Archive for the Union Category

THAT IS REALLY WHAT THEY SAID

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.

E. E. CARR
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.

JOBLESS NOSTALGIA

JOBLESS NOSTALGIA

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
Butcher
Filling station attendant
Conductor on buses and street cars
Utility meter reader
Cobbler
Shoe shiners or boot black
Stone mason
Secretary
Draftsman
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.

ELEVATOR OPERATORS, INCLUDING DONNA

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.

CIGAR STAND OPERATORS

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.

TELEPHONE OPERATORS

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

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

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.

GOODBYE CONDUCTORS

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.

METER READERS & ESTIMATED BILLS

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.

THE OLD COBBLER

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.

BOOT BLACKS

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.

MONEY AND PAYCHECKS

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

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.

SECRETARIES

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.

WAITRESSES

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.

DRAFTSMEN

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.

A SAD CONCLUSION

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.

E. E. CARR
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?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK PART 5 – “SORER THAN A BOILED OWL”

In Part 4 of this New York series, I dealt with a Personnel Vice President of AT&T who earned my complete disrespect and anger over a period of five years. Now that we are free of Jack Marsh, we can return to some men who had my respect and admiration. In this section of the New York series, I will be discussing some men who taught me a great deal about human relations. I was fond of these men and perhaps the reader will come to share my admiration.

The quote in the title about the boiled owl comes from a very skilled labor negotiator, but you will have to read the full essay to see what he was talking about. I heard the man use the expression and I fully agreed with him. Our latter day readers will just have to wrestle with this little essay.

This is a story of contract bargaining in 1955 between the AT&T Company and the Communication’s Workers of America (CWA). The main characters are Herb Goetschius, Charlie Brown and that flash of Louisiana lightning named Henry Joyner. In dealing with these three men, we will also be dealing with my good friend and boss, Dick Dugan, as well as with a former communist – at least he claimed that he had reformed. Not everyone believed him. There is also a woman who liked to read notes in an upside down fashion and we will tell you about a negotiator who believed in his advocacy so much that he wanted to take his heart out and let it beat for us on the bargaining table. So you see, we’ve got some pretty dramatic moments ahead in Part 5 of the New York series of essays.

In the 1950’s, it was the custom of most major American firms to write contracts with their union representatives for only one year. In the years immediately after World War II, there were many changes in the ways companies did business. For instance, technology began to play a major part in the business decisions that company managements had to make. In the case of the telephone companies, customer dialing resulted in a decreased need for telephone operators. This sort of technological advance made American businesses reluctant to agree to any contract exceeding twelve months in length.

Bargaining a new contract every year imposed a burden on both the company and the union. There were months of preparation and many long hours involved when the actual bargaining got under way. Today, contracts are usually written for three years. Some may embrace five years. But in the 1950’s, it was necessary to endure this sort of discomfort every year. It was not all bad for me because I had the opportunity to meet some interesting characters and to learn a lot.

AT&T’s Long Lines bargaining team consisted of my boss Dick Dugan, and myself from headquarters in New York. We brought in the three Assistant General Managers from the regional areas to work with us.

Before we meet the three men from the regional areas, it would be appropriate to say a few words about Dick Dugan. Dick was an Irishman whose father had been treated very badly by the Accounting Vice President of Long Lines. Dick’s father was always on Dugan’s mind. Even though his father was dead, at a moment of triumph, Dick would always say, “This one is for you” meaning his father, Fred Dugan. When Dick had an opportunity to deal with his father’s tormentor, he would take great delight in knowing that he was evening up the score. In the end, Fred Dugan’s tormentor was drummed out of the company. Dick Dugan went on to become the President and CEO of the Cincinnati Bell Telephone Company. Fred’s oppressor finished dead last when it came to a race with Fred’s son, Dick.

Dick Dugan was a tall fellow with an immense amount of brainpower. He was never ostentatious about his intellectual achievements. Instead he covered all of his accomplishments with a ready wit. Dick was a good Irishman who left us at an early age. Dick was only about 60 when cancer overtook him. After all these years, I still miss him.

In contract bargaining, both sides almost always observed proper decorum. Negotiators are generally addressed in a formal manner and anger is rarely in good form. Anger may cause negotiators to say something that they would soon regret, so when it is detected that anger may become a problem, a recess is usually called.

Now before I introduce you to Herb Goetschius, it must be remembered that in the 1950’s, Joe McCarthy, the Senator from Wisconsin, was riding fairly high on a crest of anti-communist sentiment. In short, communists were deplorable people and most people would agree with that assessment. And so it fell to Herb, a real New York street fighter, to deal with a communist or a former communist on the union side on one issue. Herb came from New York and my belief is that he never attended a college. If he had gone to college, it would have been a waste of Herb’s time. Herb grew up in the New York Plant Department and by the time I met him in 1955, he had progressed to Director level. He was a wiry man who probably stood somewhere around 5’7” or 5’8”. And he was tough. Not arrogantly tough, but if he encountered someone who was trying to snow him, Herb would eat that person alive. As time went on, arthritis crippled his hands which caused him to consume large quantities of aspirin.

When Brother Goetschius elected to deal with a person who wanted to mislead him or with a man who did not know his business, the miscreant would be fixed with a withering stare. And then the words would start to flow. I have never been the recipient of Herb’s stare and I would be happy to avoid it for the rest of my life.

Now remember a few paragraphs ago I told you that the exchanges across the bargaining table were done in a respectful manner. When it came to discreet and decent behavior, Herb had no equal. But in this one case, he was responding to a communist, or former communist, who waded into deep waters by talking about things about which he knew nothing. Herb took it as long as he could and then decorum went out the window and he ate Mike Mignon, the former or current red, alive.

In early 1955, CWA had somehow acquired the bargaining rights at All American Cable and Radio (AACR). Mike Mignon had worked at AACR and was one of its union representatives. The International President of the Union, Joe Beirne, was a practicing Catholic and a fervent anti-communist. Yet Beirne took Mike Mignon in even though it was widely believed that Mike was a communist. He not only took him in on the CWA payroll, but he sent him to New York to participate in Long Lines bargaining.

When Mignon was identified as part of the CWA bargaining team, I called several union and newspaper people to see what they knew about him. Finally, the trail led to Wilson McMakin, the Vice President of Personnel for AACR. I met Wilson McMakin in a restaurant on Church Street. After a time, McMakin told me that Mignon was an assumed name. Mike was of Sicilian, not French origin. AACR believed that Mike was such a full-fledged communist that he was no longer permitted to enter the premises of AACR. To handle a grievance or to bargain, AACR would meet Mike in a hotel or a restaurant. And the kicker came when Wilson McMakin told me that in two weeks time, the House Un-American Affairs Committee headed by the notorious J. Parnell Thomas, a New Jersey Republican, would hold a hearing at which Mike Mignon would appear and identify other communists he had known in the past. In short, Mike Mignon was singing to avoid having the Immigration Service questioning his residency in the United States.

Obviously, we had to pretend that we knew nothing about Mignon’s troubles with immigration authorities. I more or less believe that his colleagues on the union side knew very little of Mike’s communist connection. When I told our side about Mignon, Herb Goetchius was righteously indignant. Herb didn’t like Mike to start with because Mike spoke as the voice of wisdom and experience. None of the rest of us trusted Mike. In a short while, I was led to believe that his union colleagues had no use for him either.

And so early in bargaining, Mike Mignon began to lecture using no notes. He often claimed that he had left his notes or speech on the subway. As always, Mike’s remarks had an unrehearsed, rambling sense to them. Now remember that I said earlier, that we always preserved a sense of decorum during bargaining. Forget about it. Herb listened to all he could bear. Finally, he interrupted Mike to say, “The problem is that you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.” At that point, Herb cited chapter and verse and when he was finished, Mike had very little more to say for the four or five weeks of bargaining that remained. All of us cheered to have the communist turncoat taken down to size.

We will leave Herb with a thought that he impressed upon all of the company negotiators. Herb said that the only things the union gets are what the company gives them. Whether concessions are taken from the company or whether the company makes concessions freely, the fact remains that the only things the union gets is what the company gives them.

Now let’s move on to the second bargainer in the 1955 contract negotiations. His name is Charlie Brown. Later, Charlie went on to become the CEO of the AT&T Company.

Charlie was a widower in 1955 and 1956, so he had no great trouble with the thought that the bargaining team had to spend its nights in New York. Charlie and I seemed to get along very well, so after dinner, or in place of dinner, we would explore New York. At that time, Charlie was interested in Spanish culture, the food, the art and flamenco dancing. So we spent quite a bit of time dealing with Spanish things.

The Spanish restaurants and nightspots were found on the west side of Greenwich Village. There was also a club at Charles and West Fourth Streets which featured the famed Pizzarelli guitar duos. Charlie spoke some Spanish at that time which he learned in preparation on a trip to Spain.

Charlie was a good companion and our friendship has lasted for pretty close to 50 years now. Charlie was a good bargainer because he wanted to know what motivated people, not just company people, but the Union folks as well. I recall one year the union had a very curious young woman from Philadelphia who sat directly opposite Charlie. Charlie noticed that for several days she had been looking across the table while he wrote. It became clear that she was trying to read what Charlie was writing. Old Charlie was a sly one. One day he printed in large block letters on his page, “CAN YOU READ THIS UPSIDE DOWN?” Charlie told me that he wanted to see how good she was. Well, this woman studied Charlie’s notes for a minute or two until she understood that the upside down thought was aimed at her. She blushed pretty robustly. I don’t recall her ever trying to read our notes across the table after that.

