Archive for June 2016

CHARLIE BROWN

Charlie Brown died this week. Death came Charlie’s way on November 12, 2003. He was 82 years of age.

In proper terms, Charlie was Charles Lee Brown, the former Chairman of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. Charlie worked for AT&T and its Bell System companies from 1946 until his retirement in 1986, a forty year span of years. In 1976, Charlie became the President of AT&T with his chairmanship starting in 1979.

As things worked out, I came to know several high level executives including chairmen in the telecommunications industry. But it was my good fortune to know Charlie long before he ascended to the top Bell System job at AT&T. Charlie Brown was the same sort of person in the chairmanship as he was when he was working out in the vineyards of the Bell System. His brain power was unmatched. His affability shielded a steely part of his character which people knew about when he was confronted by untruths or intentional misleading statements.

In the late 1950’s, AT&T called me in to New York to work in labor relations for the Long Lines Department. As the name implies, Long Lines had to do with long distance and international telephone calls. During those years, the AT&T relationship with the Communications Workers of America was something other than a warm one. One cause of the friction was an autocratic, do-as-I-say martinet who ran the Long Lines Department. What flowed from that antagonistic attitude was many grievances and threats of work stoppages. On the union side, intra-union rivalries led to less than stable relations with AT&T, the employer. I suppose one of the reasons for my transfer to New York, had to do with my stint as a local officer and as a national negotiator for CWA from 1945 to 1951. When I arrived in New York, the two sides were locked into one-year contracts which meant that bargaining a new contract was an annual occurrence. There was no real desire to write longer term contracts.

It was in the labor job that Charlie and I got to know each other well. At the time, he was the Assistant to the General Manager for the Central Area of Long Lines with headquarters’ offices in Cincinnati. When bargaining time rolled around, each of the three Assistants to General Managers from the Areas were brought in to New York to serve with me on the AT&T bargaining committee.

There was Al Goebel from White Plains, New York who was a World War II B-20 pilot in the Pacific. From Kansas City came Henry Joyner who taught me a great bit with his Southern charm. Henry was the author of the remark about a grossly disappointed fellow saying, “Don’t you know that he was sorer than a boiled owl.” And then there was Charlie Brown from Cincinnati. It was my pleasure to know all of these men quite well.

Charlie’s presentations in bargaining were always cogent and his debate with Union representatives was always friendly and convincing. He made his points without putting down the union advocate. It was a delight to work with Charlie. During bargaining, there were long periods of preparation and correcting minutes of the previous day, which take place outside the bargaining room. Then there are the inevitable delays caused by the intrusion of other pressing labor problems. So in substance, those of us on the bargaining team spent 10 to 12 hours a day in each others’ company. Some days were longer.

On one occasion, I commented that one presentation by a union representative had a number of split infinitives in it. It was a throw away remark. Charlie Brown asked me to tell him why split infinitives were against the rule. About all I could say was that my English teachers in Missouri were opposed to them and that Time Magazine abhorred them. That was not good enough for old Charlie. Would the Republic cease to exist if split infinitives became the rule of the day? I countered by saying that the Clayton, Missouri English teachers, who were all spinsters, were against them. I too would oppose that evil and wicked influence. This good natured badgering went on for quite a while with old Charlie standing on the side of freedom to use split infinitives wherever it seemed appropriate.

During one year of bargaining, Charlie sat directly opposite a woman from Philadelphia. In those days, the union leadership in Philadelphia was quite openly anti-company. If the company proposed something, the Philadelphia local would automatically reject it. The women in the Traffic Department in Philadelphia actually undertook a campaign to drive their manager, John Hardy, to quit or to seek medical help. The woman who sat opposite from Charlie was from Philadelphia Traffic. She was one of two people representing all Long Lines telephone operators.

This union representative was not a particularly likeable person. From my perspective, she was a difficult person without a saving sense of humor. There was no charm about her at all. Charlie sat next to me. If I wanted to see what Charlie was writing, it would have been easy for me to see. While I had no real interest in Charlie’s notes, the female union representative who sat across from Charlie had a consuming interest in what emerged from Mr. Brown’s pen.

