Archive for March 2016

NEW YORK, NEW YORK PART 10 – SHOW BIZNESS

When I started out to write about life in New York, it seemed to me that four or five essays would do the trick. Admittedly, I never won a Rhodes Scholarship for my excellence in mathematics. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Part 10 of the New York series is now being prepared to spring on an unsuspecting public.

The reason for this latest piece is that no series of stories about New York would be complete without a reference to the theater, or as it is often called, Show Bizness. Show Bizness belongs exclusively to New York. It would be the utmost silliness to include such a piece when writing about Kansas City or Prairie Village, Kansas or East Flat Rock, North Carolina or Nacogdaches, Texas or Bayou LaBatre, Louisiana or Golconda, Illinois. And just to make sure this is an All American piece, it is to be noted that “theater” is spelled properly, not in the waspy, limp-wristed tradition of Mother England’s “theatres.”

Just so we are all in step, I am talking about live productions which are to be performed eight times a week in a theater that sells seats for those performances. We are not talking about television programs or commercials. This has to do with performances eight times a week before a live audience. If you flub a line, it won’t be erased. The actors will have to overcome the mistake. If you miss a cue, there are no retakes. The actors will have to deal with it. My point is that legitimate theater is not television. Amen for that.

If someone ever told you that Show Bizness was a way to make a lot of money in a hurry, please tell them that they should invest their earnings in some robust New York Stock Exchange stocks such as Enron, Arthur Andersen, Tyco, Global Crossing, WorldCom, Quest, Halliburton and that paragon of financial virtue, Harken Energy.

On the other hand, if someone told you that Show Bizness was a way to have some fun while losing a few dollars, then go for it. The best advice that this branch of the Carr/Chicka family can offer, is to invest only what you can lose. If you can’t pay the electric bill at the end of the month, you’d be a complete fool to invest in a Broadway production. However, if you had a few bucks gathering dust in an often forgotten savings account paying you 3% interest, think about the theater. Seeing a new production mounted is a better way to spend your time as opposed to waiting for Investors Savings to tell you that their interest rate has been again reduced. But remember, invest only what you can afford to lose.

Good and honest producers will ask potential backers of the shows for a statement of their financial position. If they sense that the investor is on shaky ground, honest producers will turn down such investors. I suppose dishonest producers will be interested only in what they can squeeze out of an investor or backer. Fortunately, the three men in the plays where we were backers were honest people.

Well intentioned producers, however honest they may be, will ordinarily not tell you that backers of the show will be the last paid – if there is anything left to be paid. And unscrupulous producers will often require backers to produce more cash if the show runs into a dry spell. Clearly, investing in a New York theater production is often a risky business. The only guarantee is that you will probably lose money and that you may enjoy the experience.

This whole venture into the uncharted waters of Show Bizness started in January, 1991 when I got an unsolicited letter from Steven Baruch, a producer of plays for the theater. At the time, we were subscribers to plays offered by the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. I suspect that the Paper Mill may have lent Steve Baruch their list of subscribers.

Baruch was associated with Tom Viertel and Richard Frankel in the production of Broadway productions. In his letter, Baruch cited certain hits such as “Driving Miss Daisy,” “The Cocktail Hour,” “Love Letters” and “Penn and Teller” which he and his partners had produced. Because we follow the theater, we were aware of those successes.

Baruch’s letter was the antithesis of pushiness. He more or less said that if you should care to explore the idea of investing in a future show, his production team would like to discuss our interest. He also said, “Our investors to date have had a great deal of fun – and have done well financially.” That sounded interesting as did the attachment to his letter. Now remember, this was a January, 1991 letter well before Bill Clinton ever had anything to do with the Federal Government, George Herbert Walker Bush was in charge and Alan Greenspan had not yet identified those companies that he would accuse of “irrational exuberance” when it came to industry finances.

Here is the investment return sheet that purports to show that backers of the Baruch shows enjoyed financial successes.

Once more, I will claim that in the field of mathematics, I have been called a Neanderthal, but I would say that the return on “Penn and Teller,” for example, was 180% rather than 280%. But Judy and I were interested in how Broadway productions are mounted and we were content to let Greenspan argue with professors of finance as to whether the total return is 280% or something less.

When we said we might have an interest in seeing a little more about Show Bizness, Steve Baruch replied by saying that the next production would be “Song of Singapore.” Also included was a tape of some of the songs from the show and an invitation to attend a preliminary performance where we could hear the music and have a simplified telling of the story of “Song of Singapore.”

You may recall that in the early 1980’s, the producers of “Cats,” a major hit, took over a theater in midtown New York and remodeled the interior to suit their production. To a large extent, that is what Baruch, Viertel and Frankel had done to a large building at the corner of Irving Place and 15th Street in the general vicinity of Gramercy Park in New York. The building which had been called “Irving Plaza,” was for many years, the home of the Polish Army Veteran’s Association.

So early in March, we attended the preliminary performance. We all sat in chairs without arms around tables, arranged cabaret style. At the front of the room were a piano, a guitar and drums and the performers, part of whom were in the band. All of this took place in the old ballroom of the Polish Veteran’s Association. The story line held together very nicely and the songs held a lot of promise. So in spite of the Spartan surroundings at this preliminary hearing, we were impressed. Steve Baruch said in a letter at about this time, “We intend for the show to be a major ‘happening.’ In addition to what we think will be a wonderful piece of theater, we expect to drench the audience in atmosphere —from incense and chimes as they enter to waitresses, cigarette girls and coat check people in costume. I personally think it’s the most commercial piece we’ve ever done.”

Aside from incense and chimes, the audience would not be seated in row after row of seats as in a usual production. The three producers envisioned a ballroom of tables with immaculate linens. As Steve Baruch said, it was much more like a “happening” rather than a staid theater performance. Those costumed waitresses would be available to bring you drinks like the “Frank Sumatra” or the “Shirley Temple of Doom.” (see menu attached) Food had an oriental flavor in keeping with the theme of Song of Singapore. When a customer had all the booze he needed and had eaten the Pad Thai and Shu Mai, he could top it off with “Key Sublime Pie.”

The food and drinks were to be served before the performances and during intermissions, but experiences showed that some patrons got wine at $22 per bottle or champagne ranging from $25 to $65 and they drank it while the show took place. All of this was perfectly in keeping with the idea that patrons were to have some fun as they saw “Song of Singapore.” On top of that, the investors and producers were sponsoring the sale of food and drinks which helped the bottom line. This was an unusual way to mount a play, but we agreed with the three producers that Song of Singapore should be an evening of fun and perhaps, it might even turn a profit.

In addition to the food and wine, the producers had tee shirts, jackets and drinking glasses for sale. Maybe patrons who consumed enough champagne and wine would buy some glasses or a jacket, all contributing to the financial success of the show.

When we saw that the building at Irving Place and 15th Street in New York was really being remodeled with a new name, Song of Singapore Building, Judy and I put down our money and said count us as investors or backers. As investors, we joined perhaps 100 to 150 other people who were also backers of the show. Before all that happened, the producers gave our finances a close look and decided that we were good risks. When they presented the contracts to be signed, I declined to show them to a lawyer because I knew that any lawyer worth his salt would tell us not to sign the papers. I guess we acted as our own attorneys which is contrary to every piece of advice I ever got from a lawyer. So now all we had to do was wait for opening night.

Song of Singapore was set in early December, 1941. The story of the play makes reference to the attempt of aviatrix Amelia Earhart to fly her Lockheed Electra around the world in 1937. People who were alive in the 1930’s will recall that newspapers and radio broadcasts followed her progress as best they could. Some of the places she stopped were so far off the beaten track that it was difficult to put together progress reports of her flights. On top of all that, Amelia Earhart’s navigator had a reputation for heavy drinking.

In any event, Ms. Earhart and Fred Noonan, her navigator, were lost in 1937. From time to time, explorers report from the South Pacific that they have found natives who claim to have known about the “big bird from the sky” falling in the jungle. Her plane went down between New Guinea and Howland Island. In point of fact, for 65 years, there have been no reliable reports of finding Ms. Earhart or her airplane. As the Columbia Encyclopedia says, “Her fate remains a mystery.” Song of Singapore more or less suggests that she and her navigator were wandering around unrecognized, writing songs and drinking outrageous concoctions of drinks and food in the South Pacific such as the Frank Sumatra cocktail or Singapore style food. Literary license? Yes. Sure.

We watched as work on the show and the theater progressed. At the end of May 1991, Song of Singapore was ready to open. And so it did.

You may remember that earlier I told you that the audience was seated at tables of four rather than in long rows as you might find in an ordinary theater. Opening night was a sell out with critics from all the papers and magazines. They were interested in seeing if Song of Singapore represented a major innovation in handling an audience. Everyone was seated and the waitresses brought drinks to everyone who needed one. Judy and I were waiting for the two remaining seats at our table to be filled. We didn’t have to wait long as the theater critic from the New York Times, David Richards, and his female assistant joined us at out table. Obviously, the critic from the Times could write a review that would make or break the show.

Judy and I were cordial to Richards and his helper without seeming to be obsequious. Richards sat at our table until intermission at which time he asked to be moved to the balcony. He wasn’t displeased with us; he just wanted to see what the show looked like from the balcony. Richards himself was glum and did not seem to be enjoying himself. Based upon what we saw at our table, there did not seem much hope that he would produce a favorable review. We were wrong. Richards produced a good review. According to a letter we received from the three producers, “The most important reviews were raves, though we certainly did have some mixed notices from a number of critics. Audience reactions are uniformly ecstatic…” So, Song of Singapore was off to a very favorable start.

Naturally, we followed the show closely. What we were to learn was that all kinds of extraneous factors affect theater attendance. First there was the summer vacation period and then there was the Labor Day fall off. The show seemed to be doing well up to the New Year’s holiday at the end of 1991. Then there were what show people called “The January-February Doldrums”.

The long and the short of it is that the producers had to ask for more money to keep the show running. At the end of 1991, the star of the show, Donna Murphy, left to take a role in a different production. Donna was discovered in Song of Singapore and went on to star in productions such as The King and I on Broadway and London’s West End. As it turned out, Donna Murphy came pretty close to being irreplaceable. We all anteed up more money, but the heavy payroll and less than stellar attendance finally closed the show in May, 1992 after almost a year on the boards. We had enjoyed seeing Song of Singapore come to life, but the economic facts of life have to be faced.

Now I get to a point made earlier in this story which said that backers or investors will realize some gain only if there is some money left over after all the dozens of other people get their cut. And believe me there were many people who got paid before any thought was given to the investors. When the accounting statements were sent out, we learned how many people were lined up before the backers.

To start with, the three producers and their staffs produced the show “In association with Allen Spivak and Larry Magid.” That’s two we did not know about. Then there was A. J. Antoon who directed the performance. All those people had to be taken care of. The book was written by Allan Katz and four other authors. The music and lyrics were the work of four people. They had a major piece of the action.

Then there were people who were not seen by the audience. For example, there was set design, costume design, lighting design and sound design. Then we had separate people in charge of musical supervision, orchestrations, vocal arrangements, casting, production supervision, the press representative, the production manager as well as the associate producer. And finally, there was a “Jazzaturg.” This person was Paula Lockheart who had been with the show from its inception. She wrote part of the book as well as some of the music and lyrics. And before the show got to New York, she had the female lead. When the producers were able to get Donna Murphy for the lead, Paula became the “Jazzaturg” which meant she shared billing in the Playbill which every one seeing Song of Singapore received. I suppose Paula was compensated for helping to write the book as well as for the music and lyrics so she had to be taken care of from the proceeds of the show. The other four, who created the show along with Paula, remained in the band and participated in the songs and dialog. Wisely, they never quit their day jobs.

