Archive for November, 2017

My Father’s Remarkable Career

From time to time I remember some project or story where my father was involved and have decided it was time I put down what I remember of them not just because of their interest or entertainment value but because they were, in some small way, important historically.

My father was an electrical engineer whose career flourished in the second third of the twentieth century. During this interval the achievements in electricity, theoretical and practical, of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries were refined and exploited. My father’s career exemplified how the intersection of his talent and personality with the momentous events going on around him shaped the many significant projects in which he participated.

One other note: my recollection of the chronological aspects is fairly poor, partly because I have to rely on my memory of what he told me, often much after the event, and partly because he was frequently involved in a number of projects at one time.


My father, Kovacs Sandor Jozsef (Alexander Joseph Kovach – hereafter, AJK) was born June 22, 1901 in Peterreve, Hungary (now Bačko Petrovo Selo, Serbia) a small agricultural town not far south of Szeged, a major Hungarian city. In 1906 his parents Peter and Jeni (Jenny) took him along with two sisters, Irene and Szidani, aged four and two years, on a ship from Fiume to Ellis Island. After a stay in Brooklyn and a return to Hungary for a year or two, the family wound up in Detroit where Peter became a tool and die maker at Allis Chalmers.

AJK went to a Detroit high school and Detroit College for two years, followed by two years at the University of Michigan where he majored in electrical engineering. He must have been a good student for he was offered a position teaching mathematics at graduation which he turned down. (The only other thing I know about his UM days is that he had an affair with a professor’s wife.)

AJK married Agnes Szebenyei, who was both a first and second cousin (my unusual genealogy is explained in the post “Erno and the Sinking of the City of Benares”) in 1927 or very early in 1928. I was born December 24, 1928 and my sister Joanne was born December 23, 1934.

Early Work Career

During the summers of his years at the U of Michigan AJK worked at Allis Chalmers where he received the same pay as his father. That infuriated Peter and AJK would pile it on with his characteristic, slightly sadistic, sense of humor: ”It’s trigonometry Pa, trigonometry” (from a UM alumni book found in Google Books “*Alexander J*. *Kovach*, ’24e, is Student Electrical Engineer with the Allis- Chalmers Manufacturing Company, and may be addressed at 536 67th Avenue, West Allis, Wis.”)

AJK’s first job in New York was as an instrument truck driver for Con Ed. There is more on this in my earlier post, “How They Electrocuted My Father”.

The New York City Board of Transportation

Around 1929 or 30 he was hired as an electrical engineer for the Board of Transportation of the City of New York. This was a period of great ferment in the city’s development of its subway systems. Over time it acquired the IRT, BMT and Independent Systems and did considerable work on expanding and in-filling all three. AJK worked on a variety of those projects.

In the family photograph albums there was a picture of me, at about four years of age, emerging from a manhole in the middle of a boulevard in Jamaica. This was about the same time as when AJK had to test high voltage cable installations in the ceilings of the tunnels. He would put on high, pure rubber boots, rubber gloves, a rubber raincoat and hat and standing on a thick rubber mat would poke and prod the cables and hangers with a long, kiln-dried maple pole. After a while he stopped letting my mother know when he was performing that duty because she became so frightened by the prospect. I think these inspections were part of the construction of the Eighth Avenue Queensborough line but I am unable to be any more certain than that.

AJK descending to a subway tunnel, probably in Jamaica Queens. This doesn’t look like a ceremony but may be some sort of inspection.

Years later AJK told me he did the design for the ill-fated Second Avenue Line from Houston Street to Harlem. I don’t know where he stood in the department hierarchy at that time or just what “did the design” meant, how much was his work and so on. In any event, this was just one of the many failed attempts to build a Second Avenue line. This plan did come closer to being achieved than any others up to that time; construction was stopped not long before it was to begin, a victim of the Depression and the collapse of both the State and City budgets.

