Archive for the October 2001 Category

EHHH… WHAT’S THAT YOU SAID?

Here is a little Missouri story that has no effect on the current state of the world. It is memorialized here not because it is a great story; but rather, as time takes its toll on my brain, I may forget all about it. So if I write these thoughts down now, when the television screen in my head goes to black, perhaps I can revive this story and enjoy it again.

In 1928 when I was six years of age, I was enrolled at the Forsyth Grammar School in Clayton, Missouri. The Forsyth School was given that name because it was on Forsyth Avenue. The Maryland School was named after the street it was on, just as the DeMun and Bellview Schools were named after the streets on which they were located. The Clayton school system took a very practical approach in naming its grammar schools. Some schools are named after dead educational heroes, but I suspect there were no such heroes in Clayton, so the street name became the name of the school.

In 1928, the Clayton School System offered no kindergarten classes. I can’t remember when such classes were offered, but when I started to school, the first grade was where it all began.

The Forsyth School had been built in the 1880’s, but it was well kept with janitors who seemed to care. It had wooden floors and walls. In today’s world, I suspect that the Forsyth School would be considered a fire trap, and maybe it was. But for more than 50 years, it got the job done.

Miss Brantley taught first grade. She was a real lady. She wore dresses and sensible shoes. Blue jeans were unknown then and if they had been discovered, Miss Brantley would have had no part of them. Miss Brantley was single, as were all the teachers in that school. When a teacher married, she left school teaching. That seems like a silly rule to me, but that is the situation that prevailed at least until 1940 when I graduated from Clayton High School. At age six, I was not much of a judge of women’s ages, but I suspect that with gray hair, Miss Brantley was pretty close to 50 years of age.

In looking back on that situation, I am convinced that Miss Brantley sensed that I was not one of the many rich kids in that class. As I recall it some 73 years later, she was very good to me.

There was an occasion when, being unable to read, I wandered into the girls restroom. Nature called and I simply took the first restroom that came along. Within a minute or two, Miss Brantley found me and gently guided me to the boys restroom. She made no fuss about the incident and I was never embarrassed about it. As I say, she was very good to me.

Shortly after the first grade classes started, Miss Brantley taught us a song. It went:

Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
We’re all in our places
With sunshiny faces,
Good morning Miss Brantley,
Good morning to you.

A little song that sticks with you for 73 years can’t be all bad.

While all of this was taking place, I was a red hot St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan. In 1926, the Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series. It was the first trip for the Cardinals to the World Series. The mighty Yankees had been there many times. The series went seven games with four of those games being played in Yankee Stadium. The final game was played on October 10, 1926, which is just 75 years ago.

Jesse Haines pitched into the seventh inning. Jesse used the knuckleball quite a bit. By the seventh inning, his fingertips were bleeding, and after he got two men out, he found the bases loaded. The next hitter was Tony Lazzeri, one of New York’s most feared hitters. Rogers Hornsby, the St. Louis manager called for one of his oldest pitchers, Grover Cleveland Alexander to relieve Haines. Legend has it that Alexander was suffering from a head splitting hangover. Legend or no legend, Alexander struck out Lazzeri and the Cardinals went on to win the game and their first World Series. St. Louis went wild that night.

My brothers, who were much older than I, made such a fuss about the Cardinal victory, that this is my first memory at age four, of anything. I don’t know if Alexander struck out Lazzeri with a fastball or a curve. I just recall there was such joy in our house, that I remembered that incident from 1926 and I remember it to this day.

The incident that forms the recollection for this story happened when I was seven or eight years of age. If my memory is anywhere near right, the teacher in second grade at the Forsyth School, promoted me ahead of time in January, 1930, so I was in a third grade class with kids who were six months older than I was. In Clayton, classes were divided so that children born before September first started in the fall semester and children born later entered school in January. So every class had an “A” and a “B” group. Everything seemed to go well with the third grade work, but apparently I did not say much of anything during the class. This had to do with my shyness and the thought that I might make a mispronunciation in speech. My parents were not good role models because they often mangled the English language. So, I sat back and watched.

