LEATHERBALLS, OR HOW I SOLVED ALL RACIAL PROBLEMS-PART III

For some reason the birth of our two children, one in October of 1967 and the other in September of 1969 always seemed to preceded by me being away a great deal of the time. Our daughter Dara was born on September 19th. It coincided with some of the roughest parts of my two years as human relations coordinator. Dara was born with a full head of hair and long nails and a propensity for being up for most every night. We found out 9 months later that she was allergic to milk and her first two years of life saw her eating NeoMullSoy and Honeycombs. She was happy most other times and was really quick to learn. At one year and nine months she was able to speak in sentences. Her first utterance was to describe her brother’s noisy activities in his room. She said “Mak moving chairs.”

I began the year working mostly at the Delhaas 9-10 building, but also worked at the Woodrow Wilson Senior High School. There was trouble in both buildings. Most of the trouble at the 9-10 building was instigated by girls. There had always been conflict both among girls and between groups of girls. Throw in some racial dislike, stir and you had a recipe for horror. We had a few knifings and fights and students threatening teachers. It got so bad at one point that we had to call in police to monitor the halls and then dogs to go with them.

At the end of one of the school days, we were faced with a bus driver’s walkout. There were over 2400 students who had to get home ( few walked) with now drivers. At this point we had accumulated a number of administrators and some teachers and actually drove the busses home ourselves. It was ball for us to follow the kid’s directions to their bus stops. I am not sure how we all managed to do it. We settled on having administrators from other buildings monitor the hallways. That, along with administrators sitting in on classes and observing seemed to calm things down.

I was assigned to visit the homes of troublemakers and peacemakers and see what I could do to get the parents involved. I also met with community leaders, political, social and business to see if there could be any help. I called on the various interest groups ( which some people called outside troublemakers), to see if they could help. I did happen one day to become acquainted with an African American woman named Sarah Jackson ( now deceased), who had been a fixture in her community for many years. She had preceded the Black Awareness movements and did yeoman work in keeping families together, young people on track and inserting the needs of the African American community in the forefront of the municipal and school authorities. I became very close to Sarah and her husband. We used to watch baseball on tv at their home. Many nights I would eat dinner with the Jacksons rather than go home and come back for a meeting.
Sarah was a fine and tough person. She always was on the right path.

One evening, I was leaving the Jackson’s home and standing on a street corner in the Red Wing section of Bristol Township. I was speaking with some of Sarah’s neighbors when two shots rang out very close to us. We kind of ducked and tried to creep into the shadows. I had been standing right underneath a streetlamp under a stop sign. We all were rather tentative in our moving out into the light. I examined the stop sign and saw that two holes were drilled into the bottom of the sign. I believe that someone was either sending me a warning or had been a bad shot. Somehow, I never heeded that warning and ran into another terrifying situation. I guess at age 30, I was still invincible in my own mind.

Sometime later in my human relations career, I was at a meeting of township authorities, and local legislators and other community people. The audience was almost entirely white. The conversation started to turn nasty about how this was all the fault of the African American kids in the school. Without any information, the crowd started to get very ugly. I was the only representative of the schools there. I tried to calm things down with some semblance of the truth, but I was not getting anywhere. A bright idea roiled through my brain when I said, “The black kids are not the whole reason for many of the problems, there are some white kids who are real trouble makers and the worst of them is Larry Fields.” Why I would have named someone, I don’t know. I guess it was getting so bad, that I had to do something. However, this was not the thing to do. There was a complete absence of sound for about five seconds. How was I to know that Larry Fields father was in the audience. I could hear the sound of large shoes coming up from behind me and a pair of huge hands encircled my neck. I was rising from my chair and might have turned blue, had not a number of the crowd reached over to grab my assailant and pull him off me.

It happened so quickly that I could not even prepare myself for some sort of strategy. As I told you, I had a very bad temper. When the hands were released, I was ready to do mortal combat with my attacker. Some of the people in the crowd must have seen it on my face and began to restrain me as well. I calmed down, went to the men’s room and got into my car and went home.

As I look back at these times now, I realize how foolish I had become. I believed that no one cold possible dislike what I was doing. I drove around with the police in their cars, met with young white toughs in their homes and on the street trying to convince them not to take drugs, staying in the black community with folks long after I should have, taking chances in the schools when there were full fledged riots. No incident better describes this stupidity then a meeting that I went to that was sponsored by the school district. It was supposed to be a community meeting to discuss the violence in the schools. It was at a community center in the township. Most of the central office was to be there. That would have been about 5 or 6 people, including some principals.

Carol had a class that night, so I had the responsibility of having my son with me and decided to take him with me to the meeting. I was going to sit in the back and just be a daddy and not a participant. When I got to the meeting, at about 7:00 p.m. I was among the first ones there. As time went on the place really filled up and with the most amazing amalgam of people. By the time it was full, here were the cast of characters, other than plain community people; the National Socialist White People’s Party, the Black Panthers, the Tri State NAACP, and the American Nazi Party. I was the only representative of the school district there. I was sitting in the back with my son Marc slung over my shoulder. I had a bad with a bottle and diapers ( no pampers yet again) slung over the other shoulder. No one from the district showed up. I did not know what to do.

Most of the community people knew me as did a few from the organizations, but not many. I later learned that all of the other school personnel had been warned off because they had been told who was going to come. I guess I didn’t get the call or there never was a call. So . . . I had a few choices, I could sit there looking dumb, get into my car and leave or get up in front of these people and tell them what the real stories were.

I decided on the last choice. To this day, I believe that my son saved my life. If he had not been sleeping on my shoulder, I would not have gotten out of there unscathed. Bless you Marc. I got to the front of the room and told the people what had been going on in the schools. I told them that the radio, tv and newspapers were not the best source of information and that I would be happy to answer any questions right here and now or call me and I gave them my office number ( no cell phones). There were angry questions, frightened questions, racial questions, anti- semitic and anti-black questions and also frightening stares from people who wore sun glasses and those with eyes that could look right through you.

