Without highly successful Capitalists and Capitalism, America would probably be no different than, say, another Australia satellite to the U.K.
Capitalism & It’s Value – Don’t Eat ALL The Rich
by H. Michael Sweeney | Staff Writer | Eternal Affairs Media
WHEN WE SAY EAT THE RICH, in our angst over the global power elite and their various dark plots on behalf of the New World Order, modern-day Illuminati, or whatever other name you might prefer, we should remember that not all rich deserve our ire. In fact, without highly successful Capitalists and Capitalism, America would probably be no different than, say, another Australia satellite to the U.K. — not to detract from the other unique forces which propelled our nation forward to prominence, nor to ignore the damage being done to that prominence daily by authoritarians of the far left. Here, I just want to remind people, with example, that there are good Capitalists, who have done, and continue to do good by any form of measure. Sure, close scrutiny may reveal weaknesses and foibles, as do we all (even a certain recent President who did a really great job) but their body of work far outweighs the sins or flaws in character.
I was moved to write this after a strange series of coincidental discoveries relating to my own past, and one special ultra-wealthy person with whom I had an interesting relationship, in the first steps of my own climb up the ladder of success. As it happens, I have come to know, work with/for or do business with many millionaires and billionaires, in my day. He just happened to be one of the first, and certainly is among the best examples I could offer, from among several. Of note, for instance, I’ve had lunch with Gates and Jobs at the Same time (now there’s an example of both the worst sort, and one of the considerably better kind). This was right after Steve had learned of the Windows ‘rip off’ of the Mac OS, and I don’t think either of them looked each other in the eye, or spoke directly one to the other, once, during the meal. Pretty sure Steve was at the time roasting Bill, in his mind.
I’ve also been involved in movie promotion directly with Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek, the Movie). I have discussed business with the biggest American venture capitalist in the field of the Internet, Timothy Draper. I married the daughter of Charles Willock, inventor of the Home Dialysis machine, the machine that built the minuteman missile and space shuttle boosters (he warned them the o’ring design was flawed), and pigeon-hole parking, among other things (more than a half-dozen companies started, thereby). All these men were, in my estimation, examples of good Capitalists, and though I knew Charles best, I’m focusing on one the first one met, for reasons to be revealed.
His name was Earnest (‘Uncle Earnie’) Swigert, not a well known name in the public eye. He has not been on my mind for decades, but a social meme reminded me of a funny memory I thought would make a humorous post, a kind of one-liner gag Earnie had told me on his Yacht. I was then merely an employee of one of the major heavy industry firms his family started, in Portland, Oregon, as far back as 1913. I was in charge of the photographic department for Hyster Company, the forklift maker, while he was CEO. He had just bought the new ship and wanted to take it for a short run up the Columbia, and invited me along to photograph it. It was just the two of us, and a couple of crewman, and his Yacht broker. I’ll close with the joke, which in fleshing it out as a post, started a very strange journey into irony, and lead to this article.
I had in mind, in the telling of the gag in the post, to talk about Earnie’s wealth, but I had no idea of if to use ‘millionaire,’ or ‘billionaire,’ and so I reached for a search engine. There, I came upon his obituary, in the Oregonian, and was compelled to read it. It was heart warming, illuminating, and started that journey, wherein I learned some remarkable human interest details worthy of an article. To explain his wealth, btw, just the two firms I knew about were doing about one billion in sales a year, by the date of his passing, in 1989. There were several other, lesser firms.
The first thing I learned, was that he had served his country in WWII, earning several medals and honors as a Sherman tank driver (perfect for his smaller body size), in the 758th Tank Battalion, serving in the Pacific Theater. He saw some very fierce fighting, time and again. But as the type of tank was not in the obit, I had to research the battalion, and that led to discovering a very touching irony. It seems there was anther Earnie Swigert serving in the same time and place, as infantryman, though the second used an alternative spelling (Sweigert), all of the same lineage, just as we Sweeney’s and Swiny’s are related. Given one other irony, it is entirely within the realm of possibilities, that the image shown here, or one like it, somewhere, might show both Earnies in action.
The second irony? My Earnie (left) founded Hyster Company, maker of forklifts, and their biggest corporate business partner/client would end up being Caterpillar. He was born in 1926, in Portland. The other Ernie (below) was born in Cleveland, in 1923, and worked for Towmotor, also maker of forklifts. The founder of Towmotor died in 1934, the year Hyster was started. Towmotor merged with Caterpillar, the year My Earnie died, and Hyster was that same year taken over by different merger. Two men, both soldiers in the same field of war, at the same time, both tied later in life to forklifts, and to Caterpillar with curious mirrored dating coincidences tied to founder deaths and related major business moves.
My first job out of the Air Force, was at Hyster HQ. I bluffed my way into a managerial post as Photographic Administrator, having acquired a love for photography in the Air Force. I was quite good with a camera, and had taken the New York Institute of Photography course, but had no work credentials, other than running the photo lab after hours at GFAFB, and hawking pictures I took at the local race track, or anything else people wanted pictures of.
