Jackson Heights

 Jackson Heights

It is Friday October 3, 1952 and I am officially discharged from the Army and arrive home that afternoon. Florence is 8 months pregnant and living with her parents. Actually she had been living there all along since our wedding. The only exception was our brief stay in Brown Mills, New Jersey. The following Monday morning I went job hunting and within a day or two had located a position with M.J. Fassler Coatings. I had my job interview in the morning and started work immediately. My salary was $58 per week which was a significant improvement over my army’s $85 monthly paycheck. I was very anxious to get an income stream started and I accepted the first offer I had.

The Fassler location was an old 2 story building with most of the interior walls removed from the first floor. Mr. Starobin, who was to be my boss, conducted the interview in an upstairs room. After he offered me the job and I had accepted, he gave me a quick tour. My desk was located out in the middle of the plant floor. A closet next to the men’s room was the “lab” and was far too small to house a chair let alone a desk. On the shelves were several used, but clean coffee, containers. My instructions began with an explanation of what was being produced. Waterproof fabrics were the product and it was manufactured by coating plastic liquid mixtures onto master rolls of textiles. The end product was then sent on to other manufacturers who would fabricate waterproof sheets, tablecloths, etc.

My one and only chemical tool was a glass hydrometer used to measure the density of these liquids. Specific Gravity measurements were determined and adjustments made with by adding either more plastic base or a solvent. Having a washroom nearby was very advantageous since that provided me with a sink. It was also my assignment each morning to collect the spent coffee containers from plant employees and clean them. These were my testing “beakers”.

The firm was located someplace in Brooklyn and being without a car I traveled to and from work daily riding 2 buses. Each day I went to work wearing a business suit, shirt and tie … and reported directly to my lavatory lab. My work was neither challenging, enjoyable, or promising … but it was a job … and a chemical job at that. My career was off and running … where else to go but up.

We had planned to stay at my mother-in-law’s apartment until Florence gave birth. Ellen was born on November 26, 1952. Jack and Elaine Kaplan, who were married by this time, had an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens and located one for us just around the corner from theirs. We waited a bit after Ellen’s birth and in January of 1953 we officially moved into our single bedroom apartment, 35-05 94th Street.

We had received about $200 in wedding gifts which we had put into a savings account. Florence had been working for most of the past 2 years and had put away a small sum as well. Additionally we believed it only proper that Florence pay a weekly rent to her mom while she lived there during my army tour … after all she was married and employed. While I do not recall the exact amount I am sure it was a modest sum. Little did we know my mother-in-law was merely banking this money and returned it all. We were now able to buy some furniture and a few essentials for our new home. Modest furnishings perhaps but it was our home. And once again, we are off and running. By the way, this gesture from my mother-in-law was only one of many more during the years to come … she was always there whenever we needed support in any manner. 

It was very clear to me from the outset that this Fassler position was a dead end job … with no possibility of advancement. I didn’t go through 4 years of chemistry to wash coffee containers in a bathroom. Shortly after we had moved into our apartment I began looking through the “Help Wanted” ads for new employment. One day I recalled the John Fanning Employment agency which I had registered with back in 1950 and gave him a call. He arranged an interview for me at Consolidated Film Industries (CFI) in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Fanning informed me that the job opening was for an analytical chemist and the agency fee was 1 week’s salary.

CFI was located on a former Republic Pictures movie lot. It had been converted to enable the processing of color motion picture films. Max Kaufman was the head of the chemical department. This group was responsible for the mixing of all the chemical baths used for processing as well as maintaining overall chemical control. Hundreds of gallons of solutions were mixed at any given time. These were called replenisher solutions since they were metered into the corresponding tanks of the working machines in order to maintain optimum levels of various important ingredients. During the developing process of photographic materials various constituents are normally depleted. The replenisher baths are construed to maintain certain critical ingredients to desired levels. The department’s responsibility was to analyze the freshly mixed replenisher solutions as well as samples taken daily from the working baths.

Max and I hit it off from the outset. I had mentioned it was my intent to begin Graduate study to pursue a Master’s degree. He was a very studious person and this fact impressed him. The entire interview and conversation went quite well. Bingo, I was hired … and I am now a bona fide chemist. He explained up front that this was a union plant and even the chemists were required to be members. So I became a “Yatze” … a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees … or IATSE … if nothing else I was impressed with my very first acronym.

I also had to submit a time card. However, being classified a professional, I was allowed to write in my entries and submit the card at the end of the week. I will admit the time card did annoy me but this was outweighed by the fact that my 4 month sentence of cleaning coffee containers was over.

There was Max, another chemist named Fred Gottesman, and myself working from 8 AM to 4 PM. Ralph Fernandez came in about 4 PM and covered for the night shift. The analytical procedures were interesting and Max shared every departmental problem with me. The relationship could not have been better. Our lab was in its own little building and we had a set routine of performing various analytical tests. This location was very convenient since later on when I was attending school at night, I used this privacy to do a little extra personal school work.