I am not sure that I satisfied anyone. The papers covered the event and kind of made me look like a shill. They never mentioned my son at all. This was not the cure for all of the problems to come. For the 1969-70 and 1970-71 years, the 9-10 building and later the 11-12 building ( as students went to the high school) were scenes of terrible unrest and uncertainty. Staff stayed, but administrators left to school districts where these problems did not exist. The high school principal, Todd Fraley left after the 1970-71 year and Joe McShea became the principal of the 9-10 building in 1969-70. Joe’s exploits and the human relations program were chronicled in the Saturday Review in 1969. I still have a copy of it in my desk somewhere. Joe was the hero of the piece, as well he should, because he later made order out of chaos by speaking softly AND carrying a big stick.

The biggest change happened in the high school in the Spring of 1971. A large contingent of African American young men all decided to roam the halls in a menacing manner. They entered the cafeteria during a study hall. Unbeknownst to anyone, all other doors to the cafeteria were locked with chains, so that no one could get out. There ensued a bloody physical conflict between the black kids and the white kids. Administrators, who were in the hallway, me among them, rushed to the cafeteria and started pulling people off each other. Hal Horrocks, an assistant superintendent got bloodied, as I did, and we stopped the melee within five minutes. It was horrific. We calmed people down, sent the injured to the nurse and called for the police.

Now you know why I was not going to continue as Human Relations Coordinator. I left that job to Sarah Jackson. I believe that I had some impact, but not enough to mitigate generations of hatred and mistreatment. However, the story was not over and a new regime took over the high school and I was one of the marshalls.

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LEATHERBALLS, OR HOW I SOLVED ALL RACIAL PROBLEMS-PART II

After Marc was born, it was obvious that just my teacher salary was not going to be enough to sustain us. Not only did we need more dough for our budding family, but Carol and I both wanted to go back to school- she for a Master’s in guidance counseling and me for a Masters in educational administration. That required that I get a part time job. Once again, strangeness intervened. Looking at some ads in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I saw an ad for a social worker, part time at the YWCA in the Frankford part of Philly . I had no idea what that entailed, but it meant some extra dough that we sorely needed. I went down to the Y and interviewed with Margaret Van Husing, the director. I was hired and became the second social worker for a YWCA in the U.S. The first was my colleague Trip Brown, a young African American man in his early 30’s. He did a great deal of community involvement things with young men out on the street. He was reasonably successful in getting some of the kids to join programs at the Y and have them do productive things.

I was assigned to the white kids who attended Frankford High School and were also street roamers. I had no experience with seeing people take drugs or sell them. I was introduced to these things during this time. No, I did not inhale, or take any of them. I am severely allergic to things that affect my nervous system. I have some pretty hard evidence about that throughout my life. The kids that I worked with on the streets were all working class kids, as were the youngsters in Bristol Township. They were growing up in an era that was divided from other eras that preceded by the Vietnam War, now in full swing because of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, drugs, racial strife, and a changing economy. I tried to work through some of these things with them and grew to do much more listening than talking.

I kind of worked with the school and the school authorities and grew to understand how kids were turned off to education. Some of these kids saw no relevance between what they were doing, what they wanted to do and school. It was really the same way for the African American kids. They too suffered from alienation, compounded by their skin color and all that meant.
I worked at the Y from the Fall till the Summer of 1968. I ran a Summer program for youngsters in 1968 and brought some of my experiences from working at the Hudson Guild in Manhattan years before.

All of this seems very tame until you understand what happened in the Spring of 1968. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was gunned down by James Earl Ray. I was going to work on that day and reported to the office and then went out to look for Trib. I found him standing on a corner in the African American community. He looked at me and told me that it was not safe for me to be there. He said that he wasn’t even sure that it was safe for him. I understood what he was saying. It was never the same after that. It spilled over into Frankford High School and spilled over into Franklin D.Roosevelt Junior High and Delhaas.

In April, May and June of 1968, I had more trouble with students than I had or would have in my teaching and administrative career. There was a constant tension in the school. It was palpable and somewhat scary. The female teachers were sometimes afraid to go out into the hallways. There had been arbitrary punches thrown in the cafeterias. It was not the usual fights between two kids. It was a burgeoning racial war and no one was excepted. In one of my classes, where there was an abundance of African American kids, I suddenly got not only disinterest but outright contempt for what I was doing. Some of the African American kids were embarrassed, but could not say a word. Some of the tougher white kids became rebellious as an answer. There was going to be trouble. There were lots of suspensions and parental involvement. ManyAfrican American parents thought that their children were being picked on. Some of the white parents felt that African American kids were being handled with kid gloves. It was not pleasant.

The school year 1967-68 ended with a whimper, but with portends of lots more things to come. On June 4, 1968, just at the end of the school year, when Bobby Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan, there were whispers that this was in retribution for the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. That abated and the Summer seemed to cool things down a bit. Some retribution occurred for me during the Summer of 1968. Joe and Frank called me into the office and told me that they were making me English Department Chair. I was flabbergasted. I was not expecting it at all and I knew that a number of more experienced teachers were passed over so that I could have the job. I did not know what the job entailed. Nice thing was that neither Joe nor Frank had any suggestions. I now was in charge of the English Department and that meant a few hundred bucks more in my paycheck over the year plus an additional three hundred from a raise. I was not going to have to have another part time job. I was ecstatic.

The beginning of school year had me concentrating on the English department and reading. I had seen the reading scores and they were nothing to be proud of. Our reading teacher Rosemary Santilli was great, but we needed more book time. Rosemary and I sat down and came up with a list of books and SRA reading kits that we could use to entice our students to read. We met with the English staff and everyone seemed to be on board. We had a coterie of young teachers, eager to do some good work and a minority of teachers who disliked me because I had the job they deserved. They were probably right. There was something about my choice that did not sit well with a number of the older teachers. However, the old pros still went about their business teaching and even using some of the new materials. I could never fault them for being mad about the new guy.

