IN GERMANY WE WERE “THE JEWS,”
IN PALESTINE WE WERE “THE JEKES,” AND
IN AMERICA WE ARE STILL THE FOREIGNERS.
My father Max (Meir) was born in 1893 in Bonn, Germany to Salomon and Johanna Herz. The Herz Family was a traditional observant Jewish family resident in the Rheinland since the early 17th century. Grandpa Salomon married late in life and lost his wife a few years after Max was born.
Grandpa Salomon was a butcher by trade, owned some real-estate and, apparently, was financially comfortable if not rich. My father, Max was brought up by Tante Jetschen (Henrietta), childless wife of grandpa's brother - uncle I (ee) -Itzchak. who lived in the small town of Meckenheim near Bonn. Apparently, little Max was spoiled rotten by his father and tante Jetschen.
After Max finished gymnasium in Bonn he pursued a career in medicine - first at the University of Bonn, later in Munich and after WW I in Berlin from which he received his degree in medicine - dermatology. His pre-WW I student life was easy and he got any and everything that he wanted from his aging father including a trip Ottoman Palestine in 1913. In fact, “cousin Selma,” later from Vineland, NJ, told me that he was referred to in the family as “Sohnchen Gold.”
Unfortunately, my father never told me much about the rest of his family. I know even less about my Mother's family background.
My Mother, Else (Margarete, Wilhelmina) was born to the Zaeske family of Pyritz, Germany (now deep in Poland). There were five siblings in the clan - Max (a barber) the oldest, followed by Else, my Mom. the nurse, Frida ( housewife and Mother of my cousins Hella and Heintz - Dresden), Ernest (“apparatschik” for the local gas works) and Helena(Lenchen, mother of cousin Eva and daughter Petra, of Stralssund. The family was basically a lower middle/class working class family and the father earned his living as a carriage/wagon builder. He disappeared from the “scene” fairly early and his brother married the widow subsequently.
My Mother Else was the only one of the kids who left home at fifteen, studied nursing in Posen and was certified as an RN in 1918. Towards the end of WW I she was involved in the evacuation of wounded German soldiers from the Russian front. After WW I she moved to Berlin where she worked as an “oberschwester” (Senior RN) for the City of Berlin. In Berlin she met my father and eventually they got married in 1926. Her younger sisters always admired her for breaking out of the family and leaving home.
Sometime in the mid 1920's Pop opened his own medical practice in Berlin and apparently he was reasonably successful.
Both Brother Mike and I were born in Berlin and spent the first years of our life in reasonable affluence -- a nursemaid rot the kids, a housemaid for Mama, Northsea summer vacations and winter skiing vacations for Papa. Mom maintained close contact with her family who now lived in Stetin. Her sisters now admired Mom's cosmopolitan life style in the 'Big City' of Berlin.
All this came to an end in 1933 when the Nazis came to power. Pop, being an ardent Zionist, knew that he would not be able to live under Hitler and prepared to leave Germany for Palestine, as soon as possible.
To move capital out of Germany was forbidden by the Nazis as soon as they came to power. Since Pop had accumulated considerable capital over the years which he planned to take with him in order to start a new life in Palestine this created some serious problems.
The Nazis did permit the export of capital goods from Germany if paid for with blocked DMs in Germany, thus enhancing their export trade. This led to the formation of OSHIP - Orient Shipping Company.
Pop with several other reasonably affluent Berlin Jews formed OSHIP with the hope of operating a coastal shipping business in the Near East. Toward that end, they bought two motorized Rhein-River barges, re-engined them, reconfigured bow and stern, made them sea worthy and sent them off to trade the Levant out of Haifa. The scheme worked well to move capital out of Nazi Germany but the hepless Berlin Jews knew nothing about managing a shipping business and were completely outclassed and outfoxed by their Levantine competitors.
Within 1 1/2 years OSHIP went bankrupt and was liquidated. Pop lost 3,000 Pounds Sterling on the OSHIP venture, which was was quite a princely sum in 1935 Palestine.
Through OSHIP Pop got to know some prosperous “Old Yishuv” Palestinian Jews who were forming a barge/tug boat service to serve the expanding orange export business in Haifa harbor. He invested with them in this new venture, became a meaningful share-holder, and a member of the board of director. Income from this venture kept us afloat economically during a some difficult years in Palestine.
We arrived in Haifa, Palestine on 21 December 1933 - a day before my third birthday.
It was a completely new experience for my parents - not a fanciful destination for an idealistic, dreamy Zionist student of 1913 but the real Levant of 1933.
For a short while we lived in a rented apartment at Hagidem Str. 15, but after Pop decided to return to practice medicine, we moved to bigger, more centrally located apartment at Herzl Str. 22. This three room apartment - Office/Practice, living/parents and children/dining room - was a fairly roomy abode by the standards of the day.
In the early 1930's, Haifa was a small town with a population of about 100,000 people. About 35,000 residents were Jewish and the remainder Arabs - Moslems and Christians. There were also others - Germans from the German colony and English involved with the IPC refineries and the port. The various ethnic and religious groups lived together fairly amicably. Haifa was the industrial center of the country and possessed the only deep- water sea port of the country.
The Jewish community lived mostly mid-way up the Mount Carmel and on the top of the mountain. Most of the places in town and in the suburbs were accessible on foot or by a short bus ride so we could easily “roam” the city at will. Kindergarden and schools were within easy walk from home.
In 1936 an Arab revolt “exploded” across the country instigated by the mufti of Jerusalem intended to drive the Jews into the sea and the Brits out of the country. The revolt was wide spread but mostly rural in nature and lasted well into 1939.
The Brits suppressed the revolt only half-heartedly despite increasing Nazi anti-Semitism in Europe, as they tried to secure Arab support going into WW 2. The British Mandatory Government treated Palestine as a colony and better educated European Jews from Central Europe did not take kindly to the condescending Brits.
Ultimately, Jewish underground organizations came into being to guard against the Arabs, to confront the Brits and the Jewish Agency for Palestine developed into a de- facto Jewish shadow government of the country. These events and moves did not escape us kids even in the lower classes of elementary school.
We grew up in Haifa in the later 1930's with Palestine Police and British Military patrols roaming the streets, Arabs bombing and torching Jewish businesses and widespread curfews - a weekly routine.. Passenger busses were painted camouflage green, with “fence-netted” windows (to prevent stones and/or grenades from being thrown into the bus from the outside) bus drivers armed with mauser small arms and an armed guard along for the ride. The fire brigade was forever putting out fires set by Arab saboteurs and the electric utility repair crews were moving around in specially designed armored trucks. All this came to an end at the beginning of WW 2.
The early WW 2 years, with the widespread axis victories, brought the Italian (from Rhodes) and the German - a year later (from Vichy controlled Syria) to the gates of Palestine. The Arabs were just waiting for the Allied's defeat in the Near East but it never happened - it came close!
The Yishuv made preparations for such a possible event and my parents did too. They bought several hundred gold-coins, sewed them into small flat bags that could be easily hidden on the body, gave each of us two bags and told us that if the Germans break through move East and try to reach Iraq or Iran.
With America's entry into the war and German entanglements in Russia the danger to the Yishuv was over. Palestine and Haifa in particular became a staging a areas for the British offensive against Rommell in North Africa and for landings in Southern Europe
Until that time we experienced air raids by the Italian (from the Dodecanese Islands) and the Germans (operating out of Lebanon/Syria). Air raids were scary to little boys like me, especially, since at the start of the war we did not have proper air raid shelters
Eventually, we got used to it. I remember once after a 4-5 hour attack with enormously noisy explosions we climbed onto the roof of our building to see what was left standing in town.