I began attending the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, better known as “Brooklyn Poly”, in September of 1953 aiming for my M.S. degree in Chemistry. I was unable to take more than 3 courses per semester … and only 2 if any course included laboratory time. Nothing more could be squeezed in during a 4 night per week attendance. The GI Bill paid my tuition so there was little financial drain … but the schedule was tough … probably the toughest of my life. I would leave our Queens apartment at 6:30 AM …take a train down to 42nd Street, in Manhattan … another train up to Washington Heights … and catch a bus across the George Washington Bridge … in time to start work at 8 AM.

At the end of my work day, I returned to the New York side of the Hudson River by bus and took a train down to 99 Livingston Street in Brooklyn. Classes were completed by either 9 or 10 PM … and now another train back to Queens … getting home at 10 or 11PM … a full day by any means.

Later, when I began work on my thesis, I spent Saturday mornings at the NY Public Library on 42nd Street. I will admit I did learn quite a bit academically. However a Master’s degree was not in the cards for me. After some years I had completed most of my required courses and had begun the research for my thesis. The topic was centered on 2 chemical elements, Niobium and Tantalum. While these elements had similar properties, specific differences had to be found to allow for individualized quantitative analysis.

I had accumulated several shoe boxes filled with index cards … neatly sorted by individual element characteristics. The professor who was supervising my work called me in one evening and informed me that he is leaving the school and another staff member will take over his graduate chores. Unfortunately when I meet with my new thesis advisor he admits to knowing little about my chosen topic and requires me to start a new study with another theme. By this time Marlene was born, my career was doing well and frankly I was very involved with work. I thought it over for a few days and decided enough academics for me.

It didn’t take very long before I had my CFI chemical assignments well under my belt. I began to wander around to other production areas just to see what was happening to the products both before and after passing through our area. I wish I could say this was a planned methodology of work … well thought out in advance and consciously enforced. I am afraid I am not that smart. I never gave this any thought. Hindsight however tells me that I always gravitated to spending 80% of my time fulfilling 110% of my responsibilities and used the remaining 20% learning and probing a bit beyond my immediate duties. It was a natural approach and proved very valuable.

This new job paid $75 per week which was a big improvement. When the plant became very busy, and we were asked to work on a Saturday at time-and-a-half, I would then earn almost $100 that week … an impressive number for mid-1950. Regardless of how many Saturdays I worked, at month’s end there was nothing left over. I wanted to save but was unable. Finally I reverted to taking a bank loan, the interest being about 4 % matched what I received by depositing the loan into a savings account. Somehow bank payments are always made and at the end of the loan term I had “saved” $200.

While the job was good in most respects there were some shortcomings. Max Kaufman was within a couple of years of my age, married to this job and fulfilled his responsibilities admirably. His career was going nowhere and neither would mine … however he didn’t care … I did. The analytical procedures we were performing were cookbook. Our skills were easily replaceable and if I stayed there for 20 more years nothing would change other than my salary. Additionally I had read about some new technology that was just around the corner which would allow full length movies to be recorded onto tape. These were to be sold to consumers who would no longer need to go to the movie theatre … a depressing outlook I thought.

I recall thinking about leaving CFI and getting a job in Queens doing analytical work in a hospital or some other facility much closer to home. I finally concluded what was basically wrong with my present status was neither the travel, nor the unexciting lab work … it was the dead end street that bothered me most. This was the thorn in my side. There was no immediate emergency but I was itchy for better growth opportunities … so I kept my eyes on the New York Times Help Wanted columns. 

Before I start on the next phase of my career, let’s pick up on the Stein family. Marlene was born 3 years after Ellen on October 21, 1955. During this interim period our first born held quite a spotlight. There were many weekends we either went to visit our families in the Bronx or one or more of our parents came to visit with us. Florence and I were never really uncomfortable with this abundance of love and attention … however the price we paid was a loss of some privacy and at times that felt a bit steep.

I recall a Sunday morning incident when my parents were due for a visit. They arrived a bit earlier than we had expected. Florence opened the door and there I was on the floor scrubbing away with a brush and pail. I really had no reason to be embarrassed, but I admit I was. It was apparent that my parents were shocked … especially my father seeing me perform this household chore … however they never did make mention of it to me.

When we did decide to visit the Bronx it was quite a project. We did not yet own a car and hailed a taxi to make the trip. All kinds of infant paraphernalia had to be placed in the trunk. Ellen was a bad car rider. It was only a matter of time before she would get car sick … normally before we reached the Triborough Bridge. Florence always had enough foresight to have a towel handy in the back seat so the upholstery was saved … but there wasn’t much we could do for the poor driver with respect to odor.

We made many local friends who were in the same family frame as we. To enable an evening out to a local movie or restaurant we would alternate baby sitting assignments with various couples. Jack and Elaine were our main friends and we shared many weekend afternoons together. Elaine and Florence were always together during the weekdays.

One amusing event did take place during this period. Our next door neighbors were also named Herbert and Florence Stein. A rare coincidence indeed. While the names were exactly the same as ours the marriage was not. Many a screaming argument would pour through the walls into out apartment. One day Florence (my Florence) receives a registered letter demanding her appearance in court. The issue at stake was a separation settlement. When I got home that evening she showed the document to me and asked what to do. I tried to convince her it was indeed meant for her … she only had to show up at court … but my joshing did not work. Apparently the Steins next door were splitting up and later that night I sheepishly slipped the envelope under the door.