It was around 1933 I think, that AJK studied for taking his New York State Licensed Professional Engineer exam. This may have been a requirement of his job but it could have been simply a way to advance his prospects. To apply for the PE required more than four years in combined education and experience (presently, six years) which he had by that time. I have a distinct memory of him sitting at the kitchen table at night studying one of his college texts, Karapetof’s “The Electric Circuit”, now something of a classic (a free PDF version is available on the Web from the Forgotten Books program – Karapetof was a disciple of C. P. Steinmetz). That book was my sole inheritance from my father and I have passed it on to my son, his namesake, Alexander F. Kovach.

Department of Parks of the City of New York

In 1934 he left the Board of Transportation for a better position with NY City’s Department of Parks where he participated in a number of interesting, high-profile projects whose chronology is not in my recollection. He designed and installed a system of remotely controlled electric locks for cages in the Bronx Zoo. One by-product of that was photograph of him holding up the head of a male lion anesthetized by a veterinarian for some dental work. He reworked the wiring and lighting of Gracie Mansion, the Mayor of New York’s residence. From this he got a picture with Fiorello La Guardia on the front steps of the Mansion. AJK was all of five feet seven inches in height but towered over the mayor. He worked for a long time with Francis Henry Taylor redesigning the lighting, both natural from skylights and artificial from a variety of lamp arrangements, in many of the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Francis Henry Taylor

Very early in his tenure with the Department of Parks he started working on a variety of projects for Robert Moses’ belt parkway system especially the Cross Island Parkway. The lighting for the Parkway was based on the then fairly recently developed low pressure sodium vapor lamp. He told me he chose it because the yellow light did not leave any glare after-effect because yellow light does not destroy any rods or cones in the eye and because yellow light seemed to penetrate fog better. The lamps were about two feet long, cylindrical with a rounded end. He designed a reflector consisting of a semi-cylinder, concave when seen from below, with two flat vanes with a downward slant emanating from the center lines of the lamp cylinder. The idea was to space the poles a decent distance apart spreading the illumination without creating pools of light interspersed with pools of night, keeping a nearly constant level of illumination along the roadway. As was the custom, the City of New York patented the reflector and gave it to the awarded contractor, in this case Westinghouse. I have seen this reflector all over the U. S. and Europe: on the Golden Gate Bridge, on freeways in the Midwest, in Britain and northern Italy and so on. In later years the low pressure lamp was replaced with the newer high pressure sodium vapor bulbs and more recently those are being replaced with newer technology such as LEDs.

On a number of occasions AJK mentioned working on the TriBorough Bridge but just which parts, I do not know. There were parks associated with parts of the project but it would seem they were not considered parts of the project itself. It raises a question for me. He was an employee of the Department of Parks of the City of New York under Commissioner Robert Moses. The work on the bridge was under the control of the TriBorough Bridge Authority under Chairman Robert Moses.

Robert Moses

Presumably, there was some arrangement wherein the Parks Department staff could work on projects associated with the bridge. In any event, the part that is of interest to me for this account is the fact that from 1925 on the engineer in charge for the TriBorough Bridge Authority was Othmar Ammann, about whom there will be more later, and that he and my father must have worked together.

Triborough Bridge seen from Queens

One of the last projects AJK worked on for the Department of Parks was the reconfiguring of the New York City Building from the 1939 – 40 New York World’s Fair. Nearly all the buildings for the fair were temporary, designed to be torn down after the fair concluded (which was intended to be just one year but insufficient revenue forced the fair to stay open an additional year). The NYC building was one of the two or three that were intended to be permanent. The main floor of the building was converted into two very large skating rinks, one for ice and the other for roller skating. There were two unusual by-products of this job. First, my father obtained, either free or at some low cost, an eight-foot by three-foot, half-inch thick, sheet of Belgian plate glass that had been part of a sound booth. He had two oak pillars created and placed the very heavy glass on them to make an elegant dining table in our large living room in Flushing. The other gift was privileged use of the ice-skating rink. My sister and I were allowed to use the ice after it had been refreshed by scraping and flooding and before the public was allowed back. Often there would be young women from an ice-follies troop rehearsing as we went round and round the rink.

