Preface: Lunch with Friends at 58 Avenue Foch

003Although I saw him once from a distance, I never knew Nelson Dean Jay.

Forty years after it appeared in the New York Times, I read his obituary, called the caretaker to verify that he was buried in the cemetery in Elmwood, Illinois, and went to see the grave site.

I never knew Anne Augustine Jay and have only seen pictures of her.

Another call to Galesburg, Illinois, made me aware that Knox College had useful material:  letters between college presidents and Jay, large professional photographs taken of him in a New York studio, and alumni news releases, going back to 1905, the year when Jay graduated from college.

A week later I dialed “Nelson Dean Jay” in Seattle, Washington, who responded, “I’m a great grandson. You need to talk to my great aunt who knows the whole story.” Thus I began a lengthy e-mail relationship with Cynthia who was in her 80s and shared wonderful stories about the Jays’ years in Paris.

Six months later, Cynthia invited me to Huntington, New York, on the north shore of Long Island to meet her and several of her children who had flown in from across the country. When asked if I were going to write a biography of their grandfather, I didn’t know how to respond.

After dinner, Cynthia invited me into her library, where we sat in wing-back chairs beside the fireplace. While she was reading aloud from a letter sent from Paris in 1920, she urged me to sort through a cardboard box filled with material from her attic…  I looked down at a large engraved invitation from General Charles De Gaulle, inviting the Jays to a luncheon for the new President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.  In the upper right hand corner someone had scribbled “accepted.”

Several months later, my wife and I flew to Bow, Washington, along the Pacific coast where  another grandson, George Jay,  stacked forty pounds of memorabilia on his dining room table and spent two days telling us stories about his grandparents.  By now, I was thinking seriously about writing a biography.

As I began visiting and corresponding with libraries, I found more and more to convince me there was a story to be told. At the National Archives in St. Louis I saw Jay’s war records beside those of his friend Charles Lindbergh.  I was awed with what I found at the McCormick Library at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; reports typed on yellowed onion skin paper from General Charles Dawes to General John Pershing, concerning the weekly activities of Lt. Colonel Dean Jay.

I flew to New York City, spending several days at the J. Pierpont Morgan Library not far from Fifth Avenue, reading letters written between J.P. Morgan and Dean Jay during the Great Depression, some addressed to “Dear Dean,” and signed “Jack.”  At the Harvard University Library I read letters from other Morgan partners who were impressed by NDJ’s work.  I reviewed correspondence from additional academic libraries – the Dwight Morrow letters at Amherst College, and the Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh correspondence at Yale University.  The aviator and his wife were invited to stay in the Jay home in Fontainebleau to avoid the hordes of admirers.  I was convinced.

Along the way, I read some books on the time period, but the strength of this biography rests, however, on the primary sources, which have allowed me to describe, in some detail, the lives of two Americans whose acquaintances included the rich and famous, the important and the noteworthy, by virtue of his position as an international banker.  The family documents included hundreds of personal letters between Anne and Dean when they were apart, and their children while attending school or serving in World War II.  Anne’s cryptic notes and Dean’s journal were also helpful.  According to the family, Anne transferred notes from her calendar to four small spiral rimmed notebooks, indicating when, where, and with whom they had lunch or dinner from the early 1920s to her death in the 1970s.  After he retired, Dean compiled his thoughts in a journal, probably from memory, on his work at Morgan & Cie.

With this material, readers are able to glimpse inside the relationship between NDJ and important people as well as to visualize the details of family life.  Readers will enjoy Dean’s letter to Anne describing the celebrations in Paris when World War I ended, or when NDJ, like any ordinary father, reminded his teenage son to wear warm clothing when crossing the Atlantic. Other readers will be amused to hear Anne’s newsy comments to her family describing fashion or the lack of it in Paris in 1945, or her feelings about one of Ruth Draper’s dramatic performances or about a Berlin Philharmonic concert. In short, while Dean is talking about the problem of the German debt or rate of inflation, Anne is musing on the problems of running their household, raising their children, and planning their next dinner party. There is something here for those readers who are interested in his story as well as for those who are attracted to hers.

To help the reader grasp his position in time, I have inserted brief time-lines at the beginning of some chapters, putting the Jays in the foreground and projecting them against the historical background. At the end of the book, I have highlighted several special relationships, describing some people who were important to the Jays, but whose tales, however interesting, would detract from the narrative, including stories about Edward Stettinius, Sr., Ruth Draper, Betty Draper, and the Lindberghs.  Like other modern biographers, I have used a bit of non-fiction narrative to give Nelson and Anne the opportunity to speak for themselves.  Those moments are rare, and I make clear in the context when I am dealing with fact or using my imagination.

