Okay, ready to begin our second interview session with Mr. Martin Kopp at his home here on Welcome Place in Columbus, Ohio, October 6, 2010. This recording is done for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. I am David Graham and now we’ll begin.
Interviewer: Well what I would like to do to start off with today is, now I want to look at your pictures and make some copies of that. That’s extremely interesting, but just as a carryover from last time and maybe touch on that as we look at those pictures too, it was interesting to note as I read your memoir book that you sailed on at least three ships when you were in the Merchant Marine.
Kopp: Yeah that’s right.
Interviewer: But it wasn’t clear to me how you were able to get assigned to the next two after you had your first one as soon as you returned to some port, I don’t know which, Baltimore or Philadelphia, and somehow you were writing that you were on another ship, a smaller ship. I’m curious as to how is it you made these transitions?
Kopp: Well the first ship was the Charles Brantley Aycock, a Liberty Ship, and we were troop transport. We sailed out of New York, picked up the troops in Norfolk, Virginia, and joined a 120-ship convoy to North Africa with the 550 troops.
Interviewer: That voyage lasted ….
Kopp: From there we went to Naples, then to Algiers and then came back. We got back about, that was at the end of March-beginning of April of 1944. We got back some time in June of ’44. But we were held up in Norfolk, Virginia and while we were there I got bitten by a mosquito and got Malaria, not in North Africa but here in the United States. And I wound up at the hospital at St. Elizabeth’s in Philadelphia. When I came out of the hospital I was no longer called “articled to the ship”. So as a Merchant Marine officer I was not getting paid any more. I could not go back to sea because I was suffering from the Malaria and you have a drug called Quinine that you take afterwards and so I was without an income and without an assignment. And the Navy apparently had kept track of me. At that time we were short of medical people on board ships so they said, “Ha, ha, you’re going to have to stay ashore anyway. You will now go to Navy Hospital Corps Training School in Sheepshead Bay, New York.” At the time I was living in Elmhurst, Queens, about a half-an-hour drive away so I would be staying at home every night, no strafing, no bombing, no submarines, getting paid.
Interviewer: Okay so you went from the ship to the hospital, to home ….
Kopp: Well I had___
Interviewer: with training assignment?
Kopp: Yeah. The fourth month was a U. S. Marine hospital assignment in Chicago and then I went back to sea.
Interviewer: Well how did you make that transition back to sea?
Kopp: Well I had to report to what they called the War Shipping Administration.
Interviewer: The War ….
Kopp: Shipping Administration.
Interviewer: Shipping? So this was the methodology for Merchant Marinists?
Interviewer: Which is rather interesting in that you sort of had to do your own assignments or, oh I see, you had a membership card here. War Shipping Administration, okay. We’ll make a photo of that for the Archives. Still have your membership card. So ….
Kopp: Fingerprints on the back
Interviewer: So were they really keeping track of you or was it up to you to find this next ship assignment?
Kopp: Well you had to register and that was at Lower Manhattan in one of the buildings, I can’t remember which.
Interviewer: You had to register with the War Shipping Administration?
Kopp: That you’re available. I was ….
Interviewer: Okay well that’s interesting that we get that into the interview here.
Kopp: I was 4F in the draft so I couldn’t get into the Army.
Interviewer: Why were you 4F?
Kopp: I was 4F because of my flat feet and lumbar scoliosis and bad eyes.
Interviewer: Boom, boom, boom.
Kopp: And so I couldn’t get in. But as Merchant Marine purser, as long as I could walk up a gangway, you were eligible.
Interviewer: And you were certainly determined to get into this war. Now I had asked in the first interview about your persistence and then you revealed to me also that your brother-in-law was in, was serving. His name was Irwin Zimmerman. Did that influence your desire to participate?
Kopp: No. No. In fact, no it didn’t affect me at all. But all my friends were in the Army and most of them were in training in the States. ‘Cause we sailed and that’s where I did my studies.
Interviewer: Yeah as you explained, you sailed. Okay so it’s interesting here was this organization you had to register with, so take me into the fine details then. You finished this training to be a medical corpsman on a Merchant Marine ship ….
Kopp: As an addition to my duties as a purser.
Interviewer: In addition. So now how ….
Kopp: So instead of $150 a month, I got paid $175 a month.
Interviewer: Oh okay, a few extra dollars. So how had it been you found that next ship?
Kopp: They called me and said, “Come in. We have an assignment for you.”
Interviewer: They called you?
Kopp: And they sent me to the North Atlantic and Gulf Steamship Company which was down on lower Wall Street in New York. And they booked me, they assigned me to a ship called the S. S. Frank Dale, a little tiny ship. And you saw the pictures.
Interviewer: Right, the Frank Dale, okay.
Kopp: It sat so low in the water when loaded that when the Staten Island Ferry passed us in the Upper Bay of New York, the wake of the Ferry when it crossed our own course, it’s wash crossed our deck!
Interviewer: Yeah it was snuff, but in fact you had another, a third ship and then returned to the small ship at least once which was interesting ….
Kopp: Well because once I was with the North Atlantic and Gulf Steamship Company, I became their Chief Purser ’cause I was the oldest guy that was working. I mean that was what, ’44 or ’45. So I was 29 years old. And most of the guys were a lot younger. And the officers, the navigation officers were all about that age but the engineering officers were all older generally.
Interviewer: Well let’s jump ahead then. We’ve covered the material though and it’s in your book but let’s jump ahead to that third ship. How did you get on that….
Kopp: That was the Mahanoy City Victory. As a ranking purser in the company we would be given a brand new Victory Ship coming out of Baltimore and since I was also a CPAI was assigned to go down to Baltimore and take inventory of the ship because the company was signing for it.
Interviewer: That third ship?
Interviewer: Well once again, did they call you, I mean, it’s sort of a disconnect to me, you know. When you’re in the Army, you’re in the Army and they’ve got you all the time and wherever you go, they know where you are. But this Merchant Marine seems a little bit, well quite a bit looser. Let’s say you come back on the little ship ….
Kopp: Well let me explain something. And I don’t, I say it briefly I think in the book that you sign on for a voyage and what you sign is the Ship’s Article.
Interviewer: The Ship’s Article, right.
Kopp: And I don’t know if I showed you ….
Interviewer: Oh I’ve seen it. Let’s take this example in the little ship. You come back and I see you’re going to Havana on the little ship. And then you ….
Kopp: You wind up doing that most of the time.
Interviewer: in Baltimore or Mobile and then suddenly you’re on a third ship. I wondered how did you….
Kopp: Oh, what happened was the steamship company, North Atlantic and Gulf, had been assigned this ship, the Mahanoy City Victory which was still in the shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland. And I was sent down to in effect survey the ship and check the inventory.
Interviewer: From your ….
Kopp: From North American Gulf.
Interviewer: So they kind of had ….
Kopp: They took me off….
Interviewer: ownership of you.
Kopp: Yeah. And they put me on the payroll as a civilian payroll and my job was to go down and take inventory….
Interviewer: All right. That fills that gap then.
Kopp: Then I became the purser on that ship.
Interviewer: ‘Cause I was paying a lot of attention to the Ship’s Articles and while you’re back in port, you’re unassigned.
Kopp: That’s right.
Interviewer: But no, you had transitioned onto a company payroll and then they’re telling you, as their employee ….
Kopp: Right, to go down and check this inventory.
Interviewer: This is, the Merchant Marine ….
Kopp: That was a crazy assignment because how do you take inventory of a ship? (laughter)
Interviewer: All by yourself?
Kopp: Yeah. And that took like a week or so and then the ship was ready for sea.
Interviewer: What were you counting in that inventory? Was it brand new?
Kopp: The equipment on the ship. Oh yeah, it was just, it was still in the yard but it was Baltimore.
Interviewer: Wow! It must have been ….
Kopp: But one of the problems we had was the need for the ship. And so the ship was commissioned as a navigable ship and then the steamship company took it over and I was the purser and Navy Hospital Corpsman.
Interviewer: Now is this what they call a Liberty Ship or?
Kopp: No this is a Victory.
Interviewer: That’s a Victory Ship?
Kopp: Yeah. Now this is a bigger ship with electric winches, not steam.
Interviewer: …. ships wasn’t Liberty Ships? Commercial?
Interviewer: The first ship was what we would call Liberty Ship?
Interviewer: The other one in the middle is just a….
Kopp: It was built on the Great Lakes but it was meant for the invasion of the Philippines.
Interviewer: Where was that, which ship?
Kopp: …. the Frank Dale.
Interviewer: Okay the Frank Dale, the small one.
Kopp: And she was like 1800 gross tons which is pretty small. A Liberty Ship was 6,000 tons.
Interviewer: Okay, that’s it.
Kopp: And the Victory was a little over 6,000.
Interviewer: I think one of the benefits of your interview here is that we get this understanding of these three sizes of ships. And they were all known as Liberty Ships?
Kopp: No just the first ones.
Interviewer: That’s quite interesting I think. During this course of time and these assignments did you ever have any other Jewish crew mates, do you recall?
Interviewer: You were the only, the only guy?
Interviewer: And we had touched on your opportunity to participate in religious observances, the holy days. And you had made note of the death of Franklin Roosevelt and certainly you remembered attending services with a rabbi, where was it Mobile, or?
Interviewer: And you commented to me on the interview and also in your memoirs about your dissatisfaction and made note that there were, you had some concern, let’s say anxiety, about the new President coming in, how would he compare to Roosevelt in terms of I guess his relationship, his support of Jews or, and you made the comment, and this is, I’m trying to lead up to the question specifically, Truman will demonstrate how supportive he is in his relationship with the Negroes. And it caused me to wonder, well why did you have this anxiety about the President or which President? Had you experienced before Roosevelt some lack or discrimination or, you were concerned about and had anxiety? I’m trying to better understand why, if you can recall, why did you have such anxiety? Was, there must have been something that you had experienced?
Kopp: Well the first President that I remember was Coolidge. And I had visited over an Easter holiday with my grandmother and we visited the White House and got to shake hands with him.
Interviewer: You shook hands with Coolidge?
Kopp: Yeah, yeah. And we were a line of people coming through and all he was doing is shake your hand like that quick, shake your hand this way, speed …. never even stopped. But he was a very conservative guy and he, I remember him, a quote was: “I do not choose to run,” when he was going to run again or that, when the Republicans wanted him to. And ….
Interviewer: Now this was again, you say Easter holiday?
Kopp: Yeah and it had to be, oh I must have been about 14 years old.
Interviewer: Some time in the 20s?
Kopp: Oh yeah, in the middle 20s. And his successor was Hoover, President Hoover. And Hoover was a very, I wasn’t much interested in politics yet. I did know that Jews were discriminated against everywhere in this country. You had enclaves and there were, like golf clubs where it was N~, really the expression was NJA, no Jews allowed. And so that was, and I encountered that many years later in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Interviewer: Even years later?
Kopp: I belonged to the Steubenville Country Club but I lived in Wheeling and Wheeling had a downtown golf club there. And I was Treasurer of Wheeling Steel. And I was not privileged to join.
Interviewer: So this is sort of a basis for your concern that….
Kopp: I don’t remember ….
Interviewer: during those days of Coolidge and Hoover ….
Kopp: I really don’t remember why. I just remember that the discrimination against Jews was available, let’s put it that way. And but it wasn’t troubling because I had a lot of Gentile friends, kids, you know, in high school, and we socialized. But we didn’t understand discrimination I think. But our parents did and in New Rochelle where I lived, there was an enclave that was just for the blacks. They couldn’t live anywhere else. They could come to your neighborhood as maids and as gardeners and stuff like that.
Interviewer: …. as maids. And even in my youth advertisements for employment, you know, blacks had to …. So this photo of your ….
Kopp: Paternal grandfather.
Interviewer: paternal grandfather Kopp. And what was his profession?
Kopp: He sold, back in the 20s, he sold, he was in the construction industry but what he sold was a new thing called “insulation of windows”. In other words they had metal bars in the windows that would prevent the heat from dissipating outside and the cold from coming in. And that was his business. Then when his children moved to California from Brooklyn, so did he.
Interviewer: To California?
Kopp: Yeah. He had a whole bunch of children. He had, let’s see, I think I might have ….
Interviewer: That’s quite a move.
Kopp: I might have saved that list somewhere.
Interviewer: Your grandfather was born, grandfather Kopp was born in Romania.
Kopp: In August of 1865.
Interviewer: So you have a little genealogy ….
Kopp: No there’s a, this is the Young Men’s Hebrew Association. The man they put me in, to share a room with a guy named Murray Alvey.
Interviewer: In New York City when you lived at the ….
Kopp: 92″ Street Y. And the guy they put me in with was this guy. Now this is many years later after, does it have a date on the back?
Interviewer: Silver Springs, Maryland. Uh huh, he was one of your roommates?
Kopp: He was the only one I had for five years I lived there.
Interviewer: Five years this man was your roommate?
Kopp: Right. I married out of there and then he married out of there. But he was a Pathe Newsreel cameraman.
Interviewer: That’s interesting.
Kopp: This is a picture.
Interviewer: Well you have a photograph of Babe Ruth. Was that Murray next to him?
Kopp: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Murray Alvey. Isn’t that remarkable?
Kopp: He, after the war, yeah after the war, he was the ABC movie photographer in Washington. But during the war he was the pool photographer for Roosevelt so that when Roosevelt went to meet with Churchill and Stalin, they couldn’t have a whole bunch of news guys going along ’cause that would alert the Germans to possibly attack them. So he was the bring-along one photographer who would go and whatever he took belonged to everybody.
Interviewer: Well I’m, this is quite interesting that we see here the photographer for Roosevelt during the war.
Kopp: One of them.
Interviewer: One of them.
Kopp: He wound up as the first President of what they called the White House Press Photographer’s Association. The war ended ….
Interviewer: You spelled that out for the interview here. Murray Alvey, A-L-V-E-Y. A-L-V-E-Y was your roommate for five years and he became a photographer of Roosevelt.
Kopp: And then subsequently he was a photographer for Truman.
Interviewer: Now these photos that you have of Murray with Babe Ruth and Truman, where ….
Kopp: They were on the wall of the guest bedroom in his apartment, in his house in Silver Springs, Maryland. We were guests and I took (laughter)….
Interviewer: That’s pretty neat of you to do that, that we see him with a movie camera with Truman and Babe Ruth.
Kopp: Yes. And then subsequently, I don’t remember who the other people are but this is a picture, this is one where Truman signed it at the bottom on the original.
Interviewer: So while you were visiting you were able to snap a few photos of Murray’s memorabilia on the wall?
Kopp: Right. And this is with Nixon’s wife, Pat Nixon.
Interviewer: Well he had quite a career photographing presidents ….
Kopp: And in fact the gal he married, the 92nd Street Y had 270 accommodations for men but in the middle of World War II there was a scarcity of guys, so the girls who lived in the Young Women’s Association moved in and the building they had which was on 110th Street just north of Central Park in New York, became a barracks for troops. And this is with Lady Bird.
Interviewer: Wow, all this on his walls! Just remarkable. Okay, that tickles you, huh? Well you just never know. You know, you had five years with this man and he’s on the other side of the camera on things that we’ve seen ….
Kopp: And heard about.
Interviewer: and heard about. He’s producing this film footage. Sorry for the interview that we’re taking tape. I’ll put this on, your father had a lot of brothers and sisters?
Interviewer: So you had lots of aunts and uncles?
Kopp: Right, and cousins. And very few girls. We were all boys. But one of my mother’s brothers became very friendly with my father’s brother. They were real buddies. And this was a picture taken of the two of them.
Interviewer: We have a photo of Willie William Kopp ….
Interviewer: Willie Kopp, your father’s youngest brother and who’s the other man with him?
Kopp: That’s my Uncle Sidney, oh I don’t even mention that do I?
Interviewer: That’s right, we need to put “Uncle Sidney”.
Kopp: It’s up on the side there, “Sid and Will”. But it’s Sidney Moseson.
Interviewer: That’s Sidney?
Interviewer: How do you spell that?
Kopp: It’s S-I-D-N-E-Y.
Interviewer: And last name is?
Interviewer: Sidney Moseson and ….
Kopp: Willie, Uncle Willie.
Interviewer: and Uncle Willie. And who is Sidney in the relationship?
Kopp: Sidney is the guy sitting down.
Interviewer: And how, what’s his relationship?
