“Life is an Adventure”

by Bill Owens SM3/c

Home At Last

 It’s hard to look back and describe my feelings at this time of my life, except to remember there was some adjusting to do on my part as well as my parents.

Although only nineteen I’d had two years of Navy Service, eighteen months of it as sea duty overseas in many situations and ports of call accompanied by responsibility starting at seventeen (entry age) probably far in excess of a civilian of that age.

With mustering out pay in my pocket that included pay for leave not given I probably had more at any one time than I had ever held either a civilian or a sailor.

My thinking of course was still geared to that of a sailor on leave and I proceeded as such as only a sailor can to rid myself of all I had as quickly as my hand could get in and out of my pocket.

I will not describe the initial forays I engaged in. In retrospect they both embarrass and frighten me to think about just how wild I was. I earned two nick names during this period of time: one was “Smiley” and the other was “Big Bad Bill”.

Living with my parents began to prove difficult as they could not seem to get used to the hours I kept or the condition I was sometimes in when I returned home.

One of the things I did do on the advice of a neighbor (another returned gob) was to sign up for the 52-20 club.  This enrollment was to have provided me with $20 dollars per week for 52 weeks ( I guess from Uncle Sam). 

Still footloose and flush (in my estimation) with my mustering out pay I was asked by a long time and  well heeled friend (family money) to go on a motor trip with he and his brother to Canada using his mothers flashy red Buick.  I accepted before he finished his description of the trip and we left the next day to be gone until we all agreed it was time to return.

The trip was a ball !  One big “extended” 72 hour liberty taking us Northward into Ontario and Quebec for fishing and fun with plenty of stops at various watering holes and additional non sporting R & R with the girls. Civilian life was great !


Several weeks later we returned home and in my case virtually broke. I began to realize the following winds of good fortune that had propelled me forward had shifted and had now become head winds offering a new set of conditions to contend with.

Thanks to my mothers advice my first action was to visit the University of Illinois

to be tested for competency  to be granted my high school diploma.  I’m not sure whether it was my intelligence or the lack thereof of others taking the test but I passed ranked in the first five percent and received my diploma from my high school shortly thereafter.  

My next step forward was to visit two government entities; one was the HQ for the 52-20 club where I found out I had disqualified my self for a period of time (undetermined to this day) from benefits by not being available and reporting in each week.  The other was the local draft board to register. This need really pissed me off as I was already in the inactive reserve. However once again my mothers advice was correct in respect to my need to complete this function and I followed it. I think I was classified 1C. My own interpretation of 1C was F.Y.

Finding work was not at all difficult but even untrained as I was I felt most of the jobs were demeaning missing something I suppose was the lack of real  responsibility involved and I changed jobs on a regular basis.

One day in a discussion with one of my buddies ( ex Navy) over a beer we decided we needed a better education if we were to move ahead. We both enrolled in a Pre-Law Class under the direction in respect to statewide accreditation at a Chicago Law School under the auspicious of the U. of I. Where perhaps my reputation of being outspoken (to say the least) would stand me in good stead if I were to be successful in becoming a lawyer. 

Things have a habit of changing and it was no different for me.  I became smitten by a gal who seemed to possess the attributes in every sense that I wanted in a woman. I became less and less interested in Law and more and more interested in her. I think I began to think of settling down and getting married. I had sown more wild oats than (I believe) the average man. I had been exposed to danger and responsibility at an early age and had an opportunity to observe other cultures and humanities person to person. These things had a profound effect on me perhaps sub-consciously.

Well…. what the “hay” I quit law school and got a job on the 4pm to 12mid. shift with a research firm and not long after I tied the knot with the love of my life and became domesticated (sort of !). We actually eloped, were married by a J.P.  in May 1947 (both fudging about or ages) and had the marriage blessed later in the Catholic Church.

My choice of employment was made partially by luck and partially because I had briefly worked at the firm before entering service. The lucky part was that the firm

because of the nature of its work utilized data processing equipment for the production of its wares “information gathering and analysis” and I was pretty much on the commercial ground floor of an exploding industry.

My age and physical shape suited me for the need to spend long hours on my feet learning and operating the various pieces of equipment as well as the need to work twelve to sixteen hours a day ( and on occasion twenty four) including weekends to keep up with the production needs, and most important to earn enough money to make ends meet. I credit this job with instilling in me a “work ethic”, maturity and the desire to learn and move ahead.  Ultimately the news of an impending birth instilled yet another requirement “the need to survive”.

For a long period of time after the war’s end apartments were extremely hard to find and very expensive, especially for returning G.Is.  In some cases the older more affluent generation including the influx of displaced persons mostly from Europe saw a great opportunity to profit from the housing shortage and required under the table payments ( rent control was in force) and purchase of old dilapidated furniture (probably specially bought at a junk yard) before a lease could be signed.