With my six years of teaching experience, I was now eligible to have a student teacher. In the Fall of 1968 I was introduced to a young woman from Temple University who would be with me for most of the Fall semester. Having a student teacher was a double edged sword. I now had additional responsibilities with her, however, I now had some free time to do some work in the department. Fortunately, I had two crackerjack young women. I was able to sit down with them at the beginning of the semester and know that they would do a good job. They both became excellent teachers.

I have told many non-educators this story and I am not sure that they understand. This was my seventh year of teaching. With so many new things on my mind, I noticed that I was doing two things at once while I was teaching. I was planning department improvements and working with the students at the same time. I am not sure how that was done. I don’t think that I was any less or more effective as a teacher. Sometime during the first semester, I was making a point to my student teacher, when I realized that I had been watching myself teach in order to explain things to her. It was an eerie moment in my life. In subsequent lessons, whether group work individual help or a student, teaching reading or telling stories, I could actually watch myself and change what I was doing. I have spoken to many educators who tell me that it happened to them also. I am not sure what it means, but it was a truly edifying experience. I have not experienced that feeling since.

Things were going poorly across the way in Delhaas. There were fights mostly every day and police were called in too often. The principal of the building was not able to keep control of the long corridors and dark corners of this huge place with 2,000 students. I have since learned that a 9-10 building is probably the worst educational and social building configuration. One years the students are freshman and the next they are seniors. They are not attached by any traditions or not trained by the older students in the traditions of the building. All hell was breaking loose.

It was in the Spring of 1969 that things began to deteriorate in F.D.Roosevelt J.H.S. Joe and Frank called me into their office one day and asked that I help with the problems in another way. They had been looking at how we might get kids to be involved in the school, other than the traditional student government. I suggested that we convene a group of students who are active in all parts of the school, both positive and negative. The group would contain both African American students and white students, all of different minds. They gave me my header and I proceeded to choose kids for this project. I came up with the name Intergroup Council.

My second semester student teacher Bonnie Z. was even more proficient than the first semester young woman. Bonnie had come from Bloomsburg University and was accomplished as a teacher even before she got to us. You could see it on the first day that I gave her a chance to teach classes. This gave me even more confidence to do some of the other things that I needed to do. I spent some time with Bonnie, but mostly, I worked with the Intergroup Council and wandered the hauls. In the early Spring, Joe and Frank decided that I was not to teach any more classes and work full time in keeping a lid on things. He pulled me, Larry B. and Ron S. out of the classrooms and told us to work on discipline, cafeteria duty and hall duty. We all pulled our share of bus duty, greeting students when they came in and having everyone know that we were there.

It appeared to work, for a while anyway. The Intergroup Council met on a regular basis and I was treated to some truths that I had not known before. I learned that drugs ( mostly pills) were rampant in the community, that there were even some being sold in the school, that the African American kids felt that there was no one that they could go to in the school who understood them and felt alone mostly all of the time. Now folks would understand all of these things, then it was a novelty to hear what the kids were saying.

I was up against lots of traditions that said, “ Things are what they are and nothing should change.” Most of the staff were good people, but their backgrounds did not permit them to understand what a vast change was going on. Many tried to understand, but could not countenance the way the kids were acting. Some just wanted the troublemakers to be thrown out and some wanted the “bad” kids to be sent to alternative education. For a school district of 14,000 we had created an alternative education class in a separate location for our “unable to function in school” students. The football coach was the teacher and their aides and social workers attached. Actually, it was a forerunner of the current spate of those kinds of programs. There were over 25 kids in the class and they were really bad actors. One of the students was an angelic looking blonde Damien kind of kid who would steal old ladies’ purses, throw them to the ground and stomp on them. Does the term sociopath sound familiar.

I worked with the kids that Spring and kind of wandered the streets after school trying to get a hold on what was happening in the community. I did not know the full extent of what was happening until many years later.

By the end of the school year, Delhaas was a mess and we were sending over a ninth grade class that was going to be a bit hard to handle. One morning, I was called to the Superintendent’s office to meet with a man, who is legendary in my mind, Dr. Lars Knudsen. Lars was the product of a tough background in the woolen mills of Cranston, Rhode Island. His immigrant Swedish parents wanted him to be a man servant and he disappointed them greatly. Much like my immigrant mom who wanted me to be a truck driver. Lars had gone to Columbia University to get a doctorate when all of the great men of education were still around. How would you like to be associated with William Kilpatrick and John Dewey? He was not an intellectual snob. He was just the opposite. He was a hard drinking, potty mouthed, skirt chasing son of a gun and we all grew to love him. He was brilliant and off the wall at the same time. He could talk to anyone and insult anyone at the same time. His vocabulary in private was voluminous and he often told me that if I did not know a word in his presence, he would hang the dictionary around my neck and make me wear it for a day.

I had no idea what Lars wanted to speak to me about. When I came into the office, I was faced with Lars, Budd Rossman, personnel director and James McNaughton, the assistant superintendent. There I was all of 30 years old facing a trio of professionals who had been at the game of education for a long while. Jim told me that they had written a federal program that had to do with human relations training, and the creation of an office of human relations and that I would be the first human relations coordinator in the United States. I was to go to Boston University for a two week course run by the Boston U. School of Human Relations to be tutored by Ken Benne and Max Birnbaum. I never got a chance to refuse or ask any questions. They told me it was a twelve month job and that the initial salary would be $13,000 a year and that would not include expenses or any program costs. I had nothing to say. I only asked when things would begin and where my office would be. They told me that the job began July 1 and that my office would pretty much be in my car, but that I could hang out at Delhaas or the Harry S. Truman Administration Building. Thus began the two years of my life when I repaired the world and created racial harmony among all peoples. If you believe that one, you won’t be surprised that within the next few years some folks set out to kill me.