Charlie left the bargaining team a year or so later to begin his climb toward the top job in the telephone industry in the world. It made no difference that he was the CEO of AT&T; Charlie was still Charlie and we always got along very well. Charlie was a first class piece of work.

Now that we have discussed Herb Goetschius and Charlie Brown, that leaves us with one more fellow to deal with, that being the original Henry H. Joyner, whom I called Louisiana Lightning.

On the 1955 bargaining committee, Henry came to us from the Western Area based in Kansas City. Henry originally came from Louisiana and like most of the rest of Long Lines management people, had moved quite often. He was a few years older than I was and I very much liked to hear him tell of his experiences. Henry was a first rate intellectual and don’t let that Louisiana accent fool you. I enjoyed talking to him about literature, Huey Long and fine dining. Many years later when we were both in the Overseas organization, Henry told me of the joys of dining at the Hassler Hotel in Rome. He said it compared favorably with the cuisine of New Orleans. I ate at the Hassler on many occasions. I would say that New Orleans would win six out of ten contests with the Hassler dining room but in both cases, the dining would be five-star.

Henry was a devotee of William Cowper Brann, the Iconoclast. Brann ran a newspaper in the frontier town of Waco, Texas. He called them as he saw them. For one thing, Brann had no use for English royalty. This was in the 1880’s before World War I when the King and Queen and the Prince of Wales were viewed with a high degree of reverence in England, its colonies and in much of Europe. Brann got on to a story that the Prince of Wales had contracted a social disease – and he printed it for several weeks hand running. The Prince denied the story, but Brann soon located the sanitarium where the Prince went for treatment.

I had an opportunity to follow Brann’s story about the Prince and other subjects of the Iconoclast’s ire because his newspaper stories were reproduced in a set of 25 books. When Henry was working in Atlanta, he found the whole set of Brann books on sale at a used book outlet. So he told me what Brann had to say. After Henry’s most untimely death in Luxor, Egypt, his wife Martine offered the whole set of Brann books to me. I was overwhelmed. They occupied a place of prominence in the books in this house for many years. In anticipation of my becoming an angel, I sent the Brann books to my daughter in Austin, Texas, who wanted them. The books now are a few miles from Waco, their ancestral home.

One member of the union’s committee was a fellow from Pittsburgh named Roy Schultice. Roy was a likeable fellow. I knew him from when I had been in the union. I thought Roy was honest and well intentioned. I liked him very much.

In the bargaining room, Roy took the issue assigned to him very seriously. Sometimes he could be dramatic about his advocacy, but all of us would say that is just Roy being Roy. If Roy was presenting a case for a wage upgrade for a particular city, for example, he would tell us how tough it was to get to work with mountains to be surmounted. Then he would tell us that all of the employees in his upgrade city were first class citizens who were very patriotic and they were kind to their parents.

On one issue where Roy was presenting the union case, and Henry Joyner was assigned to respond to him, Roy got carried away by his emotions. It all came together at the climax of his fervent presentation when he turned to Henry and said, “We need this desperately. If I could take my heart out and put it on this table and let it beat for you, I (Roy) would be glad to do it.” Old Henry listened without cracking a smile. He was showing great interest in Roy’s dramatic presentation. When Roy came to the part of putting his heart on the table and letting it beat for us, Henry said to Roy, “That won’t be necessary. We understand your sincerity.”

The company had no intention of granting what ever Roy wanted us to concede, but gentle Henry showed a great deal of interest and let Roy down easily. Roy and Henry remained friends after the bargaining which is the way it should be. This was a good lesson in bargaining techniques by the man from Louisiana.

Henry was a fellow you could learn from. If nothing else, his expressions were pretty close to priceless. On a day when we had a little time to kill, Henry pointed out that a new, high rise building had just been constructed on the west side of Fifth Avenue and labeled #2 Fifth Avenue. For many years, the residents of Number One Fifth Avenue, on the east side of Fifth Avenue, had enjoyed a view of the Hudson River a few blocks to the west. But when Number Two Fifth Avenue was constructed, the residents had a full view of the new apartment building and the river view was no more.

When Henry considered the atrocity that Number Two Fifth Avenue represented and the fact that it cut off the river view of the residents of Number One Fifth Avenue, he had only one comment to make. Speaking of the people whose view had been cut off, Henry said, “Don’t you know that those folks at Number One Fifth Avenue are sorer than boiled owls.” Being from the Midwest, I did not know how sore a boiled owl might be, but in between guffaws, I agreed with my friend from Louisiana.

**
The fellows I served with on the 1955 AT&T bargaining committee were very bright men. Without any sort of tutoring, they showed me about how human relations should work. I enjoyed them immensely and as you can see from this essay, for 47 years I have waited to tell the world about Herb Goetschius eating Mike Mignon alive, about Charlie Brown’s upside down memo to the young lady who sat opposite from him and finally, Henry’s story about the boiled owl.

Well, now with that on the public record, I think this old soldier can die happy – or happily. The three fellows discussed in this essay, Herb, Charlie and Henry, would be most impatient with such a parsing of the English language.