Another reason for my silence probably had to do with intimidation. Clayton was a wealthy town. The merchant class of St. Louis had their residences there. Lawyers and doctors who practiced in St. Louis resided in Clayton. The kids around me were affluent beyond my wildest dreams. When it rained, mothers or chauffeurs would pick up the students. On the other hand, I still had a three mile walk to my home whether it was sunny or snowy or rainy or close to zero or anything else. That’s just the way things were. Other poor kids had trouble dealing with the weather, so I was no different. If anything, I felt sorry for the kids from the orphans home. They really had a tough row to hoe.

One incident of intimidation sticks out after all these years. Several other boys were discussing bathing. One of them said he took a shower every day. The others said that was their schedule and some said on hot days, they took two or three showers every day.

Water cost money at our house. The gas required to make the water suitable for bathing had to be paid for. Showers were out of the question. We did not have one. Instead of a shower every day, we had a bath once a week. And often to conserve water, I had to bathe with my father. So maybe you can see how talk of showers and baths would make me feel inadequate and promote silence on my part. Intimidation can be a powerful force in a young child’s life so I had little to say.

Soon someone of the teachers concluded that I was deaf. I am not sure why they came to that conclusion, but I was told to take a note home to my parents which asked for permission to send me to the Central Institute for the Deaf, located on Kingshighway Boulevard in St. Louis. The teachers at the Forsyth School could do no wrong, so my parents concluded that I was hearing impaired – with no evidence to support that thought – and gave permission for me to go to the deaf school. Through this whole procedure, I said nothing, which is probably what got me into the deaf school in the first place.

Now there are more pluses than minuses in this equation. You will see why as we go along. To start, there is nothing wrong with my hearing at age eight to age seventy eight. I’ve had employment physicals, Army physicals, check ups and hospital stays. In none of those instances has anything been found wanting in my hearing. So I headed for the deaf school knowing that I was fine but telling that to the teacher or teachers who wanted to send me to the deaf school, would have fallen – so to speak – on deaf ears. (How do you like that bon mot Howard Davis?)

There was no such thing as being driven to the deaf school. My mother did not drive. If my father or my brothers took off from their jobs, they would have been docked or fired. Remember, this was 1930 and the depression was starting to take a bite out of everyone. So the school gave me a street car pass good on every street car. I gave it back after each trip to Central Institute for the Deaf and it was given back to me prior to my next visit. My recollection is that I made six or eight trips to the deaf school.

Kingshighway Boulevard is one of the main North-South streets in St. Louis. It was six lanes wide with street car tracks in the center of the right of way. From Clayton, leaving school, I took the University line to the Forest Park line which took me to the school. Getting off the street car was not a big problem as there was space before crossing the three lane North bound traffic on Kingshighway. The traffic people in St. Louis had placed large, permanent signs in the general vicinity of the street car stop, warning of deaf children using the stop. I suppose if a driver hit a deaf child on that street, it would not go very well for him or her, although there weren’t many women drivers back in 1930.

After alighting from the street car, automobiles would come to a full stop as the alleged deaf child – in my case – made his way to the deaf school. Knowing that we were deaf, drivers would signal that they were going to remain stopped while we crossed the big street. Some drivers waved and mouthed greetings. I can’t ever remember a car crowding one of the kids going to Central Institute. They usually waited until we reached the side walk before driving away. Getting off the street car and having cars stop for you and wishing you well was pretty heady stuff for an eight year old.

In the school, most instructors or teachers had tuning forks. Sometimes they would talk loudly or whisper from in front, on the side and from the back of our heads to see if we understood what they were saying, but mostly they used the tuning forks. They would ask the patient to shut his eyes or they would more often offer a blindfold. Then they would plunk the tuning fork near an ear, or I suppose on top of or in the back of the head. After it was plunked, the instructor would ask, “What ear did you hear that with?” I must have answered their questions appropriately because after six or eight sessions of about an hour each, it was concluded that they could find nothing wrong with my hearing, at least I got no treatment. So I was sent back by the Central Institute for the Deaf to the Forsyth Grammar School in Clayton with my alleged mysterious hearing impairment still intact. Or maybe Central Institute claimed that I had been cured. Nobody ever told me much of anything about my dreadful problem.