_____________

     But why did I write this biography?  Dean Jay and I came from Elmwood, Illinois; graduated from the same high school; and from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois:  Dean in 1905 and I in 1960.  I had heard about him from people in Elmwood over the years, and I went to school with several of his nieces and nephews.  His name was always mentioned with some degree of awe and respect – the hometown boy who had gone on to bigger and better things across the Atlantic, but few people knew much about him. After my retirement I decided to research his life, beginning with reading his obituary in the New York Times.

An obituary is not a biography; however, an obituary is about the most we can expect when we are gone. After examining the Jays’ lives, I had to decide whether an obituary was sufficient or not for the time they spent on this earth.  It was not.

Karl K. Taylor Copyright 2012

 

The Trailer

Many of dad’s regular followers know he has been working on a book/movie for more than ten years. He wrote a short story about the process posted here on this blog in June of 2015 entitled “Why Central Illinois Needs to Learn About Nelson Dean Jay.”

Chicago filmmaker Vincent Singleton has been working with dad on this project putting some visuals to his extensive research. Vince was selected to participate in the prestigious Kartemquin Films documentary program using content from “Lunch with Friends.”

We’ve decided to provide a link here to the documentary trailer to bring dad’s followers up to speed on the project. Dad would find all feedback extremely valuable as this is still a project in process.

Thank you!

Amy (Taylor) Steinbruecker

The Miracle on March 5, 1957

Gerald “Sonny” Patterson

With seconds left on the clock, Jack Jordan, a speedy little guard from ECHS, bounced the ball to Sonny Patterson, the tallest player on the team, who threw it from center court toward the hoop. Everyone was standing, watching, silently. Elmwood had been waiting more than thirty years for the chance to beat the mythical Canton Little Giants.


As early as the late 1940s, followers of Elmwood basketball realized that our grade school teams were taller, faster, and scored more points than they had in more than thirty years. The dream was that some time in the 1950s we would have at least a couple of winning seasons, perhaps beginning with 1955-56. Maybe we could even beat the Canton Little Giants for the first time. (At that time small schools in Illinois had to compete against the large ones on the way to the state title.)

As a matter of fact, Canton was concerned enough about Elmwood’s successful record in the Blackhawk Conference that a bunch of the Little Giants drove up to Elmwood and shot baskets with most of the Elmwood players in my backyard. The Trojans did win 20 games in 1955-56, but they lost the title game in two tournaments and drew Peoria Spalding (not Canton) in the Regional, losing to them 95-59. The dream had been crushed. Two of the four scoring leaders from Elmwood graduated in May 1956: George Whitney and Sam Jones.

When the 1956-57 Trojans, took to the floor a year later, the fans had little to anticipate: the team was short and green – only two experienced seniors, Gerald “Sonny” Patterson and Richard “Cracker” Coon, were over 6 feet. They had lost 8 of their last 9 games in regular play and both the Galva and Princeville tournaments. When they learned that Canton was their opponent for the first game of the Regional, there was little joy. Despite the outlook, the seats for visitors at the Alice Ingersoll Gymnasium in Canton were filled. Most of the bleachers for the home team were empty, probably because the Little Giants had a (6-18) season, but against big schools.

The referee blew the whistle to begin play. Dave Downey, the 6’5” center, easily tipped the ball from Sonny Patterson, the 6’2” Trojan center, and tapped the ball to Ethan Blackaby, the short Canton guard. Known for his speed, he took the ball quickly to the end of the floor and scored: Canton 2, Elmwood 0. Tom Jones, the blond ECHS guard, threw the ball to Sonny Patterson who was covered by Downey, a sophomore who starred a few years later for the University of Illinois. Without looking, Sonny whipped one of his quick passes to “Cracker,” the forward, who took a shot from deep in the corner. Swish: 2 to 2. Throughout the first quarter the teams traded baskets until the buzzer sounded. Canton 11, Elmwood 5.

As Dick Whitney, the Elmwood forward, was waiting for the ball to be thrown, he thought, “If we keep this up, the score will be 22 to 10 at the half, and we’ll have to score six baskets to stay close.” When the players left the court at the half time, Don Hooker, a Canton fan peered at the scoreboard: Canton 20 – Elmwood 14. “Canton is still beating them, but Elmwood is hanging on. I think Canton will begin to pull away in the third quarter and beat them by the end of the game.” Chances were that Hooker would be correct because the Little Giants boasted a 12-point 32-20 bulge at the three-quarter mark.