E. E. CARR
June 25, 2002

~~~

Man, I feel like I don’t have any particularly pressing commentary for most of this New York series — I’m just sitting back and enjoying them. Crazy that he used to run around the bargaining table with the CEO-to-be of AT&T, who seems to have shared a name with the protagonist from Peanuts. Specifically, he was friends with the CEO who oversaw one of the many breakups that that company went through:

“Today really signals the beginning of the end of an institution: the 107-year-old Bell system,” declared AT&T CEO Charles Brown, who appeared to be fighting back tears. “And the start of a new era in telecommunications for the whole country.”

I’ll consider myself lucky to retire with as good a memory of (and as many stories from) my working life as Pop does. To me, this sort of perspective represents a slice of life that neither I nor anyone else who wasn’t directly involved would ever hear about. Always fun to see it captured.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK PART 4 – IS JACK MARSH A SPHERICAL OR A MISERABLE S. O. B?

In the fall of 1942, the Army Air Corps decided that 100 soldiers should attend an Aerial Engineers School at the Embry-Riddle School of Aeronautics in Coral Gables, Florida. Two thoughts come to mind. In 1942, there was no separate air force in the U. S. military; the Army had the Air Corps and that was that. And yes, the Embry-Riddle School was one of the training places where the Saudi hijackers went to school in preparation for the attacks which took place on September 11, 2001.

In the class of 100 hopeful flight engineers, were two Jews from Brooklyn and a Lutheran from Red Oak, Iowa. Nobody – but nobody ever asked about another soldier’s religion or beliefs. It was assumed and rightly so, that most soldiers were Protestants, a few were Roman Catholic and Jews were a distinct minority. You could make this determination from the size of the chapel services devoted to the three major faiths.

The reason that we knew there were two Jews in the class of 100 came from those two men. The first one was Ira Hudas who announced that the Army was not meeting his expectations when it came to working on the Sabbath. Ira also loudly complained about the fact that the mess hall did not serve kosher food. He had some other complaints about not wanting to fly on combat aircraft. After a time, the Army took Ira out of the Aerial Engineers program and no one heard from him again.

The second Jew wanted other people to know that he was Jewish, that he came from Brooklyn and that he worked on the docks there. The term for working on the docks is dock walloper. His name was Jack Botcowsky and I’m here to tell you, he was a tough son of a gun. Jack had no religious hang-ups about the Sabbath and ate Army food just like all the rest of us did.

The Lutheran from Red Oak, Iowa was Doc Groenwald. I knew he was a Lutheran because he was my roommate. At Coral Gables, the Army had taken over some two story apartment buildings to house the men attending classes at nearby Embry-Riddle. In civilian life, the apartments had bedrooms that would house a single person. If that person was married, perhaps two people could fit in the bedrooms provided they had a minimum of furniture. In those days, live-in friends of the opposite sex were unheard of. Nonetheless, the Army had four soldiers in each bedroom by having sort of a bunk bed arrangement. I slept on a top bunk while Doc Groenwald slept down below. Of course, there was another bunk bed in our bedroom, as there were throughout the apartment. Soldiers were rarely free to visit Miami or Miami Beach, so in our out-of-class hours, we spent a lot of time just chewing the fat. The four of us in my room were all Midwesterners. The other three men came from farms in Missouri and Iowa. In spite of the limited space, we got along quite well together. It was in these fat-chewing exercises that Doc mentioned that he was a Lutheran. He of course, was not a doctor. That was just his nickname.

In one of our profound discussions, Doc Groenwald referred to a completely worthless person in Red Oak as a “Spherical Son of a Bitch.” Doc explained that no matter what angle you viewed this fellow from, he was a spherical S. O. B. That seemed to say it all.

On the other hand, there was big, tough Jack Botcowsky. A man who wrestles containers and equipment on the Brooklyn waterfront is no toe dancer. Jack was probably 5’ 10” and weighed maybe 225 pounds. But none of the rest of us ever found Jack unpleasant. On the contrary, he was curious about what life was like on a midwestern farm. Perhaps Jack promised himself that if he survived the war, he might like to visit that far off, exotic land of Iowa.

The Army required that soldiers should walk patrol in front of each apartment building in Coral Gables to ward off terrorists, I suppose. If our classes were at night, we were assigned patrol duties in the daytime. When we attended day classes, we were required to walk patrol until midnight. That is the Army way of doing things.

When Christmas rolled around, Jack and I separately volunteered for patrol duty. Botcowsky said he would walk on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because he was not a Christian, and maybe the favor would be returned if he ever needed to take some time off. I volunteered to walk with Jack because I had no intention to take part in Christmas religious activities.

While we were pounding the pavement in this holiday season of 1942, Jack told me of one of his water front bosses who was a thief and a lazy thief, at that. Botcowsky referred to him as a “Miserable Son of Bitch.” I had not heard that adjective, “miserable”, being used to modify Jack’s assessment of that waterfront boss. I liked “miserable” about as much as Doc Groenwald’s “spherical.” Those are good usages of the English language.

We’ve had the worthless person in Red Oak, Iowa and the lazy thief in Brooklyn. Botcowsky and Groenwald condemned them mightily. Now I am going to tell you a little about a Vice President of Personnel with AT&T in New York and I will encourage the reader to say whether he ought to be called a Spherical S. O. B. or a Miserable S. O. B. Long ago, I voted 100% for each description.

Before I forget it, I should tell you that the captain of the guard told Botcowsky and me that by patrolling on the holiday weekend, we would not be assigned such duty for at least one more month. What we did not know was that our course at Embry-Riddle was already scheduled to end around January 20th. When the end of the month approached, we were well on our way to foreign duty. Well, some you win and some you do the best you can.

The Personnel Vice President of AT&T Long Lines was J. C. Marsh. Out of Marsh’s earshot, some people said his initials stood for Jesus Christ which is probably how Marsh thought of himself.

At the beginning of the New York, New York series of essays, I told you that a bad apple might sneak in among the New York City roses. Marsh is that bad apple but I have to include him because he played a significant role in the people I met in New York.

When the 1951 contract was finally settled, I learned from Gil Jones, the General Plant Superintendent, that I would be offered a management job in Kansas City in the new Western Area office. About a year after starting the job in Kansas City, it was decided that I should go to work for Harry Livermore in the Kansas City Traffic Office. When Harry went to the Chicago Traffic office at the beginning of 1953, he asked me to join him in Chicago. So the little, new house that I bought in 1951 for $15,000 was sold, with all the improvements I had put into it, for $15,000. Well, you win some and some you lose.

For two years, Chicago Traffic provided me with three different jobs and that’s where I met Dick Dugan, the newly appointed labor executive from AT&T headquarters in New York. Dick asked me to join him as the labor relations manager in April, 1955. So I was going to be sitting on the Company side of the bargaining table dealing with many Union people who had been my colleagues only four years earlier. No one really knew how this arrangement would work out, as the move from union representative to company representative had never been done before. But, everything seemed to work out quite well.

Bevo Swango whom you met in Part 3 of this series, was greatly respected for his warmth in dealing with other human beings. But true to form, when Long Lines had an opening in the Personnel Vice Presidents job, it went to an engineer rather than to Bevo. Jack Marsh became the new Vice President of Personnel a few months before I showed up in April, 1955.

Marsh was not your typical, straight arrow, telco engineer. He was totally a creature of Henry Killingsworth, the President of Long Lines. Killingsworth was clearly the most bigoted person I ever knew in the telephone business. Marsh adopted all of Killingsworth’s bigotry. Marsh was as deeply prejudiced as he was uncouth. He was an equal opportunity hater in that he disliked people of color, Jews, Irishmen, Italians, Puerto Ricans and almost all Catholics. That is only a partial list. His boss Killingsworth disliked Yogi Berra because his salary matched Killingsworth’s own one year. Marsh also disliked Yogi Berra. Probably he and his boss were the only two people in New York who found something in Yogi to criticize. But he reserved his special dislike for Irishmen, Jews and people who belonged to unions. As there were no Jews or Puerto Ricans and few Italians at the Long Lines Headquarters, I qualified for Marsh’s disdain by being Irish and by coming out of a union.

Marsh’s dislike for the Irish stemmed from an incident when he attended the University of Iowa. Marsh said he had seen Notre Dame football players crying after suffering a defeat at the hands of the Iowa football team. So he considered all Irishmen as unworthy of his respect. Marsh disliked living in New York City where he claimed he had to mingle with Italians, Puerto Ricans, Jews and other assorted East Coast creatures. And once more he, like Killingsworth, hated unions.

Why Marsh ever approved my coming into his Personnel organization is hard to explain. I was Irish which constituted strike one. As everyone knew, I came out of the telephone union. So that must have been strike two. Perhaps Bevo Swango or Dick Dugan persuaded Marsh to sign off on my transfer. Or perhaps, it had to do with avoiding another Creasey case. In any case, it was done and Marsh set no records in welcoming me into his organization.

Shortly after I arrived to take up my new assignment, I took a room on lower Fifth Avenue at the Grosvenor Hotel. While I was still feeling my way around the new job, Marsh had a surprise, with a time bomb inside, for me. For all the years that Killingsworth was the Chief Executive, he held salaries at the lowest possible level. Long Lines was a regulated business under the Federal Communications Commission. There were years when Killingsworth held salaries so low that at year’s end, he had a surplus. That surplus was returned to the FCC rather than being given to increase the salaries of employees. Employees knew what was happening and were deeply angry over their salary treatment. On top of that, employees were often required to transfer from one town to another. One of the consequences of such frequent transfer activity, meant that Long Lines people had to rent housing because it made no sense to buy a house for only one or two years. In several cases where employees had bought a house, they wound up carrying two houses in a slow real estate market in the 1950’s. So the employees were angry at upper management and when Marsh became the Vice President of Personnel, he reaffirmed all of Killingsworth’s policies.

Not long before I moved to New York, the company, under heavy pressure from Bell System management at 195 Broadway, had sent an employee attitude survey to its management employees. Long Lines was simply joining all the other units of the Bell System in the survey of employee attitudes. I suspect that Long Lines joined the survey reluctantly because they had to know that they were stirring up a hornet’s nest.

I had only been in New York for a week or so when Marsh himself called me into his office and unloaded about 3200 responses to the management employee attitude survey. The survey had four pages, as I recall it. So here I was holding 12,000 pieces of paper which Marsh wanted me to see what employees had to say. I worked on the attitude survey at night and on weekends at the Grosvenor Hotel. I had hoped to use that time for house hunting, but the attitude survey came first.

In point of fact, Marsh had set me up because any fool could have told the management that the employees were angry. So I struggled with all this paper. I knew what was going on, but I could do nothing about it. The comments on the survey were often acerbic. There were few if any kudos in the survey for upper management.

The survey was mostly adjectival. There were few boxes to check. Employees had to write what they thought of Company policies. The people were so angry that many signed their names to the survey.

If Marsh had wanted an evaluation of the survey, he should have given it to an outside organization to summarize. I did the best I could with the survey trying to pick out neutral comments to balance unpleasant ones. But the outcome was clear. The employees resented their treatment by upper management almost to the point of hostility or even hatred.

I put the best face on the attitude survey as I could but no one could hide the fact that Long Lines employees actively disliked upper management, including Killingsworth and Marsh. I did the best I could, but there were no saving graces.

What I thought would happen did happen. Marsh and Killingsworth shot the messenger, namely me. They did not want to concede that Long Lines people were anything less than deliriously happy. And so with being Irish and coming from a labor union background constituted strikes one and two. Now with the attitude survey, Marsh had strike three. Don’t be concerned at this late date by the unfairness of it all; that’s the way that some organizations are constituted. All I ask in the spirit of this essay, that you give thought to Marsh being a miserable S. O. B. or a spherical S. O. B.

A couple of other thoughts occur about J. C. Marsh. Until 1955, the union always came to long Lines Headquarters at 32 Sixth Avenue to conduct bargaining sessions. In 1955, CWA said this was an unfair advantage for company negotiators. So they asked that negotiations be moved away from the company headquarters building, perhaps to a hotel. Marsh insisted that an expensive hotel should be picked. The idea was to break the union financially. Marsh knew nothing about New York hotels, but the name “Number One Fifth Avenue” struck him as an appropriately expensive place. As it turns out, that hotel catered mostly to long term guests and the rates were not so bad. Marsh never tumbled to the fact that it was only two blocks from union headquarters. Company negotiators were a two-stop subway ride and a walk of two long blocks away. So the union people were pleased to conduct negotiations at “Number One.”

Marsh did not find going home as an attractive thought. In normal times, he liked his staff to hang around the office until 7PM whether they had something to do or not. Now, with negotiations going on, Marsh had a hotel room and pretty much insisted that all of us should stay overnight in our rooms. With bargaining occurring on many weekends, it meant that I did not see much of my family or the house in New Jersey.

Finally, Marsh was a big man weighting pretty close to 300 pounds. When it came time to eat, more often than not, Marsh would suggest Luchows. That place served heavy German food. Marsh often called for Baked Alaska for dessert. Bob Creasey had his steaks. Marsh had his German food.

I told you in Part 1 of this series about New York that, “Once in a while someone who earned my disrespect and dislike would come along.” Jack Marsh is the man I had in mind. In 1960, Bell System officials at the worldwide headquarters finally decided to move Killingsworth to a job where he could do no more harm. When Killingsworth was removed, Marsh lost his only support and he too was moved to a job having to do with General Service and a little real estate management thrown in. It was a nothing job. For all intents and purposes, I lost five years when those sorry reprobates ran the Long Lines Department of AT&T.

So now that you have read a little about Jack Marsh, it is time to see whether Doc Groenwald’s description of a spherical S. O. B. or Jack Botcowsky’s term of a miserable S. O. B. should fit Mr. Marsh. I’ve given this a lot of thought over the past 42 years and I think a wedding of the two descriptions ought to do the job. And so I say that a miserable and spherical son of a bitch fits Jack Marsh to a tee. Or as my father would say, “He was a sorry S. O. B.” I am sure that Doc Groenwald and Jack Botcowsky would be glad to know that after all these years, their vivid descriptions live on.

E. E. CARR
June 10, 2002

~~~

More bad SEO for bad people, which is kinda fun.
It was also interesting to learn that he was one of the first to make the union -> corporate switch, which I’m sure would be incredibly difficult to pull off without offending the unions and souring future negotiations. The more corporate parts about shooting the messenger, or allowing clueless executives to think that they’ve “won” when the reality is more complicated, both still ring pretty true in today’s working world as far as I can tell.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK PART 3 – A MAN NAMED BEVERLY

In my long experience, I have only heard of two male Beverly’s. Where I come from, Beverly was usually a female name. The other person, aside from the subject of this essay, was a baritone who seems to have devoted his life to Billy Graham. His name is George Beverly Shea.