LEATHERBALLS, OR HOW I SOLVED ALL RACIAL PROBLEMS- PART I

I left the Snave Box Company and went home to make copious calls to many different schools both in and around Philadelphia. It was just a few days before school would start in many of these places and I knew that I was up against it. We had enough dough to last a few months. However, with the baby on its way, I knew that there would be bills galore. Remember, this was not even a time that people had health benefits. I guess there is some predestination here. My experience in cold calling at the employment agency allowed me to make many calls and speak to the people who were in charge of hiring. I did get some hints that this was really too late a time to call. I struck gold, when I called the Bristol Township Schools in Bucks County, PA. They said that there was an opening for an English teacher at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. High School and that I should try and make an appointment with the principal Joe McShea or the assistant principal Frank McConnell. I called immediately and got an appointment for the next morning.

It only took me about 30 minutes to get to the junior high from my home in Abington. I was greeted by a friendly secretary and shown into the principal’s office. Joe and Frank were waiting for me. It took me a moment to realize that they were sizing me up even before the questioning began. Joe was a close cropped hair guy with the kind of swagger that comes from being raised in the coal country, in Shamokin to be exact. He had a ready smile and a look that told you not to mess with him. Frank was kind of a big Philly teddy bear, but the look of a tough guy. I would want either or both of these two with me in a bar brawl. Their questions about my teaching and my knowledge of reading and English were perfunctory. They mostly wanted to know about my experience in New York City, my ability to handle tough situations and my background growing up. I was soon to learn that they knew what they were doing. They wanted someone who could control kids in the classroom as well as in the hallways, someone who could control a cafeteria and someone who was pretty plain spoken. Not sure how they saw that in me, but that’s how it turned out. Many years later, I found out what the staff and community called me behind my back. I was known as “leatherballs.” To this day, I am not sure what that really meant.

The Bristol Township School District was composed of Levittown, the second Levitt community built by the creator of the suburbs. The area is detailed full in the book called, “The Levittowners,” by Herbert Gans. After World War II and Korea, the returning servicemen were presented with the possibility of buying their own homes, with government financing. This opened up opportunities for developers like Levitt to buy up farmland and open spaces in the suburbs of New York and Philadelphia and build his mass produced box-like houses. They were best described by Pete Seeger as “Little Boxes made of Ticky Tacky.” They all looked the same and you could get them in a few different colors. They were snapped up by the ex-servicemen and migrants from the cities. They soon took on a meaning of their own as Levitt built schools and municipal services into his later developments.

Bristol Township was one of those places. However, by 1967, the first owners of Levitt houses were starting to move up to the newer and more plush Levitt houses in Pennsbury and then Neshaminy. Other developers moved into the suburban boom and the world as we knew it was changed. Those who were left in Bristol Township worked at the Fairless Hills Steel Mill and other blue collar jobs. There were some professionals there in some of the more upscale neighborhoods, but not many. Segregation was still in vogue. One section of the homes, Red Wing, was composed of all African Americans and another section of town, called Kingswood Park was the home to another section of African Americans with less money. Kingswood Park was originally barracks for people during World War II and were to be torn down after the war, but they remained there and may be there still for all I know.

The children of this diverse community were not diverse economically. They were pretty much blue collar workers, workers in retail establishments or people just out of work. Racial tension had been in Levittown since the beginning, when in 1957 a cross was burned on the lawn of a home owned by an African American couple. Bristol Township was also the home of selling of principalships, as described in Life magazine in 1960 and allegedly the home of political contract awarding at all levels. It was also in the midst of a time of the Black Awareness movement. All this was completely unknown to me when I walked through the doors of Franklin D. Roosevelt Junior High School.

On October 13, 1967, Carol gave birth to our first child, Marc Hillman. His birth changed our lives entirely. He was a baby for beginners and the pride of our existence. His every movement was scrutinized for genius. He smiled readily and was his mom’s pride and joy. We even enjoyed the delivery of new diapers ( no Pampers yet). We read every child rearing book we could get our hands on. We used Dr. Spock to determine what illness was extant. We did not, however, follow his advice on how to raise children. We were struck with Haim Ginott’s logical consequences and have lived by that philosophy ever since.

F.D. Roosevelt was a large school with over 1000 students. It was located on a main kind of street across from the Delhaas 9-10 building ( the Haas part from Rohm and Haas). Joe and Frank ran a tight ship. They both roamed the halls during the day. We were expected to stand outside our classrooms between periods to keep things in order. There were seven periods during the day and most of us taught 5 or 6 periods. Some of us had to do some extra work, such as cafeteria duty. I was assigned that task for the first year. It started a trend with me that lasted until 1977. It was a good way of seeing the kids on another level. You could actually have a discussion with them and kid around with them.

I taught 7th and 8th grade English and reading. Many of the kids were really not interested in classical literature, poetry or even reading. I devised a way of getting, at least one of them per day interested. I declared that we had to have a class scribe in every class. I chose each scribe in a random manner every day and asked them to write down everything that happened during those 45 minutes. The kids attached themselves to this task. It kept them listening and writing and observing. People were noted going to the bathroom, yawning, pulling down the shades, being absent, being called down to the office , yelling, being annoying and yes learning some of what the teacher was presenting. Each night I would type up the notes and hand it to the kids the next day for them to put in their three holed binders ( if they did not have one, I provided it). Since it was every day, that was an hour or so ( sometimes done during a free period) each night with the normal prep. I was able to get them interested in Edgar Allen Poe. They were fascinated with his short stories such as the Tell Tale Heart and the Pit and the Pendulum. I would darken the shades, have something drawn on the blackboard in colored chalk and would turn off the lights and aim a slide projector at the drawing. I had tickets given out at the door and then collected as the students left.

I tried just about everything that I could to get them interested in poetry, in iambic pentameter, dactylic hexameter and just plain rhyming. They loved some of Ogden Nash’s silly stuff, and Robert Frost, and I Had But Fifty Cents ( an anonymous poem that children seem to adore). I introduced them to Science Fiction- Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov, Robert Henlein and many others. Some caught their attention and others did not. I brought in some books such as Black Like Me, the Invisible Man, the Autobiography of Malcolm X and others that might appeal to the African American students in the class. I tried just about everything. Some things worked and some didn’t. I never grew tired of dreaming up things to do. And then towards the Spring of 1968 things turned ugly.

