This week, another repeat.  This is the second most popular post on my site (after “WHAT’S IN A BORDER“) and I have to say it’s really gratifying. 

Because this one is all about my Dad in his prime, at the top of his game.  When he could do no wrong.  It’s me in kvell-mode.  Well, all right, three failed marriages by this time already.  Nobody’s perfect, even critics.

But in a certain sense, he was really only married once.

I’ll have a new, fresh story from this time period shortly.  And I’ll be back to those wretched investments in the mid-1990s before too long.

This week we go into why my Dad is famous, at least in the patent profession. The next three posts are about his greatest number one hit in the charts. And it’s big!

As you know by now, dear reader, Dad was married five times to five different women. But in a certain way, Dad was really only married once. It was not to a lady wearing a dress and lipstick (though there were more than a few of those around) but to a business soon to be called “Olcott International & Co.” It was his life, and his masterpiece, just as the Mona Lisa was to Leonardo da Vinci. (He greatly admired Leonardo and thought of himself easily as da Vinci’s equal). He could share this one true wife with no one and he guarded her with a jealous Latin-blooded fury. (As I and others would haplessly come to learn.)

Dad started the 1960s as an engineer, having received his diploma from the storied Cooper Union and licensed to practice in New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. While married to my Mom (wife no. 2), Dad took the next step in his educational journey and enrolled at New York Law School, night division. In fact, night school became an old shtick for him as he was forever saying that whenever a cop pulled him over for running a stop sign, he would say, “I’m sorry Officer, I went to night school. I can’t read in the daytime.” (Drum roll). (Cymbal bash).

So after graduation and passing his bar exam, Dad became a patent attorney. His first office that I saw was in 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The lobby was breathless in 1962 – sleek and dark (and still is). I still remember the office with the name “Bernard Olcott, Esq.” painted on the frosted glass door. In 1964, he moved from there into the newly completed Pan Am Building (today called the Met Life Building). These were both supremely prestigious addresses to be sure and my Mom takes full credit. “I insisted on that Rockefeller Center address,” she would tell me later.

BO Rockefeller Plaza Office

Kinda looks like a wedding announcement, no?

My Mom left my Dad right around the date of his Law Office moving notice above.  Dad remarried again in 1963 but was done with that marriage by the end of 1965. But the  courtship of his real wife — his masterpiece, so to speak — “Foreign Patter Matters” was in full swing.

The Pan Am Building was a monument of high modernity to me as a small boy. Even more so that 30 Rock. It was completely space-age, with its sleek hexagonal footprint at the crossroads of Park Avenue, 42nd Street, and Grand Central Station. While waiting for the elevator on the upper floors, you could hear them roaring up and down as they went by at high speed. The elevator call button and floor buttons were the electric sensor type; you didn’t actually push anything, it simply flashed on when touched by sensing the heat from your finger. (Those buttons would soon to be discovered to be a fire hazard since elevators would be “called” to fire-blazing floors.) The rest room faucets operated by push-button and sent a gentle spray over your hands. And the view from my Dad’s office looking south past the Lincoln Building was sublime. I could look down at the Park Avenue viaduct and watch a cab enter the tunnel, and then exit a few moments later.

Pan_Am_top

True to the travel nature of the corporate owner, the roof was a heliport; Pan Am helicopters would land and take off from there as a first class amenity for passengers flying Pan Am from JFK. (My flights to and from Florida unfortunately were not eligible). In the lobby, there were restaurants like Charlie Brown’s, Zum Zum, and Chock Full ‘O Nuts and even an Aeroflot Soviet Airlines Ticket Office, displaying the hammer and sickle logo (which curiously, it still does).  I would stop to marvel at the large Ilyushin II-62M model aircraft displayed prominently in the window with it’s distinctive configuration of 4 jet engines in the rear, under the tail.  I would ask the Russian staff for timetables and thumb through them with fantasies of landing one day in Moscow and Leningrad.

il62su

Like Pan Am, Aeroflot also did not offer service to and from Orlando so it was likewise very much out of my reach. Suddenly National and Eastern Airlines didn’t seem so glamorous in comparison.

Taking the escalator down from the lobby, you entered the huge concourse of Grand Central Station, maybe the most elegant train station in the world. The hall was dominated by an oversized advertisement for Kodak film featuring a ginormous beautiful color photograph that would change every month. I looked for it with great anticipation on the first day of July, August, and maybe September.

