My Grandpa has been writing of his early years in the job market and his attempts to get ahead. Bidding against Mrs. Vanderbilt at an auction to gain a set of Sheraton chairs culminated in being fired from his job in the office of Archer Huntington, nephew of Collis Huntington, millionaire. That episode reminded him of another story.
This leads me to another episode which happened a few years later during my senior year at N.Y.U., and which, if followed through, might have made a considerable difference in my life – one of those “opportunity knocks once” things.
My college instructor in accounting, Mr. Wildman, I personally loved very much. One evening he asked me to stay after class and then told me a friend of his, Private Secretary to John D Rockefeller Jr., had asked him to recommend someone for the job of Private Secretary to John D. Sr., and he, Wildman, had thought of me and asked if I might be interested. Here was a glamorous opportunity worth looking into, so I told him I’d like to learn more about it. J.D. Jr.’s secretary was a quite pleasant middle-aged gentleman who invited me to lunch and in a private room. He told me he had been given the responsibility of selecting a man for the job and anyone Mr. Wildman recommended was O.K. with him; that there seemed no reason why I could not be the one if I wanted the job. He felt it only fair to me, however, to outline both the good and the bad features before I gave him a final decision. He pointed out that the old man had retired from active business and consequently I would not have the opportunity that under other circumstances would bring me into contact with prominent business personages. If, he said, Mr. Rockefeller took a personal liking to you, you need never worry about your future for the rest of your life. On the other hand, no matter how satisfactory your work might be, if you did not click with him personally you might as well seek another job. The old man spent four months a year in Cleveland, four in Lakewood, New Jersey, and four in New York City. You would be at his beck and call night and day in each of these places. There would be little opportunity for visits home and of course, while he had his personal servants, as far as your liberty, you would practically be a high-class valet. I could name any salary I chose within reason. The amount was of little concern. I need not decide at once. It was best to think it over, seek advice from others and let him know within a reasonable time what my decision was. The job was mine if I wanted it. What a chance in a lifetime! I was elated, but two disturbing thoughts gave me pause. I had recently had an unfortunate experience with a millionaire and was a bit wary of the breed. Furthermore, I had just fallen in love with “the most wonderful girl in the world”, and the prospect of not seeing her except at long intervals was an almost unthinkable barrier. The “high-class valet” prospect and surrendering my chance of wooing my lady love combined to make me decide “no”. I told him while I deeply appreciated the honor of even being considered for the job, I felt I would not be content in such a position. Mr. R. Sr. lived for many years more and I have often wondered what course my life would have taken if I had said “Yes”. On the whole, I have no regrets.
A short time later I joined the Century Publishing Company, on the advertising staff of St. Nicholas Magazine. Up to this time I had thought that someday when the right girl came along I should probably get married but the during these years I had never really fallen in love, perhaps because my standards of what an ideal wife should be were pretty high and I had not met anyone yet to seriously challenge that standard, although the young Peabody girl was frequently in my thoughts.
Next week we’ll read the story of a Nativity play at church and how it changed my grandfather’s life – and subsequently, mine.
Tomorrow, I’ll have the next installment of Ced’s Coming of Age Adventure and his visit to the Chicago World’s Fair.
On Monday, I’ll start posting letters written in the spring of 1941. Dick is looking forward to a trip to deliver a car to his brothers, Dan and Ced, in Alaska and Lad is looking forward to his return home after two and a half years living in Venezuela.
If you find any of these stories interesting, why not share this link with a friend or two who might also enjoy the stories of a family during the 1940’s?
Oops…forgot the link. http://www.thecasements.net/house.html
Of course your father did the right thing!
But, just for fun in following up on his wonderment. Rockefeller ended up buying a home in Florida, just around the corner from where I live in 1918 and it would be his winter home until his death. This link shows pictures of some of the people he had over for dinner, including one very well known man and another shows Rockefeller with his butler…could be valet…that could have been your dad. But, as you say, if it were…then I would not be writing to you now.
What an amazing job offer!
Gallivanta – But if he’d taken it, I wouldn’t exist and you wouldn’t know about it. All in all, I’m glad he decided against it.