The New York City Building at the 1939 World’s Fair

In 1942 the DoD (then called the War Department) was pleading with engineers of all kinds to get into defense related work whether via civil service or private consulting firms. Meanwhile, AJK and his colleagues were sitting idle at their desks and drafting tables because the government had embargoed nearly all construction materials such as steel and concrete for its own use or for programs like Lend-Lease, bringing Parks Department construction to a dead stop.

AJK in the early ’40s

The desire for retaining their civil service pensions was a powerful disincentive for people who had just come through the Depression from quitting their jobs, so they kept asking the Parks Department to grant them an extended leave-of-absence without pay. Robert Moses kept thwarting their petition, probably, as AJK said, to keep his cronies in their high paying management positions. After some months of frustration, AJK, motivated in part by patriotism, decided to just quit and take his chances on his prospects. He sent a letter of resignation, under protest, and copied it to the New York Post. The Post, sensing a juicy story, printed the letter on the editorial page and sent a reporter to do an interview. Moses responded furiously in the next day’s letters column, immediately resorting to ad hominem attacks, raising doubts about AJK’s abilities which wouldn’t stand up, of course. My father replied in kind the next day, implying nepotism in all the contracts Moses granted to Madigan and Hyland over the years. I wouldn’t put anything past Moses, including benefiting in some way from all those lucrative jobs, but it doesn’t seem to show up in Caro’s lengthy, critical biography of Moses which I think Caro would not have missed. After another couple of exchanges between them, the matter was dropped.

Military Work During WW II

For the next five years AJK worked for consulting firms doing work for the military. I only know the name of one of those which I think he worked for most, if not all, of the time, Guy B. Panero, in midtown Manhattan. I only know of one wartime project AJK participated in but it is so significant it requires some background explanation.

In November of 1941, a month before we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, U. S. armed forces staged a massive exercise in North Carolina. The Army Air Force tested a new system for deploying runways very quickly, created by Carnegie Illinois Steel, called perforated steel planking. This system become popularly known as Marston Matting (from the location of the mill in North Carolina) and was developed into a rapid deployment technique that allowed the construction crews of the Army Corps of Engineers or the Navy Construction Battalions (SeaBees) to create a landing field for the  air forces in three days. This system was deployed many times in the island hopping phase of the South Pacific campaign. Not mentioned in the accounts I have seen was the electrical support required by those portable airfields for landing lights and radio communication among other things. AJK designed a pre-assembled system that was literally unrolled and connected to generating equipment in a matter of hours. The background he acquired would come into play in several post war projects.

Marston mats being installed

Consolidated Vultee, Allentown

Our family spent the summer of 1944 in a vacation cabin (shanty would be more accurate) on a bank of the Little Lehigh River (or Creek, which is more appropriate) outside of Macungie, PA, a rundown mill town outside of Allentown. The cabin still had an old fashioned icebox and was in poor repair. It belonged to a local physician whose house was a hundred feet or so away on the same property. This was Pennsylvania Dutch country and we learned a great deal about them during our stay. The six kids from an impoverished farm across the county road became friends with my sister and were curious about us “city folk”.

AJK was working as the Chief Operating Engineer for Consolidated Vultee in the old Mack truck plant in Allentown. I don’t know if he was chief of all types of engineering or just electrical; I do not think he was an employee of C-V but was working for a consulting firm, detailed to the Allentown facility.

Mack building 5-c in the 1970s

The Wikipedia article on the Allentown airport has good summary of the history of C-V in Allentown: “In mid-December 1942, it was announced that Allentown was the site of a new aircraft production plant. Vultee Aircraft and Consolidated Aircraft announced that Consolidated Vultee (later known as Convair) would lease Mack Truck’s Plant 5C for production of the Consolidated Vultee TBY-2 Sea Wolf Torpedo Plane for the United States Navy. … was dedicated on October 10, 1943. [3] When the plant reached full production it employed several thousand people, over half women … In September 1943 Consolidated Vultee received an order to build 1,100 TBY-2 Sea Wolf torpedo bombers for the Navy. However, production delays of almost a year caused the first aircraft to come off the line at Plant 5C on 20 August 1944, and the first production aircraft to be delivered to the Navy on 7 November. By this time, the usefulness of the plane became limited as the Grumman TBF Avenger was the primary torpedo bomber in combat. Subsequently, only 180 TBY-2s were produced and none saw combat, being used as trainers by the Navy in the United States.”

