This is short, but true, and was I proud! Proud to be an American
While working with the FTD buyer, I would meet him and a man who sold him many things starting in the Philippines in it’s capital Manila. I would work with him for a couple of days on products I was developing there, such as rattan basket, mini straw figures, an 8 foot chain garland made out of weaved thin branches found in the jungle. he would then leave me and work and travel with this other supplier, Tom ??. I would then work with the young man, Estivan, I hired there to set up a small office. He worked hard and followed my instructions perfectly. He was brite and spoke fairly good English. At the time, I didn’t know he was part of a group trying to overthrow Ferdinand Marcos and all his wealthy devious, government officials.
One day he asked me if I could help him send a young relative his to America. I naturally said I would find out what was necessary and get back to him the next time I would be there. I said that I would like to meet this child while I was there, so the next day, he took me in a car he borrowed to a place further south. It was a tiny village that was really very poor, as almost all the people there were living in grass huts, or rattan shacked. I had a wonderful time with most of the villagers and children. Most never saw a white man and were very nervious in the beginning, but with my smiles and bantering, they came to like me. When I saw this young little girl, I fell in love with her. She was brite and alert, with eyes alert and challenging. I was definitely going to help this little girl. It turns out that That I was able to send her to relatives in California. Esti, paid for it all, and I wondered where he got that kind of money, but said nothing as he was perfect to run my little office there. Each time I arrived in Manila, I would stay at the Manila hotel in a suit on the ground floor along side of their pool. As was the case in each hotel I stayed at while in Asia, I became well known and would banter with the help. Now when I came, and went to some small village, I would look at all the young people that would be sitting among all the workers, all in a circle, maybe 50 to 100. I was looking for one like the one I had sent to America. I thought it was a way to give these little children a chance in life. I did find another little girl who fit the bill, and asked Esti to find out from her parents if they would like me to send her to america, that is if they had someone there tro take her in. Sure enough they did and were so happy for a chance to send her. I did a few months later, and now I knew just how easy it was for a Philipeeno to enter into America, as it was considered a protective country of the United States. Word got around about what I was doing, a people now began to recognise me. They called me “The one and only”, the man with the scarf! I guess it somehow got back to the Marcos, cause all of a sudden, i Could not send someone to America unless I paid to Marcos $8000.00 for each one. At the time, I didn’t care as what I was making from that office was 10 time more.
One time when I was strolling about the lobby of the Manila Hotel with a drink in my hand, A commotion was going on at the entrance. Everybody moved out of the way, and who entered was 6 armed men with machine guns held at their sides. They told everyone to move aside to allow Madam Marcos to pass. When they arrived in front of me, they motioned me away, but not me, I stared them down, so they were confused, as they never expected, or had, any resistance. They stopped dead, and who should speak out in Philipeeno language something that was demanding, but Mrs Marcos. The men hesitated! I stared at Mrs Marcos and she at me. I pointed to my eyes and said “I’m an American” and didn’t budge. She stared back, told her men to go around and that’s what they did, but did she give me a death wish. Guess what I didn’t even notice her shoes. Word got out at what happened, and Esti couldn’t do enough for me. It was then that he told me he was part of a gorilla organization trying to depose Marcos. At the time, anywhere an American went he or she was respected, not as it is now! all we’re good for now is Ransom, or maybe worse!
In 1964, when I was seriously thinking about starting an Artificial flower company of my own, I was introduced to a man who was a regular customer at Goldfarb Novelty Co. the company where I was presently working. He was presently buying small containers with Souvenir Decals on them, that were then sold to his companies different customer around the United States that were located in popular tourists locations. His name was Jim Messmer, and he asked me if I could design and sell to his company, FTD, Florists Transworld Delivery Co., something his florists could use on Valentines Day in arrangements, His company represented over 10,000 florists across the country. and they would buy whatever holiday promotions FTD presented to them for each holiday. He explained that florists didn’t need artificial flowers, but rather the accessories portraying each holiday to enhance the fresh flower arrangements they made. The containers he bought from Goldfarb were used to offer to these same florists, who would then sell them locally. He said he was looking for something new he could offer to them for the next Valentines Day holiday, and could I come up with something that would fit the bill, as a big TV advertising program will be planned.
