While the church near here was being established, Mormon representatives would appear regularly on our street and on our doorstep. They were always polite, but their persistence was something to behold. It has never fallen to me to attend any kind of service in the Short Hills Mormon Church, which it is understood to be called a “Stake.” But that is not to downgrade them in any way; my attendance in thousands of other churches has not occurred either.

In former times, the Mormon Church encouraged men to take as many wives as could be supported by the one Mormon man. In most cases, the multiple wives lived together in a communal arrangement with the husband. There were elaborate schemes to provide individual attention to the wives. The wives all seemed to have their own rooms and the husband tried to divide his time equally among them.

But multiple marriages were outlawed by the church as a condition for admitting Utah to the United States. But while the church officially frowns upon multiple marriages, many men practice it openly today and no one calls the cops. Senator Hatch of Utah is all wound up about trying to get Bush’s Right Wing judicial nominees through the Senate Judicial Committee, but he has never spoken out about multiple marriages.

In December, 2003 we are told by the New York Times and by other publications, that the Mormons are conducting posthumous baptisms of dead Jews. Why the Jews must be a church secret. According to Mormon theology, all people, living or dead, possess “free agency”. Apparently, Mormons have used that theological doctrine to include dead members of the Jewish faith in baptismal rites, whether it was requested or not while the person was living. No instances of such requests come to anyone’s mind. Many holocaust victims have been given Mormon baptismal rites with absolutely no indication that the victims knew anything about such a practice or even about the Mormon sect.

Holocaust victims were only part of the story. The philosopher Theodore Herzl as well as David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, have had the Mormon postmortem baptismal rites, as has the teenage diarist Anne Frank.

For years, Jewish leaders have attempted to make the Mormons stop this practice. The Jewish leaders thought they had an agreement that the postmortem baptisms would stop. But they seem to continue in spite of past agreements to cease and desist.

My sentiments are all with the Jews on this subject. If the Mormons can baptize people against their will after postmortem exercises take place, what is to keep them from baptizing a complete non-believer like me. After all, my home is only two miles from their large church. Perhaps my remains, if any, will escape the clutches of the Mormons only because the LDS crowd will conclude that my surname is not Jewish. But my first given name is Ezra, the scribe of Jerusalem. But that is a thin reed to hang my hat on. Allstate sells all kinds of insurance. Perhaps they will insure me against becoming a Mormon after my transformation to an angel takes place. It is hoped that the Umbrella policy from Allstate may cover that distressful outcome. We will have to see.

During my Army enlistment in World War II, many people told me and my colleagues that you are here to shut up, and to say “Yes Sir.” That was always followed by the inviolable American military thought that in this Army, you don’t get paid for thinking. Old time officers and enlisted men gave me that advice and after a while, it sunk into my brain. It has been 59 years since my discharge and that nugget remains in my aging brain.

One of the facts that causes me to think about not getting paid to think, is the proliferation of retired Colonels and Generals that may be found on many news programs. CNN has a standby Colonel called Patrick Lang. He pops up regularly and seems to comment on any military subject.

Colonel Lang (Retired) and all the other military commentators seem to have spent many years in the Armed Forces of the United States. From my observations, many of them seem to have spent several decades avoiding thinking, hence, the upward promotions. In my view of things military, the long-termers who have kowtowed their way to field rank, Colonels and above, have gone without thinking for much of their adult lives. If anyone thinks this is a harsh assessment, that person should remember that ANYONE who opposes the official military line is labeled a troublemaker and he gets no more promotions or, most often, he is told to prepare for discharge.

It happened to General Zinni who showed no enthusiasm for Bush’s war in Iraq. It happened to General Wesley Clark for something he did back in Kosovo. The military services want to hear a resounding “Yes Sir” to every proposition.

When a suggestion came to me, it was expressed very early in my military service. Calling that service a career would be a misleading misnomer. As soon as the innocent suggestion was voiced, the drill sergeant let me have it. He said, “You are here to shut up” and to say “Yes Sir” at appropriate intervals. It was my conclusion then, and it is my conclusion now dozens of years later, that military men are not paid to think. None. Yes Sir is how it is done and why the military crowd is so deficient in intellectual achievements.