Under the production supervisor, a Ron Nash, there were seven people reporting to him. Miriam Shapiro, the production manager, had 13 people that she directed. I suppose all of those folks had to be paid every week.

Now that leaves the wardrobe people and make up artists. I lost count when I tried to figure out how many people were backstage.

Well, there is no point in beating a dead horse. The fact is that the proceeds from the audience were somewhere between being not enough to cover the costs of running the show or barely enough. In any case, there were no profits flowing to the poor old investors, namely us.

So you see my admonition that if you can’t pay the electric bill at the end of the month, stay away from Show Bizness. Good advice. In the meantime, we enjoyed the parties and the excitement about producing the show. And in the end, while there were no profits declared, after a time, the production resulted in a tax write-off so we had our fun and it all came out pretty close to even. And in the bargain, we wound up with a few glasses with the Song of Singapore symbol of a large dragon on them and somehow Nicole Miller, a prominent designer was engaged to produce some ancillary products. Judy wound up with a scarf and I have a flashy handkerchief to put in a suit pocket. Of course, all have the dragon symbol playing a trumpet, the signature of Song of Singapore. When the show closed after almost a year on the boards, we felt we had enough fun to justify the expense. Not a bad tradeoff in any case.

Two thoughts in closing the door on Song of Singapore before we go on to Marvin’s Room which was our next investment. The building at Irving Place and 15th Street is now used for concerts due largely to the interior changes made by Song of Singapore. I read that Dolly Parton, the country artist, had a concert there early in July, 2002. I have no idea of whether the Polish Army Veterans Association still uses the place.

David Richards, the critic of the New York Times who sat at our table on opening night, appears stymied in his career. Apparently, he left the New York Times and took a job with The Washington Post. Now he is described as the “former drama critic” of the Times and the Post. The last effort we are aware of is a foreword he composed to go with “Plays from Woolly Mammoth,” a play anthology. Our limited exposure to David Richards led us to believe that he is not the happiest person in the world. This came as no surprise to Judy who thought Richards was a loser on opening night of Song of Singapore.

Marvin’s Room might be called a peculiar work to be presented as a comedy to New York audiences. Nonetheless, we made an investment on February 12, 1992 on the strength of tryouts in Hartford, Chicago and an off-Broadway presentation in New York which seemed to be huge successes.

Marvin’s Room had very little music so there was no overhead for a big band or for the writers of original music or lyrics. The cast was essentially three women backed up by five people who had lesser roles to play. The show seemed to have succeeded before in three tryouts in 1990 and 1991. While the usual collection of workers was required to get the play produced, it seemed to us that the overhead was substantially less than in our original investment in Song of Singapore.

The play opened on March 5, 1992 at the Minetta Lane Theater in Greenwich Village in New York. Minetta Lane Theater is considered to be an Off-Broadway house. The play is set in the present. The place is shown as “Various locations in Florida and a mental institution in Ohio.” How’s that for a comedy?

Scott McPherson, the author of Marvin’s Room died late in 1991 from AIDS. He never saw the opening of his show in New York. Marvin is never plainly seen. He has been dying slowly from cancer for decades. One never sees the old man except for an outline behind a glass brick wall, where he liked to watch colors from a bedside lamp bounce around the room. See, I told you this was a comedy.

Bessie and Lee are Marvin’s daughters. Before the play ends, Bessie learns that she has leukemia. Lee, the other daughter, is a “self-centered, totally neurotic bossy woman.” That’s what William Raidy, a prominent critic, had to say. And Ruth, Marvin’s sister, is described as “out of it. Her brain has been wired to shut out pain,” we are told. I told you this was a comedy. Now do you believe me?

Marvin’s Room got accolades from the newspapers, from Variety, from Entertainment/Arts, as well as some serious pieces which said that the play promises to “Banish defeat with goodness.” (Frank Rich, New York Times.) Frank Rich also said, “Is there any chance you will believe me when I tell you that Marvin’s Room …..is one of the funniest plays of the year as well as one of the wisest and most moving?” Rich is a fine writer, but perhaps he was carried away when he wrote those lines.

I thought Marvin’s Room was a pleasant evening at the theater – and not much more. But all the critics said it was great stuff. Today I reviewed 15 or 20 reports from newspapers and magazines from the opening night. Uniformly, the critics said the play was funny and moving. So I said if the critics are impressed, how about paying audiences? This was an investment for us so we were dismissing much of what the critics had to say. Will people pay to see a comedy with cancer, leukemia and a neurotic woman?

Well, curiously they did. After a time, we began to get payment checks which reflected some profits from the show. Before long, we had recovered 73% of our investment. Marvin’s Room was licensed to other producers such as colleges and local theater groups. All of those license fees were distributed to the investors. The Minetta Lane Theater production lasted for nearly two years. It was produced by licensees for at least five years after that. When Marvin’s Room had run its course over a six or seven year period, Judy and I came out fairly close to even. We never expected to make a killing by backing theater productions. It is a good thing that we did not expect wealth to accumulate to the size that Ken Lay of Enron might envy. But we had more fun than Ken Lay ever had.

Marvin’s Room was not nearly as much fun as Song of Singapore, but it returned most of our investment. We achieved exactly what we had set out to do. We had seen how theater plays are put together and we enjoyed the process. And, in the end, all that fun did not cost very much. That’s a pretty good bargain. But we had had enough of theater investment. Knowing when to fold ‘em came after two shows and we have no hankering to back another play.

Investing in plays is a sort of an extravagance, but do you think that investors in WorldCom, Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, Arthur Andersen, Halliburton or Harken Energy enjoyed their experience as much as we did with Song of Singapore and Marvin’s Room? We can laugh about our losses in the theater business; I suspect that WorldCom, Enron, etc, investors may be looking for a bridge to jump off of.