But now there was a real plus in this arrangement. Each year the Cardinals and the other major league team, the Browns, accepted applications for memberships in their Knot Hole Gang groups. I was equipped with both the Cardinals and the Browns groups. Generally speaking, not many games were sellouts and youngsters with Knot Hole Gang passes were permitted to sit along the left field lines near the bleachers. There were no night games in those days. Games usually started at two to three in the afternoon. I don’t know why the games started so late, but that’s the way it was.

Ordinarily, Central Institute would let me go around 2PM. Using my unlimited street car pass, I went back to catch the Forest Park street car being sure to wave at the cars that stopped as I crossed the street. A short distance away, the Forest Park line crossed the Grand Avenue line and soon I found myself at Grand Avenue and Dodier Street, the home of Sportsman’s Park where the Cardinals and Browns played. I saw most of the games from the second inning on. When I wanted to leave, I presented the unlimited street car pass to the Grand Avenue Line, the Forest Park line, the University line and then to the Kirkwood-Ferguson line.

My parents never had an overwhelming interest in my treatment at Central Institute for the Deaf. I told them about the tuning fork episodes and about the loud and soft conversations, but that did not take long. I did not tell anyone at the Forsyth Grammar School about my experience at the deaf school because I assumed Central was keeping the school filled in on my “progress.” And mostly I never told anyone about going to the ball games. I almost got caught a few times when other boys would discuss yesterday’s game. If I were to say, “He was out by a country mile,” they would say, “How do you know?” I guess that I was able to suppress my superior knowledge about the games I had seen, for to disclose it would have been a disaster.

Somewhere along the line, the teacher in the third grade said I would not be going back to the deaf school. I suppose she thought I had been cured. So I took my 20/20 hearing back to the classroom and no one ever mentioned Central Institute for the Deaf again. So you see, there were many pluses in my expeditions to the deaf school.

—-

A more recent thought about Grover Cleveland Alexander, the Cardinal pitcher. When Tip O’Neill was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he invited Ronald Reagan to lunch in his office. Reagan had recently been sworn in as President of the United States. In a tour of his office O’Neill pointed to his desk and said that it had been used by Grover Cleveland. Grover Cleveland was one of Reagan’s predecessors as a President of the U. S.

Reagan said, “Oh yes. I know all about him. I played him in a movie about his baseball career.” O’Neill said he meant Grover Cleveland, the former President. Reagan dismissed him by repeating that he had a good time playing in the movie about Grover Cleveland Alexander. O’Neill gave up.

E. E. CARR
October 8, 2001
Essay 22
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: This is the first essay I’ve published since Pop’s death yesterday. There is a lot that I would like to say on that subject but I’m struggling to write about that right now, so I’m doing this instead. Please bear with me.

About this essay itself — not only is it funny as hell and one that I certainly heard a few times growing up, it represents part of a bit of a hot streak that he was on with his essay-writing in 2001. By that I mean this essay was immediately followed by what he considers to be his favorite essay he ever wrote, which of course is worth checking out if you haven’t read it yet.

FRANK DENNEY – A MIGHTY FINE FELLER

In a previous essay, we covered my alleged deafness and how it was “cured” by the Central Institute for the Deaf. Now let’s turn to Frank Denney, a mighty fine feller. The deafness story took place in eastern Missouri on the banks of the Mississippi. That’s about as far east as you can go in Missouri. The Frank Denney story takes place in the western most part of Missouri on the Kansas River in Kansas City. People there call that river the Kaw River, but I am at a loss to tell you why.