Many of the people working in the plant came from southern California and Florida and the women wearing cork wedgies and short-shorts would stream into the plant each morning while the Amish women, clothed from bonnet to buttoned shoes, would cluck their tongues and say “They’ll never make a plane by Wultee”. They almost had it right.

My father was back in New York in the fall of ’44.

The TBY 2 torpedo bomber

Projects for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

As the war drew to a close my father made a one-hundred dollar bet with a colleague that after the war there would be such a crush of back-logged construction that architectural firms would abandon the practice of contracting with engineering consultants and form their own in-house engineering staffs. The giant architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill was one of the first, if not the first, to do so and their first hire was AJK to head up either the electrical engineering staff or the whole engineering staff, I’m not sure which it was. He also won the hundred bucks.

Gordon Bunshaft

AJK joined SOM just as they were embarking on two architectural trend makers, Manhattan House and Lever House. Both brought him into collaboration with Gordon Bunshaft, a principal in Skidmore and follower of Bauhaus designer Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Bunshaft was notoriously difficult to work with but my father never said anything along that line.

Manhattan House

All I remember of AJK’s remarks about Manhattan House were that it would be completely self contained housing with all necessary shops and services on the street-level floor and, as he said, one could live there without ever leaving the building. It was being built on a site where there had been a streetcar barn going all the way back to the mid-nineteenth century.

The president of Lever Brothers at the time was Charles Luckman, the “boy wonder”, himself an architect who wanted a new headquarters building that would be a signature as well as an office. For example, an image of the building was used in the company’s letterhead and may still be. (Luckman resigned after it was completed to return to architecture with William Pereira so the Lever employees called it “Luckman’s last erection”. I heard the same joke years later applied to the Hoover Tower at Stanford University.) AJK worked closely with Gordon Bunshaft in designing the first glass curtain-walled skyscraper, a trendsetter. My father described the construction to me, the projections from the steel frame supporting the glass wall. (From Wikipedia: “Some designs included an outer cap to hold the glass in place and to protect the integrity of the seals. The first curtain wall installed in New York City, in the Lever House building (Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, 1952), was this type of construction.”)

Lever House

My father told a funny story regarding a matter incidental to this job. While the building was under development on the site of their former headquarters Lever Brothers created a temporary replacement by remodeling an old loft building on Varick Street in lower Manhattan. Luckman had a large, very posh, all mahogany office on the first floor. One day AJK was summoned to see Luckman there. When he walked in he saw an enormous kidney shaped mahogany desk with not a thing on it, Luckman peering over the center. At Luckman’s request my father had designed precisely aimed pinhole pot-lamps in the ceiling to illuminate the desktop. When AJK asked what the problem was Luckman said, “Look”. Still not seeing the problem he asked for a fuller explanation. The angle of the beam over Luckman’s head was such that there was too much reflection from his bald spot. So the ceiling was ripped open and the offending lamp moved a foot or so.

I do not know the chronology of any of the following projects.

Petroleum Consortia Towns:

Project Creole, Amuay Bay, Venezuela

SOM designed three whole towns for various oil consortia, probably intertwined. First was Project Creole designed for twenty-five thousand people including housing, dormitories for single men, administration buildings, movie theater and other meeting spaces and so on. It was built for the Creole Petroleum Corporation by Bechtel in Amuay Bay, north of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. The remote, nearly inaccessible location required a complete electrical system, starting with large scale generating equipment.

Saudi Aramco Residential Camp in Dhahran

was an existent fenced-off town that must have been expanded and redesigned at the time AJK worked on it. Originally built to house foreign workers but gradually being “Saudi-ized”.