As the fourth quarter was about to begin, the Elmwood coach, Rolland Cady, huddled with the team: “Guys you have the opportunity to win this game and make up for a really pathetic season. I want a full-court press. We can take them.” Elmwood rallied in the fourth period and Dick Whitney’s field goal in the final 57 seconds of regulation time tied the score at 44-44, sending the contest into overtime. Ethan Blackaby hit for Canton with seven seconds left in the extra period to give the Little Giants a 52-51 lead and an apparent victory. Jack Jordan took the ball from the referee and threw it to Sonny who grabbed it at the center court, turned and threw the basketball like a baseball to the hoop.

The sports editor for the Canton Daily Times described those last seconds in this way: “Gerald Patterson, lanky Elmwood center who had missed a layup shot with one second to go in regulation time, had not given up hope. Patterson broke away for what looked like an impossible shot and the ball swished through the net for the two points which gave the Trojans a well-earned victory and left Canton followers stunned.”

A miracle had occurred in Canton on March 5, 1957.


Only five Elmwood players scored that night: Tom Jones (6), Richard “Dick” Whitney (5), Jack Jordan (15), Gerald “Sonny” Patterson (10) and Richard “Cracker” Coon (17). The other members of the team included Ronald Brooks, Edward Cosby, Douglas Coulter, Thomas Kirkpatrick, Charles Chapman and Malcolm Bollinger. The cheerleaders were Jackie Martin, Vernon Broadfield, and Mary Ruth Webster.

Karl K. Taylor, March 2017

Saturday Night in a Small Country Town

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Today, as one drives around Central Park in Elmwood, Illinois, on a Saturday, it’s hard to believe how busy it was more than fifty years ago. Sales receipts were usually higher on Saturday than on the previous five days combined. No stores were open on Sunday, except for Steer’s pharmacy where customers could pick up a Sunday Chicago Tribune until noon.

People were attracted to Elmwood because it had more stores than it has today and more selection than Yates City, Brimfield, Williamsfield, or Oak Hill. Elmwood was the hub. In 1956, for example, the city had five grocery stores, three hardware stores, two pharmacies, two doctors, three car dealers, two barber shops, a furniture store, a dentist, a feed store, a lumber yard, five filling stations, and a jewelry store – all in a town of 2,000. To meet the demand, some stores (like the Penny Super Market) opened their doors as early as 7 am and didn’t close until 10 pm or until the last customer was served.

Besides more goods and services, recreational activities brought people to town. The Palace Theatre offered a double feature (always a Western) on Saturday, the first show beginning at 7 and the second at 9:30 pm. The night owls were attracted to Luthy’s Recreation for bowling, a game of pool, pinball or a milk shake or hamburger and fries, served by Mary Reed.

Many people scheduled appointments on Saturday afternoons or evenings with their barber or physician. Although women had their hair appointments during the week any time between 8 am and early evening, men went to male barbers like Peally Deford or Tom Tyhurst. Beauticians did not cut men’s hair. Even though barbers were available throughout the week from 8 to 5 or 6, many men chose to have their hair cut or beard shaved on Saturday. No appointment was needed. Cuts ran 50 cents for children and $1 for adults. Until a barber chair opened up, customers hung around the shop reading the newspaper or smoking a cigarette or talking to their neighbors. Remember, talking and socializing were just as important as securing a haircut. Nobody was in a hurry.

Shopping wasn’t the only attraction to Elmwood, during the summer, folks came to town to hear the music of the municipal band.  By 5 pm no spaces were left around the square where the cars were parked diagonally so the audience could see and hear the concert without leaving their 1948 Studebakers or 1950 Plymouths.

The musicians – twenty or thirty strong – were primarily males, a couple of housewives, and high school kids like Jean Ann Deford who, on request, sang solos like “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover.” Woody Worley, the Phillips 66 dealer, was the conductor. The principals were old standbys like “Copper” Kjellenberg, bald as a cue ball, who played the trumpet, and Gladys Proctor, the high school music teacher, who alternated between playing the piano and the bass drum.

