06/08/2015 11:55 AM

 

Akin Toffey, boy, 145 Gifford Avenue, Jersey City.

Akin Toffey, tie, four years younger. (NJ Hunt [Koonz].) .

 
 

 

Learning more.."Jobs"

The other bellhop, who had held the job for several years, was able to pick up extra cash by playing poker with the guests, but I had to depend on tips. I came to realize that the wealthier they are, the   cheaper they are, which may be why they are wealthy.

There was nothing much to do on the island, but occasionally I could get over to Alexandria Bay and visit the dance hall there. If I couldn't get a ride there in the hotel's 26-foot launch, I'd have to row across the river -- a somewhat hazardous undertaking because the huge tankers and other ships would creep up on you more quickly than you would expect.

There was a canal that ran up beside the hotel and I could take an occasional swim there. It was during prohibition, and guests had to buy their liquor from rum runners who came around from Canada in small boats and offered their wares. One night the revenuers chased one of those boats up the canal, and the crew dropped a case of scotch into the canal. I spent the next morning swimming under 10 feet of water until I found the scotch. At that point it was almost noon and time for me to go on duty.

I told the gardener I had found it. When I got off duty I looked up the gardener, who said that the men had been back with a diver. He told them where the scotch was and they gave him a bottle. He gave me a drink.

Model T Ford

When I got home I emptied my pockets and it turned out I had $150. I spent $75 on a Model T Ford and, at my father's insistence, $60 on insurance.

E.J. Nobel had an excursion boat going to Boldt Castle on Hardt Island and charged 25 cents for the trip. The regular excursion boats couldn't get permission to take their customers there.

There was a beautiful house boat, with mahogany paneling throughout, moored in front of the hotel, and Nobel rented it out. The excursion boats would PAss the houseboat as close as possible, hoping that the wash would eventually sink the houseboat. Since Nobel didn't have the bottom serviced regularly as the previous owner had done, it's possible that the boat eventually did sink.

Noble bought a $200,000 yacht for $100,000, then had to pay $200,000 to have it fixed up. He had the fastest speedboat on the St. Lawrence, but quit racing when someone came along with one that was faster. His stinginess was best illustrated when he raised hell with the maintenance man for buying an extra broom, when it had been the kitchen staff who had bought it.

The next summer it was mother who found a job for me. At a party she met a friend who was a bankruptcy judge. He landed me a job with American Type Founders Co., which was then in Chapter II. I worked for a time and motion expert. He had measured the average time required for each task in the plant. Using a chart with these figures and a slide rule, I would determine how much time each job would take. The worker would then earn bonuses when he bettered the time. The union, naturally, opposed the plan and it was later scrapped, I learned. However, it revealed some gross inefficiencies and stupid management.

The invention of the Linotype and Monotype machines put a lot of type founders out of business. American Type Founders had gobbled them up. But American Type Founders did nothing to modernize the way its type was cast. To cast a font of type the worker would first insert the mold in the machine and put in a brass mold of an A or H, letters with straight bottoms which he used to line them up in the mold. Then he would cast the entire font, inserting and taking out each letter in turn. If a customer wrote in to say a letter, say the "a" was missing from his font, the company would go through that same process to cast enough a's to fill out his font. It could have saved lot of money if it had taken the a's out of a full font and melted the rest. The company would accept orders to cast any type face of any of the many companies had absorbed, not realizing that the cost was tremendous comPAred with what the customer was charged. The company featured special quads (square spacers) with holes in them so the printer could insert his finger and lift them. Since it had never developed a machine to make them, the quads had to be cast by hand, at a cost ten times what was charged for them. It seemed to me incredible that any company management would be so stupid.

Apparently bankruptcy was good for the company Years later I read that American Type Founders had won an award for the excellence of its management.

Lehigh University: Engineer?

I went to Lehigh University to become an engineer. However, after flunking analytical geometry twice, I realized that I would never make it through the mathematically oriented engineering curriculum. I had been working on the college's semi-weekly newspaper, which was guided by the two-member journalism faculty. I really enjoyed it. So I went to the dean and said I wanted to switch to the Journalism curriculum. He told me "In this time of depression, the New York Times can hire the pick to the major colleges at a dozen for the price of a ham sandwich." I said I'd take my changes and didn't expect to make the New York Times anyway. As it turned out, I would have made it to the New York Times, as a part-timer, if the invitation hadn't come a month before I was drafted into the Army.

