Archive for the September Category


This dictation is taking place on Sunday, September 2nd, which happens to be a Sabbath in the Christian faith. And so it is that I have a pair of Sabbath thoughts. One is of recent vintage and the other reaches back to, I believe, 1958. Let us take the one of most recent vintage.

Last week, the National Catholic Register had an interview with a prominent theologian of 78 years who offered this thought. His name is Father Benedict Groeschel. He belongs to the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, which he founded. What Father Groeschel had to say was simply stunning. He contended that relations between priests and male children were heterosexual and that in years past nothing was made of these relationships. Anyone reading what Father Groeschel had to say and preach would be thoroughly shocked. In effect, Father Groeschel contended that in a good many cases, a youngster seduced the priest into having a pedophile relationship.

According to the National Catholic Register, a youngster with a problem would go to a priest and before long a priest would be seduced into anal penetration of the boy. May I suggest that Father Groeschel is showing all of his 78 years by such a thought. Ten-year-old boys want to play games of baseball and basketball; seducing a priest of say 25 or 28 years is the last thing on their minds. But Father Groeschel insisted in his interview with the National Catholic Register that this was the case. It was the children who were at fault in the scandal involving pedophile priests. I have nothing to do with the workings of the Catholic Church, as is widely known. But my thoughts were aroused to the point of anger by Father Groeschel’s attempt to move the debate about pedophile priests from the priests to the children involved.

I have known about Father Groeschel for a good many years. As unlikely as it may seem, on Monday nights at 10 PM I watched a program on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The woman who ran the program was named Mother Angelica. She was a lively sort of person, well into her 70s, and she was a non-stop talker. During her talks, she would even show trinkets and pamphlets or books that might interest the Catholic faithful.

I never knew what Mother Angelica’s proper name was. I am guessing that she was probably of Irish origin. It was quite clear that when you thought of the Eternal Word Television Network, you automatically thought of Mother Angelica. In between selling the trinkets and the pamphlets, she would have a number of guests appearing on her program. Mother Angelica was a glib speaker who wandered from one subject to another but her audience followed right with her. There are some who would say that Mother Angelica was a BS artist. I believe that is an accurate description, and I should know about that because I am one myself.

Unfortunately, in about the year 2004 Mother Angelica suffered a severe stroke that left her unable to speak. Apparently her brain was so damaged that speech became impossible for her. From time to time, one of the EWTN staff would have lunch with Mother Angelica and report on her progress or non-progress.

When Mother Angelica was in full control of her thoughts, she would often have the then Father Groeschel as her guest. In those days, Groeschel talked in moderate terms. Occasionally, responding to Mother Angelica, he would display a flash of humor. So you can see how his remarks to the National Catholic Register would have turned this world upside down when he accused the youths of being the seducers of the pedophile priests.

On Mother Angelica’s program, Groeschel always appeared in a gray robe. I don’t know what the significance of the gray robe might have been, but it was always present when he visited Mother Angelica. I would suggest that when Groeschel had his robe cleaned, he must have taken leave of his reasoning power. I was amazed to see this man who was rational offer such a thought about the boys who were being abused in the pedophile scandal.

Now you may come to ask why a non-believer such as myself was watching the Eternal Word Television Network. I suppose that program offered comedic properties which tended to lighten when Mother Angelica with her glib patter was the hostess. On the other hand, in a more pragmatic manner, I was waiting for the eleven o’clock news. So between those two thoughts with some time to kill, I often came to rest on Monday nights watching the EWTN program. Seriously, since I have become blind, I have not listened to that program in seven years.

When Mother Angelica was hospitalized, her successor was a woman from Sarasota named Johnette. Her last name had its roots in the eastern European culture. Apparently the EWTN program under the new hostess was nothing like the program under Mother Angelica. Johnette was very serious. There was one occasion when she wanted to refer to Hell. Rather than using the word “Hell,” she remained silent and pointed downward. Even I got the message. There was an occasion when her son was killed in an automobile accident in Florida. He had been a soldier during the Vietnamese war and Johnette commented, “We prayed him through that war and now this happens!” It remains a mystery as to whether Johnette was thinking that God was punishing her.

Well, as you can see, I am a veteran of watching the program on Monday nights. I enjoyed being entertained by Mother Angelica. I may assure you that she did not convince me to join the Catholic Church. I have not watched that programming for more than seven years. It may be that Groeschel was temporarily out of his mind when he said that the youngsters were to blame in the priestly pedophile scandal. Groeschel was hit by an automobile a few years ago during which he contended that he was so seriously injured that he was given the last rites of the Catholic Church. It may be that we are talking to the resurrected Groeschel as opposed to the Groeschel who appeared on Mother Angelica’s program.

In any case, after the interview was published, Father Groeschel must have been appalled. He issued an apology which was not really an apology. That man has a facile way of expressing himself. I fully expect that if he had told Mother Angelica that it was the boys who seduced the priests, Mother Angelica would have hit him over the head with one of the sacred lamps that she was attempting to sell.

Well, so much for the Groeschel affair. It was a sordid experience. Perhaps Father Groeschel will think twice in future announcements.


Now we turn to another matter having to do with the Catholic Church as well as with the United States Army. In 1958, the vicars in Rome who belonged to the Vatican announced that the mother of Jesus was a “perpetual virgin.” This is a preposterous thought in my estimation. But let us look at the facts.

Mary was the wife of Joseph. During their union, at least two children were born to this couple. There are several references in the Bible to a person named James who was the son of Mary and Joseph. Secondly she gave birth to Jesus. When the vicars in the Vatican say that Mary is a “perpetual virgin” they may not understand that marriage and giving birth to a child destroy all evidence of virginity. The question here is how the cardinals and other high prelates of the Church could make such a blunder. No man with half a brain could ever consider Mary a virgin. As a non-believer, I think of Mary quite warmly in spite of her being a perpetual virgin. I can think of some women who are the epitome of perpetual virginism.

My belief is that the people in the Vatican tried to outdo each other in their devotion to Mary. They took a married woman and began to try to top each other. So it is that in 1958, Mary was named a perpetual virgin. Not only that, but she was physically transferred to Heaven, where she sits presumably near the throne of God.

There is one other case involving adherence to the faith in trying to outdo each other. You may recall that on December 7, 1941, we were attacked by the Japanese. At the War Department, which preceded the Pentagon, someone had the wild idea that we had to distinguish the peacetime army from the one that would be assembled to fight the Japanese and the Germans. The process is very much the same in that one person’s ideas would be topped by someone else’s idea.

With all of this business about the peacetime army versus the newcomers’, the War Department decided with grand fanfare that the peacetime service for December 7, 1941 and earlier would be called the United States Army. After much deliberation, those of us who joined the army after December 7, 1941, were to be called – now get this – the Army of the United States. My service began after December 7, 1941. My discharge and all of my orders say that I was a member of the Army of the United States.

Significantly, the decision to dub Mary a perpetual virgin and the War Department debate about the United States Army versus the Army of the United States were made without female input. My guess is that the decision about Mary being a perpetual virgin and the decision to name soldiers such as myself as members of the Army of the United States might have had a different outcome if a woman had been present.

I know that there are those who look askance at my blending of debate over Mary’s virginity together with the United States brouhaha but that is what you get when you sit down to dictate an essay on a Sabbath morning.

Well, there you have my thoughts on this Sabbath morning. I assume that most of my readers will probably agree with my thoughts on the virginity of Father Groeschel. He deserves no sympathy. As for my thoughts on the perpetual virginity of Mary and the debate about what to call those who enlisted after December 7, I suspect that there may be more controversy. But be that as it may, what you see is what you get. And for better or worse, they are my thoughts on these two important matters. My 90th birthday is behind me, as is my time in puberty. Given those facts, I think it is time for an old geezer like myself to state what he considers to be the unvarnished truth.

Now if you wish to take exception to my thoughts, there is a website which can be reached at The editor of Ezra’s Essays will be glad to receive your comments. So I write the essays and give my readers a chance to respond. What could be fairer than that?

September 2, 2012
Essay 692


Kevin’s commentary: Loving the plug at the bottom there! Of course I welcome all commentary on the essays, and often discuss said comments with Pop.  This commentary, other people’s input, and his reactions to both are probably my favorite part of this entire blog.  Unfortunately for the sake of argument I can offer little to disagree with Mr. Carr here; I think he’s spot-on on all counts. Though I definitely didn’t see the latter half of this essay coming.  The thought that they were trying to pin the molestation charges on the children is sickening. And regardless of the existence of Jesus’s brother, I have always been of the opinion that the entire Christian religion has formed itself around a lie about an affair that got WAY out of hand.  Eventually someone will invent a time machine and bring a video camera back to the year of our lord, and we could see for sure. That’d be nice.




This essay is being dictated on the Friday evening of September 14.  At the moment, I am in a thoroughly somber mood.  The somber mood comes from having listened to the broadcast from Andrews Air Force Base, which was the site of ceremonies honoring the four dead Americans who perished recently in Libya.

If I may say so, at the possible expense of bragging, the American military is superb at welcoming home its fallen heroes.  It may be that this expertise comes from continued practice.  Military music has many critics.  I am not one of them.  There were three musical selections that were played for the ceremony.  I suppose that this band would be considered a brass band in that there were no instruments such as violins or violas.

When the airplane rolled to a complete stop, there were four hearses with open doors waiting for the transfer of the fallen diplomats.  Of course the band played “Nearer My God to Thee.”  Next they played “America the Beautiful.”  Finally, they played “Going Home.”  Before the airplane bearing the bodies came to a complete stop, tears filled my eyes.  Those tears did not leave until well after the ceremonies were completed.