Somewhere in the 1890’s and into the 1900’s, it was decided that Southwestern Bell would have a charter for the five states of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The Southwestern Company established headquarters offices for those states in principal cities such as St. Louis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City and Dallas. The lone exception was Kansas which had its main administrative office at 12th and Oak Streets in Kansas City, Missouri. This must have grated on political officials in Kansas and Southwestern Bell officers had to feel the heat. So in the first four months of 1951, Southwestern moved its Kansas headquarters from Kansas City, Missouri to Topeka, Kansas.

That was a sad day for those who were required to move to Topeka. In contrast to Kansas City, Topeka was a whistle stop with virtually none of the refinements that could be found in the bigger city. Some people tried to drive to Topeka every day, but that meant twelve hour days. Staying later in the evening in Topeka would mean a 14 or 15 hour day. The main eating establishments in Topeka were hamburger places and fast food emporiums. Not only was the food bad, but Kansas was a dry state. I am not sure they permitted the sale of any alcoholic beverages. At most, they might have permitted the sale of 3.2% beer in hotels – of which there were only one or two. People stayed in motels along the highway.

Moving Southwestern people to Topeka met with no cheering. Gloom and doom were found everywhere. With the move to Topeka, the large building that had housed the Bell headquarters staff for the State of Kansas, was left vacant at 12th and Oak Streets in Kansas City, Missouri. So Long Lines moved its Western Area Headquarters into those offices.

During the early part of 1951, AT&T Long Lines decided that it needed to decentralize its staff from headquarters in New York City. The man in charge was Henry T. Killingsworth. He was in charge of everything. Killingsworth decreed that there would be three Area headquarters and that none of them would be located in the headquarters city of an Associated Company. Thus, White Plains, New York was chosen as the Area headquarters for the Eastern region of the United States. For the Central Area, Cincinnati was selected. Kansas City, Missouri became the headquarters for the Western Area of Long Lines.

Anyone who thought that the moaning and groaning of the Southwestern people moving from Kansas City to Topeka was impressive, should have heard Long Lines people in New York who were designated to go to Cincinnati and Kansas City, those “jumping off places” in the United States. I can understand a fellow who had taken the subway to work every day for years, being told that your new place of work is 1200 miles west of here and you will have to get a car to get to work. Many of the people coming from New York could not drive so there were all kinds of problems. Nobody in Kansas City ever heard of bagels or lox. Most places served Kansas City steaks that dribbled off the platter at both ends because they were so big. Only one place served fish – notice I didn’t say seafood. There were no lobsters, clams, oysters or anchovies. The fish consisted of river fish taken from the Kaw River and other local rivers. And for icing on the cake, a large part of the people in Kansas City owned their homes so there were far fewer apartments for rent. So the New York exiles had to buy a car and a house and the Company gave them no help on either purchase.

On top of all that, many people in St. Louis, Denver and Chicago were also required to relocate to Kansas City. The people in St. Louis and Denver took it in stride, but Chicagoans moaned and groaned and tried to avoid moving to the big bend in the Kaw River.

In the Spring of 1951, I was part of the Union’s negotiating team in New York for a new nationwide contract. Often I found myself in the Company’s cafeteria with New Yorkers looking for a way to avoid moving to Cincinnati or Kansas City. I couldn’t help them as my brief had only to do with wages and working conditions for non-management people. Nearly all the people selected to go to the new Area locations were management people or engineers who did not belong to the Union. We were in New York for about six weeks negotiating the new contract that year. In that time I must have heard 50 or 75 sob stories, but as I say, there was nothing I could do about it.

The head man on the Company team was Vern Bagnell, the top man in the Personnel Department. He was all right, but he was an engineer by training and the humorless side of him was there for all to see. When it was announced in July that Bagnell was to be the first General Manager of the Western Area in Kansas City, I attempted to joke with him. He

was now my new boss, several rungs up the organizational ladder. As an old Missourian, I told Bagnell that “it would be tough sledding in Kansas City.” Remember, he was supposed to take up his post in July, one of Kansas City’s hottest months. Bagnell looked at me with doubt in his eyes and asked “Why?” Eventually, someone on the Company side explained the joke to Bagnell who still seemed to be puzzled about tough sledding in Kansas City. I never joked with Vern Bagnell after that.