I am not a fan of Billy Graham whom I always regarded as a devout windbag. In recent years since his ill-fated recorded discussions with the sainted Richard Nixon, in which the two men cast hurtful remarks about Jews, his stock has taken a nosedive with me. I now regard him as a religious bigot.

From time to time as I occasionally surfed the television offerings when there were no ball games to watch, I would come across Billy Graham. He has a fixation with demons. I mean he thinks demons are real. I believe that demons to Graham’s way of thinking operate in tandem with Satan or Lucifer or the Devil. Don’t laugh. Even today, the Catholic Church sponsors exorcisms of demons.

A special exorcist is brought in to drive the demons away. His main stock in trade is prayer. I suppose that when Graham was making his disparaging remarks to Nixon about Jews, that he could say demons were troubling his soul. He didn’t say that. He said he was misquoted even though recordings make it clear that he was verbally bludgeoning the Jews.

When I did run into one of Graham’s “Crusades,” I hung around long enough to hear him make a fool of himself about such things as demons and angels. But mostly, I hung around to hear George Beverly Shea sing. Now I want to make this clear. I have no use for religion but I do like good singing. For example, the theology of the Latter Day Saints or Mormons, causes me to shake my head in disbelief. But the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is something else. When I was a boy in Missouri working in filling stations on Sundays, I always tried to listen to CBS at 11AM to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Some of the most moving pieces of music also come from black churches, congregations and choirs. The spirituals that black folks sing are often quite moving and excellent pieces of music. I like the music but not “The Message.”

So, I have nothing to do with the sermon and warnings that my conduct is leading me straight to hell; I just like the music. That is what got me tuned to Billy Graham’s programs. It was the hope that George Beverly Shea would sing. Incidentally, the home folks in Missouri always insisted that a man who used three names could usually not be trusted. But Shea has been the baritone in Graham’s ministry for as long as I can remember and he seems to be alright.

When Graham finished his sermon, he gave what is called an “altar call.” With the choir singing softly in the background, Graham would call for sinners to come to the altar to get his blessing and perhaps forgiveness. I have always been struck by the number of people answering Graham’s altar call. Those people in his audience are there because they already belong to churches and they wanted to see Billy in action. They couldn’t get tickets without belonging to a Protestant Church. Maybe making the altar call would give them some sort of satisfaction or publicity, but I can’t believe that Graham’s audience at the arenas he uses are filled with such large numbers of sinners. I suppose I will have to pray over that one.

While the altar call was going on, George Beverly Shea would sing endless verses of the hymn, “Come Home.” It goes something like this:

Patiently, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling to you and to me,
Patiently, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling all sinners Come Home.

Old Shea could really belt that one out – so I listened to him. It was a lot better than listening to Graham’s imbecilities.

Now Shea has nothing to do with our man Beverly who is the subject of this essay. In the first place, no one ever called him Beverly. Maybe his mother would do that, but all the rest of us would call him Bevo Swango. He was always the droll storyteller from North Carolina. Bevo’s stories and his gentle demeanor made him a favorite in company and union circles.

In the late 1940’s, Bevo was on the fast track at AT&T. I met him when he had a job in St. Louis as Area Plant Superintendent. That particular job combined the St. Louis and Denver divisions which meant that plant operations from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, came under his direction. That job at Bevo’s age marked him as a comer. Indeed, at the end of the 1940’s, Bevo was brought into the headquarters of Long Lines of AT&T and installed in what appeared to be the number two man in the Personnel Department. He was doing alright for himself.

I next met Bevo in the Spring of 1951 when the union came to bargain a whole new contract, or to use Nixon-speak, the whole enchilada. Haldeman and Erlichman made Mexican food popular everywhere in this country, but not for me.

Our union committee was represented by two plant department representatives, John Lotz of New York City and my old friend from Utica, New York, Joe Darling. The traffic representatives were Ernestine Locknane from Cincinnati and Averill Hildebrandt of New York City who came originally from Kansas. I was the representative of administrative personnel. The team was completed with Director Carl Peters and Ray Boatman of Memphis, his assistant. We had no back-ups and no legal assistance. It was just us against this billion dollar corporation.

On the company side, there was Bevo Swango. Everyone liked him. A young man who came into the company anointed for greater things was Peter Grace whose family was very well connected in business circles. He took company notes and reported to Swango.

For reasons that escape me, the company brought in the District Superintendent of the Richmond, Virginia plant district. His name was Claude Ballenger. Someone must have thought he was a comer, but the bargaining in 1951 proved that Claude Ballenger was not only a failure but a company embarrassment. Claude, coming from tobacco country, would alternate between smoking cigars and cigarettes. In one tense moment, Claude put a fresh cigar in his mouth. I suppose he must have thought it was a cigarette because, for an instant, he held the ignited match against his nose rather than at the end of the cigar. I was glad that I had nothing to do with cigars after Ballenger’s attempt to set himself on fire.

The General Plant Superintendent Gil Jones sat in for about 75% of the bargaining. Gil Jones was not far from retirement. He was well respected by the union’s bargaining team. Joe Darling told us that when Jones was the Division Superintendent in Albany, he would catch a streetcar that ran in front of the office. He would use the streetcar to go to the railroad station to visit other districts in his division. Joe claimed that while Gil Jones was waiting for the streetcar, he would engage another person or persons in conversation. When his streetcar arrived, he would climb aboard leaving his suitcase at the stop. According to Joe, the craftsmen grew tired of chasing him down at the railroad station, so when he planned to depart, a craftsman would stand by in the street car stop to remind Gil Jones to take his suitcase with him. After seeing Gil in action in the bargaining session, I came to believe Joe’s story implicitly. Gil was always leaving documents and papers on the table and walking off when someone came along he wanted to talk to.

While all kinds of company lawyers appeared from time to time in the bargaining room, the nominal head of the company team was the Vice President of Personnel, Vern Bagnell. In Part I of this New York series of essays, I have mentioned my feelings about telco engineers. Vern Bagnell was an introverted, telco engineer who disliked small talk and tall stories. He more or less said that the company would contribute “A” and the union would contribute “B” to the proceedings, so according to his engineering background, the outcome ought to be “C,” so why are we wasting time. Bagnell never understood the give and take of bargaining and the part that personal likes and dislikes might contribute to the end result.

Bagnell had never been in bargaining with the union – and it showed. He was a decent man but his naiveté was obvious to anyone who had spent some time in Union – management relations.

And most of all, Bagnell liked to be obeyed. He issued the orders and his subordinates jumped to see that his instructions were carried out. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in World War II. So when he said jump, we were supposed to say “How high?” In Bagnell’s world, back talk from union people would not be welcome at all. So the stage was all set for Joe Darling to give Brother Bagnell loads of insolent back talk.

Bagnell was given to repeating company slogans. Because Long Lines operated in some 430 communities in the United States, the company always hung its hat on community practice. If, for example, business in a given community paid substandard wages, that’s what Long Lines wanted to do citing its rigid adoption of community practices. Bevo Swango knew that the community practice argument had major flaws, but Bagnell was Bevo’s boss and he was the Vice President of Personnel, so he could say what he wanted to say.

My old friend Joe Darling who was somewhere around 18 years older than I was, often took a back seat in the arguments which took place over the bargaining table. It was not disinterest on Joe’s part; he had seen it all before. But Bagnell repeated the company slogan about community practice too many times. Joe engaged with Brother Bagnell. Bevo knew what was coming, but I suppose he figured this was a good a time as any to let Bagnell get chopped up.

Joe asked Bagnell to state once again the company’s view of community practice. Bagnell stated the company’s slogans with increasing fervor. Quietly, Joe asked Bagnell if the company would always lean toward what ever practice that the community found desirable. Bagnell answered in the affirmative. Bevo Swango and the rest of the union people knew the game was up.

Joe then asked Bagnell what if the union could show you a community or several communities where the practice is to kill women and children. The Korean War was going on at the time. Well, Bagnell bobbed and weaved and said that’s not the community practice he was talking about. Joe called Bagnell’s attention to the answer he had given Joe a few minutes earlier where he said that the company would almost always adopt the standards adopted by the community in question. Poor old Bagnell was hopelessly tangled up in his own underwear. We didn’t gloat over this amateur mistake, but Bevo obviously let it happen. His boss Mr. Bagnell, said no more about community practice for the rest of the bargaining.

It was Bevo’s penchant for telling home spun Southern stories which came in handy at tense times like the end of the Bagnell-Darling episode. Swango was a good natured man who understood that not everyone held the same set of views. And for all of his courtly Southern charm, Bevo was a cagey man. In the words of a latter day country song, he knew when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. By all odds, he was the most skilled negotiator for the company.

Bevo never displayed anger. He might say we disagree but we are not enemies. On one occasion, the company had made a proposal that was a complete bunch of silliness. Bevo had nothing to do with this bizarre business. It fell to me to state the union position with respect to the company’s proposal. I thought of a line that Time Magazine had used about a Senator McReynolds from Bevo’s home state of North Carolina. I wanted to dispose of the company proposal as quickly as possible because it made no sense and it was demeaning. So I quoted Senator McReynolds, who when faced with a similar cockeyed proposal from some senator he disliked, said, “This proposal is like a mackerel in the moonlight. It shines and it stinks.” Bevo laughed his head off and we never heard of this proposal again.