KENOSHA- A BLACK CLOUD

I one time tried to figure out in how many places I have actually lived . Here is what I came up with; Cherry St. and Williams Ave. in Brooklyn, Clinton St. in Manhattan, Forest Hills Queens, two places, Bobligen, Hopstadten and Baumholder in Germany, Greenwich Village, NYC, Melrose Court Apts. in Cheltenham, Moreland Ave in Abington, Kutztown, Shippenville ( Clarion really), Lower Allen Township and Harrisburg all in PA. That’s fifteen and I have left one out deliberately. That one is Kenosha Wisconsin. The circuitous route to the Midwest and the large black cloud that hangs over Kenosha was revealing of one man, Herbert Evans, President of the Snave Corporation.

I looked at the job order that came across my desk. It has hard to determine who had written it, even though you were supposed to put your name on it. I suspected that it was one of the job orders created by my colleague of the many job order prizes. I looked around furtively to see if anyone else was staring at a job order. It was hard to tell, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary. That was one of the most peculiar days at the agency. We had all come in that morning and found our chairs missing. The game was that no one would have a seat unless they got a job order or a placement. That meant interviewing applicants while standing. It was kind of a riotous way of doing business. I was able to get a job order rather quickly and then turn my attention to my “Get out of Jail Free Card.”

The job said, assistant to the president- interested in sales, management and a whole bunch of things that I had seen on phony job orders before. However, this looked a wee bit different. I called the Snave Corp and made an appointment to meet with Mr. Evans, the president, the next day. It was a box manufacturing company located in Glenside, PA. It was just a short distance from our home in Abington. Speaking of our home, it was March of 1967 and we had just found out that Carol was pregnant with our first child. Somehow the combination of our first child coming and my present, on total commission job, did not mix. I was determined to change jobs for something more stable. Who knew what I was getting myself into?

The next day, as I recall was a wonderful brisk March day, just the kind of day to have the whole world change around you, and it did. I met with Herbert Evans ( if you did not get it yet, Snave is Evans backward). He was a most unusual fellow. He was in his mid to late 40’s, a born entrepreneur, and weird as all hell. When he spoke to you, one could not tell if he was speaking to someone behind you (usually his deceased father) or to himself. He told me that he needed someone to be his alter ego and learn the entire box manufacturing business from the construction of the storage containers to sales to product development to the setting up of new plants. It was a heady moment for me, all 29 years old of me, ready to become a captain of industry. It never occurred to me that there was going to be a severe learning curve before I could attain such a goal.

Besides being weird, Herbert was as a superb business man. Somehow, we did get along well. I did start out on the assembly line actually making the boxes. They were 5x7x10 storage containers that you would find in the warehouses of van lines. Most were made completely of wood and some with colorful sides made of strong cardboard. The templates for these boxes were laid out on large heavy wooden tables and nailed in. it was my job to place the 2×4’s on the template and then put the plywood sheathing on it and staple them together. The final job would be to put klimps ( metal clamps) on the front of the boxes to see if they fit together. That was my job for a week. I was sore every single day. I grew wary of nail and staple guns. I did see people get injured by them.

At the end of one week, I was put in a dank room with a number of other salesmen to learn how to sell these products. I had a single advantage. I had done this before, so cold calling was nothing new to me and I was actually pretty good at it. After a week or two of sales, Mr. Evans took me out on a world tour of moving and storage companies. He was an accomplished sales person in a strange way and people seemed to trust his word. He had been an engineer at some time in the past and was conversant with all aspects of the moving and storage business. He was also the inventor of a right sized box that could go into one of the new SEALAND containers that would be put on ships. As we travelled to Harrisburg, Baltimore, and theWashington, D.C.area, I noticed a rhythm to all of these calls. There was a method to Mr. Evans madness. The closer you got to Washington D.C., the more business was there.The nation’s capitol was a center for the moving and storage business. Think of it.

Evans was somewhat impressed by my abilities and told me that he was going to raise my salary from the munificent sum of $125 per week, about $6,500 to $150 per week. That was also more money than I had earned teaching. You must remember, however, that there were no benefits attached to this job, as there were not in education. All later expenses for our child were borne by us.

After a month or so, Herbert decided to send me off on my own. He handed me a slide rule and said that this was magic and that I would need this in my sales trips. Since all of this was new to me and hand held calculators did not exist yet, I was hesitant to use a slide rule. I figured that I could pretty much do what I needed with paper and pencil. Not so. My first trips to Baltimore were kind of standard- replacement of pre-existing containers and maybe a few more. Harrisburg was about the same. I believe my first trip to the world of reality came with a company called AJ Beninato and Sons. They were a North American Van Lines franchisee and were somewhere in VA or the Washington D.C. area.

When I walked in, I was greeted by Mr. Beninato who was a diminutive guy with the most pleasant smile. He greeted me as if I was Herbert Evans’ son. How Mr. Evans introduced me I have no idea. Mr. Beninato took my into his cavernous and new storage facility and said, “ Figure out how many boxes I am going to need and write up the order.” I was stunned. I could not take out my slide rule and do a volume calculation. I was up against things that I had no clue about. I asked Mr. Beninato what the dimensions of the facility were. He called to one of the warehouse guys and I was given the information.

I moved my slide rule in a number of different ways, made many facial contortions, little grunting noises, wrote down a bunch of numbers, raised my head and said. I believe that you will need 100 5x7x10 boxes and a few smaller ones that we can make up for you. He was beaming. He called me, “ smart boy,” and shook my hand vigorously. I wrote up the order, had him sign it and put it in my little folder and got to the nearest phone to call Herbert Evans. He was not effusive in his praise, as it that is what he expected, and maybe he did.