I defy any thinking human being to remain unmoved by a ceremony such as this.  I have been a crier at ceremonies such as this for our soldiers as well as for British soldiers and a few French and Polish soldiers as well.  Am I given to blubbering when such a ceremony takes place?  Of course not.  When I think of those that are left behind, tears always fill my eyes.  There are wives who are now widowed.  There are fatherless children who will grow up not knowing the strength of a father’s hand.  There are parents who raised this child to maturity who will miss him more than anyone can imagine.  There are siblings who will remember jokes they played on each other as well as the affection they shared with their brother.  And there are thousands of people who will miss the warm smiles of the one who lies in that casket.

The four diplomats who came home today were not known to me at all.  Yet I feel tremendous warmth for those who gave their lives on foreign battlefields such as Libya.

At this juncture, I am an old man with my 90th birthday behind me.  My recollections go back to the Second World War when the Americans suffered something more than 400,000 casualties.  When I traveled to foreign lands, I often made it a point to go by a military cemetery.  My visits were not confined to American military cemeteries.  Often I would sit on a stone slab and wonder what had been gained or lost by the sacrifice of these brave men.  I am not given to melancholy.   I did this as a tribute to those who gave their lives in defense of liberty.

Now to bring it a bit closer to home.  From 1942 until the end of 1945, I served in the United States Air Force.  There were not all that many funerals that took place because when a warplane is shot out of the sky over enemy territory, there is no one to retrieve the bodies.  I can understand that our enemies would not be anxious to provide a fitting resting place for our airmen who had been shot down.  That simply goes with the territory.

And to draw the noose a little tighter, when faced by the prospect of death, my recollections are that I said to myself, “Good Jesus, so this is where it comes to an end, in this forsaken place.”  I did not of course – did not – appeal to some celestial being such as God to save me.  For all I knew, God or the Holy Ghost may have held the Germans in great favor.  As far as I could tell, no one else in that situation was fearful of some punishment from God or one of His subordinates.  Under attack, the ordinary human being, be he American or British or French or German, fought as hard as he could to preserve his life.  More than anything else, this attitude tended to confirm my thoughts about my religious non-belief.

I grieved for those who had been shot down and did not fill the bunks in our tents or barracks.  But the grief of any soldier has to be kept under control because tomorrow he may be the soldier who has to conduct an air raid in enemy territory.  It is quite likely that there should be no grieving because tomorrow it may be me.

But I am always moved by ceremonies such as we witnessed today.  The old Protestant hymn “Nearer My God to Thee” is well known to many of us who were subjected to religious ceremonies during our childhood.  I often recall that the band aboard the Titanic played that hymn as the waters came to flood the Titanic.

I have often thought that “America The Beautiful” would make a superior anthem to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

When the band strikes up “Going Home,” it strikes me that it would take a brave man or a not-connected man to ignore that melody.  The words are:

Going home, going home,

I’m just going home.

It’s not far, just close by,

Through an open door.

Mother’s there waiting for me…

At this point, I cannot recall all of the lyrics.  It seems to me that the beautiful melody was the product of a Czech composer.  The music was written by Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904).  It is based on the Largo movement from the New World Symphony.

Dvorak was a man after my own heart.  He combined the effects of symphonic music with his interest in Negro spirituals.  When Dvorák took a job in this country, he insisted that it should not interfere with his interest in and study of Negro spirituals.  I find those spirituals entirely moving.  Good for Antonin Dvorák.

As I have said, I am thoroughly proud of the United States military who welcomed home the bodies of the four diplomats who were slain in Libya.  This was a noble occasion.

At the very moment that these four were being returned, Mitt Romney was engaged in a political rally which he deemed to be more necessary than observing the rites for the fallen diplomats.  Romney has been off his game for a while.  This was an ignoble gesture.  It tended to send the message that Romney thumbed his nose at the ceremonies for the four slain diplomats who were brought home.  But as I said, Romney has been in a slump these days.

By dictating these lines, my mood has tended to improve.  And when I think of sticky situations involving military combat, my thoughts always come back to Harry Livermore, my great and good friend.  Harry was a religious man.  His religion was in one place and his desire to win the war was in another place.  Harry is gone now but I always think of him when situations such as those faced by the diplomats in Libya are involved.

So these are my thoughts on this somber afternoon.  I do not wish to transfer my troubles to you.  You have plenty by yourself.  But I did want to record my thoughts, which explain why I cry at military ceremonies, particularly when the military band plays, “Going home, going home, it’s not far, just close by through an open door.”



September 14, 2012

Essay 695




Kevin’s commentary:

Loved this one. September was a heavy, heavy month this year. And now to hear Romney freak out about the rhetoric used by Obama when his own actions… ugh. It’s just frustrating.

Some pretty big changes to the site today. Pictures were added to the essay “Can you read this upside down,” as well as a fuller version of the lyrics to Pop’s dirty ditty. Previous Pop comments from email conversations have also been added to the “Kevin’s commentary” section of earlier posts. Nearly every post from this past week now has a response from Pop to my commentary, and in almost every case they are fantastic. The meaning of Num Num Speck is revealed, for instance. Go check it out!


[Note from Kevin — This is the continuation of this essay, entitled Setting a Nose Alight, about Pop’s time with the labor union. It had these following two lines under the title:]

from Charles L. Brown

Former Chairman of the Board of AT&T, Circa 1956


Earlier this year, one of my daughters pointed out that the practice of labor relations filled a prominent place in my life and that I have never really written about it.  I suppose I should plead guilty as charged.  Indeed the practice of labor relations filled an important part of my life from the time I received my discharge from the American Army at age 23 until my appearance as a lobbyist in Washington, DC at age 44 years.  From start to finish, my career as a union representative lasted six and a half years.  My career as a company representative lasted for a total of eleven years.  As you can see, the company career in labor relations lasted almost twice as long as my work for the union.

Earlier in these essays, I wrote an essay called “Setting a Nose Alight.”  That was the title on my career as a union representative.  Now my eleven-year career as a company representative is one whose title should be “Can You Read This Upside Down?”  By the time this essay is finished, I hope to make sense of the second title as the first has already been revealed.


My career as a company representative in labor relations started in 1955.  On that occasion, I was promoted from my job in Chicago to an office on the 25th floor of 32 Avenue of the Americas in New York City.  Soon I was to learn of the complete domination of affairs in the Long Lines department of AT&T by a small fellow from rural Georgia who went by the name of Henry T. Killingsworth.  I would have much preferred an essay to utilize the chronological timeline.  But Killingsworth, this small-statured man, was larger than life.  He simply dominated most actions that were taken in the Long Lines department of AT&T.  The facts are that this domination should have produced good results.  Quite to the contrary, his domination led to grave weaknesses in his selection of personnel and their actions.

You may recall in these essays that Killingsworth in a Christmas letter stated that “next year we are going to have to take the slack out of those trace chains.”  This had to do with cotton planting in southern Georgia, which is usually performed with a pair of mules and the planters are black men.  So in this Christmas letter, Killingsworth was offering the thought that next year we would all have to work as hard as those who were planting cotton with the use of a pair of mules.

Killingsworth was also an intruder on the sale of paper poppies.  In one of my essays, I mentioned that the person who sold the poppies in our building on Memorial Day was obliged to get Killingsworth’s approval before the sale.  When he asked for Killingsworth’s approval, he was told, “Hell, no, and while you are at it, get rid of that God-damned nun who is begging in the lobby.”  That nun was totally inoffensive.  She simply sat by the entrance to the subway with a basket on her lap.  The fact is that before that episode was finished, the poppies were sold and the nun remained at her chair at the top of the subway steps.


On another occasion, I entered the sacred hallows of Killingsworth’s office.  There was a labor relations problem and I was accompanied by George Sparks, the Vice President of Personnel.  When Killingsworth asked a question, he received an answer from George Sparks.  Instantly, Killingsworth turned to me and said, “You don’t believe that, do you, Ed?”  This was the very first time that I ever knew that Killingsworth knew my name.

I hope that you will recall that in my contract bargaining with the union, the issues were never settled until about three or four o’clock in the morning.  Because I had come from the union, Killingsworth seemed to take a delight in tormenting me.   This was doubly so when I had been up all night settling a contract.  When bargaining was completed, I knew enough to go by my office before going home as I suspected that Killingsworth would be calling me.  He did that on two occasions, telling me that it looked to him as if we had given the company away.  We had done no such thing.

When Killingsworth was finally removed from dominating the affairs of the Long Lines division, there were cheers from every direction.  Following one bargaining session after he was removed, I went by my office, having spent the entire night without sleep, as a means of wrapping up a new contract.  I knew that Killingsworth was gone, but I answered the phone at about eight in the morning to hear the voice of the new vice president of Long Lines congratulating me.

I came close to swallowing the telephone.  Killingsworth’s replacement was a gentleman from Colorado named Lowell Wingert, who was a gentleman, a gentleman’s gentleman.  I explained to this fellow that on these occasions after bargaining was completed, Killingsworth usually called me to denounce me for “giving the company away.”  This gentleman’s gentleman said that there would be no more of that sort of thing.

When I expressed some doubt as to the identity of the caller, thinking that it may be a cruel joke, Lowell Wingert offered to come by my office to prove that it was he who made the call.  Significantly, I was not summoned to his office on the 26th floor; it was Wingert who offered to come by my office. He was a good and great gentleman.

Unfortunately there were those in the company who tried to emulate Henry T. Killingsworth.  When I took up my duties in 1955, I soon recognized that the vice president in charge of personnel was one of those who tried to emulate Killingsworth.  His name was Jack Marsh. I was struck by Marsh’s obesity at our first meeting.  Later on when we were required to stay overnight in a hotel, one way or another Marsh and I shared a room with twin beds.  During the evening, Henry T. Killingsworth called Marsh.  I went to the living room of the suite but I could not escape the words of Jack Marsh saying, “Yes, Killy.  Yes, Killy.”