For several days, when we broke for lunch or for dinner, Charlie would tell me that his opposite union member was trying to read what he had written. When we resumed negotiations, she would be at it again. It was easy for me to see that her eyes were trained on whatever Charlie was writing. Why she did this is unknown to me as none of us would ever write down any secret strategy and bring it into the negotiating room.

After several days of having his notes read, Charlie printed an effective message. It was in big, block letters. It read, “CAN YOU READ THIS UPSIDEDOWN?” The Philadelphia note reader was probably surprised by the large block printing, and if I read her reaction correctly, she would have greatly preferred that the word “UPSIDE” be separated from “DOWN”, the final word. A ten letter word makes it difficult for note decipherers to read quickly and discreetly. In any case, after she read and digested Charlie’s note, the Philadelphia translator of Charlie’s notes blushed and appeared quite flustered. For the rest of that bargaining, she made elaborate gestures to tell everyone that she was reading her own notes, not Charlie Brown’s.

I was critical of Charlie because the final word “DOWN” did not have a space before it which caused his translator a great deal of difficulty. Time Magazine and the spinster teachers at Clayton High School would have split those two words. I told Charlie that this transgression was about as bad as his antediluvian views on split infinitives.

All of this happened sometime in the 1950’s. I thought no more about those events at all until, unexpectedly, I had the pleasure of introducing Charlie in February, 1984. That was the occasion of the retirement of Dick Nichols, the Vice President of the Overseas Department. Charlie and Dick came into the business together in 1946. Charlie and Ann Lee, his wife, happened to be in Northern New Jersey that evening and dropped by to bid farewell to Dick Nichols.

A few minutes before the proceedings for Dick’s retirement were to start, I looked up and saw Charlie. This was my first inkling that he was present. He said he was pressed for time, but that he wanted to say a few words in behalf of Dick Nichols. We had a very pleasant conversation and I told Charlie that, with me being the Master of Ceremonies, I would introduce him early in the proceedings so that he could be on his way. I had no notes of any kind, of course, but as we parted, I told Charlie that the proceedings I had in mind would not be marked by great reverence. It was my thought that if Charlie wanted to have no part of the irreverence about to unfold, he would say so. As I knew he would, in reference to the irreverence of the occasion, Charlie said simply, “To bring it on.”

Many of the people in the audience of about 500 people knew nothing about Charlie Brown. It was clear that many people would have expected the Chairman of the great AT&T Corporation to be a stuffy sort of person. As the MC, it was my job to disabuse them of any such notion.

So I set out to tell the audience what sort of fellow Charlie was. In the process of Charlie’s introduction, the split infinitives story and the Philadelphia woman who read Charlie’s notes were recounted. I described the note pilferer as probably the most beautiful creature since Lillie Langtry or Marilyn Monroe. The audience was told how it pained me deeply to see this poor, frail, innocent creature brought down to earth by Charlie’s sign, “Can you read this upsidedown?” What Charlie and I knew, was that the female who read his notes was mean, arrogant, and weighed about 180 pounds. But that is absolutely no reason whatsoever to let little facts like this disrupt an epic tale.

By this time, the laughter in the audience was pretty strong and the audience wanted to see what this Chairman of the Board had to say about me. It took no time to find out as Charlie pointed to my perceived failings in great detail. The audience was close to rolling in the aisles as he spoke. When Charlie finished his remarks, he observed that, “You are going to have a wonderful evening tonight, if Carr doesn’t screw it up.”

My objective was achieved. The audience saw a happy Charlie Brown who could relate to them. Charlie’s performance, obviously without notes, was a tour de force. In spite of the slings and arrows aimed at me, the evening was a huge success which was set up by Charlie’s appearance.

Unfortunately, that dinner in February, 1984, was the last time I ever had the pleasure to shake Charlie’s hand. In September, 1984, I took early retirement and left the business after 42 years.

But before I left, say around June 1984, we had an opportunity to work together again. There was an Italian restaurateur in the Capital Hill district in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, his name and the name of his restaurant have long since escaped me. In any event, he longed to be a major player in advertising and in international telecommunications. To that end, he had purchased a share of an advertising agency, probably in Rome. And he had acquired an interest in ITALTEL, which was spun off by our long term correspondent in Italy, called ITALCABLE. In the AT&T Company, we had nothing to do with ITALTEL, which was only vaguely related to our correspondent, ITALCABLE.

