Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The 2000-Slot Machine Miami Herald, U.S. Century Bank merger failure to launch, and other sundries … by gimleteye

I want to write about the irony of the proposal by Genting Casinos to default to a slot machine emporium on the site of the former Miami Herald (adjacent to the Genting/Perez Museum of Art) and the failure to launch of the planned take-over of U.S. Century Bank -- the insider piggy-bank of Miami-Dade County -- by another tranche of insiders. First, a family story.

In 1947 my father arrived in Brooklyn on a ship filled with poor immigrants from eastern Europe. His  parents died in the Holocaust only two years earlier. He had survived by dint of a German labor camp -- what he called on his death bed the longest eighteen months of his life -- , digging anti-tank trenches against the Soviet Army at the end of World War II. He was scarcely twenty one years old. He left in Hungary his only surviving family: two brothers whose way he later purchased out of communist Romania. After working his way through an engineering college in Rhode Island, as a waiter, he started his own business. I'm sure it is a similar story of tragedy, sacrifice and the redemption of hard work that built Miami.

My father's business began by scavenging thrown-away textile winders for pennies on the dollar -- the industry had moved away from its historic origins in New England to lower labor costs in the Southeast -- and repurposing them to make gift-wrapping ribbon. Here is how that worked. You bought large spools of dyed thread, combined them at a glue bath, drove the wet tape over a drying creel, and wound them into big rolls that, in a subsequent operation, you put on cardboard rolls that might be purchased at a drug store or gift shop anywhere in the country.

I know this because as a child I loved scampering through the factory and especially into the warehouse where I climbed through dreams on boxes that were nearly light as feathers, filled with gift wrapping tape ready for the shipping dock. I would accompany my father on Saturdays, and while he attended to factory business he would leave unattended in the warehouse to climb (careful!) among the boxes. I remember jumping from near the rafters into a pile of boxes, scattering them like empty egg crates, surrounded by dim light, dust, the smell of cardboard and animal glue with the sound of whirring machines in the background.

The story I want to tell is how my father got out of the gift wrap ribbon business.

I learned this story when I was a teenager. How did my father tell me? In what context? I wish I remembered exactly. It probably occurred during an early crisis lost to time. At any rate it wasn't casual, a story tossed out at the dinner table; dinner being the only time I saw my father during the week in those early years.

By the early 1960's the business was growing. The factory ran three shifts and he had three young children at home. In addition to doing the engineering and product design, he was also the chief salesman. The business had grown to include a few dozen customers, but one customer was his biggest; the largest distributor of gift wrap ribbon in the country.

As any salesman would, he paid special attention to that customer. He would regularly make the sales call, driving from Rhode Island on the interstate and turnpike, stopping along the way to Georgia. On this particular visit; through an ice storm. I imagine him arriving in the late afternoon, nerves jangled, with the light fading outside and the lights burning inside his customer's building; wood paneling, steel desks, and offices for just business.

My father would always bring the purchasing agent a bottle of whiskey or of scotch, but on this day -- with the snow falling outside in the low winter light, piled up in snowbanks in the slippery parking lot -- he asked for more. The customer guessed his orders had grown to as much as half of my father's business. Now he wanted a kick back. A bribe.

There is a common sense reason not to concentrate your business with a single customer: that customer has power over you in excess of the value of a single order. My father had a choice, and he thought about it on the long ride home through the dark with the snow falling in the cone of the headlights. Keep the business, feed your children, pay the bribe. Don't pay the bribe, shrink your business, risk your income and how your are going to feed your children.

My father didn't pay the bribe.

That's all I'm going to write today. Tomorrow I'll write about the 2000 slot machine Miami Herald and the failure to launch of the most corrupt bank in Miami-Dade County: U.S. Century Bank.


Anonymous said...

Thanks -- this is moving story and let's us all know a little about where you come from.

Geniusofdespair said...


Anonymous said...

You got me hooked. Can't wait to see how or if this ties in to the premise of your posting.

Youbetcha' said...

Amazing story. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

My father did something like that many years ago. What always amazed me was that only my mother knew and I found out by accident during a personal crisis. Knowing what he did was a life long lesson that has kept me on the straight and narrow through out my 70+ years.

Geniusofdespair said...

My father was a scammer and a liar. Maybe that is why I hate that behavior. The one good thing about him

Kathie said...

Interesting story and very well-written. I would definitely like to know what happened.

I am hoping he reported the corrupt purchasing agent to his superiors. The owner of the distribution company would probably be just as appalled as your dad.

I have learned that you never let criminals get away with their crimes because they will just victimize someone else.

Anonymous said...

Great story. Can't wait to see how it ties with the local "cochons"... Can you believe that Cancela -- now GM of Telemundo in Puerto Rico -- lists his association with US Century Bank as if it were the most prestigious thing in the world. It's amazing the degree of immorality these people have. Remember, that Jeb Bush protects Sergio Pino and his bunch because they love Marquito so much they give him money every chance they have. And Jeb is crazy about Marquito; he called him a "hunk" during an appearance at Fox! LOL And let's not forget that Cancela loves him too! LOL