In many respects, Jack Marsh recalls Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, in my mind.  He was exceedingly fat and he was a bully to boot.  On this particular morning when he went to dress, he could not bend over far enough to put his socks on his feet.  He grabbed a sock and tried to catch his foot in the sock.  This was the only way he could poke his foot in the sock.

In other respects, Jack Marsh tried to emulate Henry Killingsworth.  As might be supposed, I had nothing but utter contempt for Mr. Marsh, the personnel vice president of the Long Lines department who outranked me by at least two or three full grades.


With that preamble, I expect that we are now prepared to go to work.  The labor relations manager was a fellow named Dick Dugan.  A purist in the language, Dick always emphasized that the second syllable in his name took precedence.  Dick Dugan was a prince of a fellow.  He had an engaging sense of humor.  However, about six months after I came to New York in 1955, Dick Dugan was tapped for an assignment that eventually led to the presidency of one of the Bell System affiliates called Cincinnati and Suburban Bell.  At this point when Dick Dugan exited the Long Lines scene, my duties increased.  I was handling all of the third-level appeals on grievances as well as running the yearly bargaining teams.

At this point we had to stand by for another intrusion by Henry Killingsworth.  According to the beliefs of Killingsworth, a good man could do any job.  And so it was that Killingsworth brought in some of his “stars of tomorrow” in an attempt to run the labor relations job.  I never believed in the thought that a good man could do any job.  For example, a man with a low boiling point could never be a good labor relations manager.  He simply has to absorb a good bit of abuse that has been piled up by representatives of the union.  Similarly, there are those of us who might be called the liberal arts majors who could never succeed in the accounting department or perhaps even in the engineering department.  But that was all underbrush to Killingsworth’s belief that a good man could do any job.

And so with Dick Dugan’s leaving, I found myself reporting to a new boss named Paul Gaillard.  Paul had no training in labor relations and tried to smooth that over by tending to agree with his superiors in the labor relations battles.  The director of the Long Lines bargaining unit was a female named Elaine Gleason.  She extended normal courtesy to Paul Gaillard and he mistook it as a sign that she was yearning for a man.  Accordingly, he set out to seduce her.  My guess is that Gaillard never succeeded in his quest to relieve Miss Gleason’s virtues.

At the end of the year, Henry Killingsworth was of the opinion that his means of bringing in the stars of tomorrow was a tremendous hit.  He then offered Paul Gaillard to a program that rotated promising stars among the various companies in the Bell System.  Though all of my compatriots believed that Paul was a floor-flusher and had no real substance, he was accepted into that rotating program at Killingsworth’s insistence.  At the end of two years the Northwestern Company simply fired Gaillard.  He was not offered back to Long Lines or did he suffer a reduction in rank; he was simply fired.

Killingsworth next named John Eide to succeed Gaillard.  He was the son of the president of the Ohio Bell Telephone Company.  Almost immediately  John Eide was dispatched to spend a year at Harvard, supposedly studying management techniques.  While Eide was gone, a young fellow named Tom Scandlyn was brought in to fill the vacancy left while Eide attended Harvard.

To his great credit, Tom Scandlyn recognized that a lot had preceded him and that he needed help from professionals to establish his position as a spokesman for AT&T in labor negotiations.  I first met Tom Scandlyn in 1958.  The year I spent with Scandlyn as my boss was entirely productive.  When in contract bargaining, the union representatives tried  to humiliate Tom and I was quick to come to his defense.

But at the end of the year, Tom Scandlyn left and was eventually rewarded with a vice-presidency.  It was at that point that John Eide returned to the scene.

The contrast between Eide and Tom Scandlyn could not have been more dramatic.  Whereas Scandlyn was humble, John Eide was arrogant.  After all, he had been to Harvard so the rest of us peons should do as he directed us.

The Bell System’s image of its male employees was that they were clean-cut and eager to accommodate.  John Eide was a pain in the butt.  His clothes were frequently in disarray and he suffered from a runny nose.  Because he carried no handkerchiefs, his nose was not blown.

There came a time when it was necessary to go to Chicago to handle a grievance matter.  The night before the meeting Eide announced that he was going to Cicero, which is a section of Chicago.  Cicero is the meanest and toughest section of Chicago and I would not have gone there under any circumstances.  So I went to bed and Eide departed for Cicero.  At around two in the morning, my phone rang and it was Eide saying he was in trouble because he had bought so many drinks, he could not pay for them.  He wanted me to come to Cicero to rescue him.  I told him that was clearly out of the question.  I called the manager of our hotel and found out that Eide had used a credit card.  The hotel was willing to advance him the money he needed to be put on his credit card.  The manager of the hotel agreed to summon a cab to go to Cicero to pick up John Eide.  The cost of the cab was, of course, Eide’s responsibility.  When the meeting with the union took place in Chicago, Eide showed up ten or fifteen minutes late looking like a drunk, which he was.


Now we fast forward a little bit to a bargaining situation at which we reached a crucial point.  Tony Seghy, the number two man in the union, was from Cleveland.  That was also Eide’s home town.  And at a crucial point, Eide privately called Tony Seghy and offered to pitch in the company’s position in exchange for future favors.  This violated the most cardinal rule of labor relations.  I of course did not know of this telephone call until later in the morning.

Tony Seghy was as outraged as I would have been, were I in his shoes.  He immediately reported this to Elaine Gleason, his boss, who went instantly on the phone to Bill Whittaker, the vice president of personnel of AT&T Long Lines.  Whittaker had succeeded George Sparks.  Whittaker called Eide to his office and determined that the report was true.   He then went to Killingsworth and told him that he wanted Eide fired and that he could never work for him again.  That is precisely what Whittaker should have done.

Instead, Killingsworth hemmed and hawed and transferred Eide back to a traffic position.  Whittaker demanded in the strongest terms that I be promoted to the job that Eide had.  This was the same position that George Sparks had also had when he recommended me for that promotion.  Killinsworth said no.  Much to his credit, Bill Whittaker said that he would no longer bring in people to be my boss.  From that time forward, I was a division-level manager and would report to a vice president.  And for a number of years that is the way the organization operated.

John Eide continued to go downhill and sometime in the late 1970s he committed suicide by inhaling the fumes of his motor vehicle.  Somewhere around 1960 or 1961, the management of AT&T finally learned that Henry Killingsworth was an impediment to the progress of the Long Lines department.  Whereas at the Long Lines department he was in charge of about 20,000 employees, he was moved to headquarters at 195 Broadway where he was given a job where he had a secretary and two other employees reporting to him.  He started off this new assignment by telling his three employees that they must work much harder.  Apparently Killingsworth had not abandoned the idea of taking the slack out of the trace chains.

Around 1962 or thereabouts, I was transferred to the general headquarters of AT&T and was given the job of handling the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who were threatening to invade the Bell System.  The Teamsters viewed the communications workers as an easy target.  Not long after I arrived, I received a phone call from a news reporter who claimed he was looking for the man who had been placed in charge of the anti-Teamster effort.  I told the caller, who later turned out to be a Donald J.R. Bruckner, that I was the guy.

For the next year or thereabouts, I sent Bruckner my theories of what the Teamsters were up to.  He was always punctilious about protecting my identity.  Bruckner was the labor relations editor for the Chicago Sun Times.  He was a fine fellow and he and I enjoyed several lunches together.

Later on in my assignment as the anti-Teamster director, the vice president of the New York Telephone Company in charge of labor relations there was aroused by the accuracy of Bruckner’s reports.  There was one occasion when Ken Whalen, the vice president of labor relations in the New York Company, came to my boss’s office.  That was Stanley G. Erickson.   Ken Whalen was more than interested in the accuracy of the reports of the Teamsters that he had read in the Chicago Sun Times.  The three of us were standing near an entrance to Erickson’s office and Whalen asked how this reporter, Don Bruckner, could get such accurate information.  I interrupted by singing a little ditty called, “I used to work in Chicago.”  Actually the ditty was an off-color one.  It got the job done.

At that point, Ken Whalen knew that I was the source of the newspaper reports.  Within a short while, Whalen picked up other duties and opened a spot for me at the New York Telephone Company.  I was given a promotion, which Long Lines had denied me, and I was paid an appropriate rate which gave consideration to the depressed pay rate at Long Lines.

The culture at the New York Telephone Company could not have been more different from the culture at the AT&T Long Lines department, particularly under Henry Killingsworth.  They were willing to listen to reason and they backed my efforts to overhaul their labor relations department.  I must laud the New York Company environment and express my great admiration.  The two years that I spent at the New York Telephone Company were among the happiest of my 17 years of labor relations experience in the Bell System.

One of the reasons for my happiness had to do with my secretary.  She was Lorraine Grant when she accepted the job working for me.  Before long, Lorraine Grant became Mrs. Murray.  It was a delight to work with Lorraine Grant and the rest of the folks at the New York Telephone Company.

As a matter of interest, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters had internal troubles involving their president, Jimmy Hoffa.  All things considered, the threat from the Teamsters to enter the telephone business disappeared.  I suspect that their effort to invade the telephone business was one reason and the failures of Jimmy Hoffa were another.  And so we end this threat by the Teamsters, but in effect, it was the Teamsters who got me the promotion that AT&T Long Lines had so long denied me.  Finally, justice at last.

At this point I believe that I have fulfilled at least in part my daughter’s request that I tell her about that segment of my life that had to do with labor relations.  For a young man such as myself, 17 years of such experience was entirely rewarding and demonstrated the depths to which some human beings can dive.  On the wrong side of history there was of course none other than Mr. Henry Killingsworth.  For my money, he was a villain par excellence.  He established the bar for inappropriate management policies.  Unfortunately his influence extended for many years in the people he promoted.  Jack Marsh, the obese fellow, and John Eide were two of his emulators.  The fact is that I kept my sense of humor throughout all of those 17 years.  My sense of humor has made it possible for me to enjoy my 43 years of work for the Bell System.