Newsweek magazine in its year end edition had thumbnail sketches of prominent personalities. Many of them shown in the Newsweek summary were members of the current Bush administration.

The thumbnail sketch of Condoleezza Rice said simply, “In over her head.” Most impartial observers and many impartial Republicans have long since reached the same conclusion. She is used now by Bush to carry unfavorable news to Cabinet members, as was the case when James Baker was sent to Europe to ask France, Germany and Russia to ease Iraq’s debts to them. Ms. Rice was told to convey the unpleasant news to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Bush did not speak to Powell ahead of time.

The fact that Miss Rice is in over her head comes as no surprise to anyone. She has spent her life as an academic. She has no military background and none in international diplomacy, both requisites for holding the job as National Security Advisor. Can anyone imagine Condoleezza knocking the heads of two arguing generals together? Or reconciling a dispute between warring factions in the State Department? Or by telling Ariel Sharon that there will be no more Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory? Not on your life.

The fact that Miss Rice is in well over her head comes as no surprise at all. The fault has to lie with the man who gave her this impossible assignment – for her – to carry out.

There is a second member of the administration in the same trouble as Condoleezza. This is a holder of a cabinet level appointment as Secretary of Agriculture. Anne Veneman now has the unhappy assignment to tell the world that eating American beef is perfectly all right – regardless of the mad cow disease found recently in a meat packing plant.

Ms. Veneman is in over her head because no one believes her. They are well advised to have their distrust of her injunctions to eat beef right now. The Secretary of Agriculture has no record of walking in a barn or milking a cow or nursing a sick calf back to health. Her hands were never soiled by farm work.

Quite to the contrary, when it came to soiled hands, Ms. Veneman received her cabinet appointment because she was a lobbyist in the agricultural sector. Her job was to ask or persuade government officials to rule favorably on her propositions or to get her bosses to oppose unfavorable government rulings. That’s what lobbyists do. She spent no time wrestling steers or planting a wheat crop. She is and was a lobbyist when this administration rewarded her by giving her the job as Secretary of Agriculture.

When a Nobel Prize scientist tried to get an appointment with her, she turned him down until he got the ear of Karl Rove, Bush’s political guru to intervene. When the scientist eventually saw Ms. Veneman, he warned her about what was going to happen with respect to mad cow disease. She rejected his advice which was delivered last summer.

And so we have two women who plainly are in over their heads in this administration. Bush has not seen fit to get qualified replacements, so we are left to muddle on through. The only response from Bush is to advise us to eat more beef. The answer in this situation is to consider a meat-free vegetarian diet and to hope that the Defense Department or the Department of State have no sticky mess to sort out anytime soon.

In the end the Rice-Veneman affair leads to a recall of an incident last Summer. A woman was found wandering around the parking lot of a supermarket here in New Jersey. She said she had forgotten where her car was parked. When asked is it was a Ford or Chevy or a Mercedes, her wonderment did not improve. She said that her car may have been an Adidas. Rice and Veneman are in the same boat as the owner of that disappearing Adidas. They don’t have a clue.

During a long career with AT&T, this old geezer had an opportunity to get to know the behind the scenes operations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and New York. All things considered, the people who staffed AT&T traffic operating rooms were among the least known and most generous people imaginable. It showed in many ways. Here is one case of the generous behavior of several of them.

In 1953, the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society said there was a baby girl available to be taken to a permanent home. Their response was in answer to our application for adoption. That was on a Monday. The baby was in a foster home on the South Side of Chicago and she was to be picked up early on Thursday morning.

Ordinary protocol calls for mailing out announcements of the birth of children. Ah, but finding a card announcement of the impending adoption was a completely different story. At the time, the largest department store in Chicago was Marshall Fields. Their card selection was enormous and it was located below the main floor – that is to say, in the basement.