To our surprise, everything was still standing. Haifa was located in the bottom of a “quasi” horse shoe which made it very difficult to attack from the air. If the attacker flew in low over the water into the horse-shoe he was an easy target for the anti-aircraft gunners, if he flew in over the mountain, he usually overshot the target an the bombs landed in the water. All in all, Haifa suffered little damage from air raids during the war.
In 1943, as Mussolini was toppled by Marshall Badoglio and Italy exited the war. The Italian fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean was ordered to sail to Haifa for internment until end of hostilities. Suddenly, the town was overwhelmed by Italian sailors and their nattily- uniformed officers. What a difference a few years make!
After a short, economically prosperous, period 1942-1944, the war moved further away - eventually, back to Europe. As the Nazi crimes against the European Jewry became known, the Brits continued to refuse increased Jewish immigration into Palestine from Europe. A Jewish “revolt” now ensued against the Brits. with increasingly more effective attacks on British Government installations. The situation became so bad that, eventually, the Brits. returned their mandate “responsibilities” to the UN.
This was the background in which we kids grew up. During the WW 2 years food and clothing was rationed, there were many shortages but there was no hunger.
Life was modest - social life for our parents' generation was comprised of visiting a circle of friends /Kaffe Klatches, “philosophical” discussions a la Europe, movies, taking walks enjoying the beaches and an occasional Palestine Symphony Orchestra performance.
Some things do stand out. In early 1939, Pop went on a skiing vacation to Lebanon, came back enthused looking forward to a second visit which never materialized with the onset of WW2.
Sometimes, in 1942/43 Pop and his friend Dr. Justus Schlos (renowned economist, formally with the Frankfurter Allgemeine in pre-Nazi Germany ) got possessed by the''wanderlust' of earlier times and embarked on a walk into the Judean wilderness - Jerusalem to Jericho.
They enjoyed the “fresh air” but realized that they were not as young as they thought!
In 1943, Mom took Mike and me on a vacation to Jerusalem during the Pesach vacation. We toured the city extensively and stayed in a hotel on Ben Jehuda Street for a week - a first ever experience for me. What is notable about this event is that this was the only time I ever went with my Mother on a vacation in my life.
We kids kept busy by joining youth organizations - Maccabi Sports Club, Zevulun Maritime Association, etc. In earlier years I spent some weeks in the summer with Pop's friends - Mordechi and Ruth Asrican - in Moshav Moledeth in Valley of Yizrael. As I got into my mid-teens, I got involved with Zevulun enjoying rowing exercises and with sailing trips up and down the coast. I also attended Zevulun summer camps where we studied seamanship and navigation. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on the water front - cleaning, fixing and painting the club's boats. I enjoyed this reponsibility.
As we grew older and Brother Mike finished school and started to work (first at Shell Oil Co., later at Barclays Bank) our routine changed a bit. Since we were centrally located on the Hadar Hacarmel, people stopped by. Mike's friend Michael Horowitz (Arad) frequently dropped in as did Shimon (Heintz) Jacobi who came in to practice conversational English ( he was preparing to go overseas to study medicine). Occasionally, some of Mike's former class-mates from St Lukes - now Notrim (Jewish Auxiliary Police) also came by.
A frequent and welcome visitor was Elias Shlos ( son of Justus Shlos) who played the violin for the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra. He lived with his parents in Tel Aviv and when the Orchestra performed in Haifa he stayed with us. On his measly salary he could hardly do otherwise. He slept on a folding field bed in Pop's office and on one occasion brought a co-worker along who could not find accommodations for the night in town. He wound up sleeping on the porch. What was intriguing about Elias was that he could tell us interesting stories about where the orchestra had performed and that he occasionally took us to the movies as treat.
By the way, it was quite common in Palestine of the 1930's and 1940's to put up friends/acquaintances for the night if they missed the last bus back to their settlement or were trapped in town by a suddenly proclaimed police curfew.
My parents were not very comfortable with the, politically domineering, left wing parties (from social-democrats to outright communists).They became increasingly uncomfortable with the political direction the Yishuv was taking and the rivalry between MAPAI (political left) and the Revisionist Groups (political right). This, combined with an inability to earn a living as a physician in Palestine, made them look at USA as an alternative.
Brother Mike was a cute and smart kid. He was the older son and Mom's favorite from whom everything was expected.
I arrived as a dark-eyed, dark- haired little brother whose Mother wished he had been born a girl. Mom had a definite positive bias toward Mike but to Pop it made no difference.
In school, Mike did well with relatively little effort, I had to work much harder. In the end, I became a disciplined and well organized student and worker. Brother Mike became superficial, preoccupied with external appearance, good times and women. Somehow, he never grew-up. ... could not be bothered. ... always took the easy way out.
By 1957, Mike had completed his studies at U.Conn.(BS - Business Admin.), returned to NYC, lived with Mom and myself in Jackson Heights, and found an unexciting job with an insurance company in NYC.
Before long he learned that if a former German Citizen returned to live in Germany he would receive a one time “starting” capital gift of DM 11,000 from the German Government (an attempt by the government to lure back former citizen to make-up for horrendous WW 2 population losses). He further learned that if he continued studying towards a degree in Germany, he would be entitled for a stipend of US$ 110.00/month for two more years paid for by the USA Bill of Rights for ex-GIs. This amounted to about DM 450/month - quite a respectable sum on which many a German worker's family had to live.
Soon, he returned to Berlin, Germany, enrolled in the Free University at Berlin/Dahlem - ostensibly to study dentistry. He concentrated on the university's social life, women Fasching balls, traveling Europe so nothing useful came out of his stay in Germany except that he perfected his German. Eventually, this lengthy “vacation” came to end and he and returned to NYC in late 1960.
When he retuned to the USA he suffered a severe case of “Germanophilia” - everything was wonderful about Germany - the girls, the music, the dances, the balls and Germany/Europe in general. Gone were any traces of Jewish life and Palestine/Israel.
Soon after his return to NYC, Mike brought over his wife-to-be from Berlin. She traveled with Mike for a short while in Italy/Yugoslavia, was reasonably attractive but was a “nut-case” from the word go -- probably, schizophrenic !!!! They shortly married - against Mom's and my own advice - things went from bad to worse and eventually, resulted in a divorce.
Mom was shocked by this episode but her opinion of Mike's subsequent wives (no.s 2&3) was guarded, bordering on disapproval. She never spoke about it at length but she was terribly saddened by it all.
Brother Mike and I were quite different and, over the years, grew apart ---Too bad !!!
We really never were “buddies.”
The one thing that irked me most in the end was his “Christian” burial ceremony - his convictions or her machinations?! - I would never know but I could never accept this !!!
About my early childhood in Berlin I remember absolutely nothing. What little I do know about the period was learned from photographs and from what my parents told me about places and people.
In the summer of 1937, Mom traveled to Germany to visit the family in Stetin and we, boys came along to meet the clan. We stayed with Grandma Zaeske and the Genuits and Tante Lenchen who also lived with Grandma. The boys - Max and Otto lived in their own apartments near by. The house Grandma lived in was a fairly big wooden structure with a Bar/Tavern on the lower floor and the tavern owner and his family occupying the remainder of the building. Cousin Heintz once mentionrd to me, years later, that he met the Tavern owner's son in the West who inquired about. ... “what ever happened to the Judden Jungens” your cousins?!
