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Chapter 25

In November of 1972 I informed the principals of both schools where I was employed that, due to health reasons, namely a weakness in my vocal cords, as substantiated by the accompanying letter from my doctor, I would be forced to resign my teaching position as of the end of 1972. I regretted to have to give up my profession and I was especially distressed by the fact that I had to stop teaching in the middle of the school year, but I saw no possibility at all to do otherwise.

At the end of December the school organized a farewell party at which I was presented with a five hundred dollar cheque and Gina with a bouquet of roses. The teachers, in the name of The Federation, also presented me with gifts during a farewell evening. Tile hardest event was the parting from my students, who also organized some parties in the classrooms. Even the afternoon school presented me with a gold Omega watch. Fortunately it was the winter break and I had some time to recover from all the emotional excitement.

On January 2, 1973, at seven A.M. I presented myself for work at Matador Converters (the two firms, Matador Inc. and Wadding Converters, were amalgamated into Matador Converters). I continued to do so until the end of April 1993, the day I retired from active management of the business.

For the first week of my new job I was kept busy by taking inventory, with the help of some workers carried over from the old companies, to know what we had in stock. This was a learning process to familiarize myself with the different materials used in the business: fibers, resins, chemicals, linings, backings, threads of very many different colours, needles, a multitude of spare parts for different machines; there were literally hundreds of different items. We had no computers in those days and since I became responsible for replenishing our stock (spending many millions of dollars every year) and keeping the stock at the right level year round, I developed a simple manual system of running stock, which enabled me to be up-to-date. It required a great deal of effort to learn about the qualities of hundreds of materials and parts and their applications, to be up-to-date on every new item that the market had to offer and above all, to learn how to purchase the best quality available for the best price possible.

My second task was to be in charge of the pricing of the many hundreds of items which we produced and sold to hundreds of different customers. The same item could be sold for different prices to different customers, depending on quantity, distances to deliver, credit worthiness and special deals. To perform this task properly I had to be up-to-date on cost of production, direct and indirect expenses and cost of raw materials, as well as to know each customer for whom the price was made. Every time my expenses went up the pricing had to be adjusted upwards. Because of competition and seasonal needs of our customers, the timing for a price increase had to be carefully chosen and irrefutably justified. Every time there was a price change, my telephone did not stop ringing, because the customers demanded an explanation for the change, a postponement or a deal. We had to be flexible: nothing was done strictly by the book. Although I took charge of these tasks within a couple of months of starting my job, I needed several years to perfect my skills. As long as my father was actively involved in the business, which was till 1985, I never made a major decision without his approval. (Although my father retired officially some two and a half years later, I was really fully in charge of the business since 1985).

The third task involved the expansion of the business. Although our partner was thoroughly informed of all aspects of the business, when it came to expansion which involved large sums of money, our partner had to be in full agreement with us. We had to purchase two properties which was done by my father. One of the buildings, (we called it the "Gigi" plant), of about 20000 ft. was located perpendicular to our wadding plant; the other, the Winfield Lumber Yard, was located between the quilting plant and the wadding plant. We had to undertake a total of nine construction projects in the course of nine years, all of them were planned and supervised and brought to completion by me. Two of the projects were intended to modify and fortify existing structures, the other seven projects increased the area of our plants by about 100,000 ft. almost doubling its size to the present area of 227,000 ft. In addition to the expansion, there were numerous projects of repairs and modifications.

The company started with some thirty-five quilting machines. By 1989 we had seventy. The company started with four old wadding machines and has now seventeen, of which only three are the original and they were completely remodeled. Three of these seventeen machines are running in Winnipeg, where we opened a branch in 1979.

We bought a building of about 28,000 ft with some five acres of adjacent land for future expansion. All of these investments in Montreal and in Winnipeg were generated by the business. I was directly involved in the decision making, negotiations with the sellers of the machines, with the electricians, ventilation companies, plumbers, gas equipment companies, who were needed for the installation of the machines. The cost of these machines amounted to anywhere from about a million to about three-and-a-half millions per machines. In the course of the years we acquired a very skilled group of mechanics and electricians which enabled us to do a lot of work by ourselves. We were also able to build many parts of the machines ourselves thereby effecting substantial savings to the company.

My fourth task was to handle our Company's requests for government assistance for our various projects. Although I had professional help in this line of work, I had to supply the ideas and the information, as well as a lot of the paper work. The results were quite rewarding, about a million dollars contributed by the federal, provincial and municipal governments for the purchase of new machinery and the construction of new buildings. The complete project involved an expense of about seven million dollars in the course of about five years.