I would come with my Dad to his office on the 33rd floor every weekday during summer vacations. I would “work” either under his desk or in a corner, reading my comic books or looking at Standard 8 home movies, which was the video format of the time. He had a large box of these tapes, most of them of him, my Mom, and of me as a baby at summer rentals in Southampton, Long Island. His non-electric viewer was completely manual — you would thread the film past a white square (providing illumination) onto an empty spool and then turn the little plastic crank with the right hand to watch the film through one eye. I remember going to the stores on 42nd Street with my Dad to buy various cartoons or short films of the Three Stooges in this format. One time, I found a strange tape featuring a topless woman doing something with a naked man. I showed this movie right away to my Dad. He took a look and then smiled. Later on, when I went to go look for that tape again in the box, I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I must’ve gone though that box half a dozen times, top to bottom.  I wonder if my Dad saw me scratching my head, wondering where that tape had gone to?

In any event, Dad’s work as a patent attorney soon came to bore him. His normal day as such would be to meet with inventors, eccentric people to be sure, and file patent applications on their behalf. This would involve drafting schematic diagrams, researching appropriate citations, and responding to Patent Office objections. As it turned out, Dad had a better idea to earn a living. A much bigger idea.

The next two stories in this series were “THE BIGGER IDEA (AND ME AS WINGBOY)” and “THE NEW BUSINESS OF PATENT ANNUITIES.”

Advertisements

26 comments

      1. Ooops does work on Explorer! Didn’t before — now I am ‘confloundering’…ha! My drowsy browsers aside, I love this story. Not only is it entertaining, it probes the mind of a disruptor — that divine discontent to do it best and first.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Please forgive me for saying, the majority of the time your responses are just too complex/intelligent for (me) the general population to understand. Lol Please translate in layman’s terms.

        Like

      3. Please send me phrases for translation and I will do my best!

        Oh, you mean Ned? Ned is left to do his own translations. “Kaperski” is some kind of Russian anti-virus software. Yes, it will kill the virus in your machine but probably installs something worse.

        I recommend Malwarebytes.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. No. I have too much eduction already and need to unload some, not gain more…

      Let me know if this was too complex so I can rephrase.

      One reader did comment on Facebook that my vocabulary amounted to “word porn.” It’s not easy to please such a discerning readership! 😃

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll admit over the past several years, that I have had to look up the definitions of many of your “word porn.” In fact, a few years back, my friend, Shannon (Roger Cole’s daughter) and I used them for our list of new vocabulary words of the day. Lol . At times, both you and your dear buddy, Ned are guilty of not speaking in easy to decipher (laymen’s) terms (or could you be speaking in tongues?) . In any event, you’d be a great candidate for a PhD program. It’s never too late. Wouldn’t you love to be called Dr. J.? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I wish I could find the vid. for either closing scene from the original ‘Star Trek’ series (“Who Mourns for Adonis?”) and a loosely corresponding episode of ‘ST-The Next Generation’ (“Where Silence Has Lease”) that explains this thought very well. Basically, people like your father, James, were to be neither content nor complacent but always uneasy and seeking more.

    It was the imperious urge that left him bored with a profession that would have easily satisfied most other people content with the trappings of a low-risk, low-amplitude success. Nevertheless, Bernard Olcott would not settle; he wanted something more, something by which to be remembered. That is why your father, as you so aptly write, shuffled the deck: he wanted to throw himself into forced innovation (at least until he moved to New Jersey).

    You have paid a heavy price over the years, to be sure, but being your father’s son has conferred upon you a unique perspective with which to see into the very heart of American entrepreneurial culture. The rest of us have rare access to such an insider’s view, much less do we enjoy it with a distinctive humor and experienced felicity that matures into a steady grace.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course, I forgot the ‘divine’ part. The title of the episode in the Star Trek original series is “Who Mourns for Adonais” (not Adonis; 1967). That is significant. CPT Kirk’s key line — “we were made to be discontent” (if not in word, in effect) — implies that divine discontent led to the Fall; it is (wo)man’s imaging the Hebrew God of creation, or Adonai. Very few succeed as Bernard Olcott did, obviously. But those of us with that spark, who do not succeed, never quit trying. On “shuffle the deck”, I could have sworn you said that, James, perhaps in a side note. I did not think it up because when I read that term, I remember having an ‘aha’ moment.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s