Fifty years later we were still remembered as such !
During the same visit we also visited Tante Jetchen (Henrietta) in Meckenheim who raised Pop after his mother died early in his childhood. I remember her as a very old, white-haired, kind lady who lived in a big house fronting a town square/grove with no toilets in house but an out-house in the rear yard. Even at a very young age I wondered how come they still used these kind of toilets when we in Palestine already used indoor plumbing?
The other experience which stands out in my mind is a visit to Otto Julich, older and favorite cousin of Pop, who operated the family's Kosher Butcher Store and associated barns and cattle holding pens - this was real business, not just a store. What impressed me most was how the whole family, associated workers, apprentices and us visitors all set down and enjoyed the supper The other thing that impressed me was how Pop's cousin packed us into his car and drove us from Godesberg back to Cologne late a night. This was the first long distance car trip I ever took and an night, vow
My first real encounter with Germany and Mom's German family occurred in 1959.
These relationships were reinforced by subsequent visits to Germany in the nineteen sixties and thereafter. Although I grew up in a “culturally” German household, speaking German, enjoying the German cuisine, etc., my real “Germanization” occurred only after I met Ilse and her extended family in Germany.
As far as the Germans are concerned - both Ilse's and Mom's family as well as the Siemens crowd - I am absolutely German even when I remind them that I was thrown out of the “Fatherland” before I was three years old. They just don't accept it !!!
Well, c'est la vie
Daily life in Palestine was quite primitive. Only 'wealthy' people owned an electric refrigerator, the rest of us used primitive ice boxes whose ice supply needed to be re-supplied daily. On Saturday morning before we headed to the beach or the port for sailing, it was the boys chore to head down to the ice depot and 'schlep' back home the daily ice needs for the day.
Radios and telephones were also 'luxuries' available only to the few. The first and only radio we owned was a used Marconi Radio set (vintage 1935) which we bought in 1937/38 -- now we could listen to the Fuhrer in Berlin scream his head off and follow events in Germany. A few years later we recieved our telephone in recognition of the fact that it might be useful in a medical practice. Private cars were the ultimate sign of wealth but simply not attainable for us.
Cooking was done on 'Primuses' ( a pressurised benzine burner - quite dangerous and quickly discarded when cooking devices burning bottled gas became available). Of course a slow burning kerosene 'cooker' was always avaiable as a stand-by. Electric stoves were unaffordable if you did not enjoy the discount rates of Palestine Electric Co. like our friend Gustav Levi - Chief Engineer of PEC.
Warm water was not provided by the buildings ' landlorrd so the tennant had to make his own arrangements. Warn water for bathing was obtained by heating asmall boiler in the bath room with wood, assuming you could find wood. Eventually, a primitive kerosene burner appeared on the market and solved that problem (God only knows why such a contraption was not developed earlier since we certainly did not lack for kerosene at that time). Such a contraption was not available for heating laundry water in residential buildings.
Every three weeks was the grand laundry day. The laundry 'facility' was located on the roof of our building. It conisted of a tin-roof covered area (no side protection against wind or rain), a most primitive wood-fired boiler for heating water and a left-over bath tub for washing/rinsing laundry. Obtaing wood to fire-up the boiler was a real excercise in logistics - where you find/steal wood? That was the specialty of the “super/plunber/handyman” from the building next door. For a price wood, cardbord or whatever could be had.
Doing laundry was really a brutal task The washer -woman would start early in the morning and with the help of Mom and us boys would eventually be finished by late afternoon. Ironing was done by Mom - quite a change and a come-down from Germany.
Initially, most 'better situated' “Jeckes” had part-time domestic help to wash floors, dust, etc. but as their economic situation deteriorated the help was let go. Now Mom with our help would wash the floors (Concrete plates) and we boys would help as best we could.
The notorious “Chamsin” winds blowing in from the desert were really a challenge for those trying to overcome the heat and humidity. Pop tried a few schemes but, of course, with little success. One scheme involved hanging up wet bed sheets in every room and blowing on the sheets with an electric fan. The scheme was marginally successful but the only problem was that we had only one fan and in those days, fans were not easily found on the open market. The next scheme involved flooding the floors with water and letting water evaporation cool the place down - Well this was eveb less effective. So what else can you do in a chamsin !?
Our Bar-Mitzvahs were celebrated at home as was customary among non-religious Jews in Palestine at the time. A Rabbi, a friend of the family, studied with us the appropriate part of the bible and we read it back to an assembled congregation at our home on our 13th birthday, according to the Jewish calendar. The assembled Minian plus were all friends of my father. This ceremony was followed by a festive meal that lasted late into the afternoon.
To boost family income, Pop rented his medical-practice office, three mornings a week, to Dr. Mansbacher, a podiatrist from Mt. Carmel, who wanted to broaden his reach to the Hadar market. He was an interesting character who could not make a living serving only the Har Carmel market. Nuh!…so what was new?
On one occasion, to boost income, Mom worked as a night nurse for a friend of Gustav Levi who was the General Manager of Nesher Cement works. She earned good money, was driven to and from work by the company limousine and eventually got me a summer
For us kids, keeping busy was not a problem. With the advent of the war, toys were no longer imported into Palestine so we started making our own. Toy cars were made from discarded cigarette boxes (these were small, hard cardboard boxes unlike the soft US version) which made up the car bodies into which film-spools were pressed making up the wheels. Mounted up on top of the cardboard car were gun-mounts with nails representing guns. People/soldiers were phantasied by using small wood pieces instead of small lead soldiers. Fortresses were built from small, discarded, concrete 'strength of material' samples discarded after testing. The last two items were available in abundance from the Technion Engineering Test Labs in the near by park. Building toy ships was more difficult, building air planes was a challenge!!!
As I got into my teens, I joined the Macabee Youth organization and, eventually, the Zevulon (sea scouts) association. In Zevulon we learned how to row and sail and were out on the water every Sabath, weather permitting. We sailed out of the Harbor into in bay as well as up and down the coast on overnight trips. In the summers of 1945, 1946 and 1947 I also attended seamanship camps for 3-4 weeks and studies more advanced seamanship and navigation. I also spent a lot of time in our club's waterfront cleaning, fixing and painting the club's boat. I enjoyed this responsibly and the camaraderie this activity entailed.
Not to forget, along the way I became interested in reading and classical music. I even tried to the accordion for a few years but this was not my calling.
After the debacle of OSHIP, Pop considered farming but soon returned to Medicine. Practicing medicine in Palestine provided a very meager existence for the practitioner because there was an excess of physicians in the country (mehr shochtim als huener as the Jekes used to say). The only pick-up in business occurred in 1942-1943 after the USA entered WW 2 and preparation were underway to attack Rommel in the Western Dessert of Egypt and in preparation for Allied landings in Southern Europe. Haifa Port was a staging area for these endeavors.. After this pick-up, business slowed down again and it was very difficult to earn a living in medicine.
Pop incurred some bad back injuries when undergoing weekly PT exercises with fellow aging Jekes. His back problems and pain increased significantly after he lifted a stretcher during rescue operation of the capsized refugee deportation-ship S.S. Patria in Haifa Harbor, 1940. Thereafter he was constantly in pain and difficult to live with especially, since it was so difficult to earn a living.