At the conclusion of 1951 bargaining, the General Plant Superintendent, Gil Jones, who was also a member of the Company’s bargaining team, asked me privately to have a drink with him. This was a very unusual invitation. So I met with Gil Jones in a midtown hotel in New York City and we had a couple of drinks. Mr. Jones, whom I admired very much from his conduct on the Company’s bargaining team, told me that I would soon be offered a management job in Kansas City. The person who would be offering me the job would be none other than Vern Bagnell of tough sledding fame.

So I went back to St. Louis and in a week or ten days, Bagnell sent word from Kansas City that he wanted to see me. Bagnell did not know that Gil Jones had tipped me off before I left New York. There was a big flood in Kansas City as the Missouri and the Kaw Rivers had left their banks and covered the main airport which was located downtown. So we had to land at Grandview where Harry Truman had a farm and where his sister still lived.

I had my meeting with Vern Bagnell about 10AM. He offered me the job and said the pay would be $450 per month. I flinched at that low pay, but Bagnell would not go any higher, so I took the job. The job was in General Services and mostly it involved at the beginning, getting the new Area office started in terms of desks and all the things that people need to make them productive employees. I thanked Bagnell and told him that I would give the new job all my energy. I also told him that I had to resign from my job as the President of the St. Louis Union Local. Bagnell said he understood. I used the phone of his secretary to call back to St. Louis to set up my resignation.

The people in St. Louis were very generous to me as I bid them good-bye. Both management and non-management people wished me well so I left St. Louis on a happy note.

When I arrived in Kansas City to start my new job, I was pretty much a one man band. My temporary boss was leaving and my new boss had not been named, so I did what I thought was right. I’m sure that several AT&T policies were violated, but Vern Bagnell said he wanted to provide a decent place for the people transferring in. And that’s what I did.

The space we occupied was about six or seven floors in the recently vacated space by the Southwestern Company’s move to Topeka.

Within days, it became clear that I needed help. My boss, two to three rungs up the ladder, was George Armstrong who knew less than I did about what people would need to become productive. I made it my business to see Vern Bagnell, with or without Armstrong. I told Bagnell that I needed help. He asked where are you going to find the man you want? I said Jimmy Kunce in the St. Louis Division Office. In less than a week, Jimmy Kunce was delivered to Kansas City. I still needed help so I used the same ploy again. I told Bagnell that Vince Bowen was the man we needed. Bowen showed up in no time from St. Louis. And finally, I asked for Bill Millerschultz from St. Louis and he was delivered.

Jimmy Kunce was a country boy from Southern Illinois. Bowen and Millerschultz were St. Louis natives. All were involved in World War II. Now we were ready to roll.

When people were to be sent from other locations to Kansas City, they were supposed to have their desks, chairs, tables and file cabinets sent with them. Everybody in Chicago, St. Louis and Denver played the game as it was supposed to be played. But the hot shots in New York took this occasion to unload all of their oldest furniture and file cabinets on Kansas City. Probably, 50% or 60% of the stuff they sent us was unusable. Chairs collapsed; drawers wouldn’t open and the old golden oak desks had splinters galore. In short, the New York people unloaded their junk on us.

So I went to see the General Manager, Vern Bagnell. By this time, people around the Western Area office assumed that my connection with Bagnell was not to be messed with. I did nothing to disturb or upset their view. In this case, I told Bagnell that we badly needed desks, chairs, tables, file cabinets and all the other pieces of furniture and equipment that would make Kansas City a better place to work than New York. It took no time for Bagnell to tell me to go buy the furniture and equipment that would make the Western Area office work. And so that leads me to that happy feller, Frank Denney.