Kopp: He’s my mother’s brother. My mother had one foil brother and one half-sister from my maternal grandmother and one half-sister from my grandfather, from Grandpa Moseson. And he had two sons. That was the Moseson on my mother’s side of the family. My grandfather on my father’s side of the family was a whole bunch. Let’s see if I have that down here.
Interviewer: Uh huh, it would be interesting for your genealogy on your record, your father’s ….
Kopp: …. give you some idea. My mother has a sister …. my grandmother, you want to put that up?
Interviewer: No, no, just sit up here.
Kopp: My grandmother was born in Kiev …. and she was married. And I never heard much about her husband, her first husband. But she had a daughter, my Aunt Sonia. She, my grandmother had family in New York and she came to visit and stopping in Liverpool she left her daughter who was six years old or so with her brother in Liverpool, England. Got here, fell in love with her relative, had nothing, she was like, I don’t know if she had any money. I don’t think she did. But they were well-to-do in the lower east side, in the garment industry too, and they and apparently arranged for her to meet my grandfather Moseson from Elmira, New York, who was a recent widower. And the arrangement was made to get married. And after they got married, they were married a few years, my grandmother sent for her daughter who was still living in Liverpool. So my Aunt Sonia came over here with a British accent and she never really got rid of it. She was a very charming gal and very creative and she, and then I found this story about her.
Interviewer: So we have some family history here that’s been documented and I’d like to snap a shot of this. It’s called “The Mysterious Love of Sonia Green for H. P. Lovecraft”.
Kopp: Did you ever hear that?
Interviewer: No, your article is dated February 5 of 2007.
Kopp: And that’s funny. You see, well at first, he was the first guy to write these science fiction stories. You know, he created a whole character and weird, very weird stories and it was a whole genre, even today.
Interviewer: And this is a family member ….
Kopp: That’s my mother’s sister.
Interviewer: Your mother’s ….
Kopp: In fact she paid for my first semester at college at the University of Pennsylvania.
Interviewer: Sonia Green?
Interviewer: Martin you just continue to amaze with these wonderful stories and connections to history.
Kopp: Now it’s, I guess that’s why I don’t get surprised too often.
Interviewer: Ummm. Well I’ll make a couple of snapshots of that for the record.
Kopp: That’s a great story.
Interviewer: Oh great.
Kopp: They were married in Trinity Church in Manhattan in New York. They had a civil ceremony ….
Interviewer: H. P. Lovecraft?
Kopp: Yeah. He lived in, probably in, I think it was probably in ….
Interviewer: Uh huh, okay.
Kopp: Called a DD 214.
Interviewer: Oh that’s, okay.
Kopp: You know what that is?
Interviewer: Well for Army that’s Discharge Documents. It says here “dates of service, medals, training”. So you have one 1979 dated, okay. Merchant Marine. Well it’s interesting that the Merchant Marine were considered I guess active military and that’s what the DD Form 214 is for. I have one from my Viet Nam time service. And yet you didn’t have Veteran status until the 80s?
Interviewer: Okay. This probably isn’t in your book is it? I’ll make a little snapshot.
Kopp: No ’cause this is, I don’t know, no it definitely is not.
Interviewer: I’ll put a copy in your book for you, in our archive.
Kopp: Uh huh. You know I’m having …. good day of work.
Interviewer: …. your aunt here, Sonia Green, did you ever meet, well you must have met her.
Kopp: Oh yeah. She, she used to take me to museums in New York.
Interviewer: This lady in this article who marries this man, H. P. Lovecraft….
Kopp: She paid for my first semester at the University of Pennsylvania.
Interviewer: Isn’t that something? So you would go places with her in New York?
Kopp: Yeah my mother was working and, but she had a …. she was a, in those days women wore, in the 20s, they wore very fancy hats. Feathers and all kinds of stuff. And she worked for a millinery, as a designer at the millinery company.
Interviewer: Millinery? Particularly I think of my grandmother around oh 1900 ….
Kopp: No this was ….
Interviewer: They would have huge hats.
Interviewer: Photographs of them, enormous hats.
Kopp: Yeah and she was ….
Interviewer: They must have been three feet wide.
Kopp: She was a designer in the 20s for a company called Furle’ Heller, F-E-R-L-E-‘ Heller in New York and she made, in those days, like a couple hundred dollars a week. Lived in Greenwich Village….
Interviewer: That is an enormous …. (mixed voices) Very liberal.
Kopp: And artists and what do you call it, essayists.
Interviewer: How old was she in relation to your mother? Was she an older sister or younger sister?
Kopp: She was older.
Interviewer: Older sister?
Kopp: And she was born in Russia. So she had to be, I would say, at least ten years, maybe more.
Interviewer: Now it seems to me, she’s changed her name, Green?
Kopp: Yeah she married a guy in Brooklyn.
Interviewer: Named Green?
Kopp: Yeah. So they had one daughter, oh I forgot her first name now, but she was in the, she was a journalist. And she won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism after she moved to California. And I knew her only as a kid, met her, you know. Before we, I don’t remember her living in New Rochelle.
Interviewer: Well it’s interesting that you have this story. I’ll put that in our archives too.
Kopp: Oh here’s something that I…. Viet Nam Veterans.
Interviewer: So Marty we have a document called a “DD Form 2168” that you made, fill out. Did you fill one out for that?
Interviewer: Okay ’cause you already, you had your DD 214. Kopp: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Well we’ve got a pause here and you’re looking for another file of interesting documents. I printed out something here for your brother-in-law Invin Zimmerman.
Interviewer: This list says, “Army Unit, 84th Infantry Division” that he died March 3,1 believe you said in captivity, he was a Prisoner of War. And he’s buried in Europe at the St. Avoid Cemetery in France. I presume you had all that detail about what Army unit, the 84th Infantry was placed into battle around November of 1944.
Kopp: He went in the Battle of the Bulge.
Interviewer: Then they moved from their battlefields in Northern Germany to the northern shoulder, it’s called, of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium near the large town of Marches.
Kopp: I want to make a copy of this.
Interviewer: Oh you can have that.
Kopp: Oh thank you.
Interviewer: You can have that. Would you happen to have a photograph of him?
Interviewer: Don’t have any?
Interviewer: All right. Well that’s for you. Okay.
Kopp: This I appreciate. I hope you can see what I’ve got here. There’s a thing called the “Rochdale Cooperatives”. These are consumer cooperatives. In the Depression days this was like raising yourself by your bootstraps and I founded the one at the Y and we had what we called a “Resident’s Cooperative”.
Interviewer: You founded this?
Kopp: Yeah, well….
Interviewer: A cooperative?
Kopp: Right. Well what happened is I had been studying Economics and in the course of it I studied about Henry George. Henry George is the reason your tax return shows the land value and an improvement value as separate items. I don’t know if you noticed that but the reason, the tax rate is the same on both but Henry’s idea was that, he wrote a book called “Progress and Poverty”, why is it that you take, as you develop progress from this frontier’s village, as it gets more sophisticated, you suddenly have poverty in the village as well, whereas when it was very primitive, everybody was equal. And so he goes around and figures out why you have, when you have progress you have poverty. And it was a very interesting, it was land usage concept.
Interviewer: And this man is at the Y or what?
Kopp: No, no, in his book.
Interviewer: His book?
Kopp: And I had studied it. And I became convinced that we had what we called the “Roxchale Cooperative Movement”. It started in England. And it was a method by which people of very limited means could bring themselves up and set their own, satisfy their own needs. If they had a need for a restaurant, they would own it themselves and then they would have distributions of the profit to the stockholders. But the stockholders were the consumers so it was known as the “Consumer Cooperative Movement”. It had a pine tree as the symbol and they still, in Europe they call them “Consumes”. They’re still there.
Interviewer: That’s interesting. So you, based on that knowledge, you formed one of these?
Kopp: Yeah it was at the Y.
Interviewer: Let me read that off for the interview here, a membership card. “The Resident’s Cooperative Club of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, 1393 Lexington Avenue, New York. Name – Martin Kopp, Room 1028.” Does this building still exist at Lexington Avenue?
Kopp: Yes it’s a very leading center.
Interviewer: Really, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association located, it still exists. “Date of Issuance, 3/3 of’38.
Kopp: Here’s my original application for membership.
Interviewer: To the Cooperative?
Kopp: In the Y.
Interviewer: In the Y, okay.
Kopp: Yeah this is both the application for membership and application for a room.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You have a photo over there of something?
Kopp: These are some more pictures of, these are both of Murray Alvey and myself.
Interviewer: Oh okay, Murray Alvey, your roommate?
Kopp: Yeah this was taken on the roof of the building. It’s a ten-story building.
Interviewer: When you were rooming there?
Kopp: Yeah. Oh I have a whole bunch of pictures here I didn’t even know were here, about four years ago, so.
Interviewer: Let me take you back on so we, so you’re telling this little story about a….
Kopp: I was in New York spending a weekend with my granddaughter and her family but because of a mix-up on scheduling I wound up on a Friday with, they were not available. So I had a free Friday in New York and about 9:30 in the morning I called up the Y, the 92nd Street Y, and I said, “I’d like to come over and visit”. “Oh we’ll be delighted to see you. What’s your name?” I gave them my name. “And when did you live here?” I said, “1936 to 1941”. “Oh great.” So then I take a taxi over there and I’m greeted by a guy named Steven Siegel who is the, and this is his card, and I’m treated, because it was 70 years ago ….
Interviewer: Seventy years you go back?
Kopp: At least. So I was treated like a archeological artifact. And my, he showed me my old room and it was still there.
Interviewer: Your old room?
Kopp: Yeah. Everything was the same.
Interviewer: From the 30s?
Interviewer: Everything was the same?
Kopp: Yeah except for one detail, one difference. We were two guys in that room, there were now four. And the bathroom was still down the hall.
Interviewer: The bathroom is still down the hall?
Kopp: Yeah. Oh this is interesting. I don’t remember this at all.
Interviewer: What are you looking at now?
Kopp: I’ll just keep this.
Interviewer: Another interesting document here for history, ” 92nd Street Y Recollections of Murray Alvey”. His real name was Maurice Alvey. I’ll make a copy of this for the file. Who, is this Murray write—, telling this, writing this?
Kopp: …. created. Me, I….
Interviewer: You, okay. You’re the author of this memory, “Recollections of Murray Alvey”.
Okay……… this again, a resident at the Y….
Kopp: A Jewish….
Interviewer: was in the movie “The Wizard of Oz”.
Interviewer: A Jewish midget.
Kopp: Yeah, he was one of the guys sitting on top of the carriage where she, where they carried the girl in the ….
Interviewer: In that big scene when all the Munchkins come together, there was someone?
Kopp: But he was driving, he was one of the two guys up on the top of the, what do you call it?
Interviewer: The carriage?
Kopp: Yeah the carriage. With the reins, you know.
Interviewer: Do you know which one he was, with the reins or….
Kopp: I don’t…. I don’t remember.
Interviewer: And we don’t have his name?
Kopp: No, yeah, Charles Silvern.
Kopp: Yeah, do I have it here?
Interviewer: I don’t see it here.
Kopp: Yeah here I mention it in this one.
Interviewer: Okay. You’re at another….
Kopp: Oh yeah, several.
Interviewer: Okay I found Charles Silvern, S-I-L-V-E-R-N. Okay. You have the letter here about the man who was in the movie. Did you know this man?
Kopp: Oh yeah, yeah. We lived together for five years in that building.
Interviewer: In that building? He was there too?
Kopp: Yeah. In fact he lived on the tenth floor with us, where we did.
Interviewer: This Charles Silvern, from ’35 to ’40. His legal name was “Silverman”. And he was a Munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz”.
Kopp: …. I’m looking ….
Interviewer. Interesting documents regarding this ….
Kopp: I’ll say I have had an interesting career.
Interviewer: Leaders on Wall Street that you had contacted about making a career move and you put those in your file too. Gustav Levy and Charlie Simon, Goldman Sachs.
Kopp: Sachs, it was Sachs. Yep, whatever, I brought him a copy of the, he said, “Oh let’s see what this is”.
Interviewer: You could create quite a archive for them of your material.
Kopp: This is the, that’s the building and this is the, when was this published?
Interviewer: Five years is quite a long time in residency.
Kopp: This was 1941. This is before I got married. I was still a resident and oh the names of who were the big shots on the Board, they’re right here.
Interviewer: Of the Y?
Interviewer: So you have a ….
Kopp: Oh I’d say nationally or internationally famous Jewish guys.
Interviewer: We should make note that you got quite a file on the Y. How did you transition from Merchant Marine and you’re free finally to begin your business career?
Kopp: Well what happened was I had started to work for the Cunard Line in 1936. And Labor Day weekend, 1939, I’m still working for the Cunard Line. It’s Friday and …. Interviewer: Okay well I remember all of that part where you would have been on that ship that was sunk. Now we’ve moved all the way through the wartime. You’ve documented that in your memoirs.
Kopp: I don’t know if I talked about getting to S. D. Leidesdorf, predecessor company to Ernst and Young CPAs.
Interviewer: Yes you did that before you were in the Merchant Marine. So let’s take, let’s pick up at the point where you’ve had your last voyage and you’re returning home which was in .
Kopp: Actually October of ’45.
Interviewer: October of ’45? How did you manage then to become released from the Merchant Marine?
Kopp: Well I was no longer articled to a ship so I was automatically out and the draft boards were not interested in you because the war was over. And so I reported back to the company I had left when I went to sea.
Interviewer: Which was which one?
Kopp: The accounting firm, S. D. Leidensdorf and Co. And I was immediately welcomed and became one of their senior accountants on audits, particularly of tax work.
Interviewer: And you had a home there in New York?
Kopp: In Elmhurst, Queens.
Interviewer: Elmhurst, Queens?
Kopp: Right and so after I got established again, I then became a father. And my older son was born in 1946.
Interviewer: Your first child then born in ’46?
Kopp: Yeah and we lived in Elmhurst, Queens which was a little community next to Jackson Heights. Everybody heard of Jackson Heights.
Interviewer: And your son’s name?
Kopp: Was, that’s Irwin Charles, named after his uncle who died in the war.
Interviewer: Oh I see, you named him after your ….
Kopp: Today he lives here in Bexley and he is married to a lovely gal who was, that’s a whole story by itself but they have one son and he is married to a lovely gal, Josh, Joshua and Joshua and Erin, E-R-I-N, have one son who’s a year-and-a-half old now. And this is October of 19–….
Kopp: Of 2010, right.
Interviewer: Uh huh. They have, so we have in Columbus at the present time four generations….
Kopp: In two sets.
Interviewer: living ….
Kopp: Two sets of….
Interviewer: Two sets of four generations.
Kopp: We’ve got one with another son of mine who lives in Atlanta. His son is a doctor at Children’s Hospital and they have a son who is two-and-a-half years old.
Interviewer: That’s, this is remarkable. And your other, your second son’s name is?
Kopp: Michael, M-I-C-H-A-E-L.
Interviewer: Michael, Michael Kopp?
Kopp: Right. He was born in 1939.
Kopp: 19–, yeah’49.
Interviewer: Okay Michael was born in ’49.
Kopp: By that time we had moved from Elmhurst, Queens further out in Queens to an area called Fresh Meadows.
Interviewer: I see.
Kopp: And I still had this job with the accounting firm but I, at the end of ’49 ….
Interviewer: I’m going to pause as this gets to the end and swap this over. Okay this is Side B of our interview on October 6, Martin Kopp of Tape 1, Side B. Now we’ll continue.
Kopp: By the end of 1949 the accounting firm had reduced the number of partners from some 20 to about 15. And there were a lot of guys that should have been promoted to partnership and were not getting it. I was considered to be one of the guys on the partnership track but the opening for me didn’t happen because they didn’t make any new partners. So the …. partnership which is where I was at was not available and I went to the managing partner and said, “You know, what’s going on?” And I didn’t get a good reception. At that point I was offered a partnership with a small accounting firm by a guy in his 60s which I thought was pretty old, and I would become the surviving partner here after he retired in five years. So I changed and joined him and I lasted, was there about oh I’d say four years.
Interviewer: What was the name of that company?
Kopp: Arthur Sanders and Company.
Interviewer: Arthur Sanders?
