“With your project and two more just like it, I’ll be an expert.”
I designed the bank operations center for New Jersey National Bank, in Ewing Township which included lunch at Princeton University. I sensed that with two more bank ‘paper factories’ just like NJNB I’d be an expert in data center design. That was in the Autumn of 1978 and by 1981 I had personally interviewed hundreds of computer jocks and their fellow paper-pushers – euphemistically referred to as ‘end-users’ in the architectural design trade.
My job was to size up the bank to determine how big the future facility should be and layout the workflow arrangement of the various departments. As an EDP (Electronic Data Processing) expert I got to fly first class all over the country and even Singapore translating bank assets into square footage. I’d take out my Case Western Reserve University TI statistics calculator to construct a linear progression analysis of constant dollar growth to physical bank data processing requirements.
NCNB in Charlotte is a good example of my expertise chicanery. Back then they had gone from 3 billion to 5 billion by gobbling out of state banks. Today, they have grown through acquisition to become known as Bank of America with $2.3 trillion in assets. Back in 1980 the original BOA had two 400,000 sqft operations centers one in LA and one in SF. As an expert, I got to help evaluate how much our proposed 750,000 sqft center for Security Pacific Bank – now part of the BOA that began as NCNB and why it’s HQ ended up in Charlotte, NC. – by taking my rule-of-thumb TI pocket calculator and multiplying $300/sq ft X computer area + $100/sq ft x office area = an easy $100 million.
On a snowy day in the winter of ’81 I found myself interviewing the computer jock mafia of Denver’s Central Bank & Trust Co. a subsidiary of Baldwin United. The Baldwin, in Baldwin United was my father’s employer for 25 years, the Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The jocks’ machine room was in the rotunda shaped lobby of the bank – I searched my TI pocket for calculating the area of a circle, was it A=πr2? So, I pivoted and asked them about the bank’s asset growth. “Well, we’ve gone from $838 million in 1973 to almost $9 billion today.”
“Holy Toledo Batman, what we have here is a whale in a bathtub” – that makes Baldwin Piano the bank, bigger than my last assignment with NCNB. Howzcum, I never heard of this outfit before?
Gosport, Indiana in its prime
When I called Marion, aka my father, in Altamonte Springs, FL. to tell him the news he sounded worried. The bulk of his savings were in Baldwin United stock now trading at $50/ share and he was worried that CEO Morley Thompson’s financial engineering might come a cropper – could I check it out?
Marion Benson Gregory was born on September 13, 1913 and I was born on his 30th birthday in 1943. Marion is my small town (Gosport population 700) elite because his father owned the poultry house and built the biggest home in Gosport in 1915 on 2+ acres. When he wasn’t candling eggs for his father he was hanging out at Herschel Walker’s radio repair shop. His electronics avocation led him to P. R. Mallory in Indianapolis to ride out FDR’s depression and a deferment from active duty in WWII.
My sister Sue came along in 1946 to make the Gregory’s an upwardly mobile middle class family of an electrical engineer father and stay-at-home mother. We moved from the Circle-City suburbs to a countryside home in the 70 peeps Quaker community of Valley Mills that made for a 30 mile commute to P. R. Mallory. Marion brought Everett and Eva aka Marion’s parents to live downstairs off the living room.
Marion became the wizard of Thompson Road when he brought home this monster metal box with a 7 inch TV screen and the whole neighborhood watched the 1948 Indianapolis 500. Child wise there was Nancy, Bud, Sis, Sue and me playing cowboys and Indians as seen on 7 inch TV. Easter egg hunt and Halloween at the Society of Friends and sled riding down the only slope in the road. The quilting bee ladies added that Norman Rockwell ambiance to my childhood until June 1950 when Marion announced that we were all moving to the big city, Cincinnati.
HOOSIER ECONOMIC MIGRANT CHILDREN IN CINCINNATI
I don’t know how Marion got the job with the Baldwin Piano & Organ Company. This was in 1950 way before Linkedin and Craig’s List. Marion’s WWII work experience involved developing electronics for the military which meshed well with Baldwin’s 1946, introduction of its first electronic organ (developed in 1941), which became so successful that the company changed its name to the Baldwin Piano & Organ Company.
All sister Sue and I knew was that instead of seven kids in the whole village of Valley Mills, Indiana, we had over seventy kids in our one block of Mooney Avenue in the Cincinnati suburb Hyde Park. The house was bigger because it had a huge attic and equally sized basement. We toted our metal Roy Rogers lunchboxes containing one Esther prepared P&J and one boiled ham with sandwich spread, plus an apple to elementary school. Every weekday morning Marion fired up his ’49 Mercury sedan and drove off to work.
Between Eisenhower and JFK, Baldwin went on strike and Marion started spending a lot of time traveling to Arkansas to set up cheap Open Shop factories in the Right to Work sunbelt. In 1959, Baldwin constructed a new piano manufacturing plant in Conway, Arkansas, originally to manufacture upright pianos. In 1961 Baldwin constructed a new piano factory in Greenwood Mississippi. Subsequently production of upright pianos was moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to Greenwood.