Anti-British terrorism, promulgated by Jewish right wing underground groups, escalated significantly by the end of 1944 and the British retaliated against the Yishuv with ever increasing brutality. Progressively, live became more difficult for us from an economic, political, security point of view in addition to Pop's medical condition.
Mom was the prime instigator for this family move. The reasons for the move were numerous.
Pop was suffering more and more from his back injuries (sustained eight years earlier while PT exercising and during the SS Patria rescue operation in Haifa harbor - November 1940 ). He consulted every physician in Palestine who knew something about back surgery but no one could help him.. He had hope of finding someone in America.
Additionally, his medical practice continued to deteriorate ever more - simply, there were too many physicians in the country and the “boom-days” of the 1942-1944 war years were over!
Also, the political situation became ever more precarious as the British Government refused to change its White-Paper immigration policies. The Yishuv (The Jewish population of Palestine) burst into a state of rebellion against the Brits,. with targeted bombing against government installations, assassination and protest demonstrations, a weekly occurrence.
When the Arabs would start with their counter rebellion was just a question of time. Brother Mike was already involved with the Haganah and I had already been approached by the Irgun. The prospects for the future looked very murky.
Lastly, Pop was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the politically domineering left-wing political parties (from social-democrats to outright communists) which controlled the Yishuv – MAPAI, MAPAM, etc. To him the “Socialists” have high-jacked his “Zionist Dream” of a Jewish homeland – he could not accept a “Socialist Jewish Homeland”.
Along the way he complained about the “low grade” immigrants who arrived from everywhere, especially from Eastern Europe. In that respect was quite naive - most arrivals in Palestine did not come because of Jewish nationalistic aspirations but because they had nowhere else to go.
By 1946, Mom was pushing to leave Palestine and proposed to move to the USA were Pop had relatives who immigrated to the USA shortly before WW 2. We Boys, arrived here by end of October and our Parents arrived in early December 1947.
Pop's family in America represented an attractive alternative to life in Palestine so with their help is securing visas the move got underway. (Actually, we really did not need their help in securing visas because the German Immigration quota was not used during WW 2 and we had sufficient financial means of our own to qualify ).
Pop was ambivalent about the move because it shattered his life-long Zionist dreams. But he recognized that he really did not have other acceptable alternatives. He knew that by leaving he would never return to live in Palestine. I think it hurt him a lot.
Brother Mike was unperturbed by the impending changes but was actually looking forward to the move. He was a'political in his views and did not feel particularly strongly about Jewishness and Israel - I guess, St. Luke's missionary School (which he attended in Haifa) had its impact.
I was against the move - I felt like a “traitor to the cause” of Zionism but realized it was the best solution to my parents' predicament and went along with the move -- I could always come back some day (to what?).
The notion of returning stayed with me for a long time and confused me a bit in terms of making right career-decisions for the first few years after graduating from WPI. But as time went on, the connection to Israel weakened because Israel was a changed place for me.
I became ever more Americanized and, after all, who did I have left in Israel to return to?
I feel Jewish as a member of the Jewish “Volk”/nation - sharing a common history, ethical beliefs, traditions, customs, etc. not because of any religious beliefs because I am an atheist. I preserve some Jewish traditions/customs via adherence to holidays such as Chanukah, Passover Seder but theses holidays have a primarily nationalistic content for me.
Growing up in Palestine had little religious impact on me since everyone around me was Jewish by nationality - whether they were religious or not really did not matter - they were all Jews. Strangely enough, some old acquaintances in Haifa still remember that my Mother was not really Jewish (Hayam, Ephraim Meyer etc.). Why was this significant, worth remembering?!
In the USA things were quite different.
To the Vineland family we were Jewish. To the Jewish students in Vineland High School I presented a puzzle - How can you grow up in Palestine, speak Hebrew and not be a traditional, believing Jew? This dilemma arose again and again since most American Jews were of East European origin and very uncomfortable with a non-believing German Jew, especially one who grew-up in Palestine!
The question arose again while I was at WPI seeking a fraternity affiliation. I wanted membership in a general, non-denominational, typical American fraternity but the “gentlemen's agreement” on campus was that no fraternity on campus accepted Jews - Jews belonged in a Jewish fraternity. The Jewish fraternity could not understand while I was not interested in joining the “cheder” - this was not my vision of a college experience I was seeking. By the way, Uri Tchervinski (an Israeli student who joined our class in the sophomore year) had the same experience. Somehow, we did not fit!
Subsequently, in Worcester, Detroit and New York City I just did no pursue Jewish affiliations.
In my career I did not encounter anti-Semitism openly. It may have existed at Curtis Wright (as Joe Attansio suspected) and it definitely occurred at Times-Fiber where one of my disgruntled underlings smeared anti-Semitic insults on the men's room mirror (Kumar the 'Indian' or Steve, the ' system architect'???)
My non-religionus stand did not help me integrate easily into the Jewish Community of Stamford. It probably made my kids uncomfortable since they did not “know” where they belonged !!!
Pop and Mom never really got used to life in America. At 55, Pop was not ready, mentally, to start from scratch in the medical field and, working a small chicken in Vineland, NJ, was demeaning for someone, academically trained, who has done so much more in the past.
The farm, acquired in Vineland, NJ in early 1948 was sold at the end of 1949 and Pop and Mom returned to NYC.
Pop underwent further treatment for his back problems but soon realized it was all to no avail. He died end of May 1950, disillusioned with life and his move to the USA.
In later years, I often reflected whether Pop and Mom were ever really in love, because they seemed so incompatible - he, a lively “Rheinlander” and she, a cold “ Nord-deutche” - but somehow it worked. Mom made it happen !!!
Our first few years in America were characterized by a lot of moving around - were are we finally going to settle down?
Shortly after arriving in NYC, Pop found a surgeon who operated on his back and we hoped for the best. Brother Mike and I stayed in Vineland, NJ with relatives. I attended Vineland HS and Mike was working as a sales clerk in town. Mom remained in NYC for the operation and the recovery.
In March 1948 we bought a small poultry farm which became available adjacent to Pop's cousin, Selma Weinberg and her husband Ludwig. A very convenient arrangement.
By September 1948, Mike moved to NYC to attend NYU while I returned to Vineland HS as a freshman (because of my poor English! - they really wanted to get rid of me.
Two weeks into the new school year I quit school and worked on the farm to help my parents. I cleaned up the farm, modernized the old-fashioned chicken coupes, built four new chicken shelters for the range and fenced-in the range. Than I turned to writing to anyone and everyone in the states of NJ and NY to obtain some recognition for my school work from Palestine. Shortly, it became clear that I need to take a few classes to obtain a HS diploma. This could be done at night but not in Vineland, NJ so I moved to NYC. Brother Mike was already in the City so it was not a problem.
I arrived in NYC in March 1949, found a lousy warehouse job, completed my high school requirements at night and obtained my HS diploma. It is through Mike that I met Fred Kuhner who helped me investigate various colleges that I could possibly attend, eventually, settling on WPI. My existence in NYC during my 1949-1950 was pitiful. I was finally on my own in the big city -- a futureless job, miniscule income,, no friends and socially naive.
Brother Mike meanwhile left NYU a few months after my arrival in NYC- his academic career there being less than stellar. He took-up agricultural studies at Long Island Agricultural & Technical Institute, Farmingdale, LI, NY The idea was that upon graduation he and my parents would buy a bigger, “commercial” farm which he could manage and run for my parents ( since it was assumed that Pop could not do so because of his physical condition). Fat chance !