But I got the job, my own secretary (and boy, what a secretary: her figure and personality reminded almost everyone of the Playboy Femlin cartoon character on their Jokes page), and two photographers under me. As such, I got to choose the ‘fun’ jobs for myself, and that included things like making sound-color promotional and safety films, wherein I had roles in scripting, acting, and the actual photographic side. We even did high-speed filming of accidents to test safety features, and I got to drive the world’s largest forklift ‘too fast’ in a turn, tipping up on two wheels, for a safety film.
That same forklift was used to place Queen Rhonda on her Portland Rose Parade float in 1969. It was so big that we needed Police escort, and a crew to raise power lines and traffic lights, to get there. I took this picture of Rhonda (Anderson, Marshal High) from a press platform atop the forks of the forklift for the press core to use… but I got the first shot, shouting out her name so she would look toward the camera, for Hyster’s annals. Ernie loved it.
Another fun assignment involved a Bell Jet Ranger Helicopter Ernie wanted to buy for Corporate needs. It landed at our facilities and Ernie and I, and various other executives came out to get the sales pitch and demo ride. I was tickled at the opportunity to tell him that I was qualified to work on almost any part of the aircraft, and knew how to fly them. In the end, the Board decided not to spend the money… and so the suggestion it would be a great platform for photography purposes, at forklift work sites, was for naught.
But my very first self-assigned job involved meeting Earnie for the first time, in his Office, to take a picture of him and some big-wig accepting a check from Earnie for a charity or civic project. That’s how I came to first know him, finding him a funny little man with no airs of importance about him; genuinely friendly and easy going… though I would also learn he knew how to be firm and business-like, even demanding. But he was not your typical A type personality, as his picture (press photo) reveals. In any event, it was my first exposure to an otherwise unknown philantrhropic side. His Obit listed rather a lot of that.
He was a huge animal rights advocate, a key player in establishing the Oregon Humane Society and the Delta Society (currently Pet Partners), who provide pet therapy solutions to trauma victims, especially kids. He was a patron of the arts, helping to fund the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Symphony, The Portland Opera, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and the Oregon Historical Society.
There is some personal Irony, in some of this… after leaving Hyster, I helped the Historical Society restore hundreds of old glass-plate photographs, and later, helped establish an exhibit honoring Charles Willock and his inventions. My own photography would wind up being exhibited at the Portland Art Museum, and one of my daughters got a scholarship from the Museum for her work in art created at a Museum event, itself also put on display, and used in brochures and promotional matters for the Museum. One piece was permanently installed into a City Park playground area.
Earnie also cofounded the Swigert Foundation with a brother, which seeks to sponsor and enrich cultural, medical, religious, educational and civic endeavors in the State, by providing grant money. He even started a Junior Achievement Program and dared to put me in charge of it when I volunteered, and thankfully, I didn’t muff the assignment. One last small irony… he was also a Member of the prestigious Multnomah Athletic Club… where my Mother worked as Head Waitress. He gave great tips, she told me, even better tips once he learned who she was, to me.
Now we come to the matter of the Yacht, and the gag line that started this sojourn, which is itself in juxtaposition to a story of Earnie in his retirement years, also learned of from the Obit. One day, Earnie invited me out on his new Yacht, on the Columbia River. He wanted shots of his new toy. We set sail up the scenic gorge to have a great visual backdrop. It was a very private and casual event, just him, myself, and a couple of crewmen, below decks. It was all very impressive, but I can’t recall any specifications, such as how big it was, but according to him, it was bigger then his ‘previous yachts.’
And that was the lead in to his joke. He said that he liked to throw parties on the river, and that ‘at times alcohol or other distractions wound up causing the vessel to elect to run aground.’ If the Yacht sustained very much damage, and might be out of service for a time, he simply traded it in for a new one. This was his third, if I recall correctly. Then he offered some ‘sage advice,’ which was his one-line gag. Here, as in the post intended, I find it convenient for political purposes useful to the Eternal Affairs mission, to restate it, as if a question, with answer:
What do guns, boats, and wives have in common, in terms of a man’s best strategic thinking?
Answer: “Plan on getting a new one as frequently as possible, and make sure the new one is faster, and has bigger BB’s, than the last.” And the BB’s? Bores and Bullets, Beams and Bridges, and Boobs and Butts.” With that, he toasted to BBs, and we downed some more brandy.
From that, one might be tempted to conclude the man wasted money, and lived a frivolous life-style. But this was not the story, at all, as near as I had seen, or heard, and another item found in the Obit would seem to agree. For one thing, the entire story about replacing yachts for having run aground was an exaggeration, and the parties were good for business in many ways common to all major corporation’s entertainment needs. The last one indeed ran aground, but not because of partying, and it was time for an upgrade for performance reasons.
From the Obit, I learned that on his retirement, he could have taken the Yacht anywhere, but he did not. He instead went to Europe, and bought a barge converted to a living space, in which he plied the rivers of Europe for the next 25 years. Was he a ‘good enough’ man with his wealth, and in fact, it must be so.
After all, his full name, was Earnest Goodnough Swigert. I also discovered there is a biography written of him, The Good Life of Ernest G. Swigert, by John R. Howard. Sail on, Ernie, sail on.