Here is the Wikipedia entry. I do not know how many people were accommodated in the original village.
“Rumbai at present is a district of Pekanbaru, Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. It was founded in the early 1950s as the Sumatra headquarters of Caltex Pacific Oil Company, now known as Chevron Pacific Indonesia, on the shores of the Siak River. In the early 1950s, Rumbai could only be reached from the outside world by river boat, from Pekanbaru or from Bengkalis. A road was built by Caltex to the Minas and Duri oilfields and camps. Caltex staff (mostly American) traveled to Rumbai, Minas and Duri by plane from Jakarta or Singapore to Pekanbaru airport and then by boat across to Rumbai. The oil camp of Rumbai was a completely self-contained mostly expatriate community with offices, homes, school, hospital, water treatment, diesel generators, commissary, country club, swimming pool and golf course.”
The one thing I remember my father telling me about this project was that he specified a special cable, coated several inches thick with natural untreated latex to protect it from a very acidic soil. The cable was manufactured by Turtle and Hughes a supplier he had used during the war years for similar non-standard cables.

Rumbai, Sumatra

Thule Air Base, Greenland

Location of the Thule base

I don’t think I heard of this job until after its completion. AJK spoke of the problems of construction in northern Greenland, about the need to anchor building supports to the permafrost but especially the problems of freezing and thawing in the upper layer of earth for buried services such as electricity and water supply.
I am uncertain as to whether he actually went to Thule. At one time he said he had and at another seemed to be saying he had not. I had some reason to be skeptical which I’ll discuss toward the end of this post.
One story he told is both amusing and puzzling. Alcohol was prohibited at the air base. My father and his New York colleagues would prepare crates of supplies for their Greenland contingent and would include television sets, insides scooped out and replaced with liquor. Yes, television sets! I doubt that there was any sort of transmission going on up there, so I can only conclude that whoever was supposed to be policing those shipments didn’t know that and failed to see the contraband booze. (Another possibility has just occurred to me. Perhaps the whiskey was put in cartons that had contained TV sets, resealed. Those boxes would have had all sorts of warnings about the fragility of their contents. This possibility seems more plausible but still depends on the credulity of the inspectors.)

Thule Air Base

Ethiopian Airfields.

After the end of WW II the U.S. sold off surplus C-54 cargo airplanes at very low prices to help war damaged countries recover. Several went to Ethiopia. Airfield development there dates back to 1929 but fields capable of handling large aircraft only started to appear after Haille Selassie was re-installed on the throne in 1941, after the British defeated the Italians.
The Ethiopian government wanted to be able to bring products from the very mountainous regions, which were almost inaccessible by road, to market. (Some of the “products” were wild animals for zoos and the like and there were entertaining stories in the news of leopards escaping their cages during flight trapping crews in the cockpit.) AJK was sent to Addis Ababa to help with airfield development in those regions. I assume his contribution was based on his wartime work with portable airfields. He told me that a photograph was taken of him and Selassie and that, like La Guardia, he towered over the emperor. The Lion of Judah was barely five feet tall, a fact widely known in my younger days, mention of which seems to be studiously avoided nowadays.


One day AJK appeared wearing a Karakul hat which he said he bought in the same shop used by Ayub Khan. The only other thing I recall from this event was his saying, “Rawalpindi is the armpit of the universe”. I can only assume that this was another airfield related project.

Brookhaven National Laboratory, the 60 Inch Cyclotron.

I don’t know the story here but will recount what I think I remember. The heart of the machine was a large toroidal magnet divided into quadrants, each of which weighed a ton or thereabouts. AJK created an innovative design for an electric hoist motor to position the magnets which had a “high speed” of something like two inches per minute and, at low speed, could position a magnet within one thousandth of an inch in three dimensions. The phrase “constant torque” is in my murky memory but that may apply to something else altogether. One thing I do remember with some clarity is a number of phone calls, some quite late in the night, to our home from physicists and others with questions or problems involving the hoist.

60 inch cyclotron

A Moonlighting Interlude

Very shortly after the end of the war, early 1946 I would guess, Spyros Skouras and a number of other wealthy American Greeks financed the construction of a new, state-of-the-art hospital to be built on Peloponnesus. My father took on the electrical design, a major feature of its modernity, as a private party, a moonlighter. The reason this stands out in my memory is that he had me do the drafting for the job. I already had a drafting table in my room and he provided me with a set of templates and supervision. I did pretty well for a novice, if I do say so myself.
All the patients’ rooms were two beds, with cove lighting provided by fluorescent tubes at the head of each so that each patient could have sufficient light for reading without disturbing the neighboring patient. Electric outlets were provided every few feet in the hallways to allow rapid electrical supply for emergency equipment – and so on and on.