I could expound on this but in looking back it was perhaps a valuable lesson learned and to be considered in judging ones fellow citizens. On the bright side because of increasing incomes of the returnees (G.I.s) and government programs the shoe transferred to the other foot and the greedy lost some of their ill gotten gains. We were fortunate to find (with my fathers help) reasonably priced accommodations where we lived until financial improvements allowed us some upward mobility.

Time marched on at the research firm and as the ever growing need for more money presented itself I found new employment with what was called “A data Processing Service Bureau”. The equipment used was similar but it was necessary in this environment to be educated in the (wiring) and set up now called “programming” of such equipment to produce the reports and required end results which were sold to various clients for help in managing their business’s. Absorbing the technical aspects of the service bureau roll and being exposed to the information needs of the clients engaged in a wide variety of activities and educated me in many important details of what was necessary in the way of business information and how to go about producing it.    

Several years later having operated in the rolls of consulting, selling, engineering and producing “management information” reports as a product I was offered a job as a data processing manager for an international company.  Some of the equipment was new to me but a good friend who managed another installation allowed me to familiarize my self with the equipment and I spent several more years with this firm in charge of operations and on various task forces implementing systems in numerous company locations. One such long term installation in both my data processing manager position in Chicago and development activities in the New York branch  I worked so many hours that my wife told me I slept the few hours I did with one eye open.

I must inject at this time a note of confession that could probably be said of most of the Vets. of that period of time.  My wild ways were not completely gone and to a degree alcohol and late non-working hours still were on occasion part of my routine. Unfortunately sometimes more than occasionally.

My family had grown to four when I was confronted with to me an unpleasant situation. A promotion that I felt I had earned was not realized. With little in my pocket perhaps a thousand or two (our complete nest egg) I stacked our furniture in the middle of our apartment instructed my parents to ship it when I gave them a permanent address, loaded my car with our other possessions and took off with the family for California. (No job no prospects in sight). My wife had a sister living in Califirnia however  and we had an invitation to visit until I was able to find employment.

The trip and the arrival in California were wonderful. It looked like the land of milk and honey. Great climate, beautiful surroundings and reasonably priced housing.

One significant fly in the ointment presented itself. I was almost immobilized by the smog in my job searches in L.A. and determined this was a no go. Without much fanfare back in the car went and returned to Chicago. Sort of like the “Grapes of Wrath” in reverse.

No sooner had we arrived  back in Chicago than I received a call from a fellow I knew who was the Managing Director of the L.A. Branch of a national data processing service bureau to take a job as sales manager there.  Of course I had to decline but my contacts with this firm continued for many years with various members and became quite useful to me at a later date.

Having done business with IBM as a client and having attended several of their schools I put the word out that I was on the market and a short time later interviewed with and took a job with another International Service Organization as manager of their data processing and charged with the responsibility of evaluating and implementing beneficial new systems.

Some four years later I grew tired of my job with the service organization and the compensation I received although I had many interesting challenges some directly involved with data processing and others quite far afield. One such experience involved in setting up and handling logistical problems for a national Convention of the organization in Madison Square Garden in NY.

·        One such interesting experience related to seeing that various props and other gear for the entertainers was received and a properly routed  to various hotels and areas for later use, as well as working with the various unions that involved themselves  in the set-up for the festivities. I was given a huge fistful of cash and an outline of what had to be done. The first order of the day was to introduce myself to all the hotel managers, concierges, and bell captains of the various hotels used in the convention and suitably compensate them for any services that may be needed. The next step was to make my self known to the union honchos outline their requirements and spread another handful of cash among them.  I greased every palm I thought necessary and then some and like magic my wishes were their command. This was fun and things flowed flawlessly.  I met Joey Bishop, June Taylor, Paul Whiteman and a host of entertainers including a Russian  troupe of ballet dancers and roamed back stage touring some friends as though I was one of the producers. 

Money seemed to be everything in New York.  One day a large trunk was delivered mis-addressed to the “Garden” instead of a hotel it was suppose to go to. I asked the driver if he could carry it forward the hotel proper hotel and he gave me the expected answer “ What the F do you think I am a Taxi driver ? “That’s a cross town drive”!“ Yea I know” I said as I put out my hand with a $ 50. Dollar bill. “ I’ll take care of it”… he said…. Just think what I could do with an endless supply of $$$. What a city ! In another case a dispute between two unions who started to walk off the job was settled with a “C” note.  

Well all good thing come to an end.  I liked the living style but returned to Chicago and reality. One never ceases to learn about people. I absorbed one end of the lesson but still lacked the most important “ $$$$ “.

The view of up scale living must have impressed me subconsciously and the thought of being tied up at a dock so long coupled with the need for more $ to handle my ever growing commitments and I signed on with a consulting firm and a lot of on the road travel.  They say an expert consultant is someone who lives at least a thousand miles from their  assignment and this must have something to do with the assignments handed to me.  Nothing near home !