Going back to Goldfarb, I explained what their customer, Jim Messmer, wanted me to do him to Mr. Joe Young, who was my immediate boss and who reported to Josh Rothstein directly. If you remember from the story about my first job in New York,, it was Josh who was forced out of Zunino Altman Flower Co. and I, a few months later, was asked by him to come work in his new company, Goldfarb Novelty. I was doing very well there. because I knew many buyers at The F. W. Woolworth Co., and was able to increase Goldfarb business in other departments. It was after I explained what the FTD buyer wanted, and how I should begin, that Joe Young, stopped me and said that I should develop it myself, in my own company, and that it was time for me to move up on my own. Taking Joe’s advice, I did just that and I flew on my own time to FTD’s head Quarters in Troy Michigan, and asked Jim Messmer if I could offer my ideas and products directly to FTD. he agreed, then asked what I had in mind. I explained that I would prepare samples for him and make a presentation to him in three weeks. He asked what holiday I was shooting for and I told him… “Christmas”.
After preparing samples of the idea I had, sending a set to my new employee, Mr. Yeung, a young Chinese man who was working out of a small office at a rented desk in Hong Kong that belonged to his friend, a Mr S. Wong. I had originally used him for products I designed for Goldfarb and asked him if he would work for me directly in my new company, Sal Bianco Inc. He agreed and then got back to me within 10 days, as Telexing was the only way of communicating at that time.(Read the story call “The facts about faxing”). He said that he had prepared samples from three different manufacturers and was sending them to me,and I should decide which were the best in quality and price. When I received them, I chose the best, not on price, but on quality and appearance. They were my really first attempt at importing on my own. It was ideal to have FTD as my customer, as they had a very large warehouse in Michigan where I could ship direct. The samples I made were of assorted artificial fruits, a plum, apple, pear, orange and grapes, with each covered with very bright (sea-salt sized) clear crystals that made each fruit look like they were sugar coated in very bright colors, colors that each fruit came in naturally. They came out perfect, and I designed them to be easily inserted into arrangements by the florist. They inserted a thin green wooden spike into each fruit so that they could be easily inserted into the foam the florist normally used when making floral arrangements. The spike had a mini arrow at it’s tip to hold the fruit firmly in place, so as not easily fall out.
I made a special presentation in February to a committee made up of the ten top large florists that helped to develop the promotion for FTD, that would be used for the following Christmas holiday. Beforehand, I had already made a private presentation to Jim Messmer who went wild for the idea, and he asked me what was it going to be called? Well I said “how about”… “Sugar Plums”. The committee went wild for the samples presented, and especially it’s name, even more, as it opened a new area for them to offer to each florist. Now all their florist would be ready and willing to be part of the large advertising program they planned for each holiday. It was a great success that Christmas, as well as many, many more to come! Because of it’s success, that same committee and Jim came back to me and asked for more products, and the next one they wanted was for the next Valentine Day
So, back to the drawing boards! Not really true, because design comes from within, so what and how was I going to come up with what they wanted? Then Wow! I had it!… but how to make it happen? First thing is to make samples, and how was I to apply my idea from the one that gave me the idea in the first place. At the time, there was a very popular item selling to just about everyone. It was held in the palm of your hand and as you shook your hand up and down, little balls on the end of 8 stiff 12″springy wires, hit each one another. All were connected on the bottom, that was shaped into a handle. So, the balls as they would hit each other then bounce back and forth they made loud popping noises. It seems all children as well as many adults had one. So, I bought a few and adapted them to meet the idea I had come up with. I actually made little wooden hearts that I carved to be about .5″high and .5″ wide. I painted them bright red and drilled a very thin hole through the center down through the top down going through it’s point. I then placed 3 hearts on each wire and glued them equidistant, one on top, one in the middle and one 2″ to where they were all connected, which was just a stem that all the wires were firmly set into. It had an arrow point at it’s tip to make it easily able to push into the foam in an arrangement. Ok! What should I call it? Think? Think! Ok, what was it going to be used for? Valentine’s Day! I got it, I got it… “Heart Throbs” Heh!What’s Valentine’s day all about but one Heart Throb to sending another! Say no more! I sold Millions and Millions for years to come. I have a sample… somewhere! Wait! Wait! Claire just found one sample and here is it’s picture.
I’ll need to try to make a video of them shaking to really show the idea better. With my success came Jim Messmer’s success, so we started doing more together as he asked me to meet him in the different countries he traveled when he was buying his ceramics and I would then offer different accessories that I developed. It was very easy to convert “Heart Throbs” to a Christmas theme by replacing the hearts with Christmas characters like: Mini-Santas.snowmen and Mini Multi colored tree balls, called Dancing Christmas. they too were very successful and thereafter, I made individual floral picks of different characters Little mini Santa’s, snowmen, nondescript little animals, all on a single wire pick.