E. E. CARR
July 22, 2002

~~~

I can’t help but compare the startups of 2016 to the companies that form to create plays. The majority of them exist only briefly and never turn a profit, but some prove to be runaway successes that go on and on. They take money from wherever they can get it, and pay out salaries and incremental expenses before investors ever see a dime.

Song of Singapore reminds me of an Austin-based movie theater franchise called the “Alamo Drafthouse,” wherein patrons can order food directly to their tables as they watch movies. The Drafthouse also features a large stage and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if live plays were sometimes preformed there. It’s an excellent establishment and I bet Pop would have liked it, had he gone back in the day.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK PART 6 – L’AIGLON AND VOGA E VA | TWO GREAT ITALIAN ARTISTS

In the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, there are two biblical injunctions or commands to “make a joyful noise.” If you are skilled at reading Roman numerals, you can look them up yourself to make sure that I know what I am talking about. One comes from Psalms, Chapter LXVI, verse one and the second is from Psalms, Chapter C, verse one. In both cases, the command is to “make a joyful noise.”

I am not widely known for quoting the Old Testament – or the New Testament either – but in this case if you ate at Guido Bocciola’s L’Aiglon Restaurant or if you listened to Aldo Bruschi play the piano, the oboe, the accordion and to sing, I suspect that any rational man could not help himself but to make a joyful noise.

Guido’s restaurant was on 55th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue. Aldo played at a club he owned with a partner, In Boboli, in the 70’s on the East Side. He had a studio in Brooklyn and he played engagements all over New York after he ended his association with In Boboli.

Over the years, I knew Guido quite a bit better than Aldo mainly because I ate lunch fairly often at L’Aiglon. Aldo, on the other hand, played engagements in the evening and ran a studio where he taught voice and the three instruments he had mastered, the piano, the oboe and the accordion. So I propose we talk first about Guido Bocciola and then we’ll finish with the musician, Aldo Bruschi.

In the 1950’s, contract bargaining with the union was a yearly affair. There were also grievances and work stoppages to be dealt with. AT&T Long Lines had 35,000 people in those days. I had the day-to-day responsibility to handle the labor problems for this force spread from Nova Scotia to California. So I was busy and I found myself working late and staying in New York City.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I became friendly with the owner of Nino’s 10 East which was located at 10 East 52nd Street in New York. Nino was a suave individual who spoke three or four European languages. But running a New York restaurant that serves lunch and dinner and also caters to the after-theater crowd is a load. It ages men before their time, so somewhere in his early 60’s, Nino closed his place and moved to L’Aiglon, a top flight restaurant on 55th Street East of Fifth Avenue. He became a partner to Guido Bocciola who had run L’Aiglon for perhaps 25 years. That took a load off both Nino and Guido. In a year or so, Nino retired and went to Florida.

My friendship with Guido lasted for the 25 years he stayed in the restaurant business after I knew him. After that we corresponded until his death somewhere around 1990. I knew Guido was gone when his wife, Aurora, sent the last Christmas card.

Guido became a friend to me much like Jake Haberfeld in Israel. Over the years when guests were to be entertained, I always took them to L’Aiglon. That name incidentally, means young eagle or eaglet. If the guests were foreign, Guido would produce a waiter, or a captain, a bartender or even one of the men from the kitchen so that the guest could be addressed in his native tongue. With the possible exception of Russian, Guido’s people spoke nearly every European language. Aside from language, Guido’s food was first class in every respect because the boss oversaw just about everything that was placed before you. In the European tradition, Guido could tend bar, he could butcher, he could cook and he asked his staff to be attentive to the whims of customers.

L’Aiglon had an all male staff with one exception. That would have been his one-person office staff, Helen Dowd. She was a completely charming woman. It always baffled me why she had never married, but she seemed content to be Guido’s Office Manager. Guido treated Helen with old world charm. I suspect she never had thoughts of leaving L’Aiglon.

Aside from the good food and fine spirits, I attempted to learn something about the Italian, Spanish and French languages at L’Aiglon. Guido taught me that two “C’s”, as in his surname of Bocciola, were pronounced as a “K”. From Jorge Alonso, the bartender, the lessons in Cuban Spanish were offered. And from Guido’s new partner after Nino re-retired, Roger Delacroix, I had someone to interpret the French language.

I knew Jorge Alonso, the bartender, the same length of time that I knew Guido and the rest of his staff. Jorge left Cuba along with two or three brothers shortly before Castro slammed the door shut. My belief is that the brothers were able to get their mother out of Cuba from the city of Camagüey. Old Jorge used to claim that the baseball team in Camagüey played better ball than the New York Giants before they ran away to San Francisco. Maybe so.

In those days, I drank Black and White scotch. The more fashionable scotch drinkers asked for Cutty Sark, but when I came into his bar, Jorge always had the Black and White bottle sitting on the counter. Jorge was a good and decent man. He stayed with Guido until Guido left the restaurant business.

There are dozens of memories flooding back as I recall Guido’s place. Two stick out. My younger daughter was attending the University of Toulouse in France. This was a one semester arrangement with Dartmouth University. She planned to spend her two week holiday in Italy and France. The plan was for her mother and me to meet her and to see the sights in Venice, Bologna, Turin, Milan and two or three French cities in the South of France. Guido asked me about my itinerary and I gave it to him thinking that I was just passing the time of day. In a week or so I saw Guido again. He gave me a list of hotels and restaurants in each town that was on our itinerary. In each city, he had called hoteliers and restaurateurs to make reservations or to say that we were coming and to be sure that the Italians and French treated us well. This was done on Trans-Atlantic phone lines which was not an inexpensive. When I tried to thank Guido, he said, “You give me your business so it is my time to give you my business.”

As it turned out, before the holiday ever happened, my daughter was hit on a sidewalk in Toulouse by a motorcycle. Both legs were broken and her holiday was out the window. It was quite a job to get her home. Air France gave her three coach seats so she could lie down. The flight from Toulouse went through Bordeaux. At that intermediate point, the French required all passengers to go through immigration before going on to Paris. When this very snobbish French official found that I was carrying three passports, for my daughter and her mother and myself, he demanded that the other two passengers appear before him. With the help of my pocket Random House French-English dictionary, I attempted to explain that our daughter had two broken legs and was in no condition to see the Grand Inquisitor.

There followed a standoff with the French official saying that I should speak better French. By that time, I was pretty steamed over this little tin pot dictator. When it became apparent that the flight was not departing on time, one of the pilots came to find out the cause. When he saw what was holding us up, he became more steamed than I was and dressed down the immigration official. All things being equal, it was a long day for our daughter to get her from Toulouse, to Bordeaux, to Paris, to New York and that final hour and a half ride to Short Hills. I am deeply indebted to the concern shown by Air France to my daughter and I greatly enjoyed the dressing down given by the pilot to the immigration dictator.

Two or three weeks after we got home, Guido set up a dinner for us which he cooked pretty much by himself. The highlight was the dessert which Guido said was his “specialty.” It was a memorable evening even with old Suzanne in two leg casts.

I was able to return a favor to Guido around 1975. John DeButts had become the CEO of AT&T. DeButts somehow got the idea that the company ought to leave its traditional home at 195 Broadway and move uptown to Madison Avenue between 55th and 56th streets. This was a dumb, dumb move. But nonetheless, enormous sums were spent to buy the property which was probably among the most expensive in New York City. Then buildings had to be demolished and this new Taj Mahal erected. The fact that IBM was moving into the next block might have figured into DeButts’s thinking. I repeat, it was a dumb, dumb move.

In acquiring the property which extended about halfway from Madison Avenue to Fifth Avenue, the land under Guido’s L’Aiglon was sold. By then, Guido had operated L’Aiglon for probably 30 years. He saw this as the death of L’Aiglon. The thought that his staff would lose their jobs preyed most on Guido’s mind. I was unaware that AT&T was acquiring the property for the Madison Avenue site. Not many people knew about it for fear of driving property prices higher and possibly causing one or more owners to refuse to sell their property until an exorbitant price was met.

So early on a December morning, I was in my office at #5 World Trade Center when I got a call from Guido. He was about as far down in the dumps as a man could get. Guido asked me if there was anything I could do to keep L’Aiglon from being demolished. Real estate deals had no place in my marketing efforts with foreign telephone administrations, but I told Guido I would do everything to try to find out what was going on.

My first call hit pay dirt. I called a low level AT&T Vice President with whom I had worked in Washington on AT&T’s lobbying effort. He had returned to New York and had an administrative job at 195 Broadway, the headquarters of AT&T. I had known this fellow for three or four years and I am sorry to say, we got along without much love being lost on either side. If I wanted to have a drink with someone, this fellow would be about the last to be called – and vice versa. I am also sorry that his name has vanished from my head. In any case, he said that a hush-hush group was shepherding the new building project and that its head man was Jack Bradley. So I thanked my informant and called Mr. Bradley. I expected to be told to get lost; that property acquisition is none of your business.

That’s not the way it happened at all. Jack turned out to be a fellow Midwesterner who seemed inclined to hear my story. So I put on my coat and walked the block or two to get from the World Trade Center to 195 Broadway. There was no formality about Jack. There were no secretaries saying that the boss would be out for awhile and could you come later. Old Jack provided a chair for me in his office and I spilled out my story. At the outset, I made certain that Jack understood I had no financial interest in L’Aiglon. I told Jack that Guido had been in business there on 55th Street for 30 years and with Christmas coming up, kicking him out seemed like a cruel blow.

Jack seemed sympathetic about everything. He also disclosed to me that if he worked it properly, perhaps the last piece of property to be demolished would be Guido’s place. His estimate was that if he could make things happen in the right way, it might take nearly three years for the wrecking crew to reach L’Aiglon. That was great news if it turned out to be true. So I said to Jack that I would have Guido come to his office the next day at 9AM to make his case.

I was torn between going with Guido or having him appear by himself. If I went with Guido, it might appear that I was intruding on a straight-forward proposition. I also knew that Guido could make a better case for his own interests than I could. Well, Guido was greatly pleased to receive my call. He promised – guaranteed – that he would be in Bradley’s office 15 minutes before 9AM. And he did just that.

Jack heard Guido out and at the end, he told Guido to go back to L’Aiglon and relax. Jack said that from now on, AT&T would be Guido’s new landlord.

Now a word about landlords. For all the years that L’Aiglon had been at its location on 55th Street, it had been a great task to get the landlord to fix anything. There were times when Guido simply paid to have the property repaired. That, of course, should have been the landlord’s responsibility. As soon as AT&T acquired the property, Jack sent inspectors to examine the L’Aiglon operation. They even asked Guido for his recommendations. Guido almost fell over in a dead faint to think that his new landlord was asking Guido for his thoughts. As soon as Jack had his list, he sent workmen to Guido’s place and fixed everything to Guido’s amazement and appreciation.

Jack was a man of his word. Guido was permitted to operate for a little more than three years and he was very happy with AT&T as his landlord. He didn’t need to do it, but Guido sponsored two lunches at LaCaravelle for Jack Bradley and myself. It was entirely like Guido to make certain that he showed his appreciation.

Not long after AT&T became L’Aiglon’s landlord, we had a gathering there of about 30 people which included some of my staff and some representatives from N. W. Ayer, our advertising agency. On all previous occasions when we had used Guido’s private room, he would come around – very unobtrusively – to ask if everything was being taken care of. On this night, Guido asked me for a little air time to make a short speech. So after the crowd quieted down, Guido said that when he called me on that December morning, three years ago, I had said that I would get back to him in three days time. I don’t remember that, but it could be with the secrecy that AT&T was using in its acquisition of property. Perhaps I thought it would take three days to penetrate the AT&T bureaucracy. In any case, Guido said instead of three days, I had gotten back to him in three hours. I appreciated Guido addressing the crowd on my behalf. The effectiveness of his remarks told me that sending Guido to see Jack Bradley alone was a good move because Guido was a very moving speaker. Guido was a first class friend. I am glad that he considered me a friend to him and to the staff at L’Aiglon.

When the L’Aiglon building was demolished, Guido and Roger Delacroix scouted around for another location. After two or three years, they settled on the site of the old Italian Pavilion on 55 Street just west of Fifth Avenue. Somehow lawyers for the owners of the original L’Aiglon property went to court to prevent that name being used at the new location. So Guido and Roger said they weren’t going to pay through the nose to keep the old name, so they simply called the restaurant by its original name, the Italian Pavilion. Guido retired probably around 1988 and the Italian Pavilion was replaced by a California style restaurant in about 1990. And so another restaurant bites the dust as landlords raise rents to get every drop of revenue out of their property.

When Guido retired for good, he had business cards printed with the following information:

When I retired, I had the cards reprinted under my name.

I said at the outset of this essay that Guido became a friend to me much like Jake Haberfeld in Israel. Jake was one of my most admired friends. Guido joins that class of friends.

Guido said that running a restaurant that served lunch, dinner, cocktail parties and after theater meals, he figured in his 30 years at L’Aiglon he had actually worked 80 years. I never argued with Guido because he had a mighty tough job which he performed with grace and dignity. I simply can’t offer any higher praise than that.

Now we turn to another great artist, Aldo Bruschi, also an Italian. During the day, Aldo ran a studio in Brooklyn where he taught voice, mainly sopranos, accordion, piano and oboe. That wasn’t enough to keep him busy, so in the evenings and on weekends, he performed in nightclubs and restaurants.

My recollection is that I first saw Aldo in the early part of the 1960’s when he played at a restaurant he co-owned with Arturo Sacco on the upper east side of Manhattan. It was called In Boboli after a garden in Florence. It was a lovely restaurant that served delicious food and offered one of the best musical ensembles around. The food was overseen by Aldo’s partner; the entertainment was under Aldo’s control.

Aldo’s ensemble played dance music, show tunes and quite a bit of Italian popular music and folk tunes. Several times he brought female student singers to perform with him so that they could become accustomed to nightclub conditions. In his studio, he said he always taught the aspiring sopranos and altos a Venetian folk song. On many occasions Aldo also sang that folk song, “Voga E Va.” The card he signed simply meant that I asked for that old folk song wherever Aldo or Aldo and his ensemble were playing.

In Boboli had a run of several years. With teaching all day and performing six nights a week, Aldo needed some rest. He elected to drop out of the co-ownership of In Boboli and performed on a somewhat less taxing schedule.

Aldo was a big man with a barrel chest. His voice was in the bass range. The songs he sang were quite moving. As far as his playing the piano, the oboe and the accordion, I thought he was a first class performer. But I suppose anyone who teaches those instruments all day long ought to be good. Aldo was.

I followed Aldo around Manhattan from time to time, where he was performing. I suppose I kept track of his career from the early sixties through the middle of the 1980’s. His music was always in good taste and well performed.

Along the way, he recorded two albums, “Alps to the Sea” and “Enchantment Italy”. Along with songs like Tramonto, L’Edera, Core’ N Grata and Domino, I was pleased to find on both recordings the old stand by, “Voga E Va.” For those of you who like translations, Tramonto means sunset. L’Edera means ivy and Core’ n Grata is ungrateful heart. Domino is about a card game and my all time favorite, Voga E Va is a Venetian folk song meaning row and go. That’s what the men do who take you for a ride in Venice.
In researching Aldo’s background, I was pleased to find that he was a graduate of The Julliard School of Music majoring in the oboe. He continued his musical studies at Columbia University. And if that is not enough, he married Isabelle Pasqualicchio who was also a Julliard graduate. Aldo recorded several of the songs that Isabelle composed including “Boboli” which was the name Aldo and his partner chose for their cabaret-restaurant. Aldo was a major talent.

A few years back, we found a person who converts phonograph records into CD’s. Phonograph records wear out and they sometimes break. With Aldo’s records being converted to CD’s, those problems are avoided and we can listen to Voga E Va as often as we like.

I’m sorry to say that we have fewer reasons to go to Manhattan these days, so it is now more than 16 years since I have seen Aldo. So Judy and I figured that it would be good to talk to Maestro Bruschi. Judy turned her computer loose and found a web site that gave us two Aldo Bruschi names in Brooklyn. The first number I called produced Aldo. What good fortune.

Aldo is still hard at work. He teaches seven or eight classes at a parochial school and conducts the choir at St. Patrick’s Church on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. Obviously, Aldo hasn’t done much retiring.

When I reminded him of my devotion to Voga E Va, he said he still taught that song. He said Maria, his 20-year-old daughter, was at that moment taking a shower, but when she finished, they would call me back to sing that song to us about Venice. In a few minutes, Aldo and Maria called back and Maria delivered a beautiful rendition of Voga E Va accompanied by her father on the piano, who also joined in, singing the bass part. That made the day for two people here in New Jersey. I told Maria she speaks Italian in a classical fashion as taught by her father.

My dear friend from L’Aiglon, died about ten years ago. Aldo Bruschi, as you can see from these pages, is still going strong.

Aldo and Guido were hard working people who treated the people around them decently. In another essay, I will tell you why I had strong positive feelings for Italians before I first set foot in that country in 1943. These two men are the sort of people I had known in Missouri. The fact that they were engaged in two of my all time favorites of preparing gourmet food and fine music made dealing with them a great pleasure and a rewarding one at that.

And so as I said in opening this essay on two very good friends, the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament had it right. Guido Bocciola and Aldo Bruschi “made a joyful noise” for many years and for many people in New York City. They deserve a special place of honor in this series of essays devoted to New York, New York.

After all these years, it seems to me that great food and great music go together. Perhaps the writer of the Book of Psalms had Italian food and Italian music in mind as he wrote those verses. A joyful noise must have had Guido’s L’Aiglon and Aldo’s music in mind. Vive La Italia.

E. E. CARR
June 26, 2002

~~~

It’s becoming increasingly evident that this series is one of Pop’s strongest sets of essays, in my opinion. I really enjoy learning about the people and the relationships involved, and especially how they fit in with life events that I already knew about, like mom’s sidewalk run-in with a motorcycle. Fun fact, the French doctors tried to get her to stand on it again barely a week after the accident, causing the knee to re-break. If you break your leg in France, go somewhere else to have it fixed.

