Wednesday, July 30, 2008

December 1,1955 I started work full time in the family business.

My father told me this story.

The battalion commander at his headquarters just a few kilometers from the front lines in Europe in World War ll was baffled.

On his desk was a recommendation that Goldberg be awarded a Silver Star medal an award just one notch below the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Of the hundreds of men under his command he identified Goldberg immediately. He had been a screw-up from basic training on.

He summoned his driver and they sped off to the headquarters of the company commander who had forwarded the recommendation.

What is this about Goldberg he shouted!

The captain referred him to Sgt. O'Casey.

O'Casey said, "I know you are familiar with Goldberg as a sad sack but you have to hear my story. We were pinned down by a German machine gun platoon that was on high ground with a perfect field of fire. We would have all been killed.

I pride myself, in knowing how to motivate my men. Goldberg is Jewish

I called Goldberg over and told him see all those Nazis out there. Grab your rifle. Here is a bandoleer of ammunition.


He wiped out the whole damned platoon.

From that day on I was pretty much my own boss.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Moe was a Holocaust survivor.

After being liberated from the concentration camp he made his way to the American sector and through help from relatives already here was able to come to America and make a life for himself.

On a visit to a supermarket he observed that the lottery prize had reached $100 million.

He bought a ticket.

He was the sole winner of the drawing! The hundred million was his.

He rented a banquet room and invited all of his friends and relatives to a celebration.

He ascended the podium. He was setting up a multi million dollar scholarship foundation for the children of those he cared for. Applause

He was setting up annuities for people who had helped him when he was in need. Applause

He was giving a million dollars to the United Jewish Appeal. Standing ovation

He was giving $50,000.00 to the Nazi Party. Stunned silence

He unbuttoned his sleeve and exhibited the concentration camp tattoo on his forearm.

Where do you think I got the winning number?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What is a schlemazel?

Many Yiddish words have found their way into the common vernacular. The schlemazel is a person with perpetual bad luck. A schlemiel is a waiter who trips over his own feet and spills soup on a customer. The customer who gets the hot soup in his lap is the schlemazel.

Al Capp (Kaplon) in his cartoon "Lil' Abner" featured a character with an unpronounceable name who perpetually had his own dark raincloud above his head. This was the schlemazel.

A schlemazel cannot escape his fate.

Sol dropped out of high school when his mother became a widow an took a job as a roustabout in a furniture store.

After taking night school classes, he became a bookkeeper spending long hours in a corner of the storeroom with his green eye shade recording numbers under a single sixty watt globe.

Most comfortable in his studio apartment listening to his CD's, he sometimes was invited to accompany the raucous sales crew to lunch or dinner. Habitually, when introductions were made to table hoppers he was by-passed and waitresses either forgot to take his order or brought him the wrong entree.

One morning Sol woke to a rustling noise beside him. Standing there in his little room was the angel of death.

Sol, I have come for you. It is your time but looking at the record of your life I find it totally without blemish. I am granting you twenty four hours to go out and do one reprehensible deed as only God is perfect.

Sol wandered the streets imagining scenario after scenario of dastardly deeds only to reject them.

As the twenty fourth hour approached, he decided to return to his room and let the angel decide his fate.

As he neared his room, a door opened. Miss Schwartz, the spinster who was his neighbor all these years opened her door to let her cat out.

Filled with frustration and without thinking Sol burst through the partially open door grabbed the hapless lady threw her to the floor and had his way with her.

As he turned to leave the room in shame, he heard her exclaim. Sol, I am a lonely old maid. I thought I would never know love. You have done a mitzvah ( obligatory good deed) I will mention you in my prayers.

(Story based on one in a Yiddish/English dictionary)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Statute of Limitations?

In a small Russian village in the pale of settlement back in my grandfather's day, a young mother- to- be was about to deliver her first child.

Female family members gathered to witness the event.