Mentioned must be made of Gelfands. This was a group of several free standing 2 bedroom cottages located in Mountaindale NY … up in the Catskill Mountains … about a 3 hour car ride from Queens … owned and operated by the Gelfand family. Dave and Lee as well as Millie and Seymour along with their children, Fred, Ricky, Bruce and Roberta had spent the previous summer there. Some time around mid April of 1953 Dave and Lee had convinced us to share a bungalow with them. 

They picked me up one Sunday morning and drove there enabling me to see the grounds. Florence remained home with baby Ellen. I recall that ride very well. Dave only owned a commercial station wagon which was used for transporting clothes in and out of his dry cleaning store. Since there weren’t any back seats they had provided a wooden box which I sat on during the entire voyage. The cottages all looked quite good and there was a baseball field, a handball court, a casino used for weekend festivities, and a new swimming pool … so we signed up.

We shared a single cottage with Dave and Lee for at least 2 years and then graduated to our own unit for another 5 or 6 years. The “summer” began late in June and ended on Labor Day weekend. The husbands would arrive late Friday night and depart either Sunday evening or very early on Monday. The first few years, before I had my own car, my schedule was at the mercy of whoever would be driving. The weekends at Gelfands were very enjoyable … relaxing and full of fun and games … we made several new friends … especially Mickie and Sy Brightberg, with whom we continued a warm relationship for many years.

It was Sy who introduced me to fishing, putting to use some of the local Catskill lakes … and a few years later he showed me how to hunt deer. My hunting activities lasted only a few years, but as we all know, fresh water fishing to this day still ranks very high on my list of activities. Additionally at Gelfands I also got to know my in-law family a bit better.

In a nutshell our lives continued to be simple and enjoyable … not very much money coming in, but enough to be comfortable. In our Queens apartment Ellen slept in the crib which was in our bedroom. My desk was positioned in the living room along side of a couch and some other furniture. This was a very important sofa. Immediately after Marlene’s birth the crib became her domain and when it was Ellen’s bedtime the normal procedure was to put her to sleep on our bed. Later when the parents were ready to turn in for the night we would transfer her to the living room sofa. A sidebar was always positioned for safety. Our family was growing and it was time to move to a larger apartment.

We had located a 2 bedroom apartment a few blocks away in a brand new 6 building complex called Southridge. Aside from the extra bedroom, we also had a second bathroom. Wow … not only an elevator building, but 2 bathrooms … luxury plus. This was a cooperative ownership building which required we “buy” our apartment and pay a monthly maintenance fee. Sometime in 1958 we moved into 33-47 91st Street, Jackson Heights, Queens. Many of the tenants there were young couples in our age group with pre school children. The women met almost daily outside, most with baby carriages, and soon made friends. It was at this juncture we met Lois and Marvin Rosenberg. This was to be a life long friendship which continues today … after the untimely demise of Lois in 2004.

Marvin was an attorney working for his father. Their offices, which specialized in real estate transactions, were located several blocks away from Southridge which was a major advantage for him. His dad was a very demanding taskmaster and Marvin did not have an easy time. However to his credit he stayed with it and his skills eventually won the day. His career was noteworthy and successful.

The 2 families fast became close friends. There were some common significant bonding features which made this a natural. Both women were devoted mothers and wives. The family welfare always came first. Marvin and I were both career minded professionals, aiming to improve our status in spite of obstacles and were very conscious of events other than work. We always had serious discussions on world issues as well as personal items … and these were periodically spiced with a dash of humor. It was a good match from the outset.

Early on in our relationship we celebrated Marvin’s birthday with a visit to a Manhattan restaurant. We made the trip in his brand new car … not more than a few days old. Unfortunately on the way home he takes ill and I am now behind the wheel driving in up the FDR Drive into Queens. I am not sure to this day who was more nervous … the wives, Marvin or myself. There is another event when he gets ill again … many years later in Puerto Rico … but we will get to that later. At this writing our friendship goes back a half century and there are so many noteworthy experiences which we enjoyed together, a special web site could be devoted to these alone. 

In addition to Lois and Marvin we had a group of Southridge friends who partied together and had many laughs. Our 2 girls were growing up and life was good. Of course there was that time we brought Marlene to have her tonsils removed. She cried hysterically as we handed her over to a nurse. As they left the reception area, mom started … as you might expect I wasn’t very far behind … and all this over tonsillectomy. Marlene did have a bundle of minor health concerns, primarily asthma and some allergies. There were many doctor visits and a good portion of my paycheck went to that end … she eventually outgrew these ailments. However we did have to call a halt to the summers at Gelfands … too much grass for her. We did begin to spend many a weekend day at Cunningham Park where we would barbecue and frolic with the gang. The summer of 1959 we shared a facility at Rockaway Beach with Jack and Elaine … this was not one of our more memorable summers. The Kaplans were great people to be with, but the living quarters were a bit cramped. That was also the year my mother passed away … June 13 to be exact.