Kopp: Arthur H. Sanders. Wasn’t Sanders and Kopp ’cause he was the senior guy; he was very much like Jimmy Durante, gravel voice and same attitude. But he had gotten sick over one winter and it meant that if anything happened to him I was now the managing partner. And then he got well. And I had this very mixed emotion that I wanted him to get well and I admired him but if he only would die, I would be in charge. The next year the same thing happened but he was now past 65 and I had said he was supposed to retire according to our agreement in writing. He said that would kill him. And so he was going to stay on. By the end of tax season which in those days was March 15 was the tax date, the end of March I had said to him I’m going to leave and look for another job. And I went back to Leidesdorf and told them I didn’t want to go back into public accounting. I wanted to become a controller of one of their clients. And they gave me a tremendous reception and by the end of the day, I never even got out for lunch. They had four different jobs available for me. And one was in Cuba and one was at the Empire State Building right there in New York. Sounded too tempting so the next morning I went to see this family on the 69th floor of the Empire State Building, Joseph A. Kaplan and Sons. And they had an embezzlement from, their chief financial guy was the guilty party. They needed a guy to take over but they needed someone to investigate, to determine the size of their loss for insurance purposes. Well they misunderstood the word “controller”. They thought it was some kind of manufacturing management doing the job and they sent me in to one of their factories. I didn’t know that that was what they were thinking but they had hired me and I go down and see this fellow and I can see a lot of things wrong with what they’re getting set up with a brand new factory. So I made arrangements to change things around.
Interviewer: What did they make?
Kopp: They made shower curtains in one company called Joseph A. Kaplan and Sons and they had another company that made all-weather coats for, you know, you could wear it as a raincoat or a winter coat for men, women, and boys and girls. It was called uh . . . .
Interviewer: So this would be sold in department stores?
Kopp: Yeah, yeah. The reason they got into the shower curtain business was interesting. Joseph Kaplan in the 30s was a hardware salesman. He sold to hardware departments and he got involved with the B. F. Goodrich Company and they had this new thing called Koroseal and it was really plastic but plastic was not a nice word in those days and so he, they wanted to do something with it and he figured out that, gee they could make shower curtains out of this material. Be great because it’s waterproof and you can see through it and light goes through it and all that. And so he got the consumer-level rights to the use of Koroseal. They would use it on upholstery, they could use it on roofing materials and you could use it in shower curtains. So that put him into the hardware departments. The war came along, it was coming along and the draft came along and they needed raincoats for the soldiers. And by this time his group had designed a plastic raincoat, you put it in a little pouch. And the armed forces fell in love with it. So he got some huge contracts to make these plastic fold-up raincoats and he started that business. In the meantime time goes on, the war ends and he’s got this company that has these rights to the Koroseal and he’s finding other companies that can make use of that as a consumer goods, the one which was furniture. And then as he went along he bought these other companies and he had to print designs on the plastic shower curtains, he acquired a printing company up in Norwalk, Connecticut and so when I joined I was joining a whole conglomerate of companies and for me it was a real delight and challenge and I could make no mistakes ’cause everything I did was an improvement over what they, they had just grown, you know, like Topsy. And I had a pretty good education with the firm doing jobs all over the country. The result was I stayed there 13 years and in fact, it was a great career. And I left there because I got an offer from a company here in Columbus, a baking company, Omar Bakery.
Interviewer: So this makes the great move? Your whole life and career has been New York ….
Kopp: Has been what?
Interviewer: been New York?
Kopp: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: How is it that this offer came about about Columbus?
Kopp: Well what happened ….
Interviewer: Why did you leave?
Kopp: I was very active in the New York State Society of CPAs and especially in the Long Island NY Nassau-Suffolk Chapter. And when you have a section of that Chapter which was members in commerce and industry, not in public practice, and I was a member in commerce. I was Chairman of the Committee as a matter of fact. And one of the guys who was a member was selling very early in that time, leases on IBM computers and his job, his buddy, his partner, his financial source was another guy and this other guy’s father was a CPA, a lawyer and an engineer and a widower in his early 60s and extremely wealthy and a very dear friend of Jimmy Hoffa. Apparently the Omar Bakeries in 1958 were taken over by or was sold by the family that owned it to the Continental Baking Company. And Continental bought it with the intention of acquiring the four bakeries and their equipment and their personnel because of the quality they were able to produce in bread and sweet rolls and stuff like that. But they did not want the distribution, the home delivery which Omar had. They wanted, ’cause that was a loss to their wholesale customers, the grocery stores and stuff like that. So they wanted to increase capacity to service the non-home delivery. That meant 1500 Teamster drivers would be out of jobs because they were doing home delivery.
Interviewer: Oh so those drivers was, your delivery man that came to your door was a Teamster?
Kopp: Yeah, yeah. And the problem that that created was that the Teamsters took the Continental Baking Company to court and the Fair Trade Law on the grounds that this was an unfair practice. And they won.
Interviewer: The practice of what, they were just firing them?
Interviewer: Stopping the home delivery?
Kopp: Right, right. But that was an unfair trade practice.
Interviewer: To stop home delivery was unfair?
Kopp: Yeah. And especially ’cause their motive was to put it out of business. That was the part that….
Interviewer: Well the Continental owns the company ….
Kopp: It would be a wholesale company only.
Interviewer: So they wanted that capacity?
Kopp: And that was denied. So now they had the company for three years by the time this decision came down.
Interviewer: What was the decision?
Kopp: They had to, Continental had to put Omar back in the business of home delivery.
Interviewer: They had, they were ….
Kopp: They were not to take it out of the business ….
Interviewer: of home delivery?
Interviewer: Because of the union .
Kopp: Right. And there had been a stay on the court that the Union won so they were still doing home delivery.
Interviewer: Oh they continued to do home delivery?
Kopp: But they had substantially reduced the executive staff and we had four bakeries, one here in Columbus, one in Indianapolis, one in Milwaukee and one in Omaha. We had 500,000 customers.
Interviewer: 500,000 home-delivery customers?
Kopp: And we would deliver to one set of families on Monday, Wednesday and Friday ….
Interviewer: What kind of, we’ll pause a moment here, how did you transition to this Omar? You were very pleased and happy with that company ….
Kopp: I was with the Kaplans.
Interviewer: The Kaplans? Kopp: Right, and because they had, although my title was Controller, I was really Vice-President of Finance and a lot of other…. jobs. And one of the guys on this committee with me in the CPA group was this, his partner was a fellow named …
Interviewer: Somebody was leasing equipment, leasing time on the computer?
Interviewer: That’s very high tech and ….
Kopp: Yeah well what they did was he and his partner would buy a computer from IBM but they would finance it with a bank. And then they would rent that computer to new companies that were now getting into this whole new world, they still used punch cards in them.
Interviewer: Companies that couldn’t afford the high cost of a mainframe computer that they could, that’s a fascinating business to be getting. You had heard that through your CPA association?
Interviewer: Okay now how does this ….
Kopp: Well this guy’s on a committee ….
Interviewer: pull you to Columbus?
Kopp: and he, his partner’s father is this guy that’s offered the opportunity to buy, through the union, to buy Omar Bakeries. ‘Cause for two years they were trying to sell it to somebody. Nobody would buy it. And so they were threatened with losing the 1500 jobs of their ….
Interviewer: Continental was not part of this deal yet?
Kopp: No, no. They were trying to sell….
Interviewer: Omar was trying to sell?
Kopp: Yeah, (mixed voices) Continental was trying to sell it.
Interviewer: Oh they were trying to, okay.
Kopp: But they were working with the union on this ’cause now they had lost the case as they wanted to be made whole again.
Interviewer: That all happened before you got involved in all of this?
Kopp: Yeah, right.
Interviewer: Mike . . . ., did you know him? Did you learn anything about the Omar family or anything?
Kopp: No, no. I just knew they were there. They lived in Omaha. And they were also related to a brewery outfit in Colorado, Coors ….
Interviewer: Coors, yeah. Omar family was ….
Kopp: There was some connection there, I don’t know what it was. But once Continental took over, this family were out of it….
Interviewer: That was out of it. Okay so they’re trying to sell it. You hear about it. The unions ….
Kopp: Well the way I heard about it was this friend of mine on the committee is telling his partner about it. His partner’s father was very sympathetic because, and he had connections with everybody at…. in New York and, I’m trying to think of his name and all of a sudden all these names are gone. But he’s talking to my friend that he needs a guy to go out, he’s got this offer to buy this company, this baking company in Columbus, Ohio, someplace across the Hudson River toward Mongolia, you know. And he needs to get a guy in there as his controller to represent him and take care of his financial interest. And my friend says, “Well we’re trying to get a definition of what kind of guy this Mr.,” oh Frost was his name, “Mr. Frost wanted”, he’s describing me, see. And so he said, “Would it be a guy that dah, dah, dah, dah?” And Frost says, “Yes”. And he said, “As a matter of fact,” he says, “that’s the guy I want”. So my friend is stunned, I mean he’s not expecting this. And this is like on a Thursday. That night he calls me up, it’s about 10:30, I’ll never forget this, at night, and he starts to describe his problem that his partner’s father has. And I was making about $18,000 a year and, this is 1962. I’m pretty comfortable and happy where I am and he gets through explaining the story to me and he says, “Would you be interested in that job?” And I said, “No, I’m happy where I am”, I said, “What,” and he says, “Well how much do you make?” So I said, “$18,000 a year”. He said, “This is going to pay $30—”. I said, “Oh that’s a different story”. He says, “I thought you were happy where you were”. I said, “I was until you mentioned the amount of money”. So then, that was Thursday. Friday morning I’m at work at the Kaplan’s plant up in Yonkers and I get a phone call from this guy. “Marty, you have to be at dinner tonight at 6:00 at Mr. Charley Frost’s apartment.”
Interviewer: Charley Frost, he’s the father of the ….
Interviewer: of the partner. So he’s the key player in this?
Kopp: Yeah. Oh and Charley lives on 10th Street just off Broadway in a two, it’s a penthouse apartment, it’s two of them though that he’s put together in this building in the top floor of this building. And now this is a guy who’s a friend of Jimmy Hoffa’s. He’s also politically very close to the top Democratic group in New York, which was not too far from the Mafia. And so this friend of mine says, I said, “Well wait a minute, wait a minute”. He said, “You want me to be at Mr. Frost’s for dinner tonight, Friday?” “Yeah”. I said, “Well this is my son’s birthday and it happens to be my wife’s birthday.” I said, “I can’t come in to dinner tonight”. I said, “How about next week?” He says, “When Mr. Frost wants you to come to dinner tonight, you don’t say ‘No'”. He said, “And really he wants to meet you and talk about this job”. Well the combination was a little strong. So I called my wife up. I said, “How about if I have dinner with you tomorrow night?” I said, “I’ll tell you all about it when I get home”. So I go down there and I, you know, he greets me at the door and he has this Scandinavian housekeeper-maid and she’s like six-feet-five tall, huge woman and she serves this gorgeous dinner and this friend of mine and Charlie Frost and myself are the three people at the table. And Charley’s describing ….
Interviewer: Who’s the third person?
Kopp: I can’t remember his name.
Interviewer: There’s someone, another man there?
Kopp: Yeah, Harvey Goodman, that just came back.
Interviewer: Harvey Goodman?
Kopp: Yeah that was his name. And Harvey is, he’s the one, and he’s been the go-between. So we get in the apartment and we’re sitting at dinner and eating and Charley’s describing the job that he needs done.
Interviewer: . . . ., Charley Frost does not own Continental Baking?
Kopp: Oh no, he’s the one they’re going to sell Omar to.
Interviewer: Oh, Continental’s going to sell it to Charley?
Kopp: Yeah. Charley’s getting financing for it from the Teamster’s Union ….
Interviewer: He wants to buy ….
Kopp: from the Southeast and Southwest Area’s Pension Plan.
Interviewer: Charley wants to buy ….
Kopp: Omar. But the Teamsters are going to finance it.
Interviewer: Financed by the Teamsters?
Kopp: Yeah. And on top of that, anyway I didn’t know anything about the financial arrangements so in the course of dinner as he’s going over stuff with me he says, “And you will do this and you will do that”. I said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. When did I get hired?” He said, “When you came in the door”.
Interviewer: Is that right? First impression, huh?
Kopp: Fine, I was in. So this was like early September of 62 I guess.
Kopp: Now the negotiations start with Continental and I….
Interviewer: Your age at that time was ….
Kopp: 58 or something, ’62.
Interviewer: Fifty—, okay.
Interviewer: You were born in what ’22?
Kopp: No I was younger than that.
Interviewer: ’60. Oh.
Kopp: No I was younger, I was in my early, in my 50s.
Interviewer: Okay. No you were 40, you’re 40 years old.
Kopp: 1916, yeah whatever it was.
Interviewer: Yeah you’re a young man ready to launch your career.
Interviewer: You’re 40.
Kopp: Probably, by this time a number of other things have happened with, for example I came back from World War II and I had been, as a member of these committees in the state society, I was having dinner with two professors from NYU and they were on this committee on cost accounting and they were commiserating each other on the fact that they were so short-handed in professorial staff that they couldn’t take on the students that they needed to supply the CPA firms. And so I’m listening to this and I, this is when I’m making $18,000 a year. And I graduated City College at night and this was night school teaching that they were talking about. And they said, “What about you Marty, are you available?” I said, “Well what for?” He said, “Well we have supplied, finished, we’ve satisfied our requirements just this past couple weeks,” he said, “but City College needs” I said, “Well I graduated there”. “Oh that would be terrific. Call up the Dean of the Accounting Department, tell him we told you to call him, and see what’s happening.” So I call the guy up and he puts me onto his secretary and sent me an application. I sent in the application and I, oh a couple months go by. By May I get a call to come in for an interview. And when I get there at 2:30 in the afternoon, there’s about four other guys up for the same interview and I know three or four of them, three of the guys anyway from my own accounting firm that I used to work with at Leidesdorf. And then I get in for an interview and they have my application with all the details and all that. And I’m with about four or five professors and the managing, what do you call him, the director, a guy named Emanuel Sacks. And Manny Sacks is questioning me and he asked a number of inane questions all of which were answered on the application. And finally, I’d been there about five minutes. Oh and the other four or five guys that went in were in for four or five minutes also. So now I’m almost the last guy to come in and Manny says, “Well Mr. Kopp, is there anything you’d like to say or anything you’d like to add?” I said, “Yes”. And he said, “Well what is that?” I said, “I would take longer to interview an office boy than you gentlemen have taken to,” I was pissed off, “have taken with me”. ‘Cause I had come from a client and this was billable time I was giving up. And these five guys start to get very upset because you don’t say that to us, you know, especially when you’re looking for a job. And so we got in the whole big harangue and these other guys are waiting outside to find out about their interviews. And we’re there about a half an hour and they said, “Well thank you very much for coming in. Goodbye.” An about a week later I got a letter that you have been assigned, this is in May, that you’ve been assigned a course in one of the very first, 101 Accounting, in the, beginning in the fall. Nobody even asked me if I was, you know,….
Interviewer: Even want it?
Kopp: No mention about pay or any ….
Kopp: Yeah, but I had gone all the way through school there at night so I knew the courses. So that’s how it was. So I wind up there. Now when I came out, that’s how I got the connections with, between all these things going on ….
Interviewer: You started teaching?
Kopp: I started teaching. I taught there for seven years at night.
Interviewer: At night?
Kopp: Yeah. I went eight years at night as an undergraduate.
Interviewer: So you’re teaching at night?
Interviewer: Building up to this offer about Omar?
Kopp: Yeah. So now Charley Frost who’s involved in a lot of investments and all, he gave like $20 million to New York Hospital in New York. They built a whole section that was attributed to him. He was a very wealthy man but he was also not a spender and so …. And oh there was another guy. He was the, a Senator or House of Representatives, Labor Sec—, the Labor Committee, whatever it was, and so he was the Mafia connection. He’s a black guy. He was a minister in Harlem. He had, can’t think of his name but he was infamous. And I….
Interviewer: He was in on this deal with Charley or what?
Kopp: No they well, it was, that was the connection with Jimmy Hoffa and somehow, I don’t know how it worked but I met a lot of strange fellows at that time. But I was the negotiator for Charley on this deal with Continental.
Interviewer: Okay Charley said at that dinner, “You’re hired, you’re working.”
Kopp: Yeah. So I tell the Kaplans I’m going to be leaving.
Interviewer: In 1962.
Kopp: And they said, “Well,” you know, “would I consider staying and they would pay me how much am I going to make”. And I said, “Thirty grand a year”. They said, “I’ll make it eighteen”. They did it, I’m at this meeting up at Harold Kaplan’s home in Larchmont with his father and he was the President of the company. And he was a terrific guy. His father was so empowerable it was unbelievable. But Harold Kaplan, who was my boss, he was the President of the company. He was really great and he had a good mind so he and his father, his father offers me, Harold does not. And so I’m saying, “Well,” you know, “if I stay, you’ll always be resenting that I held you up”.