Several other incidents marked the protracted bargaining in 1951. There was old Claude Ballenger again, the man who tried to light his nose instead of a cigar. In explaining how thorough company practices are with respect to promotion, Ballenger said that 95% of the promotions he proposed were turned down by the next level of management. Obviously, Ballenger was trying impress us with the thoroughness of the company’s promotion procedures. But what he did was to indict and destroy his own judgment on promotions. When Claude made his 95% remark, no one on the union side of the table said anything. That silence earned Bevo’s appreciation because he knew what everyone else knew in the bargaining room, that Ballenger was occasionally given to completely duncey thoughts and statements.

Someone had a hand on Ballenger’s shoulders as he was promoted in a short while to two levels higher. As a director, his bosses found Claude incapable of performing at that level. Soon he found himself retired.

Soon after 1951 bargaining started, the company announced that it was moving much of the decision making from headquarters to three new area organizations. The company had picked Vern Bagnell to run the Western Area which was to be based in Kansas City. Bagnell was to take up his new duties at the conclusion of 1951 bargaining, which was expected about July 10th or thereabouts.

As a St. Louisan, I was involved in the new area under Bagnell’s direction. I attempted to make a joke with Bagnell by telling him that he was going to have tough sledding in Kansas City. Summer daytime temperatures in Kansas City ordinarily exceed the 100-degree mark. Bagnell was going to start his new job in July, so I said that he might find tough sledding in Kansas City.

Bagnell didn’t get the joke. He said, “Why should it be tough sledding? I’ve always done well in other jobs.” Clearly, Vern Bagnell didn’t get whatever joke was there. Old Bevo came to my rescue and explained to Bagnell that what I had said was a joke. I dealt with Bagnell on very friendly terms for a year or so after that in Kansas City, but that man was humorless. I never joked with him again.

As the contract was agreed to early one morning after an all night session, Gil Jones asked me to have a drink with him that evening. This was an extremely unusual invitation. So that evening, I met Gil Jones at a midtown hotel, and among other things, he told me that I would be offered a management job in Kansas City by Vern Bagnell of tough sledding fame. I respected Gil Jones a great deal. I suppose that he had some authority to tell me that Bagnell would be calling me with a job offer, but with Gil’s reputation as a maverick, maybe he did it on his own. Nonetheless, I always thought Gil Jones was a first class piece of work.

I am reasonably certain that Bevo Swango had much to do with the offer Gil Jones made to me over drinks. The company suspected that I was going to get a full time union job in New York or Washington or in St. Louis. In point of fact, I had made up my mind to look for other employment after 1951 bargaining was completed. Carl Peters, the Director of the Union, was close to Bevo and I feel certain that he had made mention to Swango that I might be moving on.

There were major problems with offering a management job to a union representative directly after bargaining a new contract. From what I later learned, Bevo argued that the company should move quickly to prevent another Creasey case. Creasey, you may recall, was a Dallas craftsman who rose to become the President of the Union and then went on to become an Assistant Secretary of Labor in Harry Truman’s cabinet. In any case, I am indebted to Bevo for his efforts on my behalf and for our long friendship.

As I told you earlier, Bevo Swango had the number two job in the Long Lines Personnel Department. But the President of Long Lines was a completely bigoted man. His name was Henry T. Killingsworth. He loved to see people grovel before his power in the company. Bevo was too proud to grovel or to shout approval of everything Killingsworth did. Bevo was a man’s man. Killingsworth was a despicable tyrant. Although Bevo and Killingsworth were fellow Southerners, Killingsworth saw to it that Bevo never had a shot at the top job in Long Lines Personnel. What a shame. What a crime.

Things change with time. Somewhere in the 60’s, Bevo began to inherit less prestigious jobs. He clearly was no longer the comer he had been in 1951. As his fortunes seemed to decline, mine were doing better. By leaving Long Lines and going first to the New York Telephone Company and then to the AT&T lobbying job in Washington, my fortunes were looking up. When I returned to Long Lines as a director in 1969, I was able to return a favor or two to Bevo.

Bevo was a good and decent man who was denied the top job in Long Lines Personnel by a man so bigoted that his intellectual integrity must be questioned. Be that as it may, not many people had so many admirers on both the company and the union sides of the fence.

So Bevo Swango, you can’t sing as well as George Beverly Shea, but you are our Beverly and all of us like you just fine.