I was called from work to go to Lebanon Hospital in the Bronx where my mom had been rushed to that fatal day. Her rheumatic heart was just failing. I stayed by her bedside most of the day … well after visiting hours were over … she made inquires about the well being of Florence, Ellen and Marlene … sleeping on and off while I waited outside her room … later in the evening I heard the monitoring alarm go off and she was gone. I witnessed the doctors attempting revival unsuccessfully.

As I indicated earlier, CFI was a very comfortable dead end street. It was February or March of 1955 when I spotted the ad in the NY Times calling for an Analytical Chemist … with experience in photographic chemistry being desirable. This was without doubt a momentous occasion for me and my career. The brief description sounded most interesting and I immediately called for an appointment. A few days later I met with Tony Salerno, the chief chemist of Pavelle Color Inc., 533 W 57th Street, NYC. Although I did not realize it, my timing was impeccable.

In order for anyone to appreciate the significance of this position I must give a short synopsis of the industry background at the time. At this point in time consumer color photography was almost entirely controlled by the Eastman Kodak Company. Their color negative and slide film products, Kodacolor and Kodachrome, accounted for at least 90% of all color films sold in the USA. These were priced with cost of processing included. Kodak enjoyed exclusive rights to process these films. The U.S. government intervened and a consent degree was arrived at which required Kodak to exclude processing charges with film sales. Further the company was required to release all relevant technical data, offer for sale any required specialized equipment, and provide adequate assistance to those independent finishers who wish to enter this field. All this was taking place in 1955 … lucky me.

The Pavelle organization was a pioneer in the industry since it had been processing color films as well as producing prints from color slides for some time. These products were manufactured by Ansco, an off-shoot company from Agfa (Germany) which was barred from producing or selling in the USA during World War II. The company was recovering from this lapse of activity at a snails pace. The sales volumes were negligible at best but Pavelle did have a foot in the door and was determined to be the first independent finisher in the USA to take advantage of this Kodak divestiture.

Tony Salerno had made a commitment to join a start up company in New Jersey and had resigned from Pavelle. He had promised the management that prior to leaving he would interview and locate his replacement … May 1, 1955 was the scheduled date for the newcomer to take over. I was hired almost immediately and worked under Tony about 2 or 3 weeks and was appointed Chief Chemist on schedule. My salary was now $115 per week … no time card … and no Saturday work to achieve a triple digit week’s pay. I had a staff 4 or 5 people and was walking on clouds. I had become the Max Kaufman of 57th Street.

I must admit I had no idea at the time how vast an opportunity this new position offered. The consumer color photography industry was about to explode and I was getting on board at the outset. I was in the right place at the right time and a load of work was ahead of me … which eventually would lead to success. The only place ‘success’ come before ‘work’ is in the dictionary.

My peer managers were helpful and cooperative and made my transition into their world very easy. We had 2 first class engineers on staff who had previously designed very special printing equipment for producing prints from slides. George Mergens and Alex Dreyfoos Jr. were not only outstanding technicians but were blessed with great personalities as well. Their positions with the company were essential since much of the specialized hardware necessary to conduct business was not readily available from vendors. This group had to design and build all required photo equipment by themselves. Pioneers in the world of color photography for sure! Dave Rosen ran the production sections while Ira Kohlman held responsibility for plant Quality Control. I managed chemical mixing and control.

Additionally Pavelle had Professor Lloyd Varden under contract as a consultant overseeing all technical activities. He was known world wide as a reputable photo scientist and made weekly visits looking over our shoulders. He was also was teaching Color Photography courses at Columbia University.

The Pavelle environment was indeed very unusual. For example the technical group conducted a brainstorming session once per week. It was scheduled to begin at 4 PM and was usually over by 6 PM. The group took pride in the fact that these hours were chosen so that the individuals and the company each contributed 1 hour of their time for this meeting. Many innovative protocols as well as specifications for new equipment concepts were developed during these sessions. In my area I devised a procedure for the rejuvenation of spent Ferricyanide Bleach using liquid bromine. This procedure proved to be very cost effective, but most likely a hazardous procedure by today’s standards.

The next 8 months were spent preparing for several new processes which were to be installed. At the same time we had to maintain the existing production lines. We were occupying 2 of the 4 floors in a 57th Street office building at the time of my hire and 2 more were soon added. Leo Pavelle, the company founder and president, called me into his office one day and informed me of a Chemical Exposition being held the following week in Philadelphia … and perhaps I should attend for a couple of days. I interpreted this as more of an order than a question and replied, “Of course.”

So, Monday of the following week I get on a train and head down to the City of Brotherly Love. I am on the way for my first business trip. My office had made the hotel reservation for me which was the same location as the exhibition. I had my checkbook with me to pay for the hotel room and cash to cover other expenses.

I arrived at the hotel late afternoon, checked in, found a local restaurant for dinner, walked around a bit taking in some sights, and headed to bed. Next day, bright and early, I attend the show and began to walk the floor and soon realize I have no idea what I am looking at. This was all complicated chemical apparatus which was never covered in any of my textbooks. I spoke with several vendors and explained what we were about to do and what equipment I thought we needed. The input I received was negligible. By late afternoon I went to my room and tried to piece this all together. I left about 6PM and was planning to exit the hotel and find dinner. Alas, I pass by the lobby bar and one of the vendors I had met earlier calls to me over to have a drink. Why not I thought … so a drink is ordered for me and before I realize it I am now part of a group of 10 or more.