I also had a private assignment given to me by my father, to handle our real estate investments. There were five properties we owned. Three of them had about 50,000 ft., one - 37,000 ft. and a small one of 12,000 ft. I handled the properties for about eight years and then we sold them with my urging, one by one. Besides the accounting work, collecting rent, paying mortgages and taxes, there was a constant flow of repairs, roofing, floors, windows, doors, but mostly heating and plumbing. Sometimes there were problems requiring much attention for an extended period of time, as when the furnace stopped working and the pipes froze and the water burst and flooded two floors, requiring extensive repairs and much work to settle the insurance claims. The tenants always had some complaints and even though I tried hard to satisfy their needs, it was still a constant irritant. So, I was happy when we finally got rid of our real estate business. I must add that we were fortunate to divest ourselves of our real estate holdings at a nice profit, just before the slump started.

My father put his talents to work making sure that our sales were increasing steadily, every year. In the course of fifteen years the sales increased five fold; the collections and the extension of credit which were also under my father's control were very good, so that the losses due to bad debts were minimal. Within twelve years since we bought the business, we were free of debt, despite the very substantial increase in real estate, in new machinery, in rolling stock and many smaller items.

By the mid-seventies my duties at Matador became so numerous that I could not cope any more on my own. We hired a young man by the name of David Helter, who became my very valuable assistant. He also managed to affect substantial savings in our energy expenses (which amounted to several hundred thousand dollars per year), in our purchased transportation costs, especially the railway lines (we had two railway lines coming directly into our Montreal plant and one line into our Winnipeg plant). David took care of all the statistical work which was of tremendous help to me. I hardly made a move without involving David.

In the early eighties, the workers at Matador tried to organize a Union. The struggle lasted for several years. The Union managed to recruit a substantial amount of members, but not a majority. They wanted to demonstrate to our workers that they could be better protected and so they launched a multitude of grievances against the company. More than a dozen of those grievances ended up in court. I hired a good labour lawyer and the two of us devoted a great deal of time and effort in preparing our cases for the court hearings. We managed to win all the cases. By now, some two years later, the Union decided to put the matter to a vote. If the majority of the workers would vote to accept the Union, they would be accredited. The vote, which took place in our plant, under government supervision, was a great victory for us. Only thirty percent voted for the Union.

This was actually the second attempt for accreditation. The first took place before the amalgamation, when my father was already managing the company. On their third attempt in 1988 the Union finally succeeded in gaining a majority in their membership drive. We began negotiating at the end of 1988 for our first collective agreement.

The Union demands were totally unrealistic and even with mediation and conciliation the gap between us was too large to be bridged. In March of 1989 the workers went out on strike which lasted about five months and resulted in substantial losses to both sides. When we resumed work, I came to the conclusion that it would be best to close the quilting plant, which was not very profitable even before the strike. It should be noted that it was the quilting plant which generated most of our income in the seventies. However, in the eighties, the quilting plant began a slow but steady decline, while the wadding plant which began its expansion already in the seventies, was now, in the eighties, our main source of income.

During the strike, the Winnipeg plant performed a vital task in helping us to overcome our loses. I organized a night shift in Winnipeg which was producing goods strictly for our Montreal customers. Although the shipping costs from Winnipeg to Montreal were quite high (especially since our material is light and voluminous), we still managed to make a profit and to compensate for our Montreal losses. Since the strike involved a great deal of tension, abusive language, picketing and even violence, my whole outlook on business has changed, to the extent that I was now seriously convinced, that since I was able to make a living without working at Matador, I should prepare for retirement.

My last important project at Matador was directed at transferring my duties and preparing my successor for a complete takeover. It was clear to me at that point that the overall authority for managing Matador, will have to be transferred to Stuart Zuckerman, George's nephew, who exhibited a better aptitude for the task. Although I felt uneasy in the last year and a half before my retirement because I relinquished most of my duties together with my authority, I did not feel at all uneasy about my performance at Matador in the course of my twenty years of hard, conscientious work. I remember that the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Guy Tardiff, who paid a visit to Matador in April of 1985 praised our achievements as a significant contribution to the economy of Quebec. I still have the photograph taken of the two of us on that day. I was also proud and happy to receive a certificate of appreciation from the City of Montreal which reads as follows:

There is one sad note, which caused me a great deal of sorrow: my inability to work in harmony and to communicate normally with my son in-law, Neil Glazer. I am stating this fact because it eventually resulted in my being forced to accept the wishes of my partner, George Zuckerman, to dismiss Neil from Matador, about one year after my retirement. Although I tried to find some solution to this problem between Neil and me in the course of the first three years, I eventually gave up my struggle to overcome this difficulty, simply by ignoring him, hoping thereby to gain peace of mind. This was my mistake, because when the problem finally exploded and reached its inevitable conclusion, my peace of mind exploded as well. The result of Neil's dismissal was to have a devastating effect on the entire family and will last for a very long time. It might never heal properly for as long as I live.