At the same time Jim Messmer had a friend and supplier who sold FTD all their ceramics. We would meet in The Philippines, where I would develop rattan baskets for his customers floral arrangements, and for my other customers I developed chairs, hammocks, carpets, using all dried grasses and rattan. I loved the Philippines and did a lot for some of the people there, so much so, that I made enemies of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, the dictator of all the Philippines, and his wife. Another story for another Post! I’ll continue this in another story to tell what happened and how I was subpoenaed to a court case in Federal court and charged.
Appearing in this event are: Gene Shaffer, The 1964 World’s Fair, and it’s Hall of Education, Mr. Walt Disney, my sons,Trey and Mike, and the whole Disney Gang!
As my Artificial Flower business began to grow, I tried to develop many areas. After working closely with my new friend, and eventual partner, Gene Schaffer on the J.C./ Penney account, we decided to invest in the up and coming New York Worlds Fair starting in May 1964. I had not begun setting up office in the Orient as yet and thought it would be a good idea to introduce the newly invented artificial flowers at the Worlds Fair. I was actually in an earlier World’s Fair, but then I was only 10 years old and sang in a very high alto voice, church mass songs. Gene Schaffer was trying to develop his ceramic business, so we decided to share a booth at the fair. I demonstrated making arrangements in his containers. However, all we could afford was a small one in the Hall of Education, located in one it’s side areas, and directly underneath The World Spire, with it’s Revolving Restaurant on top,. It brought people passing our way, but was really no financial help to us as the days passed. Gene and I invested $2000.00. each which was a lot of money at that time. Most of my investment was in the inventory of Artificial flowers. If you read another of my stories about my first job in New York, you’ll know my boss from Zunino Altman Flower Co., was Josh Rothstein. He allowed me to buy as many flowers I needed, but I didn’t have to pay for them till our company was financially capable. Gene had the actual cash, so it was used for paying the rent and materials we needed to make a grand display. We had three weeks before the Fair opened, and we were finished about 4 days before it was open to the general public. So, we were able to see all the different booths around us and even the Walt Disney pavilion. While I was there they made an announcement to all the vendor at the Fair, that they would like as many vendors as possible to bring their children the day before the opening to the stage of the Disney sight, and be part of the “Grand Opening Event”. It was planned to be a televised opening, inviting the public to the Fair starting the next day, so I made sure my two young sons were present. The day of the TV show, they placed all the children and their parents that attended in an area in front of a stage platform, where Walt Disney was standing. He was joking and waving to all the children, and along side him were Mickey and Daisy Mouse, Pluto and all the rest of his characters. My Sons and all the children present, went wild with excitement, especially when one of the roaming characters would play with them. As the show began, they panned all the children who were screaming and then onto Walt Disney who yelled to all “Come see us and play with us here in the NEW WORLD’S FAIR”!!!
I don’t know if my sons remember, but I certainly do, as I got to shake Walt Disney’s hand. He was just a regular guy with a great idea and making his dream come true. I must say that although we were very disappointed about the Fair in General, this day and this event made it all worth while. As somewhere in the Disney files are pictures of me and my sons appearing with Walt Disney. WOW!
In the early 70’s, when my company, Sal Bianco Inc., was growing, and I had just captured two new customers, I had to telex them between my offices in Hong Kong, Seoul, and newly opened China. It cost a lot to constantly use the telex machine to communicate, as well as the time spent to try to say what was needed saying in the shortest amount of words. At the time, the only way to communicate to foreign countries was Telexing, which was very expensive and slow. You paid by the letter and it was very time consuming to have to plan how say what you wanted using the least amount of words, then wait days for a reply, which was coded with prearranged meanings. So, when I was asked by a company, Hewlett Packard, to test out there new product, I was very interested, and asked for more information. It was just invented and I got one of the first fax machines. This new machine was to change the world of business, especially for me!!! It was a fax machine and it changed the way I did business completely. But having only one was useless and so I purchased two, one for my NY office, and one for my Hong Kong office. to get it to my Hong Kong Office I remember carrying it on the plane, and putting it in the compartment above with all passengers looking at me with this strange device. When i set it up in my Hong Kong office , I proceeded to send a message to my New York office.It was a wonder, as in only 5 minutes later I received a fax welcoming me and thereafter followed many pages of information on our daily business, arrived. Upon returning to New York, and after a short time, I realized how much it did for communicating , so I then bought two more for one each of my new customers at that time. It changed the way doing business was done, and gave me an advantage over my competitors. I eventually bought one for each on my 4 other offices, as well as recommend using faxes to my largest customer the F. W. Woolworth Inc. My communication costs dropped and my business grew to become White Knight Ad Ventures LLC
This is a picture of Al and Fran when we were on a trip to Europe. Below is a Happy Birthday wish from Cousin Maryann that I found in my old desktop computer, along with some others of her writings which I’ll post separately.
