A Lifetime of Memories

Richard Billies Sr., circa 1943Last night my wife asked me how my father met his partner Sid Rothenberg. It required a long explanation that went back to 1950 and ended my my father died in 1995. They went through a lot together but never once did they question each other.

My father was a Navy veteran who served from 1943 to early 1946. He served on a number of different utility ships like Mr. Roberts. He was the youngest of four children, three of whom were sons. The middle brother, Bob, tried to enlist on December 7th until my grandmother told my father to get him back in the house. No one was at the draft board.

In fact, Bob was like millions of guys who rushed out to join up. It took them at least a month to process all of the volunteers. After they did he served 44 months in the Southwest Pacific. He was assigned to the invasion of Japan until they dropped the atomic bombs. I have no sympathy for the Japanese. They started the war and we finished it. My uncle came home in one piece to enjoy the rest of his life.

Their oldest brother, Andrew, was an intelligence sergeant. He landed in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He interrogated prisoners of war. I always wondered how he did that without having a working knowledge of Italian and German. He came home with an Italian battle flag. Now there’s an oxymoron.

After the war my father who had a high school diploma took the Dale Carnegie course: “How to win friends and influence people”. The books are still around. Dad was a born salesman. He sold ads for Liquor Publications and Spot magazine until he met a man named Louis G. Audett who ran a display company under the name of Niagara Lithograph.

After my dad made his pitch (and he was very good at it) Mr. Audett told my father that he wan’t going to buy an ad but asked if he wanted a job in the point-of-sale display industry. My father was very loyal to his employer but Mr. Audett who knew him called him up and put my dad on the phone. His boss said that it sounded like a good deal and my father gave his two-week notice.

Mr. Audett ran a sales agency for Niagara with offices in New York, Cleveland and Chicago. They designed and produced display materials for consumer products companies. Mr. Audett’s main account was Coke. He produced all sorts of specialties for the soda company. My father did business with General Foods. His big breakthrough was the production of 10,000 doll houses.

It was through Niagara that Dad met Sid Rothenberg who owned a screen printing company but that’s another story.

The picture above was sent to my uncle Bob with a note on the back:

“Bob, it’s not every day that you can get the Navy to do your jobs for you.” It’s probably from the winter of 1943-44.

 

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