1956-1958

Arthur Young & Company-When I first decided to get my CPA and MBA, I thought we would go back to MN and I would simply hang up my shingle and start my own business. How over simplistic. When I got into school it was not long before I learned that there were eight very large international CPA firms, all headquartered in the US and eager to hire people like me. One, Arthur Andersen, was headquartered right in Chicago. One, Ernst & Ernst, was headquartered in Cleveland and the rest (AY, Haskins & Sells, Price Waterhouse, Lybrand Ross, Touche Ross, & Peat Marwick) in New York City. I decided that it would probably be good experience for me to first work for one of these firms for a few years and learn the ropes, so to speak. I interviewed several of the firms on campus and the others I called and arranged for short interviews/ visits in their offices. All the firms wanted me to spend the day with them, but I was very short on time and told them that we would have to do it in one half day visits. They all wanted to wine and dine me a bit, but I did not even go to lunch with some of them because of the time it took and fact that I was turned off by a couple of them early on in my visits. I finally settled on two, Arthur Andersen and Arthur Young. It was the personality of Arthur Young’s recruiter, Larry Dunham, that finally made me decide on AY. I even went back for a second office visit to AY before deciding on them. Neither of them had offices in Minneapolis at that time, but both assured me that within a few years they would be opening offices there and if I wanted to I could then transfer there. Arthur Andersen’s offer was a bit higher than the $5,000 a year offer from AY, but not enough to change my mind. Most of the guys (not many women in those days) were graduating in May or June and therefore attended the firm’s training schools in June or July. I could not do so and therefore they decided I could go a year later. Thus when I started at AY I was really green. Their offices were on the 11th floor of 1 N. La Salle Street-NE corner of Madison and LaSalle.

My first assignment was for some interim audit work at Onsrud Machine Co. in Niles. I met Sid Avery, a 50 some year old senior auditor on that Monday morning and after a tour of the facilities and meeting with the accounting staff, we were given a conference room to work in. I remember Sid giving me an audit program for testing payroll and even though I had an Arthur Young audit manual I did not have a cleue as to what to do next. I read and studied the audit program over and over and did not want to ask Sid what to do next. He must have wondered what I was doing, but never asked me a thing. I was almost breaking out into a sweat, but finally figured out that I should probably go out to the accounting department and ask for a copy of the payroll register for a few weeks. That seemed to work pretty good and then I started to check the addition, etc. on this register. Well I did not even know how to work a ten key adding machine without looking at the keys and using the hunt and peck method. How embarrassing. I somehow stumbled through the day and that night, instead of going home, I went back to AY’s office and practiced using a ten key adding machine until I could do it without looking at the keys. Somehow I made it through the week.

My second assignment, and first one out of town, was with another older senior auditor, Frank Panion, at a plant of American Standard in Goshen, Indiana. Not much memorable about that assignment, except that I almost felt like I knew what I was doing and I could run a ten key adding machine real well. There was not a lot to do and when unassigned we sat around in the ‘bull pen’ with the other new hires. I learned that these older auditors were a passing thing and that because of the extreme seasonality of the work many of them would only work at AY maybe six months of the year and spend the off months at other jobs, etc. It seems to me that my next assignment was to help out with bank reconciliations at the Swift & Co. headquarters in the stock yards. It was there that I learned how to sort out checks and other pre-numbered documents into numeric order following a formula that I still have. I do remember that the only account I was to reconcile was the one with Continental Bank & Trust Company of Chicago. This account had thousands of returned checks and drafts and other debit and credit items. It was very complicated and took me several days to reconcile. This helped me learn a few things about bank reconciliations that I would use down the road. I never had to reconcile another account anywhere near as difficult as that one.

Montana-Dakota Utilities Company(MDU)-Sometime in October of that year (1956), one of the more senior partners, A.V.McPhee, called me into his office and said he was going to assign me to the audit of Montana-Dakota Utilities in Minneapolis. He knew that I was from MN and was interested in their opening an office in Minneapolis. He said this assignment would go from December 1 to the end of February. I could come back to Chicago about three or four times. He said that Bill Gould was the manager and that the senior would be John Sathern. He confided in me that Sathern was not his first choice, but due to a shortage of people at that time of the year he was the only one available. He told me that I would be the senior auditor on that job the next year, because Sathern would not be with the firm after this audit. I was somewhat amazed by this because I knew it was very unusual for a second year auditor to become the senior auditor on an audit of a publicly held company. It told me that he thought I should be on a fast track. When I told Sandy about this she (and I agreed) was not happy with my being gone for this length of time. Because of this we arranged for her and baby Stephen to come with me and stay in Cold Spring with her parents. That way she would have some company and I could go out to see her on weekends. Bill Gould had told me that he would meet me at the company’s office on that first Monday morning and be with me the whole first week because John Sathren would not be there due to his having to finish another assignment. Bill Gould was a crusty older career manager who was not going to ever become a partner. He said he would be coming in on the train and that I should arrange for the trunks of working papers from last year to be locked and shipped to the company offices the previous week.