In December 1949, my parents sold the chicken farm in Vineland, NJ and returned to NYC - they have had enough of the small scale farming a la Vineland. Pop had hoped to return to practice medicine but was disappointed since his back affliction did not improve markedly after his last operation.
I meanwhile “went to sea,” worked on a freighter, and went into the “import-export” business on the side for Kuhner, Vollebgret & Co ( smuggling jewelry, cigarettes, etc. into Brazil). Upon my return to NYC in the early summer of 1950, Pop had passed away and Mom was living in a rented room with kitchen privileges on West 135th Street in Manhattan.
At Dr. Hans Peril's suggestion ( previously Berlin, now operating a very profitable massage institute in Hampstead, LI, NY in addition to operating rooming houses ) Mom moved to Hempstead, bought a multifamily, two-story building and tried to emulate Peril's success - with little luck.. She rented the upper apartment, sublet two bed -rooms in her lower floor apartment, and cooked evening meals for an elderly German-Jewish couple who lived next door. She also tried to find work as a nurse, but, without a car on Long Island this was hopeless.
Meanwhile, I moved to Worcester, MA to attend college and Mike moved to CT and worked on a dairy farm to complete his 'practice' requirement for his Agriculture Science certificate. As the Korean war broke out Mom bought a farm property in Vineland with the hope that she could get an exemption from military for Mike as a farmer. Mike was drafted anyways and Mom wound up in Vineland after selling the house in Hempstead LI, NY. Within a year she sold the “New” farm in Vineland, rented a small apartment, learned to drive, bought a car and started to work as a practical nurse at the Vineland State Institute for the Mentally Impaired. She made a modest living but Vineland was as dull as ever and once she realized that her Boys will not return there, she decided to retun to NYC.
By January 1954, Mom moved to Jackson Heights, LI, NY where, with the help of Alice Oelsner, she found a rent- controlled apartment on 73rd street a few blocks away from Alice. There she lived for the next 19 years. It was also a home for the “Boys” (at least, a permanent address).
I moved back to NYC in January 1956 and lived with Mom for the next decade. For the next few years Mom worked as 'graduate nurse' doing mostly night duty for private patients in the immediate neighborhood. It was not much of a living but once she started collecting both US and German Social Security and other compensation for the Nazi period in Germany, she could live quite comfortably on her income. She also enjoyed an expanded circle of friends which she got to know through Alice Most of new friends were German-Jewish refugee widows like herself. Alice's demise in the mid 1960's was a great loss to Mom.
When growing up in Haifa, the Jewish Community was very conservative. You met girls in school and in youth organizations (if you belonged to one), danced the Hora with them but in the mid- teens what else did you expect. A lot of ogling but not much action.
Main activities involved the Young Maccabi youth scouts and later, Zvulun Sea Scouts - rowing and sailing every Sabbath in Haifa harbor and bay. Going to the movies in the end of Sabath and eyeing the girls congregated in front of the theatre was the social high-point of the week.
Arriving in Vineland, NJ, being barely 17, was a new experience for me. Social dancing at lunch time in the gym, dating, going to parties, owning cars was simply overwhelming; When my first date ever gave me a 'good night' kiss when I dropped off at home, after a party I was delighted but utterly surprised. 'Nice Girls' don't do such things !
In NYC in 1949, I had little contact with the opposite sex- ogling the bikini-clad girls on Coney Island beaches and some unsuccessful pick-up attempts with friends from the YMCA is about as far as it went. Main issues were my social naiveté, lack of money and lack of time.
At WPI I started to date women more frequently but with little time, money, car or pad of my own little happened. After I learned ball-room dancing and acquired a car things changed dramatically. At the end of my senior year I met Anne Murphy, a nurse in training, in which I got interested but since I moved to Detroit after graduation, nothing came out of this relationship.
In Detroit social life was a disaster. It was difficult to meet women or male friends and the people I met were, by and large, real Mid Western Jokels. Detroit was for me a social and cultural wasteland.
Returning to NYC in January 1956, was yet another beginning. I was working during the day, attended graduate school at night (4 to 5 nights/week plus summers) and started traveling on business. Meeting new friends - male or female, was a real challenge. Eventually, when I finished graduate school things changed dramatically --- new friends, bar-hopping, parties, the hamptons - introduced me to many new people. The ladies were plentiful and accommodating but living with Mom and looking after her did not make things easy. I just could not get away, rent a place of my own and leave her alone. Brother Mike was not bothered by such dilemmas.
Although I met many women, enjoyed some torrid affairs and the predictable flame-outs, few of the represented marriage candidates -- there were the airline hostesses Tina, Sheryl et al., the office romances, Barbara and eventually, Ilse -- lovable, uncomplicated, full of life, understanding and supportive.
I really was not ready to get married, but 'the clock was ticking' so I took the plunge.
Mama was pleased, Brother Mike was surprised.
Since finishing graduate studies in 1958, I ran around with a lot of women in NYC - a few torrid affairs followed by the predictable flame-outs. They all had their plusses and minuses but to get serious???
I dated Ilse for nearly five years before we got married and it was the longest relationship I ever had. She was different in many ways from all the others I ever dated and her German German background “felt” familiar/comfortable compared to the others ( I guess, I was still German after all). If I ever wanted to have a family she was the right partner. At age 36 it was time for me to get serious. I started to think of us instead of me when nature intervened with a dateline and we got married.
I had no idea how married life would work out but Ilse was capable of putting-up with all my idiosyncrasies, rocky employment record and the resultant economic uncertainties.
Ilse did a yeoman's job running the household, caring for my aging Mother with Ilse's Mother's help and keeping family life on an “even keel” while I went through the trials and tribulations of my career. None could have done better for which I admire and love her.
Soon after Ilse and I got married we found a nice apartment just a block away from Moms's apartment, also on 73rd Street. As Mom became ever more forgetful she stayed in her apartment where we could look after her, especially with the help of Mrs. Favreau who flew over from Germany to visit us. Mom and Mrs Favreau got a long well since both were German and culturally compatible.
When we moved to Stamford, CT we took Mom with us hoping that she could live with us. Of course it not work out and within a year we had to place Mom into a nursing home.
Luckily, we found a good nursing home in Stamford in which she stayed until her demise.
My educational track has been very uneven - a fact that hurt me throughout life.
I attended Amami Aleph Elementary School for my first three, unmemorabl,years.
In this school I met some life-long friends - Jochanan Baer, Narkis Tzoar and many others.
In an attempt to give us a better education we were moved in my fourth year to Chugim High School. This supposedly more elite school left much to be desired The teaching staff ranged from excellent to dismal, suitable text books did not exist, and labs for studying physical sciences did not exist. By 1944 both Bother Mike and myself withdrew from this school.
Brother Mike was enrolled in St. Luke's High School for Boys - A British Protestant Mission School and I went the Haifa Technical High School (HTHS) attached to the Technion (Engineering College) in Haifa.
HTHS was more structured than Chugim HS, the teaching staff was vastly more qualified and competent but the absence of scientific texts in Hebrew forced the use of lecture format in class. School days were long : 8:00AM-12:00AM Classes or shop practice, one hour lunch break and than 1:00PM-4:30PM shop or class. In the evening one could expect l+ hours of home work. Unfortunately, I left HTHS after completing three of the four year program because of our move to the USA. Had I completed the four year program it would have spared me the trouble of getting a US high school diploma and would have enabled me to seek college admission upon arrival in the USA. thus sparing me some lengthy “goose chases.”