Marion took me on a tour of his new office – no more engineering department lab bench but an elevator ride to a real office with a view. Sister Sue, Esther and I went along in our past expiration date Oldsmobile for Marion’s two week, not an option, vacation trips from Ludington, Michigan to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was in Strength of Materials class, fumbling with my slide rule, when someone ran in and said, “Kennedy has been shot.” That weekend I got to see Ruby shoot Oswald live on our big 24 inch, still B&W TV.
Marion announced over green beans, mashed potatoes and meatloaf that he was going to Tokyo. A month or two after his return with a six pack of Japanese woodcut prints, Yamaha-San aka Mr. Stinky Feet – no matter how we tried to convince him to leave his shoes on – showed up as our house guest. Yamaha was on the leading edge in the use of transistors instead of vacuum tubes in their electronic organs. Marion had the unenviable task of addressing church groups on why they should pay more for an old technology Baldwin versus the Yamaha.
1946-1964 in Fourth Turning parlance is the kick-off generation of an 80 year, four generation boom to bust saga that proceeds through the 20 year stages of A High, An Awakening, An Unraveling and A Crisis. Marion, my ‘G.I. Generation’ father, with only two years of Fenn Business College, got himself out of Gosport, through Indianapolis during the War years, and well on his way to actualizing the American Dream. Sister Sue graduated from WHHS in ’64 and entered U of Miami allowing Marion to say that his kids had it better than he did. I found my sense of belonging living in the Sigma Chi fraternity house, where I no longer had to go to Sunday school or even church. I was free to smoke, drink and drive “here, there or anywhere.”
My future in the 1964-1984 2nd Turning: An Awakening was looking good.
MORLEY, CARL & CHARLIE THE BAD BOYS OF CINCINNATI
At Sunday school in the basement of the First Church of Christ Scientist, Norwood, we would discuss the Hegelian side of DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. The teacher would tap the table with the meta-physical theme that the table was not real, only the idea of the table was real. Jesus was the physical manifestation of the spiritual, Christ like idea.
As soon as class was over Marion would pick us up and drive over to Carl Lindner’s United Dairy Farmers’ store for eggs, bread, milk, at least two half-gallons of ice cream and smearcase.
According to Ms. Costello, smearcase is a Pennsylvania Dutch term for cottage cheese. It’s from the word Schmierkase meaning soft cheese that can be smeared or spread.
Sister Sue and I always thought Marion was nuts with the smearcase request cause anybody could see it was cottage cheese. However, we were enjoying the Karl Marx or in the case of UDF, Carl Lindner’s material side of DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. The ice cream tasted very real and Karl M. or Carl L. or whoever came up with the idea should be complimented.
Morley P. Thompson, appointed president of the company in 1970. Having graduated from the Harvard Business School in 1950, Thompson had started out as a door-to-door piano salesman. His skill at shuffling money among subsidiaries to limit corporate taxes and generate acquisition funds won him a reputation as a financial “wizard.”
Thompson would not be satisfied with a mere sideline in finance; he wanted to fashion a major conglomerate out of the nation’s largest keyboard company. Under his guidance, Baldwin acquired literally dozens of financial services firms in the 1970s and early 1980s. At its peak, the company controlled over 200 insurance companies, banks, savings and loan institutions, and investment firms.
The D. H. Baldwin Company, a musical‐instrument manufacturer that diversified into banking in 1968, has disclosed that it received approval from the Federal Reserve Board to acquire five banks in Colorado with total assets of $130‐million.
With the acquisitions, Baldwin, which owns the $396.6‐million Central Bank and Trust Company and the $305‐million Empire Savings Building and Loan Association, both of Denver, would have financial institutions in Colorado with some $830‐million in assets.
Morley had pulled the piano strings better than Liberace by tuning-up that $830 million into $9 billion, by the time I arrived on the scene with my sketch pad in 1981.
Two years later, the Baldwin Data Center in Lakewood, CO. was up and running – we had already toured several prospective clients through the facility. Fred Gould, the facility manager, graciously took our banking prospects around, even sharing the scandal of the security guards making CCTV video tapes of the female employees on the jogging track. Fred, in private, shared the bigger scoop, he was looking for another job because Baldwin United was headed to bankruptcy. Things were not going well in Altamonte Springs either, Marion’s $50 shares were now worth 50 cents a share.
Architecture is a leading economic indicator – when architects and engineers have work – the overall economy is going well. My employer, The Austin Company, in 1983-84 was doing gang busters in bank computer centers and newspaper printing plants. However, my expertise in bank facilities was not enough to save Marion from losing his 25 years of life savings in Baldwin Piano & Organ profit sharing stock.
The night before I was supposed to kick-off a study of a real bank, Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, sister Sue called to say that Marion had had a heart attack and was no longer on the material side of DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. Louise Hay, a Mary Baker Eddy on steroids, says that from the meta-physical perspective, a heart attack is caused by fears over career or money. Marion may have overdosed on smearcase but I vote losing the loot at age 67 was what did him in.
The Awakening, the 2nd Turning 1964-1984 left me disillusioned. I threw my EMBA calculator out the window for a career in sales and marketing that was foreshadowed in Willy Loman’s Death of a Salesman.