There is a degree of difficulty in condensing those 17 years into a piece for an essay.  I could have written a good deal more but I believe that the essence of what transpired in this long career is reflected in this essay.

This morning when I was looking for the name of Lowell Wingert, my wife was searching through my files.  There were many memorable moments.  For example, there was the remark by Henry Joyner about one of the union representatives.  Henry said very calmly that this young fellow was more than annoyed; he was “sorer than a boiled owl.”  That was a Henry Joynerism.  And it cannot be topped.

There was also an occasion when the AT&T bargainers included Charles L. Brown, who went on to become the Chairman of the Board of AT&T.  On this occasion, Charlie and I were seated together on the company side of the bargaining table.  The union sat on one side with its eight representatives and the company sat on the other with a lesser number of representatives.

On this occasion, Charlie Brown mentioned to me that the union representative directly opposite him was attempting to read his notes.  This woman was a robust specimen who came from Philadelphia and had a reputation for being one of the nastiest representatives of the union.

Charlie said that she had been reading his notes upside down.  I knew this to be the case because I could see her moving her lips.  Apparently as she tried to read Charlie’s notes, she would enunciate the words.  Charlie Brown was a gentleman in every respect.  He put up with this as long as he could until he took a tablet of paper and in large block letters he wrote, “Can you read this upside down?”  With Charlie sitting next to me, I knew what was happening.  When the woman representative of the union reached those lines, she repeated them sotto voce, under her breath, and she suddenly realized that those lines were aimed at her.  Her face reddened and she threw up her arms, as if to say, “It wasn’t me.”  But the fact is, it was her.  I will always treasure that moment when Charlie Brown stopped the reader of his up-side-down notes.  It was a classic.

Charlie Brown is dead now.  I miss him.  He was on two of my bargaining teams.  During those years, I believe that he was widowed.  He was intending to go to Spain.  When the bargaining was taking place here in Greenwich Village in New York, he and I set out to find some Spanish restaurants so he could practice his Spanish.  Charlie and I became good friends.  It distressed me to learn that later in life, after his retirement, Alzheimer’s Disease crept up on him.  Charlie was a gentleman’s gentleman.

There is much more to say on the subject of labor relations but I believe that this essay plus one with the title “Setting His Nose Alight” should be the extent of my involvement in the labor relations field.

My observation after all of these years in the labor movement and in civilian life is that insecure men are often tyrants.  On the opposite side, secure men are rational in their approach to life and their decisions are well founded.  As an example, I cite Henry Killingsworth, the grand villain, and his acolyte Jack Marsh as those who were insecure in life.  On the other hand, I would cite Charles Brown, Henry Joyner, Lowell Wingert and multitudes of others who are comfortable in their own skins and see no reason to punish those who are their subordinates.  Tom Scandlyn and I remain friends to this day.  Unfortunately, many of those who are insecure wind up in positions of great authority.

But I tend to take comfort from two communications which are in my possession.  In 1964, after my encounter with Ken Whalen of the New York Company, I went to take up my duties in that company.  Shortly after it was announced in the newspapers that I had been promoted to the New York Company, a message arrived from Elaine T. Gleason, my old adversary when I was bargaining for Long Lines.  If I can locate it, I will include it here.  In effect, Elaine said that the affairs of the New York Telephone Company were in good hands.  I appreciated that immensely.


And finally, when I announced that I was leaving the Bell System to take up retirement after 43 years of service, there was a message from my old friend Charlie Brown.  He was then Chairman of the Board of Directors of AT&T and I appreciated his taking the time to communicate with me.


We have reached the end of this long essay and the observations that I offered earlier.  When one takes up employment with a large corporation, one can expect that there are those with reason who will treat him decently.  One must also expect that when a man is afflicted with insecurity, a tyrant is produced.  In my case, I had a little bit of both.  Taking one thing with another, the good guys in the telephone business and in the labor field greatly outnumbered those with tyrannical concerns.

When I started this essay, I believed that it would pivot primarily on the personalities that I encountered along the way.  That is exactly the way that it has turned out.  Again, I must say that the good guys far outnumbered those with evil intent.  I am greatly sorrowed by the fact that those with evil intent still exist.  But that is the way it is.  You pays your money and you take your chances.



September 20, 2012

Essay 697


There is much to address here.
A) AT&T had a chairman named Charlie Brown. Good grief!
B) Pop’s memory is fantastic
C) Given B), I hereby request the full lyrics to “I used to work in Chicago”
D) It’s great to see Tom’s name come up! He’s a cool guy and a reader of these essays. Not long ago, he wrote this response to Pop’s essay about country speak.
E) I do hope that Pop finds Elaine’s letter. Or more technically that Judy finds it, unless Elaine had the habit of writing in Braille. I’m not even sure if Pop reads Braille, come to think of it.
F) I think I have to give Killingsworth a little bit of slack. I mean, the man was never had any choice but to become “Mr. Killingsworth” which, let’s face it, is such an obvious villain name that comic books might even reject it for being too obvious. Seriously, they’d introduce the ‘Killingsworth’ character and all the readers would plant their foreheads squarely in their palms and wonder how on earth his arc would play out. So yeah, he was just living up to his name.



Pop came through with the lyrics!

Hey Kevin 

You inquired about the lyrics to that beautiful hymn, I used to work in Chicago.  Ordinarily at this time of night I am doubled over in praise of Jesus, but a do recall one or a partial verse of I used to work in Chicago.  It goes on this order

        I used to work in Chicago in a department store,

        A lady came in and asked for some screws

        I asked her what kind at the door

        But screws she said and screw her I did

        So I dont work there anymore.

All of the rest of the lyrics are of this mildly vulgar nature.  Let me know if your heart has been uplifted by this recitation.


And then —

Hey Kevin 

Further thoughts on verses to I used to work in Chicago.

I Used To Work In Chicago
(Everyone sings words in capital letters. Tune is similar to “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”; the underlined word are the words that change from verse to verse.)


A young man came in for some paper
he wanted, a ream
he got


A young man came in for some jewelry

he wanted, a pearl necklace
he got

And similarly:
Carpet he wanted, shag he got
Ruler he wanted, my 12 inches he got
Nail he wanted, screw he got
Fishing rod he wanted, my pole he got
Meat he wanted, sausage he got
Beef he wanted, porked he got
Coffee he wanted, my cream he got
Helicopter he wanted, my chopper he got
Camel he wanted, hump he got
Stamps he wanted, licked he got
Fuck he wanted, fucked he got


The title of this essay may cause some consternation.  However, before this essay is finished I hope to explain the derivation of the title and to remove any consternation.

This essay will concentrate on what I have always called the post-war years.  However, as time has gone on, the post-wars have become a confusing title.  The reason for the confusion has to do with the United States military becoming involved in a good many conflicts.  In this case, the post-war years refers to the Second World War.  I am aware that since the events of World War II we have been engaged in military operations in the Korean theater, the war with Vietnam, the messy war in Nicaragua, the ill-fated venture into Iraq, and, finally, the war that is still taking place in Afghanistan.  But for the purposes of this essay, the post-war years will refer to that period from 1945 until 1951.  In subsequent essays, it may be that I will deal with the events since 1951.  But for now, let us deal with events in the late 1940s and into 1951.

The story of this essay really starts in August or September of 1942.  I came to work for AT&T in the Long Lines department in the summer of 1941.  When I was hired, the AT&T Company considered me a temporary employee for the first year.  When the first anniversary took place, AT&T would consider a person such as myself a permanent employee.  Permanent employees are entitled to, among other things, a leave of absence.

When my first anniversary occurred, I pocketed the large raise that I was given which brought my salary to $21 per week.  When I applied for a leave of absence to join the United States Army, or the Army of the United States, there was a bit of hostility on the part of the management of AT&T in St. Louis.

For those of you who are history buffs, that period at the end of 1941 and of 1942 marked the ascent of the Germans on the continent of Europe.  When I told AT&T that I intended to enlist in the army, Poland had fallen, as had France.  England was in great danger.  It is fair to say that from the Polish border west, Europe was in the hands of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi cohorts.

I had thought that when I announced my intention to join the American Army, the management of AT&T would give me the leave of absence that I sought and tell me to be well in my army career.  But that is not what happened.

At this point, I hope my readers will understand the tremendous influence that AT&T had on the affairs of the United States government.  In many respects AT&T regarded itself as the equivalent of the American government.  When I asked for my leave of absence, the management more or less told me that my duty was to stay with AT&T.  For that reason, they would not give leaves of absence to those of us who were volunteers in the military services.

My friend Don Meier and I found ourselves in identical situations.  Don wished to join the Marines and I wished to join the United States Air Corps.  When it came to Don and myself, our efforts during the coming war would be devoted to military service and we would deal with AT&T at some later date.  The best I could find out was that Don and I were considered as “abandoning the job.”  On the personnel file, there was no suffix that said abandoning the job to join the army; it read simply “abandoning the job.”  In effect, AT&T considered me as having quit the job, but the words they used were “abandoning the job.”

None of the voluminous material that the public relations department produced ever reached our hands after we announced that we intended to leave.  Remember, this was in the summer of 1942.  Somewhere toward the end of 1944, the Congress of this country passed a resolution that required that all of the people in the situation that Don Meier and I found ourselves in had to be reinstated in their former jobs.  Once that happened, I was met by a deluge of mail from the public relations department of AT&T.  They had gotten my military address from my parents.  When the war ended in 1945, I returned to AT&T.  But if we thought that we would be welcomed back, we were mistaken.  AT&T at least in St. Louis held the view that their current employees had performed well during the war years and we were the impertinent newcomers, the veterans who interrupted the flow of their smooth sailing operation.