E. E. CARR
June 4, 2002

~~~

“A man who used three names could usually not be trusted” — what? I could see the case for calling such men pretentious, but untrustworthy seems like such a random conclusion.

Anyway, this essay just gives further insight into the fact that Killingsworth was a prick. And that Bevo seemed like a good guy; it takes a strong person to admit defeat or concede a position, however absurd it may have been. Similarly, for an avowed atheist to praise religious music and regularly attend religious concerts throughout his life, I think it takes someone who is very confident in his own views, likes, and dislikes — and someone who can be comfortable in any environment.

FOUR GOOD GUYS AND A VERY BAD GUY

When I sat down to write this essay, my intentions were to deal with four good guys. John Rosenburg, Dick Lewin and Emory Wilbur were all my colleagues when I was the Labor Relations Manager for AT&T Long Lines from 1955 until 1963. Lowell Wingert, the President of Long Lines, came later.

Unfortunately, my efforts to tell you of these four good men, suffered the intrusion of Henry T. Killingsworth, an evil and miserable man. Killingsworth ran the 35,000 employee Long Lines division of AT&T from about 1950 until 1962 with an iron and biased hand. In the words of a friend who served with me in the U. S. Army, Killingsworth was a spherical SOB. That means that no matter how you looked at him, no matter what angle you viewed him from, he was a miserable SOB. Before I can deal with the four good guys, I suppose I had better deal with Killingsworth.

Killingsworth is a long name so to save space we will call him HTK, his initials. The people who worked with HTK or had anything to do with him, detested him. I spent 33 years of my 43 year telephone career with Long Lines. In all that time, I can’t think of a single act of decency attributable to HTK. He ran Long Lines as a martinet. Finally, his bosses at 195 Broadway tired of his act and moved him to a staff job in the AT&T headquarters where his staff consisted of two or three unlucky individuals. He soon headed into retirement.

Now I hate to waste time on HTK because he was an unspeakably evil and worthless piece of work. He came to New York from South Georgia. He brought with him every racial, religious and social prejudice that afflicted Southerners 30 or 40 years ago.

In the 19th Century, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a poem with the jaw breaking title of “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.” In Killingsworth’s case, I will attempt to try to count a few of the ways that he earned the disdain of the people of Long Lines. Let’s start with the nun who spent countless hours asking for alms in the lobby of the Long Lines Headquarters building at 32 Sixth Avenue in New York.

Outside of working hours, Larry Pierce was a mover and shaker in the American Legion. For the Company, he was responsible, among other duties, for the Headquarters lobby at 32 Sixth Avenue. Each year around Memorial Day, the American Legion asked some of its members to sell paper poppies as a form of remembrance for departed servicemen.

The nun sat with a basket near the entrance to the subway in the lobby of 32 Sixth Avenue. She or her sister nuns bothered no one. When given a contribution, they would simply say “Thank you” or “Bless you.” There was seldom more than one nun on duty in the lobby.

Each year before Memorial Day, Larry Pierce would get permission from his supervisors to call upon Killingsworth to see if it would be agreeable to sell poppies in the lobby. Until this particular year, HTK had always given his permission to Larry Pierce to sell his poppies in the lobby. On this occasion, Larry must have caught Killingsworth on a bad day – of which he had many. When Larry asked for permission to sell poppies as he had done before, Larry said Killingsworth replied, “Hell no. And while you’re at it, get rid of that Goddamn nun.”

The nun bothered no one. HTK was driven by his chauffeur to and from the office and had no occasion to pass the nun. I suppose there was some sort of divine intervention on behalf of the nun because she never seemed to miss a beat.

Now, the end of the year was approaching. Traditionally, the head man at Long Lines would write employees a holiday letter. In it he would say how much he enjoyed working with the employees in the past year and how much be looked forward to working with them again in the coming year. And in previous years he would extend holiday greetings to everyone. That was not Killingsworth’s style.

HTK used the holiday letter to demand more from employees in terms of greater effort and the saving of money. In his year end holiday letter, Killingsworth demanded that employees “take up the slack in the trace chains.” He explained that this was “South Georgia talk.” Actually, that method of speaking had to do with getting greater production out of your team of mules in planting cotton. The trace chains had to do with driving a mule team. HTK thought his holiday letter was clever, effective and well received. In point of fact, outrage was the emotion exhibited by the people who received the letter.

Killingsworth was paid quite well. In the mid 1950’s, his salary was $50,000 per year. He was quite proud of his earnings as it was reported by the FCC. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the New York Yankees enjoyed considerable success in winning pennants and World Series. One of their mainstays after Joe DiMaggio left was a catcher who called St. Louis home. His name, of course, is Laurence Peter “Yogi” Berra. Berra dropped out of schooling after the eighth grade to go to work and to play ball. In recognition of Berra’s contributions to Yankee fortunes, Dan Topping, the President of the Yankees, gave Yogi a $50,000 contract.

For the better part of month, Killingsworth was in an even more foul mood than normal. He referred to Yogi as “that little Dago.” And to think that the “little Dago” was making as much as Killingsworth was more than HTK could bear. Yogi made even more money in the next year or so.

Aside from Italians, HTK had an active bias against Jews, black people, the Episcopal Church, gay people and men who wore bow ties. And he greatly disliked people with labor union backgrounds. I had been the President of the St. Louis Union Local and a member of the national contract bargaining effort in 1950 and in 1951. According to HTK, a special place in hell was reserved in my name. Kind of ecumenical, I suppose.

Earlier in this essay, I said that in all the time I had worked in the telephone business, I could not recall a single act of decency attributable to Killingsworth. Let me give you an example.

When labor contracts are negotiated, the talks on the final day generally go on to 4AM or 5AM before agreement. Ordinarily, contracts expire on their final day at midnight, but in every case where I have been involved, there is an agreement to hold the clock at 11:59PM and to continue talking. I have been on both the Union side and the Company side and I can tell you, that the reason talks go on so long is for the Union negotiators to be able to say to members that they wrung the last drop of concessions out of the Company. Company negotiators would much prefer to reach agreement earlier than the contract deadline, but Union negotiators would balk at such an arrangement. So the talks go into the early hours until everyone is exhausted and then finally, there is some sort of agreement.

After agreement at say 4AM or 5AM, all kinds of work still remains to be done such as deciding about wage schedules and other important matters. Ordinarily, the whole process comes to an end around 7AM or 8AM. This means that the negotiators have been awake for at least 24 hours. The other members of the Company’s negotiation team would be free at that time to go home or to return to their hotel rooms. But not the Labor Relation’s Manager – namely me.

I would go back to the office from the negotiations room to answer questions and in some cases, to accept well wishing from friends. If fortunate, I could leave for home around noon.

During the Killingsworth era, he would frequently call my boss, the Personnel Vice President, or he would call me. Typically, he would complain that we had “given the store away.” Of course, nothing could be further from the facts of the negotiations. But as a general rule, we had to take Killingsworth’s abuse and hope for the best.

Then in 1962, I believe, Killingsworth was relieved of his Long Lines duties and was succeeded by Lowell Wingert, who had been president of the Mountain States Company headquartered in Denver. Wingert had only been on the job for a week or two and I had not met him. I heard he was a good man.

We went through the end of bargaining mating dance that year ending around 7AM. I arrived in the office from the hotel negotiations room a half hour later. The phone rang. The fellow on the other end of the line said he was Lowell Wingert and said we had done a fine job and offered his personal congratulations.

At that point, I had never talked to Lowell Wingert in person or on the phone. For several moments, I thought it was one of my joker friends pulling my leg. So I said something to the effect “Are you really Lowell Wingert?” He said “Man, if you don’t believe me, I’ll walk down to your office and tell you the same thing.” He didn’t offer to call me to his office; he suggested that he knew I was tired and therefore he would come to my office.

I told Lowell Wingert what a contrast he made to that miserable Killingsworth. Wingert laughed. I thanked Wingert and as you might imagine, he is one of my heroes in the telephone business. Lowell Wingert is the first of four good guys in this epic story.

Now we come to Killingsworth’s fixation and obsession with automobile doors. Killingsworth was nuts on this subject.

Harold Patterson, a fine fellow, was the Plant Superintendent in Omaha as I recall it. Pat needed a new car to replace the Company car he drove. So he got bids from Omaha dealers at the time of model changes. He finally found a good deal and bought it. What he didn’t know was that this model came with electric windows. It must have been one of the early such cars, this being in the late 1950’s. When Patterson’s bosses found out about the electric windows, they warned Pat that HTK was death on such devices. Before HTK came to Omaha, Pat had to locate a car with wind up windows before Killingsworth came to visit him. What ever Pat saved on the original purchase was more than lost during the windup door episode.

In the early 1960’s, Killingsworth decided that he wanted a personal Cadillac. He assigned the job to the Personnel Vice President, Bill Whittaker. Whittaker must have spent dozens or hundred of hours in locating the best deal in a Cadillac car. Part of the specification was that HTK wanted his initials on each of the four doors. Finally, the car was delivered. Bill Whittaker proudly showed Killingsworth the new car. As he looked it over, HTK flew into a rage. Each door had a small plaque attached to the doors containing HTK’s initials. The initials on the doors were in BLOCK letters. Killingsworth claimed that he had specified script. So the car was returned to have the four doors replaced. It was not a matter of replacing the block letters with script; HTK demanded that the doors be replaced. I suppose AT&T picked up the extra expense.

Now I end this part of the story of a very bad guy with a thought on personal honesty. AT&T was considered a public utility for many years. For employees, it was required that honesty was a pre-requisite for working for AT&T. Cheating was supposedly not tolerated. Well, HTK had a liberal view on this subject.

When he visited his home territory in Georgia, he returned to New York from Atlanta. HTK had a thing about airplane seating. He insisted that he have a seat near the exit so that he would be the first, or among the first, to leave the airplane. In those days, the flight HTK took originated in New Orleans. AT&T made reservations and paid for HTK’s seat near the door as though he would be traveling from New Orleans to New York. In point of fact, in the leg from New Orleans to Atlanta, HTK’s seat flew as a vacant seat until he claimed it upon boarding in Atlanta. I suppose kings have their privileges.

I will cite one other example of HTK abusing the trust to control expenses of a public utility. Killingsworth decided that he wanted to paste identification markers in his own private library collection. That’s all well and good, but he loaded this project on the Long Lines Public Relations Department. He didn’t go to a bookstore; he asked that Long Lines artists design an identification marker and have it printed. This happened in about 1960 – some 40 years ago. John Rosenburg was sufficiently impressed that he sent a copy of “No frigate like a book” to me. His envelope and the marker are attached.

Comedians often say that people like Killingsworth are going to put markers in their whole library – both books. Unfortunately, HTK had hundreds of these markers printed – at AT&T’s expense. Maybe he had only two books but he had hundreds of the markers printed.

I know this story of Killingsworth’s failings is longer and drearier than even I thought. These are only some of the recollections that come to mind after forty years. But now that HTK is largely out of the way, let’s go on to some cheerful news about some good guys. Whereas Killingsworth was unspeakably evil, there were three gentlemen, aside from Lowell Wingert, 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 contract negotiations which took place almost yearly, the three men more or less lived with us. 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 most bargaining sessions, no 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 about my age. He had spent a lifetime in newspaper work. Before he came with AT&T, John had worked for United Press International. John had the skepticism and brashness 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, an American soldier, married a Frenchwoman, and John was a product of that marriage. But that made no difference to Killingsworth. With all the certainty that a South Georgia upbringing can offer, Killingsworth seemed to take credit for having a pressman with a minority background.

Somewhere in the early 1960’s, John tired of Killingsworth’s patronizing attitude and took a transfer to Philadelphia where he worked for the Bell Company there until he retired. After a lapse of perhaps twenty years, I spoke to John after I wrote this essay. He laughs just the way he did 40 years ago. And we both remember the same stories about Killingsworth. John is a first class piece of work.

Killingsworth did not run over John Rosenburg because of his demeanor and because of the credentials he brought to the job. On the other hand, Dick Lewin and Emory Wilbur were sort of shy, retiring types of men. That is how it appeared to people who didn’t know them. But in their reporting on news within the Bell System, they did not run from controversy. Fortunately, the Public Relations Vice President defended them because they were almost always right.

Both men, as I recall it, were single. Both were tall and handsome. Dick Lewin lived in Greenwich Village. According to Killingsworth that made both of them queer, as it was then termed. To top it all off, Dick Lewin attended an Episcopalian church in the Village, so Killingsworth said Lewin was a Jew. According to Killingsworth, every Jew who attempts to act as a gentile joins the Episcopal Church. Most Episcopalian preachers have never tumbled to that fact, but Killingsworth knew all about it.

Two more decent men never lived. I’m here to tell you that Dick Lewin and Emory Wilbur were top notch people who would be welcomed in my home anytime. I have no reason to believe that either one was gay – and that would make no difference. And as far as Lewin’s religious preference, John Rosenburg told me that Dick’s family had always been Episcopalians. I have not seen either one of those fellows for many years, but I thought it right to set the record straight on them.

The passage of three or four decades has not diminished my respect for John Rosenburg or Emory Wilbur or Dick Lewin or Lowell Wingert. They were good, decent men back then. Maybe there will be more like them in the future, but I’m not so sure. I just hope so.

A sad note. When I called Dick Lewin’s residence in the Village after I wrote this essay, I was told that Dick died of kidney failure at the end of August, 2001. He was 80 years of age.

E. E. Carr
September 6, 2001

~~~
Wow, Pop just missed being able to speak to Lewin — that’s really rough. Killingsworth seems a little like a comic book villain. More essays about him can be found here and here. The Cadillac and library anecdotes both seem more than a little absurd, but I guess archetype of the self-impressed businessman is nothing new, and certainly hasn’t gone anywhere in modern times.

SO. PRETENTIOUS.

THE OLD REXBILT BRIEFCASE

Last week, I was startled to read in New Jersey’s leading journal, the “Star Ledger,” that the deposed head man of Lucent, Richie McGinn, got a going away present of 12 million dollars. His Chief Financial Officer, Debra Hopkins, who had only a year of service with Lucent, got pretty close to 4 million dollars. I had reason to be startled as both were fired. They were discharged as in dismissed. There was no camouflage about the separation such as a leave of absence or special assignments. They were simply fired. On the way out the door, Richie McGinn put $12 million in his pocket. Ms. Hopkins found her purse heavy to carry as it had an extra $4 million in it. Now do you wonder why in a year, Lucent stock has dropped from $78 per share to its current state of trying to stay near $6 per share?

