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The Crazy Life Of A Kid From Brooklyn: The Crazy Life of Bill
(Revision Book 2) by Bill Morgenstein
This biography, hysterically at times is about Bill’s life well lived life, from my prankster days growing up in Brooklyn with my best friend Louie, who always got me into trouble to the present where sadly I lost his oldest, beloved son to Cancer.
Some of my high school exploits would not go over well in today’s world. At the University of Alabama, where I was bounced from one fraternity, only to join the AEpi fraternity (at the insistence of his soon to become wife of 60+ years). After being graduated with a BS in Finance Bill spends an interesting year working for his wife’s wholesale shoe company. I meet some fascinating people, such as the famous WWI hero Sgt. York, along with extremely interesting “hillbilly’s” in the Hill country of Tennessee.
Being drafted in the army comes next. Basic training in Ft. Jackson, the Chemical Corp, close to home, with it’s gas masks and atropine surrettes, and then being levied out to Korea. Aboard ship I met Jimmy who has become my closest friend. Jimmy gets me my own room, office and painting studio with an assignment to paint a mural for the Captain of the ship. The book will show how a non-painter survives the assignment.
The war had ended in Korea, so there was little fighting. I was given a cushion assignment, working for the general’s in 8th Army HQ, after hours, teaching English to Korean students, executives and military. Just before returning to the states and after my excellent contacts had already left a jealous Major manages to bust me in rank.
Upon my return we move back North and I get an executive training job with Thom McAn shoe company, where I advance up the ladder and being trained by incredibly talented and ethical management. Among the interesting stories you will read how a promotion and a move from Chicago to New Jersey costs me a tidy sum in because of a lowered salary. After almost 9 years I move on to Kitty Kelly shoe company where I eventually become president. After 2 1/2 years I am fired because the son that had caused a prior bankruptcy is brought back by the chairman of the board. Ben, the owner although a genius in some respects was crude, bigoted and when drinking heavily (often) was mean as hell. When you read of his antics you will split your sides laughing. I was fired despite the fact that I had the best years either before or after I left. As the saying goes “blood is thicker than water”.
My next job was executive vice president with a footwear import company. I traveled extensively overseas, working long hours and being involved in styling, production and sales. At one point I decided to go out on my own. I discussed it with Eric, the owner and he suggested that I work part time for the company and part time for myself. When I discussed the offer with Sylvia (my wife), she said that she supports any decision that I would make but that I couldn’t do both well. I opted to go out on my own and I formed Marquesa International Corporation. I started small in Italy in order to stay away from Eric’s sources in other countries. Eventually I would expand to Spain, England, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Taiwan, Yugoslavia, and even exporting from the United States. The stories about the events in these countries are fascinating. Marquesa eventually reaches its peak as a $55 million import-export company. At that point I am scammed by a large Columbus, Ohio company and end up with a huge International lawsuit which drains the company and ruins it.
My retirement lasts two weeks, after which I take a sales job with a division of Montgomery-Ward, a company that I previously had as a customer. Eventually they are sold and I join a new company (after a 10-day retirement) that does alternative financing. After which I am approached to help form a similar type company as executive vice president, where I remain until the recession of 2009.
I am currently doing sales and loan consulting for corporations. Read the book. You will laugh. learn and learn.
Book Excerpt: Sales Tutor
Moe was a friend at school and one day he approached me and asked if we could find a way to make some money. We had been going to the hospital every month and selling a pint of our blood for $20. A glass of orange juice, a little rest and you were fine. Moe was a nice simple guy. He was honest and the type of person that you liked immediately. He knew nothing about selling but he was in my opinion a quick learner. That same week I was sitting on a bench at in an area of the campus that was called the “Quadrangle”. This was the center of the campus where you could congregate or simply walk to class.
Picture this thin, pockmarked guy who comes up to me and explains that he had invented a revolutionary Sterling silver cleaner. I called him “Slim” and since he had a carton of bottles with him, which he called “NO DIP” and since it had a pretty good odor, I took a dozen bottles, along with his phone number in case I sold all of them. When I showed the No Dip to Moe, he seemed a little bewildered so I told Moe to just watch me and you will learn some selling techniques (which actually I was yet to learn).
Now, in those days you went from door to door and people were generally friendly, especially in the South. We pick a decent looking, tree lined street and the first house that we hit a nice-looking housewife answered the door. We’re in luck! I start my spiel: “Miss Johnson we have a revolutionary product that cleans your silverware. May we demonstrate it?