When I returned to work in November of 1945, I was given a desk near John Baxter, one of the supervisors.  Baxter was a Texan who loved to shout into the telephone.  His voice was often tinged with anger because his respondents tended to argue with him from time to time.  Baxter’s boss was a fellow named W.G. Nebe.  He sat in the back of the office, staring out of the window.  Apparently desks are placed so that the light comes in over the left shoulder.  Nebe had his desk placed in front of the window and he stared out of the window at the buildings on Eleventh Street in St. Louis.  One day Nebe came to my desk.  This was unprecedented because Nebe never had much to say to hired help.  He announced that AT&T had done a re-assessment of my wages and that the re-assessment resulted in my getting a raise of four or five dollars a week.  I concluded, along with all of the other veterans, that AT&T was simply screwing us.  It was at that time that I joined the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers.  The Federation was quite anxious to have veterans in its midst.  Before long, I found myself headed for greater responsibility with the small independent union.  In 1948 or thereabouts, I had become the Vice President of Local 5 of the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers.

The next union election came up early in 1950.  I ran for the presidency of that local.  For years, the affairs of the local had been guided by a fellow named Gordon Sallee. There was some animosity to me, a newcomer and a veteran trying to supplant an older employee.  But as time went on in the presidency, Gordon “Pete” Sallee and I became great friends.

In the spring, I believe of 1950, I became involved in the upper reaches of the Federation.  This took place in New York City.  There was a point when, in the union election for national director, Carl Peters had asked me to nominate him and make a speech in his behalf.  I of course did that.

Some time prior to 1950, I became the administrative representative on the five-member national bargaining team.  Finally in 1951 in the spring, the contract involving all of the Long Lines employees was nearing its end.  And so it was that the five bargainers along with the two full-time executives, Carl Peters and Ray Boatman, gathered to make plans for the bargaining sessions to take place.  The bargaining sessions took place in a large conference room at 32 Sixth Avenue in New York.  I took up residence in the Picadilly Hotel, realizing that the bargaining sessions would take about six weeks to complete.


On the first day of the bargaining, an awkward silence came over us as we greeted the company’s bargaining committee.  We had lined up on opposite sides of the table.  I suppose the management team as well as the union team including myself were taking assessments of each other.

On the management side, they were represented by a gentleman named Gil Jones, who was probably nearing 60 years of age.  Mr. Jones was a wonderful fellow and he seemed to appreciate the arguments that we were to make.  Next to Mr. Jones sat Vernon Bagnell.  He had just been picked to be the first general manager of a new area in Kansas City.  Prior to that, he had been the personnel director for Long Lines in New York.


The next person in line was a fellow named Beverly “Bevo” Swango.  Swango was a down-home sort who tried to inject some humor to offset the staid circumstances brought about by the presence of Vernon Bagnell.  I was fond of Bevo Swango.  Next to Swango sat a fellow who had been the District Plant Superintendent in Richmond, Virginia named Claude Ballenger.

Finally, there was a note-taker whose name was Bill.  I tried to make friends with Bill by asking him what he did.  He said, “When the boss wants a ham sandwich, I go down to the cafeteria and get him a ham sandwich.”  I regarded this as a put-down, and in the six weeks of bargaining that followed I rarely ever engaged in conversations with Bill.

On the union side of the table, again starting at the far end, there was a fellow named John Lotz, who was the president of the local in New York City.  Lotz was antagonistic toward all of the company representatives as well as some of the union representatives.  He probably attended 30% of the meetings we had with the company.  Next to John Lotz was Joe Darling.  Joe and I became special friends and I looked to him for guidance in matters taking place at this high level in union affairs.  Next to Joe sat Carl Peters, the director of the Long Lines Bargaining Unit.  He was a fine fellow who was to die from cancer, probably in 1956.  Next to Carl Peters was Ray Boatman, who was Peters’ assistant but had no real influence.

Then came a woman representative from traffic named Averill Hildebrand.  She was a Kansan who had come to work in New York and who had risen in the union.  Then came Ernestine Locknane, the service assistant from Cincinnati.  On weekends when everyone else went home, Ernie and I held the fort.  And finally, next to Ernie I sat.


I will not take you through all of the jabs and feints involved in the bargaining process.  I will just try to pick out two or three items of significance to me.

But before we go there, let us deal with Claude Ballenger, the fellow from Richmond.  There came a time when Ballenger, who was not an accomplished speaker, tried to explain to us how meticulously the company granted promotions.  Ballenger started out by saying that at least nearly half of the promotions he had recommended never made the grade.  As the colloquy proceeded, he raised the ante to somewhere around 60%.  This was being observed by Bagnell, the personnel director, and by Gil Jones, the general manager.  They were not impressed favorably.

Ballenger continued to tell us of the difficulties that he had had with the stringent requirements of AT&T in promotions.  I was making a presentation on promotions that day and Ballenger was the subject of my cross examination.  I knew that Ballenger had become nervous in explaining the promotion process at AT&T.  The climax came when Ballenger, in an effort to demonstrate his casualness, reached for one of the cigars that were on the conference table.  He fumbled endlessly with the cellophane wrapping.  When the wrapping was gone, he bit off the end of the cigar without using a cigar cutter.   I knew that Ballenger was really in trouble when he put the cigar in his mouth and attempted to light his nose, all the while maintaining a casual atmosphere.  When he held the match to his nose, I expect I knew I had him.

I am reasonably sure that the upper management of AT&T which was represented at the table by Gil Jones, Vernon Bagnell, and Bevo Swango considered Ballenger a lost cause.  As far as I know, he went back to Richmond and may have expired there.


During the six weeks of bargaining sessions, we often ate in the company cafeteria.  I had done some early work on the wages paid to the cafeteria employees.  I judged them to be substandard.  When we debated this proposal or demand, my opponent was none other than Bevo Swango.  Bevo Swango tried to say the wages paid to the cafeteria employees at Sixth Avenue were in accordance with the wages paid to other cafeteria workers.  He cited primarily dining rooms at 195 Broadway, Western Electric and New York Telephone.  Significantly, all of those organizations were the property of AT&T.  So in effect, he was saying that the wages paid to our cafeteria workers were in concert with other company workers.  But actually he was comparing ourselves to ourselves rather than to outside organizations.  Bevo Swango said all of the foregoing comparisons while trying to suppress a smile because he knew that the comparisons that he was offering were totally invalid.  I told him, “You are trying to beat me to death with footwork,” which is a boxing term.

At a much later date, Bevo agreed that that was exactly what he had in mind.  He knew that comparing the wages at headquarters of AT&T and the New York Company were not comparisons at all.  Both of them, as I said, were owned by AT&T.  In the process, politely as I could, I let Bevo and his bosses Bagnell and Gil Jones know that I would not be inclined to sign an agreement which did not contain a substantial raise for the cafeteria workers.


There is one other matter having to do with AT&T underpaying employees.  That had to do with the construction gangs that were now plowing in the coaxial cables that enabled customers to dial their own calls.  Prior to the bargaining session, John Waters suggested that it might be well for me to take a trip to Texas to meet with the Long Lines construction workers who were plowing in cables.  John was our construction department union steward in St. Louis.

At the moment, in 1951, AT&T was plowing in coaxial cable from Dallas to El Paso.  Those of you who know a little bit about Texas geography will recognize that the distance between those two towns is formidable.

Central Texas accommodations were very few.  Restaurants and motels offer basically fried food.  Johnny Waters and I spent two days visiting with our construction gangs observing the circumstances that they had to put up with.  Aside from being away from home, living in substandard quarters, and eating food any normal person would reject, the company had a long-standing practice.  It was called the “board and lodging equivalent.”  This means that the company deducted $7 per week from the earnings of the construction workers and called that deduction the “board and lodging equivalent.”  I thought this was a thoroughly immoral deduction from the low wages being paid to our construction gangs.  Where that phrase came from is a total mystery to me.  In fact, if the truth were known, it was also unknown to the people on the company bargaining committee in 1951.  At the conclusion of our trip into Texas, we went to hold an evening meeting.

There were perhaps 300 to 350 construction workers who had washed up and who showed up for the meeting.  They brought with them great quantities of Coca Cola, which resided in ice tubs on the floor.  These fellows were from small towns and were used to hard work.  I suspect that not many other telephone workers had to put up with a Caterpillar tractor that had fallen into a ditch and needed to be pulled out.  John Waters and I had a delightful time with these members of the construction gangs of AT&T.

Before long, it was nearing midnight and the Coca Cola was about gone.  When everyone had had his say, I told the meeting that before we left, John Waters and I wanted to shake each member’s hand. Among other things while shaking hands, I asked the gang members where they came from.  It may have been one of the high points of my service to the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers.  I was overwhelmed by the depth of affection the members showed John Waters and me.  To have someone from headquarters in St. Louis come out and talk to them apparently was a great deal.  I am so delighted, even to this day, that we had that meeting.


Now back to the bargaining business.  Soon it became time to deal with our demand to get rid of the “board and lodging equivalent.”  The company had designated Bevo Swango to try to justify that deduction.

I made the point that whenever an employee of AT&T traveled, he or she would turn in a voucher and would expect to be paid for every expenditure while traveling.  There were no deductions from the ordinary employee.  This practice was confined only to the construction gangs.

In the great AT&T Company, with all its majesty, $7 per week was being deducted from the wages that it paid these construction workers.  I must say here that the wages paid the construction workers were, in my estimation, substandard to begin with.  Bevo Swango tried to justify the board and lodging equivalent question by contending that it was the tradition in the construction gangs to have this deduction.  My point was that it was immoral to deduct $7 per week from the already low wages paid to these employees.  Saying that it was simply the long standing practice should not ever justify continuing such a practice.