Ammann and Whitney

At some point in the early fifties, perhaps around late 1951 or early 1952, AJK left Skidmore. I do not know the circumstances surrounding this but think that SOM may have gone back to the old model of hiring engineering contractors and disbanded their own staff (except for structural engineers who are integral with the architectural staff). He joined Othmar Ammann at Ammann and Whitney.
Othmar Ammann was a one man bridge building machine. “Othmar Ammann designed more than half of the eleven bridges that connect New York City to the rest of the United States. His talent and ingenuity helped him create the two longest suspension bridges of his time. Ammann was known for being able to create bridges that were light and inexpensive, yet they were still simple and beautiful. … Famous bridges by Ammann include the following:

George Washington Bridge (opened October 24, 1931)

Bayonne Bridge (opened November 15, 1931)

Triborough Bridge (opened July 11, 1936)

Bronx–Whitestone Bridge (opened April 29, 1939)

Walt Whitman Bridge (opened May 16, 1957)

Throgs Neck Bridge (opened January 11, 1961)

Verrazano Narrows Bridge (opened November 21, 1964)” (Wikipedia)

He also consulted on the Golden Gate Bridge.

He once said the main engineering challenge in designing a bridge was financing.

Othmar Ammann

Ammann did the original design work on the Triborough Bridge in 1925 but by the time construction was to start in 1929 the crash and depression stalled the project. In the ‘30s when my father was working for the Department of Parks, Robert Moses seized control of the project and with considerable skill and brass put together financing from the WPA, the City of New York, the State and private financing (bonds) and wherever else he could find a dollar, almost losing his job in the process. My father, working for Moses, worked on a number of parks included in the design and as I have surmised, must have had contact with Ammann while doing so.


Written on the back of this photograph is “San Remo Feb ’53”. So it would seem that Ammann and Whitney posted AJK in Paris in 1952 and that he traveled to other projects from there.


MILA, Cape Canaveral:

I do not know what my father was doing over the next couple of years but I think a good guess would be military projects, most likely for the Bureau of Yards and Docks of the U.S. Navy. Then, out of the blue, I received a mailed note, perhaps a Christmas card, with a return address in Cocoa Beach, Florida. About six months later I received another note on “company” stationery with a return address “MILA – Merritt Island Launch Annex” Cape Canaveral, FL. I have concluded, based on a very dim memory and as much historical information as I can find that the first note was sent in the fall or winter of 1957. I think he stayed in Cocoa Beach for about a year. The project would have been developing the power system for MILA which was employed by the newly formed NASA for Project Mercury in 1958.

After that he returned to Paris. Again, I think it was for military work. My evidence for this is an anecdote he told me about being the MC or chairman of a chapter meeting of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) where he introduced the bridge-designer guest speaker with a left-handed compliment, saying he was the most eminent bridge engineer “now that Dr. Steinman has retired”. (Steinman was thought of as a rival of Ammann’s, who did the Mackinac and a number of other famous bridges.) His personal life in Paris is the main story, which I will take up in the final section.

Subic Bay Naval Base

In 1964 (I believe) my father passed through San Francisco on his way to Olongapo, Luzon, the Philippines to conduct a project for Budocks in the Subic Bay Naval Base. A couple of weeks later the base commander lifted his permit to enter the installation and demanded that his company replace him because he was showing up for work intoxicated. This was the humiliating coda of my father’s remarkable career.

Alcohol  … and Sally

The 21st Amendment to the Constitution repealing the 19th or Prohibition Amendment was ratified December 5, 1933, three weeks before my fifth birthday. When I was about three years old my father walked behind me down Main Street, Flushing, carrying a milk bottle full of homemade whiskey. I would hold up the bottle for passing pedestrians and say “Mother’s milk”. This frat-house prank was typical of my father and his pals at the time (see the post “How they electrocuted my father”). It is also emblematic of his personality and biography.