It will clean all of your sterling and there will be no charge and no obligation on your part”. Mrs. Johnson proceeds to take us to her silverware cabinet, which was a fancy felt lined box. There lies the blackened tarnished silver. I proceed to open a jar of No Dip and both Moe and I are rubbing, rubbing, rubbing. Nothing is happening. The silver is the same as when we started. Moe gives me that scared to death look. I laugh and I ask Miss Johnson who is watching us with a curious, quizzical look on her face; “Ms Johnson do you have any NoxOn in the house? Now, NoxOn was a known silver polish cleaner which was sold in the grocery stores. She goes looking under the sink in a cabinet and low and behold she finds a jar of NoxOn. We then proceed to polish all of her silverware and did a fairly nice job of it. Our lovely housewife obviously felt sorry for us and she bought 2 jars of our revolutionary silver cleaner. “You see Moe I told you that selling was easy”. Moe went back to his studies but I knew that a career change was necessary so I answered a help wanted ad for a chain link fence salesman. (Ads were not gender neutral then).
The company was the Alabama Fence Company and Bob Shockley was the owner. Bob hired me and explained that in his thick Alabama, real country boy (which he certainly was) accent that he was going to teach me the chain link fence business. That included the measurement, installation, digging fence post holes, anchor and cement the ends and how to stretch the chain link over the posts. Most importantly how to sell chain link fences, which would be the most interesting part. Bob was short, stocky, solidly built with a perpetual smile on his face. He wore a checkered shirt and always had a large Western cowboy hat on. Ready to go. We got into Bob’s old Chevy and off we went. I was to just watch bob and learn and only ask questions after the sale was made. (He was quite confident). After all, I was sitting next to the best fence salesman in the entire world. (and so, he was). He caught me grinning, so in order to prove his point he said that while he was driving, I should point to any house and then he would proceed to sell the occupants a fence.
Since there was FHA financing available at the time, even for home improvements such as fencing and since FICO wasn’t even invented then it took little if any cash to make the purchase. Now, you know that I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass and when I see a dilapidated house, I told Bob to stop so could get my laugh of the day in. “Bob, let’s see if you can make this sale” I said in a half fit of laughter”.
We screech to a halt and I was thrown forward since seat belts had not yet been invented yet. I got out and walked to the front door, which had large holes in it. You could see clear out to the back yard. We knocked on the door and I commented that if we were to sell the fence it would be worth more than the whole house, excluding the land. This doesn’t bother Mr. Shockley, but then nothing really does. The woman in an old-fashioned print housecoat opens the door. With a dramatic flourish Mr. S. steps back. We are invited into the dusty, dingy house and Mr. S. makes another dramatic gesture. He grabs his large hat from the top with his oversized hand and drops it in the center of the living room on the soiled floor. I’m thinking to myself is this guy nuts? What have I gotten myself into?
We are seated in 2 large rocking chairs and he proceeds to explain to this woman why we are here. He saw her two lovely children playing in the back…… (a prolonged silence) and that made him extremely sad. If you looked closely there was a tear in Mr. S’s eye. The poor woman is a little bewildered and she offers us a glass of water and of course she wants to know what made Bob so sad. He responds: “Well ma’am I happen to be in the fence business and just last week I went to a home just like yours on highway 78 and that poor family felt that they couldn’t afford a fence. Don’t know if you read last week’s Birmingham News about the two young kids that were killed on highway 78?”
The poor woman didn’t know where to sign first for a fence all around the house and yes, the fence was worth almost as much as the appraised value of the house. I was stunned but I still need to know why he acted the way he did? Bob explained as follows: When you knock on a door and a woman answers you must know that a woman is very protective of her house and family. Most sales people push forward and the woman will resist, however a woman being naturally curious, when I stepped backwards to move forward, she wanted to see what I was carrying. What about the hat on the floor?
Dropping the hat which sits on your head shows that you respect the woman’s housekeeping and that gives her the confidence to trust you. Bob taught me many things about selling and human nature and I did well with him. That is until one day I got a lead in Mt. Brook which is a ritzy suburb “over the mountain” as it’s called with some of the finest and prettiest residential areas in the country. Mrs. J— wanted a chain link fence. Her house was really gorgeous but you had to walk up a hill with a lot of steps. I make it up the steps, knock on the door and then I am absolutely stunned. I laugh every time I think of this.