Thirsty on warm evenings, some members of the audience would drift around the square to their favorite restaurant or drugstore. “Let’s get something at Currier’s,” said the fifth grader, Carla Haines, to her friend, Ada Jones, who stood patiently in front of the white marble soda fountain waiting for Neil Currier, the pharmacist, taking long strides to his place behind the counter. He could have passed for a visiting concert pianist, walking not to the soda fountain, but to his grand piano.

Carla, with her black hair down to her shoulders, ordered a root beer made from a secret homemade recipe. The drink came in freezing copper mugs; so cold a napkin was necessary to keep her hands from freezing. Her friend Ada ordered a Green River, a lime colored soft drink, served in Coca-Cola fluted glasses filled to the brim with slivers of chipped ice, always refreshing, but outstanding especially on a hot Saturday night in July or August.

For at least one hundred years, Saturdays in small country towns in the Middle West were social events bringing together old and young, rich and poor, for shopping, popcorn, root beer and the chance to argue about the strengths of the St. Louis Cardinals or the Chicago Cubs. These Saturday nights provided an opportunity for a first kiss behind the bandstand and for people to get to know each other and learn more than just their names. As a result, the merchants knew their customers, the customers developed a loyalty to the merchants, all the while creating closely knit communities where citizens felt that everyone mattered.

The Elmwood Municipal Band still plays in Central Park, but only to handfuls of senior citizens, not to crowds of both young and old. In the late 50s and early 60s, with the building of Interstate 74 and giant shopping malls, small-town residents were quickly attracted to the glamour of bigger cities for their weekend shopping and entertainment. As a result, Elmwood merchants gradually reduced their hours on Saturdays from 8 to 2 or 3; without the stores to attract the audience, the band began playing on Sunday nights, trying but failing to recapture the excitement of the past. The bond between the merchant and the customer began to disappear. Five grocery stores became one, three hardware stores shrank into Sarah’s Tru-Value, Luthy’s Recreation became a warehouse for H. & H. Industries and many stores were not replaced when their owners retired.

The hustle and bustle of Saturday nights still exists somewhere, but not in Elmwood, Illinois. What will it take to draw the next generation to the community on a Saturday night in a small country town?

Karl K. Taylor, December 2016

Special thanks to Amy Davis Photography, Elmwood, Illinois

www.amydavisphotography.net

Hudson’s Special Guest

hudson1Boca Grande, a quaint village located on Gasparilla Island on the west coast of Florida, is a remote place where a small group of Canadians and Americans spend their winters. Almost unknown to the general tourist crowd, the quiet town attracts people who are trying to relax and who are not interested in doing much else, except eating fresh shrimp at Miller’s Marina or walking barefoot on the soft white beaches. No day is complete, however, without picking up the New York Times at Fugate’s, the local drugstore, or filling a sack of groceries at Hudson’s – the blue and white Colonial bread sign about the door, the solitary gas pump out in front, and the brown cocker spaniel waiting silently for his master who has gone inside.

On one such daily trip to town, I parked my car across from Hudson’s and asked my wife for the grocery list, which included bread, milk and some Kraft cheese slices. My son, David, leaned over my shoulder and asked, “How about some chips?”

“Yeah, I want some M & M’s,” demanded his fourteen-year-old sister Amy.

Shutting the door of the car behind me, I walked slowly across the road, rounding a black Mercedes with Ontario plates.

As I walked down the narrow aisle with Campbell soups on the left and a large Pepsi display on the right, I came up behind a woman in her seventies, pausing to look at the display and at her list. She wore dark slacks, a bright flowing blouse, and her red hair, now streaked with silver, was held back loosely in a bun. With her back to me, she looked remotely familiar. That’s strange. How can someone’s back look familiar? That’s dumb. I don’t know anyone on this island. I’m just a visitor. But her head – it’s shaking slightly, as if she has palsy. I’ll go around the aisle and see if I can catch a glimpse of her face. Soon after I reached the next aisle, she turned the corner and faced me.

Slightly round shouldered and somewhat fragile-looking, she stood still, peering through her dark glasses at the grocery list. Her face was somewhat leathery and wrinkled, and a close look revealed a brown age spot or two on her cheek and jaw.

I’m not good at names, but this woman is famous. I think her name is Audrey Hepburn. Is that right? Impatient with my poor memory, I turned around, pushed open the door, and jogged quickly to my family sitting patiently in the car.

“Come’n Hudson’s. You can’t imagine who I saw in there! I think it’s Audrey Hepburn,” I said, the words falling quickly from my lips.

“Ah, come on, Audrey Hepburn is not in Hudson’s,” my wife expressed her typical skepticism.