Frank was a fairly rotund man, pretty close to 70 years of age when he came to see Jim Kunce, Vince Bowen, Bill Millerschultz and me. He had graduated from a pedagogical school or college around 1900 or thereabouts. Frank explained that a degree in pedagogy made you a school teacher. When he came to see us, I believe he had worked for the John A. Marshall Company for nearly 50 years. The Marshall people called themselves “office outfitters.” Frank was a native of Kansas City.
Helen Santoro who worked with us and was considered one of the boys, immediately dubbed Frank as the “Big Butter and Egg Man.” She liked Frank just as much as the rest of us did.

Frank talked country. That is, his spoken works sounded very much like my parents. Jim Kunce, who came from the Little Egypt area of downstate Illinois, could speak Frank’s kind of language very well. As soon as he shook hands with a new person, Frank would say that person is a “mighty fine feller.”

Frank would come to the office and even before we ordered much from him, he would say, ”I am going to take you fellers to lunch.” It was not a case of saying would you be free to have lunch with me; it was “I am going to take you fellers to lunch.” When we did have lunch with
Mr. Denney, one of the four of us would pretend that there was a need to visit the rest room. Actually, the idea was to pay the waitress before she presented the bill. If the bill ever reached the table, Frank would have fought tooth and nail to pay it. The luncheon money came out of Frank’s pocket. We could voucher the expense so there was no point in impinging on Frank’s generosity. When the waitress would come to our table, Frank would ask for the check. She would say that everything was all taken care of. Old Frank would say “next time I’m going to make sure to treat you fellers.” He was such a nice guy that we never let him pick up a lunch check.

For all those 50 years with the John Marshall Company, my guess is that Frank probably sold three or four desks, a few chairs and a file case in a good week. Kansas City is not a big place, so he had to hustle to do that amount of business. I’m here to tell you that Frank was a hustler.
Forget that 70 years of age consideration; Frank worked every day from 8AM till 5PM and lots of Saturdays as well.

After I got the go ahead from General Manager Bagnell, we decided (Jim, Vince, Bill and myself) that Art Metal made the best office equipment. It just happened that John A. Marshall, Office Outfitter, carried Art Metal supplies. Now whereas Frank had been lucky to sell two or three desks per week, Jim Kunce told Frank in a very deadpanned way, that we would like to order 100 desks, 100 chairs along with tables and file cabinets. Frank thought this was a joke. He laughed and slapped the table. “Are you fellers in the market for some desks and chairs? I can fix you up.” Finally, I had to intervene as the most senior AT&T man in the group. I told Frank that the order for 100 desks, etc. would only get us started. When we had a better idea of our final requirements, we’d be back to him.

As my mother would say, “Old Frank liked to died” right there in our office. He began to pull strings with the Art Metal Company. Every day or two, Frank would give us a report on our purchase. In short, it made all of us pleased to see Frank so happy.

In the year I had that job, we must have bought 500 desks, 500 chairs and untold hundreds of file cabinets and tables. We had so much equipment brought in that Roy Horridge, the building superintendent for Southwestern Bell, complained that his people were spending all their time working for Long Lines instead of Southwestern Bell.

The three men who worked with me made it clear to Frank that we expected no kickbacks from the John A. Marshall Company and if any were offered, they would be rejected and we would probably look for another supplier. Frank said he understood our position; but surely we wouldn’t forbid him to bring little presents to the girls in the office. We told him that would be fine with us and Frank often brought little gifts to the office girls.

All good things must come to an end. In anticipation of Mother’s Day in 1952, I was transferred to Harry Livermore’s Traffic Office in Kansas City. When I told Frank at lunch one day, the old “Big Butter and Egg Man” almost cried. He said you fellers – see I am saying it too – have made my life a pleasure. When I saw Frank a day or so later, he said that he knew better than to offer me a gift. But he said even the great AT&T Company would permit me to have a miniature anvil for my desk. I told Frank, “absolutely.” He reached in his coat pocket and gave me a small miniature anvil. There was no wrapping or any fancy stuff. He wanted me to have the miniature anvil and he said “I’ll remember you for the rest of my life.”