The money was fine and the job demanding and interesting , but short of a year the travel, living in hotels etc. and the strain on the family caused me to want to drop the anchor again and that I did . This time I signed on with a data processing service bureau in Chicago (mentioned earlier in my journey to California) as a systems analysis. Later moving to a programmer, salesman, sales manager and then branch manager in Dallas Texas.  Looking back at virtually every facet of experience gained in each job including the Navy along with a share of good luck had helped me to achieve a comfortable living and the blessing of a great family.

One is never satisfied I suppose and after 16 years with the above company and observing and sniffing something bad in the air I quit my job (after receiving a handsome performance bonus and joined  a foreign firm starting to expand in the U.S. as a branch manger and opened two successful offices for the firm  in Dallas and Houston.

About a year or so later several experiences made me realize the same elements that caused me to leave the last firm were also present in the current firm and I chopped the anchor chain free of the anchor and sailed off by myself.

My son a recent college graduate and currently a salesman for a large food distributor and another individual who had worked for me in the past wanted to start an agency on their own.    

While I absented my self from the details because of a  non compete agreement with the foreign firm, start they did.  My influence in the market having served it for 16 years did their efforts no harm and they were off to a good start.

A law suite was filed against me and the firm by the foreign firm through one of the largest law firms in Dallas for an astounding  sum containing all sorts of accusations including breach of contrast and an injunction against our doing any further business  in Dallas.

With relatively little in the way of assets to face a “giant” I stumbled on a new small law firm that specialized in divorce cases.  After putting a sum up front  and outlining my case they gave me the courage to go forward and I began to collect evidence for my defense.

Prior to my entry into the picture the foreign firm had hired an individual for the job I later took. Unfortunately his activity produced zero results and the foreign firm fired him folded their tent and withdrew

Searching out this fellow I found he had been roughly handled and actually lost the investment he was required to make in the company stock in order to attain the position. One of the charges placed against me was that I had stolen and duplicated (except for the name) their time card. Replacing their name with our company name. Upon questioning  my contact he said the foreign company had duplicated his former company time card to use as their own in the US. ( the one we were accused of duplicating later). I was furnished  his prior firms time card  to use as evidence of their own duplicating act along with a promise to appear as a defense witness.

The time card design was generic in nature and no big deal but it was useful in getting the accuser to commit perjury.

A verbal agreement had been reached in respect to my employment  on the beginning  that all offices I opened in Texas or elsewhere  would furnish me a percentage of operating profit and that I would report directly to  the president &CEO of the conglomerate company. At one point I received a critical letter more or less denying such arrangement from the HQ VP. And saved it for possible future use.

I had been very careful to remain apart from the operation of the new company and received no compensation from same. The plaintiffs  lawyer interrogated those who had been required to appear and give testimony including myself, my son and some of the employees of the new company repeating the charges and presenting exhibits.

To show the effects of our alleged action had on their company. At one point they called as a witness one of the customers of our company and asked him to point out the person who had called on him and solicited his business to their utter surprise my son was pointed out.  “No” said the plaintiffs lawyer “I mean the one who solicited your business “The witness again pointed out my son and said “The man I am pointing to  is the one who solicited my business !”. A commotion broke out and the plaintiffs lawyer objected and asked that testimony be stricken. The judge over ruled him and they next presented their evidence proving duplication of their time card.  

When our day in court arrived and it came our turn to examine the accuser.

 We put their former employee (our witness) on the stand with his exhibit and testimony  to show the plaintiffs  company had in fact copied the time card from our witness’ company in the first place.

I had in earlier testimony related the contents of the letter I had received  from the foreign companies VP (Now facing me in court) and he had  denied the existence of such a letter to the court under our questioning of him. Our lawyer produced the letter entered it into evidence handed it to the VP and asked him to read it. It confirmed my testimony to a “T”. He was then asked to read the name of the originator of the letter which he did and our lawyer ask him if that was his writing and was he in fact the originator. He answered yes and further objections were raised by his attorney but overruled by the Judge. He also had to admit his company had no knowledge of the clients I had sold services to, had never provided.

any help in securing any business that was done in the US and further admitted that on occasions I had found it necessary to fund operations of their company from my own pocket  because of neglect in forwarding  funds

.The Judge called a recess to consider the case and within the hour returned to the bench and denied the injunction sought by the plaintiff.

We offered to pay a portion of his legal expense as a gesture of good will . It was accepted and the case was settled.

I officially joined the firm as exec VP with 50% ownership and remained until I was 63 ½ , sold all my stock to my son and daughter and retired.  The business is still active and near its 25th  YEAR OF OPERATION.

I myself have had 76 years of adventure a loving  wife and companion for 56 of those years and have been blessed with two fine children, three grand children and a wonderful daughter and son in law

Big Bad Bill has become sweet William now.  A willing mind but a feeble body!

God Bless !