Genesis of Careers

Adaptation in a Changing World


            The home I was born in and lived in for most of my eighteen years of my life was a cold water flat over a laundry.  It had a kitchen, dining room, and two bedrooms.  The cooking and the only heat in the winter came from a cast iron wood and coal burning stove in the kitchen. Illumination was by gaslight until electric was installed in 1931. The toilet was an outhouse in the yard until a toilet was installed in the hallway of the flat 1932. From the kitchen I could see Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty in the harbor.  Red Hook was a shipping, ship building  and repair area of Brooklyn.  The ships of that era were steamers whose boilers were fired by coal.  Coal supplies for ships were piled on docks.  Often at night, carrying a burlap bag, I would climb over the fence and steal coal for fuel for cooking and heat. When the United Fruit Lines arriving from South America, with bananas and other fruits, would dump their unsold cargo into the bay.  I and other boys would swim and bring back bunches of bananas or other discarded fruit to our families.  Sometimes ships from Argentina would dump their excess side of beef.  A few of us would tow a discarded side of beef ashore and divide it among us. I would sneak portions of meat to my mother who would never reveal its source to my orthodox father.


            At twelve my first attempts at trying to earn money was to make a wooden shoe shine box.  I took rags, half used brown and black shoe polish cans, and two brushes made from a bristle broom that I cut in half. I walked from Red Hook to Boro Hall to find a spot near the subway or Myrtle Ave. elevator where I hoped to find people who wanted their shoes polished for two cents. The good spots near the exits were taken by out of work men and older boys who chased me away.  I set up shop by trolley  stops and made a dollar and fourteen cents in two weeks.  That business enterprise was terminated when an older boy with a shoe shine box smashed my box, threw my brushes down a sewer, confiscated my polish cans and beat me. 


            At thirteen, after school, I worked for a laundry to pick up and deliver laundry with a push cart.  My salary was a dollar for a six day week Then I worked at a variety of jobs, any work that would yield income, most were of short duration followed by frustrating periods of unemployment.  For two years, during my high school vacations, I biked and hiked to relieve the burden on the family and from a home in turmoil and in the process of breaking up, but also to avoid yielding to a sullen submission to a national Depression. 


            Boys High School was a top academic school.  I took a trolley, or hitched on it, to  Boro Hall where I took the Fulton El to Boys High.  I excelled in sports and academic subjects.  I was a seven letter man and captain of the cross country team.  The only team sport was lacrosse, all the other teams were individual team sports.  I earned the Suma Cum Laude and upon graduation the Four Year Plaque for the student with the highest academic and sport achievements. I had the opportunity for scholarships to many universities, but my father said that I was to work, turn in my salary to the family, and go to school in the late afternoons or evenings.  On a scholarship I started at Columbia with the intent to become an anthropologist.  I was a pet student of Dr. Franz Boaz.  When he died, I transferred and accepted the Haydyn Scholarship at N.Y.U.  I received credits in anthropology and archeology from the University of Nebraska as I worked for the University and the Smithsonian on the excavation of the prehistoric Ponca Indians.  .


Genesis of Careers



            It was difficult for me, a Jew, to make progress or a career in anthropology or archeology, so I switched my education to major in mechanical engineering.  During this period, prior to World War II, I worked in machine shops first as a lathe hand then advanced to a tool and die maker.  This was to may advantage.  When I received my degree in engineering the tool and die experience enabled me to get an engineering job at Essential Industries, a firm making the tooling of the Vought Corsair fir Chance Vought.  Innovative application of my designs came to the attention of chief engineer, Raymond King.  I became assistant chief engineer, and when he left, I became the chief engineer. That led to other administrative positions and when the war started I was with the War Manpower Commission in the Training Within Industry Division, as a war production trainer in Job Methods and Job Relations. During the war I was first with the Military Engineers and later, because of my flying experience with the USAAF.  I  became a training officer then a squadron commander and major.  .