The long and the short of it is that around February, 1984, the owner of the Washington restaurant who wanted to be a major player in advertising and in international telecommunications called me to place some demands on me. Finding me was an easy thing to do as the Italians knew who I was and advertising agency people in this country knew me very well.

At the time, AT&T had enjoyed a 75 year relationship with the N. W. Ayer advertising organization in New York. The picture attached is the celebration given by N. W. Ayer to mark this long association. It came from Howard Davis, Vice President of Ayer. When the Washington entrepreneur called, there was no incentive for AT&T to take advertising work away from N. W. Ayer and give it to his agency. He should have paid more attention to his calamari sauce and stayed out of unfamiliar occupations.

This Washington fellow called me a few times and demanded to know when we would give advertising work to his agency so that calling to Italy would increase to his benefit in his new venture with ITALTEL. These were not friendly calls, at all. They were demands.

I wanted to know a little more about his restaurant in Washington. For nearly four years, my occupation was as a lobbyist working out of the AT&T Washington office. It was located on “K” Street in the heart of the capital lobbying district. As a lobbyist, it was required that figures in government and in other influential businesses be entertained, mainly at lunches and dinners. The restaurant under discussion had never come to my attention, in spite of the fact that my tastes lean heavily to the Italian cuisine.

So some of my old friends in the Washington office were called with my request that they visit the restaurant owned by the caller who was making demands on me and on AT&T. Their report was discouraging. In the first place, his restaurant was located away from the hotels and restaurants on Connecticut Avenue, in an area that was described as heading toward a high crime rating. One of my male friends who visited the place reported that he was uncomfortable with all the male hangers- on gathered around the bar. And finally, my reports said the food ranged from barely acceptable to not acceptable at all. It seemed to me that the Washington caller represented elements that had no place with the AT&T Corporation.

So not long after in the next call from Washington, I told the caller we would not have any business to give him. I did not tell him to go to hell, but my polite, business language could be read in no other way. As the Washington demand caller started to end the conversation, he told me that my actions “would have consequences.” I thought those were throw away lines after the Washington caller had finished his business with me.

Having heard nothing from our caller in Washington for about a month or more, the demands he made were largely put out of my mind. One day in May or June of 1984, my phone rang with Charlie Brown on the line. Charlie came directly to me, ignoring all the Vice Presidential brass hovering above me.

His first words were, “Ed, why is Al d’Amato pissed off at you?” Of course, I was temporarily taken aback, but then I told Charlie something like, “If you mean the Senator who sang ‘Old McDonald had a farm’ on the Senate floor during a filibuster, I have never had the opportunity to meet him.” So I had no idea why he was angry with me.

The long and the short of it is that the Washington caller who told me that there would be consequences, had told the Senator from New York, Al D’Amato, that he was being mistreated by an AT&T employee. Namely me. D’Amato knew exactly what to do. He called Charlie Brown to have Charlie straighten me out.

After the first exchanges, it was possible for me to explain to Charlie what had happened. I told him that I had told the demander from Washington that the answer was “no.” That must have offended the Washington restaurant owner, so I suppose he unloaded on Senator D’Amato.

In our discussion, Charlie made it clear that he had a tricky job to deal with an important figure in the Senate from New York. There were one or two more calls from Charlie in June. In the end, D’Amato was told the answer was “no.” I never had any doubt that Charlie would back me up even if an important Senator from New York was angry with me.

Those conversations were the last I ever had with my friend, Charlie.

Charlie had a long and a distinguished career. I am glad that he was my friend. There was no disguising the fact that he had a monumental intellect, but on no occasion have I ever seen Charlie use that intellect to put someone down. He had, as I have said, a steely resolve in his character, but on no occasion had anyone ever seen that steely resolve be used to bully anyone. It was not in Charlie’s character to threaten or brow-beat anyone when he was the Chairman of AT&T.

The sum and the substance of this matter is that Charlie Brown was a gentleman’s gentleman. I can think of no higher praise than that. The fact that he was my friend is simply a bonus for me.

I know that Charlie died this week. It is painful for all of us to acknowledge that fact. I also know that he was a man I will never forget.