How to continue my education in the USA was a big problem to which I had no answers.
Pop's cousin in NYC, Dr. Fred Julich, who could have given us some guidance about continuing education in the NYC, packed us off to Vineland NJ within two days of arrival in NYC. The family in Vineland was completely in the dark on the subject.
Eventually, cousin Martha registered me in Vineland HS where I started as a Junior.
The school was totally unsuited for a foreign student like me, and no teacher made any efforts to help me to integrate into the school system Since I could not cope on my own with Junior Year English, they stuck me into Freshman Year English the following year whereupon I promptly quit.
After moving to NYC in 1949 I lived in the 63rd YMCA which had a relationship with Mc Birney High School located next door. There I finished my high school require-mets in a mature, evening school setting earning my coveted high school in one semester.
I got to WPI through Fred Kuhner who came from Worcester and still had some in old friends in attendance at the Institute when I got there. I really did not explore other schools in depth because of both lack of tine and money.
WPI was a good engineering school - well structured programs, capable teaching staff and well equipped laboratories but it was rather provincial in nature Whether it was the right place for me is an open question? In retrospect I would have preferred a university environment like Cornell or Columbia. However, WPI provided me with some modest scholarships and I could earn most of my expenses with odd jobs on campus in my last two years of school.
I got disillusioned with engineering early and my career and decided to pursue a Master degree program in Business Administration. Although I flirted with the idea of attending Harvard Business School in Cambridge, MA. economic realism quickly set in and I chose the NYU/GBA program. NYU/GBA was a night school program at the time and I was able to complete the work and obtain my Master's degree in 2 1/2 years..
That just suited me fine!
As a teen-ager in Haifa I really did not know what I wanted to do so I wound up at the Haifa Technical High School - the best of some other questionable options. The underlying thought was that a craftsman (ein handwerker) will always be able to “earn a living” anywhere in the world. A university career path was not envisioned for me at the time.
My education at HTHS and a few minor summer jobs led me to consider engineering as a career. Pop's friend, Dr. Gustav Levi's successful career as Chief Engineer of the Palestine Electric Company, led me to believe that all engineers lived in his affluent life style. Little did I know how ordinary engineers really fared !!!
Little did I know what the real world was like for the ordinary engineers !!!
Pop's family in the USA could provide no guidance in career matters. They had no children of their own facing such choices nor did they know anything about industry and business in America. They were 'green-horns' in this country.
Fred Kuhner,, whom I met through Brother Mike in NYC in 1949, was the first person who gave me some ideas of what “academia” was all about in the USA and how to pursue engineering studies here. His father's very successful engineering career as Vice President - Engineering at Riley Stokers Company, Worcester, MA and the family's very comfortable life-style, encouraged me to pursue an engineering carrer as well. I focused on Mechanical Engineering because it was, in a sense, a continuation of my machinist background from HTHS.
When I completed my engineering studies at WPI, I did not know what particular engineering work I wanted to pursue. Career guidance for graduates at WPI simply did not exist so upon graduation I faced the labor market as a complete novice. Since the economy was starting to slow down and the job market was tightening-up, I accepted the best paying job I could get with the highest starting salary in my ME group. It was with Ford Motor Co.
My first job out of college was with the Rolling Mills, Steel Division of the company. I was looking forward to moving to Michigan and getting to know something about mid- America since I knew nothing about it. Well, I learned soon enough - what a cultural and social wasteland it was for me.
At Ford I started as a “Production Process Analyst” in the Rolling Mills. After hanging around the mills for a few months I started to wonder what I was doing there. None of my technical skills which I worked so hard to acquire at WPI were called for here.
Before long I was appointed Assistant Foreman for a small activity in the mill. Of course, it had to be the afternoon shift (3:30-11:00 PM) - good by social life, good by evening classes!!!). I was still bored as hell and found myself hanging around and competing 'professionally' with liberal arts students from second rate mid-west colleges.
In early 1955, I left the Steel Division and secured a new position as a Mechanical Engineer in the Basic Engineering Dept. of the Scientific Laboratory of Ford Motor Co.. I had great expectations but found the work to be highly specialized and extremely boring. Soon. I decided to return to NYC to pursue graduate studies in business at night which I could best do at NYU/GBA. Such a move also permitted me to look after Mom and help her economically.
In January 1956 I returned to NYC just in time to start the spring semester at NYU. I took the the first well paying job which I could find near NYU's downtown NYC facility. I was hired by Anaconda as Design Engineer which turned out to be a draftsman's job. The work was not challenging and I could have handled it very well coming out of HTHS. What the hell did I go to engineering school for?!…… It was time to move on but at least I re-established myself in NYC and got started on my MBA program.
Frankly, both Ford and Anaconda were two and one half years of lost time for me, professionally speaking.
I joined AGE in early 1956 as a Mechanical Engineer (located not coincidentally around-the-corner from NYU's downtown facility). From early minor assignments I eventually acted as Project Engineer for a major steam-turbine shell replacement program. I was finally doing interesting and important work, interacting with people inside and outside the company, and traveling extensively to vendors and other effected plants. It was good experience with a lot responsibility which I handled well. Unfortunately AGE was a notoriously poor “payer” with “fuzzy” growth prospects so as soon as I finished my MBA studies it was time to move on (one of the great fringe benefits was that AGE paid for my MBA studies).
Since I had never taken a vacation in my life, I decided to take time off in spring 1959 and join Brother Mike who was “studying” in Germany on the “GI Bill of Rights.” The trip to Europe and Israel was most enjoyable and I returnd to the USA only in the end of December 1959.
In early 1960 I was back in NYC looking for a job…but what kind of a job?! I really had no interest returning to Engineering but when I tried to get a finance-type job I was told that in the finance field I was really a novice who would have to start at an entry-level position. Never mind my MBA, BSME, five years business experience, international travel and orientation.
Thus it happened that through Wes Wheeler I found employment at McMullen Associates, Naval Architects, Marine Engineers & Consultants in NYC. The little engineering/economic-consulting work which I did for the firm was interesting but could not support me at the firm.
This was my first exposure to consulting and also to a business managed exclusively for the benefit of the sole owner - John McMullen, a keniving less-than-honest entrepreneour. This did not leave a good taste in my mouth but I did work on very interesting consulting proposals and met some very interesting people - Franz Frisch and Pat (Severio) Cina.
In the end 1960 I secured a job with Curtiss-Wright Corp. in New Jersey as a Senior Analyst, in the Market Research Section of the newly created New Product Planning Department. Here I did some very interesting work in researching business opportunities for the Wankel engine and various other mechanical systems. This over-structured and shrinking defense contractor could not stomach my criticism so before long I was looking for a new job. (Joe Attanassio, whom I met here and who was my co-worker, thought there was some anti-semitism at play here but I did not feel that was the case). In any event, it was an interesting year with a lot of travel in the country and introduced me to industrial market reseach and marketing - a stepping stone to my next position.
With my recently acquired industrial market research and consulting experience, I found my next job as the Market Research manager for the Veeco Instrument Co. (Vacuum Electronics & Instruments Cc.) in Plainview, LI, NY. (A respectable commute from Jackson Heights in Queens, NY but I could continue living at home and did not have to relocate). The company was a very successful young hi-tech company and it offered me my first management job.