A tall, funny (only way to describe her face) and I mean funny looking older woman with a long, meaty, pocked marked nose and face opens the door. I stand there dumbstruck afraid that I will go into paroxysms of laughter. So, before I completely crack up, I waved at her, go back down the stairs and wait for me to compose myself. I can’t. Every time I start to climb up the stairs I start laughing until there are tears in my eyes. Once I got near the door again, I was afraid that Mrs. J— would come out. On the fifth try I gave up, went back to the office and quit the job. That ended my chain link fence selling career. We were going to drive to Brooklyn anyway as summer was about to arrive. Our first car was a ’48 Dodge. This was the first car with fluid drive but I didn’t find out how to use it until about 2 weeks before I sold it, when I finally realized that it was possible to take your foot off the clutch without the car stalling.
We were taking along a couple of fraternity brothers to possibly share in the driving and who we were to drop off in Newark NJ. This was before the Eisenhower East-West, North-South highway express system was built. There were a few 4 lane highways but no freeways or superhighways as yet until Ike started it in 1956. There were mostly two-lane roads so if you drove without stopping it was about a 26-hour trip. Also, there was no air conditioning so every time we stopped for gas, we’d wet our towels and while driving I would hang my left arm out of the car with the towel over it. That lasted about an hour, after which the towel was dry and you would be seating again. The dust was awful, especially if you were on a dirt road. We were young so we had a good time and we laughed at silly things.
At one point we came to an area where they were repairing the road. We were sitting and sitting and we notice that there isn’t too much traffic going the other way. Every once in a while, a car would come and this guy would wave he oncoming car through. Blowing the horn doesn’t help so my friend Sandy gets out and strolls over to this guy and says: “Shay shonny you guys ain’t too shmart how about letting the young’uns through”. They look around shrug and let us through. Gas was probably 20 cents a gallon and they washed your windshield front and back and checked your oil. Bottle of coke (no cans) and a burger were about $1.00.
Summer driving was hot and winter driving was foggy and treacherous. When you finally got to your destination you were completely exhausted but you were sure glad to get there. My parents were happy to see us arrive completely safe. After resting a bit, we would go out and celebrate with at a good Chinese restaurant.
Book Review by Sam Freene -First Edition
“Each step of the way Bill Morgenstein created his own path to success one shoe company at a time. Determined, tenacious, persistent and determined to build a business author Bill Morgenstein injects his own brand of humor, sarcasm and practical jokes that will keep readers guessing as to just what he has in store for everyone and what surprises will pop up. From meeting Louis and getting in trouble in school, daredevils, fun locking, his time in the ROTC as a cadet, joining the military and working his way up not only in grade or rank but with the top brass this man never let anything get him down. Jobs that span many continents, many fields and a home that he made with a young girl named Sylvia, Bill set his sights high, his aspirations many and his energy unlimited as we embark on a journey, a life’s journey with This Crazy Life of a Kid from Brooklyn.
Shoes seem to be what makes him come alive and working in one store that my mom loved and told me about Thom McAn. Giving readers the history of the store, the company and its owner, we learn the many reasons why Bill had to learn diplomacy, patience, and creativity and definitely use his ingenuity when dealing with the head of this company who hated being wrong and had to always be in charge. From a manager named Bob who disliked perfection in anyone else and who would get upset if there was nothing to correct of blame on someone else and you smile, laugh or wonder what will happen next.
Beginning with his family and meeting his best friend Louie, you fall in love with both Bill and his young kid as they get in trouble in school, blamed it on his friend and became close friends throughout it all. Entering Stuyvesant H.S. and doing acting out Bill enters the University of Alabama and things take another turn and change. Practical jokes were always on his agenda and sometimes when played at his expense well you sometimes get what you deserve. But Bill never gives up and playing a joke on his ROTC staff and not getting caught was pure joy and luck. Joining a fraternity, he meets Sylvia and you would think he would settle down and change. Bill worked for many companies in different managerial and upper level positions. He started selling shoes in Tennessee meeting many great people and then off to the army as a private where he assimilated into the thick of things with no problem. Officers treating him like royalty and allowed to travel first class things changed when he was sent to Korea, lived on a ship and enlightens readers about his further escapades, close calls, demotions and eventually returning to Brooklyn where it all begins for him as a management trainee for Thom McAn shoes. Extensive travel all over the world, job offers from Kitty Kelly as an Executive V.P. and hopefully becoming the president of a company before age 35 this man set his sights high and when you read the memoir, listen to meetings, learn about the deals he made and the people he worked with you know that he will succeed no matter what. Working for BK or Mr. Kellner was not easy and the lessons he learns he would take with him when starting his own business.
