Background - Parents 003
Life – economic life anyway – was hard for my parents. There were many years of struggle for them. I don’t know the processes that they went through to each obtain a CPA certificate, but both did just that. I believe that mother had many accounts that she serviced, but I don’t know the names of all of them. Dad went to work in an accounting firm of some renown. They lived in a rented house for a while but moved soon after I was born. They moved to a little house on Cresent (522 Cresent) in Independence Mo. Independence is a town right outside Kansas City, the town in which Harry Truman (a President of the United States lived. We lived there until we moved to Edgevale in Kansas City when I was 6 years of age. I remember there was a store a couple of blocks away, and for some reason I was frequently there. It was a grocery store with a pot belly stove in which coal was placed to warm the entire room. I remember there was a older boy – probably in his teens – who used to “play” with me. He would allow me to get a piece of coal and throw it into the stove under his supervision.
I remember one day that mother was going to the bus to go somewhere – probably to work. I was outside the house and she called back to me yelling something about keeping the house unlocked when I went somewhere, because no one had their key. For most of life growing up, it was our habit – and those of the people I knew – to not lock their doors. People were safer in those days. In current times, of course, everyone locks their doors. But then they did not. Well – this time I am remembering was the only time in my lifetime with my parents that our house was robbed. Someone had overheard our loud voices going up and down the block, and robbed the house during the absence of all of us.
It also comes back to mind that one evening I awoke to find myself in my father’s arms being carried out of the house. I guess Lorna had been awakened and gone out on her own. Anyway, there was a fire in the house. We had a fireplace in which we burned logs. I do not remember the rooms in that house – and I don’t know anything about what the fireplace looked like or where it was located. Anyway, somehow in clearing the ashes from the fireplace through the opening in the floor to the ash storage bin in the basement, an ember had not been properly disposed of, and a fire ensued.
My parent’s skills in accounting grew, and dad decided to leave the employment of an accounting firm and branch out on his own. He took with him several rather big accounts most of which stayed with him for the rest of his life. He formed a partnership. I think there was someone before him, but the first partner I remember was Pichitti. Pichitti was a nice man of Italian heritage. Our families would sometimes get together and have dinner. The Pichitti’s had one son. He was several years my senior but I think he liked me, and we had some fun together. I remember trying to eat more pancakes then he could eat one time in what was a fun time with him. While I was still fairly young, he went off the Wentworth Military School for high school.
He played football there. I think he was in his senior year when one day we heard that his parents had gone to see him play football at the school, and that he had been tackled while carrying the ball. It was thought that he had been seriously injured, but after his death in the post-mortem, they discovered he had some sort of preexisting physical problem which caused his death. The rest of what I remember was my sister and I at the funeral not knowing what to do or say, talking to Mrs. Pichitti. She was distraught, and at one time her face and sounds looked like laughter – though she was clearly in tears and suffering. Lorna and I thought we were responding and emitted a laugh from which we both recovered quickly with a great sobbing noise. No one ever seemed to notice our mistake, and no one ever said anything about it, but I still remembered how embarrassed I was by my behavior.
Later in time – I don’t know how long it was, Pichitti decided to go his own way in accounting, and dad and mom formed a partnership which lasted until she stopped working at 62 years of age. They did very well, and made a very good living. Mother ran the office. She was in charge of all work that left the office. Any report or letter or note that was sent out to a client or was about a client had gone rigorous examination under my mother’s scrutiny. If one of the junior accountants issued a report (this report would be in pencil), it came to the outer office. Someone in the outer office would enter all the figures in the report into an adding machine. They would be entered from top to bottom. There were pages of figures sometimes 8 or 10 columns to a page, that had to be added, and each column had to be checked. If there was a disagreement in answer – the answer in the original report did not agree with the checkers answer, the figures were checked orally – one person reading them from the report – the other person checking the adding tape of the figures. Errors were not allowed to escape.
Now a days we rely on computers, but in those days it was just plain hard work. Long reports were then typed on a manual typewriter. These typewriters were made with an extra long carriage so that paper could be 18 inches wide, or even more. The paper used had to be extra thin – the term onion skin paper was used to describe the paper. It had to be extra thin because copies had to be made of the reports. Carbon paper was used, and it was frequent to make 8 copies. Once the report was typed, guess what – all the figures had to be re-added, and the report had to be read to another person to make sure there were no mistakes made in typing the report. If even one mistake occurred, the page with the error was retyped. They did not erase or use any of the later invented helpers such as white out. Re typing was the method. And when you had just typed a page with maybe 10 or 12 columns of figures which filled a page from top to bottom, you were really not wanting to do it again.
Dad, on the other hand was the sort of outside man. He got along with everyone, and made many friends. Mother did not make friends easily. He got lots of business, and he worked well with junior accountants who he brought into the firm. He loved his work as far as I could tell, and he was very good at it. He retained his accounts and got many new ones. He was a very bright man who understood the laws governing financial institutions well. He also just liked working with numbers. One time later in life when machines came into use and people got the first hand held calculators, dad did not trust them. Dad could add a page of figures faster than most people would be able to add the first two numbers on the page. Anyway, he insisted to his staff that his calculator was not correct. Every once in a while it would make a mistake, he claimed. He was teased a lot by the young accountants who were sold on the calculators. Then one day, he found an error again and called everyone in. And indeed, he was correct. The calculator had a recurring error on the rare occasion that certain numbers were entered in a certain order.
While the firm did the full array of accounting practice, dad specialized in income tax law, and became widely known as an expert in that area. He also developed quite nicely in the accounting field and was on the Board Of Certified Public Accounts of the State of Missouri. So my parents worked well together, each using their own personalities well to effect a truly well functioning and successful accounting practice.