When I returned to Glenside, Mr. Evans took me aside and told me that I was now at a point when I knew the business pretty well. I really did not agree with him, but said nothing. He told me that the next part of my job would be to set up plants in other parts of the United States. I was first to go to Spring Hill, North Carolina and meet with the Chamber of Commerce and let them show me around all the buildings that they had available.

This was going too fast for me. Carol and I talked about the future, our new responsibility with our first child and how this might affect our small family. We decided to continue on the ride. The money was good, although the traveling was not so wonderful. And so, I made my way to Spring Hill, N.C. and was surprised to see that the Holiday Inn that I had made arrangements to stay in had me as their featured guest- whatever that meant. I was kind of proud seeing my name on the marquis.

The Chamber people took me around to look at a number of buildings. They were very gracious. I pretended to know what I was talking about, asked about the labor situation, taxes, utilities, transportation, and availability of supplies and so on. The answered all of my questions, took me to lunch and regaled me with reasons why we should come to Spring Hill and how my family might really like it there. It never occurred to me that I might be creating a scenario for moving my family. It was like a cold washcloth to my cheek. Why were these people thinking that I was going to move there? Did Herbert Evans tell them something?

I left town quickly and returned to Glenside and asked Evans those questions. He saw my concern and told me that he had to tell those people that I was really looking to move there, so that they would treat me properly. I knew then, as I know now, that was not the case and I have proof. My next stint was a trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, which, as you recall was the home of American Motors. Evans had made a deal with American Motors to make storage containers for shipping AMC car parts to Australia and South America. He was going into business with a Mr. Tortelli and I would be the go- between and set up the business and manufacturing facility.

Evans and Tortelli had whomped up an agreement about priorities in manufacture. First priority was AMC and second was moving and storage containers. I was to set things up, hire a manager of some sort and then go back to Snave in Glenside. I met with Mr. Tortelli and his associates. I am not sure how Herbert Evans knew these people, but they were a menacing group. I settled on the terms of the agreement and shook hands. I had the feeling that I would be having more commune with Mr. Tortelli, When I returned to Glenside, Evans told me that I had done a good job and that he was sending me back to Kenosha to set things up and run the place for a little while till it got going.

Thatw\ was a stunner. I went home and discussed the future with Carol. It was now getting towards Summer and she was due in October. If you can imagine, we decided to lock up the house. Get rid of the dog that we had acquired and move to Kenosha. We did not sell the house and asked our neighbors, the Shreibers ( still in contact with them after all of these years) to keep an eye on things. We drove to Kenosha and found an apartment right off the lake. That took place on a weekend and I went to work setting up things on Monday. In reality, work was kind of fun, but Carol was bored out of her mind. She was alone in a strange place with no way of getting around. She would sometimes drive me to work and take the car, but nothing more. We decided to find a synagogue in Kenosha. We went to Friday night services the first week we were there hoping to attach ourselves to some local people . We introduced ourselves to the Rabbi, who seemed to be concerned about our presence. We asked him, why he was not happy to see us. He said, “If you don’t have to be here in Kenosha, please take the first opportunity to leave. It is not a good place.” He turned and left us standing there aghast. What had he gotten into? He never did explain his words and we never went back to the synagogue.

We did make some friends, another young couple there temporarily. We ate Wisconsin type food- three bean salad, apple butter, cottage cheese ( all served in one lazy susan). We were getting used to the place. One event did bother us and that was the smell of the millions of alewives washing up on Lake Michigan. Somehow, they had all died from some sort of natural occurrence on the lake and smelled up the area from Chicago to Kenosha. We were also concerned about the happenings in Milwaukee.Father Gropi and his minions, racial problems and so on did not impact us directly, but we were getting homesick.

One day, Mr. Tortelli and one of his associates, a very large gentleman, wearing a cocoa brown double breasted suit with a large bulge on the lower right side of his body came into my office. I was kind of surprised to see him, because he had not communicated with me at all since our first meeting. He told me in the coldest of terms that his deal with Mr. Evans was to produce storage containers for AMC first and other boxes second. I told him that I was aware of that, but that there seemed to be a problem with AMC’s ordering procedures. I was about to elucidate when he looked me straight in the eye and told me to make their boxes and not to make any others. I got the distinct feeling that I might not enjoy hospital food at this time in my life. For the first time in my verbal jousting career, I did not say a word. Mr. Tortelli and his associate left and so did I .

I quickly got into my car, and went back to our apartment and told Carol that we were leaving and we were to pack immediately. I called Herbert Evans and told him that I was coming back and then put the phone down. What I did not need from him was some words of encouragement to stay. We got into the car and travelled with much dispatch back to our home. The end of August was approaching and I had some idea of what I wanted to do. We got home late at night. I went in to see Herbert Evans the next day. He was surprised to see me. I told him that I was no longer able to stay out there and control my health in that situation. He did not blink and told me that my next task was to set up a plant in California, then Belgium and then Israel.

I told him that my wife was due pretty soon and that I could not be traveling around the world. He told me that if it came to her giving birth, the police could handle all of that stuff. I looked at Evans and told him that I was leaving the premises and would never come back again. He looked at me as if I was living in a parallel universe. He turned and did not look at me as I left, in fact, never to return. I thought that my adventures were over. Little did I suspect that they were just starting.

TIME OUT II- PUT UP YOUR DUKES

As I look back at what I have written I notice that I have left a black hole in one of my personality traits . I cannot swear to this, but I believe, from what my older cousins and mother told me, I inherited a negative trait from my father. Murray Rubin was a drop what you are carrying and put up your dukes kind of guy. As I said, he was sometimes called upon to take care of people and he was a boxer. Funny thing, when I was about 9 or 10, I used to go to the local police station and play at boxing in the PAL ( Police Athletic League). My last official bout was in 1959 when I boxed Paul Eng ( 175 lbs) and I weighed 160 lbs. ( I should have lost 1 lb. to go down to middleweight) and he trounced me and made me see stars. I did land a few myself.

