BUD BREWER

One Man's Opinion

LIFE IN THE 20TH CENTURY CHAPTER 5

Becoming a “Cal Bear”

In 1947 following the trials and tribulations of driving the B-19 across the country, I got a temporary job as “swamper” on a Delivery Truck at Abbey Rents.  Abby Rents was the largest renter of Party equipment, hospital equipment, chairs, and tables for special events. Each day I would join a big, cigar smoking Irishman of about 40 years of age, whose job was to drive a “cab over” 2 ½ ton truck to various auditoriums and hotels or individual residences where we would then unload the items the night time warehouse guys had previously loaded onto the truck.  I learned a lot about the so-called working class in this job, and some of the ways a less ethical worker would try to take advantage of their employer.  The example referenced took place one day when we had two Decker hospital beds to deliver to an apartment on the 12th floor of a building in Hollywood.  While any bed is heavy, the Decker bed at 260 lbs. was a real load even for us when we had a dolly to wheel it into a residence.  In this case, the apartment building had an elevator so all we had to do was get the bed into the elevator and up we went.  It was pretty much a normal event.  The Lesson learned took place upon return to the dispatcher’s office and my cohort slammed down his fist on the desk yelling, “I Quit, this is the last time I am going to have to break my butt because someone else doesn’t do their job”.  The Dispatcher said, “What’s the problem”, “When we got to that Decker Bed delivery, a sign on the elevator door said it was temporarily out of order so Bud and I had to muscle that ton of bolts up 12 flights of stairs.  My back feels broken”.  I knew he was lying but because he had told me to keep my mouth shut, I just listened.  The Dispatcher reached in a drawer and handed him some cash (I don’t remember how much) and said, “Maybe this will make your back problem go away.” When we walked away, he held out a few bucks expecting me to take it but I was so shocked at the story and the effect, I just said “No thanks, you keep it besides, I rode in the elevator all the way up.” Just one of those lessons you never forget.

On September 10, 1947, after a long drive of the B-19 over the Ridge Route on what was then Highway US 99, down the Grapevine Grade, through Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Tracy and then over through Livermore, I finally reached the Sather Gate entrance to University of California at Berkeley campus.  In preparation for my housing at Berkeley, I had applied and been accepted for residence at Bowles Hall, a prestigious gothic type structure at the top of Bancroft Avenue. The building has eight levels comprising two-room suites and a common room to house two students.  Bowles Hall also has the distinction of sitting right on top of the Hayward Fault. I was a real Plebe at Cal wearing the Cal freshman beanie as all freshman did for the first month or so of school.  Hazing was a part of leaning the decorum necessary to wear the mantel of being a Cal student in those days.  I think today’s newbies would burn down the Campanilli to demonstrate their anger against the tradition for Freshmen to wear Cal Beanie’s.

Here’s to Bowles Association.
Drink it down and then,
Drink a toast to home sweet home, Of California men.

Rah! Rah! Rah! Fill your glasses to the brim, and lift them in the air.
And drink a toast to Bowles Association,
And the Golden Bear.”

This toast was sung by Bowles students with beer mugs raised high when the Cal Band marched down from the stadium after each game the football team played in the stadium just behind the hall. It was traditional at that time that new students would “rush” the various fraternities to become members and join in the college tradition of fraternity brotherhood. My sister, in her final year at Cal, was dating a guy who was then a nonresident member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and after a few visits to the House, I was invited to come and go through the social examination of seeing if you fit in with the group.  Shortly after attending two or three affairs at “Sig Ep”, as the members called themselves, I got an invitation to Pledge the Fraternity and I was delighted to accept.  Remember, I was only 16 years old when I started Cal and only turned 17 in the third or fourth week of school.  Cal students were generally in two different groups in 1947, those that served in the War and those of us who were too young to do so.  The difference in age and maturity was anywhere from four to eight years.  It was at Sig Ep and Cal classes that I learned just how serious the senior group of students were compared to those of us who had the expectation to study and play in the tradition of pre-war college students.  As a result, it didn’t take long to experience conflict regarding behavior. Veterans populated the House Administrative bodies and they had no time for juvenile actions by the Pledges.  The form of discipline was the Paddle. The Fraternity Paddle is an Icon and it is usually decorated or carved on to distinguish it from other fraternity paddles.  Upon violation of a tradition or house rule, the house disciplinary committee would sentence the violator to one or more swats and that would be the end of the justice procedure. 

It was not long after joining Sigma Phi Epsilon that I became disappointed with the way the house was run and how the fun of being a member was slowly ebbing in part because of the difference in age of most of the members.  After a couple of months, I decided to move out of the house as soon as I could.  As it turned out my frustration led to resignation and I moved out of the House after the end of that semester. This led to my decision to attend summer school at Cal rather than take a break and go back to Southern California.  One of my good friends while at ANA was a member of a Local Fraternity, Del Rey, and they had extra rooms to rent for the summer so I moved into and subsequently joined Del Rey Fraternity as a member the following year.