The work was fairly interesting and diverse but of a very “uneven” nature - who was my boss? what was I supposed to work on? Where was this leading to? I did work on market research, marketing, international market development assignments and acquisitions but management really know how to utilize me effectively. Political turmoil and chicanery were ongoing and eventually, I was pushed out by a cabal of fellow managers who considered me a “threat”after I played a key role in the acquisition of Lambda Electronics Corp. - the key driver for Veeco's growth in next decade. The lesson I learned here was to avoid small companies dominated by their founders even if the companies are public.. Easier said than done !!!
In early 1967 I found a new position as Manager, Corporate Product Planning with North American Philips Corp., the USA entity of the Dutch Philips company.The job was in NYC so no relocation was necessary - a most important consideration since by now I was married.
At the beginning I could not figure out why I was hired other than my boss needed some more people to “supervise” thereby enhancing his status as technical adviser to the Chairman of the Board. Eventually, I got involved in many projects and, when my original boss left for a divisional presidency and I reported to the Corp. Exec VP - Frank Randall, my stature and my work gained more recognition.
NAPC was my first exposure to a huge, European controlled, international company. It gave me my first ever view of how a multi-business, multi-division company functioned. With time it became clear that NAPC was a Dutch company, run by the Dutch for the Dutch but I was not Dutch!!! I parted company with NAPC over an indiscretion I committed when NAPC acquied the Magnavox Corp. but in retrospect, it was probably for the better. I became too comfortable being a HQ's apparatchik who enjoyed his martinis too much. The American managers of the company were less than inspiring (a Philip Sporn personality was missing at NAPC) and eventually, as I got to know the firm's innards, it seemed to me that it was a colony of sorts for the Dutch owners: we in the USA were the “natives” and the Dutch in Holland were the “Colonial Masters.” (Vink, his successor, Bleeksma's successor, etc.)
After a five months job search, I was hired by SIEMENS Corp., Iselin, NJ as Director of Marketing for the Components Group. Although my office was located 70 miles away from Stamford, CT - a rather long daily commute - we did not relocate to NJ. This was particulay important since we had only recently found a good nursing home for Mom in Stamford.
My new job situation at Siemens was rather confusing. It came into being as a result of an effort to merge an existing import components business located in Iselin, NJ with a recently acquired, marginal, discrete semi-coductor manufacturing company in Scotsdale/Mesa, Arizona.
After major personnel changes in the US and in Munich, I finally got a good business going. I liked what I was doing was successful at it but this did not last long. With the next management upheaval in Munich I was out of a job at Iselin, NJ. This time it lasted only 2 1/2 years and I was MAD !!! (I could see myself staying with Siemens for a while longer).
By early 1978 after a relatively short job search, I found a new position as Vice-President/General Manager of the New Hermes Co. - a manufacturer/distributor of signage equipment/supplies in the lower East Side of Manhattan. I was back in NYC and did not have to relocate the family.
The company was co-owned by an uncle of Michael Horowitz -.. Brother Mike's long-time friend and classmate from St. Lukes, School in Haifa. Reorganizing the company and bringing it into the 1980's was a challenging job for me but for the first time I had a company car and the pay was good. My real hope hope was to, eventually, buy out the owners who were getting-on in years. The problem was that as soon as I came on board, others, namely a partially owned vendor and the owner's “disinterested” son came “alive.” This situation became untenable for me and after a sales meeting that ended badly for me I was out looking for job again. This engagement ended after a mere six months but they kept me on the pay-roll for another three months.
After being unemployed for a year I became pretty disillusioned with my future prospects but eventually, through the offices of Stan Grossel (old Veeco co-worker) I was hired by The Raytheon Company as President, Medical Diagnostic Equipment Group, headquartered in Stamford, CT. The position sounded good - in charge of four small operating companies, a real challenging business development opportunity. The pay was marginal and I did not have to relocate but the rationale of why Raytheon was in this business eluded me. It did not take long to find out that this business was a “botched” affair that got Raytheon into a business they knew nothing about. I needed a job so I did not ask too many questions but the answer came soon enough as the egomaniac who hired me, Frank Heintz, blamed me for the lack of sales which he promised the Corporate office. By going through three presidents like me he bought himself time to survive a bit longer as Group Executive, Micro Wave & Power Tube Division at Corporate. In other words I and my predecessor and successor were hired to be fired thus ensuring Heintz's survival for a while longer. After, two years I was unemployed again.
Luckily, by July 1981 I found a new position as Vice President, Communication Equipment Division of Times Fiber Corp., Wallingford, CT. Fiber optics was the coming thing in the communication field, my title was right, the money was right I did not have to relocate, albeit, it was long commute from home - How could I miss?? Surprise, surprise !! This was a real stock-market hype for TFC - a simple cable company masquerading as a high-tech growth company. Lavish presentations, press releases and frequent public relations stunts were the order of the day but what products and systems I had to sell remained a mystery. The one major network/system being developed was years away from commercial realization and did not justify creating a big support organization which was not financially viable. TFC was really a promotion which cost the company and many employees a lot of money, especially those who relocated to CT. from out of the area and had their lives disrupted by chasing this 'golden' opportunity. As was predictable I was washed out by major cost reduction measures.
TFC was supportive in my termination process; they provided me with three months salary continuation, office space and secretarial support but finding new employment was very difficult.
Looking for new situation for 18 months was quite discouraging. Somehow, I was unable to find anything on my own or in combination with Gene Trelewicz who was also out of work at the time. We even created a new entity - TVG Technology Ventures Group - as a vehicle to buy a or into technical businesses but had no success.
By March 1984, I got sufficiently discouraged to accept anything that would get me back into the labor market. Thus, I accepted a Director of Marketing position for several small, recently acquired, fiber optic divisions of The Augat Corp. Providence RI. This position was way beneath me in terms of previous positions which I held but at this point I had nothing better. I hoped that while employed and moving around the country I would uncover more attractive situations. After few weeks on the job I knew Augat will never workout for me. At the same time I uncovered a new opening at PIC which was much more to my liking.
In short order I secured the position of President of Precision Industrial Components Company, a division of Wells-Benrus Corp. controlled by Victor K. Kaim of Remington Shaver Company, Bridgeport, CT.
The company which I was taking over, located in Middlebury, CT, was real mess nearing bankruptcy but the title was right, the money was right, I recieved a company car, I knew something about the customer base and the manufacturing processes and above all, it was within commuting distance from Stamford.
I reorganized the company, managed it through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, and restored it to profitability and growth while paying-off significant debts (despite unsupportive owners). It took many years to achieve this so that after 17 years I was “fired.” ......and I said something earlier about working for small private companies !!!!??
I pursued an engineering career because it seemed like a logical continuation of my technical high school training. Although engineering studies were a challenge for me, I learned how to organize my work, manage my time and complete my assignments in a disciplined and timely manner but I was not passionate about my 'calling'. I was more comfortable with economics, politics and business. It took me several years to complete my graduate business studies and orient my job searches to the marketing area. Eventually, I succeeded but this “wandering” around combined with several bouts of unemployment probably cost me 8-10 years of wasted time.
I should have considered a Wall Street connected career probably in security research and eventually Investment Banking. Even later in my career, when I acquired much broader senior corporate management experience I was unable to pull-off such a career change. I tried, but to no avail - the 8-10 years were missing !!!
The other major problem that I had was that I never really succeeded in having a “Plan B” in place so that, when terminated by one company, I could slip seamlessly into my next job with a successor company
I was never good at building a wide network of contacts. Shame on me !!!
