Book review by Sam Freene –
Each step of the way Bill Morgenstein created his own path to success one shoe company at a time. Determined, tenacious, persistent and determined to build a business author Bill Morgenstein injects his own brand of humor, sarcasm and practical jokes that will keep readers guessing as to just what he has in store for everyone and what surprises will pop up. From meeting Louis and getting in trouble in school, daredevils, fun locking, his time in the ROTC as a cadet, joining the military and working his way up not only in grade or rank but with the top brass this man never let anything get him down. Jobs that span many continents, many fields and a home that he made with a young girl named Sylvia, Bill set his sites high, his aspirations many and his energy unlimited as we embark on a journey, a life’s journey with This Crazy Life of a Kid from Brooklyn.
Shoes seem to be what makes him come alive and working in one store that my mom loved and told me about Thom McAn. Giving readers the history of the store, the company and its owner, we learn the many reasons why Bill had to learn diplomacy, patience, and creativity and definitely use his ingenuity when dealing with the head of this company who hated being wrong and had to always be in charge. From a manager named Bob who disliked perfection in anyone else and who would get upset if there was nothing to correct of blame on someone else and you smile, laugh or wonder what will happen next.
Beginning with his family and meeting his best friend Louie, you fall in love with both Bill and his young kid as they get in trouble in school, blamed it on his friend and became close friends throughout it all. Entering Stuyvesant H.S. and doing acting out Bill enters the University of Alabama and things take another turn and change. Practical jokes were always on his agenda and sometimes when played at his expense well you sometimes get what you deserve. But, Bill never gives up and playing a joke on his ROTC staff and not getting caught was pure joy and luck. Joining a fraternity he meets Sylvia and you would think he would settle down and change. Bill worked for many companies in different managerial and upper level positions. He started selling shoes in Tennessee meeting many great people and then off to the army as a private where he assimilated into the thick of things with no problem. Officers treating him like royalty and allowed to travel first class things changed when he was sent to Korea, lived on a ship and enlightens readers about his further escapades, close calls, demotions and eventually returning to Brooklyn where it all begins for him as a management trainee for Thom McAn shoes. Extensive travel all over the world, job offers from Kitty Kelly as an Executive V.P. and hopefully becoming the president of a company before age 35 this man set his sites high and when you read the memoir, listen to meetings, learn about the deals he made and the people he worked with you know that he will succeed no matter what. Working for BK or Mr. Kellner was not easy and the lessons he learns he would take with him when starting his own business.
Interviews with Melville Shoe Company, which dealt with T.J. Max, Bobs, Vanguard and even CVS Bill, managed to enter many training programs and hoped that his trips to Maine, Boston and other places would pay off.
Describing Mr. Melville and the district manager Frank, Bill was told he was ready to become a store manager. He would then have full responsibility for the personnel, sales results, all of the store’s inventory and the cash. This store was in the Inwood section of the Bronx. Then he was transferred to my old neck of the woods Fordham Road where things turned kind of mysteries and the FBI came in and bank drops were in question and our author brilliantly handles it all. Just how: Like a good mystery you have to find out for yourself. More moves, different stores, meeting with Richard McCarthey, making sure you are formal with him and off to a new store on 48th street and Broadway. Meldisco where he meets Bob a man who wanted to prove that he was the smartest person in the room and as I said before needed the feel of being able to correct everyone and find something wrong. Realizing that he would have to at least play along with this and allow him to find and correct something, Bill learn the ropes fast and was promoted. Always leaving something for him to correct. Wait until you see what happens when everything is perfect. Wait until you find out what happens when Bill makes the mistake of leaving nothing for him to change or critique. Kitty Kelly was next and things seemed to be going well until Mr.Kellner decided to bring his son Warren into the firm and what happens will surprise readers and change things for Bill. When you read Ben Kellner’s stories you will learn more about the man, how he runs his company and Bill’s trips to Florence and Rome and how he was wearing thin traveling with the boss. Learn more when you read Kitty Kelly Travels and when the boss’s son returns. All this leads up to Bill and his dream to start Marquesa International and Marquesa Import Company after learning the import/export business. This business was his baby and it did very well for a long time until deceptions, lies, betrayals, deceits and one huge scam brings him down.
Brazil, Uruguay, Yugoslavia and other countries dealing with managers, Presidents, directors and even Chile, but Bill never saw it coming and was blindsided. Wait until you read how and why he decides to retire. But, just briefly.
Retirement is definitely out of the question and he became involved with Dining A La Card but first just a little more about the scandal that changed it all as large sums of money were being sent to his company from Russia. Learning that they wanted to buy and shipping boots from Macedonia to various stores and wholesalers in Russia and the rest read pages 276-279 to learn more. You just won’t believe the rest!
From Dining A La Card he then got a job at Advanceme where he managed to become a Senior V.P. of Sterling. Remaining with this company required learning about a second one called Transmedia and a final decision was made. Deciding to form his own brokerage firm in 2008 the author goes into detail to explain why he decided to do this, who was involved, the author relates the pitfalls, why things seemed to stall, panic calls and the rest you need to read for yourself so that you can learn the same lessons he did and what the end result was. A dream trip to Israel and he brings readers to the present and up to date. For over 60 years he has been married to Sylvia, traveling the world, dealt with the army, many different corporations and finally writing this book.
In an article I read in the author’s own words: “
What I hope comes out of reading this book, besides the humor is not only the love of life but also the extreme dislike for injustice and tyranny. I realize that some laws and rules are
necessary but I am firmly convinced that we have far too many regulations”. From the start with his friend Louie who always got him in trouble, to Gary Metzel and his wife Jackie, and many close friends still here and long gone the author relates his love of shoes, footwear, people, challenges and adventure and playing by his own rules. Where is he now and what has he been up to? Read the book and find out what one Crazy Life of a Kid From Brooklyn was really like growing up and still is right now. Just like our author his wife tells it like it is, honest to a fault and let’s hope for another 60 years. One self made man whom never stops reinventing himself and striving to be the best. Stories that will double you over in laughter, make you angry or just plain not believe what you read, Bill Morgenstein tells it all in the first person narrative, straight from the hip and definitely from the soles of some very expensive shoes.
Let’s give this book: FIVE GOLDEN FLATS OR PUMPS OR BOOTS.