After my sophomore year at Cal, I once again decided to continue studies in Summer school.  Sometime in August as I was contemplating what courses I would be taking in the Fall of 1949, I made one of my life’s worst decisions.  My friend, Richard Corwin, and I had discussed the rigors of continuous school studies and we mutually made the decision to take a year off.  We returned to the Los Angeles area where I took a commission job as a salesman for a jewelry store on Hollywood Blvd in which there was a department selling a new instrument called Television.  The Manager would place a large console inside the front window of the store.  The console had a 12 -14” round screen (actually the screen was the large end of a TV tube showing live TV programming.  People would stand on the sidewalk in front of the store watching this phenomenon in groups of ten to twenty people and my job was to entice them into the store to hear a pitch for purchase.  The big problem with TV at that time was that the TV signal was transmitted from Mount Wilson and if you didn’t have direct sight of the transmitter your picture would get progressively fuzzier.  I was not too successful selling an instrument to people living in the Hollywood Hills, Westwood or Beverly Hills.  But ever the optimist, when I got an appointment to demonstrate a set in a home up Beverly Canyon, I took a 14” set up to the family’s home, plugged it in, attached the antenna and oops, total fuzz.  Not to be denied, I proposed that the home owner run an antenna wire up to the top of the hill behind his home and he should certainly get a good picture. I didn’t make a sale that day nor the following two weeks so I realized I needed to get a real job. 

One of my Fraternity brothers at Del Rey and I got together one weekend and he told me that he was working at a brokerage company downtown LA on Spring Street.  I was curious and after learning more about the business, I decided to go down and apply for a job at one of the big firms like Merrill Lynch, E. F. Hutton, and Dean Witter and Co.  So, I put on my best and only suit and tie and applied at each of these three companies receiving the same response from all: “We will take your application and let you know when a position shows up”.  I knew that was sort of an excuse used to give hope but they probably had little intention to follow up if a job developed.

It was Christmas time and my sister and Bill Henderson had gotten married and moved to Tucson where her husband was a student at Arizona University studying to become a Nuclear Engineer. I was invited to come down and visit and after a couple of days, I got a call from my dad that someone from Dean Witter and Co. had called about a job they had for me.  I raced home after contacting the company to set up a follow up meeting the next week.  On January 5th, I began the first day of what was to be 50 years’ association in the Financial Services Industry. The image below shows the floor of the NYSE in the late 1940s. There was no video screens, computer panels or electronic displays on the floor or smart phones or tablets used at the various posts then.  The data now displayed in color on large banks of electronic displays was all kept by an individual called the Specialist who with a hand book recorded all the bids and offers for several stocks for which he was responsible to “Make a Market” The specialist was the guarantor that he would buy or sell at least 100 shares of any stock for which he was acting as the Specialist.  The price he would pay or the price he would sell those 100 shares might have a wide spread but any qualified Broker on the Floor had the right to sell or buy stock at prices in between his bid and ask.  On occasion usually following a news event, if the buy orders or sell orders became unbalanced, the Specialist had the authority to stop trading in the stock and adjust his bid or offer to adjust them to reflect the changes in demand or supply in any stock he traded to a price consistent with the then supply or demand for the stock.  When more buyers would want stock, the Specialist would keep selling shares short at increasing prices or lower his price to buy when sell orders were disproportional.  Other member floor brokers would buy or sell stock for their own account or their clients and all this trading would be modified by the Specialist certainty of making a market for each stock in his book.

My job in today’s description was to be communication administrator or as I was called, “The Ditto Boy”.  The principal duplicating machine used at that time was the Ditto Copy machine or the Spirit Copier.  You could always tell who was the Ditto boy in a company by looking at their hands.  The copy was made from a master placed on the drum and then turning the handle as each sheet of paper was pulled from a tray into the machine and a message impressed on it.  The ink was purple and the Ditto Boy’s hands would be covered with purple ink used on the Master copy. It was impossible to keep the ink off the hands and during the day, I had to use an abrasive cream to get the hands clean.  My station was in a small alcove above the Firms order desk, a very interesting area on a balcony overlooking the Broker’s desks and a large Board on which the price range or just last sale of selected stocks were displayed.  In the Middle of the Board was a transparent window through which actual trades were projected from figures on a clear tape and magnified via a mirror system reflecting the number of shares and the price of the sale of a trade made a few minutes earlier (1 or 2 minutes normally) on the floor of the NYSE.  The action was intense during trading hours and offered a real show of how capital transactions were executed.  One of the ways firms like D.W. &Co brokers on the main or second floors would communicate information or orders or requests for quotations was by a Pneumatic tube system. When a tube was sent a sharp sucking sound of the air as the tube was inserted and flap closing would occur and when the receipt of tubes from other floors happened, there was a thud as they dropped into the padded receipt box.  After a while order desk personnel could determine that something big was happening as the sucking and thump noise increased substantially and the ratta tat of the telegraph machines sending orders to the New York Office grew more intense.  I must tell you it was exciting to be a part of this display of how free market capital transaction system worked.  By showing my interest in becoming a part of the order desk personnel, I received a promotion.  From my starting position, as “Ditto Boy”, I was now elevated to the position of “Tube Jockey”. 

 Next chapter- The Korean War.

One Man and his Wife’s Opinion

Bud and Dottie Brewer



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