A lot of small talk and another round of drinks are ordered by a person on my right. This of course includes me. After this round is served the bar tender gives him the bill and he pays. Guess who is next in line? That’s right, it is my turn all too soon and I pay for my round. Shortly I was “free” to excuse myself and walked briskly to the outside sidewalk where I quickly took an accounting of my available cash. Remember please, this was before credit cards. The only credit card I had even heard of was Diners Club and of course I didn’t own one.

My remaining cash funds were severely reduced and a sit down dinner was out of the question. The next 2 days I dined on sidewalk hot dogs for lunch and dinner.

I submitted an expense account upon my return and was too embarrassed to admit to a hotel bar escapade and my austere meals. Imagine … my first expense report and I am already fabricating … what an inauspicious beginning. Further, as if this was not enough, the company sales manager corners me a few days later and asks, “Herb, what in God’s name is wrong with you … who goes on a trip and spends such little money for meals … you’re making us all look bad.

In line with all the other preparations underway Leo Pavelle hires Lyle Brown as plant manager. Lyle came from the Kodak Chicago plant and supposedly had the necessary experience that would enable a smooth start-up. Lyle was a smooth talker, extremely well dressed, and appeared more sales than operation oriented. Arriving with him was Jim Grooters also from Kodak who reportedly had hands-on experience with the Kodachrome process.

A little explanation is necessary here. Two new film processes were being installed. The Kodacolor negative process was very similar to the Ansco Plenacolor process which was in operation. This negative process employs only a single color developer since the required 3 color dye couplers are incorporated within the negative film emulsion. Kodachrome film does not contain any dye couplers and the process required 2 black and white as well as 3 color developers to be used. Each of the color developers contained a specific dye coupler … yellow, magenta and cyan. By comparison to anything we knew at the time this was a very complicated and sensitive process.

It wasn’t until 1957 that the plant installations were completed which included an expanded new chemical area as well as a private office for myself … see the photo on the very top of this section … my very first if you don’t count the closet office at Fassler. We began quality testing. What a mess. The Kodacolor negative process was fine … we had some difficulties with the Kodak printers we purchased, but were getting by. Not so with the Kodachrome (slide) film process. Kodak had supplied us with manuals to guide us through the various stages of chemical mixing and the required analytical procedures. There was little if anything included on trouble shooting. Of course Leo Pavelle had provided Lyle and Jim but they were of no more value than the manuals. Lyle stayed in his office most of the time. Jim was not only of little value but additionally was quite obnoxious. His Pavelle career was over within a year.   

By this time I had relieved myself of any routine lab work … having increased my staff significantly. I became the captain of this troubled ship and learned how to make this process work by trial and error. On occasions a Kodak “expert” would show up and tell us what we were doing wrong … but usually left before the results of his advice could be evaluated. During these visits Lyle would pop in about noon time and whisk his “old buddy” away for lunch. There were a few times I was asked to come along and that was my introduction to the Old Homestead Steak Restaurant in lower Manhattan. It was at this fine steak house that I learned not to have a second Vodka Gimlet at lunch … apparently I was not as well trained in this area as my companions.  

There were many days I would work straight through to morning trying to get a satisfactory production run. At the same time there was a prominent Pepsident toothpaste commercial being sung … “I wonder where the yellow went …” a chant we sang over and over again during the wee hours of the morning, for indeed our main problem was correcting for a lack of yellow dye formation. There were also several instances when I would receive a phone call at home during late hours … and I had to leave and go to the plant. Florence was once told that many people in the building thought I worked for the Police department or CIA or some other mysterious organization since I was seen many a night departing the building as others were getting ready to go to bed.

Eventually we achieved a satisfactory quality level and production began. I attended several seminars conducted by Kodak in various cities which were designed to aid the independent finishers achieve a quality product. These get-togethers as well as attending the industry association’s semi annual conferences, allowed me to make many contacts. Surprisingly each person I spoke with was experiencing the same problems I had. We shared with each other experiences and solutions quite openly. I also became the company contact for any vendor wishing to sell us products. Over the next couple of years I began to obtain a reputation in photofinishing arena.

As I mentioned earlier Professor Varden taught at Columbia University. Unfortunately on certain occasions he was unable to conduct his evening class and his wife would call and ask if I could take his place. Usually this call came on the same day as the class. The first few times I had agreed to cover for him I did not have adequate time to prepare and was quite nervous. I merely spoke on the fundamentals of color photography. It went quite well. After a few sessions I ran out of material. On these occasions I requested that the class come down to the plant and I would conduct a tour explaining how principles become product. This also went well. Lloyd did offer me compensation but I never accepted.