The midwife went about her chores culminating with holding the newborn infant girl by her heels and giving her the traditional slap. But alas no crying out.

Try as she may, the midwife could not get a response from the otherwise perfectly formed child.

The family went into conference.

It was Friday and by Jewish tradition the remains must be buried before the sundown of the Sabbath.

A boy was sent to summon Hyam, the grave digger.

As the gathering began their mourning, the seven year old sister of would be mother sidled up to the crib. Projecting out from the blanket covering the baby was a doll-like hand.

An uncontrollable impulse seized the child. She grabbed a pin and poked at the tiny fingers.

A lusty wail ensued. The ladies rushed in in response. The infant's pallor had been replaced by a rosy hue and she was bawling out her greeting to the world.

The seven year old was hugged and feted. The story was told and retold. People came from miles around to see the seven year old aunt who had saved her niece's life.

The young couple invited the heroine to come and live with them. As she neared marriage age they suggested that maybe she should seek a husband. She replied that she had saved the baby's life she must remain and take care of her.

When the niece became a bride, she transferred herself to the newlywed's hut. Each time it was hinted that the place was small and the budget was smaller the Aunt would remind the couple that had it not been for her----.

The Aunt lived to be ninety nine years old moving in with each generation. After all, she had saved the infant's life and therefore made their life possible. They couldn't convince her she was "impossible".

Obviously, there is a moral to the tale but I have forgotten it.
The best laid plans--

Was to leave for a cruise today but a flareup of asthma precludes flying. So cruise cancelled.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A philosophy lesson-

After my father passed away I assumed his partnership with my uncle.

Uncle Dave was eighteen years my senior and my mentor in many facets of my life.

Sharing an office, we often had wide ranging discussions during lulls in our work.

Whenever I expressed pessimism he would offer the axiom- " The wheel turns." Meaning in due course things will improve.

One day he was the pessimistic one and I seized the opportunity to offer "The wheel turns."

Without missing a beat he responded, "But not necessarily in the same rut."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Trials and tribulations

My father it seemed had a story for every situation.

From time to time I would approach him with why do I have to ride an old bicycle when all of the kids are getting new ones, will you help me buy a new car all of my friends parents----

His stock answer would be a recounting of this experience. In the 1920's Dad's Uncle Max operated a second hand store on Main between Fourth and Fifth. His pot bellied stove was a welcome resting place for passers by.

Often as a group of idlers would accumulate in a circle around the red hot source of heat the topic would turn to their experiences in the late war (World War One).

Constant artillery barrages,
hand to hand bayonet charges,
poison gas,
trench foot from standing for hours in one position in ankle deep mud
Buddies wounded or dying on right and left.

If a lull in the conversation occurred, Uncle Max would make his contribution.

You fellows don't know what it was like when I served in the Russian army.

Supply was erratic. Some times we had sugar for our coffee and sometimes we had to drink our coffee without sugar!

End of conversation with Dad.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I am trying to sell some General Motors Debentures. With rumors of GM's demise floating through the financial community offers are ridiculous to absent.

These "Good Faith Promises to Pay" have paid me above average interest over several years so I hold on to them with my eyes open.

What is best judgement?

In the early 1930's grandfather B. received a large check from a customer. It being Friday afternoon his best judgement was to deposit the check in the Union Bank so it would be safe.

He rushed to the bank only to miss closing by a few minutes. He tapped on a window and caught the eye of a clerk who recognizing a bank customer unlocked the door and accepted the deposit.

Sunday morning a banner headline on the local paper proclaimed, "Union Bank Fails".

In the days before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.was established this was not an uncommon occurrence.

Grandfather actually was lucky. An astute group of receivers worked diligently to salvage the bank's assets and in payments spread over many years he recovered most of the balance of his account.

Customers of other banks often were not that lucky. A rumor that a bank was in trouble could send a hoard of depositors queuing up at the tellers windows withdrawing their balances. Thus the rumor would be self fulfilling.