Interviewer: Ummmm. Did they make the offer of thirty?
Kopp: Yeah his father did. He said he’d meet whatever I was getting offered. And he knew it was $30,000 ’cause that’s what we had talked about earlier in the afternoon. And so the decision was that I would leave when this deal was consummated and in the meantime I would train my successor who was the office manager of the company at the time, worked for me. And so that was the arrangement. But now I’m taking time off to handle Charley Frost’s deal. What I find out is that they have an appraisal from an insurance company, real estate insurance and appraisal and a financial company that works for the Teamster’s Pension Fund in Chicago. And they have appraised this whole empire of Omar to be worth $8,000,000.
Interviewer: $8,000 000 is the market value of Omar?
Kopp: Right. Now the deal with Continental that’s cooking is that Continental will sell the property to Mr. Frost for $4,000 000 and the Union will lend him four and half million dollars so that, and he will put up a half a million dollars. So the company will actually start with a million dollars of working capital.
Interviewer: Yeah, operating capital, right.
Kopp: And that’s the arrangement. And that’s how I got into the …. And of course one of the great stories of my life happened at the meetings with the Continental Baking Company in their headquarters in Rye, New York.
Interviewer: Oh really?
Kopp: Yeah. Well Omar had about 72 branches, garages where they would load the trucks for home-delivery routes. They had 1,500 home-delivery routes, 1,200 home-delivery routes but 1,500 men (mixed voices) and also their supervisors were members of the union so ….
Interviewer: So you were brought in by Charley to make this Omar thing work, in other words, as I understand it?
Kopp: ‘Cause he didn’t know anything about baking and I, I’m a …. CPA with the garment industry and textiles and stuff like that and I’m a specialist in bankruptcies …. what we handle, the government, in company, but after the war I was a tax specialist and then I became a cost accounting specialist.
Interviewer: But you had 12 or so years with Kaplan in more or less really operationals and hands-on?
Kopp: Right, right, right.
Interviewer: They thought you were a controller and that meaning something else.
Kopp: Yeah it was a ….
Kopp: not an….
Interviewer: So they had given you far beyond a CPA controller’s job?
Kopp: Oh yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Okay. So I think Charley had visualized that and did you have a title then as the deal was concluded?
Kopp: I was going to become the Controller.
Interviewer: Controller of Omar?
Kopp: But while the negotiations were going on, I’m not even hired yet, I mean I’m hired but I’m not working on the payroll. I’m promoted to Treasurer.
Interviewer: Treasurer of Omar?
Kopp: Yeah and by the time they closed the deal, I’m elected President by Charley. He’s the whole board of directors. ‘Cause he’s going to be in New York, I’m going to be out here, see. And that’s how I got out here and …
Interviewer: And you have a wife and two sons at that time that you’re going to uproot and …. Kopp: My wife was perfectly happy to do it.
Interviewer: She was, okay.
Kopp: But she had a great philosophy. We moved from Elmhurst, Queens to Fresh Meadows, Queens, from there to Westbury, Long Island, now we move out to Columbus, Ohio. I’m there and then after five years with the firm there was some changes and I found out that the new board of directors that I was under, under scrutiny by, were three guys sent by the Teamsters Union ….
Interviewer: Now you’re talking about Omar after three years?
Kopp: Yeah. No, I was there five years.
Interviewer: Five years?
Kopp: And now at the end of the five years there’s been a change in stockholders ….
Interviewer: Charley was a ….
Kopp: Charley is now ….
Interviewer: a controlling thing? He was your one ….
Kopp: During that time. But then all of a sudden the Teamsters Union and the Pension Fund in Chicago decided, I don’t remember what happened but the board of directors turned out to be three guys from Chicago, from the union. But I knew these three guys and ’cause I was having to report to the Pension Fund progress in the company almost, at least twice a month on Mondays, I remember. I’d fly up to Chicago and bring them up to date on what the latest stuff was. ‘Cause they were the big lenders, I mean they lent four and a half million dollars and we weren’t paying it off. We were happy to break even at this point.
Interviewer: Keeping those routes ….
Kopp: It was a $40,000,000 business but it needed a lot of repairs and I was, that was one of the reasons I was there.
Interviewer: They were still doing home deliveries in ’67?
Kopp: Yeah. That was the last year.
Interviewer: The last year?
Kopp: But see that was part of it that I knew that the Teamsters when they, oh these three guys come in, there were two of them and I knew them and they were really hombres, you know, and it’s three in the afternoon December 30, 1966. And they announced that they are two of the three new directors of the company. And I, knowing them, I said, “Excuse me”. I went into my office, wrote out a resignation on the spot….
Interviewer: On the spot?
Kopp: On the spot. Well they would usually, if they were closing in on your, they would send you away and they’ll fill your shoes later. You didn’t have a second chance, you know. So I figured I better get the hell out of here real quick.
Interviewer: You were President of Omar?
Kopp: Yeah, yeah. And I had been for five years.
Interviewer: And this is …. by the two new members of the board of directors?
Interviewer: Where was Charley at this time?
Kopp: He was, I don’t remember.
Interviewer: Sort of your benefactor. He kind of abandoned you to ….
Kopp: Well he was going to be stuck for four and a half million dollars ’cause that’s how much the company owed the Teamsters and because we had gotten it from a loser to at least a break-even or a little bit of profit, they still couldn’t amortize that debt. And the Pension Fund was under very close scrutiny by the FBI at that time. They were building junk hotels in Las Vegas and all kinds of stuff. But they also had people disappeared in the canals, in the rivers with concrete shoes, you know and stuff. I didn’t really get into that. I was happy without that kind of climate.
Interviewer: What was the purpose of their visit to you in ….
Kopp: They wanted to take over because they wanted to give up the home-service delivery.
Interviewer: They were going to tell you what to do?
Kopp: They, yeah. And so when I came to them that’s exactly, you got the right word. I handed them the resignation, 3:00 in the afternoon. They said, “Well why are you quitting?” I said, ‘”Cause I don’t want to disagree with you guys”. “Well won’t you stay on for a little while?” I said, “Sure”. You didn’t have an option. And I came in Saturday morning and they were still there. And they said they’d like me to stay for 30 days ….
Interviewer: Was that in Columbus this took place?
Kopp: Sure, right down here in Parsons Boulevard, there.
Kopp: Yeah, Sheldon and Moler.
Interviewer: Was the headquarters of Omar?
Kopp: That was no, well, yeah, I had made it that. Originally it was in Omaha.
Interviewer: Well might we please ask how did that come about? I mean, you’re brought out here to Columbus. Why is, the original home base was Omaha. Why did they pick, Charley or you?
Kopp: I picked Columbus. I visited the four plants.
Interviewer: Well this is interesting. Okay.
Kopp: And in fact on my first visit, remember I don’t know anything about baking. I’m the senior auditor on Rheingold Beer, Liebman Breweries in Brooklyn. And I know all about making beer but I don’t know anything about making bread.
Interviewer: Years ago, uh huh. So you go to four cities to see Omar?
Kopp: I’m escorted by Continental. This is before the closing.
Interviewer: Okay, with Continental people.
Kopp: And when I get to the first one which is Columbus, they take me to the bakery and I go into one department and there is where they have what they call troughs, T-R-O-U-G-H. And it’s about the size of that couch. And the dough is dropped in there and stirred around, mixed. It’s mixed in mixers and then poured into this trough and it ferments there for like four hours. And after it ferments, it’s rising. Then it’s dropped down into a machine that’s called a “divider” and this weighs out the 14 oz. or 12 oz., whatever the local bread’s going to be, and drops it onto a conveyer belt so it’s a “plunk”. The conveyer belt goes through a series of operations that roll this dough into a piece of about this long and about like a large frankfurter, a gigantic frankfurter. But now this is dough that’s fermenting ’cause it’s still not, it’s still raw. And it’s on a conveyer belt. And it’s dropped, underneath the conveyer belt is a second one and when it gets to the end of the top one the second one has bread pans.
Interviewer: ‘Cause we’re anticipating, why are you telling me all these details?
Kopp: Because you have to (mixed voices). So every time the dough drops into one of the pans, it then continued into what they call a “proof box” where it’s allowed to grow older or whatever for like 30 minutes. Then it goes into a huge baking oven where you can have 3,000 loaves of bread at one time and at the end it comes out on conveyers and then it goes through packaging and all that. So we get to this department where they have the divider and everything is spotless, the place is clean and we, which was one of the elements of….
Interviewer: Was that Columbus plant or where?
Interviewer: Okay, in Columbus.
Kopp: And this guy from Continental says to me, “And this is the department where all the cripples are,” and I look around and all the personnel there are perfectly healthy. And I can’t figure out, what do you mean “cripples”? Well when this dough reaches where it drops into the bread pan, it doesn’t always land flat. It lands tipped up on a side but since everything is going automatically, it goes through the entire process of making it into a loaf of bread, it’s “crippled”. Years later I’m working at Caterpillar in Peoria, Illinois and the end of the assembly line of the machines they make there, they have a bunch of machines that are being fixed, they didn’t make it perfectly and they have what they call “gigs” on them. And so they have all these machines and they, lo and behold, they call them “cripples”.
Interviewer: There was this ….
Kopp: And I thought, “Gee, it’s amazing. Here it is 20 years later and I’m looking into cripples again”.
Interviewer: You see the cripples again?
Kopp: Next to, one of those next assignments I had, this is when I was with the Proudfoot Company was the International Harvester Plant in Louisville. And now I’m very knowledgeable. We enter the assembly plant there, there are these machines. And I said to the guys we were with, the employer, I don’t know, he’s a foreman or somebody, I said, “Oh these are your cripples”. He said, “Where do you think you are, in Peoria?”
Interviewer: (laughs) He knew about that?
Kopp: Yeah. But that was one of the ….
Interviewer: That’s a funny story. I want to kind of linger a bit on this interesting situation. I think historically in business it’s quite interesting, as Continental originally bought Omar for the higher capacity. Now did they get….
Kopp: And the quality of the plants.
Interviewer: And the quality. Now it generates two questions. I wanted to know more details about why you picked Columbus compared to the other towns. But before that, what happened to the original concept of Continental obtaining that increased capacity? Did they give up on that because of the Union problem?
Kopp: Yeah. They were told ….
Interviewer: So they just wanted to get rid of….
Kopp: The Federal Trade Commission said …. issued an order to divest themselves.
Interviewer: And so they just….
Kopp: They were out to peddle.
Interviewer: They were out to peddle?
Kopp: But they didn’t want to lose a lot of money.
Interviewer: Do you know what Continental paid for Omar to begin with?
Interviewer: So that’s a little family secret for the Omar family.
Kopp: I never heard about it. Isn’t that funny, I never even thought about it.
Interviewer: It’s an idea that what was Continental’s investment here?
Kopp: I have no idea.
Interviewer: Yeah. So we don’t know ….
Kopp: …. debt free, let me put it that way.
Interviewer: Debt free, appraised by some outfit came to $8,000,000.
Kopp: No this was a sub, the guy, the insurance company in real estate appraisals who did it, were very tightly protective with Mr. Jimmy. Interviewer: So they jacked it up to $8,000,000. Kopp: Unfortunately the president of that company didn’t die a natural death either.
Interviewer: Is that right? So the Teamsters put the $4,000,000 in, well all right____
Kopp: Four and a half million.
Interviewer: Four and a half and then ….
Kopp: Charley put in five, the other half. So we started with $5,000,000 paid formally in for the profit. Oh by the time I got through looking it over, the price went down to $3,800,000. So I was considered a financial genius.
Interviewer: Did you have a role in lowering that price? Kopp: Yeah, yeah. Well I took a, they had seventy-some odd branches all with leases. They didn’t own them.
Interviewer: Well then how is it you picked Columbus? You went to these other towns … Kopp: Oh I went to the…
Interviewer: To the headquarters?
Kopp: They didn’t have the staff that I saw at Columbus. Also they had, at Columbus they had a brand new kind of computer that was called I think a “1401” or something like that.
Interviewer: And IBM?
Kopp: Yeah. But it was a big …. oh like the size of the big 600s, like the size of this whole wall here, you know. But this one was almost desk-top, you know, but a big piece of equipment, probably about three or four feet by four or five feet.
Interviewer: And this is sometime around 1962?
Interviewer: And you see this IBM computer and you had more staff and they were located where?
Kopp: Right at Sheldon and Moler, right here in town.
Interviewer: Sheldon and Moler.
Kopp: You know where Parsons Street is?
Interviewer: Yeah, sure.
Kopp: And you know where Frebis is? Well it’s just southwest of that corner, one block southwest.
Interviewer: Where was their bakery?
Kopp: Right there.
Interviewer: The bakery was there and ….
Kopp: The offices.
Interviewer: sometimes Columbus offices?
Kopp: And the offices. And also the garage that maintenance … repairs the vehicles we had and in each bakery we had, of course, a garage as well and an accounting department. In fact when I was cleaning out some of the excess paper that Continental had kept in for the picture, I had, the guy in Indianapolis, he taught me something I never saw again but I always used afterwards but I never saw it from other people, that is when you reduce the staff in the office, you take the furniture out also.
Interviewer: Why is that?
Kopp: ‘Cause everybody knows, oh that used to be John’s desk. And it’s kind of a . …, you know, it’s a, they aggravate themselves from having lost a friend, a co-worker.
Interviewer: You take John’s desk out of there ….
Kopp: There’s nothing to point to. It’s not to remind them anymore. So I was rather surprised when I walked into that office after I had authorized their reduction of staff. And I used to travel around a lot so I wasn’t here in Columbus as much as, not foil time. Well I had four major bakeries and we had 1,500 Teamsters. We had 3,000 bakers, 1,500
Interviewer: Three thousand bakers?
Kopp: Yeah well we had four plants and each plant had, the four plants had 1,500 what we called “bread department” and then there was another unit also under the Teamsters, both of, oh these bakery unions were independent of the Teamsters.
Interviewer: Oh they were not Teamsters?
Kopp: No. But there were two different bakery unions. One was in charge of the bread making and the other was in charge of everything else we baked, the sweet rolls, there were doughnuts, flat cakes for parties, you know.
Interviewer: That’s another union?
Kopp: It was a different union.
Interviewer: Now this was a highly-unionized business?
Kopp: Oh yeah. So was, all of them were. Continental was too. I mean (mixed voices). …
Interviewer: …. overly heavy handed that the union could dictate to Continental what business they’re in.
Kopp: No, they but they could argue that killing 1,500 of our jobs is an unfair trade practice because your idea is to put Omar out of business as a competitor. ‘Cause where they’re delivering to the homes, you are trying to sell at the Kroger’s and the A & Ps.
Interviewer: People have to go in. It’s a different marketing. I mean they didn’t buy the other company here, I’m not asking you about this, was Donaldson Bakeries with home delivery?
Kopp: We bought them.
Interviewer: They …. Continental wasn’t owning Donaldson either?
Kopp: No but after Omar, about two years into Omar ownership on its own, we bought Donaldson.
Interviewer: You bought Donaldson?
Interviewer: Was that a family-owned business ….
Kopp: Yes, yeah. On Oakland Park Avenue is the headquarters.
Interviewer: Isn’t that interesting?
Kopp: Gee I haven’t thought about that in years.
Interviewer: You bought Donaldson. Well that, we know those from radio and TV commercials.
Kopp: Well the ones that we had at Omar was (whistles): “Here comes the Omar man”. Or, “The Omar man is (knocks two times) knocking at your door. Buy our bread, you’ll want some more.” But do you remember Lucy, from the Lucy’s Toy Show? Well see her husband was the General Manager of Omar when I came there. And he left to go to the Ohio Companies as an investment banker.
Interviewer: Oh the famous stock company, yeah. Yeah, okay.
Kopp: And I used to consult with him all the time as to what was going to happen. ‘Cause I didn’t know anything about baking.
Interviewer: So he helped you?
Kopp: And so he kept, and I wound up as a client of his.
Interviewer: In stock investment?
Interviewer: That is, what is his name? Okay, we’ve started the fourth and final physical tape cassette of our interview with Martin Kopp at his residency on October 6, 2010, and we’re starting now Side A. Interesting document in his files as we put that other cassette in, Martin has produced a letter from his grandfather from Venice, California, 5 Rose Avenue, The Ocean View Hotel dated July 10, 1937. What’s the nature of this letter here from your dear grand— now this is Grandpa?