Not so with Jack Spring. I had met him during my time at Consolidated Film Industries. He was a former vice president of the Hunt Chemical Corporation which was the primary chemical supplier for CFI. He broke off and formed his own company and was selling prepared photo developers in powder form to the US Army. These required a certification attesting that the contents matched government specifications. I had the lab at my disposal, performed the necessary analytical tests and acted accordingly. Hell would brake out when I found a sample that did not meet specs. I refused to sign off and Jack would be become quite frustrated … he was looking for a blanket approval. At any rate I had ordered some personal stationary with a “Consultant” title next to my name. Alas, it is 1957 and I am a consultant of sorts … and yes, I did receive a fee. This went on for about 2 or 3 years … and then a 30 year interval before I resumed such activities … as you shall soon see.

When the Kodachrome fiasco was eventually resolved I began to exercise my 80/110/20 rule of work. Before I knew it I had became intimately involved in plant quality and work flow problems. I was so tied up with daily work activities I was unaware of other events occurring on the corporate level. Leo Pavelle was very upset with the lack of start up help forthcoming from Kodak and after many frustrating discussions with them he finally took legal action. Apparently Kodak wanted to avoid another bout in court as well as not desiring to publicize their shortcomings in providing the assistance previously agreed to. A day or so before the scheduled trial Kodak agreed to a very substantial cash settlement.

I believe it was 1959 or 1960 when Pavelle Color was sold to the Technicolor Corporation. Leo retained the corporate name and he formed a new company focusing on new product development. He departs from 57th street with Lyle Brown, George Mergens and Alex Dreyfoos. Many new innovative items were introduced by this group, both in Europe and the USA. The company had limited success, not due to product shortfalls, but primarily because they were many years ahead of the industry.

We were now called Technicolor New York Corporation. The parent company’s game plan was to enter the consumer photo market. It was assumed the well known Technicolor name would easily open all marketing doors. They knew absolutely nothing about our business … and worse yet, apparently there wasn’t anybody in the California office who seemed to care. Ira Kohlman had departed for greener pastures and Dave with the most seniority was appointed Plant Manager. Newly hired Don Pearlstein was plant engineer and I was Quality Control Manager. This threesome ran the company with negligible input from the main office. The intellectual environment was over … from this point on we only had to produce.

We were doing a fairly good job … sales were increasing at a moderate rate and our quality level was fine. I had no idea what the financial profile looked like … I probably would not have been able to read a P & L had one been shared with me. Kodak had a technician stationed virtually daily in our plant … in fact we eventually gave him his own private office with secretarial services as well. Bill Leonard was considered almost an employee. Of course his main function was to protect as well as enhance our purchases of products from Kodak. Many new suppliers were popping up all the time.

Dave did not take well to his new responsibilities. I became the main company contact with the outside world. Interestingly the Gevaert Company was producing and selling a compatible Kodachrome type product and we enjoyed the exclusive rights for processing those films. While the product was barely satisfactory, Walgreens and Sears Roebuck were selling it. Primarily because of the technical problems encountered with these products I was on good terms with Gevaert personnel and this served me well in the next stage of my career.

There is another item of interest that was taking place and would also eventually come into play, but many years later. Berkey Photo had also begun to process Kodacolor and Kodachrome films and had similar start up problems as we had. I often met their plant operation supervisors at various conferences. Paul Selko, Irv Cepenko and Spencer Fulweiller all represented Berkey … and poor little me from Technicolor … we had much in common and became quite friendly.

One very humbling event took place around this time. There were other “compatible” Kodachrome type films being sold aside from Gevaert’s. One in particular gave us considerable problems when we sent it through our process. It was important to identify this product early on and process it separately so as not to endanger other brands. I devised a solution … a sophisticated scientific solution. A special potion was concocted. A drop of this onto the film’s edge would leave a black spot. The manufacturer was using a higher than normal amount of potassium iodide salts as a means of achieving additional film speed and my test took advantage of this anomaly. Brilliant I thought. I prepared several bottles and informed the gals in the receiving department to place a drop on each non-Kodak roll coming in.

After a few weeks we seemed to have the problem resolved. I felt pretty good. Surprisingly, however, there were never any requests for a fresh supply of Herb’s Magic Tonic. I went down to the department to see what was going on and observed that my tests were not being performed. Instead I saw operators periodically smelling the film. I made some inquiries and was informed … ” Sorry Mr. Stein … all we have to do is smell each roll … this tells us what we have to know … the bad films smell like the bottle of Iodine I have at home… and this is a lot faster.” So much for science.

I also had other managerial experiences. One day I received a call from a trash hauling company who wanted our business. We were getting pick up service once a week and they would provide this twice … and at substantially less money. I said, “Sure you’re on.”, and proceeded to call our current hauler and informed them that as of a certain date their services were no longer required. They requested an appointment to see me to plead their case … which I agreed to while indicating my door is always open … hey, I’m just Mr. Nice Guy.

That afternoon in walks “Anthony and Nick”, dressed in the finest clothes I had ever seen … their shoes were more costly than my entire wardrobe. I got up from my chair to shake hands and they just kept walking towards me … at a slow pace … I was sort of forced to retreat just a few steps until my back was against the wall. At that point Anthony unbuttons his coat jacket … just enough for me to see a holster and a gun. Amazingly I suddenly got the picture … I had made a terrible mistake … how could I ever replace the fine services they were providing … I promised to rectify the situation before the end of the day. I was not made to be Elliot Ness.