Well naturally, this brought up a memory of my departure from an organization that I had been closely associated with. That would have been Local 5 of the Long Lines Telephone Workers which became Local 6350 of the Communications Workers of America a month or two before I left. I was not fired. I left the Union with handshakes all around and a couple of drinks. I simply took a management job that made me ineligible to participate in Union work. So as I left the Union, there was no severance pay because my job as Local President was unsalaried. The same goes for my job as Union negotiator in national contract bargaining. We just had the handshakes, a drink or two and a well used briefcase. I’ll tell you a little more about the old briefcase, which is the reason for this essay.

I was discharged from the Army on November 8, 1945. About the 15th of that month, AT&T said to come back to work. The job that the Company had cobbled together was simply a make-work effort. In spite of the fact that the Company had plenty of advance notice, the jobs provided to returning service men were largely meaningless. The Company had failed to think through its work operations so the returning veterans were left to twiddle their thumbs. No one ever asked us what we would like to do upon returning to work. And curiously, management continued the wartime practice of four hours overtime on three nights of the week. So we had lots of time on our hands.

During that winter of 1945 – 1946, I had my share of health problems. I had just turned 23 years of age but I felt like an old man. Malaria was a constant companion. I spent two weeks in the Veteran’s Hospital at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri for pneumonia. On top of all that John Lewis, the boss of the Miners, was threatening more strikes. Most houses or flats or apartments in St. Louis were heated by coal, so a strike by the Mine Workers was a serious threat. During the war, John Lewis had threatened or had struck coal mines. Largely because of Lewis, I was down on unions and did not belong to the telephone workers union.

Then in the spring of 1946 came a wake up call. In calculating where returning service men were to be on the wage scale, the Company made what it called an “inadvertent error.” None of us believed the inadvertence story. In any case, each of us was short a few hundred dollars. Later, the Company paid the money while admitting no fault in its withholding.

As soon as I returned to work, union people tried to get me to join the union and to run for office. In all candor, the candidates needed to run with a veteran. So after the Company’s “inadvertence” in the wage scale calculations, I said “sign me up.” I believe my first elected office was Chief Steward but that soon morphed into the Local Vice President’s job. In 1948, I ran for the President’s job and was elected. In 1950, I was re-elected without opposition.

So now about the briefcase. Sometime in 1946, the Union decided to give two of its officers Rexbilt briefcases. They cost more than the Local could really afford but they were good, quality briefcases. They had handles and a lock. They sat on the floor and were opened from the top. And they could carry lots of important papers. Sometimes when the occasion called for a drink, the briefcase carried a bottle or bottles of whiskey.

A small digression about whiskey. The Local in St. Louis had responsibility for all the Construction Gangs in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. I made several field trips to meet with the Construction Gangs. These men were at the bottom of the pay scales and in the Company’s affections. Most were poorly educated. They often lived in rooming houses that could be considered flophouses. They were away from home from five to seven days per week. They ate in greasy spoon cafes. These fellows drove the Caterpillar tractors, the cable plows and the bulldozers. They handled the jackhammers. In short, they did the most miserable jobs in the Company for less than adequate pay. And much of their work while I was there took place in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas – either completely dry states or at best, subject to local option liquor laws.

It would be unthinkable in the late 1940’s for a fellow from St. Louis, in a wet state, to go meet with Construction Gang men in say Enid, Oklahoma or Madisonville, Texas, without offering a drink or two. The drinks came from that famous briefcase. If the bottles were shaped properly, the briefcase could hold three fifths or quarts. The papers that might have been carried in the briefcase were carried under the arm. First things first. So you see, that old briefcase bought salvation and redemption to the thirsty in the southwestern part of the United States.

I had the briefcase during the national telephone strike in 1947. It made several trips to New York to pursue bargaining with the Company on contract matters. It made several trips around Local 5 territory in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. And it accompanied me to national conventions in Chicago, Grand Rapids, Cleveland and other places. In short, the old leather briefcase showed its nicks and scratches but it still got the job done.

So it was in July of 1951, fifty years ago, Vern Bagnall, the Western Area General Manager, summoned me to Kansas City and offered me a management job. The pay was $470 per month. I thought that was miserly but after a while I took the job. I called back to St. Louis and asked Gordon Sallee, the Vice President of the Local, to hold a meeting of the Executive Committee that evening to accept my resignation. I went directly from the St. Louis Airport to the Union’s office. The union office was an ordinary bedroom, without the bed, at the Claridge Hotel on 18th or 19th Streets in St. Louis. When I walked in the office, every one was there. Gordon Sallee, Stanley Bare, Ann Schiffer, Gloria Gilson, Ed Ward, Johnnie Watters and Art Ford. There was no place to sit, so I expressed my thanks for the opportunity to serve the Union standing up. And then I returned the old briefcase apologizing for its scratches.

Gordon Sallee made a few well-appreciated remarks and took the old briefcase. I shook hands all around and then Gordon said that if I retired to the lounge on the first floor, some of the participants might later like to have a drink with me.

So I went to the bar and ordered a drink. As I recall it, ordinary bourbon was 50¢. Fancy stuff like Jack Daniels was 65¢, and scotch, which I drank, was 75¢. Before I finished my drink, the whole Executive Committee joined me in the bar. After some hemming and hawing, Gordon Sallee said they had a present for me. He reached under the table and presented me with my old briefcase. It was not wrapped, of course. Gordon Sallee said it came with the sincere best wishes of the officers and members of Local 6350 of the Communications Workers of America. I was very grateful for the present and what it represented.

I used the briefcase until it couldn’t be repaired anymore. I think an argument could be made – and I will make it – that receiving that gift from the union members in St. Louis may have given me as much pleasure as Richie McGinn’s $12 million. I never had $12 million or anything like it, but at least those folks in St. Louis didn’t run me off and I believe, would welcome me back into their ranks if I ever needed to go back.

I know that time goes on. As I said, it has been 50 years since all the events in this essay happened. In that span of years, every person on the Local 6350 Executive Committee has died. I know that in 50 years people die, but to me, the briefcase incident seems like yesterday. And my memories of those people are all still fresh in my mind.