I’ll have my own version of what a wonderful person he was and how he was loved by all who knew him, but for now read this from Maryann to Al.
Memories Of “My Cousin Al”
My first Recollection of Al, was in my youth, when I was elected to babysit my cousins Al & Betty, & Eleanor, while listening to that little white Motorola radio on their kitchen counter on 60th St., Brooklyn. Al never gave me any trouble, even then.
Then as we all grew up, we went off to different areas, but always kept in touch. Al married Francesca, a one of a kind, lived in Brooklyn near his parents and sisters, and then moved to L. Island. I had previously married Lou, a brief stay in Brooklyn, then on to L. Island, where Fran & Al were only minutes away. In the meantime, we had formed a Cousins’ Club ( I was Pres.) that lasted over ten years. We were able to get together in our respective homes, every two months, we went on picnics, once a year, we went to see Shakepears in the park, in Central park, we spent Fouthof July, and many many more good and happy times all together! Al had become a detective in the N.Y.C. police Dept., and was always there to take care of all of us. Sometimes being overprotective, because of his experiences with his job.
He has a fettish for reading maps. He has every map you can think of. Just don’t ask him to take it out to see where you are (If you should be lost) As we were on our way coming home from cousins’ club, one night). His comment: I only look at map to see where I’ve been, not where I’m going! We could not stop laughing!
We shared many experiences for the first time together. I remember standing on top of the cupola in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, the choir was singing, and we were praying quietly, and I looked over to Al, and he was so pensive, and said: “I’m having a religious experience” It was awesome! We went through the Sistine Chapel and after and we went through corridor after corridor, of the artwork, statues, and engineering designs of the Italian Masters, Al exclaimed on the top of his voice, as he raised his arms: This is our heritage!! This is our heritage!! His eyes filled with pride.
( Here there is a fold in the page that cut out a line )
He became our designated driver and since we had limited language skills in Switzerland, Germany & Italy, you can understand why we were driving down, one way roads, the wrong way, but eventually getting where we wanted. Of course, Fran’s bible was “How to spend 50 cents a day in Europe” and there were times, Al would be patient, waiting for us to stay and eat, wherever we went. His patience got thin, however, when we told him to drive faster, with a small Renault and all our luggage on racks on top. Believe me he never parked the car without watching the car for one second! He would watch for us whenever we were out of sight, he would panic. The policeman’s protectiveness!
A fold is here and something is lost
His family is his life and he would do anything to make them happy! His parents, his children, especially his grandchildren, his parents, his sisters, and most of all his one and only, his wife Fran. He has so much love to give and does, and if he could, he would gather up all his children, grandchildren, and hold them in his unselfish arms.
Al, (Anauluch) as I call him,
I love you and admire you,
When I found this, I hand wrote:
Postscript: At the age of 70, my cousin Al passed away. He had cancer and suffered badly, but never complained. We all miss him and his……..missing!!
My J C PENNEY Story, the man not the store!
One of my first attempts to develop my business was to have a friend and future partner, called Gene Shaffer, to introduce me to his contact at J.C. Penney Inc. It was the lamp and gift Department buyer, a young man called Harvey Markovitz, who he and I became good friends afterwards. It was while I was developing a new product called Ceralon in that Department. Because of the success their, I was asked to set up this same department in their new stores, as they opened, and I was asked to travel to each new Penney store opening. with Mr. J. C. Penney and usually a different young beautiful women who they would call “Miss Penney” for the opening.
I traveled with J.C. Penney and a different Miss Penney for 3 years as they were opening new J. C. Penney stores all over the United States. He was a gentle old man who loved to laugh and look at what he had ACCOMPLISHED. He was at each opening as a way of introducing each new store to the location. We would be invited to appear on each local TV show to have Mr Penney say a few words by inviting the audience to come to the opening and that he would love to greet everyone who would come. As old as he was, he stayed there the whole day shaking hands with all the new customers. Miss Penney was there as a pretty young women who bring youth to the opening. It was my job to introduce to the people in the gift department how to make displays of the different products we offered, so while in the TV studio, I demonstrated to the audience the affect our new ideas could be used in there homes.