“Come on. Go look for yourself,” I prodded.

Quickly the car emptied its occupants – my wife, my son, my two daughters and my mother. Scoffing me, the skeptics wandered aimlessly across the street, assuming this was another of my practical jokes.

As soon as they opened the door, their eyes were drawn to the checkout lane where a small crowd of people formed a circle around the red haired lady. As I walked up to her, a stranger asked, “Are you…,” but she never had a chance to complete the question. The red head answered, “Yes, I’m Katherine Hepburn.”

Whether it was Audrey or Katherine, this wasn’t Hollywood and she was the last person I expected to see at Hudson’s.

Karl K. Taylor, 1985

Special thanks to the Boca Beacon for the photo of Hudson’s.

 

Taylor Johnson: Budding Catcher, Would-Be Writer

tay rotatedOn the field and off, it’s been a good week. On Tuesday, two base hits and one run – one hit between second and third; the other, just inches over the second base man’s green cap. On Thursday, with even more confidence – three base hits, three for three, but no runs. Who cares?

My nine-year-old grandson may never play in the major leagues, but don’t be surprised to see him star in Kevin Costner’s next movie about a handsome, All-American boy, who plays catcher for the Red Sox, not in Boston, but in Morton, Illinois. He looks the part, the way you would expect: short, a little stocky, bright red cheeks, a butch hair cut, and brown hair. What really draws attention to him are those bright red socks, up to his knees, matching his cheeks. Cool or hot, though, Taylor’s forehead is covered with perspiration. Everybody sweats, but he sweats more than most folks, maybe because he just tries a little harder than most kids, maybe because he has juvenile diabetes. Baseball, for him, is serious business, requiring great concentration. He’s expressionless, whether he hits a triple or throws someone out at third. No sign of emotion; everything is inside.

When Taylor’s team takes the field at the bottom of the sixth inning, he buckles the guards for his shins, pulls the padding for his stomach over his head, and brings his mask over his face. Except for putting on his cap, he’s ready to catch the next pitch. Besides improving his hitting, he is also improving his throwing. When the season began, his throws from home to third, or from home to left field, were more like mortar shells – looping up high and coming down close to the target. Now the throws are more like bullets – straight from the catcher to the third base man or to the left fielder. The inning is over quickly: three up and three down.

After the game, after he ate a popsicle at the refreshment stand, we’re sitting in the living room: mom and dad on comfortable chairs, grandma and grandpa on the davenport, Haley on the floor and Taylor standing beside dad’s chair. Haley, the second- grader-to-be, is sitting on the floor, playing with dolls, talking to an imaginary audience – could be Pam, the day care provider, or could be Sophie or Kayla, friends from first grade. Mom asks: “Haley, are you in another world?” She responds, almost in a trance. “Yes.” She continues talking, scolding an imaginary playmate.

Taylor, still sweating, sucking, this time, on a yellow popsicle, stands near his dad. Someone asks “Tay” about his class that morning at Bradley University, a week-long summer course for kids centered on writing. Obviously excited to have a male teacher, the nine-year-old bubbles over with enthusiasm about what he is learning: “Today, we had to write a story about something funny, and we talked about different ways of telling it.” Taylor had obviously listened; he was beginning to understand that writing requires planning and structure. “You can’t just begin with once upon a time.”

He continued to describe things he was learning in class, but his father began, very unobtrusively, to direct the conversation from Taylor’s writing, to writing, and finally to my writing. The nine-year-old was just as eager to hear about my work as I was about his. It was if Taylor had already done a lot of thinking, had mentally written down a list of really good questions, curiously mature for a young man who had just finished third grade. “Why did you decide to write about Dean Jay?” “Did you write about him because he was from your hometown?” “How are you telling the story?” After my response, he offered another approach, “Did you ever consider starting with the scene in …?”

I looked at grandma. She looked at me. We were shocked. The word “precocious” came to mind.

You see, on the field and off, it’s been a good week.

 

Karl K. Taylor

June 21, 2009

Now That’s a Salesman

IMG_1478 resizedI like nice clothes that I can’t find in department stores like Macy’s or JC Penney: button-down pinpoint oxfords, camel hair sport coats and herringbone suits that will be in fashion for years. Clothes like these are hard to find except in fairly large cities. Often they are sold by self-employed haberdashers who choose their merchandise very carefully for a select clientele who come back year after year. These merchants take their occupation seriously, trying to find the exact merchandise to satisfy not just customers, but their “clientele.”