Courtesy of Judy: Voga E Va, by Aldo Bruschi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. E. CARR
June 25, 2002

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. E. CARR
June 10, 2002

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. E. CARR
June 4, 2002

~~~

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

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

NEW YORK, NEW YORK PART 2 – THE MAN WITH A COMB

In Part I of this series of stories about people I knew after coming to New York City, I told you about my friend Bob Creasey who never saw a steak that he could resist. You may recall that lots of those nearly raw pieces of steer meat were consumed at the old time saloon on 8th Avenue called Roths.

Now, with your permission, I’d like you to meet Sam, last name unknown to me after 50 years. The year was the spring and early summer of 1951. For many years, Sam had operated a theater ticket agency in the lobby of the Piccadilly Hotel on West 45th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. For years, union people stayed at the Piccadilly because the union’s office was only a half block away. On this occasion, we stayed at the Piccadilly for about seven weeks. During that time, I got to know Sam the theater ticket man pretty well. In spite of the differences in ages, I believe that we became friends that year.

In the spring of 1951, there was a contract termination between the AT&T Company and the CWA. This meant that it would be necessary to renegotiate the whole contract, wages, working conditions and everything else. Much later when Richard Nixon was president, this came to be known as the whole enchilada. I disliked Nixon so enchiladas and tortillas were off the menu.

With Creasey being enthroned as an Assistant Secretary of Labor in Washington, the new head of the Long Lines part of the union was Carl Peters. Carl came from Chicago where we had been union allies for years. When he ran for the top job, I made the nominating speech. Carl was a mighty fine man who was cut down by cancer only a couple of years after the 1951 bargaining.

Carl Peters was a different sort of man from what we had known under Bob Creasey’s leadership. He was home folks. He suffered no pretensions about his station in life. He did not play golf and he drank very sparingly. And when evening came, Carl Peters caught a train and went home to his family in New Jersey. Joe Darling and I suspected that Carl did not like eating at Roths any more then we did.

Union people called me in Chicago two or three years later to tell me that Carl was not going to make it. Cancer was winning. He had asked that visitors be told that he was in no condition to see them. I wrote him a letter about old times. I hope that he was pleased to read it.

In 1951, the union was completely under the control of its International President Joseph Beirne. At best, most of us in the Long Lines part of the union were lukewarm about Beirne. Our thoughts were influenced I suppose, by Beirne’s Secretary-Treasurer Slim Werkau who failed to honor our expense reports promptly. Joe Darling and I rebelled at Werkau’s directive that we were to get receipts from taxi drivers – in New York City. We told Slim that we would go home rather than submit our expense reports complete with New York cab receipts. Werkau backed down.

The reason I was back in New York to negotiate the new contract had to do with my election to the five person bargaining committee. Joe Darling was also elected so we resumed our long friendship. While we were always short of money because of Werkau’s sitting on our expense reports, we got by pretty well. We didn’t have to eat at Roths anymore. Quite to the contrary, one of the favorites of the 1951 bargaining committee was a Stouffer’s restaurant on Madison Avenue in the low 50’s. The food was good. It was well served. The portions were of lady like size, which was just my speed. The prices were favorable. So who cared if anyone said we had invaded an old ladies’ tearoom. We didn’t know about cholesterol back then, but as it turned out, we were eating the right things. So Joe Darling and I didn’t even bother to tell Roths goodbye.

The people from out of town on the bargaining committee returned to the old familiar Piccadilly Hotel. It was not a luxury hotel, by any means. But all the required services were provided at reasonable cost to the tenants. Lots of people connected to the theater business stayed at the Piccadilly because it was right in the heart of the theater district. When a new play opened, searchlights were brought in and reporters showed up. As soon as the curtain went down, people would descend on newsstands to read the reviews. All things considered, it was an exciting time to be in the theater district in New York City.

In those days, I don’t know of any hotel that was air-conditioned. When May and June and July rolled around, it could get very warm in the small bedrooms of the Piccadilly Hotel. Joe Darling and I kept our shades all the way up in an effort to get a little more breeze. The scenery late at night was not at all bad. A block away, sat the Edison Hotel, another home for show people. Jackie Gleason kept rooms or a suite there for many years. Looking over the short block from 45th Street to 46th Street, it was amazing what could be seen in the Edison Hotel. This is a high-flown essay so I won’t go into details, but the scenery in the Edison Hotel provided great entertainment for guys like Joe Darling and me. Joe said it was appropriate to look because the patrons at the Edison were looking back at the conduct or misconduct going on at the Piccadilly. I suppose that is fair enough.

Without a lot of money to spend we tended to spend quite a bit of time in the lobby of our hotel. Aside from all the theater people that came and went in the lobby, there was one fellow who operated a thriving business in the lobby of the Piccadilly. And he is the man with a comb that I want you to meet. His name is Sam. His last name was probably never known to me, but 50 years later, it is completely beyond my recollection.

If someone were to wander around New York City and had a desire to see a show – say on short notice or a hit show – and if that person was willing to pay a premium over the price shown on the ticket stub, Sam was the man to see. Sam saved a lot of potential marriages. He also saved quite a few jobs. If a person said to his intended that, “Of course, I will take you to see the Music Man”, only to find our that the box office was offering seats six months ahead, he had to see Sam to preserve his image of clout. If an employee were to utter that same sort of boast to his boss, and the box office said come back in February, he had to see Sam. Sam had tickets to just about every show. The closer it got to the date of the performance, Sam’s price would go up and up.

Sam had to be a good judge of the pulling power of new shows so that he could order the right number of tickets. If he ran short, Sam would be on the phone begging other ticket agents to give him some ducats. I hung around Sam long enough to know that running a theater ticket agency was a high pressure operation – but man, it was fun from what I could see.

I got to know Sam pretty well. He was probably in his early sixties. I was 27 or 28 years old but Sam seemed to welcome my interest in his operation. On more than one occasion, Sam would say at about six or seven minutes to eight PM, “Hey kid, you want to see a show?” The tickets were either free or at very little cost to me. So in the six or seven weeks in 1951, it was my good fortune to see all kinds of theater performances. I thought this New York City was some kind of place. In fact, it was.

Well after all this introduction, I need to tell you about the comb. Next door to the hotel was a large barbershop. I suppose it had six or seven barbers. In those days, barbers would work you over and trim your eyebrows and the hair in your nose and ears. A manicurist always stood ready to do her thing. The shoeshine man would tend to your shoes and he would carefully brush your felt hat before it was returned to you. A trip to the barbershop in those days was a complete experience. When you walked out of the barbershop, you felt like a new man.

The barbershop could be entered from the street or from the lobby of the Piccadilly Hotel. It closed promptly at 7PM. While Sam was largely bald, he did have some carefully tended hairs growing out the side of his head which he would pull across the top of his scalp. Some people would say he was probably vain about his appearance, but I always thought Sam had class and sophistication.

At 6:45PM, Sam would quit doing what ever he was working on and he would retreat to the barbershop to have a barber comb his hair. If he needed a quick trim, that would be taken care of. The barber would spray Sam’s head with cologne and would put a skin bracer on his face. When Sam came back from the barbershop, he was a new man.

I had never heard of having a barber comb a man’s hair before. And I haven’t heard of it happening in the last 51 years since I left the Piccadilly Hotel. Personally, I would probably never ask someone to comb my hair even when I had some hair. As I said, I was 27 or 28 years of age at the time and more than anything else, I aspired to be a man of class and sophistication just like Sam.

I am glad to say that Sam may have been my first long-term friend in New York City. He was a good, decent man. That’s about the ultimate in praise for a new found friend.

A few years later, I went by to look in on Sam. But he was gone and the man behind the counter wasn’t really interested in what had happened to my old friend. New York City can be a tough and uncaring town. I suspect illness or age had overtaken Sam and he had been forced to sell his business. Well, you can’t win all the time. I hope that Sam knew that a man – as he would say, “Hey Kid” – thought that he was a first class piece of work. Where ever he is – if he is still around – I hope he is the same happy man I knew back in 1951.

E. E. CARR
JUNE 1, 2002

~~~

Daw. Ed was never one to discriminate when it came to making friends, and this is a great example that seemed like it definitely paid off! This essay reads like a Humans of New York post from yesteryear. Funny though, that Pop describes Sam’s business as a ticket agency, whereas I read it as more of a professional scalping operation — but maybe those two things aren’t so different.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK PART 1 – A CASE OF CHOLESTROL POISONING

In a recent essay, I grumbled that it had been my misfortune to write about politicians for some time. I observed that writing about politicians is a sordid business. I believe that now is the time to write about some people I liked and respected.

In this new phase of my life as an essayist, I wrote about our beloved lap feline, Shannon P. Catt. So now I am free to write about other people who held my respect and admiration. Once in a great while someone who earned my disrespect and dislike will come along. But they are only incidental to what I will have to say.

From the beginning, or at least after the Army of the United States begrudgingly told me I could leave at the age of 23 years, it was my intention to find out what went on in New York City. A few months after the first big telephone strike in 1947, I drove from St. Louis to spend a vacation in the big city. An election to the presidency of the Union Local in St. Louis provided me with the opportunity to come on business to New York where the national headquarters of the Union was located. This national headquarters had to do with the Long Lines Division of AT&T which represented about 30,000 members. My journeys to New York started in 1948 and continued through the summer of 1951. So it was my good fortune to indulge my curiosity about the Yankees (boo!), the Giants and the Dodgers (a big boo..o.o.o.o!) and a lot of other events that took place only in what some people called the Big Apple.

No two ways about it, I was predisposed to like the citizens who call New York home. And the non-citizens as well. The New Yorkers who served with me in the Army were interesting people. The people from AT&T Headquarters who visited us in St. Louis were bright people. I never put New Yorkers down because they were depraved and unholy folks; on the contrary, I wanted to see a little bit of that depraved and unholy conduct for myself. Then or now, I always thought that a little sinful action was completely uplifting in its own way. My mother, with her constricted Nazarene and Pentecostal view of life, never visited me in the East. She would probably have regarded Broadway as dreadfully depraved. Her last child, namely me, would offer a differing view. He would say in robust tones, “Bring on the sin.” As I am sneaking up on my 80th birthday soon, perhaps it could be argued that a little sin greatly expands the life span.

I never set out on a campaign to get to know folks in New York City. It happened naturally over a period of years. For better or worse, I am a curious fellow. If someone from a different country comes along, I’d like to talk to him. Among other things, I have always been curious about how hotels and bars and restaurants and nightclubs are operated. So I asked some questions and before long, friendships developed naturally.