E. E. CARR
November 15, 2003

~~~

Seems like an excellent guy who didn’t let power go to his head. Pop was lucky to know him! Also, it’s surprising to me to learn that ol’ Howard Davis was a VP at Ayer — he shows up in tons of essays but for some reason that fact escaped me until now.

AR-THUR-I-TIS

What passes for a brain in my head has not been wired for introspective examination. If introspection has to do with examining one’s own mind or its contents reflectively, I am here to tell you, that’s not how my mind works. Professors and hand wringers who write op-ed pieces in newspapers and publish articles in learned journals are practitioners of introspective thinking, the “what if” school of thought.

To the extent that introspective thoughts lead me to learn something, introspection ought to be greatly encouraged. On the other hand, when professors write for the magazine Foreign Affairs, for example, it seems to me that they are filling 12 to 20 pages of pure unadulterated blather. If in 1914, France had sent a hundred carloads of croissants and petit fours to Berlin, would there have been no World War I? That is introspective “what if” blather and it should be dismissed out of hand.

Most of the men known to me of the World War II vintage, are not given to introspective examination of the mind or its contents. Nearly all are pragmatists who consider living through the Great Depression and World War II as accomplishments that they don’t wish to revisit. It’s over, so let’s go on to the next chapter. In my own case, it took me more than 59 years before I attempted to recount my story of being a German prisoner of war. And significantly, that story was written as an anti-war piece as the Bush administration was beating the war drums to pre-emptively invade Iraq. That piece was written for my daughters and their husbands to impress the five grandchildren that war is not glamorous, nor is it proper for countries to engage in it lightly.

On the other hand, there are a few old soldiers who apparently want to endlessly relive the war. I have seen old soldier’s clubs with newsletters about various aspects of the war. The Air Force clubs try to recall in their newsletters missions flown 55 or even 60 years ago. Aside from the inaccuracies that must creep in with so much passage of time, all of this effort to recall past glories escapes me. My war is over. Let’s go on to the next act.

Speaking of acts, as a pragmatist, I see no point in reading fiction and my tolerance for mysteries is zero. The plays of Shakespeare and Faulkner, for example leave me to wonder what all the acclaim is about. The theater has a great attraction for me provided it is something I can understand such as “Chicago.” That is a play that I can get my arms around.

All of this serious series of thoughts about introspective examination of the mind, is to say that my mind is constructed to deal largely with what is going to happen as distinguished from events of the past. I am deeply concerned with history. My thought about introspective thinking has to do with those who spend endless writing and lecturing hours discussing, “What if.” And so that brings me to a concern that is not introspective, but is here and now.

In a long lifetime of more than 80 years, I have dodged Alzheimers, Mad Cow disease and gnarled fingers. On the other hand, through the ministrations of the Summit Medical Group, I have survived a series of heart related problems. In the process of ageing, I have lost an eye and had to visit a surgeon for ingrown toenails. For 80 years, that’s not so bad. But this winter brought a mild dose of arthritis, an ailment that had always been ascribed to old people.

My parents would have diagnosed the trouble as RHEUMATISM. I never put much faith in their diagnoses because they ascribed all kinds of ailments to “RUMATIZE.” Of course, my father said “ORT” when he meant “OUGHT,” so that did not help when he diagnosed a case.

A fellow employee of mine in St. Louis always called my ailment “AR-THUR-I-TIS.” That would have been Ken Greenleaf. When he pronounced the word having to do with mixed things, he called is
“MIS-CKEL-ANE-OUS.” So that’s one more diagnostician to be ignored.

When I played baseball, we would often joke that it was not going to be the arm that failed or that vision would blur; it was going to be a disabled knee. That old joke turned out to be not so much of a joke. My right knee started to hurt climbing or descending steps. In that state, a guy like me could not even get out of the dugout, much less play a nine inning game.

So I visited a Summit Medical doctor called Eric Mursky. He is a young fellow and strikes me as quite competent. There were all kinds of x-rays and probings and after a while, Professor Mursky said the problem was arthritis. He pronounced it correctly. He specified an over-the-counter food supplement called Glucosamine Condroitin and said if that didn’t work, he had a series of shots that might help. If the shots failed, he said a knee replacement was available.

I saw Eric Mursky on March 18. When I asked him if he was Irish, he said that was not the case for his side of the Mursky family. Then I told Professor Mursky that for many years an Irish black thorn walking stick had rested just inside our front door. It was a gift from Althea Scheller, a former associate of mine at AT&T. Mursky thought the walking stick was a good idea and instructed me how to use it in my crippled condition.

Now this is the sad part. I supposed at that point that my career as a boulevardier was probably crippled by the walking stick which Mursky proposed that I actually use for walking. I mean it is an inspiring thing to twirl a cane or walking stick around in a man’s forefingers. That makes him a boulevardier, even if he is mustache-less as in my case. But to actually use the walking stick for help in walking kills the boulevardier or Maurice Chevalier act. To use it for help in walking would cause young, toothsome, beauties under the age of 75 to look for a more active suitor. That is to be avoided at all costs.

So I left Mursky’s office to go directly to the drug store to see if Glucosamine would restore the function of my knee. The thought of an artificial knee replacement obviously inspired this old ball player from the sand lots of St. Louis to see if he could avoid such radical surgery.

There are 60 tablets in the bottle of Glucosamine, which at three per day is a 20 day supply. The cost is something like $22.50. By the end of the first bottle, my knee started to feel better. By the end of the second bottle, the steps in this house or outside posed no more problems and I was giving thought to resuming my career as a tap dancer. This is one of the first over-the-counter pills to do what the medics claimed it would do. So long live Glucosamine Chondroitin.

The black thorn walking stick has been returned to its stand near the front door. I walk with no discomfort and I am ready to resume my life as a cane-twirling boulevardier. So if you know of any beautiful, toothsome beauties under 75, send them my way. And I am trying to grow a black Iraqi mustache. That, I’m afraid, is a lost cause.

And finally, I’m here to say that the improvements in my knee are pragmatic improvements. No “what if” about it. Introspective examination had nothing to do with it. It was the pragmatic diagnoses of Eric Mursky and the appearance of Glucosamine that restored this soon to be 81 year old boulevardier to his rightful place beside Chevalier. And “Rhumetize” also had nothing to do with it. As I say, viva Glucosamine.

E. E. CARR
May 8, 2003