A few of these small shops are still found tucked between banks and brokerage houses in century-old business districts, while others are located in suburban strip malls near upscale wine shops, boutiques, and jewelry stores. Inside, the atmosphere is a bit formal, decorated tastefully with carefully selected paintings of sail boats and fox hunts, and a touch of freshly arranged flowers carefully placed on an exquisite cherry table. In the background one can hear a piano playing softly, Beethoven or perhaps jazz. The atmosphere makes a client feel as if he has been invited to someone’s home, not just a store, where shopping is a leisurely experience, not a chore. It brings to mind how the JP Morgan Banking Co. must have made its high net worth customers feel one hundred years ago when they had a private banker.

Twenty or thirty years ago, I discovered the Gentry Shop in a deteriorating Iowa river town, surrounded by empty store fronts, grimy restaurants and tattoo parlors. I was puzzled. How could a merchant attract customers to an area filled with such urban decay? How could he sell upscale brands like Ralph Lauren, Pendleton, Corbin, and Southampton to people who might question the safety of parking out in front? I was to find out very quickly.

Although housed in part of the first floor of what was once a large arcade, the facility was so dated that customers had to take a key and climb up a back stairway to use the restroom. Nevertheless, the men’s shop was filled with piles of attractive shirts and sweaters and racks of suits and sports jackets, all priced competitively. Apparently, despite the location, the shop seemed to be doing quite a business because six or eight clerks were assisting at least an equal number of customers, not just checking them out. Handsome young college students, the sales people, were well trained to point out new products, note favorite colors, or emphasize special sales. They seemed to know their customers and exactly what they were doing. As I came through the door, the short, sandy-haired owner, who looked as if he had just come off the golf course, extended his hand in welcome: “Hi, I’m Greg Kautz. How may I help you?”

I headed for the coats and suits as he grilled me about my interests – sizes, colors, fabrics, brands, and the like. He probably asked, “Do you play golf?” Within minutes as I began trying on articles of clothing, he was probing me for more information he needed if I were to become a loyal, ongoing customer: “Where do you live? What do you do? How often do you come to the Quad Cities?”

Meanwhile, I settled on a brown Ralph Lauren suit. He suggested a couple of paisley ties that would blend well with the herringbone. Watching my pennies, I chose just one. Since I had to have an alteration, Greg said that he would mail the garment free of charge to my home in Illinois. I paid Greg, and we parted with a handshake. I was pleased with the transaction – I found what I wanted at a reasonable price, and I was treated with the utmost attention. I just might come back again.

A few days later, I opened a package from the mail, the suit carefully hanging from a smart mahogany hanger emblazoned in gold: “The Gentry Shop.” Attached to the garment was the tie that I had picked out as well as a handwritten note: “Karl, thanks so much for your business. I included the second tie which I think you will enjoy, too. No extra charge. Come see us when you’re back in town. Greg.” I will go back.

Six months later, when the Gentry Shop had a sale on summer wear, I drove over to Davenport, even though it was over one hundred miles one-way from my home. Just as it was in January, the shop was packed with customers, but this time so many prevented me from talking with Greg. I left empty handed simply because I didn’t need anything. As I headed out the front door, Greg went out of his way to wave goodbye.

Later that evening, when I was watching the news at home in Illinois, the telephone rang. “Karl, this is Greg at the Gentry Shop. I saw you in the store today, but we were unable to talk. I noticed that you didn’t buy anything, but I hope you were helped by someone and you didn’t have any problems.” I was not annoyed by his call, but I was shocked to know that I had found a genuine salesman who was more interested in my satisfaction than my check. “No Greg, there was no problem. I just couldn’t find anything I needed.”

For several decades, I made my semi-annual trips from Illinois to Davenport, Iowa, not just to buy clothes but to see, not just a clothing salesmen, but to visit my friend, Greg. Even if months or years passed between the time when we met, Greg NEVER forgot my name. Over the years, things have changed, including the Gentry Shop. No longer located in an abandoned arcade where you needed to ask for a key to unlock the restroom, Greg built a beautiful new complex in a strip mall, where he sells both men’s and women’s wear to people who like nice clothes – button-down pin-point oxfords, camel hair sport coats, and herringbone suits that will be in fashion for years to come. And, you can well imagine Greg’s customers are still not just customers, but friends, whom he never forgets: “Hi, Karl, good to see you again. How’s everything in Peoria? Have you taken up golf yet?”

Karl K. Taylor

February 2016