First, note that he went to the trouble of making alcoholic drink – he couldn’t be without. Second, note that it was whiskey not “bathtub gin” that most home distillers were making. As I understand it, it was also a fairly respectable home product. After distilling he passed the liquor over activated charcoal to simulate barrel aging and remove congeners (which he called “fusel oils”). In everything he did he went “all in”; some other examples: a group of engineers in midtown formed a bowling league and within a year he was one of the top bowlers; at another time a group was formed around playing badminton and he soon became the top player.

Alcohol was a leitmotif all of his life. In the last year of her nearly ninety-seven, my mother told me that AJK’s father, Peter was a drunk. He dropped dead of a massive stroke in 1928 while my mother was carrying me. It appears that AJK did not become catastrophically alcoholic until the late fifties.


Around or before 1950 he entered into an affair with a woman in his office named Thelma Truhan, called Sally. She was far from the sexy young office vamp one imagines in such situations. She was a middle-aged, slightly dumpy Bronx-Irish widow and very amiable company. She seemed to function more as a surrogate mother than lover. He handled the transition from my mother to Sally in a clumsy manner, explaining his long absences as business trips to out-of-town locations. When my mother finally figured it out, she got a legal separation with provisions for her support which my father observed in the breach half the time. One of the oddities of their relationship was that neither one initiated divorce proceedings.

AJK and Sally literally had a ball in Paris. They took up ballroom dancing and competed in Tango contests winning a number of trophies. He became a member of the The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin which Wikipedia describes as “an exclusive bacchanalian fraternity of Burgundy wine enthusiasts”. They lived at 19 Rue des Pyramides (which I gleaned from a return address on an envelope), which seems a very desirable location, one block from Rue Rivoli and two from the Louvre.

My sister, Joanne Jauregui visited our father and Sally a couple of times in Paris. On one memorable occasion Josephine Baker was in the same restaurant as they were and gave Joanne an autograph.

19 Rue des Pyramides

AJK and Sally visited my wife Barbara and me at our flat on Clay Street in 1960 (according to step-daughter Carla Adams) when Barbara was pregnant with our son Alexander. AJK arrived with a suitcase which contained two bottles of VS, two bottles of VSOP and one of Napoleon Hennessy cognac. They were consumed in three days. They visited again when our son was two or three years old. On that occasion we met a Chilean friend of Sally’s named Jimmy who flew mail over the Andes from Chile to Argentina, when airplanes could barely make it over the crest, for Juan Tripp in the early days of Pan American Airways. AJK was showing signs of serious deterioration at that time, suffering a seizure when we were seated on the floor of the Tokyo Sukiyaki restaurant (Sally said to ignore it, that he would recover in a few minutes).

In 1964 after the ignominious return from the Philippines, when he was 63 years old, Amman and Whitney put him out to pasture but didn’t fire him, keeping him on the payroll until his pension was vested, an act of unusual generosity. I think his pay was much diminished however and in order to stretch their income they moved to Athens which they grew to love also. In 1969 he died. Sally returned to the Bronx and several years later came down with cancer and died.

Joanne’s Photographs of her Visits in France

This and the next were taken in Nice ca 1959

Dad & I had a great time in French Rivera in 1959

This looks to be earlier, perhaps 1954?

I have no idea of where or when

Perhaps in the ’60s. Note the waxed mustache tips. Later he sported a “full Dali”, long curled waxed ends.

Postscript: The New York Post Editorials

Note: these are PDFs. To read them click the links. The pages will show up in a new tab. To make them more legible, click Automatic Zoom and 100% or 125%. Close the tab to return here.

The first editorial, dated August 13, 1942 New York Post Editorial

The first follow-up dated August 17, 1942 NY Post Editorial 8-17-1942

The second editorial dated August 21, 1942 Second editorial, part 1

The second editorial, continued second editorial, part 2

The third editorial, dated August 22, 1942 Third editorial, 8 22 42 part 1

The third editorial, part 2 NY Post 8-22-1942, part 2

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