Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Charles Luce

Does it happen in real life or only in novels?

In the New York Times today there was a three column obit for Charles Luce, retired chairman of the Board of Con Edison.

On Monday nights in the 1950's I attended meetings of the Toastmaster Club in the old Grand Hotel in Walla Walla. Invariably, as I approached the Alder street entrance Chuck would be coming out of Shelton's bar and grill. What his tryste was there I guess I shall never know.

From small town lawyer to chairman of the board of the company that provides electricity to New York City and its greater area. Wow!

With a dam building splurge in the post World War ll period Indian tribes were losing their ancestral fishing grounds due to the flooding of the stream beds. They needed an advocate to press their case with the "The Great White Father in Washington" and this time they were not going to settle for a bag of trinkets.

Chuck was young, bright, and with little to lose took their case and with diligence and perserverence was able to obtain multi million dollar settlements for them up and down the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Later he signed on to the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy with the idea of a federal judgeship. Even the revered president spoke with forked tongue. He had already promised the judgeship to someone else.

However, in politics you do pay your debts. The consolation offered was to head the Bonneville Power Administration, a bureuocracy that administered the distribution of power produced by myriad federal dams in the Northwest including Idaho and Montana and through links to all the western states.

It was to be a parking place until a judgeship became open. Actually, after several months on the job, he was tapped for the chair of the prestigeous and remunerative private utility. As far as I know he never became a judge.

Reading of his passing opened memories for me.

As a result of large purchases of surplus pipe and steel in 1955 from the Hanford Works, BBS secured railside land at 2nd and Pine in Walla Walla. It was landlocked so we paid a small monthly fee to the fuel yard at the Pine street entrance. We also spilled over into nearby lots.

My late wife Jean and I visited Seattle in the late 1950's. Jean was trying on shoes at I. Magnin.
The salesman asked where we were from. When we said Walla Walla, he said he grew up there and still owned property.

A few weeks later I visited the storage yard and saw a man who looked familiar.

Who owns all this stuff he demanded.

When I indicated I was involved, he continued your on my land!

I recognized him as the shoe salesman from Seattle. I told him that if he would suggest a price I would be interested in buying.

He responded that $1000.00 was the price. Although the plot was landlocked and vertually worthless, it would have cost close to that to move all of our stuff. I agreed.

O.K. give me my money and I'm back to Seattle.

I explained that he would have to give me a quitclaim deed and we would need a lawyer.

I call Charley Snider's office. Charlie's secretary said he was out of town but to call Chuck Luce.

In Chuck's office we gave him the particulars and he said he would make up the paperwork and record it. $25.00 please.

I turned to the seller and said that it was usually the seller who paid the fees but seeing the look on his face I quickly added but I'll pay half.

A few years ago I was cleaning the basement at BBS. Flipping through some old bank statements. I saw the cancelled check for $12.50 on the obverse was the handwritten signature of Charles Luce.

As in the previous post, I wondered if it had a collector value but in the days before E-Bay I decided probably not enough to worry about.

I bought an adjoining piece that had been abandoned to the county for a bid of $600.00.

When the State of Washington took the land for the 2nd street offramp to the freeway, because we owned the property we received $6,000.00 for the property and $12,000.00 to move our stuff.

I never got a chance to thank the shoe guy for the $16,000.00 windfall.


Blogger Mike Barer said...

Kennedy also reneged on his invitation for Scoop to become his VP.

6:35 PM  
Blogger fphinney said...

ALAN - you old son-of-a-gun...

I have done a little genealogy on my family. Somehow, I ran across some of Mike's stuff. He took quite a while to put me in contact with you. Been reading your blogs, tonight. Laughed at the guy who gave $50,000 to the Nazi party. Laughed at your Wa-Hi football guard experiences. The story of Emory also brought back memories. I finally recalled that this was old Stubblefield! You might remember that you & I first made contact @ Toastmasters #81? Been living in Walnut Creek California for the past 26 years. Still working fulltime.
Talk to you later -
Frank Phinney

9:16 PM  

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