From the personal archives of a Russianist, installment seventeen

When business travel with clients could be a pleasure:  visit to Warsaw, July 1979 together with senior management of McCormick & Company

Friday, 20 July

Early morning we part with Hall, who takes a direct flight back to the USA.  Jack and I make a visit to the Meat Institute, where they have already prepared typed memo on our meetings. Agree on schedule for presenting sample blends (late August), reviewing results (October), then to decide on seminar.

Caffey and I take lunch together, then I leave for airport and my flight to Switzerland. At parting, Caffey expresses his gratitude for a ‘superb job.’


Overall this has been one of the more pleasant trips in memory. Personal chemistry was unusually good. Several explanations present themselves:  the fact that both reps from the Company are the same age and rank (VP, International and VP, Science and Technology), absence of junior-level personnel which always feels threatened by outside consultants like me eliminated much of the tension that builds during these trips. Ivy League and Old School Tie also important: Hall is a Harvard man who really enjoys the fact and took pleasure in my connection; while Caffey is non-H, he is Stanford and need feel no shame. Group had more parallelism than hierarchy and authority. Caffey and Hall can good-naturedly joke with one another as equals from different sides of the company and could afford to respect my given expertise without doubts about their position in the eyes of others from the company. 

Curious closeness in the backgrounds of Caffey and Hall – both WWII flyers: Jack, a fighter pilot and Hall, navigator on a bomber stationed in Southern England. Hall left Harvard in ’43 for the forces, then returned after the war to complete his AB and take graduate courses; stayed on in Cambridge as resident tutor of Kirkland (or  Lowell) House until 1953; was unfortunate to come back in 1968 for his 25th reunion.  Knows William Bullitt – son of the first U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and ex Master of Quincy.

Both from the West: Dick Hall grew up in a Nebraska town of 180 which his father nearly owned – Scotch-Irish, turned from Catholicism. Jack Caffey is from Mormon Country – Salt Lake City: remembers the strange time he was in Helsinki for sales mission and was invited to join his hosts in a sauna; thought at the time, while he sat stark naked with people whom he was seeing for the first time and seriously talking about opportunities for McCormick: “Caffey, you’ve really gone mad. What would friends back in Salt Lake City think of this!”  

Dick admits that no matter how many years he has been East, whenever he makes a visit to the West, he knows his real home is there.  Their Western figures of speech are also pleasant to hear: for example, a politician was likened to a certain shallow local river which was “6 miles wide and 2 inches deep at the mouth.”

 Dick Hall has proper, natty Harvard dress – Brooks Brothers look; bow-tie would be scarcely out of character. Caffey is less conservative, less careful in dress, more conservative in politics. Caffey knows his worth: has the self-confidence of a top salesman. Their constant repartee as Dick suggests Jack could never have made the grade as a scientist and Jack suggests Dick lacks imagination and daring. Their banter makes for a real pleasure.

Curious that neither of these former fly-boys likes small private planes. Quote Jack: “a friend keeps on inviting me to join him and I find reasons why I can’t make it; one day I’ll put my two hands forward and say ‘look, they don’t match.”  Caffey also a nervous back-seat driver: says after requesting one taxi driver in Warsaw to slow down, “ I don’t want to end up in the hospital in some half-assed city like this!”  Caffey on management: “some managers are afraid of taking good assistants, but a good man can only move his boss upstairs.”

Over-all both are impressed that Poland looks better than they had expected. This size market is worth an effort. Still Jack wants to see some consumer product sales. Both feel slight embarrassment: “if this were a normal market we’d send in the troops, and not just have the two of us with Doctorow here holding the cane.”

Evening at the restaurant Bazylyszek in the Old Town square: heated political discussion as Caffey expresses long held resentment against the week-kneed liberals and especially at university administrators for failing to hold back tide of radicalism in the late 1960s.  Hall more tolerant of administrators’ failings as nonprofessional managers – points to the randomness of the radical explosion, something that would break out in one place or another. I suggest the radicals were lightning rods for genuine dissent and anger of broad student body over conduct of the war and the possibility of serving and dying.

Caffey seems to think we were never in jeopardy. Caffey points to the University of Southern California, which held fast during the tide and kicks..   Dick happened to be at Harvard in ’68 during the worst of the rioting, when he came for the 25th reunion. He feels the Pusey administration didn’t know what to do – reacted poorly.  According to Hall, you must be fully prepared to deal with radicals and disrupters – gives example of his own conduct during this period as chairman of a food congress. When some radicals stormed the meeting demanding the floor, he said ‘we’re a democratic organization and we’ll put it to a vote whether to interrupt our program and hear you or to have you wait till we are done. The viva voce ‘no’s’ were overwhelming and put an end to this nonsense.”  Anomalies in politics: Jack grudgingly favors ERA while Dick opposes it out of feeling that in practice it will not work.  Both have strong feelings of pride over their roles in WWII.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2020

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