Again, I informed Bevo Swango as well as the other company representatives that I would not be willing to sign a conclusion to this bargaining session that did not put an end to the board and lodging equivalent question.

I was on very strong footing because I was backed up by Averill Hildebrand and Ernie Locknane.  Joe Darling was in my corner, come hell or high water.   John Lotz was a non-entity and Carl Peters and Ray Boatman could be handled perfectly with those on my side because they were not formally members of the bargaining committee.

And so the 1951 bargaining with the Long Lines Department of AT&T continued as the midnight deadline approached.  At that time, and even to today, the bargainers will hold an evening session up to the deadline.  In our case, the deadline was extended until the contract was finally approved about 6:30 in the morning.

Before the contract was concluded, AT&T made several offers that we judged to be substandard.  First, there was no raise for the dining service workers and second, the board and lodging equivalent was not removed.  I tried to make it clear to the company representatives that there were a number of us who would not sign such an agreement until those two items were taken care of.  I strongly suspect that Gil Jones, the general plant manager, told his committee that the union meant business and that no agreement would be reached until their objections were accommodated.

Finally, around two or three o’clock, the company produced an offer that was acceptable to us.  It contained a four dollar raise for the dining service workers.  Interestingly, for the first time in many many years, there was no such provision for a “board and lodging equivalent.”  Around 6 or 7 AM, argument for the 1951 contract was concluded.

I do not recall our team having a meal during the final processes.  But when the bargaining was completed, we went to the ninth floor cafeteria to have breakfast.  Several of us were eating around a large table.  Now you may recall a cafeteria worker who has been the subject of my essays.

Her name was Lila.  Lila had a trumpet-sounding voice as she singled out people to needle.  Lila, for example, always was on me about the St. Louis Cardinals, whom I supported as my home-town team, as distinguished from the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Cardinals had lost a game and I knew that old Lila would be all over me.  But when the contract was finally concluded, word quickly reached the cafeteria workers.  Lila left her station on the serving line and came over to sit with us on the bargaining committee.  She knew what had happened to their raises.  Finally Lila interrupted by saying to those of us on the bargaining committee, “I love every damn one of you.”  The fact that we had spent six weeks or more in preparing for this outcome bothered us not at all.  When Lila said, “I love every damn one of you,” it made it all more than worthwhile.


Unfortunately, I left to take another job very quickly after the bargaining session so I have no report on what the gang members would say about losing the board and lodging equivalent deduction.  But I am quite certain that they must have been greatly pleased.  To have AT&T deducting $7 per week from the wages of a man who made only $40 a week was unconscionable.

Upon completion of the bargaining sessions, Gil Jones quietly said to me that the two of us should have a drink together later on in the afternoon.  I, of course, immediately accepted.  I arrived at the quiet club that Mr. Jones had recommended.  He was waiting at a table for me.  The long and the short of it is that Mr. Jones told me that Bagnell, the former personnel director, was now assuming a general managership in Kansas City and would be calling me to offer me a job.  It was almost unimaginable that a person would arrive into the management of AT&T by serving an apprenticeship in the non-management ranks as a union representative.  I credit Gil Jones, Vernon Bagnell, and Bevo Swango for this development.


When I returned to St. Louis to await the call from Mr. Bagnell, the union members were more than just cordial.  On the other hand, there were two employees whom I had known for a number of years who were belligerently uncordial.  But I had had my reward when Lila said that she “Loved every damn one of us.”  Receiving such praise from Lila meant more to me than I ever expected.


Now it is some 60 years later than the events that I described in the 1951 bargaining session.  Union ranks are on the decline.  At AT&T I suspect that the union ranks are pretty thin these days.  But I also know that the unions that exhibit a bit of courage can straighten out such things as the board and lodging equivalent deduction and the substandard wages paid to cafeteria workers.


Looking back some 60 years later, the time I spent representing those dining service workers, the construction gangs, the traffic operators, and the craft employees may have been the happiest time in my life. Some months after I had become President of the local in St. Louis, my boss, Bill Knapp, told me, “You have not tore your britches yet.”  That was meant entirely as a compliment.  My dealings with AT&T management were always firm but with a good sense of humor.  I wanted to be sure that the humor was interpreted in such a fashion that my britches might not be torn.


I realize that this essay is a bit long and that it may involve some “inside baseball.”  But when an employer attempts to exploit his workers, that employer will keep on doing that until he is met by people or a superior force to turn things around.  I am aware that the feelings of some of my readers may be on both sides of this question of union representation.  But for me, who has had extensive experience with unions, I will always contend that unions are a positive influence on the affairs of men and women who have to work for a living.


I am still thrilled by Lila’s expression of thanks and I know that the construction workers were most appreciative as well.  So I must contend that my soul, wherever the soul is, will rest in peace.  It gives me great pleasure to know that 60 years ago I used my voice to speak for those who had no voice at all.  So I say that my soul is at peace and I am happy with all of these memories.


And if any of you run across Claude Ballenger, the man who tried to light his nose, please give him my best regards.  He furnished a comic relief at a time when it was greatly needed.




September 6, 2012

Essay 693


Kevin’s commentary: As a quick question for Pop, I would very much like him to clarify this thought: “He announced that AT&T had done a re-assessment of my wages and that the re-assessment resulted in my getting a raise of four or five dollars a week.  I concluded, along with all of the other veterans, that AT&T was simply screwing us.” I took it to mean they were supposed to have been getting these wages the whole time, and AT&T was delayed in giving them what they originally deserved?

In any event much of Pop’s life has been and continues to be about standing up for the little guy, and this essay is a shining example of that.

The other thing that strikes me is the power of the memory that is able to call this many details back from the events of sixty years ago. These memories are coming from roughly three times longer than I’ve been alive and the man still remembers the first names, last names, and order at the table of everyone involved. Pretty damn incredible.

From Pop:

Hey Kevin,

Your supposition is correct.  You may recall that when I enlisted rather than being drafted into the Army, AT&T showed me as abandoning the job.  During the three and a half years that I was gone, AT&T did not give me full credit for the raises that had been granted to other active employees.  When I returned in 1945 I was at least $4 or $5 behind the employees who never served.

 At the same time, one of the most popular radio programs, and later on television, AT&T sponsored The Bell Telephone Hour and bragged about how they missed the boys who were overseas.  The net result is that AT&T was cutting corners and when I determined that this was the case, I offered my membership to the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Employees, the union. 

Clearly AT&T was bragging about how they were concerned about the boys in service but that did not keeping them from screwing those who had enlisted.

Now about remembering the names of those on both bargaining committees.  There are reasons for me to remember the names.  Gil Jones was an older fellow who went out of his way to tell me that Vern Bagnell would soon be offering me a management job.  And he bought the drinks that night.

Vern Bagnell who was an engineers engineer, nonetheless succeeded in promoting me from a position on the union bargaining committee to a low level management job.  This was the only case that I have ever heard of where such a thing happened.  Bagnell must have been a magician to get this through the top brass at AT&T. 

Bevo Swango was a down home kind of guy whom I very much enjoyed debating with.

And Claude Ballinger, the man who lighted his nose, was a special case.  He was as dumb as a bagful of doorknobs.

On the union side, I have many reasons to remember our bargaining team.  Joe Darling was my roommate on several occasions.  Carl Peters asked me to nominate him for the top job.  Ernie Locknane and Averill Hildebrand were two lovely women who sided with me when showdowns occurred.  There is one other member of the union team named John Lotz.  John was a bitter, bitter fellow who attended only about 30% of the bargaining sessions.  How he ever got elected to the bargaining committee remains a great mystery to me.

As for the company note taker named Bill, I never even learned his last name I realize that this is reaching back 61 years but somehow those names are stamped on my memory and I will probably be reciting those name when I finally croak.



Now that I am of such an advanced age that the Army of the United States or the United States Army cannot call me to return to active duty, there are two matters that I would like to discuss this morning.  The first has to do with being a volunteer and the second has to do with, of all things, the Army’s Good Conduct Medal.

Let us start with the issue of being a volunteer.  In 1942 I deemed it my duty to become a soldier.  I was 19 years of age and I had no impediments such as children, so I went to the Army recruiting office at Twelfth and Market Streets in St. Louis to volunteer.  That was my first mistake.  A cardinal rule in the American Army is that one never never volunteers to do anything.

I found out about this during the physicals that determined whether or not I could become a soldier.  The physicians examining those of us who were about to enter military service gave a much higher priority to examining draftees rather than those of us who had volunteered.  We had to step aside as the physicians tried to work their way through examining a truckload of draftees and those of us who had volunteered.  As recorded in an essay a good many years ago, it took the better part of two days to get through the physical examination which should have been completed in about three quarters of an hour.  There we were at Jefferson Barracks standing around partially unclothed waiting for the physicians to call our names to examine us for such things as whether or not we had gonorrhea.

I did not find out about this injunction against volunteering until the physical examinations had been completed.  My next encounter with volunteering occurred early in January of 1943.  Our troopship took us from Charleston, South Carolina to Dakar, Senegal.  It was a miserable miserable trip.  My recollection is that we were aboard a troopship in extremely cramped quarters for the better part of two weeks.  When we landed at Dakar, the Army sent a collection of trucks to take us to a small base called Rufisque.  Rufisque was simply a holding base until the army could figure out where we were supposed to go in our permanent overseas station.

At this very moment, there was a tremendous battle going on at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia.  The Afrika Corps of the German Army had mauled the American First Army in the first battle there.  The First Army regrouped and they were again trying to rout the Afrika Corps at Kasserine Pass.  Apparently air crews were in short supply at this time, and while we were at Rufisque we were encouraged to volunteer to become involved in the battle at Kasserine Pass.  Naturally, I was among those who volunteered for this detached service.  The assignment was with the Twelfth United States Army Air Force.