All this to say that I had a very bad temper. I can go back in my memory to 5th grade during recess and whaling away at Jack Prince for calling me names. We ran around the city streets for that half hour. In high school, during gym, I bent down to pick up a basketball and Bruce D. was standing over me, probably with his mouth open and made a severe gash in my head with his teeth. As the warm blood trickled down my face, I began to punch at Bruce with all of my might.

When I was in Germany, I was in a place called Neunkirchen, which was economically Germany, but politically still France. MPs were not allowed to go in. We were at Analeise’s Gasthaus and a fight broke out between the local German guys and the GIs over a chess game that I was involved with. We took the fight outside and I wound up sitting on a guy’s chest and bouncing his head into the pavement. I was pulled off by David Russell and we got out of there before the police came. I wasn’t kidding when I said that I had a bad temper.

Marriage has a way of exacerbating one’s good points and one’s bad points. Teaching is another way of moderating one’s impulses. You could not get angry at the kids for so many reasons. If you looked into your heart, you would know that they have no clue about making you angry, especially junior high aged kids. I believe between those two things, I began to see how I might take a deep breath when I felt the urge to throw dishes at the wall, or yell at some poor 8th grader who was asking an impertinent question, or a high school student, standing on his porch and giving me the finger as I drove by. It did not occur all at once. I became aware of my shortcomings early on in my marriage and knew something had to give.

I have not had an anger management course, but I believe that I could teach one. I am fortunate to have encountered tons of people who have tolerated my imperfections and for that I am very grateful. NOW WHERE DID I PUT THOSE !@#**”^ PAPERS?

I LOAN THIS POST TO JEREMIAH NEBBISH

I am pretty sure that all of you, except maybe for a few, don’t know me. I knew Hillman when he was back in Clarion County. Once in a while I would see him in a local diner like the Dinner Bell in New Bethlehem ( which is not there any more) or the Keg and Crate in Shippenville. He doesn’t drink much, but he sure talks a lot. Me and Martha, that’s my wife, lived in Clarion County Pennsylvania all of our lives. We owned a farm down near Frogtown for most of our lives and then sold it and moved to the big city of Clarion. We live right to the side of Keith and Virginia Martin. You probably don’t know it, but Keith used to be the County Commissioner along with Freddy McIlhatten and Tom Armagost. They were quite the trio.

Hillman said that I could write anything that I wanted and if you knew me, you know I will. I could complain all about the economy, the two wars, the new President what’s his name and the mess we have made with our country. But, I am not one to complain. Mostly I kind of observe and listen to folks.. Most people are good and want to do the right thing. Me and Martha have believed that forever.

I just want to talk about how people treat each other these days. If it isn’t some of that made up crap on reality shows, or Democrats vs. Republicans, or both sides of abortion thing, or who’s got the right religion, we don’t seem to be able to get together any more. Me and Buzz Shreckengost were talking about it just the other day. Seems like there is some discussion about making Clarion and Clarion-Limestone one school district. Seems like a logical thing to us, but already there are sides to the issue before anyone can really come up with the facts of why it would be a good thing or a bad thing. Just the mention of getting them together gets people all hepped up.

What happened to sitting down and discussing things in a quiet way. I believe that we used to do that. Instead we have people passing each other on the street and shooting eye daggers at each other. Remember when these two big companies decided we were a perfect place for a toxic waste dump. Why, it wasn’t but a few days when we got together and formed the Peace organization. There were all kinds of people- college people, farmers, coal people, school kids, Republicans, Democrats, people from all over two counties joined to fight against this thing. We won- did you notice that? We sent those companies packing. How come we can’t do that now?

We’ve got a passle of trouble here. The Owens Illinois Glass Plant is closing in July. People are running around by themselves trying to help, but no community wide effort. We’ve got enough unemployment already and we still don’t get together. I think it’s that way across the country. There is too much selfishness and too many people not being mannerly towards each other. Let’s turn the page on the bad stuff and let’s get together, not just in Clarion County, but across the state and nation and work towards our common goal. We’ve got enough brains to solve any problem.

HUSTLING BODIES

It was right at the onset of Vietnam. Men were being inducted into the service. The economy was doing well and there was a paucity of candidates for jobs. I did not know Thatwhen I walked into the offices of Broad Street Employment Service that I was stepping into a world completely unknown to me and probably to everyone outside the business. I am told that things have changed dramatically. No longer called employment agencies, they are now called staffing agencies. However, when I worked there, we were not that fancy.

There were about thirty counselors in the office. It’s hard to say how many of them had sordid pasts. I learned that a few of them had been in jail and I suspected, later on, that some of them had been on the con for a while. I only became friendly with a few of them for the time that I was there. Many of them took other names when they were working the phones and interviewing candidates. Michael Goldstein called himself Mike Gray, Paul Mykonos called himself Paul Palace. Most of the rest of us used our real names. There was one counselor named, “The Golden One.” He was the most prolific of us all. He made over $50,000 per year at a time when making five or six thousand was pretty good. The Golden One sat at his desk all day, and sometimes till nine o’clock at night and spoke to people on the phone. He constantly had a stogie between his teeth and spoke through it and the smoke. He was a mentor to no one, as was true of all the other counselors. We are all in a dogfight to make money.

If you have never worked on commission, this will all seem strange to you. Essentially, this was a pure commission job. It was called draw versus commission. We were paid $60 per week. However, when you made a placement, the $60 acted as an advance and was subtracted from your total. Commissions were arranged by how much money each job was worth. Therefore, if someone got hired for $1,000 per month ( that was pretty high), the fee would be $1000 and the agency would get 65% and you would get 35%. If you stayed for a time and did well, your percentage would rise.

There were two types of employment placement- EPF and APF. The preferable type was EPF- Employer Pays Fee. APF was the Applicant Pays Fee. It was always harder to get the applicant to pay than the employer. To mitigate against this eventuality, there was a contract that applicants signed. It was not worth the cardboard it was printed on. The better system of making sure that applicants paid the fee was a gentleman who sat in a prominent place at the front of the office. He was a well known heavyweight fighter, who was later ranked. It was his job to personally take care of applicants who did not want to pay their fee. I was sure that I did not want to know how that was done.