Dad Ley’s heart attack-We left home for Minnesota and my Montana-Dakota Utilities assignment very early on Saturday, December 1, 1956 in our little Nash Rambler, that had built in ventilation because of rusted out holes in the floorboard. We were able to patch those holes up enough so that the heater kept us warm. It was cold. When we arrived in Watkins at about 5 pm we were met at the door by Rita who sadly told us that Dad had had a massive heart attack and had been taken by ambulance (from St. Cloud because Watkins had no ambulance service or paramedics, etc. at that time) the St. Cloud Hospital. I think we immediately drove to Sandy’s parents in Cold Spring where I dropped off Sandy and Stephen and proceeded to the St. Cloud Hospital. I found Dad resting relatively well, but heavily sedated. The doctor told me that he had major heart damage of about the size of a half dollar and that he thought it would heal, but leave a scar of that size. He said it would be about six months before he was back to normal activity. They did not have the drugs or other surgical treatments they have today that might have minimized the damage. Dad was to stay in the hospital about ten days and then be subjected to bed rest for a couple of months before starting to walk and slowly build up his strength.

Decision to take leave of absence- I returned to Cold Spring and naturally started to think about how the bank would function without Dad and whether Mom could adequately care for Dad, etc. Sandy and I talked a lot about this and I talked to my sisters and Mom. I knew that I could not run the bank nor could my uncle Jerry. I could handle the income tax preparation work Dad did, investments and normal bank operations, but not loans. We agreed that an experienced banker would have to be brought in and luckily, with the help of our correspondent bank in Minneapolis, the Northwest I believe, we found a fine experienced banker who was retired, but did temporary jobs like this one. This did not happen until a few days later, but in the meantime I felt that I needed to delay my career and temporarily relocate to Watkins to help out in whatever way I could. This was a very difficult decision, especially for Sandy. We could not discuss this very much with Dad, but obviously had to share some of our collective thinking with him. We made the decision that I would ask for a leave when I got back to Minneapolis on Monday morning. I would give two weeks notice and hope to be back to work at AY about May 1 of 1957. I knew that this was going to create a big problem for A.V. McPhee who was counting on me to take over this job next year. Obviously, this would no longer work. I also knew that AY would have trouble finding anyone to replace me at this relatively late date. I made the call to Mr. McPhee on Monday. I could tell the frustration in his voice and even though he understood and went along with my request it was difficult to say the least.

First two weeks at MDU-My first week in December 1956 on the MDU audit was difficult in many ways. Not only the problems dealing with Dad, but dealing with the manager on the job, Bill Gould. We were staying at the St. Francis Drake hotel, a relatively small hotel about three blocks from MDU’s office. Bill told me right up front that the hotel had agreed to slightly overbill us, or you might say give us an under the counter discount because we could not make ends meet with the per diem out of town pay from AY. I did not like that one bit, but was torn over making waves about it. I figured I would find ways to make it right and with all the other problems I had I just could not take on another.

The first night on the job we worked late and then I went to dinner with Bill. Normally we would have included the Controller, Bill Hanson, but he was busy that night. We first had to stop at one of Bill’s favorite nearby bars to have a few martinis. After four or five martinis I would normally have been on the floor, but because of my other problems I somehow hung in there. Bill was smashed. We went across the street to the Curtis Hotel for dinner. Bill had another martini and by the end of dinner we were the only ones in the restaurant and they threw us out. Bill promptly fell into a snow bank and I had to almost carry him back to the hotel, about three blocks away. The next morning we were up and at them and to work by 8 am. That night Bill Hanson joined us and we almost repeated the scene except that we went to a different bar and restaurant. Bill Hanson had a tremendous capacity for martinis and he drove. The following night I drove out to St. Cloud to see my Dad and then on to Cold Spring to see Sandy and Stephen. I had to get up early to be at work by 8 am.

