Well, not exactly. But he did, in the 1950s, come up with the idea under which a majority of equity and debt trades today are effected in current financial markets. Not that the markets followed his proposal at the time. Far from it. But with this idea, my Dad did actually see around the corner. Let me explain.
Dad was essentially an inventor at heart. This is what engineers do, conceive of new things. As People’s Exhibit No. 1, consider the following work:
This is the cover of a treatise entitled “Motor Design.” It was his final project for his first year at Cooper Union. Dated May 18, 1938, it concerns engines for boats. Of course boats! What else would a waterman write about?
Sun. Sea Spray. Hull smashing through rows of swells. The ship’s deck heaving from and dropping into an endless parade of oncoming waves. Turn your face towards the sun and catch a million dancing reflections on the water glistening back at you.
If you’re on a sailboat, there is no engine noise, just the sound of wind blowing through your hair.
Both Olcott brothers were watermen, even though they were descendants of the landlocked Dzūkija region of Lithuania. I am a waterman too, raised on many afternoons of sailing on Shinnecock Bay, Long Island during my young summers in the 1960s with my Dad.
However, by the age of twelve, I had discovered a simple way to elevate the pleasure and excitement of wind, sea, and waves. Instead of being on a boat in the water, how about doing away with the boat? Watch sets of giant waves roll in while at sea level, exactly. Body surfing. Maximum exposure. If you could time and catch them right, you could slide down a crystal slope while the tube of water breaks above and behind you. The payoff is maybe eight seconds of pure exhilaration that seems to last perhaps up to half an hour. You’ll never forget the view of giant slopes of water marching towards you, with the last wave looming higher over the others. That last one, with the face of the sun sparkling back at you, will be the wave you want. And sometimes, it will take a fair amount of courage to try to pick off that last wave, the king of the set.
But this was me in the water, maybe 30-50 yards away from the shore. Both my Dad and his Brother crossed the oceans – what about seeing rogue waves 3,000 miles offshore? I shudder to think what they must have gone through.
The Bernard Olcott Story started off 2016 with a rewrite of my post “THE LOST WEEKEND” focusing on the Academy Award (and Cannes!) winning movie of the same name from 1946. That post promised the following stories to come:
• the biggest movie of 1946 (THE LOST WEEKEND),
• the 3rd Avenue El (including an art house film),
• old style New Yorkers interacting in flavorful accents,
• a valuable lesson at Cooper Union
• a mysterious death in 1943 with what little facts are available, and
• a color-filled present with a shared activity across time.
All have been delivered, except for the last topic. I did leave the 1940s to take you, the dear reader, on a color-filled ride 40 years later to Lithuania in 1985. I framed my trip in terms of a Boomerang where I realized that my journey, as an effort to strengthen family ties, may have inadvertently reminded my Dad of his disadvantaged youth. Both in terms of society – his immigrant household subject to prejudice – and family – where his brother was favored in the household.
But wait! There’s more to that technicolor present! Today’s post will wrap up both the Boomerang and 1940s themes with the following conclusion: my Dad escaped his unhappy situation 4 ways:
1. Becoming a sailor on the Merchant Marines and shipping off to Europe
2. Flying the coop to Cooper Union
3. Becoming a Technology Consultant
4. By engaging in a mystery activity (identified below), one that he and I both share.
Today the Bernard Olcott story returns to Vilnius, May 1985. From my post “BOOMERANG THROWN,” you learned that I was in Lithuania for 5 days that year, hunting down my family roots. The first day was remarkable.
My second day in Lithuania featured an old fashioned get-on-the-bus touristic outing with my Intourist group. The destination was the town and castle at Trakai, about 30 km to the west of Vilnius. Built in the 15th century as the home to the Lithuanian Grand Duke, it was considered as the unofficial capital of Lithuania, which, as part of the united Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, stretched from the Baltic to the Black Seas in its prime. Today the ancient castle is in good condition – for a structure that is 600+ years old – and is scenically located on an island in a pristine clear water lake.