After graduation I began to find that the dean was right. There were no jobs. I volunteered to do publicity for the American Red Cross annual camPAign but there were no paying jobs.

The Jersey Observer, a Hoboken paper, had a store-front Jersey City office at Journal Square. Delivering press releases there, I found that a fellow I had gone to Stevens Prep with was working as a reporter there. In November he tipped me off that the Jersey Journal was hiring. I rushed there and was hired as a night district reporter.

I reported for work on a Friday night when my predecessor was to show me around. He was drunk. He looked at the assignment sheet, decided nothing was worth covering. His brother, who had also just quit the paper, drove us to the Third Precinct police station where he took notes on the doings there. Then we went back to the office, where he found he couldn't read his notes and tore them up. And from then on I was responsible for the district, seven nights a week and all days on Saturdays and Sundays. Later, we were given one night off every two weeks.

The job involved covering police news, meetings of political, socia1, church and ethnic club meetings (but not politics) and obituaries. I can't recall much of what I covered. The one story that sticks in my mind concerned a very attractive young girl who killed her father with a carving knife because he wouldn't let her go to choir practice. Except for some unspectacular stabbing's, the only other two juicy murders -- a young girl who axed her mother because she wouldn't let her go out with her boyfriend and a couple of men who stuffed their victim in a pickle barrel -- turned out, after I had   wasted time trying to cover them, to have occurred in other police jurisdictions and I couldn't get the stories.

apartment and tenement fires were the toughest stories to cover because the tenants scattered and trying to find who they were almost impossible.

We were responsible for our own transportation. After a year of getting around on foot, I bought an old Oldsmobile. After my father found how handy it was to have a car in the family, he agreed to help buy something better. After pricing Fords and Chevrolets, I found a big packard executive car, with all the accessories, at the same price. It probably looked odd for a low-PAid reporter to be covering his beat in a big packard, but I enjoyed it.

I started out covering a small district north of Journal Square, then later was given all of the city north of the Square, and ended up with the center city district which included police headquarters.

I enjoyed the Jersey Journal job. I'm a night person and it fitted into my biological time clock. I got out and around and met lots of people. And, since I was on the night staff of an afternoon paper, there was no pressure. There was nothing much to do after my 2 a.m. quitting time, so there was no rush to leave the office. I'd enjoy a leisurely breakfast at one of the all-night restaurants at Journal Square. At Bickford's cafeteria I could get a "bacon special" -- an egg, bacon, applesauce and an English muffin for 20¢. Then home. I'd take the dog, Scrappy for a long walk, come back, mix a drink, turn the radio on to the Milkman's Matinee featuring current recordings, and go to bed about dawn.

With this schedule, I wasn't getting up until afternoon and that left me little time to go anywhere or do anything. I tried to tell myself I should bed down early and do something useful during the daytime, but I just couldn't break the habit.

While I enjoyed working nights, it raised hob with my social life. I was working while my friends were playing, and vice versa. And working 13 nights out of each 14 gave me few evenings to do anything.

One evening when I did play hookey was prior to Nancy Scherwood and Paul Pilcher wedding. They gave a dinner for the wedding narty, of which I was a member, at the Rainbow Room of Radio City, a restaurant where black tie was required. I couldn't get anyone to fill in for me, although my counterpart on the Jersey Observer promised to picket up the few social notes that were on my assignment sheet. But I had to keep in telephone touch with the Third Precinct police station and pray that that there would be no big story breaking that I would have to cover wearing a tuxedo. As it turned out, there was nothing that I couldn't get by phone when I got back to the office.

I began to realize that I should get out and find another job, but just didn't seem to get around to it.

The five reports on the Journal's night staff were all in their 20s. The Observer reporters, with one exception,    were men in their 50s and 60s and holding the same jobs we were holding.

For three years that I covered the center-city beat my counterpart on the Observer was Len Ford, a delightfu1 man and a veteran of the World War I trench warfare. He and his wife and daughter would go to New York each morning and PAint at an art studio there. One night when I stopped by the Observer office Len was reading a feature story in the Herald Tribune, a morning New York paper. Len put down the paper. "I used to be able to write like that," he said. That hit me.

I didn't have to make the break; Uncle Sam did that for me. On March 16, 1942, I went off to war, knowing that I would not be going back to the Jersey Journal when the war was over.

"Dad; William Vermilye Toffey III"

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