As improbable as it sounds, the reason I got to know restaurant owners, hotel people and a few entertainers goes back to my employment with the great American Telephone and Telegraph Company. I had better write about AT&T because it is believed – and I am a believer – that once AT&T sells its broadband services to Comcast this fall, some other company will make an offer for the remaining parts of the company and AT&T will become part of our forgotten past like Eastern Air Lines or the New York Central Railroad. Events conspired against the company, and dubious management decisions also had a major part in the prospective disappearance of one America’s best known names.

But, be that as it may, the fact is that every branch of AT&T was dominated by engineers, more specifically, electrical engineers. The president of the company and the vast majority of his reporting staff were electrical engineers. The head of the Long Lines Department was an electrical engineer as were the heads of regional Associated Companies. The same goes for Western Electric.

About the only places that escaped the engineering domination were the legal and the medical officers. AT&T believed that engineers could do any job so, from time to time, the accounting department was often headed by an engineer. Engineers were also found in influential or controlling positions in labor relations, press relations, personnel department matters, advertising and in the AT&T lobbying effort in Washington.

In point of fact, many of us did not buy the idea that an engineer could do every management job. In retrospect, there are those of us who believe that over-dependence on engineers probably led to the misfortunes of AT&T, starting in the 1970’s.

Now this is not a polemic against engineers – not at all. But as a group, telco engineers tended to be straight arrows. They got to work at 8AM and went to lunch with other engineers in the company cafeteria or dining room. At 5:30PM or 6PM, they caught a train or bus and went home. They rarely stopped at a bar in the railroad depot and they would shun the bar car on the train on the way home. And few of them told ribald jokes.

I’ve known hundreds or thousands of telephone engineers. At home, their tastes run to bridge, fishing and golf. On summer weekends, they enjoy cookouts. That’s wholesome enjoyment, but Broadway plays, concerts and nightclubs acts are usually not on a telco engineer’s agenda.

All of this worked out very well for me. I liked all the things that telco engineers disliked. And then or now, I can’t abide golf or bridge or fishing. I liked Broadway theatrical performances. I liked the restaurants that were found only in New York City. In short, I was attracted to the whole New York scene. When guests from out of town or foreign guests showed up, people would often ask me to help entertain them. Far from a burden, I felt indebted to telco engineers who gave me an opportunity to explore the mysteries of the Big Apple.

Now, with your permission, I will introduce you to a New Yorker who helped me with my work when I first came to New York City as a representative of the Union. In the beginning, it was the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers. After 1950, the FLLTW became the Communications Workers of America, which was usually referred to as the CWA.

When I came to New York on Union business in the 1948 to 1950 period, the President of the union was Robert T. Creasey. He had about 30,000 members in the Long Lines Federation. I haven’t seen Creasey for a long time but I suspect that he may have died from cholesterol poisoning or maybe he choked on a steak bone. Remember, you heard it here first that cholesterol poisoning is a deadly disease.

When I came to New York from St. Louis, we stayed at the Piccadilly Hotel on West 45th Street in the heart of the theater district. Creasey, who originally came from Dallas, was a meat eater. Only meat; no fish, no vegetables. If the steak dribbled off the plate because it was bigger than the plate, Creasey would say it was about right. And he had it cooked somewhere between raw and extremely rare. Creasey and I got along very well. On the other hand, I had grave reservations about his choice of restaurants.

I have never been a meat eater even though the opportunity to enjoy non-meat entries in St. Louis were fairly rare. But here I found myself with Creasey and his staff and three or four others who made up the National Board, hanging around the office at 45th Street and Eighth Avenue as dusk and evening approached. Someone would say that it was time to eat. Creasey would then suggest an old fashioned saloon in the next block above 45th Street on Eighth Avenue called Roths. We seemed to eat there three or four days a week, but it was where Creasey could get his overwhelming, rare steaks. My old colleague, Joe Darling, was equally revolted by the food at Roths, but the President had spoken so we ate at Roths. Somehow or other, our two votes never seemed to register when noses were counted.

Roth’s was a throwback to the 1920’s if not to the 1890’s. They contended that they offered a complete menu selection. In point of fact, Roth’s seafood was tired shrimp. His other non-meat entrée was chicken. The idea was that if you wanted to eat seafood, you went to a restaurant that specialized in fish. If your taste included a desire for exotic food, perhaps a Turkish restaurant would fill the bill. But if you wanted to eat steaks and chops and other meat products, you came to Roths.

Joe Darling and I tried everything. We argued that even if Creasey ate only large chunks of meat, at least we could find a different place to go other than Roths. No sale.

Prior to 1950’s, no one knew about cholesterol. I suspect that guys who ate enormous steaks looked upon themselves as macho men. Joe Darling and I were probably viewed as effete consumers of parsley sandwiches. But if Creasey kept on with his meat eating habits after we last talked with each other, I suspect that by now he must have succumbed to cholesterol poisoning. Too bad as he was a nice guy, other than eating meat at every meal.

In 1950, telephone workers across the country voted to form the Communications Workers of America, CWA. The head man of CWA was an old Washington, D. C. hand named Joe Beirne. Beirne was very well connected in Democratic political circles. Joe pulled off a deal with Maurice Tobin, the Secretary of Labor in Harry Truman’s cabinet. Creasey, who opposed Beirne and who was a rival of Beirne, was given a job as Assistant Secretary of Labor. Creasey accepted as he should have done. Beirne was in good shape as he got rid of a rival and a burr under his saddle in one swift move. For Joe Darling and me it was a day of liberation in 1950 with Creasey gone. We were free at last to eat in an establishment other than the fabled Roths.

Bob Creasey was a good man. Even before he went to Washington, he scared the AT&T Company with his competence. The Company rued the day when they had not promoted him to management years before. Later, I found out that my promotion to management in 1951 had quite a bit to do with the company wanting to avoid the same mistake. So aside from being a good guy, in a large measure, I may owe my progress in the company’s management ranks to old Robert T. Creasey.

With Creasey’s departure, I concentrated on seafood because I knew that in returning to St. Louis, few opportunities to eat lobsters, clams, oysters, sole and other fruits of the sea would be tough to come by.

And so we said goodbye to Bob Creasey. He came to CWA conventions and I met him once in Washington. His office was the size of a football field. I was glad for the recognition that came his way. He was a hard worker who put himself through evening law school in Dallas.

I suspect that Brother Creasey might be pushing 90 years of age by now, that is, if he succeeded in avoiding cholesterol poisoning. By staying completely away from meat or meat products for the past 15 years, and with the help of Zocar, my cholesterol is now about 150. I don’t know if this represents 150 watts or 150 kilobits or 150 pounds per square inch. I don’t know if the 150 is on the Fahrenheit scale or on the metric scale. So go ahead and laugh at my ignorance, but as I eat my watercress sandwiches, I will feel purified and sanctified. When my age reaches my cholesterol level, then I will start to worry.