Kopp: Kopp. Henry.
Interviewer: Henry Kopp. Is it just a friendly letter?
Interviewer: Okay, we’ll pause here while I read it. Interesting …. for six years you took your grandsons Josh and Ben. …
Kopp: Prior to that my second wife and I used to go sailing.
Interviewer: How did you develop the skills of sailing?
Kopp: I didn’t sail, we had a crew.
Interviewer: You had a crew?
Kopp: Yeah they managed the ship. This is me at the stern and ….
Interviewer: So it strikes me as if you’d returned to the sea where you had your seaman experiences in….
Kopp: I was probably more famous for this.
Interviewer: (laughs) Having a refreshment.
Kopp: It was scotch.
Interviewer: Uh huh. “Flash Vert” was the name of the sailboat.
Kopp:… If you’re in the Caribbean at sunset looking west, there’s a moment when the sun is at the horizon and just before it disappears when there’s a blue flash comes out or a green flash, Flash Vert, it’s a French word for green and one has to be prepared, you only get one quick look at it. But that was the name of the boat.
Interviewer: As the sun sinks below the horizon?
Kopp: Just as it sets, yeah. But it’s a very brief instant and you don’t, most people don’t ever get to see it ’cause they’re not paying attention.
Interviewer: And it’s green?
Kopp: Yeah, it’s a green coloring on the horizon.
Interviewer: I’ll be looking if I’m ever out on such an opportunity.
Kopp: I don’t know ….
Interviewer: …. family tradition.
Interviewer: …. on your travels.
Interviewer: Okay well let’s get back here, we have another ….
Kopp: I don’t know where I’m at.
Interviewer: You’re experience back with Omar. I guess we answered the question why did you pick Columbus? You had an advanced computer and personnel you needed.
Kopp: And it wasn’t as far west.
Interviewer: And it wasn’t, it was the closest place to New York with a good airport I’ll bet.
Interviewer: You made the decision to move …. put you back on the inside track and your wife says that’s fine. The kids are, you’ve got two kids and you’re coming out to Columbus. Did you move right away? Was it a quick transition to Columbus?
Kopp: No, no. I came out in November of ’62 and I closed on a house here in Berwick in May of ’63. And moved here in June of ’63 and we were here for five years and when I resigned from Omar, not knowing I was going to stay another couple of months, I called up a friend of mine in Darien, Connecticut and I wanted to know how you get the headhunters to hunt me. I had never looked for a job and he told me, gave me the name of a couple of guys in New York and when you write them, you send them your information, create a resume’, one page, 8Vi X 11, and have it ready when you talk to these guys. Send me a copy of whatever you send them. He was Treasurer of Wheeling Steel at that time working for a guy named Norton Simon. Norton Simon was a, had developed a whole bunch of co—, a conglomerate organization of large companies.
Interviewer: This one about, who was this man again?
Kopp: Norton Simon.
Interviewer: Well the man you’re communicating with about headhunters?
Kopp: That was my old boss, Harold Kaplan.
Interviewer: Your old, oh, okay, okay, so you went back to Kaplan, okay.
Kopp: We had always remained in a good relationship.
Interviewer: I see. So you’re asking him to advise ….
Kopp: I never left a job with a bad relationship, I mean relationships continued and friendly. So he gave me the name of this other guy that I knew and who was now working as Treasurer of Wheeling Steel but under this guy Norton Simon. Hunt’s Catsup was known as Simon’s famous outfit in California. He also endowed a very famous, and I don’t remember the name, an art museum. But what happened was I called up one of these headhunters and the first guy I called, and I was feeling pretty low, and we talked for a while.
Interviewer: In 1967?
Kopp: This is, no it’s still the end of ’62, yeah.
Interviewer: You started this ….
Kopp: Hunt, job hunt.
Interviewer: Shortly after the visit by the teamsters?
Kopp: Very shortly.
Interviewer: Very shortly. You got right on this?
Kopp: That following Sunday I called, Friday I resigned, Saturday I came in and they said they want me to stay for a month. And Sunday I called up my former boss Harold Kaplan and he’s the guy that told me to call up this other guy that he knew, his name, I can’t remember the name here, and he had just been placed by a headhunter on the job as Treasurer of Celanese, the job as Treasurer of Wheeling Steel in West Virginia. And so I called up, Mack Mackaffey, I called Mack up on Sunday in Darien, Connecticut. How do you get the headhunters to hunt for you? And he gave me these two names, one on Park Avenue. I don’t know where the other one was but they were both in New York. And, you know, prepare this resume’, SVS X 11, one page, and then, “When you talk to them, then send me whatever you send them”. So when I called this guy whose name, I can’t, forget names, and I spoke to him at like 10:00 in the morning and I’m not feeling very delighted about things, very depressed in fact. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing, you know. A weird feeling. And we talked very briefly and I’m now 51 years old and we go over stuff orally and he said, “Do you have a resume’?” I said, “Yes,” so I said, “But I have a problem”. He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well Mack Mackaffey said to prepare a resume one page 8!/2 X 11”. I said, “But mime is four pages long. I can’t get it to one page.” And he said, “Mister”, and this is amazing, he said, “Mr. Kopp, anyone who is 51 years old and can get his resume 8 1/2 x 11, hasn’t done anything.” So all of a sudden I felt like I was alive again, you now. But then in the meantime I had a good relationship with the Ohio National Bank and with the President of the Bank. He wasn’t Chairman, he was President. They had no Chairman. And Lee, I forgot his last name now, and I called him up and I told him I was looking for a job. Well he had one of his Vice Presidents come in and interview me, Felix Graff, the Graff in German County, German-American …or whatever. And Felix was, Felix, oh I’m not sure if it was Felix, but his last name was Graff.
Interviewer: Let’s pause also here and ask had you joined the Jewish community and …. Kopp: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: synagogue and ….
Kopp: Yeah we belonged to Temple Israel and we also belonged to Temple, to Beth Jacob. We, there our religious services at Israel and our social life was at Beth Jacob. It’s right here in Berwick and Israel was way over on the other side of town, toward east.
Interviewer: Why did that…. Kopp: ‘Cause the house we owned was here in Berwick just a few blocks from where I’m now living. It had ….
Interviewer: So you made an easy transition from New York to the community here? Kopp: Well my late wife, the first one, had a theory, oh, because we wound up in Wheeling, West Virginia anyway after five years of, at Omar, and I was there five years and there was a change in ….
Interviewer: What was Roz’ theory?
Kopp: Well we moved from Elmhurst, Queens to Fresh Meadows, Queens, to Westbury, Long Island, to Columbus, Ohio, to Wheeling, West Virginia, and back to Columbus, Ohio. So she figured out that three moves equaled one fire.
Interviewer: In terms of losing stuff?
Kopp: To have a……… And she’s quite gal. And she was very different from my second wife. My first wife was very homemaker type and very good mother to the kids and spoiled me rotten. And the second wife was a very outgoing personality and here in Columbus she was very well known, very well known, and I was, “Here’s Frances Kopp and Marty also”. So I was —
Interviewer: Oh what a change there, huh?
Kopp: So I was always the “also”.
Interviewer: Well tell us how that transpired then to this job in West Virginia.
Interviewer: Your head hunter ….
Kopp: …. to call this guy from Celanese. He has said, “Send a copy of whatever you send the headhunters”. So I mailed everything off on Monday. Tuesday evening I get a phone call from Mack Macaffy. He says, “Never mind the headhunters. How about coming to join me here in Wheeling in Wheeling Steel?” I said, “Well what’s the deal?” He said, “Well you’re making thirty grand here now but it’ll only be twenty-five ’cause that’s all we can pay. And,” he said, “the reason Norton Simon took this over is ’cause it was in terrible shape and was on the verge of bankruptcy and he got control with 2% of the stock on the New York Stock Exchange”. He said, “I’m Treasurer here but I want to become his executive financial guy and I, that opening is awaiting me but I can’t get out of the Wheeling situation so if you come over here, you’ll become Treasurer of Wheeling Steel and I know you can handle it. ‘Cause he and I had done a lot of work together with Sears Roebuck when I was with the Kaplans. I wasn’t just a controller, I was supposed to make financial deals and marketing deals. So I, he had said, “Never mind,” you know, “the headhunters. How about joining me?” So I said, “Well the Teamsters have asked me to stay on for a couple of months”. And he said, “We can wait”. So by the end of February, I go over there and I got started there. And then he got released ’cause I was there. I got elected Treasurer and he got, oh and by this time Norton Simon sells the company and his interest to Pittsburgh Steel.
Interviewer: Ummm. Wheeling Steel?
Kopp: We were Wheeling Steel.
Interviewer: Was that in Wierton?
Kopp: No, no, in Wheeling.
Interviewer: In Wheeling? I think of Wierton as ….
Kopp: …. is National Steel was in Wierton.
Kopp: We had a very large plant in Steubenville. And also in Mingo Junction which is where the, Steubenville is where the blast furnace is for….
Interviewer: These were the declining days of steel, were they not?
Kopp: Uh, yeah. In fact I wrote a treatise on the subject because, what happened was, and it’s funny how things happen. After World War II we had the Marshall Plan and we rehabilitated Europe. But one of the deals in the Marshall Plan was that ocean travel, ocean freight, was subsidized by the United States. The stuff going to Europe had a preferable, a preference. No the stuff coming from Europe had a preference rate, a preferential rate. Not the United St—, if we were shipping to Europe we paid the regular rate. But if you were shipping from France or Germany or England to America, you got a discounted rate.
Interviewer: You know, I believe something about that has been in the news recently, that economic imbalance.
Kopp: Well it’s called “fair trade” but it’s not. And what happened was that as a consequence, if I could send a ten ton hot roll of steel to say Paris, it would go on a ship, an American ship, over to Marseilles, then it would go to Paris. Now it was supposedly free trade. However when it get to Marseilles there was no tax for landing it on the dock. But the District of Marseilles, to cross the boundaries, you had to cross like three or four counties but they were much larger than our counties….
Kopp: to get to Paris. And for each one there was a border tax. So by the time my ten tons of steel got to Paris it had been loaded up with these extra taxes. On the other hand, if you were a steelmaker in Paris, you brought it down to Marseilles with no charges. You put it on an American ship and got a discount like 50% on the freight rate. So naturally your delivery in the States of my very same ten ton load is at almost, well at that time I think it ran $150 a ton, it might be $100 a ton. It was a big difference. And I lobbied with our Congressmen for an Act of Congress to get this corrected. Nobody was, and I lectured at Rotary Clubs up and down ….
Interviewer: I think it exists yet today.
Kopp: The discrepancy, yeah the Marshall plan’s still subsidizing.
Interviewer: Yeah. Someone had brought this up recently during these ….
Interviewer: economic times. We’re saying, “Listen, we are defeating ourselves”, and you had to deal with that at this steel company.
Kopp: Well what really aggravated me at that time ….
Interviewer: At Wheeling Steel?
Kopp: I tried, yeah, we worked for Pittsburgh Steel afterwards. And it became Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and that’s when I was Treasurer. The operation was about $600,000,000 a year, which is a pretty good-sized operation. We had 13—, when I joined them we had 13,000 employees and under my management, the Pittsburgh people were still in Pittsburgh, we got it down to 11,000 people and then we started, we’re from losing $10,000,000, we made like $20,000,000 in the next year I was there. I could not make a mistake. It was unbelievable how badly operating it was and ultimately it was, more recently, it was sold to a Russian company and they managed it in Wheeling for, I don’t know, five or ten years. But I think they’ve, either they’ve come to liquidate it or I don’t know what’s going on. I haven’t heard much about it lately. But anyway that was an interesting job getting there. As I say, I couldn’t make a mistake there.
Interviewer: Well I think the interest for our archives and historic value of these critical industries such as steel and how you were involved in pointing out this crazy taxation situation. Now you were able to run a profitable steel company. You say ….
Kopp: No I was Treasurer.
Interviewer: You were Treasurer.
Kopp: They knew how to make steel. They didn’t know how to administer the business. It was a very weird thing and I had to …. I had one experience, hold on, I’ll show it to you. Hang on.
Interviewer: Hang on (mixed voices).
Kopp: The problem was the automobile industry particularly and you had to make a very fine quality steel for that purpose.
Interviewer: So your product went to the auto industry?
Kopp: One of them. We also had pipe for the oil wells. That was a very high quality steel. But other than that, we were probably the bottom end of the quality steel. The Pittsburgh Steel on the other hand were the top quality. But we were doing $300,000,000 a year; they were doing about $120,—- and by the time we merged which was the year after I was there, it was about a $600,000,000 business. But one of the secrets we were developing, and I had, I have to tell you, I get there and I’ve given this thing (knocks on table). It looks like a pen.
Interviewer: Yeah it looks like a pen or a pencil.
Kopp: And it’s March. April I go up to Mingo Junction and there’s a parking lot like the size of a football field. But it’s about ten or fifteen feet above grade and it consists of slag, all this stuff, the foam like on the top of a beer,…. beer. Well when you make steel, you get the same kind of foam on top of the vessel in which ….
Interviewer: Some residue-byproduct?
Kopp: and so they have to get rid of it and they use it for highways, gravel, you know, that kind of thing, but it takes three or four months to cool down ’cause it’s over 2,000 degrees temperature. And they have special cars that bring it out and dump it on the, you had to dump it somewhere.
Interviewer: It’s the impurities from the steel-making process?
Kopp: Yeah, right, right ’cause they pull to the top. What happened was I get out to this parking lot at Mingo Junction and, there are three shifts. You run 24 hours a day seven days a week. And so there’s a big parking lot and I get out of the car with one of the chemists and I’m going to the, he’s taking me on a tour. (‘Cause I haven’t really seen the plants yet.) And this thing I’d been given when I came there and I thought it was a pen but it wasn’t, it was just interesting, you know. And I had it in my pocket and it fell out. When I picked it up, (demonstrates) it’s a magnet. So a whole bunch of this slag is attached to it. So I said, you know, “What’s that?” “Well,” he said, “that’s slag”. I said, “Well why is this sticking to the magnet?” He said, “Well slag has iron ore in it. It’s just impure.” I said, “Well where do you get this? What do you do with it?” He said, “Well we used to have a plant over in Follansby, West Virginia, just across the river where we would refine the slag and get perhaps 40 to 50% quality steel ore out of it and have to throw away the rest. With the hardships that we’ve been suffering as a company, we closed down Follansby. So we’re paying $14 a ton in Labrador, or landed in Steubenville for iron ore coming down from Labrador.” I said, “Well at 62% iron,” FE they call it, I said, “well why don’t you use this steel or this 40% stuff which you can, how much would it cost to refine?” He says, “Oh about $6 a ton”. I said, “Well you’re paying $14 and you can get it for $6, that’s a whale of a difference. And the difference in the quality of the steel, the FE content, will be the same after your refinement.” He said, “Well we’ve asked the creditors who,” this company was almost in bankruptcy. The creditors were owed $150,000,000 in defaulted debt when I got there. And what happened is I said, “Wait a minute, what if we were to, what would it take to rehabilitate this plant and we’re going to save $8 a ton from $14 a ton down to six, right? And,” I said, “why don’t we do that?” He said, “Well the blast furnace superintendents don’t like the idea of 40% steel,” 40% FE they call it. I said, “Yeah but if we can save $8 a ton getting it and we can put it in the quality of steel that is left is up to the standards we want, it’s just the ore itself coming in, is not as good”. And I said, and at that time we were doing about a million tons a quarter, so I said, “Eight dollars a ton is $8,000,000”. And, “Oh Mr. Kopp, you haven’t got a chance”. I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well the Board of Directors under the management of the creditors have said no capital expenditures of any significant amount. We can repair things but we can’t go and develop a whole new system”. I said, “Well what would it take to fix this plant up?” He said, “At least 500,000 bucks”. I said, “You’ve got it”. “How you going to do it?” I said, “I’ll talk to the Board”. So I did. And I said, “This is ridiculous. We can save $32,000,000 a year if all we do is spend a half a million to rehabilitate this plant.” Well the Board says, “Okay,” and then 11,000 employees, I suddenly became a hero. ‘Cause all of a sudden, because I’d seen 2,000 go away already, not quite, not that fast but they knew it was happening. And well everywhere I looked I could find things like that. And like I had a, they wanted a, what was it, it was a problem with, oh they had their own railroad and the railroad was, we had plants in Follansby in, right across the river from Steubenville, it was a coke plant and they owned a bridge across the Ohio River there to the blast furnaces which is where the coke went, and then we owned the railroad going down to Mingo Junction and Yorkville, Yorktown or whatever it was on that side and on the other side we had a railroad going south to another couple of plants. So in that Ohio River Valley we had a whole bunch of plants and we had this railroad to transport this heavy equipment, heavy steel and all that. So I was, oh I was an ICC carrier. I was President of the railroad. It was a very minor operation to us but it was an Interstate Commerce Commission carrier. So I ranked with the New York Central, with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and when they had meetings in Pittsburgh or something, I would go.