The second week on the MDU audit was a bit less hectic. Bill Gould had gone back to Chicago and on the second Monday, John Sathern showed up to senior the audit. John liked martinis too, but he liked women better and it was not long before he set his sights on a very good looking young woman, from Sauk Rapids, that I had actually met years earlier while at St. Johns. John started spending all his time with her and that meant I could get some much needed sleep a few nights.

Return to Watkins December 1956-On the first Friday I drove back out to St. Cloud to see Dad and then to Cold Spring. On Saturday, Sandy and I went to Watkins and were very lucky to find a small vacant, but mostly furnished house, we could rent. It was just north of Loch’s service station and about one block north of the bank. We had to buy a cheap TV at the Gamble hardware store and probably a few other things. We were to take possession the following Monday when I was starting work at the bank. Although we did not have many things back at our apartment in Chicago, I had to go back and pack up what there was and bring it back to Watkins. Sandy’s brother Dave drove back with me. We only stayed one night in Chicago.

Working at bank-I think I only made about $200 or $300 a month at the bank. Any money I made preparing income tax returns was mine also. That maybe amounted to about $1000 over the 3 ½ months of the season. At about $25 a return, that meant I must have done about 40 returns. This was most of Dad’s old practice, but I am sure some of his customers went elsewhere. Most of this work had to be done in the evening and on weekends because I was busy helping to run the bank during the day. These returns all had to be typed in duplicate, with the original copy to be filed and the duplicate for the customer. The only copy machine we had was a thermo fax machine, but these copies were on very poor quality paper that would not last very long. Some of the customers that came in had very sketchy records and many times they did not even have a copy of last year’s return. I am sure it took a couple of hours to prepare even the most simple return. All the farmers had a schedule F for the farm business. Spending this amount of time at the bank was very difficult on Sandy. We were snow bound during most of January, February and March. Not until the end of the tax season did we see some light at the end of the tunnel, but then there were only two weeks left before returning to Chicago. Shortly after we moved into the house, Sandy learned that she was pregnant. The pregnancy was a very difficult one and she had to spend a lot of time in bed. We were very concerned about losing the baby. God must have been with us because she and soon to be Tom made it through this very tough time.

We got together with Verlin and Delrose Mies a few times, but they were about the only young couple our age in town. I also went to see my Dad every noon and then often in the early evening for a short while. He slowly improved over the next few months and by the time I left he was able to spend almost a full day at the bank. We also went over to Cold Spring as often as possible and Sandy and Stephen might have stayed there for a few days once in a while. One of my little diversions while working at the bank was to collect coins. There were often slow periods at the bank when very few customers came in and that gave me time to look for coins. My uncle Jerry was an avid coin collector, but in recent years he did not do so much of it. Most of my collection was made while at the bank, because I did not keep it up after returning to Chicago. In later years I gave most of the coin collection to Steve who has built it up. Tom got the rest.

Return to Chicago-Because we gave up our apartment and because we needed a bigger one with another baby coming, we asked Betty and Ray Youngstrom to look around for us. They found one in a brand new six flat apartment building right behind them. It was at 5859 N. Elston. Cannot remember what the rent was, but it could not have been much more than maybe $150, without utilities. It had two bedrooms, one bath, a kitchen dinning area, living room and that was it. It was on the second floor. No garage, just street parking. It was nice to be very close to Betty and Ray. When we got back, we headed right out to second hand stores, etc. to find the minimum amount of furniture that we could get by with and afford.

When I got back to AY I soon learned that I had effectively fallen a year behind my peer group. Not only had I started late, but then I missed almost five months during the busiest time of the year. I was assigned to attend the two week entry level training school, which ironically, was held at Northwestern University’s facilities in Shaffner Hall.

CPA exam-I immediately enrolled in a CPA Review course at Northwestern U. that started in May. Classes were held all day each Saturday. In between, we had to complete various sections of prior exams that we would turn in the next Saturday and then discuss the one’s from the previous week. I learned more about accounting in those five or so months than in all my schooling before that. I was not very busy at AY and that was both good and bad. Good because it gave me time to study, which I did every night and even most of Sunday at home, but bad because I was not getting the experience I needed and also there was no overtime. About the only way to earn more money was to work a lot of overtime. Under normal circumstances we could expect to earn another 20% a year from OT.