We moved reluctantly out of NYC (Jackson Heights, Queens) because we needed more space and better schools for our growing children. We wound up in Stamford because NAP was seeking to relocate out of NYC and Southern Ct. was a likely relocation target. As it turned out NAP did not move out of NYC but I parted company with NAP. Subsequent jobs which I secured were quite far away from Stamford and required lengthy commutes. As a result I did not have much of a chance to meet people socially except on weekends.'
The people I met were mostly people I met through Ilse - namely parents of children who attended the same schools as our kids. There was a new-comers club when we got to town but this group fell apart within a couple of years of our arrival. An international group also came into being but it diminished in size as members aged, moved away or died. I had little contact to the Jewish community in town nor did I seek them out - they were different people. The few attempt I made came to naught - it seemed you gained acceptance by being a member of a temple or at least the JCC.
Upon retirement we continued with our cruises and our winter motor-trips to Florida. These trips diminished in frequency as our friends died or became incapacitated and we became increasingly uncomfortable with the long drive South
In Stamford, I tried to join some senior men organization. The senior Jewish men's' group meeting at the JCC is not my cup of tea - not compatible for the same reasons mentioned earlier. The second group - Senior Men's Association of Stamford- is a non-sectarian group in which I feel much more comfortable. I have made some friends in this group with whom I meet regularly but the cast of characters also changes as people come and go. What the future
I love to travel !
My first chance to travel on business occurred while working for AEP. Flying around, renting cars, staying in hotels and frequenting better restaurants - all on an expense account, was an absolutely new experience for me and I loved it. My travels took me mostly to Ohio, and surrounding cities - Cincinnati, KY, Terre Haute, IN, and Schenectady, NY.
In the early 1959, after I finished my MBA studies and failed to find a job that could utilize my newly acquired skills, I decided to travel to Europe and enjoy the first vacation of my life (I have never taken time off for a vacation in my life!). Brother Mike was
“studying” in Germany at the time so I decided to join him there, hitch-hiked around a bit and eventually bought a car of my own with which to tour Europe. I stayed mostly in Youth or Student hostels, ate at university cafeterias if close at hand and took fellow travelers along who paid me for gas and travel expenses. I spent less than US$ 5/day while in Europe.
Quite a come down from expense account traveling at AEP but what a Ball !
In the course of my travels I visited England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Italy, Greece - most of them numerous times. I also visited Israel - my first visit to the country since I left in 1947.
It was absolutely the right thing to do for me at that stage of my life. Now I became a “cosmopolitan!”
On my next job searches I actually looked for jobs that required travel and considered it a great plus in selecting employers.
At Curtiss-Wright I traveled the upper Mid-West and the East Cost.
At Veeco, I traveled the USA extensively, traveled to Germany several times, and made an around-the-work trade development tour. This included visits to DDR, Soviet Russia, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Israel, India, Bangkok, Honk Kong, Japan and Hawaii. I enjoyed every bit of it!
At North American Philips and Siemens I flew over to Europe frequently and got quite comfortable by the routine as I visited the same countries numerous times.
Raytheon and Times Fiber Communication offered little exciting travel but at PIC I made up for it with numerous trips to East Asia (Japan, So. Korea, Taiwan, Honk Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand ), England, France, Germany and Israel.
Toward the end of my working career we took-up cruising. We enjoyed some memorable cruises to Alaska, South America, and the Caribbean but eventually I got tired of it - jaded,
I guess, but Mom still loves the on-board gambling. Only Israel remains an attractive destination for me but for how many more years?!
In general, I enjoyed pretty good health through out my life. More serious problems developed later in life.
I had three hernia repairs (1936 before starting first grade, 1980 and 1998) but these procedures became simpler as time rolled on.
My first major serious problems arose with the diagnosis that I had prostate cancer (PSA 7) in late 1993 when I was approaching 63 years of age. Up to that point I was feeling in top shape and this came as real shock to me. A day before the operation I took a lonely walk through Mianus River Park, contemplating various outcome scenarios and I was deeply worried. The operation went reasonably well but the cancer was really never completely eradicated (the PSA never reached 0) so it was diagnosed as systemic. On several occasions in the succeeding years the PSA increased again and was treated and controlled by testosterone- suppressing medication (Lupron, Casodex, etc.)
It also ended my sex life. I live with concern for an increasing PSA number to this day.
Shortly after retirement - 2001, I fell and injured my left rotary cuff which was repaired surgically. Two years later, I developed problems with my right hand rotary cuff which was also repaired surgically. Today, both sides are functioning normally but I remain very careful not to overstress them in any fashion.
A third major problem developed in the 2008-2010 time frame and concerned my lungs and breathing problems. It became ever more difficult for me to breathe, I fatigued easily, and my walk slowed down markedly. I developed pneumonia, exploratory surgery of my lungs was performed and eventually, I was hospitalized for a week. I was diagnosed with a case of BOOP (Bronchialitis Obliterartis Organizing Pneumonia - what ever that means), and treated with heavy doses of Prednisone for nearly four month. I went through the treatment with great discomfort and never recovered to my old self again.
My vision was generally pretty good throughout life. I needed my first pair of glasses after I turned fifty years of age and got- by thereafter with simple magnifying glasses picked off-the-rack at drug-stores. My vision deteriorated over time and towards the end of 2012, I underwent cataract surgery in both eyes. The results have been satisfactory and, to this day, I am getting by without using my glasses in most situations.
My fourth major problem surfaced in 2014 - heart and arterial blockage issues - which appeared unexpectedly ( most likely these problems developed over the previous 3-5 years but were mistakenly diagnosed by me and various physicians as a recurrence of BOOP).
Open heart surgery was the only option I had for dealing with the problem so I went into surgery with a clear head and a “damn the torpedoes” attitude - my children were gown-up, Ilse was economically secure and I, at 84 years of age, had lived my life. This was not 1993 !
Two health issues that concerned me throughout life were attributable to my Father-the Herr Doctor. One was mortal fear of venereal diseases - which he treated so often in his medical practice in pre-penicillin days - an issue that concerned him greatly when I went to sea. The other was my life long fear of back injuries. The vision of my father suffering through the last decade of his life never left me.
As I look back on my life, there were two significant turning points in my aging process. The first occurred after my BOOP episode after which I really never recovered my former physical performance - walked much more slowly with much shorter strides, etc.
The second occurred after my open-heart surgery - I became an old man!
The burden of parenting were borne primarily by Ilse. She took care of the children, got them to school, to after- school activities, to typing classes' ferried' them aound town, etc. I was working, commuting, traveling on business, forever changing jobs and worrying about finances while she raised them.
I think the kids missed their father - preoccupied with economic survival issues, religiously irresolute and not a play-pall for them when they wanted one. Maybe I was too old be a good father to them. Ilse's KKK -- Kinder, Kueche, Kirche - approach worked much better.
The “trials and tribulations” of my career were quite destabilizing to my marriage. I started drinking early in my career - demonstrating some level of bravado and good fellowship, which eventually made me an alcoholic of sorts. This became more pronounced during periods of lengthy unemployment - 1979-1980 when leaving New Hermes and 1982-1984, when leaving Times Fiber Co. The problem was not just losing a job but being disoriented in terms of what to do professionally for the remainder of my working career. My behavior and temper tantrums were disruptive to normal family life and have certainly effected my children's view of normal home life but Ilse held the clan together for which I an eternally thankful to her.
VINELAND HIGH SCHOOL, Vineland, NJ: 1947-1948