Interviewer: You would go ’cause you run a railroad?
Kopp: Yeah because I’m President of the railroad. So anyway when I first got there though, I get this request for, they need to spend some money to fix a couple of switches, not the switches but the lights on the switches. On this they needed, the oil was, there’s something wrong with the oil or something.
Interviewer: For the railroad, huh?
Kopp: Yeah. So I said, what do you mean “oil”? He said, “Well these switches, they were installed 30-40-50 years ago and they use oil in the lantern on the switch. So they have lantern men who go around around 5:00 in the afternoon and light the oil in the switches. Well because they’re so old, some of them need, these oil lanterns need to be replaced.” I said, “Wait a minute, these are 50 years old. We have guys going around all over these plants up and down the valley, every night they light the lights?” He said, “Well he has to make sure there’s enough oil in them and all, yeah”. I said, “Well couldn’t we do that with electricity?” “Well yeah but we can’t spend that kind of money. The Board won’t agree.” I said, “I’ll take care of it”. Well again I became a hero. And also when I got there there was a question of $6,000,000 a week payroll and the problem was whether the checks would clear.
Interviewer: You didn’t know all this comin’ in?
Kopp: No. But I found it out very quickly. So the question was whether I would be able to stay on this job and so the original arrangement was I was to get $30,000 a year like I was getting at Omar. But then they had made this rule that you couldn’t hire any new hires at more than $25—. So I was there about ten days when Mack comes to me with this apology that they would pay me for the rest of the month then I could leave if I wanted to today. But they can’t pay me the 30 grand, they can only pay 25. So I said, “I’ll take the 25”. What the hell, I had nothing going, you know. So that was …
Interviewer: Did they give you any raises for all this good …
Kopp: No, no. The first thing was the problem of making the company liquid and my relationships with the lenders, we had ten lenders, five banks and five insurance companies, and every three months I would go to visit all, I thought it were five banks, and Mellon in Pittsburgh was one of the lead banks representing the other banks, you know? And I would give them a forecast of what we’re going to do. And that was one of my best skills, this financial planning and scheduling. And it would happen. And then I was predicting, this is 1967, so I’m now predicting 1968 and I’ve got ’67 with maybe a $8— or $10,000,000 loss, six million. The year before I even got there was a $10,000,000 loss. But I’d gotten things, you know, organized financially and I could see a, and we’re now Wheeling and Pittsburgh Management is now managing Wheeling Steel. They’re not merged yet but they’re managing it. And I’m the financial side, they’re the steel-making side. And I get a forecast where I have figured out that the company’s going to make $20,000,000 next year if we continue on the paths we’re now following. And I haven’t got the courage to tell that to the lenders ’cause it sounds absolutely ridiculous.
Interviewer: Now this company is owned by an individual?
Kopp: No not anymore, it’s public stockholders.
Interviewer: It is public?
Kopp: New York Stock Exchange.
Interviewer: It’s on the New York….
Kopp: Two percent takes control.
Interviewer: Okay, Norton Simon had the 2%?
Kopp: Yeah but he sells it to Pittsburgh Steel.
Interviewer: So Wheeling Steel is trading on the Stock Exchange?
Interviewer: Were you given benefits of stock options?
Kopp: No, no.
Interviewer: ‘Cause this is the way people have gotten fabulously rich.
Kopp: Yeah but we didn’t do it then. What I was doing, you know, was, because I was managing the cash flow and that kind of stuff so carefully, I had about $40,000,000 that I had invested in the five banks on what they called Federal Funds, you know, we have now money market funds but they didn’t have it in those days.
Interviewer: You’re talking about company money?
Interviewer: Okay, not your personal money?
Kopp: No, no. But I was like, and the five banks were the ones that were part of this $150,000,000 that was in default. So I had generally about $5,000,000 basically in the five banks. And that was sort of an unspoken collateral for the loan which was no where’s near the loan but I also collected 41/2% interest in those days on overnight money. This is money that was overnight. But what happened is I would have the $5,000,000 to place in your bank. Well my revenue was about $6—, well $30,000,000 a year, $300,000,000 a year for about $6,000, maybe more. I forget the numbers now. But as Wheeling Steel, we had a little over 300 grand a year coming in, fifty weeks, that’s about $6,000,000 a week, yeah. And the payroll is close to that. I got it down to like $4,000,000. But the result was that we would collect from customers and the money came in between the 10th and 15th of the month. But I was only spending it at a slower rate. But I had not needed it at all but I had to have it available for overnight so you’re Chase Manhattan Bank and I put in $5,000,000 in your hands subject to withdrawal on the spot tomorrow. But I want to make sure it’s not sitting idle and this is the days before money market. That’s where the banks lent money to each other so I would lend you, Chase Manhattan, this $5,000,000 and the way I did it is I would buy from you $5,000,000 worth of U.S. Treasury Bonds and whatever the interest earned during the day or two days I had it, you know, you would get that interest. But that interest rate was like 12-10%. I would get 4 1/2% charged for income so with $5,000,000 you would give me, or for a million dollars, you would give me 4 1/2% overnight. Well that was about $1,250 for overnight and in the course of the first year I was there I reduced the inventory, well they had a huge inventory. They had trees growing out of the ore piles, 20 years old this money is. So I had them clean them out. And they had slag mountains for the slag on rented-leased land from Norfolk and Western Railroad that they had been doing this for 20-50 years, paying the railroad rent for the land for the slag which now going to the Fallensby Cintering Plant, they call it. So as the piles came down we didn’t need the lease.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And then what did they say?
Kopp: Then I discovered that a lot of this slag had fallen into the Ohio River and it was part of the problem of the drainage of the River. And the way I discovered it is was the Army Engineering Corps had a barge coming up and they, they were dredging the river to get this garbage out of it. And I figured, that’s our slag, you know.
Interviewer: Money could be made with it?
Kopp: Yeah. Well to hell with letting the government just take it away. We’ll put it through our Fallensby Plant and again, we’re going to make, and so everywhere I went I was able to make not peanuts but very large chunks and so this, I had this forecast for $20,000,000 for the company year. I didn’t have the courage to tell that to the lenders so I stuck in as the cost of good soul, like I think it was like $12,000,000 of expenses that we didn’t have. And I didn’t even see but I stuck in the reserve anyway and then when I went to the banks I’d bring them the financials in great details and then I would point out this one item in there, “Reserve for Contingency”. “What’s that?” I said, “Well I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t figure out what we need it for and I don’t need it in the planning and I’ve been,” now I’ve established banking, the credentials and credibility with them for about a year and a half “so I didn’t have the nerve to tell you guys we’re going to make $20,000,000 next year, I only put in ten.” Well I was a local hero. I used to, these guys used to meet me at the door of the bank when I came up in a taxi, and my wife would travel with me very often, and they would escort me upstairs to one of the, you know, suites and ….
Interviewer: In Pittsburgh?
Kopp: No it was in New York.
Interviewer: In New York?
Kopp: In New York. In Pittsburgh I was with the Mellon, they had a special banquet dining room for the executives and in New York the same thing was true and I would dine with the top executives of the bank. Yeah I got spoiled pretty badly.
Interviewer: Well I’d like to comment here that, maybe you could straighten me, but it seems like you had these discoveries and these improvements in steel that you haven’t talked about with Omar.
Kopp: No I wasn’t able to do it, couldn’t do it.
Interviewer: There wasn’t that hope. Yeah because of that home-delivery transition I think ….
Kopp: That’s right. They didn’t have credit cards in those days. And had we had credit cards, I think we would have succeeded. But let me tell you a couple of Omar stories that reminds me. Now you’re a driver so you have a route and on that route you have this loose-leaved binder with, has all the customers’ names and addresses and how much they bought today. They don’t have to pay cash but every week or so you ask them to pay you $15 or $20 that they owe, or maybe $30. And the housewives would always cough up the, in many cases in farm country like Iowa, they would send you back to the, you would catch up with them on the farm, they’d send you back to the house, “Go into the kitchen in the right-hand drawer. There’s the money. Take out what you need.”
Interviewer: Yeah they’re out working, huh?
Kopp: Yeah. “But take what you need.” This is the quality that was going on. So the Omar men were very highly regarded and they were favorites of kids ’cause they always had extra cookies or something for them. So everybody that had any experience with Omar in those days had a pleasant one, top quality and great smile. Every once in a while you had a guy who got into trouble. I mean, remember it’s cash and so what he would do is he would pocket the cash and leave the account open and then when he collected maybe a few weeks later, he’d make up the difference so he’s lapping the shortage, you know what I mean? And what happened one day was, and this was in Indiana, up in the northern corner of Indiana. I can’t remember the name of the town now. But, Fort Wayne, in Fort Wayne. And this driver was sick and it’s like a Wednesday. But all the great ones happened on Wednesdays. So his supervisor is quote “running the route”. So he takes the van and he’s going down and he knows where to go because this loose-leaf binder is every house in sequence, see, as he runs the route. Well as he goes, this lady owes $20. “Oh I paid the driver two weeks ago.” “Oh I paid the driver . … ” “Well he was here two days ago. He collected $15.” Turned out the guy was short about three hundred and some odd dollars. So when he gets back to work the next day, the Branch Manager confronts him with this. And he says, yeah well he had to have it. He had some emergency problems. But he’ll make it up. And the manager says, “Of course you will,” he says. “Here’s a,” they call it a cognovit note. So he signs this note for $300. Now that’s a note where you don’t have to prove the money is owed. You know, it’s a promissory note but it’s cognovit it’s called and so it’s evidence like cash. You owe that money period. You can’t argue about it. Gets the note, fires the guy. Well he got the money anyway, you know. The guy’s gone about two weeks, three weeks. Comes in, I don’t know, in the morning about 9:00, wants to see the Branch Manager, yeah. He’s got $300 cash. He wants the cognvit note back. So the manager says, “Great”, gives him the note, takes the three hundred bucks. And now each of the drivers from the night before had brought in their revenue and so the Branch Manager says, “Take me to the bank”. Oh by the way, he says to the ex-driver, he says, “Where did you get the money?” And he says, “From the bank”. “Oh, okay.” So he didn’t ask any more questions. Now it’s about 10:30 in the morning and he goes over to the Indiana National Bank branch in Fort Wayne and he’s got the deposit from yesterday’s collections including this three hundred bucks and there’s police cars in front of the bank and detectives all around. He says, “What happened?” He says, “Some guy came in here and robbed the bank this morning”. So our…. manager says, “Did he look like blah, blah, blah?” “Oh yeah, that’s the guy.” He says, “It’s one of our drivers”. So they make the deposit and about two weeks go by. I didn’t know anything about this. And I get a letter from the bank saying that we owe them $300 because one of our drivers stole the money from them. So we had one of these insurance policies that covers theft and something like that. So I called the broker and said, “Will you check this out?” A couple of weeks go by and he come back with the answer and we don’t owe the three hundred bucks ’cause you had to prove that the $300 themselves were the dollars he stole from the bank. And because it was mixed with everything else, there was no way to tell. So it was free and clear. We had another one in Iowa. This one I always thought was remarkable. The driver apparently was ill, again. He missed his, so his manager covered the route, another one of the drivers … driver was covering the route. Eleven o’clock in the morning he’s at this farmhouse out in the countryside and he rings the doorbell and a man comes to the door, takes one look at him and socks him in the jaw and knocks him off the porch.
Interviewer: Isn’t that weird?
Kopp: …. And the guy’s, “What happened, what are you doing?” And it turns out that the substitute on the route didn’t know anything about what’s going on but all he knew is he got socked in the jaw. The man who did it, our driver had been having an affair with his wife. And so he stayed home that day to get the driver.
Interviewer: And he didn’t know?
Kopp: So it was the wrong guy.
Interviewer: The perils of the Omar man. Talking about the guy who was stealing the money, did he intend to replace it by his own money?
Kopp: Some day in the future. They always have the intention to replace it. They just don’t.
Interviewer: It was just discovered because he’s not there to keep the …. going.
Kopp: Right. Accounting experience back in New York with the accounting firm was on embezzlements and fraud and bankruptcies. ‘Cause usually if there was a bankruptcy it involved a fraud or embezzlement.
Interviewer: Now you mentioned credit cards. They didn’t have credit cards in the house. It had to be cash, cash business in the 60’s.
Kopp: Or a check.
(Mixed voices) Kopp: No. They had begun to develop a city bank here in Columbus. It was, I think, the first bank developing credit cards.
Interviewer: Yeah in the 60s credit cards began to be issued.
Kopp: But it was before I left.
Interviewer: Trying to determine why it was the decline of home delivery. Donaldson’s Bakery, you bought them, (mixed voices)
Kopp: We considered a competitor, Nicholson, Nickels Bakery.
Interviewer: So we had two home deliveries.
Kopp: But they were not home delivery.
Interviewer: And yet were you there for the last, you were almost to the last home delivery?
Interviewer: The times when you saw that was not going to be ….
Kopp: I didn’t see that. I just knew we were having trouble with the drivers embezzling money.
Interviewer: Drivers were embezzling. They were Teamsters members?
Kopp: Yeah. And there was a problem, was a major problem.
Interviewer: Were the Teamsters demanding more pay for the drivers? What was the economic crunch with Omar that eventually ….
Kopp: They just got into trouble when I was, remember they’re not huge earners.
Interviewer: Uh huh, not a big money making ….
Kopp: No, driving one of those trucks was not the best, in fact, I was able to, with Bobb Chevrolet here in town, I was able to refurbish some of the fleet. Now with 1,500 drivers, we had around 1,200 trucks. And so I….
Interviewer: capital involved in this?
Kopp: So I started to replenish ’cause these trucks were pretty old now. They had not spent any money, capital expense. And Continental didn’t because they were planning to abandon that system entirely.
Interviewer: Right, so you had an aging fleet with a big capital investment.
Kopp: My connection here was a guy named Sullivan and he put these cars, he kept them in shape. I don’t know how the hell he did it. But anyway I made a deal with Bobb Chevrolet and I delivered, I had about 20 trucks being delivered to a branch in the southwest corner of Iowa. I’ve forgotten the name of it but it was service, the bakery was in Omaha. And so I went out to present the branch with these 20 new trucks.
Interviewer: New trucks?
Kopp: Yeah. And they had a big, brought beer and …
Interviewer: Big event, huh?
Kopp: Yeah. They had a party that night. And I remember one of the guys had said, he said, “Mr. Kopp,” he’s talking to the whole audience. He says, “I’ve been with this company for over 20 years.” He says, “I’ve been here since, when I first came we had horses that drove our trucks.” He says, “These step vans are absolutely wonderful”. He says, “But I have to tell you, my horse never lost a customer.” He said, “We’d go down the street. That horse would stop in front of the house and I’d go up and take the bread up to them, come back out and we’d go down to the next block and I didn’t have to even touch his reins. He would stop, or she would stop there.” He said, “That horse never lost a customer”.
Kopp: It was very embarrassing.
Interviewer: That horse knew the route?
Interviewer: Aw those old days.
Kopp: He said, “We like these step vans”.
Interviewer: What company made the trucks? Were they Fords, Chevrolets?
Kopp: Chevrolets. They were, well Bobb Chevrolet was the outfit. They’re at Parsons and Livingston, right at the corner. I think they’re still there.
Interviewer: So when the Teamsters made the change, it was still an ongoing concern, Omar? You had purchased Donaldson but….
Kopp: When I left they were planning to drop their home service delivery also.
Interviewer: Oh yeah?
Kopp: Because now they realized that it was not an economic …. (tape ends)
Interviewer: Not much of a future left? Okay this is the final side of our last cassette here and we just retouched on Omar as a declining business. The steel industry had lots of opportunities for improvement. What happened next with Wheeling Steel? You were bought out.