There was another factor which hastened my retirement: the death of my dear father, of blessed memory, on March 17, 1991. My father was my guide, my advisor, a model businessman, from whom I learned a great deal by observing his activities. Unfortunately, he became afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. By 1987 his behaviour was already affected, but he continued to live at home under my mother's care. The disease progressively worsened and two years later his behaviour became much more difficult to cope with. Fortunately for us, by then the Grinbergs (Sophie Golts' parents) were already occupying the upper floor of my parents duplex and we made arrangements for Mr. Grinberg to spend four hours per day looking after my father's needs. The following year we increased the time to eight hours per day, but my father's health deteriorated so much that we simply could not manage to control him at home.

My mother, who was by then eighty-three years old, could not cope with such a terrible burden. In mid-1990, my father developed a serious infection on his arm and had to be hospitalized from July 15th till August 8th. During this period of time I was actively engaged in the search of a suitable home which specializes in the care of people like my father. It was quite difficult to be accepted in such a home and it was even more difficult for my mother and I to agree to such an arrangement. After his release from the hospital on August 8th, my father was placed in the Feldman home on Bourret Avenue. The location was important, so as to enable my mother to visit my father by simply walking to the Feldman home. My father was never happy at the Feldman home, although he did receive the proper care and supervision. The only thing he approved of was the fact that Mr. Grinberg kept him company, went with him for walks, gave him his shower and shave, helped him dress and undress during eight hours, every day. The only time he was happy was when I came to visit him, or Gina, my mother and other members of the family.

Although he could communicate in a coherent manner, especially with the family, he was often very confused, belligerent, fighting imagined demons, even physically lashing out. For the last few years he had to be constantly sedated. Unless I was badly sick I visited my father every single day: whether at my parents home or at Feldman's. While he was hospitalized I used to come around most meal times, to make sure that he was properly fed, which he could not do on his own, sometimes other family members would replace me. My father was especially happy to see Gina, whom he loved dearly. While he lived in the Feldman home, on several occasions we had to rush him to the hospital because we suspected another infection. During his first hospital stay, he became infected with pneumonia which lasted for about two weeks. On October 8th he was again hospitalized with another infection and he stayed there until October 22nd, when he returned to the Feldman home. In every other case he was discharged after a day's observation, with the proper treatment to continue at home. Every time he was taken to the hospital I spent a full day with him until all the tests were completed, the diagnosis made and treatment prescribed.

In March of 1991, about half a year after we placed him in the Feldman home, he became noticeably ill, his temperature was up and he was very inactive. Mr. Feldman rushed him to the hospital and I came along. He was checked and treated after many hours of waiting and placed into the intensive care unit. There they attached a machine to his body to monitor his heart. The doctor diagnosed the problem as a mild heart attack. Some three days later there was a noticeable improvement, his temperature was normal, I could communicate with him fairly well and the doctor ordered the removal of the monitoring machine. I went home happy, hoping that he would soon return to the Feldman home.

When he was at the Feldman home during the winter, I brought him home on several occasions for lunch. He was so happy to be there, to see the family and especially his great-grandsons, Aron and Zachary. So on my way home from the hospital I was planning to bring him to us as soon as possible. That evening, Dafna called us from Ottawa to announce her engagement to Simon Kahn. We were so happy with the wonderful news and planned to tell my father. The next morning around 7:30 A.M., as I was getting ready to go to the hospital, the phone rang. A doctor called from the hospital, informing me that my father passed away, due to heart failure. Gina and I rushed to the hospital. Mr. Grinberg was there too. He told me that he came too late. Mr. Feldman came and helped me to make the necessary funeral arrangements. I was in a state of shock and I will always be grateful to Mr. Feldman for his kind help and support. I had to tell my mother the sad news. It was terribly heartbreaking to watch my mother in her sorrow.

Out of respect for my father we closed the plant, so that almost all the workers came to the funeral. There were many people present who knew him well, respected him and many who loved him. I never missed anybody so badly as I miss my father. Hardly a day goes by that I do not think about him. Every time I face a problem, I mentally ask his advice. "What would you have done in such a situation?" He was the source of my strength at Matador. Since he has been gone, I have felt unable and unwilling to continue without him.

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