These 3 or 4 years at work were fine. I learned the entire photofinishing business from stem to stern. I came and went as I wished. A technical symposium being held in West Point NY caught my attention. The speaker was to give a talk about “3 Color Instant Photography”. I attended and was part of an audience of only 20 people. I had never heard of this person before but Dr Edwin Land, inventor of polarizing optics and instant photography, was a very impressive speaker. I even got to do a one-on-one with him after the presentation.

As you can tell from the above, a lack of hands-on corporate management had many advantages. However all other photofinishers whom I had met enjoyed an active management … generally owners who were on site daily and participated directly in the operation of their facilities. We were unable to get permission to have our walls painted; we were sorely lacking in spare parts and were not allowed to buy any new state-of-the-art equipment. The entire plant was seriously run down. I probed a bit to find out what our financial status was but hit a brick wall. I had an uncomfortable feeling that the Pavelle acquisition by Technicolor was viewed by their management as a mistake and it was time for me to move on.

By this time I had made several acquaintances in the industry and in the summer of 1962 Bob Bremson contacts me and invites me to come see him. Bremson Photo was a chain of several photofinishing plants located in the Midwest, the home office being in Kansas City. MO. I fly out there one Saturday morning and am offered a job to become his National QC Manager. To be a member of a management team overseeing a chain of plants was very enticing. I return home the same afternoon. Florence is not exactly overwhelmed with the thought of moving to Missouri … but like a good soldier she agrees since this seems to be in the best interest of my career.

I soon accept the offer and tender my resignation from Technicolor NY Corp. I receive a phone call 2 days later from one of the Technicolor Corporate Officers asking me to hold off … he will be in to speak with me within a day or two. Of course he shows up and we talk … he describes me as the best thing happening to photography since George Eastman … he tries desperately to convince me to stay … as proof of the company’s recognition of my importance he is authorized to give me several stock options. This made little impression on me … primarily because I did not know what a stock option was … and I did not ask … who wants to advertise their ignorance after so many glowing compliments. Also, I could smell the sales pitch as soon as his mouth was opened.

So my resignation is done and I let the world know. Florence is still an unhappy camper but willing to make the move. I call Chris Thiers, my technical contact at the Gevaert Company and inform him of my pending move. That afternoon Joe Rigan, Gevaert’s VP of Sales calls for a lunch appointment with me. We meet and he asks would I reconsider taking that job with Bremson Photo. His company would be pleased to hire me. He further points out that their offices were on 53rd Street so relocation would not be necessary. He explains that previously, as an employee of a company doing business with Gevaert, it would have been improper to have offered me a job … now of course all this has all changed … and they would be pleased to have me join up.

A few days later I meet with the Gevaert president, Rene Aerts, who offers me a 5 year contract. Not having very much faith in the quality of their products I decline a long term contract and request instead a 5 year financial agreement … salary to be discussed. His offer was for me to start with a salary far better than I had expected with annual increases of $1000 through the fifth year. This was September of 1962, Larry was born 3 months earlier, I didn’t have to relocate, and the salary was very inviting. My job title is Technical Manager – Color Products. I accept the offer … call Bob Bremson and apologize … he was very understanding and he and I maintained a good relationship throughout the years.

The Gevaert Company was a well known and respected manufacturer of photographic products with sales offices world wide. The corporate offices were located in Mortsel, Belgium, just outside of Antwerp. I was to be attached to the USA office which provided sales and support activities. I am informed that on my first day of work I should report to the corporate offices in Belgium where I will be attending 2 weeks of technical orientation classes. My air tickets are mailed to me and one Sunday evening I depart from Idlewild (JFK) airport on Sabena Airlines.

Larry was an infant in diapers and I am off to Europe. Florence indeed was to have her hands full, but being the trooper she is there are no complaints. The Rosenberg and Kaplan families are close by just in case. However it should be noted she handled everything extremely well all by herself.

I arrive in Brussels on a wet Monday morning and am looking for my contact. The plan was for me to be picked up by a driver and taken to my Antwerp hotel. I can not find anybody so decide to wait and enjoy a morning coffee at one of the many shops at the airport. I get my coffee and find an empty table and sit down. Within a few minutes a couple sit down at my table. I thought that was quite rude in spite of the fact they gave me a big smile. Fortunately I said nothing … not because of any lack of etiquette on my part but primarily due to language difficulties. It was sometime later that I learned this table sharing practice is customary in European public areas.

About this time I receive a phone message, in English thank heaven, informing me that the driver was unable to make it to Brussels … inclement weather … and I should take the train to Antwerp and find my way to the hotel. The car would pick me up about 2 PM that afternoon for a quick introductory meeting at the offices. Somehow I found my way to the hotel, got cleaned up and went down for a lunch at the hotel restaurant. Steak Flambe catches my eye … “steak” sounded great … and as for that “Flambe” stuff, I can probably push it aside if I don’t like it. This has to be a good chance to compare Belgium cooking with the Old Homestead. What a surprise I had when the waiter wheels over a cart containing my steak. He begins by pouring some liquid over the meat and starts a fire … crazy I thought but said nothing. I really tried hard to consume this abomination, but all I could taste was cognac. To this day I can not understand why anyone would want to take these 2 dignified ingredients, each delightful by themselves, and marry them together … the ultimate in incompatibility.