E. E. CARR
MAY 31, 2002

~~~
The first of a twelve-part series on New York living. To pick a few nits, I’ve never understood why so many people seem not to consider fish as meat. Yes, they’re primeval and roughly as unevolved as you can get for a creature with a brain, but all things considered the distinction between a salmon and a chicken is pretty negligible, sentience-wise. Of course, we know why Pop hated eating poultry, but still the distinction between seafood and cattle also seems pretty tenuous, unless you’re purely looking from a health perspective. Even then, fish are sometimes host to mercury and all sorts of wonderful chemicals that would put cholesterol to shame in the lethality department. I wonder if Pop ever tried fugu.

FAREWELL TO ARMS

On January first when we celebrated the arrival of the 21st century, there were some commentators who said that few, if any, veterans of World War II would survive the first decade of the new century. That view is entirely reasonable. The last shots were fired in that war in August, 1945. That was 57 years ago.

When the fateful meeting took place between General MacArthur and the representatives of the Imperial Government of Japan on the decks of the Battleship Missouri, I was just 23 years old. Nearly all the soldiers I knew fell in the 22 to 26 year range. A soldier who was 29 or 30 years of age was usually addressed as “Pop.” So if you do the arithmetic, a person of 23 years in 1945 will soon be 80 years of age. The life expectancy for 80 year olds is off the charts in life insurance companies so it is reasonable to conclude that not many of us will indeed, survive the first decade of the 21st century.

These are facts of life. There is no need to feel sorry for this state of affairs. Most of us never expected to live this long. On the contrary, most combat soldiers, sailors and airman expected the Grim Reaper to come calling before they hit 25 years of age. So in that respect, all the added years have been a bonus.

On top of all that, it is important to recall that what Tom Brokaw has called “The Greatest Generation,” have seen things and events that would be considered fantasies when the World War II men were teenagers. In my case, I saw a bit of the United States, a lot of North and Central Africa and more than enough of Italy. Seeing how other people lived was very interesting to me. In the 38 months that the United States Army considered me one of its soldiers, I had the opportunity to make new friends from all over this country and our allies.

The pay was not so great and the food and living arrangements, called “rations and quarters,” left a lot to be desired. But to a fellow in the early part of his twenties, it was acceptable because there was no alternative. If the food was not to your liking, there was no restaurant nearby that would make you feel better. That’s the way things were and it provided opportunities for griping, which is one of the main activities of military men.

It is important at this point, to call attention to the fact that my remarks have to do with the enlisted ranks, not officers, who entered the service by being drafted or by enlistment. I leave out the so called lifers who joined the military services and expected to stay until they became pension eligible. These thoughts have to do with citizen soldiers who were determined to return to civilian life as soon as the military services would discharge them. Lifers are a different kettle of fish.

All of this comes to mind now with the patriotic display of flags that has occurred since September 11th. It is to be noted that drivers of gas guzzling SUV’s seem attracted to the idea of having an American flag affixed to one of their rear windows. There may be a perverse message there. One of the obvious reasons we are involved in the problems of the Middle East has to do with our outrageous consumption of oil resources. And of course, SUV’s contribute mightily to that problem. Flying a flag out one of the rear windows doesn’t improve mileage or help this matter at all.

In 1942 and the rest of the war years, there was genuine patriotism evident throughout the United States. It was more than flying a flag out of rolling gas hogs. People who were not free to join the military due to age or to family situations, often went to work in defense industry jobs. My brothers worked their own normal jobs during the day and in the evenings, they worked switching trains at Union Station in St. Louis.

In World War II, citizens took the war very seriously because they knew that many would be called to bear its burdens. There were not many complaints about why the Army was not pursuing some military activity; people knew that tomorrow they could be a part of that Army. What I’m trying to say is that there is a distinct difference between the patriotic feelings of United States citizens in the Second World War and the patriotic display of the flag as seen today. I am fully aware that that war ended 57 years ago and things change – but not always for the better. Well, so be it.

In the current Middle Eastern problem, the volunteer Armed Forces are out there to be followed in news accounts. The United States Government is saying there will be no need for rationing of gas or rubber or sugar or anything else. Certainly there will be no need for a tax increase to pay for the conflict’s heavy expenses. Quite to the contrary, George Bush is still calling for tax decreases on top of the one he pushed through Congress last year. Something is badly wrong with Bush’s thought processes.

On some occasions, my family and friends have asked me to comment on various aspects of my life as a soldier. I never fully responded to their requests. There are some factors that militate against such recall. As I write today in 2002, it marks the 60th anniversary of my enlistment in the American Army. That is a long time if a person attempts to recall events of more than a half-century ago. Some I remember and others were more of less deliberately never placed in my mind’s memory bank. In those cases, I have no desire to revisit those memories. War is a brutal business. Men, women and children get killed in a mindless fashion.

Eric Bogle is a Scot who emigrated to Australia in the 1970’s. He has written two songs having to do with the savagery in the First World War. In 1914 and the rest of the years of World War I, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, urged an attack on what he called, “the soft underbelly of Europe,” that is in the Straits of Gallipoli. The job fell to Australian troops. Bogle’s “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” is set in the failed Allied campaign against Turkish forces at Gallipoli. There are these lines:

“Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I woke in my hospital bed
I saw what it had done and I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying.”

In Bogle’s “Green fields of France” having to do with the British Expeditionary Force, we find these lines about a young Irishman:

“I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fallen in nineteen sixteen,
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean
Or, young Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?”

My point is that war is grim business. Old soldiers, aside from those who hang out around American Legion bars, seldom discuss the war. Jim Lyons was my neighbor for 30 years. He flew for the South African Air Force out of a base in Foggia, Italy. After Jim was homebound by Parkinson’s, his wife, Dorothy, told me of his service with our ally, the South Africans, and that he was based in Foggia, in 1943 and 1944 and perhaps 1945. She told me of this fact only two or three years before Jim’s death. I spent those months and years in 1943 and 1944 with the U. S. Army Air Force in an Allied base at Cerignola, only 20 or 25 miles from Foggia. In 30 years, Jim and I never discussed our service in Italy. It was not forbidden territory by any means. The war was over and Jim and I had other things to talk about.

When I do reach back into those years, it is almost inevitably for a humorous episode. I think about men I knew who have died and others who have moved and thus, the ties have been broken. If I saw one of them now, I suppose I would hug him, but the odds of seeing someone from the 1942 to 1945 period are pretty remote.

All this leads to the thought that some day – or any day, I may cash in my chips of give up the ghost. I’m not quite sure what the ghost expression means, but Protestant preachers refer to it a lot, so if its alright with Billy Graham or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, it must be a divine thought. Who am I to argue?

When I leave, I hope as Eric Bogle says in “Green Fields of France,” that in the transaction, “I hope you died well and I hope you died clean” is applied to me. All things being equal, that’s about the best anyone can hope for. In anticipation of the inevitable, my wife Judy and I have made arrangements with the Ippolito Funeral Home in Summit, N. J. for a prepaid funeral.

It happened this way. In early 1996, one of our friends and an AT&T co-worker and a Navy veteran of World War II, died. He was buried with all the trimmings. Judy and I attended the wake where friends and family crowded around to express condolences to the widow and children. The Navy guy is lying there in an open casket while all the tearful condolences are expressed to everyone. Were he alive, the old Navy guy would have croaked at this scene.

Leaving the funeral home where the wake was held, we thought this is absolutely not for us. No way, no how! So on our way home we stopped to talk to one of the Ippolito family. Before long both of us had signed up for prepaid funeral services costing about $1350. They will pick up the corpse, gift wrap it, and take it to the crematorium and handle other details. And, they pay us interest on our investment. By the end of 2001, there was something like $1660 in the account. The prepaid funeral plan is doing remarkably well when you look at Lucent, AT&T and other losers in my modest stock portfolio.

With the funeral taken care of, one item remained to be dealt with. In both of our cases, there will be no preachers, organists, flowers and other expenses to bother the surviving spouse. So both of us have a clause in our wills setting aside $5000 for the purpose of having a cocktail party. If I have anything to say about it, champagne will be served for our grand farewells. The reader may not agree with this approach, but I think a cocktail party is infinitely better than a tearful wake and a funeral service.

So that’s what will be done when death catches up to us. My hope is that as the champagne works its wonders, that guests will say, “He went out in style.”

Now let’s go on to two post-war programs having to do with buying a house and attending college under what was known as the “GI Bill.” For those new to those terms, G. I. are initials for “General Issue” which represents any standard Army issue. It embraces clothing, equipment, food and everything else, including soldiers who were called “G. I.’s.”

When the war ended in 1945, home construction had not taken place at all since 1941. Prior to that time, the last gasps of the Depression had severely limited residential home building. So when military people came home, they found that supply was desperately trying to catch up with demand. In the meantime, homeowners who might be persuaded to sell, asked what we thought were outrageous prices. They could do that because for several years they had the only game in town.

So some bystanders would say to us, “Why don’t you use the GI Bill to buy a house?” The answer is simple. Under the GI Bill, the United States Government limited its participation to guaranteeing the mortgage. But the U. S. Government would do so only on loans of four percent interest or less. In a town like St. Louis with demand being great, banks wanted at least five per cent interest. The simple fact was that unless your grandma had a lot of extra cash, G. I. loans did not happen all that often. I ate lunch and spent leisure hours with at least six other veterans. None of us lived in his own home. One fellow later married a lovely girl and moved in with her and her mother in a house owned by her mother – but that doesn’t count. The GI Bill for houses was not a snare and a delusion but it was never intended to provide housing for discharged G. I.’s. Only the loans were guaranteed at 4% interest.

So the housing issue got settled by my transfer to Kansas City where AT&T gave its business to a bank that finally gave me a loan with a six per cent interest rate. It was a small house but new, without much of a lawn. And so life goes on.

Now a question asked shortly after the war was why don’t you guys go get a college education under the GI Bill. That is also a reasonable question which deserves a reasonable answer. And so I return to my six other returning G. I.’s whom I met at lunch and on social occasions. Not only did we fail to buy a house under the United States Government’s
G. I. Program, but not one of us said that this is our opportunity to earn a college degree. Not one.

There is a reason or two to explain that situation. Most, if not all, of the men I knew in the Army tended to live as though tomorrow would be their last day on earth. If you live with that mindset for three of four years, it is not easy to turn it off. Some men gambled all their pay away because they might not be here tomorrow. When beer or whiskey occasionally became available, many men would drink themselves into a stupor. Not every man gambled or drank to excess, but many men had those tendencies – or if you like – failings. Returning to civilian life did not make those problems go away. And so it became very difficult to say that a man could put those feelings aside and undertake college studies. Some could but many could not. I understand those who could not very well.

A second reason for not grabbing the GI college offer had to do with the one-two punch that people of what Tom Brokaw calls the “Greatest Generation” had to take. First came the great Depression in 1929 followed by the World War II in 1941. During the Depression it was very difficult, or impossible, to land a decent paying job. In Harold Bauer’s Service Station where I worked, Mark, a Westminster College graduate, worked 60-hour weeks just like the other employees. (Westminster is the college at Fulton, Missouri where Winston Churchill made his famous Iron Curtain Speech.) My father cleaned out sewers and old fishponds to bring home a few dollars. And I helped him.

The point is that money was tight. A fellow who had two or three dollars in his pocket was in good shape. Obviously, that put a large crimp in spending by teenagers, which I was. Dating a girl required planning on an evening that could be afforded. Marriage was out of the question in many cases. In another essay, during the war we all lamented the combat deaths of Bernie Wheeler and Dave Weiss, who worked with us in the AT&T office in St. Louis. At ages 27 or 28 years, neither one was married. It is reasonably certain that finances had something to do with that situation as both were good looking and decent men. The long and the short of it is that young men did not have the financial resources to enjoy what life had to offer during the Depression.

Financial resources had a lot to do with attendance at college under the GI Bill. As I remember it, the Bill paid for tuition at the school of your choice. That was a big load off the student. But housing was a different story. There was no help there as I remember it. For all the returning veterans, there were bills to be paid, rent that had to be accounted for and the costs of everyday living that ate up whatever income the
old-at-23 veterans could muster. Paying tuition was only perhaps 30% of the cost when a returning veteran took up studies under the GI Bill.

These same men were discharged from military services in 1945 and 1946. The vast majority of those men were in their early 20’s. What with the Depression and then the War, most of these GI’s wanted, for the first time, to live a little. Some got married. As a matter of fact, – lots of us tied the knot. Some went off in the woods where they knew that could not hear the command to “Fall Out.” Some elected to travel to places they had heard about but had never seen. In short, these Depression era soldiers wanted to cash in on the American dream that had been denied them for so long. They viewed the end of the war as a time to end their personal sacrifices.

More than anything else, these G. I.’s, old at 23 years, wanted to live a little. And why not? Perhaps these long delayed remarks will explain why the so called GI Bill resonated for a minority of returning veterans.

In this essay, I’ve probably said more about my own thoughts about military service than in any other essay. In a previous essay which had something to do with military service, I offered the thought that military service had nothing to do with medals won, campaign ribbons accumulated, missions flown or things of that sort. All those things are nice. It is good to reminisce about them.

In the end it seems to me that the opportunity to serve, the opportunity to deal with Hitler and Emperor Hirohito, are the important facts here. These dictators threatened my family and all other American families. And they threatened me. I am not an American Legion or a Veterans of Foreign Wars sort of person. I never was. I just thought that it was important for me to have a hand in the defeat of the Axis Powers. Sixty years after my enlistment, I’m glad that things worked out so that I could be there. And I am still here. This old soldier is well pleased.

I don’t go around saying, “Death, where is thy sting?” On the contrary, I’ve had a good and long ride and lots of laughs on the way. What could be fairer than that?

E. E. CARR
April 28, 2002

~~~

Ten years before the fact, Pop pretty much nailed how his own service would go. I’m pretty sure there were flowers there, though, so he fell a little short of 100%. Still pretty close!

I liked this one for the insights into the minds of the soldiers coming out of the war, and how even if the G.I. bill looked good on paper, the soldiers’ mindsets often just weren’t in the right place to capitalize on it.

TATOOS

I have lived all these years and it has been my fortune to travel all over the world. My family life has been pretty much routine and employment by the largest corporation in this country kept me occupied for 43 years. And from 1942 until late in 1945, the Army of the United States (AUS), not to be confused with the United States Army (USA), seemed to require my low level services.

Now in spite of all that impressive background, this old soldier is completely baffled as to why men – and some women – wear tattoos. What those designs, or insignias or sayings are supposed to achieve has completely eluded me. When a tattooed man comes into my view, my first reaction is to pity him as a misguided individual. If his tattoos are intended to scare me or to impress me, they simply miss their mark. I shake my head wondering what causes people to ravage their skin and all this is followed by the thought that I ought to pity such a fool.

All of this comes to mind because this morning, I was sitting in Judy’s car while she attended to business in the drug store. I know it is called a pharmacy, but it has no soda fountain as in the old days, so it is a drug store, no more, no less. Next door to the drugstore is an establishment which calls itself a delicatessen. In the 33 years that it has been my lot to live in Short Hills, the deli has had two opportunities to serve me. Both experiences told me to never go back to that deli. They weren’t necessarily disasters, but the food that the deli prepared for me came perilously close to that description. Before I went to the deli for the second time, I asked Brian, a long time clerk at the drug store, what he thought of the next-door deli. He said he hadn’t been in that place for at least 15 years. Brian said it all.

While I was waiting for Miss Chicka, the counter-man from the deli came to the sidewalk to have one of his morning cigarettes. His tee shirt showed that each of his arms was tattooed from the fingers to above the elbow. If his tee shirt were removed, perhaps the tattoos went further than that. In any case, he kept his sleeves short so that the tattoos could be seen.

I viewed him from a distance of 25 feet to 30 feet. A few of the markings were fiery red. I suppose that exposure of the arms is to invite admiration for the subject and for the artist who performed the work. When he finished his cigarette, he threw it in the curb lane of the street and retreated into the deli to resume his duties. At least he did not smoke inside the eating establishment.

I know nothing about this fellow because the food from this particular deli does not tempt me in any respect. But if the popular stereotype fits the deli’s counterman, he is probably a consumer of beer and as Miss Chicka suggests, he probably rides a motorcycle. Maybe he is a wrestling fan.