Pawing through all the cards announcing the births of children was a bit of a challenge, but there was no card dealing with the adoption of a child. None at all. When the going got very disappointing, a woman from the #1 Chicago Traffic Office came over to see about what her colleague was doing on Monday night at Marshall Fields, the evening when Chicago women looked for bargains. The #1 Office in Chicago was where my employment took had brought me. The colleague–bargain hunter was Betty Kruchten. Betty looked at the cards herself and agreed there was nothing for the adopting of a baby. She suggested that we should prepare a card and forget about store bought cards. Which is what we decided to do. It is good that it had Betty Kruchten’s approval.

On Thursday morning, December 8, 1953, it was necessary to drive from our Near North Side flat, through the downtown congestion to travel some 70 blocks south to the foster home. It may have been 10AM or 10:30AM when the baby was safely deposited back in the flat on California and Lunt, not far from Wrigley Field. By the time the train came and deposited its passengers (including me) on Franklin Street in downtown Chicago, the time must have been 11:30AM.

It was my intention to go to an office shared with Dick Nichols and an old timer named Kess Kessler. The adoption was never a secret and it was never intended to be a secret. On the other hand, it was my intention to tell anyone who asked about it. If they didn’t ask, they didn’t get told. That was my intention. It was the intention of all the women and the three men in the #1 Office that there was going to be a celebration with gifts galore for Maureen, the new baby. My intention had nothing to do with it.

The gifts for Maureen were piled all over my desk and chair. Dick Nichols was accused, by me, of piling his Christmas gifts on my desk. He denied that allegation. It was necessary to borrow a car from Otis Dodge, the Division Plant Superintendent, to get all the gifts taken to our North Side flat.

The spur of the moment generosity of the Chicago people was overwhelming to me. My thanks to the gathered assemblage was taken well, but hearing thanks was not uppermost on their minds. Those #1 Traffic Office women wanted to know about the baby. So they heard what little there was to know. Adoption agencies, even as reputable as the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society were, are eager to protect the names of the natural mother and the father, so we did not know a lot about the baby’s background.

It took me awhile to figure out that Betty Kruchten was the instigator of the gift giving celebration. Betty did not work for me. Her job had nothing to do with my efforts. Mobilizing all these women into buying all those gifts was an act of love for an adopted baby. Nothing less than an act of love.

This sort of conduct is typical of Traffic women. Many of them lead fairly lonely lives. Less than half, by my estimation, were married. But mention an adoption, and they were all there. There was Mildred Simon who lost her lower legs in a childhood accident. Mildred had prosthetic legs and in all the time she was known to me, no sound of discouragement ever escaped her lips. She wore make up and being around her was an inspiration. Beatrice Bell, the office manager, a spinster well into her 60’s was among the leading celebrants.

Those people in Chicago had known me for less than a year. It made no difference to them. After the gift giving on December 8, it was my thought that things would quiet down. However, for the rest of my stay in Chicago, from time to time, women would drop by my office and say, “I saw this little dress and it is something for you to take to Maureen.” My directions were clear; take the dress to old Blondie.

Harry Livermore, the Chicago Division Traffic Superintendent during my tenure, answered my call during the New Year’s holidays. We agreed that Chicago, the home of Al Capone, had some wonderfully generous citizens as well. All those people will always be in my memory, starting with Betty Kruchten.

January 7, 2004


Stuffing one’s cabinet full of incompetent people seems to be a bona fide pastime for Republican presidents. Pop is probably rolling in his grave with these Trump picks. Each one could get an essay, easy. Let’s put a Republican mega-donor billionaire who doesn’t believe in public education in charge of the Department of Education. Let’s put Rick Perry in charge of the Department of Energy — coming after a nobel prize winner and MIT an professor — when he can’t even remember that the department exists. Or put the fucking CEO of Exxon in charge of the State Department. Why not have a white nationlist as chief of strategy while you’re at it?
I’d love for Condy and Powell to come back at this point. Good god.

On a lighter note, Pop’s coworkers were sweethearts. I’m sure that the impromptu baby shower meant a whole lot to them as they were just getting started with kid #1.