I eventually find myself in Albert Bellay’s office with Roger Anrijs. These are both to become my primary contacts in the corporate office as well as good personal friends. We have some small talk and I am informed how to get to the plant each morning by trolley car. My classes are to begin the following day and I should be on my way home the Friday of the following week. A major miscalculation if ever there was one. Also, since I am to receive a weekly stipend to cover out of pocket expenses, Albert directs me to the proper office where I can collect my week’s allowance.

The following day I show up bright and early for my class. There were only a handful of students in the room and the discussions were held in English. Without going into too much boring details by mid morning I was correcting the instructor on several issues … by afternoon I was at the blackboard doing a bit of explaining myself.

At the completion of Wednesday’s class it was decided I did not have to attend “school” any longer and perhaps I could spend my time better in the production area where fresh coatings of film were tested in their Kodachrome process machine. Thursday morning I find my way to the proper building and am aghast at what I find. The process was completely out of control. It was inconceivable how anybody could produce a Kodachrome compatible product and test to determine if quality standards were met when the process itself was no way near standard. This was Pavelle 1956 all over again.

I am asked to correct this situation. At this point I estimated I would need about 2 or 3 weeks. It wasn’t long before other manufacturing and quality problems were brought to my attention which extended my original 2 week visit to 8 weeks. However this was time very well spent … I met with various executives of the corporate manufacturing, quality control and sales divisions and earned their respect. By the time I left for home most of the production headaches were fully resolved, and while only a few remained these were well on the road to recovery.

The weekday evenings in Antwerp were lonely … but on weekends I was either invited to peoples homes or some of the plant people would join me for a few beers at the local pubs. At the early stages of my visit I took lunch mainly in the employee cafeteria … but I soon graduated to the executive dining room … but by invitation only. It was here I discovered another steak … one which I would never again order. How exciting it was after 1 month of Belgium food to find on the menu Steak Americaine. “Wow”, I thought, ” finally an American steak.” I couldn’t wait … and out came a plate of raw hamburger meat with a raw egg on top … and for my additional pleasure there were an assortment of dressings available. This is better known in the USA as Steak Tartar … however at this time I knew of neither. While 4 weeks earlier I struggled through the Flambe version of steak, not so this time. I could not put a forkful of raw meat in my mouth … regardless of the fact I was dining with several management executives.

One last event comes to mind. Towards the end of my stay in Antwerp I am offered a trip to visit Paris where the local representative would meet me and together we would visit several photofinishing plants … as well as being entertained in the evenings. I recall this being about a 4 day trip and find myself one Wednesday evening checking into a rather small but clean Hotel. Other than my host who signed me in, nobody from the hotel staff spoke any English. I went to bed that evening and awoke the next day, walked into my huge tiled bathroom shaved, etc and to my amazement there was no shower or bathtub. Strange I thought … especially since there were 2 toilet commodes. A wash cloth, soap and water sufficed for the first day. Later that morning, when I told my host, he was not surprised … “just ask for a bath”, he replied. I was too embarrassed to ask for details and let it go.

Eventually I return home and show up one morning at the NY office. I am greeted by all and informed I am sorely needed. The next few years I spend doing a fair amount of travel; mostly with my sales counterpart Joe Rigan who, while being an extremely professional sales person, knew nothing of the technical features of our products. We were a good team as he pointed out several times … while I was able to carry the technical load I was also useful as a companion when we dined with key accounts all over the USA.

My two primary functions were to keep the manufacturing people in Belgium current as to our product shortfalls and assisting our customers. I made several trips to Antwerp serving as a technical backup to sales presentations and budget discussions. I was kept busy and had the support of my management. All was going well … and it didn’t hurt any when at the end of my first year instead of receiving my contracted $1000 salary increase I was immediately pushed up to year five … and more importantly the future looked quite promising. 

Florence and I had already begun to talk about a move from our Queens apartment to a house. She had some reservations about moving, primarily not wanting to leave a very comfortable lifestyle with loads of good friends … and additionally she was concerned about relocating further away from her parents. Frankly I had enough of concrete sidewalks as a lifetime walkway … I wanted my kids to grow up where grass to play on was readily available other than in a City Park. I finally persuaded her it was in our best interests to move up a notch and into a free standing home out of New York City. It was 1963 and we were house hunting.

The office on 53rd Street in Manhattan was extremely small and overcrowded … in fact I did not have a private office … my desk is smack in the middle of the floor. I did learn early on that the offices and operation would be relocating to a new location in Teterboro, New Jersey. This is at least a year away. Since Florence and I had already decided to look for a new home, this bit of news certainly restricts us as to where to move. Marvin and Lois Rosenberg, with whom we had become very close, had also decided to move out of Jackson Heights at this time as well and were looking in Long Island, NY. They tried very hard to persuade us to follow them but with the pending change of my office this made little sense … so we aimed for the other side of the Hudson River, and Rockland County it was … we finally found a new development being constructed in the south end of Spring Valley … about 2 miles from the New York/ New Jersey border … The Teterboro office was now only a 30 minute drive away.