At the end of each session, I was always approached by different local women, some who worked at Penney’s, but mostly customers who wanted to meet me later. Never once did I ever even consider it, not to mention how often the “Miss Penney” asking me to go for a drink after Mr Penney would retire to the local hotel where we three stayed and usually two nights. At the time, I had strong Catholic values that always guided me in the right direction, not that I would be any different today? There is another similar story coming, only about The F W Woolworth new store openings and making flower arrangement on TV and how I was copied by none other than “Merrill Live”!
When I was young and 20+!
It was 1955, and I was in Macy’s Jewelry department looking for a ring. I was waiting for the salesman to bring me a black velvet covered board with 6 beautiful engagement rings that were fitted into slots to hold them firmly in place.. As I waited, from the corner of my eye a noticed that a women came and stood alongside of me also waiting for the salesman to help her with something she was holding in her hand. When he came back, he told that he would be with her shortly and began telling me about each ring pointing to it saying what each cost and the size of it in carats. As he did so, I picked each one up and looked at it like I knew what I was doing, but actually I didn’t have a clue. The woman along side me saw my indecision and said to me… “Don’t look at the ring because of price or carat size, but look at each and decide which one you like best, and the one you would be proud to give.” I turned and looked at her and realized she was someone I recognized as special. She was Angela Lansbury and as pleasant as could be, so I smiled a big smile and thanked her and I did as she suggested, and bought a one carat perfect gem. It was much more than I could afford, but it was the one I really liked, and handed it back to the salesman. He then said he now needed the size that would fit my girlfriend. I again looked shocked as I had no idea of what it was. Again, Angela Lansbury smiled at me and “Just buy the ring, and give it to her, then afterwards you both can come down here and get it sized properly”. Wow, she was so smart and very beautiful, even more than in the Movies. I thanked her with a big smile and she smiled and turned her attention to the salesman. It was 20 years later that I visited that Department to buy a 3 carat ring to placate my wife who was now a very different person than the one I loved, but that’s another story for another time. What triggered this story was for a mili-second, I saw Angela Lansbury on TV as she is today, and it brought back my first meeting of her.
Where were you when Martin Luther King was shot
Me? I was driving my motorcycle as I did every day through Harlem on Lenox Ave where I had my flower warehouse on 168th St, just off of Lenox.. It was just a regular day for me to go there before I continued on to my office on 23rd St and Fifth Ave, a building called “The Gift Building”. As you come down Lenox Avenue at 169th street, it begin a rize so much so, that you can’t see down the avenue until you reach the crest of the hill, then you can look way down to 110 St , where the designated boarder line exists between black Harlem and Spanish Harlem. Every day I did the same thing and carefully reached the top of the hill, as many times heavy traffic is stopped there for one reason or another, and it’s wise to slow down as to go over it. This one particular day as I came over the crest, a large crowd of people were there yelling and screaming and kicking and punching a man who was white, laying there trying to protect himself. I had no choice but to slam on my brakes and lay the bike down in order not to hit into the crowd. I slid with sparks flying, but stopped in time just before the crowd, who all turn to look to see what was happening, and why the screeching noise. I lay on top of the bike to prevent my being crushed under it. Naturally I was shook up and tried to get up , but I was not able to as young men grabbed me and began to hit me and punch me, as they were doing to the guy I just saw. I didn’t know what was going on and tried to fight back but it was impossible against so many. Just then, I hear screaming for everybody to stop.. “STOP”, “STOP” That’s Mr Bianco! They jumped in and tried to stop what was happening to me, Yelling That’s My Bianco he is our friend and he has been helping us! They were very insistent and actually were fighting off all that were around me. More joined to help out. Eventually everybody stopped and I got up and was surrounded by all the boys who worked in my warehouse. They walked with me to my bike, helped me lift it up and we all pushed it to my warehouse, each of them saying how sorry they were and did I know what happened? I said all I know is when I came over the rise, they were there yelling and screaming, and I didn’t know why, because I always came the same way. They all said No, not that, don’t you know happened today? I said no “What happened?” They all screamed at once “They killed Dr Martin Luther King” and everybody in Harlem has gone crazy beating up every white man they see, even the ones like you who help us… It’s crazy everybody has gone Crazy!!! Needless to say, I stayed away from my warehouse and told the guy in charge to call me at least three times a day with a report on how things were going and how my worker should stay home and I’ll still pay them , to stay out of the riots and keep there families safe, and that it will end as it always does. I didn’t know how Mr King was loved and honored as it didn’t end right away, but continued on and on, with the bad element taking over incited by the little sneaky Bastards, like Al Sharpton , destroying the places they needed to live and eat, and hurting those businesses that actually were there for them everyday. The police did nothing! they stayed away from all of Harlem leaving all the good black families to suffer from all that was destroyed.