~~~

Interestingly, unlike most arthritis treatments, it seems like Glucosamine and Chondroitin are supplements rather than painkillers. Both of them are substances found in healthy cartilage, which I suppose indicates that they’re meant to repair cartilage damage and treat the disease rather than its symptoms. That said, as supplements, they’re largely unregulated and at least some brief research would indicate that they have very limited effectiveness in most people. I’m no doctor obviously but I’m glad these turned out to be effective despite what the internet says!

I wonder why a walking stick — which I remember from Pop’s house, incidentally — stayed in the entry way for so long when nobody actually used it until late in Pop’s life. I also wonder what Pop thought about philosophy, since it’s in a bit of a weird place between fiction and non-fiction. Some of it could certainly be chalked up to frivolous thought experiments for their own sake, but I wonder what take he would have on, for instance, books about the human condition. Maybe Judy could fill in the gaps!

BITS AND PIECES // WOMEN’S CLOTHING AND DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

If my memory serves me correctly, the churches that my parents forced me to attend before my 14th birthday, were all pretty much united on the subject of women’s clothing. These were fundamentalist churches who had no concept of modern living or fashions.

All such churches said that their preaching was Bible based without the influence of latter day, modern days or progressive thought. Perhaps, their retrogressive view considered women as chattel which entitled the preachers, who were all male, and the elders of the church, who were also exclusively male, to specify women’s fashions. Preachers such as these, attempted to dictate styles for everyday wearing, not just for coming to church.

Most women in churches such as these wore dresses that came below their knees. All of them had necklines covered by tight fitting clothing. Christian women, at least those of mature age, would never consider blouses or sweaters or skirts for wear at religious services. It is my recollection, that these women favored long sleeved dresses in dark blue.

The preachers never complimented the women who came to church properly attired. No, they saved their ammunition for people who wore short sleeved dresses, with a tiny bit of skin showing around the neckline. Shorter dresses at the knees were greatly frowned upon. Sweaters and blouses and skirts were clearly the work of Satan.

All of this occurred in the late 1920’s up until 1936 when it came upon me that my stature was big enough to announce that church going was incompatible with my non-believing beliefs.