Kopp: No Wheeling Steel was merged with Pittsburgh Steel. And the Pittsburgh Steel Chairman of the Board, a fellow named Alie Maxwell and Alie Maxwell was President of Pittsburgh Steel. He became Chairman of the Board of Wheeling Steel, or Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. And Don Duval was the Executive Vice President of Pittsburgh Steel. He became President of Wheeling Steel. And these two guys and I got along fabulously and they were very appreciative of the kind of work I was doing and I really was very happy ….
Interviewer: So that’s the five-year time period ….
Kopp: Well four years, four-and-a-half years into it, Don Duval has a heart attack and dies. Before the merger was completed I had discovered that one of the important factors in the price of the merger was going to be the exchange rate of Pittsburgh Steel, which would now get Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel stock, which was really Wheeling stock renamed. And the arrangement that had been reached was that each Pittsburgh stockholder would get 2/3 of a share of Wheeling for his share in Pittsburgh. And they would have, as a group they would have clearly major control of the company even though it was on the stock exchange. I discovered that the Vice President in charge of marketing and sales for Pittsburgh Steel had inflated numbers that were submitted as actual. And what I did, I called the investment banking companies that were involved in guiding us in the merger. Ours was First Boston in Boston, Massachusetts and Pittsburgh Steel’s was Shearson Hammel, both highly-regarded, respectable investment banking firms. And we had a meeting in New York in the Berkley Hotel, back of the Waldorf Astoria. And my future boss was Henry Hillman. He was Treasurer of Pittsburgh Steel, very, very wealthy family, …. known but highly invested in top-notch investments. He was not interested in all the detail of being a Treasurer. So he and I had become great friends during the negotiations and his delight was that I would be going over detail. When I discovered this, it was fixed and the exchange rate turned to be a half a share of Wheeling for each share of Pittsburgh Steel. Now that’s a big drop, a 16% drop from 2/3 of a share to half a share. I’ve forgotten now, it’s amazing, I’ve forgotten the name of the, Lauterbach, Lauterbach was the name of the Vice President, . . . ., and he was equally insulted but also he’s married into the family so he continued as Commercial Manager and we just never got along. The President, Chairman of the Board and all the other guys being great, but this one guy, we could not get along. Don Duval dies suddenly and he is elected President.
Interviewer: This man….
Interviewer: who had inflated the value of Pittsburgh Steel….
Kopp: Right, right.
Interviewer: to acquire greater value of Wheeling?
Interviewer: And you had knocked that down?
Kopp: Right. And so he and I never became friends, even like with the steelmakers and all the other guys, we all became great friends. But not this one guy. And remember I’m an alien anyway. I don’t come from the steel industry. I’m the bread man. I heard that one.
Interviewer: Bread man?
Kopp: I…. that first year when I presented my financial planning for the company and then they decided I was no longer a bread man book on there like the one on the Merchant Marine.
Interviewer: And a book about what?
Kopp: About the merger arrangements.
Interviewer: You have written about that?
Interviewer: You mentioned earlier you had written a treaty about, some article about steel-making or?
Kopp: Yeah but I don’t know where it is.
Interviewer: Okay. So you ….
Kopp: You know, it might be in that book. Let me take a look.
Interviewer: All right. We’ll pause here while . .. don’t want you to pull that out. Don’t want you to (mixed voices)….
Kopp: I think it might be right….
Interviewer: Okay. We have another memoir-type document on his business career with Wheeling Steel. Urn huh. Is that what you wrote about?
Interviewer: You didn’t write about….
Kopp: Never had….
Interviewer: how those were hurting our steel?
Interviewer: Okay. Business……… we’re looking at the memoir that Marty has prepared. We’ve got Wheeling Steel Corporation and the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation merger. Dick was invited to have drinks. What was that swanky place again, New York City?
Kopp: Berkley Hotel.
Interviewer: Berkley Hotel?
Kopp: Yeah, on Lexington Avenue behind the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue. And this suite we were having it in had been the Wheeling Steel Suite until they got financially embarrassed and it was now the Pittsburgh Steel Suite.
Interviewer: You know the environment of your life and businesses is fantastic. And, you know, to be in these wonderful surroundings and to have these events take place, a couple of scotch drinks have been set up ….
Kopp: People in town don’t know this.
Interviewer: Yeah and all right. So is this Dick Hillman?
Interviewer: Okay. And he will be your boss under this new merger?
Interviewer: And he says, okay. You don’t want to disclose that you two have been meeting and it might get out into the stock market and cause some problems?
Kopp: We have to disclose it.
Interviewer: Yeah you have to disclose it but at the proper time?
Kopp: Well that’s what I’m talking about.
Interviewer: Yeah. Perhaps if someone could jump the gun and people would have an unfair advantage of this merger.
Kopp: Right, exactly.
Interviewer: These are publicly-traded companies. So you wanted to know what to do about it and you said that we should prepare a brief announcement for release the next day, 9:00 a.m. on the Dow Jones. That’s proper disclosure, yeah. And he approved and sat down at the writing desk and asked me to dictate what I thought you would be saying then. One sentence: “The managements of Wheeling Steel and Pittsburgh Steel have reached an agreement in connection with the proposed merger of their companies regarding the exchange ratio of Pittsburgh Steel stock being converted to Wheeling stock and will present the recommendations to their respective Boards of Directors. And if approved by them, the recommendations will be submitted to their respective shareholders for their votes.” This deliberately did not disclose the exchange ratio, merely that a deal was developing. By this time it was just after 5:00 p.m. in the evening the night before you’d be doing this. You suggested that since neither of us was a lawyer, “We ought to check this with our respective counselors. In Martin’s case at Wheeling, we had a fairly large in-house legal department led by an outstanding attorney named Vanhorn. With this approval I phoned Wheeling and asked for Van. I was advised that he was in Pittsburgh at a meeting with Mr. Peter Denby in the offices of Reed, Smith, Shaw and McLay, a law firm representing the Hillmans and Pittsburgh Steel. Now this prestigious law firm included Mellon Bank and Pittsburg National Bank among their clients. The Hillman family, Dick and his cousin Henry, were major players in many of the large companies who were also clients of the law firm. A minute or two later I was connected with Mr. Horn and told him what had been accomplished and then read him the proposed release. He thought it was okay and then said that Dick Hillman ought to similarly inform Peter Denby, the managing partner of Reed, Smith, Shaw and McLay. Dick then got on the phone and went through the same story. When Dick finished reading the proposed release, Mr. Denby was very upset. He told Dick it had to be reviewed by his SEC specialist before it should be made public. Dick agreed and told Denby to have them do it right now. Denby pointed out the time, nearly 5:30 p.m., and these lawyers had gone home. Well Dick wanted to know what then, when could they have it reviewed. Denby thought they would be ready by Thursday. At this Dick almost lost his cool. He talked to Denby to have these men come back and stay all night. They wanted this ready by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. Denby, recognizing the buying power that Dick represented at the time …. and promised to have the answers for 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. At this point Dick came up with a wonderfully creative spontaneous expression. He slammed the phone down and exploded with, ‘Reed, Smith, Shaw and McLay, they ought to call it Bleed, Shit, Stall and Delay’.” And that story except for, there were rumors, this is touchy business. I understand that. “Eventually it was announced, corporate headquarters were established in Pittsburgh. Most other functions and personnel moved to Wheeling.” I take that I’m the same as reading, “That ratio of stock exchange was approved by the SEC people.”
Kopp: Yeah, at 50%.
Interviewer: That right?
Kopp: No it was much later.
Interviewer: Much later? But the numbers you came up with?
Kopp: Yeah they were the right numbers.
Interviewer: Were the right numbers?
Kopp: But I always liked that Reed, Smith, Shaw and McLay, you know, very elegant. But Bleed, Shit, Stall and Delay, this guy was so upset.
Interviewer: Major players in corporate America and you have wonderfully documented it. I’m going to take a photo of the cover page so I’ll have that in our archives. So I think as we better understand how things were conducted in corporate America in these trying times. Let me propose we kind of come to conclusion with your career. Did you move on from, all right, you had this disagreement with the new management of Pittsburgh Steel?
Interviewer: What happens?
Kopp: I called the President of Ohio National Bank, told him I was available, (mixed voices)
Interviewer: All right so you go back to your contacts?
Kopp: Right, and I am called in. It seems that there was a company called Jaeger Machine that made cement mixers here in town, on the New York Stock Exchange and they were in trouble and they owed some $6,000,000 to the bank which looked like it was going to be …. So with my reputation as fixer, they offered me the job and I accepted and the new President and I again got along famously. But the stock is on the New York Stock Exchange and a group of undertakers got involved. There was a group in St. Louis and a group in Connecticut.
Interviewer: You talking about the Pittsburgh stock, the steel company?
Kopp: No Jaeger Machine.
Interviewer: Jaeger Machine? How did we get from (mixed voices).
Kopp: The bank arranged my change, my job.
Interviewer: The bank did?
Kopp: Yeah. Well they wanted to protect their loan. This is Ohio National Bank now.
Interviewer: Oh yeah?
Kopp: Yeah. Jaeger Machine is indebted to them for $6,000,000 and is having financial problems.
Interviewer: And so the bank says, “Hey you want to get out of the steel company?” Is this the way it happened?
Kopp: I don’t know. I said, I called them up and said, “I’m available”. I had never looked for a job.
Interviewer: But you’re still Treasurer of the steel company?
Kopp: Yeah but I, oh, what happened was, when Duval died and this guy Lauterbach became President I didn’t know that my job was changing and I’m arranging, I’m talking to one of the banks in New York and he says, “About the meeting next week”. I said, “What meeting next week?” He said, “Well Mr. Lauterbach called us and we’ve arranged a meeting”. And I said, “Oh,” I said, “well I probably won’t be there then”. I said, “I’ll have to find out about it”. And I hang up, I’m embarrassed as hell and I call up my boss, who was Vice President of Finance in the company. By this time Hillman was now, oh this, my boss was yeah, Vice President of Finance. Hillman was Secretary of the company but it was a, the Vice President of Finance and the Treasurer reported to him. So I called and this guy is a guy named Dale Pilz. He came from another steel company, very charming guy and he and I got along great. He’s in Pittsburgh and I’m in Wheeling all the time. “Oh,” he says, “well I better come down and talk to you”. So he came down and to explain about this omission, why I wasn’t invited to the meeting. And he told me, Lauterbach and being that he, I was going to be left out of all this stuff that I was now going to continue to be Treasurer but I would be the bookkeeping kind of treasurer I would not be involved in decisions or in financing. In fact I was being pigeon-holed. And I said that to him. I said, “That sounds like I’m going into a pigeon hole”. He said, “Well according to Alie Maxwell, the Chairman, if there are any general raises, you will participate. But as far as bonuses go or anything like that, you’re not a part of it any more, or in negotiations with the banks or the creditors.” And that was the gem of the job.
Interviewer: What, negotiating with the bank?
Kopp: I said, “How much time have I got?”
Interviewer: You enjoyed that negotiation with the bank?
Kopp: Oh sure, yeah.
Interviewer: Did you receive bonuses during this time?
Kopp: No, no. I’d gone from $25,000 to $30—.
Interviewer: Oh okay, you’d gotten raises.
Kopp: And it looks like with Duval I was going to move up. But it didn’t happen ’cause he had a heart attack.
Interviewer: Yeah, okay. So now you’re being pigeon-holed. I see. Kopp: So I called the bank here and they had this job for me. They had two jobs: Big lots under the Schottensteins and Jaeger Machine.
Interviewer: Who was your contact at the bank? What bank was it? Kopp: Ohio National Bank.
Interviewer: Ohio National Bank?
Kopp: They didn’t have a Chairman, they had a President.
Interviewer: Okay. So he knew about this Jaeger Machine thing?
Kopp: Oh yeah. They owed him $6,000,000. They’re a little shaky. So…
Interviewer: So he wanted some solid management in there?
Kopp: Yeah. He knew me. He’d known me from the Omar days cause when I went to Omar they were also indebted to him. But that was cleared up because I used the earnings we had. We, cash earnings, we didn’t have profits.
Interviewer: Oh so you were a good guy for the bank?
Kopp: Yeah so I, yeah, I….
Interviewer: So did you interview with someone at Jaeger or….
Kopp: Yeah, Jack Conroy, the Republican. It was a New York Stock Exchange company. And Jack Conroy was the new President. But these two groups that were fighting for control of the stock, we met with them. We found out they weren’t interested in the cement-mixer business. They were interested in the 16 acres of property which is where they were going to have that new mall, you know this gambling casino? That was the property that was ….
Interviewer: In downtown Columbus?
Kopp: Yeah. And then they decided to put it out in the west end there. But the original plan was this site of the old Jaeger Machine plant where we made these cement mixers.
Interviewer: They wanted property?
Kopp: Yeah they …. want the ….
Interviewer: Did you join this firm then as ….
Kopp: No I was with Jaeger at that time.
Interviewer: You were with Jaeger, you had joined Jaeger?
Kopp: And this went on from, a couple of years I was there. And we had turned it around. But they weren’t interested in operating it. They were interested in the real estate. At the same time a group from Huntsville, Alabama saw this as an opportunity but as an opportunity as a manufacturing business. So all of a sudden the people in Columbus who adored this company were very delighted that they were, this gang from Alabama, were interested till they found out the Alabama guys were interested, they wanted to pull the plant down to Alabama. So we had three different groups attacking and the ones that won out was the Connecticut and St. Louis groups got together and they won control. And they said out and out that they wanted to liquidate. And what I decided, I said, “Look as long as you’re going to liquidate, you mind if I go looking for a job?” “Not at all.” So I had, as part of the improvements I made there, I had been working for the Proudfoot Company, you know the Alexander Proudfoot Company. I don’t know if I’ve told you about that at all.
Interviewer: No. We don’t have a whole lot of time left so we’re going to have to do the high-level.
Kopp: Alexander Proudfoot Company was a company that specialized in productivity. In most…. companies the efficiency experts who would come in as consultants would cause chaos and disaster and everything else and maybe get some results but not much. They studied you when you were working, tried to figure out how to make you do it better, faster, and cheaper. The Proudfoot Company would come in and study you when you’re not working. What we found was that in an 8-hour day at your skill level, I get four hours at your skill. I’ll get two hours that you’re working but way below your skill level. And two hours are wasted. So I’ve got four hours to deal with. The ones who are working at top level I don’t care about. But if I can attack those other four hours, I can find out that management’s at fault every time ’cause you were there but how come you didn’t have the work? And the example I use is a high-priced attorney goes over to the copy machine and there’s no paper in it. And he stands around at his rates and you’re not getting any result. And who was responsible for the paper not being there? Probably the Office Manager. But he doesn’t have any system that warns him ahead of time to replace that paper. So it’s as simple as that.
Interviewer: Had you learned this by Jaeger ….
Kopp: No I had, when I was with the Kaplans. I had hired this company on several occasions and they made substantial improvements. So I….
Interviewer: How does that tie into Jaeger then?
Kopp: Well now I get to Jaeger and it needs that kind of help. So I hired them.
Interviewer: You hired them again?
Kopp: My friend …. President Jack Conroy had never heard of them but he was absolutely stunned by the fact that….
Interviewer: So what brings an end to your time with Jaeger?
Kopp: Okay. So I’m with Jaeger when I find out it’s going to be liquidated. So I get into Chicago where we had a branch, rental place ….
Interviewer: Is this, I hate to interrupt so many times here but try to hit the key events. Why is it being liquidated? Did Alabama group win? They’re going to move it?
Kopp: No, no, no, no.
Interviewer: Somebody just wants the real estate?
Kopp: The St. Louis-Connecticut group won and they wanted the real estate.
Interviewer: So that’s the, they’d just wipe out that business ….
Interviewer: and we’ll take the land?
Kopp: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: What did they issue to the stockholders, anything, just?
Kopp: I don’t remember. .. was about.
Interviewer: We don’t produce anything. The assets are going into that…. So then you need to go somewhere?