My first day on the job I was given the Philadelphia phone book yellow pages and told to start at A and get job orders. I was not sure what that meant. I was somehow supposed to weasel myself into the good graces of the personnel director ( now called human resources) and find out if there were any jobs available. As I got smarter with my calls, I began to use the tools that agencies used to secure real jobs.

The first lesson that I learned, before being hung up on, was to say that I was aware of a position that the company had and would be glad to send this person in to interview. I would then take an application and summarize it for the person I was talking to. It did not matter if the person was real or not,or if there really was a job, but it was always a highly qualified candidate. If the person was not interested in that candidate, I would tell him/her about another qualified candidate. If you are wondering what would allow me to know what kind of jobs there were, I did not. I took bunches of chances and when I hit on something, I wrote a job order.

Job orders were the lifeline of the agency. If there were no jobs, then there would be no job placements and no fees. There was a premium on EPF job orders and I do mean a premium. There were always contests to see who could write the most EPF or APF job orders. Once there for about a week I noticed that one of my colleagues always won the prizes. The prizes ranged from some really good watches, to toaster ovens, to jewelry and Florsheim shoes. What my colleague would do would be to call a company, have a conversation and then write up a job order. On the job order it would say that the company would only talk to him, so let him make the call for your applicant. I am not sure how smart the other counselors were, but I realized early on that this was all a sham. There never were any new job orders, and the ruse was to call only him for the jobs. No one every bothered to call, “His Companies.” He was quite successful and outfitted himself quite nattily.

I was soon sitting at my desk interviewing applicants who walked through the door. I say this because there were other ways of getting applicants. Those through the door were hypnotized by the ads in the newspapers hawking administrative jobs starting at $200 per week. The background of some of these applicants varied from accountants to custodians. You must understand that usually people come to such agencies at low points in their lives. Either they are in dead end jobs or they have just lost a job. I did understand that these folks needed to be handled in a kind manner. Most of the more successful counselors understood the same thing.

By the end of the first month, I understood how things worked. I had a drawer full of applicants. My copious phone calls from the yellow pages elicited a number of companies who were interested in doing business with me if I had good candidates. That was my own rule. If I sent out people to interviews that were schleps, I would lose a company as a client. I tried very hard not to send people who were not qualified for the job. The only thing that I could not control were the lies people told and wrote on their applications. In that way, the business was like the old west. There were really no rules and those that were there were applied unevenly. I spent many hours trying to convince applicants to tell me the truth about their backgrounds. I succeeded with most, but not with all.

I generally had a good rapport with my applicants and clients and soon started to make some money. I my second month at Broad Street, I made $5,000 which was equivalent to my last year’s salary at Cheltenham. I never did as well as that again, but made more money in October, November and December of 1966 than I had made the previous school year- by far. I had also accumulated more prizes than I could name. I still have one of them today- a rather good wrist watch which I wear and it still works.

There were other ways of getting applicants. One way was to speak to a company and ask the person with whom you are talking if they are interested in a job. There was always a pause when the person asked what kind of job and how much did it pay. I would always have notes at my disposal about some job that might fit this person’s qualifications. I made a number of placements that way and then attempted to fill their jobs. I had one applicant who did that three times while I was there and made me a passle of money. I was only there for six months.

Other ways of getting applicants were relatives of other counselors in the agency and counselors themselves. No one thought of staying at that job forever and there was a constant rotation of people at the desks. Only the Golden One stayed through my tenure there. Counselors would sometime go out on interviews for job orders that came across their desks ( as I did later). There were always situations when people would ask you what you did for a living and when you told them that you were an employment counselor, they always managed to slip in, “ Any good jobs available?”

There was no restriction about who could walk through the door and ask for an application. Since it was really a low point for many people, they filled out forms and answered questions in a very cooperative manner. Of course, there were those selected few who did weird things on interviews that caused you to have setbacks. I once had a very well turned out young man come in with his brother. I was told by the brother that his sibling had just come out of the hospital after undergoing some heavy duty treatment for a psychological problem. The applicant really looked fine to me and I agreed to send him out on interviews.

Since he was a cut above sartorially speaking, I sent him out to retail clothing establishments and shoe stores. He finally hooked on the an upscale shoe store in center city Philadelphia. He worked there for two weeks before he was let go and reappeared with his brother at my desk. They both told me that they had no idea what had happened. Things seemed to be going well and then suddenly they canned him. I called the store and spoke to the manager. He told me that the man’s work ethic was flawless. He dressed the part of an upscale shoe salesman, but that he had a very annoying habit. He would yawn interminably when people would ask him questions. It caused many customers to leave the store or ask for other sales people. When I spoke to the applicant and his brother, I was told that the treatment had certain side effects and that yawning and not paying attention to what people said were two of them. As you can imagine, I tried to help the guy, but to no avail.

I must also tell you that I cheated. The business rubbed off on me. Not sure you know that the Wunderlich test is, but it is now given to pro football player to check their acumen. After all, you have to memorize a large playbook and there should be some test to tell whether you’ll remember to zig, zag or block. The test is a series of about 40 or 50 questions in a 12 minute time period ( close to the real numbers). There were a number of editions of the test. If, by chance, I knew what a company was giving ( from another applicant who had taken the test), I would bulwark my applicant with the answers to the test. I am not proud of what I did, however, I did get many people placed that did not fall off the job.
I learned all sorts of things about life in Philly from Pat Walker, the Mope ( another counselor whose name was McDonald but preferred the pseudonym) Rob Smiley and Joe Leonzi. I learned about James Brown, the hardest working man in show business, how to choose a good cheese steak place, where to take a woman to a great restaurant, shortcuts to getting wealthy and how to dress like you were “making it.” I learned to stay on the phones and be aggressive in sales in the six months when I worked there. One day a job came across my desk that really looked interesting and I was off to another part of my life in, of all places, Kenosha, Wisconsin.