This was another difficult time for Sandy. Not only was she pregnant, but I had to study all the possible time I could. The CPA exam was given during the last week or so of October. It lasted 2 ½ days and was grueling. We would not find out the results until about February. It was great to finally be finished with school and all that studying.

and baby (Thomas Alan-9/14/57) makes four’-Again, Sandy and the ‘Stork’ were very considerate of my work schedule. Sandy went to the hospital on a Friday and on Saturday, September 14, 1957 Thomas was born at St. Anne’s Hospital, Chicago.

Thomas Ley

Thomas Ley

There were no complications and we were very relieved that the baby was healthy, considering the difficult pregnancy Sandy had. I don’t think Sandy’s Mom came down to help Sandy this time. I’m sure Betty was a big help, but…! I was home every night, because of studying for the CPA exam and hopefully of some help.

1957-8 winter in Minnesota-I was again assigned to the MDU audit which was scheduled to go from December 1, 1957 to February 15, 1958. That was ten weeks and again I could not come back to Chicago more than every other week. Because of this we decided to again move up to Cold Spring for those ten weeks. This time we kept the apartment in Chicago because we were definitely expecting to return there. We still had the Nash Rambler and drove up to MN on a very cold and wintry day. It had snowed a lot and when we got to Watkins late that Saturday afternoon the snowplow had cleared a large section over the ditch right by the turn up Meeker Avenue. Well I did not see that and drove right off the road into the ditch. I think I went into Fuch’s gas station right across the road and called and told Dad what had happened and he came down to get us. The gas station also had a tractor and with chains attached pulled our car out of the ditch. That was a great start.

My assignment at MDU was quite different from a year earlier in at least two ways. For some reason Bill Gould only stayed a couple of days and a fellow Northwestern MBA Graduate, John Schornack, was the senior. We went out to dinner a lot with Bill Hanson, but not those late night blasts of a year earlier. John was single, but went home over Christmas for a few days to be with his Mother. I think John was an only child. One weekend John came out to Cold Spring and Watkins with me and met all of our family. I do not remember where he slept. John was, and is, a first class guy. John and I also went out to Rita and Dick’s house in Plymouth for dinner one time. Sometime in mid January I got a letter forwarded to me from the State of Illinois informing me that I had passed the CPA examination. Naturally, I was ecstatic and immediately called Sandy with the good news. At the end of the audit in mid February we packed up the family and we headed back to our apartment in Chicago.

MDU division audits-In the late spring, maybe mid April 1958, John Schornack and I were assigned to spend four weeks doing audits of MDU divisions in the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana. Because it was not practical to come home from those locations for a weekend, we decided that Sandy and the two boys would spend the time in Cold Spring with her parents. John had a better car than my Nash Rambler so he drove. On the way around Madison Wisconsin the highway patrol stopped John for alleged passing on a yellow line. He got a ticket and he was furious. He paid right there because otherwise we would have had to drive into Madison to see a judge.

Our first audit was the Rapid City, SD division. The weather was great and we even found time to play golf one evening. Each of these audits was to take about one week. We then traveled to Sheridan, WY and then onto Billings, MT. Our last audit was in Bismarck, ND. On our last night in Bismarck we got together with my old St. John’s buddies, Skip Lloyd and Jim Kramer. We played poker at Skip’s house till real late and then went to Jim Kramer’s house for an early breakfast. We did not get back to the hotel till early in the morning. We slept late on Saturday and then took off for Cold Spring. We must have not gotten to Cold Spring until late on Saturday. We left early Sunday to return to Chicago.

CPA dinner and Steve’s accident-In June 1958 we were invited to the CPA awards dinner at the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago. We got a neighbor girl to baby sit. While at the dinner, we were paged and when I went out to find out why, they told me that our baby sitter’s mom had called and that they had to take Stephen to the hospital ER to have stitches. He apparently fell on the edge of a toy truck he had gotten for Christmas and it made about a 1 1/2 inch cut in his cheek. We left the dinner immediately and by the time we got home, Stephen was there all patched up. Mind you he was only two years old. The baby sitter was very upset, but obviously she could not have prevented the accident.

Visitors-During the summer of 1958, Helen and Phil came down to Chicago to visit us. Many of the details escape both Sandy and I. but we remember driving down to Washington Race Track on the far south suburban side. It was the first time any of us had been to a racetrack and amazingly, by betting on mainly the jockeys and pooling our money we won enough to go out that evening to dinner. Sandy remembers that she and Helen took a bus back to downtown Chicago and we cannot remember why.

 

One thought on “1956-1958

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s