I took the present and placed it on my desk. It accompanied me to two jobs in Kansas City; to three jobs in Chicago: three jobs in New York City; one in Washington; one back in New York and one in New Jersey. It was always on my desk in all of those jobs. Now that I have retired, it is on my desk in front of me. So I have had the miniature anvil for more than 50 years. And I have remembered Frank Denney for all those years. As I say, he was a mighty fine feller.

My recollection in that Frank died around 1960 at the age of 80 years. The gift he gave me has the following stamped on the main part of the anvil:


John A. Marshall Co.
Office Outfitters
*VI 5368                     Kansas City, MO.**


*This was the Victor telephone exchange ** No ZIP codes in 1951.

E. E. CARR
OCTOBER 9, 2001

Post Script:
Gil Jones, the General Plant Superintendent, enjoyed life and laughed at jokes good and bad. He died I believe, at age 91.

Vern Bagnell went to Alaska and Canada after he left Kansas City to work on the Dew Line. Late in the 1950’s, he was back in New York working for Western Electric. One morning, he ran after a Lackawanna Commuter train and fell dead from a heart attack. He was about 52 years of age and from what I hear, he never seemed to enjoy life as Gil Jones did.

Helen Santoro’s maiden name was Fluegel. Jim Kunce and some of the rest of us referred to Helen as “Mother Fluegel.” She retired from the Long Lines Headquarters office in San Francisco and moved to a town where life was more tranquil.

Bill Millerschultz remarried some years ago and by now, I am sure he has retired.

Jim Kunce retired from a District Plant Superintendent’s job outside of Washington, D. C. My last contact with him was five or six years ago when he showed up at my daughter’s house in Austin, Texas on his way to find better living in New Mexico. I haven’t heard from him recently.

Vince Bowen was a tall, handsome, black Irishman. While he was in Kansas City, he found that he had cancer. Inexorably, it progressed, so I got a call from Jim Kunce that it would be a good idea to see Vince while he was still with us. I was working in Chicago at the time.

I went to see Vince. I rented a car in Kansas City and drove to the hospital. My memory tells me that the hospital was a Naval institution in Olathe, Kansas or it may possibly have been a V. A. hospital. Vince’s room was on the first floor.

Nobody said a word but Vince knew that I had come to say goodbye to him. He never whimpered. Instead we talked of old times in St. Louis and Kansas City. When it was time for me to go, Vince said he would walk me to my car. I said that the hospital staff would stop us. Vince said, “Oh, to hell with that stuff. Let’s go.” So we walked to my car. In the end we shook hands and hugged each other.

Vince who dodged death on a combat Navy mine sweeper in the Pacific for three years, died at the age of 28.

In 1955, I was promoted to a job in New York. Perhaps the first letter of congratulations came from Frank O. Denney. It was signed by “Your old friend.” Frank was indeed an old friend and he was a mighty fine feller.

E. E. CARR
October 9, 2001
Essay 23

(See Attachment – Denny letter)

frankdenny2

~~~

Kevin’s commentary: Pop says that this was his favorite essay that he’s written so far. I can see why that’s the case. It’s got a little bit of everything: old friends, jobs, and stories.

In many ways the characters who Pop surrounded himself with remind me of Ed himself. He is amiable like Frank, brave and personable like Vince, and clearly one of the most capable people in every outfit he was put in.

The essay also shows the flexible side of Pop, both in the I’ll-pick-up-and-move-without-whining-about it sense, and the I’ll-do-whatever-needs-to-get-done sense, though the idea of him having to outfit a whole office seems like it’d be pretty far removed from anything he had done before. Of course his solution was the right one; to surround himself with companions who could help him out. And of course, he was able to befriend most of those companions because from the sounds of things he befriended damn near everybody those days.

Long story short, Pop’s a mighty fine feller too, and I hope he knows that.