"The great story teller"


I have said in other of these stories life was anything but dull in those early days of journalism in San Francisco. Of course it all was very new and certainly a completely different world from writing sports in a smaller city which is what I had been doing before.

The best thing was the interesting people that I came in contact with. Business executives were older in those years and most had been through some trying times during the Depression. They were not all great people but most had the outgoing personalities of salesmen and they were people who had achieved success through their own talents and abilities. They were never boring. They worked hard and played hard and lived well and were proud of it.

As a young reporter and photographer for a liquor trade publication I had the opportunity to meet and get to know many of these executives and salesmen and it was an exciting job from my standpoint.

An incident comes to mind that illustrates all of this very well. One afternoon my Editor, the two publishers, our advertising manager and I, carrying the speed graphic as usual, went in the early afternoon to the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

We were there to meet with some executives from the Continental Distilling Company in town to conduct a meeting with a newly named local distributor. As it happened both our publishers were good personal friends of the western division manager, Bob De Leon. His boss, the national sales manager, was a man named Bob Smith.

Since the meeting was scheduled for that evening we all went up to Bob Smith's suite in the Hotel which besides being all that a deluxe Hotel Suite should be had a magnificent view of San Francisco.

It was my first meeting with Bob Smith and he was truly a charmer and one of the best story tellers I have ever met. Soon we all had a drink in our hand and Bob started entertaining us with some of the best and funniest Jewish stories I have ever heard.

Bob was Jewish and from New York's East side and to go with his stories he had the accent to match. For the next two and one half hours Bob regaled us with story after story, each just a little funnier than the one before.

Most were not bawdy but filled with human interest and illustrated to a marvelous degree the culture, lifestyle, and humor of one ethnic group. There was nothing derogatory about any of Bob Smith's humor.

It was a wonderful performance and I have often wished that I could have had a tape of it, but it was long before the era of hand held tape recorders. Of course the drinks were continually poured during this whole event which was before the actual cocktail party started in the meeting room below.

All in all it was an afternoon that I have never forgotten

Out of all the stories Bob Smith told that afternoon I can remember only two, perhaps forgivable since this all took place 40 years ago.

Mauri and Dave had grown up together in New York, attended the same schools, went to the same synagogue, dated the same girls and their mothers had been the closest of friends.

As adults they both became race track touts and followed the races around the country but often not seeing each other for extended lengths of time.

On a bitter, late afternoon in November Dave is prodding down a street in New York still wearing a light pair of slacks and a checkered sport coat from his time down at the Florida tracks. He had been through some hard times all summer and now faced a forbidding Fall as well.

Down the street rolls a stretch limousine that drives past, stops and then backs up. The window in the back comes down and Mauri sticks his head out and says: "Dave, is that you, get in here before you catch a death of cold."

As Dave gets in the stretch Limo he notes the very trim blonde that is sitting next to his old friend. Mauri says, "Honey, please go up front and sit by the driver while I talk to my old friend Dave here."

Mauri then says, "Dave it looks like you have had a losing streak."

"Mauri you can't believe how bad its been, nothing's working any more. Hialeah was bad and Pimlico worse. But you, look at this, all yours?"

Yes, Mauri says: "Since I got my new system I am picking winners consistently and as you can see it has paid off big for me. Look old friend let me give you a stake and please get yourself some warm clothes as well."

With that Mauri pulls out a huge wad of bills and peels off a couple of Grand for Dave.

Dave says: "Look this is just a loan, OK. I'll get it back to you".

Sure, sure, Mauri says: "Look we have been friends as long as we can remember and our dear Mothers watching from heaven would want it this way."

"Now Dave I would not give my new system to anyone else in the whole world, but you are my friend and I will give it to you."

"Tell me Dave, when was the last time you went to Synagogue"

Dave shakes his head and says I don't remember.

Mauri continues: "Well I was the same as you, down and out one year ago and one day I walked by a Synagogue, decided to go in and then I prayed. The next day I went to Roosevelt and won all eight races. Now that's my system. Before I go to the track I go to Synagogue and pray and I have been winning ever since."

Dave says: "And that's your system? You just go to a Synagogue and pray before you place your bets."

Mauri replies: "That's it and now you know it too."

Six months go by and it is now a very warm Spring day in New York but Dave is plodding down the street in his heavy overcoat since it is all he has to wear.

The stretch Limo goes by, stops, then backs up and Mauri sticks his head out the window.

"Dave, is that you? Get in here and tell me how things are going."

Dave explains that all is just as bad as before and that even though he has faithfully gone to Synagogue and prayed before placing any bets he is still losing.

Mauri looks puzzled and then asks what Synagogue he has been going to. Dave replies that he has been praying at the 48th Street Synagogue. Mauri slaps his hand to his forehead and says, "Shmuck, the 48th Street Synagogue is for the trotters."

Manny, Moe and Jack, you probably thought they were in the tire business, have been very successful with their men's clothing store on the East Side, so much so that they are moving down the street to a larger location. They have had a most successful moving sale and now there is only one suit left on the rack.

Since it is late afternoon Manny thinks they should just close up and forget about that last suit.

Now Jack as a super salesman is famous throughout the garment industry. He is a man who is recognized as being able to sell anything and takes particular pride in this ability.

Jack says, let's wait a bit, I can sell that suit. Manny points out that it has been altered for a crippled man who then died before he could pick it up. No matter says Jack.

Jack stands by the door of the store and notes that a young man is walking down the street hestitating as looking for something.

As he reaches the store Jack asks if he can be of help. The young man explains he is looking for a business where in an hour he has an appointment for a job interview.

Jack tells him that it is two blocks further down the street but then says: "So you are going for an interview, a time when you must look your very best. What you need is a new suit, nothing gives a man confidence at an interview like a new, well fitting suit. And it happens I have just such a suit for you."

So the young man is ushered into the store and within seconds Manny has slipped the last suit off the rack and has the coat on the customer.

The coat fits reasonably well but the left sleeve is obviously somewhat short and the young man points this out. Jack tells him that is because of his poor posture and that if he tucks his left arm up against his chest the sleeve length is perfect and has both his partners verify this.

They next have him try on the pants and the right pants leg is somewhat long, hanging over the shoe. Jack explains that this is again because of his posture and if he keeps his right leg extended and stiff the pant drapes over the shoe perfectly.

So the suit is sold and the partners insist he wear it to impress the people who are doing the upcoming interview and he leaves.

As he is walking down the street two Irish ladies are coming in the opposite direction. One says to the other,"Maud, the Lord have mercy, look at that poor man, such an affliction." The other replies yes but look at the beautiful tailor made suit that he's wearing.

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Last Update:4/1/98

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