Interviews with Melville Shoe Company, which dealt with T.J. Max, Bobs, Vanguard and even CVS Bill, managed to enter many training programs and hoped that his trips to Maine, Boston and other places would pay off.
Describing Mr. Melville and the district manager Frank, Bill was told he was ready to become a store manager. He would then have full responsibility for the personnel, sales results, all of the store’s inventory and the cash. This store was in the Inwood section of the Bronx. Then he was transferred to my old neck of the woods Fordham Road where things turned kind of mysteries and the FBI came in and bank drops were in question and our author brilliantly handles it all. Just how: Like a good mystery you have to find out for yourself. More moves, different stores, meeting with Richard McCarthey, making sure you are formal with him and off to a new store on 48th street and Broadway. Meldisco where he meets Bob a man who wanted to prove that he was the smartest person in the room and as I said before needed the feel of being able to correct everyone and find something wrong. Realizing that he would have to at least play along with this and allow him to find and correct something, Bill learn the ropes fast and was promoted. Always leaving something for him to correct. Wait until you see what happens when everything is perfect. Wait until you find out what happens when Bill makes the mistake of leaving nothing for him to change or critique. Kitty Kelly was next and things seemed to be going well until Mr.Kellner decided to bring his son Warren into the firm and what happens will surprise readers and change things for Bill. When you read Ben Kellner’s stories you will learn more about the man, how he runs his company and Bill’s trips to Florence and Rome and how he was wearing thin traveling with the boss. Learn more when you read Kitty Kelly Travels and when the boss’s son returns. All this leads up to Bill and his dream to start Marquesa International and Marquesa Import Company after learning the import/export business. This business was his baby and it did very well for a long time until deceptions, lies, betrayals, deceits and one huge scam brings him down.
Brazil, Uruguay, Yugoslavia and other countries dealing with managers, Presidents, directors and even Chile, but Bill never saw it coming and was blindsided. Wait until you read how and why he decides to retire. But, just briefly.
Retirement is definitely out of the question and he became involved with Dining A La Card but first just a little more about the scandal that changed it all as large sums of money were being sent to his company from Russia. Learning that they wanted to buy and shipping boots from Macedonia to various stores and wholesalers in Russia and the rest read pages 276-279 to learn more. You just won’t believe the rest!
From Dining A La Card he then got a job at Advanceme where he managed to become a Senior V.P. of Sterling. Remaining with this company required learning about a second one called Transmedia and a final decision was made. Deciding to form his own brokerage firm in 2008 the author goes into detail to explain why he decided to do this, who was involved, the author relates the pitfalls, why things seemed to stall, panic calls and the rest you need to read for yourself so that you can learn the same lessons he did and what the end result was. A dream trip to Israel and he brings readers to the present and up to date. For over 60 years he has been married to Sylvia, traveling the world, dealt with the army, many different corporations and finally writing this book.
In an article I read in the author’s own words: “
What I hope comes out of reading this book, besides the humor is not only the love of life but also the extreme dislike for injustice and tyranny. I realize that some laws and rules are
necessary but I am firmly convinced that we have far too many regulations”. From the start with his friend Louie who always got him in trouble, to Gary Metzel and his wife Jackie, and many close friends still here and long gone the author relates his love of shoes, footwear, people, challenges and adventure and playing by his own rules. Where is he now and what has he been up to? Read the book and find out what one Crazy Life of a Kid From Brooklyn was really like growing up and still is right now. Just like our author his wife tells it like it is, honest to a fault and let’s hope for another 60 years. One self-made man whom never stops reinventing himself and striving to be the best. Stories that will double you over in laughter, make you angry or just plain not believe what you read, Bill Morgenstein tells it all in the first-person narrative, straight from the hip and definitely from the soles of some very expensive shoes.
Let’s give this book: FIVE GOLDEN FLATS OR PUMPS OR BOOTS.”
Book Review by William Phenn -First Edition
“The Crazy Life of a Kid from Brooklyn was an exciting autobiography to read, from his days as an ROTC cadet, to his climb through the military ranks, his energetic and skillful civilian life, jobs, career choices, home life, and family.
The extensive travels of the author and his many life experiences are told in an energetic and very descriptive uniformity. The author tells of traveling through many foreign countries, visiting famous places and people, and enjoying gourmet dining; Bill truly lived life to the fullest. The humorous aspects of the book are a nice break and well placed within the autobiography.