One time a fellow who seemed inclined to court one of my daughters, showed up on a motorcycle. My daughter and I had a talk and he did not come acourting again to our house. And I did not even know if he had a tattoo or if he drank beer. The motorcycle was enough for me.

As a young man, I saw very few people who had a tattoo. Those who did usually covered it with clothing and would exhibit some shame when it was discovered. When I was looking desperately for permanent employment in 1939, 1940 and early 1941, tattoos were out of the question. If a personnel officer saw such a thing on an applicant, it would be a good bet that the job seeker would never complete the employment interview.

Even after I joined the Army, I saw no tattoos. Maybe one or two here or there, but no more than that. Remember, we took showers when we could. In all cases, the soldiers were naked. I can’t recall seeing tattoos even among the toughest and most foolhardy men. There was no rule against it, as far as I knew. It simply wasn’t done.

In African and in Italy, our troops were often involved with troops from Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Poland and the Ghurkas from Nepal. None of them had skin markings.

In all of my lifetime, I have never yearned for tattoos. The thought of the dirty needles and some obscure picture on my arm or chest has always been repugnant in my mind. The Army did not change those views.

On those occasions where we met tattooed military men, they were usually sailors with the U. S. or with allied forces. When the tattoos were disclosed, it was usually claimed by the tattooed person that:

1. He had been drunk in Shanghai or Manila or Hong Kong and couldn’t remember all the details of what happened.
2. He did it on a dare or to win a bet, or
3. His peer group was getting tattoos and if he declined, he would be shunned in the future.

Maybe those are good reasons, but they never appealed to me. In the past few years, perhaps 90% of black professional basketball players have found the need to be tattooed. They seem to favor the upper arm for the artwork. I suppose the writings and pictures may make the basketball player into a tough man. Perhaps they exist to frighten opponents. But if 90% of all players have tattoos themselves, who is going to frighten whom?

Kenyon Martin plays for the New Jersey Nets. He did his undergraduate work in basketball at the University of Cincinnati. By the end of his third year, he was ready to take on the pros. So he had two large portraits tattooed on each upper arm. Then on the right side of his upper chest, he had the legend of “Bad Ass…..” with a word I can’t see clearly. I believe the last word is “Mother.” He pulls the shoulder strap of his uniform aside to show opponents the “Bad Ass……” legend in moments of triumph. If Willis Reed were still playing, it may be safe to bet that he would show that marking to Willis once and then Reed would flatten Martin for his impertinence.

Last week, Kenyon Martin submitted to an interview with the Star-Ledger of Newark. His main theme was I am no thug: I am black.

When you consider that Martin leads the league in flagrant fouls for which he served two two-day suspensions, perhaps it could be said that the jury is still out on whether he is a thug. The pictures on his arms and the legend on his chest don’t make him a Sunday school boy.

I might mention that legends of New York basketball, both school boy and professional, such as Lew Alcindor, Walt Frazier and the aforementioned Willis Reed find no need for obscene markings on their skin. I know, to each his own, but modern day professional basketball players are largely repulsive.

Mike Tyson, the boxer fought Saturday night in Memphis. He got knocked out in the eighth round. I have no interest in boxing at all. But Tyson has a large part of his upper body covered by tattoos. In his formative years, Tyson was managed by Cus D’Amato. He had an arrangement where Tyson would live with Camille, an elderly female friend of D’Amato. Whatever sense of right and wrong Tyson has – if any – came from this lady. She was very religious with Roman Catholicism being her faith of choice. Perhaps that is why one of Tyson’s arms has a regular Sistine Chapel set of tattoos. Perhaps when Tyson beats up on Robin, his wife, who left him, or on his girlfriends, he can appeal to his arm for forgiveness. Tyson is nothing other than an open sewer for thugship – or thugness. His tattoos don’t help the situation.

As you can see, the counterman coming out to the sidewalk for his cigarette simply exposed my ignorance and wonderment at the world of tattoos. If someone ever forced me to have a tattoo, my mind would probably run to George Schultz who held several positions in the United States Government when it was run by Republicans. At the end, Schultz was the Secretary of State. According to legend, Schultz who attended Princeton University, had a tiger, the mascot of the athletic teams at his school, tattooed on his posterior. When asked about the tiger, Schultz would neither confirm nor deny that it existed. Obviously, no one, not even pushy reporters like Ariana Huffington, would make Schultz drop his pants so that America’s newspaper readers could determine once and for all if the Secretary of State was sitting on a tiger.

Well, no one is forcing me or encouraging me to have a tattoo on any part of my skin. Ordinarily, I would, if forced to have a tattoo, have it placed in the same spot on my anatomy as George Schultz. But Schultz is somewhat older than I am and he may die before I do. Can you imagine the shock that Schultz’s funeral director will experience when he sees that Princeton tiger on Schultz’s backside? Now, if the funeral director survives that catastrophic shock, perhaps I will then think about a tattoo in the same spot.

Schultz spent his formative years at a prestigious university, so he is entitled to have its mascot on his posterior. I spent those years from age 19 to 23 in the Army of the United States so I have no university connection. The Army institute is the Military Academy at West Point where the mascot is a Missouri mule. A mule would be completely downscale, not elegant at all. On the other hand, I like birds. Suppose on the back of the mule I would have tattooed a cardinal, who is the handsomest bird, a mockingbird whose song is sweetest and a hummingbird, whose agility is unparalleled. My funeral director is Paul Ippolito of the Supremely Sanitary Rock of Ages Mortuary in Summit, New Jersey. When I croak, my guess is that Paul would spend a lot of time admiring my posterior tattoo. He might call the local papers or the Star-Ledger of Newark. Perhaps Ariana Huffington would like to take a look as well as the deli guy from Short Hills.

Well, now that I have given it more thought, perhaps a tattoo in the right place may be something that has always been an unconscious desire. Do you think Ariana does tattoos? Of a mule? And of some birds? I certainly hope so. Maybe George Schultz has finally met his match.

E. E. CARR
June 9, 2002

~~

Apparently there was a guy named John Carrino who sat next to mom’s older sister in school, since their names were alphabetically next to one another. He was Mr. Motorcycle, and seems to have not lasted long. I’ll have to send this essay to her for fact-checking.

Also, I appreciate this essay giving me use for the “objections to modernity” tag which I haven’t been able to break out in a while.

BUSH RENOUNCES TIME ZONES

Memo from George W. Bush’s speech writers to viewers and to readers:

Finally, we are free to give you the unvarnished George W. Bush, the first cowboy president of the United States. We have read that Mr. Bush was born in Connecticut and attended college at Yale and at Harvard. Mr. Bush has long since renounced those limp-wristed elite, Eastern schools in favor of Texas A and M and the superior cowboy culture of Texas. Hence, he is the first cowboy to ascend to the top of the political ladder in this country.

When we first started writing speeches for the new President, we found non-conforming wordsmiths among our ranks. They were Communists or, even worse, psuedo-Democrats. When they submitted a speech to the new president, it was laced with big, unpronounceable words that cow punchers would never use. For example, during the current scandal where CEO’s were cooking the books, they often used the word “malfeasance.” They knew that using that word in a Bush speech was wicked and wrong. The fact that when he tried on several occasions to use that word, Mr. Bush dropped the “s”, mal-fea-ance, shows the evil intent of the speechwriters rather than the president’s inability to handle words of over two syllables.

To overcome that tendency to use big words, you will notice that in this address, “Renouncing Time Zones,” we have hyphenated certain words to make them roll off Mr. Bush’s tongue with greater ease. It has taken us nearly 18 months, but we have purged the Communists, the fellow travelers and the psuedo-Democrats from the ranks of presidential speechwriters. That is why we say that we are free at last to present to you the unvarnished George W. Bush, the President of the United States by virtue of a 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court.

My fellow citizens:

May God bless America is a thought always on my mind. I hope it is on yours, too. (SMILE)

When I became president, Mr. Karl Rove, a true Texas patriot who is my prin-ci-pal advisor, found that this country was bur-den-ed by dozens of tree-tees which pre-vent-ed our country from doing what we wanted to do. That’s wrong. Our country, under God, can do anything it wants. It makes no dif-fer-ence if other countries com-plain and say we are treating them with con-tempt. The fact is that America is the greatest country ever in-ven-ted by God and we intend to see that it stays that way.

As soon as I put my feet under the desk in the Oval Office, Mr. Karl Rove began to show me the sub-ver-sive tree-tees and under-stan-dings that affected our great nation.

Before I go on, I want to say “God Bless America” once more. (SMILE)

Now about the tree-tees. One was the Ky-oto glo-bal war-ming tree-tee which said that with green-house gases, the world was getting warmer. We have a word for glo-bal war-ming in Texas: it is called bull doo doo, at least that’s what my father, the 41st president called it. I looked at the atlas Mr. Rove gave me, and lo and behold, this old Ky-oto is not located here in the sweet smelling United States of America; it is located in Ja-pan. It’s just another trick that the wily ori-ent-als are trying to frighten you good citizens of this here U. S. of A.

Then Mr. Rove showed me an anti-bal-lis-tic mis-sile tree-tee which says that America cannot have as many bal-lis-tic mis-siles as it wants. Imagine that? Why not?

Then Mr. Rove showed me a big one. It was the com-pre-hen-sive nuc-u-lar test ban tree-tee. I don’t know why some Eastern snobs pro-noun-ce that word as nu-cle-ar when ever’ cowboy knows it is nuc-u-lar. This tree-tee says we can’t have as many nuc-u-lar wea-pons as we want. How can we live with that kind of stuff? We will build as many as we want, and then some. And we will explode them when ever we want, mainly in states that voted the wrong way back in 2000.

Next, Mr. Rove showed me the bio-log-ical and chem-i-cal weapons tree-tee which limits us in our production of an-th-rax or poi-son-ous gasses. Why should we submit to such an unfair tree-tee? All of this is supposed to create peace by hog-tying us. So it has got to go. We can fill the state of Texas with an-th-rax or poi-son-ous gasses if we want to do it. Who is to stop us?

Next, Mr. Rove called my attention to the Land Mine Tree-tee which says we can’t produce land mines by the billion, if we want to do that. We can’t live without full pro-duct-ion of land mines. Ever’ country back into the Bible times had as many land mines as they needed, according to Mr. Karl Rove. And so should we and I am going to see to it land mine pro-duc-tion goes on a 24 hour basis.

Then we have the Small Arms Tree-tee. If they are talking about .410 rifles which us cowboys use to shoot gophers, why should we take those little rifles out of the hands of our cowpunchers? Tell me why? We aren’t shooting them at our wives, just gophers and crows.

Finally, we have the In-ter-nat-ion-al Crim-i-nal court, called the ICC for short, which says that if one of our soldiers gets in trouble in a foreign country, he can be charged by the ICC and sent to jail. I will never permit an American boy to be judged by the ICC no matter what he does. Never, never. Just because Clinton signed that tree-tee, I had it un-signed and that’s the way it’s going to be. And all that leads me to say, “God Bless America” once again. (SMILE)

Now all those tree-tees were signed by foreign politicians. Not a single American in the bunch. So here-with, I re-noun-ce all those tree-tees and as we say in Texas, we ad-journed signe die. That is Latin which a Yale pro-fess-or told me means it is all finished.

Now that brings me to another for-ei-gn in-spired practice know as “Time Zones.” If I understand correctly from Mr. Rove, all of the clocks in this country – and ever’ other country – are set by reference to something called the Gre-en-wich Mer-id-ian. In short, we set our clocks based upon a for-eign con-cept which happens to be English. I am told that all of this happens simply because a Mer-id-ian of the earth passes through a town in England called Gre-en-wich. What does that have to do with the time in Texas? Ab-so-lute-ly nothing!