About this time, local radio stations would pick up broadcasts from fundamentalist preachers and air them over the radio, particularly on Sunday evenings. The radio preachers agreed with the preachers who harangued me prior to 1936, that women who wore modern clothing were on their way to Hell – and no one could help them. Can you imagine that some women wore shorts? Absolutely disgraceful. The one thing that was guaranteed to fire up these sort of fundamentalist preachers was a woman wearing slacks. The preachers called them pants, not slacks. It was their belief that pants were only to be worn by men. For a woman to wear pants was blasphemous. Who do they think they are? It is clear that wearing pants meant that women intended to displace men as the head of the households. That could not be.

There was never any discussion on whether the slacks were more comfortable or warmer in cold weather or whether slacks protected female modesty. They were evil, evil, evil and that was that.

Then along came World War II with its shortage of male manpower. Employers were more than happy to hire “Rosie the Riveter” and they considered slacks as part of the safety equipment for the job. Can anyone imagine Rosie on a construction job wearing a skirt or a dress?

World War II had its tragedies, of course. But it was a turning point of American customs, for the better. Arbitrary customs that had been enforced by the preachers was a thing of the past. And to this soldier from that conflict, the change was all for the good. It may have offended the antiquated religious views of some fundamentalist backwoods preachers, but modern dress for women was here to stay. It is to be applauded by everyone. And if a woman wants to wear slacks to church, she has my permission to go right to it.

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

Now we turn to the second half of this story to consider daylight savings time.

The idea originated in England and was the product of William Willet’s thoughts. During World War I, the United States adopted the idea on March 31, 1918. In 1919 when the war was finished, the law was repealed. In World War II, the system was re-established. Proponents of the law argued that it would provide more daylight hours for recreation. It was also alleged that it would permit children to go to school in daylight hours.

As for going to school before daylight time started, at least in my case, was a case of coming home in semi-darkness. My school days were over before daylight savings time started again after December 7, 1941. When daylight time was in effect, it appeared that school kids would start for school in semi-darkness. So it is a case of picking which evil of darkness you wanted.

My memory of coming home in winter after school while regular hours were in effect, is that my route led through the downtown section of Clayton, Missouri. At about one third of the three mile walk home, it was my custom to stop outside the Kronsberg Surveying and Blue Print Company. One of my older brothers was usually at work in that establishment. A knock on Kronsberg’s big plate glass window would tell my brother that his youngest brother was outside. When it was very cold, he would motion for me to come inside. In milder weather, he would come out to the sidewalk to greet me. At age eight or nine, it was my hope to grow up to be a surveyor like my brother Charlie. Of course, it never happened.

Now you may wonder about the inclusion of a Bits and Pieces thought about daylight savings time along with the first piece on women’s clothing. The thing they have in common is that the fundamentalist preachers delivered one sermon after another decrying daylight time. Several scriptural verses were cited to prove that daylight savings time was the work of Satan himself.

There is a scriptural injunction that claims that God made light and “it was good.” For men to toy with a subject as profound as light was blasphemy, no less. On top of all that, the idea came from Europe where God did not enjoy top billing with the governments there. So in addition to railing against short skirts and female slacks, this gave the hard right preachers another string for their bows. These fundamentalist preachers had a touch of hatred as they decried modern customs. But women wore slacks and observed daylight savings time along with everyone else, except in those few communities that refused to acknowledge that the new time was a fact of life.

As was said earlier, World War II was a turning point for many American customs. Some 60 years after the United States government reinstated daylight time, few complaints are heard anymore. Many of us have some reservations about turning clocks ahead in the spring and back in the fall, but there are other things that now concern us. It looks like daylight time is a fact of life and we’d better accept it, regardless of what the preachers say.

E. E. CARR
December 29, 2003

~~~

I feel like clergy get bored easily. Perhaps the Bible has instructions on what to do, if you’re a religious leader who feels like it’s time to spice things up a little.
1) Identify something that is different from how it was when you were a child. Technology, music, and fashion are generally good candidates.
2) Get yourself nice and worked up into a fit of moral outrage about this thing.
3) Convince as many people as possible that this new thing is sending people straight to hell.
4) As this thing gets gradually accepted by everyone anyway, insist on blaming this thing for any tragedy you like. Openly gay people causing hurricanes, miniskirts and video games causing school shootings, whatever you’d like.
5) Repeat.