E. E. CARR
August 20, 2001

~~~
Here is, I’m pretty sure, the briefcase in question:

I believe that this is was also the briefcase used to tote watermelons in the recent essay “ON TO MOTHER ENGLAND AND THE U S OF A.”

I like to think that the booze was more useful in negotiations than any paper ever would be, and it makes me smile to think about Pop running around the country with a nice briefcase full of liquor (and the occasional melon). It was also sweet of the union to give it back to him at the end of things. Definitely a classy move.

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.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER

When I was in the labor relations business in New York City, a pompous, Harvard-trained lawyer offered me legal advice for about five of those years. In addition to his degree from Harvard, this lawyer had three first names. Obviously, because of his training and his birthright, this lawyer was my superior in every respect, including moral, societal and ethical considerations. But when it down came down to a “brass tacks” situation, I found myself relying on my own logic rather than the Harvard-trained lawyer’s advice. He was nice to have around but when the union people on the other side of the table would demand to know “Why did you do the following?”, I could not say that I did it because I was relying on a lawyer trained in Boston.

Frequently when an issue or a question arose, this lawyer would refer to it as “the case at bar”. He used that expression on many occasions, even when the debate was whether we should eat lunch at the company cafeteria or go to a small sandwich shop outside the building.

My association with this barrister occurred at the end of the 1950s and into the beginning of the 1960s. Arithmetic tells me that I knew the pompous gentleman fairly close to 50 years ago, but nonetheless the expression “the case at bar” has stayed with me for all of the intervening years. A stroke, aphasia and the passage of time have not eroded that thought from my mind.

And so it is that the case at bar today is aphasia. A neurologist might describe aphasia in clinical terms but I am not a clinician and I will try to tell you what it means in practical terms. Aphasia results from having a stroke. Aphasia is a pretty fair trade-off when one considers that strokes can cripple the limbs and put one in a wheelchair. Aphasia sufferers usually walk like everyone else, but when they talk, sometimes their speech comes with uncommon difficulties to bring the words out of their mouths. The stroke that happened to me occurred in November of 1997, which was ten years ago.

For the ensuing decade, aphasia has bedeviled me on hundreds or perhaps thousands of occasions. I once tried to make a list of the words that gave me trouble, but in the end I had to give it up because I simply could not recall those words. In my case and in many other cases of aphasia, the disability affects the brain’s recovery of nouns. For example, there are times when I may be speaking to a person and, in the midst of the conversation, aphasia will strike and I can’t recall his name. I know who I am talking to but I am simply unable to get his name from my brain to my vocal cords so that I might say, “Thank you, Joe”.

Curiously in my case, aphasia obliterates some words that I have known intimately for years. For example, glaucoma has had a strangle hold on members of the Carr family, but on many occasions, I cannot call its name, even though it is the source of the Carr family blindness. In November of 1997, I reported to Shirley Morgenstein, the Director of Speech Therapy at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. After several sessions, I was advised by Shirley that writing essays might be helpful. When I began to write this essay or, as we say, the “essay at bar”, the word Kessler was nowhere to be found in my alleged mind. In the Chicago traffic office, I sat next to Clarence Kessler and over the years I have tried to think of him when I needed to pronounce the word of the rehab institute. But that has gone away. Now, as of this morning, I remember the Kessler name from a World War II air field of the same name in Mississippi that was known by its terrible food and draconian discipline. In the article that follows, you may see other word associations that I use to get along.

When I first became totally blind more than two years ago, I wrote an essay entitled “Sing No Sad Songs for This Old Geezer”. I ask you now to sing no sad songs for me, because thousands of other people with aphasia are in much worse shape than I am. As one example, there is a story of a man who is being berated by a supermarket clerk for holding up the line. The line was being held up because this aphasia sufferer could not bring the words “thank you” to his lips. I presume that the thank you was intended for the clerk who excoriated the aphasia sufferer.

Now it is well known that people very much like to be with other people of their own nationality, religion, and, in this case, ailment. Shirley Morganstein now runs, with her partner, a company based in Montclair, New Jersey called “Speaking of Aphasia”. It turns out that people who wrestle with aphasia every day have an organization which publishes a newsletter. Earlier this year, Shirley suggested that I might write an article for the use of the editors of the publication devoted to people who are entangled with that disability. Shirley’s wish is my command, as it has been for the past decade. And so it is that an article entitled “Dodging Bullets” (see attachment) has been submitted to the editor of the newsletter which is circulated among these birds of a feather who deal with aphasia. At Shirley’s request, her name has been eliminated from the actual submission. But she is the mover and shaker in my essay writing career.

When submitting this article, the record should show that while I cannot recall the name of the words persimmon or Kessler, I can recall instantly the thought about the case at bar. If I ever meet another pompous attorney, I will use that term in the hope that he will consider me a Harvard-trained lawyer with three initials before my family name. And if I recite the maxim of “birds of a feather flock together”, that other person will think that I am a poet. Not bad for a blind guy who can’t remember the word glaucoma.

E. E. CARR
January 23, 2008
Essay 288
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: Does Pop still remember the business guy? Has his opinion changed at all since 2008? Was any feedback on “Dodging bullets” ever received?

Of course, Dodging Bullets has already been published and can be found here.

GUNS

The title suggests that the subject for this essay is guns. If there is a more unqualified writer on this particular subject, he is unknown to man or beast. I have never owned a firearm. I do not ever intend to buy one. Now it is true that from the early part of 1943 through the beginning months of 1945 I made my living, or nearly dying, from firearms. It was a machine gun that was owned by the United States Army. The gun was loaned to me on the condition that I kept it in good repair and at the end, returned it to the owner. The last shot that came from that borrowed gun was probably fired in late 1944 or early 1945. For the next 65 years, I have been absolutely free of any type of firearm. When I returned the machine gun to the United States Army, I was thinking that the old spiritual should apply. That of course would be “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.”

Two events have occurred this summer that have caused me to once again think about guns. The first has to do with those who are seeking to protect their second amendment rights by carrying loaded pistols to the town meetings being held by congressmen. The second event involves a wide receiver for the New York Giants football team who had a regrettable incident at the Latin Quarter Night Club in New York City.

When guns are carried by citizens, they often proclaim that they are within the law and are fully protected by the Second Amendment to our Constitution. The Second Amendment reads as follows: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. In neither of the cases that inspired this essay is there any hint of a “well regulated militia.” But nonetheless, we have citizens showing up at town hall rallies carrying loaded pistols, followed by the incident at the Latin Quarter nightclub.

Taking first things first, it should be noted that in the month of August, politicians tend to leave Washington, DC and head back to their home districts. While they are there, they often hold town meetings to sense the pulse of the people.

Generally speaking, a high percentage of the members of the House of Representatives and a few senators contend that Washington is an evil place. In the town meetings, these representatives suggest to their constituents that only they can straighten out the evilness that pervades our capital city. In spite of the evil nature that is perceived by a good many congressmen, they tend to do everything that can be done to win re-election so that they can return to the evil city. I should think that it ought to be the other way around. If a Representative from Utah, for example, found Washington DC to be so evil, why would he want to ever go back? But the fact of the matter is that all of the Representatives and all of the Senators do everything within their power to be re-elected and to be sent back to Washington.

During the 1960s, it was my great pleasure to spend the better part of four years in our capital city lobbying for the great AT&T Company. For a man such as myself who comes from St. Louis, I found the climate to be ordinary. Of course, it gets warm in Washington during July and August, but the same could be said of Corpus Christi, Texas. In any event, the representatives and senators that we send to Washington typically tend to return to their districts after having declared themselves in recess for the month of August. This is a fairly cushy job in that our representatives, as a general rule, work only three days per week. They leave home on Monday evening, show up on Tuesday, and by Thursday evening they are headed back home. So I do not see this as a wrenching drama that drains all of their energy from them.

But in any case, when they go home in August, they often hold town meetings. What has disturbed me is that in the year of 2009, a good number of people show up at these meetings carrying firearms. They contend that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives them that right and that they are there to exercise it. It seems to me that a good many of those who carry arms are intent upon telling the news media that they are doing so.

I may not be an expert on guns but I do claim some expertise on human behavior. I simply do not buy the argument that if everybody were armed, things would be more peaceful. I contend that if everybody were armed, there would be more killings than there are today. It is my suggestion that a speaker who exercises some passion may well arouse one of the armed persons. It has always seemed to me that a person does not go out in public carrying firearms without having the intent to use them. In my humble opinion, firearms have no place at all in a public meeting. Yet in the meetings with the representatives and senators, we find that a handful of armed men show up and brag about their armaments. To a European, this must seem like a preposterous American development. I consider it a preposterous American development as well.

Finally of course with respect to carrying arms to town meetings, I am forced to again observe that this country has a president whose father is of African descent. In the first seven months of the Obama administration, it is my belief that a percentage of the people who oppose him may do so for racial reasons. This is not a farfetched idea. This country has lost two of Kennedy brothers to assassins. Should there be more?

My conclusion is that carrying a loaded firearm to a meeting where contentious issues may be discussed is an invitation to use the firearm against a speaker with whom one has a disagreement. And for those who nurture resentment toward people of African heritage, whether they admit it or not, it could well be that in the excitement of a public debate we might lose another official. Firearms have no place at public meetings. I wish that they could be left at home or, indeed, never bought. But the courts have construed the Second Amendment, which has to do with well-regulated militias, into citizens claiming that they have the right to carry arms both concealed and in the open. I believe that this country can do without another assassination. Carrying these guns to meetings that are contentious may well provide a short-tempered person with an opportunity to shoot somebody. We have enough shootings without inciting more.

The second reason for my concern at this date involves Plaxico Burress, the former wide receiver for the New York Giants. In February of 2007 at the Super Bowl game, it was Mr. Burress who caught a pass from his quarterback that enabled the New York Giants to gain a victory and become world champions. Now in less than two years, Mr. Burress is headed for jail, which will be his home for the better part of two years.

This whole episode started when Plaxico Burress decided that he needed a firearm to complete his outfit when he went nightclubbing at the Latin Quarter Club in New York. Now Mr. Burress, who clearly is not among the brightest people on this earth, decided that he did not need a holster to carry his pistol. Rather he stuck it in the waistband of his trousers. It may be that in dancing the tango, the gun slipped from Mr. Burress’s waistband, but one way or the other the pistol fell to the floor. This is where the music should have stopped. But in any case, when his pistol hit the floor he had not bothered to use the safety on it. On striking the floor, the pistol fired, which is what it is supposed to do when the safety is off. The bullet grazed Mr. Burress’s leg so that he needed some first aid attention and it narrowly missed an employee of the club.

It could well be that a person who is not as well known as Mr. Burress could have escaped the police attention that followed. When Burress got patched up at a hospital, the police began to investigate what had happened and so it was that Plaxico was charged with a felony which in New York State carried a three-and-a-half-year sentence upon conviction. There was a secondary charge that carried only a two-year prison sentence.

Before it was done, old Plaxico decided that he did not want to stand trial and he pleaded guilty to the secondary charge, which means that he is now an inmate of the New York state prison system for two years. He is 32 years of age and he says that he hopes to straighten his life out and that he would like to return to the National Football League. I can tell you that there are very few clubs that would sign a 34-year-old wide receiver with a prison record such as Mr. Burress will have. I believe his chances for employment on a football club are, as they say in soccer, nil.

It seems to me that people who carry loaded firearms to town meetings are as thoughtless as Plaxico Burress. Perhaps it might be that carrying a loaded pistol might increase a man’s sense of masculinity. I consider it to be an exercise in stupidity. But be that as it may, you have these laws on the books that are greatly connected to the Second Amendment to our constitution under which some people claim the right to carry loaded firearms. Perhaps the people who attend political rallies might draw a lesson or two from the Plaxico Burress incident. When that gun struck the floor, it fired a bullet that grazed Burress’s leg. It could just as well have fired that bullet into Burress’s private parts, which may well have deprived him of his manhood forever. Perhaps those who go armed to political meetings might well keep the fate of Plaxico in mind.

E. E. CARR
August 25, 2009
Essay 409
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Kevin’s commentary: Public places are bad places for guns. Bars are bad places for guns — not just due to dancing-related issues, but bars tend to have drunk people getting in fights. Barfights should not feature pistols. Lots and lots of other places are bad for guns too. In fact, basically every place that isn’t an active war zone qualifies as a bad place for a gun to be.

Honestly the only other place where it really makes sense to have a gun, if of course you’re a crazy person who decides he or she needs one, is in your house. So that way when the burglar comes, you may murder him in your foyer just like you’ve always wanted. Aside from that ‘protection’ element there is practically no use for the object. Shootings like Aurora have taught us that the “good guy with a gun will stop bad guy with a gun” line of reasoning is utter horseshit, because the person who wins a gunfight is the person who comes prepared to that fight. The aurora shooter had full bulletproof riot gear on. Some asshole with a pistol is just going to get himself killed.
Stop bringing your guns out of your house. Stop having guns at all, Jesus. They do so so so much more harm than good, it’s preposterous.

Merry Christmas!