And now the issue is the subject of detached service.  After we arrived to start our work as detached service, it became clear that the Twelfth Air Force was giving priority to its own personnel.  I did not blame them for giving priority to their own personnel.  Those of us on detached service were given the unhappiest jobs.  Now the Twelfth Air Force had only sporadic communication with our headquarters in the Air Transport Command which was eventually located in Accra, Ghana.  If that sounds confusing, I sympathize with you.

Those of us on detached service were sort of like extras.  Seldom did we fly with the same crew from one mission to the next.  The officials who directed the affairs of the Twelfth Air Force regarded us as extras.  But that is the fate of those who volunteer in the United States Army.

At the end of my service in 1945, I was back at Scott Field in Illinois. When it finally came time for me to leave the army, I found out that the Twelfth Air Force had even overlooked our accomplishments while we were on detached service.

By the time that I finally demanded my discharge papers, it was 7PM and the regular typists had all gone home.  The soldier from whom I demanded my discharge papers tried to type them.  He tried to copy my discharge papers from that of another soldier who had several medals to which I was not entitled.  But he typed them in my discharge papers as well.  I figured that if he would just give me my discharge papers, I could straighten this all out later.

Trying to straighten out something with the United States Army was a daunting, next-to-impossible task.  I thought that I had made my point clear to the people in Washington, but six months or maybe later the Army issued me a discharge that had none of my accomplishments on it.  By that time, I had had my fill of dealing with the Army.  It was for this reason that my discharge papers read like those of a recruit who had stayed in this country for the length of the war.  That happened in 1945 and I have never been inclined to reopen negotiations with the United States Army.  And I hope that any of my descendants who attempt the impossible task of dealing with the United States Army will take their caution from this advance notice.

Well, that is the story about volunteering.  It does not pay off well when you are dealing with the United States Army.

Now we move to medals.  I am certain that you have seen on television that when a General, for example, goes to testify before some committee of Congress, the left side of his uniform will be covered with so many medals that he has to have help in getting his jacket on.  About all that I can say on this score is that soldiers who reach the rank of General seem to have accumulated dozens of medals.  If they are all for bravery it is a different matter, but I doubt that they are all for bravery.

One that is not for bravery is called the Good Conduct Medal.  I served about three and a half years in the Army of the United States, and I did not ever see a regulation that stated what the Good Conduct Medal would be awarded for.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the other soldiers with whom I served were awarded the Good Conduct Medal.  Putting it bluntly, I do not know at this late date what the requirements are to be awarded a Good Conduct Medal.  I suspect that if you are brave enough to ask one of those medal-laden soldiers of general rank, he would point out a ribbon that signifies that he holds the Good Conduct Medal.

Now, there is a terrible contradiction here.  We give medals in the American Army for bravery.  Much of it has to do with bravery under very trying circumstances.  In effect, the reason for being a soldier is to kill or maim our enemies.  There was a soldier named Audie Murphy, who was cited for bravery on several occasions.  I suppose that Murphy was responsible for the death of perhaps 60 or 75 enemy soldiers.  The question arises as to whether Murphy would qualify for the Good Conduct Medal.  I have no idea what the answer to that question would be.  But it strikes me that being a soldier would inherently not qualify one for being the recipient of the Good Conduct Medal.  Soldiers are paid to kill enemy soldiers.  There is no good conduct in killing.  Ah, but that is how the United States Army or the Army of the United States works.

These are my thoughts on volunteering and the Good Conduct Medal.  I grant you that they are not inspiring thoughts in any sense.  Before I “fly away,” as one of the verses in the Bible requires, the injunction against volunteering and the Good Conduct Medal are something that should be reported in these essays.  Now that I have made my thoughts known on volunteering and the Good Conduct Medal, I can depart the scene peacefully so that my soul, wherever that organ is located, shall also be at peace.



September 27, 2012

Essay 699


Kevin’s commentary: brand new essay! One away from the big 700.  It is worth mentioning here that despite Pop’s stance on medals, he was awarded a number of them. I believe I may have one or two of these back in Austin, in a box full of various Pop-memorabilia that I keep front and center in my closet. It is colloquially referred to as the “Pop box” and I see very little reason not to crack it open and write about some of the items inside the next time I am home. And it just so happens that I’m Austin-bound this Sunday…



A little more than a month ago, I constructed an essay called “Christian Mingle.”  The genesis for that essay had to do with the many television advertisements that I have heard whose title was Christian Mingle.  Now that I know a bit more about Christian Mingle, it is time to do another essay called “Christian Mingle Revisited.”

When I wrote my essay about Christian Mingle, you may recall that I adopted a more or less cynical attitude toward the enterprise.  I concluded that it was either a dating service or that it might be an enterprise bordering on prostitution.  But now that I have had a chance to revisit Christian Mingle, I have come to the conclusion that my cynicism in the earlier essay was well warranted.

When the Christian Mingle advertisements were appearing, in the corner there was a small set of letters that identified the sponsoring organization as the Spark Enterprise.  When my wife, who is a whiz with a computer, started to question the Spark operation, it turned out that there are more than 30 operations under Spark that are very much like Christian Mingle.  Here is a list of them.


Listings of Spark Networks


As you can see, in addition to Christian Mingle, there are at least two ventures having to do with the Jewish faith as well as two by the Mormons.  In racetrack terms, this is called “playing God across the board.”

Now to get down to brass tacks.  That cynicism in the earlier essay had to do with someone having to pay the bills from the television advertisers for all of these commercials.  The television networks are not free institutions.  They are bottom-line oriented, and if the network isn’t paid for running the commercial, it is stopped.  But if you are to believe the Christian Mingle commercials, thousands of people are enrolling daily in this enterprise called Christian Mingle.

As you can see from the list we have provided, virtually every aspect of human endeavors is represented with a hint of mingling with others of the same persuasion.  But now we come to the brass tacks, as my mother used to say.  It is clear that one way or another the Christian Mingle enterprise and all of those associated with the Spark Network are aimed at causing you to part with some or all of your savings.  The sponsors of these networks are not in it for the fun that it provides.  It is a totally commercial operation.

And now let’s look at that commercial operation.  I may be accused of cynicism.  I believe that such cynicism is well founded.  Let us suppose that the Christian Mingle organization has events where men and women are invited with the thought that they will “mingle with each other.”  This late in my life, I am not sure how one would go about mingling with other participants.  But my cynicism tells me that one of two factors will begin to assert itself.

While the Christians are mingling with each other, the organization is conspiring to figure out a way to make a profit from them.  The other factor has to do with the desire to make love to other Christians.  I am aware that it might be said that mingling with other Christians may increase the possibility of persuading some fellow Christians to become married.  My guess is that marriage will come in a very poor third behind making a profit or lining up someone to spend the evening with in a hotel room.

When people are left alone to mingle with each other, whether they are Christian or not, the end result is that someone is going to try to figure out how to make a profit from this mingling and/or line up someone to sleep with that night.  This is not a new phenomenon.  These vices or natural reactions have been going on ever since there were people in this world.  Christians or members of any other religion should not be expected to simply hang around mingling with each other without any thought of making money or sexual attraction occurring.

The list of all the mingling situations is impressive.  Religions seem to be covered very thoroughly.  There are Christians, Jews, and Mormons.  I do not see an entry for mingling with Moslems.  Nor do I see mingling with Buddhists either.  In one way or another, they have left out mingling among the hearing impaired but most especially they have left out those with blindness and baldness, or those with blue eyes.  I will speak to those in the Spark operation in an effort to make their mingling possibilities a bit more complete.

Well, there you have the story of “Christian Mingle Revisited.”  Revisiting Christian Mingle did nothing to allay my sense of cynicism.  To put the best possible face on Christian Mingle, it might be termed as a totally commercial opportunity.  Other descriptions of this operation are not nearly so generous.  Is it a dating service?  The fact that only Christians are involved does nothing to relieve my cynicism.  The fact that the Spark Network covers its tracks with a religion means nothing to those of us who are afflicted with a degree of cynicism.

In conclusion, it must be stated that I am not a Christian, nor do I ever plan to become one.  Ipso facto, that would seem to eliminate me from becoming a member of Christian Mingle.  On the other hand, this same fact would seem to say that I am a totally objective observer.  But no matter how you slice it, the Christian Mingle operation strikes me as being a thoroughly dubious one.  Or perhaps even a sham.  At my advanced age, I try not to become involved with dubious propositions.

Now if the Spark Network people ever take up my suggestion on providing such a service for those who can’t see, there are hurdles to overcome.  If we were left unattended, how could we find another blind person to mingle with?  And after we had mingled a bit, there would come a time when a blind person would ask a female mingler for a milk shake.  How could we find a parlor that sells milk shakes?  But I am confident that before long, we will have a blind mingling such as we have for Christian mingles.

Be that as it may, my cynicism about the Christian Mingle and the Spark operation has only increased since I wrote the essay last month.  I think you may conclude that your Uncle Ezra is not going to be involved with mingling, be it Christian or otherwise.



September 27, 2012

Essay 698



Read the original essay on Christian Mingle here.

With regard to Pop’s last concern, I propose a blind-deaf mingling site. Perhaps it could be a double-date setup, where a blind couple and a deaf couple go out together such that all the senses are represented. I’ll write a letter to Spark.

Though so far as the other point about Spark being somehow uniquely nefarious or hypocritical, I’m not so sure.  It is not like they are forcefully taking money from these people; they are providing a networking service and charging for it. Basically just captalism, yeah? Could be that sponsoring a Muslim site on the network would drive away more Christians from Spark than it would draw in Muslims, or that some pillar of Islam would make visiting such a site problematic for believers. Maybe their translating capabilities are low, and an English-language Buddhist-only site wouldn’t be profitable.  All this to say, I’m not sure being a “totally commercial operation” is a bad thing if its users seem happy with it.