Under the con-cept of Time Zones, which I here with gladly re-noun-ce today, some countries are ahead of Gre-en-wich and some like the God gifted United States are behind Gre-en-wich time. These are what we call Time Zones. This is all wrong. My place in Texas is six hours behind Gre-en-wich time. We are as good as those people in Eng-land, but somehow they are six hours ahead of us. That’s not right. When it’s noon in Texas, it ought to be noon ever’ where. That’s the Amer-i-can way. We fought a war with Eng-land over tea bags so we don’t have to pay at-ten-tion to the Queen any more.

Why should some Time Zones be hours ahead and others are hours behind? It makes no sense to me or to any body in my ad-min-is-stra-tion. So today, I am issuing the Uni-form Time Con-sis-tent with my Craw-ford Con-cept Exec-a-tive Order. Doing away with the old fashioned time zone requires no Con-gres-sion-al approval because it is an Exec-a-tive Order. It is just like another out-mo-ded con-cept having to do with church-state rel-a-tions. Out-mo-ded con-cepts are always trumped by my Exec-a-tive Order. Ever’ time. Out-mo-ded con-cepts have to go.

Under my Uni-form Time Con-cept (called UTCCC), all times around the world would be the same as at Craw-ford, Texas. When it is 8 AM in Craw-ford, it will be 8 AM in Bei-jing and in Mos-cow and in Lon-don. Is that clear? (FROWN)

At 9:30 PM when I go to bed in Craw-ford, ever’ body else in the world will be ready to hit the hay with me. It does people good to get a good nights sleep. I sleep; they sleep. (SMILE)

I am told that in the Far East, that when it is 9:30 PM in Craw-ford, it is 9:30 AM in the morning now. There may be some small initial drawback to the Chi-nese and the Jap-a-nese and the Fil-i-pi-nos going to bed with the sun shining in their faces, but think of the other side of the coin. Finally, we have done away with time zones. When I am asleep, ever’ body else is asleep. When I eat break-fast, ever’body else through-out the world will be setting down to hot oat meal and ba-con and eggs, jus’ like me. When I am ready to have my dinner steak at noon in Craw-ford, ever’ person on earth will be setting down to enjoy a fi-let mig-non (pro-nounced fe-lay min-yon) with me. When I call a world leader, which I do now very often, under the Un-i-form Craw-ford Con-cept, he will always be at his desk, not home in bed or ca-vort-ing with a girl friend. Some world leaders do ca-vort, but I ain’t one of them. When I think about girls, I run four miles on my tread-mill and those thoughts go away, sort of like some Arch-bish-ops I know. (SMILE)

Now I want to say a little bit about my vis-ion for Texas and for the other states in the U. S. Several years ago when my father, we call him Poppy, was running things, the Democrats and other Communists got on him because he didn’t have a vision thing. So Poppy went on TV and said he did too have a vision thing. My ad-min-is-tration also has a vision thing. When we do away with time zones, it is my vis-ion that home sales prices will go up. When we don’t have to worry about whether China is 10 or 15 hours ahead or behind us, I forget which, it is my vision that ever’ American will be operating on a full belly including Harlem, and share crop-pers in Mis-sis-sip-pi. My vision is that when we finally say goodbye to time zones, you will see a great im-prove-ment in the Dow Jones av-er-age and we can have another bigger tax cut. When ever’ body in the world eats with me and goes to bed with me at 9:30PM Craw-ford Mer-id-ian time, it is my vision that health problems will dis-app-ear and diseases like can-cer and ear aches will be no more and the national crime rate will no longer be needed. When time zones are finished, my vision is that ever’ body will love each other better then their selves. As my Bible says, the lion shall lie down with the calf. So you see, I am deeply in-vol-ved and I like to talk about the vision thing. I am sure that ever’ American will say that this old cow poke is really 100% right when it comes to the vision thing about getting rid of time zones.

Doing away with time zones is my most important con-tri-but-ion to world peace. It should have been done under my pre-da-cess-or, but I have stepped in to re-noun-ce time zones and to put the world on Craw-ford, Texas time as one means to wipe war off the map. Clinton did not do it and Roo-se-velt and Tru-man did not do it. So I did it. When we invade I-raq, it will all be done on Craw-ford Mer-id-ian Time. That way I can see how the battle is shaping up from any room in my Western White House in Craw-ford. You all know of my mil-i-tary know-led-ge which comes from my service in the Texas Nat-ion-al Guard during the Viet-nam war. That’s why I am Com-man-der in Chief in the I-raq war.

Now that I have re-noun-ced time zones, I want to deal with another thought about the rest of the world, eating supper at what used to be 6 AM in the morning. I eat my supper at 6 PM, Craw-ford Mer-id-ian Time. Foreign people will soon adapt to Craw-ford Mer-id-ian Time just as ever’ species will adapt to global warming now that I have re-noun-ced the evil Ky-oto Tre-aty. Po-lar bears, puf-fins and pen-gu-ins will not only welcome the warmer, humid weather, but it will give them a chance, finally, to get out of their winter clothes for a change. So I am sure and Mr. Rove is sure, that the rest of the world will quickly adapt to Craw-ford Mer-id-ian Time. All the foreign countries will have fun ad-apt-ing to my new con-cept. Think of it this way. When supper is eaten at what used to be 6 AM in China, people can say they are dining with Pre-si-dent Bu-sh in Craw-ford. That must be worth a lot. Mr. Rove says they use chop-sticks to eat their steak at supper in China. He says when they have a tough piece of meat, they hold it up and snap at it. Maybe if I had chop-sticks, I could use them to write orders to my generals.

Now while I am in the mood to re-noun-ce out-mo-ded con-cepts, I want to tell you that the bor-der with our neighbor to the north, Can-a-da, will be replaced by my exec-a-tive ord-er. If I can go to war against I-raq and them other Ay-rabs without con-gres-sion-al app-rov-al, why can’t we do away with the Ca-nad-ian border? It is simply a nuisance. All they ever send us are cool fronts. There is no need to talk to the Ca-nad-ians about the problems that their border being so close to the United States has caused. My exec-a-tive order obviously applies to Can-a-da as well as to this God blessed nation. We are just going to do it and notify the Can-ad-ians by letter. If they pro-test, our brave troops will invade them just like the Ay-rabs in I-raq. (FROWN)

I have several other con-cepts on my mind to go with re-noun-cing time zones. For example, Eng-land uses the same lan-gu-age as we do. Why then, do we have two separate governments? An exec-a-tive order from me will get rid of the Com-mons and the House of Lords. Their Granny Queen can come live in one of Craw-ford’s upscale sub-urbs and her husband can have a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. Her children like to ride horses. There are millions of horses in Texas, so they can act out their fan-ta-sies to their little limey heart’s con-tent. Maybe some of those Royal children would like to go out with my two girls.

With the Com-mons and House of Lords and the Royal fam-i-ly taken care of, I en-vis-ion that Eng-land will become a sub-sid-i-ary of this country much like Ken Lay had with the En-ron Cor-por-a-tion. He had so many sub-sid-i-aries that he couldn’t keep the books straight. In-ci-den-tally, some busy bodies are asking when is the FBI going to put hand cuffs on Mr. Lay. The answer is, “Never, never.” Some people say it is because of his con-tri-but-ions to my po-lit-i-cal career. That’s not it at all. He is a pa-tr-iot who says, “God bless America” all the time. If I ever have grand children, Ken Lay will be their god-father or maybe their grand father. I forget which term applies.

What I have done for England, I will also do for Aus-tra-lia and New Zea-land. (SMILE) Mr. Rove says these countries also speak English. I’ve never been there; as a matter of fact I haven’t even heard of them until Mr. Rove called my attention to them. But under my exec-a-tive order, those two little countries will become sub-sid-i-aries in the Pa-cif-ic oc-ean just like Eng-land is in the other oc-ean near New York. If they have a King or a Queen, we will put them on the payroll just like the Queen of Eng-land. When we get finished, ever’ body will be so happy that they will all say “God Bless America.”

Mr. Rove also says that if we take over Eng-land we must also take over Gib-ral-ter. I have no idea where that country is. Mr Cheney says it is very small. Maybe he will ask his old pals at Hall-i-burton to buy it for us. And while we are at it, as a favor to Mar-gar-et That-cher, Mr. Cheney may ask Halliburton to also buy the Falk-land Islands as a trinket.

I am also giving great consideration together with Mr. Carl Rove, to issuing an exec-a-tive order increasing the vote of the Far Right members of the Supreme Court to 1½ votes each except for my hero, Jus-tice
Sca-li-a, who will get two votes on ever’ issue. Thus, in my presidential case, the vote would not be 5-4 but 8 to 4, which is a much more re-spect-able mar-gin.

To avoid future need to refer election disputes to the Supreme Court, I am thinking about an exec-a-tive order cutting the elec-tor-al votes of New York, New Jersey and California by about 25 per-cent in each state. I do this all in the name of elec-tor-al e-qua-nim-ity which will keep presidential elections out of the disputes that up-set American voters. And it will con-tri-bute to world peace and keep America safe from terrorists.

At great personal sac-ri-fice, I am churning out one exec-a-tive order after another to help us with the War on Terror. (LOOK MEAN) The sooner people around the world adapt to the Craw-ford Mer-id-ian Time Zone Concept, the War on Terror can go forward much more quickly. When I put my other reforms in place such as making Eng-land a sub-sid-i-ary of the United States and giving the Supreme Court a new vote count, it will only be a matter of time until Al-Que-da turns up its toes and bites the dust, as us Texas cowboys would say.

And so my fellow citizens, I want you to wipe September 11th off your calendar. My Att-or-ney Gen-er-al John Ash-croft assures me that there is no reason what-so-ever to look into our intelligence failures on September 11th, so we can forget that. When it comes to your retirement nest egg, my chairman of the Sec-ur-i-ties and Ex-change Com-miss-ion, Mr. Harvey Pitt is right on the ball. There are people who say that Harvey Pitt is part of the problem in the in-vest-ment com-mun-ity. I have as much faith in Harvey Pitts on fin-an-cial matters as I have in the Sec-a-tary of the Army, Mr. Tom White, who worked for Enron and who sold a lot of stock just before En-ron went belly-up. My administration is full of such stars. (SMILE)

So you see with your in-vest-ments ass-ured and with John Ash-croft getting ever’ body to tattle on each other and with Tom White running the Army and with Tom DeLay, one of my Texas buddies, running Congress and with me as the Chief Exec-a-tive, you Americans have never had it so good. As a matter of fact, I am planning to issue another exec-a-tive order to do away with the con-sti-tu-tional amend-ment limiting me to two terms in office. When ever I see the Wash-ing-ton Mon-u-ment, I think what did he ever do compared to this old Texas cowboy. I am sure that Ken Lay and the folks at WorldCom would contribute to building me a mon-u-ment twice as big as the Wash-ing-ton Mon-u-ment. I’m sure all of you, my fellow citizens, would agree with them sen-ti-ments and would con-tri-bute to such a mem-or-ial.

(SMILE) And so I bid you good night with the thought that God should give his con-stant blessings to America. We deserve it, particularly under my administration with me as Pres-a-dent.

E. E. CARR
August 9, 2002

~~~

Eh, I see where he was going with this but I felt it was overdone.

I wonder what Pop would have to say against today’s Republican nominees, most of whom make Bush look like a reasonable centrist. As the essay points out though, I think the historical consensus is that the problem is not with Bush himself but with the people around him who he trusted.