Kopp: Yeah. So I had used this Proudfoot Company in New York, in Yonkers and now I used them here in Jaeger when I first got there which was now a couple of years later. And we had a branch where we rented equipment for a construction in Chicago and we had one in California. Proudfoot’s headquarters were in Chicago. So I had to visit our branch in Chicago and I said to the guys, “I’m going to visit Proudfoot”. So I went in there and I figured maybe they had a client that would, maybe they could get me a job. ‘Cause I didn’t know how to look for work. So I get in there on a Tuesday morning and I meet the top two partners and we get to talking and I tell them first off that there was a real deficiency in their company because I had used them a number of times and they didn’t know how to measure the savings ’cause we had much bigger savings than they realized. And they realized that that was a deficiency in their own company ’cause they didn’t have anybody oriented that way. So we had a full-day interview. I never got out of the office. We sent lunch in and finally at about 5:001 leave for the airport and the second-ranking partner gets me out, while we’re at the airport at the elevator, he said, “We’ll let you know on Thursday what our decision is.” And I said, “What do you mean, what decision?” He said, “Well we’ve got to decide whether we want to hire you or whether we’re going to recommend you to one of our clients”. When I got home I told my wife, I said, “I don’t care what they offer me, I’m going to take the job”.
Interviewer: You would like to do that?
Kopp: I said, “If it’s one of their clients, we’ll have to negotiate”. Thursday I get a call. “Marty?” “Yeah”. “Hi, you’re in.” I said, “What do you mean?” He says, “We want you to join our staff’. So that was in June of ’74.
Interviewer: Seventy-four, 1974?
Kopp: My, I start working for them immediately. My wife died in August of ’74.
Interviewer: Oh my goodness.
Kopp: And, but the jobs with them were absolutely fascinating ’cause my job was to straighten out the agreement between the client and ourselves as to how we’d measure the savings. And the savings are significant. Take a 900-man plant and if you can do the work with 600 guys because your management is managing properly, this doesn’t involve speeding up any machines and it just involves picking up those two hours of the four that you’re not really working at full level. And the reason you’re not, you’re there but the management didn’t provide you with the work. The unions were doing the same because they couldn’t figure out what to do, what was missing, you know. But they knew they were turning out 50% more. And in a 900-man plant, you’d wind up with 600 guys left doing the same work. And 300 that you laid off at thirty grand a year was like $10,000,000 a year in the bottom line. And we would see, let’s say, in a job like that we might see maybe $12— or $15,000,000 but only tell the client about ten and then charge him one third of the savings or $3,000,000. We’d do the job in 6 to 8 to 10 months.
Interviewer: Ummm, making real money?
Kopp: Oh I had, like one, you’ll love this one. We had High Grade Meat Packing in Detroit, Michigan. They make Ball Park Frankfurters. And I go up there. My job, it takes me two weeks to study the financials and to see how we’re going to measure this savings and get them to agree. Come back home and you’ll leave every Sunday night and get back Friday night when you work for that company, the Proudfoot Company. And Saturday morning I get a phone call to go to Whitehall Packing in Whitehall, Wisconsin. So I get up there and another two weeks and they’re bringing in cattle from about 50 miles around and they slaughter them. But then they pack out the parts to other plants, other companies that process them. So they’re just a slaughter house in effect. And I get home at the end of two weeks again. Saturday morning I get a phone call to get to St. Joe Packing in St. Joe, Missouri. I get there and they’re reaching out 100 miles for cattle. And it’s the same thing: they pack them out. Get home after two weeks and I get another call to get to Oshida Packing in Salinas. I say, “Oh I’ve never been to Kansas before. This will be new.” “Oh no, this is Salinas, California.” I said, “California?” “Yeah, you’ll be in . . . ., Big Sur and Monterey and the Pacific Ocean. It’s really a wonderful place. You’ll really enjoy it Marty.” I hang up and I call the Project Manager at the site. This is Saturday morning, he’s home, Les Perkins. I said, “Les, I’m coming out Sunday night and I want to get an idea of the scope of the operation”. I said, “How many head a day do you handle there?” He said, “Oh 15 to 20,000”. I said, “No not a month, just a day”. He said, “Yeah”. I said, “My God, how big is the kill room?” He says, “Kill room, what are you talking about?” I said, “Cattle, what are you talking about?” He says, “Cabbages and bok choy”. (laughter)
Interviewer: Not cattle at all.
Kopp: I wrote a whole bunch of what I call Proudfoot War Stories.
Interviewer: Is that what that one is? All right, that has to do with your business career?
Kopp: That’s after I left____
Interviewer: Oh the Proudfoot, that’s your consulting?
Interviewer: Okay, well was the Proudfoot your last stop in this tremendous career?
Kopp: Yes, yeah.
Interviewer: That’s terrific.
Kopp: That one took me to Southwest Asia, Australia ….
Interviewer: You’ve had that photo of Australia a long, the mine, where they flew in you told me of the___
Kopp: Coal mine.
Interviewer: the helicopter flight after you landed. It was all Proudfoot?
Kopp: Yeah that was Proudfoot, yeah. In fact, when I got there I already knew how to work a computer. That was 1988.
Interviewer: Uh huh, yeah you could have a laptop computer then.
Kopp: Exactly but I didn’t have one. And I mentioned that to them. I only knew one program, Lotus 1-2-3.
Interviewer: Yeah, spreadsheet.
Kopp: Right. And so I mentioned to them in the morning, they’re 400 miles from the east coast, from Rock Hampton, which is inland in the Outback. And, “Well that’s okay Mr. Kopp. We’ll have one for you this afternoon”. They few a plane back to Rock Hampton, got a Toyota, not a Toyota, a Toshiba.
Kopp: Brought it back for me. And I found out later that the Toshiba cost $6,000 at that time, three thousand in American because the duty was double. But it worked. I got home from that assignment the first week and the town is, the coal mine is 60 miles due east on the Tropic of Capricorn from a village with an airport called Emerald, in the Outback in Queensland. And that’s the one I told you about where the helicopter was waiting and all that. But the town is Emerald and on the map I had there’s Emerald and off to the distance is a town called Ruby and over here is a town Sapphire. My wife who was a gemologist if you will, I get back Friday night and she’s looking at this map and she said, “How come they had a name Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby?” I said, “Well they have a custom in Queensland in the Outback. For $10 you get a license from the Queensland government to go fossicing”. “What’s fossicing?” I said, “Well you remember we had a little three-hand cultivator in the garden in your house? Well put a broom handle on the end of it and you have what they call a ‘fossicing stick’. And you can scratch the surface of the Outback and turn up rubies, sapphires and emeralds and if you’ve got the license for ten bucks, Australian, you can keep them and sell them for whatever you want.” “And you didn’t invite me?” So that was another story.
Interviewer: Fossicing, I never heard of that. That’s something you learned on your consulting?
Kopp: Yeah. This Proudfoot Company took me, I had so much fun on the jobs. I was on one job in Brussels in Belgium, Glaverbell Mechaniver, a subsidiary of Ranault. It was on the outskirts of Brussels and they made the glass that goes into the automobiles, the windshield glass and all. They had several glass plants and we were doing a job for them there. And we had a headquarters in Brussels as a matter of fact, for Europe. So I’m working in the office there and there’s like 20 or 30, maybe 20 elderly ladies who are the clerks. And they’ve obviously been there for years, you know. And everybody has his place. Now this invader comes in and I’m working and they’re all keeping an eye on me. This is the first day I was there, I’ll never forget it. And I had this spreadsheet but I don’t have a computer so I’m working on a pencil. And I made a mistake and so I’m looking for my eraser. And they can see that I’m looking for something. And one of the ladies comes over and she says, “Can we help you?” in English. And I said, “Yeah, I’m looking for my, oh,” I said, “I just found it. It was an eraser in my pocket.” And she said, “Oh if you need an eraser, we could have given you one”. I said, “Yeah but this one’s different”. She said, “Why?” I said, “It corrects mistakes in any language”, (laughter) And these women went overboard. They thought that was the most hilarious thing they ever heard. They all could speak English but they didn’t. They spoke Flemish actually. They didn’t even speak French. It was the custom there that if you addressed a letter to the suburbs in Flemish, it was delivered the next day. But if you addressed it in French, it took three or four days.
Interviewer: That’s the Flemish-speaking area of Belgium, Brussels.
Kopp: …. the Revolution is still going on.
Interviewer: Well it is and for personal reasons that there’s talk about breaking up Belgium. Yeah ’cause I want to ask you about this thing that picked up, we called that “aggregate” ….
Kopp: You’re talking about this?
Interviewer: What is this?
Kopp: That’s a magnet.
Interviewer: It’s just a mere magnet?
Kopp: Yeah. Take it here and talk to it. Don’t do that….
Interviewer: Yeah that could, yeah, that will pick up things.
Kopp: Yeah this is, it should pick this up.
Kopp: This was something that we developed here in Columbus. We had this problem of, we were making the engine heads made of steel. Then we have to figure out, drill out the place for the compression tubes or whatever you call them.
Interviewer: This is Jaeger Machine Company?
Kopp: No this is Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel.
Interviewer: Wheeling? Okay.
Kopp: Now what happened ….
Interviewer: …. around, circulate it around ….
Kopp: steel is….
Interviewer: bearing like a ….
Kopp: that steel though becomes waste when they drill it out. So we had learned about powdered metallurgy. But it was used for making artificial diamonds. You put the powdered steel into this very high compression and out comes a commercial value diamond, not a jewelry diamond. And there was a plant here in Columbus that was doing that for General Electric. It was somewhat of an experimental operation and very secret. But we were supplying steel. And we’re thinking, if we can get into this powdered metallurgy properly, we could make these engine heads and save the expensive steel that goes in which has to be drilled back out and wasted. So we wanted to develop, our engineering and chemical departments were willing to attack this problem. They said they thought they could do something with it. So I sat with the Board and we figured out we’d build a plant here in Columbus ’cause I knew Columbus and I knew the Schottensteins and, was it Schottenstein, yeah, Leon could, oh, when I was going to Jaeger Machine, Leon Schottenstein, it was the guy that the bank sent me to get interviewed by, he was the head of the family at that time. He died since. And he had this Big Lots Company that they needed a controller for. And I was to see him in the afternoon. I saw Jack Conroy in the morning and Jack offers me the job as Financial Vice President of Jaeger at thirty grand a year. I come over to Leon and he’s offering me a job at Big Lots at $18,000 a year. So I said, “Leon I have to tell you. I was over at Jaeger and I got an offer that’s much more attractive.” He said, “Oh that’s all right,” he says, “I have a big investment in Jaeger”.
Interviewer: Oh he was with any way you decide, huh?
Kopp: So anyway I knew him because of…. the Omar days. But I’m over in West Virginia. And I knew that they did construction so I called him up and he comes over with his construction manager and I need this secret plant. And they tell me they could build a plant on Alum Creek Drive of 30,000 square feet at, I forget how much. But and it would be ready in 90 days.
Interviewer: To process this steel…. okay, so this is really interesting. So a secret business start-up, what was the outcome?
Kopp: We never could get the damn thing to work.
Interviewer: You couldn’t….
Kopp: We had to close it down after I think about five or six months.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Kopp: We never could get, we could get this kind of thing but we couldn’t get anything worthwhile. We could do a lot of tricks. But this I had gotten in the parking lot. And now I have this see?
Interviewer: And that came out of this start-up venture that didn’t work out?
Interviewer: Well those things happen. And sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t. Well this has been a terrific coverage I think of business, your experiences.
Kopp: I’ll tell you something you’ll enjoy seeing. You know, I don’t write the Table of Contents like normal people.
Interviewer: Uh huh. This is of your memoir book …. war stories and you have Introduction and who is who named here. Topics, Wall Street Journal articles, Reed Basinger on the list.
Kopp: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: On the train.
Kopp: Reed Basinger, I have to tell you that one.
Interviewer: Okay we’ll put a pause in whatever year it was.
Kopp: I can’t remember. Oh ’75 and ….
Interviewer: Okay you’re talking about your new wife and the situation.
Kopp: Saturday morning, it’s a rainy, miserable mid-November day at the golf course. But suddenly the sun comes out and it’s 1:00 in the afternoon. And it’s gorgeous and I said to her, “How about we play the back nine?” And she’s ready to do that when the phone rings.
Interviewer: Your wife is a golfer?
Kopp: Yeah, she’s not much of one but….
Interviewer: Okay, yeah, all right.
Kopp: So the phone rings. I pick it up and this guy says, “About the meeting in Paris”. I said, “Paris when?” He says, “Oh I’m sorry,” he says, “Monday”. I said, “Monday? This is Saturday.” “Oh no, a week from Monday.” I said, “Paris where?” He says, “Paris, France”. So I figure this is the other three guys in my foursome. They’re up at the bar at the club waiting for the weather to clear and you know, they’re calling me as the fourth. And I said, “Who is this?” And he said, “Smith”. I said, “Smith?” Now my wife is listening to this. I said, “Smith, can’t you guys do any better than that?” He says, “I’m Mark Smith. I’m calling you from my apartment in Paris, France. I’m the Chief in Proudfoot, Chief Installer.” And I said, “Well,” oh I said, “identify yourself. So he said, “I’m Mark Smith. I’m calling you from my apartment in Paris, France.” I said, “Well what’s this all about?” He said, “Well you’re supposed to be coming over here a week from Monday for a meeting with the Bank of France ’cause of your knowledge of financial matters and banking”. I said, “Well nobody’s told me about it”. I said, “Let me do this. I’ll call my bosses here in the States. This is Saturday morning, afternoon,” I said. He said, “Well I’ll call you back tomorrow and I’ll call you around 8:00 in the morning ’cause it will be afternoon for me here in Paris,” so he says. And I hang up. Frances says to me, “What’s that all about?” I said, “Well it’s a guy named Mark Smith who’s a Chief in our company and he’s telling me that I have an assignment over there a week from Monday with the Bank of France and,” I said. She said, “Well do you know any more about that?” I said, “No”. I said, “I’m going to call Ron Gallioni, my boss in the company”. This is Saturday afternoon, November. Ron is in Aspen, Colorado skiing and I can’t reach him. I call his boss who lived out on Long Island near Westbury where we lived when we lived there, Paul Cunningham. And Paul is the Vice President of our company at this point. And he said, “Oh yeah, Marty, you’re the last to know,” he said, “They’ve already cleared it with Brussels and Brussels cleared it with us and all that”. I said, “So okay. So then it’s okay?” “Yeah”. So the next morning about 8:00 the phone rings. “This is Mark Smith calling you from my apartment in Paris, France.” And I said, “Oh, okay so tell me the details ’cause I found out it’s a legitimate deal”. He said, now if you remember Frances is hearing my end of it, he said, “We’ll you’re going to meet me at the lobby of the Hotel Kleber which is like a residential hotel off the Etiole, have you ever been in France?
Interviewer. Yeah, Paris.
Kopp: You know where the Arch de Triumph is?
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Kopp: Well one of the roads, a spoke off it…. One of those spokes is Avenue Kleber.
Interviewer: Kleber, yeah.
Kopp: And it goes down something like a big, wide avenue. Well they all are. And you go down about a block and a half and there’s a big building on your left, a government building and then just behind it there’s a little, tiny street that dead ends on Kleber. It goes over to a park …. And but about a hundred feet into that is the Hotel Kleber, residential hotel. If they don’t know you, they’re full, you know. And because I was Proudfoot and we use their hotel a lot, it was okay. They had also knew that I had lost my wife who had died suddenly and that I had remarried. Anyway that’s a little background and now it’s Sunday in Columbus and we’re talking on the phone and Mark tells me, “I will meet you in the lobby of the Hotel Kleber at 7:30 Monday morning and I’ll take you over to the Bank of France for that meeting. It may take as much as two days,” he said, “but after that you’ll join me on my assignment up in Milhous, Milhousen, . . . ., depending on which …. in northeastern France adjacent to Basle, Switzerland and I’m working on a potash company up there so you’ll be up to join me there”. I said, “Oh”. And one of the problems was that we had had a one-week honeymoon and I had two week’s vacation so I saw the second week and I had asked Paul, I said, “While we’re over there is it okay if I take my second week of vacation while we’re in Europe?” He said, “Yeah as long as your wife knows that you might be called on to an assignment. Can she handle it alone?” I said, “Oh yeah she’s been there on buying trips so she knows Italy and France and that area as well as Holland and England. So I, so she’s knowledgeable about this area.” So we hang up. So I said, “So that’s all, you know?” Then I said, “Do I need to prepare any material?” And Mark said, “No”. “Do I need to bring anything with me?” “No, no, just your knowledge of American banking.”
Interviewer: Is this written in one of your books?
Interviewer: Okay. So it’s running out of tape so we can read the details….
Interviewer: Okay. We’ll include that. Since the tape is running out and I hate to run out on a partially-told story so I’ll take some snapshots and include it in your file. So we’re ending our interview now and we’ll include that as a hard-copy document as we end the second interview. (Tape ends.)
o O o
Transcribed by Honey Abramson
Corrected by Martin Kopp