Morgenstein knows just where to inject humor into his book. In one example, he describes working at a newly opened Thom McAn shoe store. He makes a bet with his boss and, in order to win it, tells his salesmen to just sell people any shoes that day, to just make sales, and move on because the store was flooded with customers. He knew that store policy was to exchange the item even without a receipt. He wins the bet.
The Crazy Life of a Kid from Brooklyn is well written, and I would consider it mostly a general audience book with some adult language, preferably for late teens and older. Bill takes the reader into his life. He brings the reader up close and personal into the life of a good Jewish boy who had been through boot camp, the Korean War, experiences after the war, and his family life.
He covers all aspects of his unusual life and keeps the reader glued to the pages from beginning to end. On one hand there is victory and on the other he tells of his defeat, but for the most part, he is a kid from Brooklyn who made it and is an inspiration to all young people. Mr. Morgenstein is a self-made man: he didn’t step into wealth; he didn’t have it handed to him and he surely was not born into it. The book is a literary masterpiece, and I gave it a very fine A on my tight scale.”
Genre: Business Professional’s Biographies, Memoirs, Textbooks
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About Bill Morgenstein: Hilarious rendition, that teaches and inspires. This book includes:
- Brooklyn – 30’s, 40’s 50’s
- Public School antics and the Golden Gloves
- Stuyvesant H.S. (NY) – 40’s
- Sodium bombs and other adventures
- U of Alabama – early 50’s
- Big Joke on Air Force ROTC, meeting/marrying my current wife., a job selling in Appalachia
- Army: Ft. Jackson (Basic), Ft. McClellan (Chem Corp), Korea
- More jokes (backfiring), fighting and teaching English to Korean students.
- President of a Shoe Chain before I was 35 yrs. old.
- Working my way up from the bottom to president and forming my own successful company.
- Building a large business and then trying to retire (twice).
- Encounters/ Sgt York, Cordell Hull, Jomo Kenyatta, Nando Parrado, Regine, Vince Camuto, Peter Drucker, Mohammed Ali, The Girl From Ipenema, Ken Cole, Billy Graham, Jomo Kenyatta, Pele, Nando Parrado, Hoagy Carmichael, Ken Cole, Juan Peron, Jim Nabors, King Mohammed V, David Rockefeller, Gary Marshall, Sandy Koufax & many others.
The book starts with my family & my best friend Louie, who constantly got me in trouble both in and out of school. In spite of this we remained the closest of friends throughout his relatively short life. I then go into exploits at Stuyvesant H.S. in N.Y., doing things that would not be tolerated in this day and age. From there on to the University of Alabama, which among other things was known for its practical jokes. One of the funnier ones (I didn’t think so) was played at my expense. Later, I was to get a little revenge by playing a famous joke on the ROTC and Air Force staff. After being thrown out of one fraternity and then joining another fraternity, (AE pi) which is where I met my wife of many years; we then go through the trials & tribulations of opening a small business while still in school. Upon graduation I go to work selling shoes in the Hillbilly Country of TN. It was there that I met some of the finest people, learning some great life lessons, and savoring those memories to this day.
After 5 years of ROTC I was drafted into the army as a buck private. After basic training I was stationed in Ft. McClellan, AL. That doesn’t last long however as I am suddenly sent to Korea (I thought that the orders were fake because I had played a joke the month before). I write about the unusual experiences aboard ship and some of the funny and not so funny non-combat experiences in Korea. Those included an army acting career, teaching some wonderful young Koreans, some close calls, & then how I lost a couple of stripes.
After being discharged from the army we returned to Brooklyn where I was offered a job as a Management Trainee for Thom McAn shoes. I managed to rise up the ranks in various divisions and locations when I am offered a position as Executive V. P. of Kitty Kelly Shoe Co, with the idea of becoming President within six months. I wanted to fullill my dream of becoming a president of a company before I was 35 years of age. After 2 1/2 very profitable years I had to leave due to internal family problems. After a couple higher position assignments, learning the import-export business, and traveling to over 48 countries I started Marquesa International and Marquesa Import company. This became a very successful operation until a vicious scam, that was perpetrated on us made me decide to retire.
I quickly realized (after 2 weeks) that retirement was not for me and so I went into a new field; banking. My first assignment was selling direct to businesses for Advanceme until I worked my way up to Senior V. P. of Sterling. When the market crashed in 2008, I formed my own commercial loan brokerage…
I’ve been married over 60 years with 2 fine children and grandchildren
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