I am going to reach into racetrack terms to introduce this essay.  At tracks where horses and dogs race each other, there is a highlight of the afternoon called the Trifecta.  This means that when a bettor picks the winners of the Trifecta, he will be rewarded with extra cash.  I have been to the racetracks only three times in my life.  There were two occasions when I visited a horse racetrack and one where dogs raced.

For my money, an afternoon at the racetrack was a wasted experience.  There are 30 to 45 minute waits for the next race to occur.  In the meantime, the track encourages everybody to have another drink or to buy a bettor’s guide that will guarantee winners in every race.  That of course does not happen.  But for this essay, I am borrowing the Trifecta term for the Silver Dollar Blues.

In this essay there will be three parts.  The first has to do with memories of my father and his attachment to silver dollars.  The second part of the Trifecta will have to do with a technical description of what “the blues” really means.  I will make this as short as possible.  Finally, the last leg of the Trifecta will have to do with lyrics from the song, “The Silver Dollar Blues.”


So as Ed Schultz of television fame would say, “Let’s get to work.”


The first part of this Trifecta has to do with my father, who was also named Ezra.  As I have reported earlier, our relations – son to father – were more or less cordial but there are no two ways to explain that relationship except to say that we were strangers to the end.  My father died when I was 36 years old and for the last several years of his life I lived in Kansas City, Chicago, and then in New York.  So I didn’t see as much of him as I would have liked.  But as time has gone on, I find myself often thinking about my father.  He was a man who had a second-grade education in a rural school.  I am fairly certain that he could read but I suspect that he could not write.  He was an honest man who succeeded by dint of his hard work.

I suspect that the highlight of his life occurred somewhere between 1906 and 1925.  He had gained employment at the Lilac Roost Dairy Farm in Clayton, Missouri.  Prior to the farm’s closing in 1925, he was its superintendent.  I suspect that this pleased him no end because it had to do with farming.  But the owners of the farm sold the business and converted the farmland into a subdivision.  The owners of the farm were Sam and Dwight Davis.  It was Dwight Davis who donated the Davis Cup which for many years was awarded to supremacy in tennis.  My father then found employment with the Evans Howard Refractory until 1930, when he was, along with everyone else, laid off.

One of his idiosyncrasies was that he never wore a belt.  He insisted that the proper attire for males was the use of suspenders.  He did not have any philosophical misgivings about a belt but until his dying day he wore only a pair of suspenders.

Somewhere along about 1935, he landed a job in a large subdivision to keep the grounds in first-class shape.  The pay was $25 per week for six days of work, and it paid every two weeks.  There was an occasion when I was with my parents and he asked an official at a clothing store to cash his check.  I remember that the place was located on Olive Street Road.  I do not know why they used the terms street and road in the same designation.  But I suspect that Olive Street Road still exists.

The official at the store said the check was for $50.  He complimented my father on his ability to earn that much money.  My father was very quick to point out the check represented payment for two weeks of work.

Now we get to the point at which my father’s entrance into this essay becomes necessary.  In the summer of 1942, I volunteered to serve in the United States Army Air Corps.  The Air Corps has long since been superseded by the United States Air Force.  But in any event, my enlistment was with the United States Army Air Corps.

On the night before I was to report for duty, my father asked me to meet him at his roll-top desk that he kept in the dining room.  For complete purists, this event took place no later than 8:00 PM because my father went to bed at that hour.  You will recall that my father and I were strangers in most respects until the end.  As I appeared at the roll-top desk, he turned to me in a very solemn manner.  He handed me a silver dollar with the date of 1881.  He and I both knew that 1881 was the year of his birth.  My father was a taciturn man who didn’t waste words.  As he handed me the silver dollar, he said, “I want you to keep this so that you will never be broke.”  Being broke was a catastrophic event in my father’s life.  He did not want his last child to go through this experience.

I carried that silver dollar in my right-hand pants pocket until a catastrophic event overtook me.  My recollection is that on December 8, 1943, we were sent on a mission to bomb the rail marshalling yards at Ancona, Italy.  My theory of this raid as with all of the others that involved the A20 aircraft was that we were to come in so low that we would be under the angle of deflection of the anti-aircraft guns.  This means that the anti-aircraft guns were firing over our heads.  What we did not know was that there was a collection of Messerschmitt 109 and Focke-Wulf 190 fighters waiting for us to complete our bomb run.  The long and the short of it is that we were shot down, which is not an unusual event.  In this case, the German fighters had information about the raid and we were the losers.

The German soldiers who were to become our captors were glad to see us.  In the first place, I was wearing a leather flying jacket.  That jacket disappeared instantly.  When the soldiers began to look at our belongings, they spotted the silver dollar almost immediately.  There is a similar coin in European currency called the Maria Theresa.  All that I can say is that somewhere in Germany there is an ex-soldier’s home with an 1881 silver dollar that I assume he probably showed off.

So I thought that I would never see that silver dollar again and that was the case.  My father did not trust currency other than the U.S. silver dollar.  Obviously, he distrusted checks.  The silver dollar represented real money to my father and he always had a small supply of such dollars in his roll-top desk.

I often thought that with my father requesting to be paid in silver dollars, they would be too heavy for his suspenders to hold up his pants.  But he never got paid in silver dollars of course.


In December of 1944, I was very fortunate to be a crew chief on the oldest airplane in the European theater.  It was to be taken home and refurbished and to be used for a war bond drive.  That period in my life is covered in two or three other essays, so I will not trouble you with it at this point.  At any rate, when I arrived back in the United States in December of 1944, I made a beeline to the St. Louis County Bank.  They had no 1881 silver dollars but did have a collection of 1922 silver dollars.  That of course is my year of birth.  So I took one and showed it to my father, who seemed pleased.  And with that thought, the first leg in this Trifecta has now been completed.


Now we can turn to the technical explanation of what constitutes the blues.  At this point, I will tend to bail out because I know absolutely nothing about the technical description of the blues.  Miss Chicka, my wife, is an accomplished pianist and organist.  But Miss Chicka says that she is in way over her head when it comes to this technical description.  So it is offered here in the hope that you will either ignore it or that you may even understand it.

“The Blues is an American form of folk music related to jazz. It is based on a simple, repetitive, poetic-musical structure. The sound is based on the Blue Note, or a slight drop of pitch on the third, seventh, and sometimes the fifth tone of the scale. It is also known as a bent pitch. The Blues Scale is typically a diatonic major scale incorporating a lowered or bent 3rd, a lowered or bent 7th and sometimes a lowered or bent 5th to approximate melodic notes that originated in African work songs.”  Source: Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary


With that, we can now proceed to the final leg in this Trifecta, the song.


Technically the song is called, “A Man without a Woman.”  It was written by Alfred Williams in 1907.  So when you sing this song, you may point out that it is over 100 years old.


The lyrics go like this:

A man without a woman is like a ship without a sail

Like a boat without a rudder, a kite without a tail.

A man without a woman is like a wreck upon the sand.

If there’s one thing worse in this universe,

It’s a woman, it’s a woman, a woman without a man.


You can roll a silver dollar across the bar room floor,

It will roll because it’s round.

A woman never knows what a good man she’s got

‘Til she puts him down.

So won’t you listen, my honey, listen to me.

I want you to understand.

Just like a silver dollar goes from hand to hand,

A woman goes from man to man.


I seriously suspect that the line about “a woman goes from man to man” would not make that song acceptable to the current generation.  But I am only the simple purveyor of lyrics that have stood the test of time since 1907.


There you have the final leg in the Trifecta.  I am still enamored of silver dollars.  The last one I had was taken by my wife to a jeweler who put a gold ring around its edges.  I have carried that silver dollar so long that the edges have been worn off.  So that silver dollar with the gold edges is now attached to a bright new gold chain.  On the other end, it was attached to a pocket watch which had been given to me by AT&T upon the completion of 40 years of service.


So the silver dollar with the gold rim acts as a fob and anchors the big pocket watch.   If one of the Carr grandchildren ever marries, I will offer to loan – loan them the use of this watch and fob that are the proper accoutrements for a vest, which I assume must always be worn at a wedding.


One other thought about my father.  He thought that men who wore wristwatches were “queer.”  As a linguist, you might like to know that “queer” preceded the word “gay.”


I am very happy that I have had the opportunity to tell all my readers about the Silver Dollar Blues.  I love the music of the blues.  When that music is attached to something like the silver dollar that I have carried for a number of years, it is totally irresistible.


“A silver dollar falls on the ground and it rolls because it’s round.”

Man, there is no way that you can beat songs like that.



September 3, 2012

Essay 691



Kevin’s commentary:

This is one of my all-time favorites of Pop’s essays. I just think it strikes a really solid balance between subjects.

If the Olive Street Road in question is in St. Louis, it certainly still exists. If it is elsewhere I hope that Pop tells me what city that it is in so I can attempt to find it on Google maps, because I’m curious.

Unrelatedly I have reason to believe that none of the Carr grandchildren will be getting married anytime soon. That task would nominally fall first to Connor (as the oldest) and that doesn’t appear to be in the cards in the near future. Perhaps he will not appreciate me posting this. So it goes.  Also on this subject I think Pop is lucky to have had five grandsons and zero granddaughters, ensuring that if even one of the five of us gets married he will have an occasion to loan out his watch. Having met all of the five boys in question however, I am pretty confident that the odds of a marriage anytime soon are substantially lower than readers may expect.

There are plenty of other great things in this essay (like the entire discussion of suspenders) but for whatever reason, the most striking thing to me was the revlation that my grandmother is an adept pianist — she has in my recollection never given us a demonstration. Judy, as you read this I hope you will consider playing for everyone at the earliest available opportunity. That is all.