My Dad once told me that he thought “Death of a Salesman” was one of the saddest plays ever written. Told me that Grandpa had bad luck like Willy Loman; Dad said that he’d cried and left the theater the first time he saw this play (as a young man), that he couldn’t sit through the second act. It reminded him too much of watching his father struggle professionally.
I’ve certainly had my own struggles with reinvention of a professional nature. I can relate to difficulty in watching the struggles of people I love and admire. While I understand this play is a tragedy, I agree with my cousin Don Luce; older people have a different take on the arc of this story than young people. To young people, it looks like a life wasted. To older people who have struggled more, seen more, fought harder — it looks like a drama of a different kind. Perhaps the real tragedy is giving up hope, or of not learning from the mistakes of the prior generation, or from your own mistakes. It may be possible for me to sit through the play without bolting the theater in the manner of my ancestors.
This script may not have aged as well as some of Arthur Miller’s other works. Perhaps Willy Loman would never have gotten angry or occupied Wall Street. Perhaps he’s lost in a way we no longer understand. But I don’t think watching this will devastate me at this stage of my life, in spite of how raw any ongoing struggle might be for me. Hope dies last. Today is a chance for change, another opportunity to learn and move on from mistakes. If we give that up, what are we left with?
What I understand is that my Grandpa worked hard and wrestled against the odds, much like everyone else did. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. If he ever had one in there, it was because somebody forgot to take it out after the photo opportunity. He had some breaks, and perhaps they didn’t pay off. At some points, the struggle was too overwhelming for one person — and Dad was a witness to some of those times.
My Dad had his own struggles. I’ve got mine. But in these pages, I read resilience, I read curiosity, I read initiative, and I read some double dealing on the part of Fate or other so-called Managers. I don’t think this makes Grandpa’s life a tragedy. Your life is a tragedy if that is all you define it as.
I remember Grandpa as a man who loved to go fishing, and who generously took us along. Kenelm Tracy Winslow was a man who loved buckwheat pancakes; he loved putting Barbasol® on his Christmas tree to simulate snow in winter, and who would play with us on the Slip N’ Slide® in the backyard in summer. Grandpa taught us how to shoot cat food cans off the back fence in his yard until Mom got mad and took the beebee guns away.
He taught us how to be on the road on an adventure, since every time he drove us to Paradise we thought we were actually visiting Heaven. He taught us how to skip stones, to have fun, to relax. He held us close while he watched a game on the television. What may be tragic is that he didn’t grow wealthy from his hard work; but does that take away the fact that he did the work, that he loved us, and that we got to share in his life?
My Grandpa, Kenelm Tracy Winslow, wrote the following piece probably as part of an application for something sometime after 1944. I’m not sure what he wrote it for, nor am I sure exactly when. We found the pages of typescript tucked into a scrapbook of my Mom and Dad’s wedding photos. More on that later. Grandpa’s bio / text follows the picture.
Personal History, K. T. Winslow.
1. Worked as a bank clerk with the Tracy Loan and Trust Company, Salt Lake City, Utah. Mr. R.L. Tracy, President of this company, is my uncle and I entered this bank at the wish of my mother and uncle. My salary was $125.00 per month. Resigned because of my desire to work independent of relatives.
2. Worked as clerk in the San Francisco offices of the Reliance Life Insurance Company, where I made $100.00 per month salary. Left this position in an endeavor to better myself.
3. (a) Worked as distributor of kitchen aluminum in the San Francisco Bay Area for the Dilver Aluminum Company of Pittsburgh. This lasted about six months, when a defaulting partner ruined the business.
(b) Worked for Durant Motor Company of California as car order clerk for a few months, at a salary of $100.00 per month.
(c) Left this position to sell automobiles for Durant dealer in San Rafael, California.
(d) When this dealership folded up, I sold real estate and rented houses for the D. L. Jung Company, Berkeley, California. During this period my salary and earnings ran about $1200.00 a year.
4. (a) Started working for the Engineering Sales Company (C.A. Watts) of San Francisco at a salary of $125.00 a month. I was a stenographer. This was about 1926.
(b) Three months later I was handling the sales of this employer who as a manufacturer’s agent, handled such lines as Waukesha Motor Company, Waukesha, Wisconsin; Racine Radiator Company (later the Young Radiator Company and the Perfex Radiator Company) of Racine, Wisconsin; Pick Couplings, and Palmer B. Speed Reducers. My salary was increased to $150.00 per month. At this point I became interested in mechanical engineering, it being necessary to have a good working knowledge of design and performance characteristics of the Waukesha Motor Company’s truck and industrial engines, and to understand proper installation of the Racine Radiator Company’s truck and industrial plant cooling radiators.
(c) After I had been with company a year my salary was increased to $175.00 per month, and I was given a 10% interest in the business. During this period I traveled up and down the Pacific Coast soliciting business and assisting engineering departments in their installations of our products in such concerns as Fageol Motor Company (truck and bus manufacturers) of Oakland, California; the McDonald Truck Manufacturing Company of San Francisco, California; the DeMartini Truck Manufacturing Company of San Francisco, California; the Rix (compressor manufacturing company) of San Francisco, California; and other manufacturing companies in Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle. I also assisted in the installation of 300 horsepower engines in the “Yarders” and “Donkeys” for the logging industry of the Pacific Northwest. At the request of the Waukesha Motor Company, I left this position and took a position with them.
5. (a) I started working for the Waukesha Motor Company as an order and production clerk at a salary of $250.00 per month. I had under my direction six clerks. With the assistance and direction of Mr. J. B. Fisher, Chief Engineer, of the Waukesha Motor Company, I did home study on engine design and combustion characteristics.
30 (b) Con’t.
(b) Up to 1932 I alternated in the shop, office and on the road in sales and service work. During the depression years I took whatever salary cuts as were made throughout the plant and at the lowest ebb my salary was reduced 50%.
(c) In 1932 I was one of the five men chosen by the Waukesha Motor Company to assist the Co-operative Fuel research (C. F. R.) committee in research work on a method of determining the Octane number of gasoline. During this time I was constantly in the laboratory, or attending scientific lectures and meetings and at the same time, carrying on private research along these lines. During my association with this committee I wrote several papers on the fuel research work and delivered them before the Society of Automotive Engineers in Chicago, Baltimore, at A.S.T.M. meetings and at various universities throughout the country, including Purdue, Notre Dame, Lehigh University, etc. At Lehigh University Mr. H.V. Cummings, Chief Automotive Power Plant Section, U.S. Department of Commerce, and I were on the same program. We also worked together in C. F. R. work.
(d) At the end of 1932 when the C. F. R. engine design and fuel testing procedure was established, I was placed in charge of this variable compression fuel research unit, which by this time had been adapted to both self ignition (diesel) and spark ignition (gasoline) units. In promoting the sale of this unit I visited and sold the unit to large fuel distributing Companies, fuel refineries, and at each place demonstrated and explained the principles on which the tests were conducted. When the American Society of Testing Materials adopted the C. F. R. unit as a standard, its sale became automatic.
(e) In 1933 I was placed in charge of sales for Waukesha truck and bus, as well as industrial engines in the southern states, headquartering in Birmingham, Alabama. In this capacity I called on such manufacturers as used engines in the products they manufactured. This included pump, truck, shovel, and other manufacturers of construction equipment, boat works, etc. In all of these instances I assisted in the engineering of products which were being manufactured in so far as the engineering problems concerned the proper installation of the engine. I made installation of irrigation systems, drainage systems, and pumping plants, also power plants for creameries, ice cream plants, and stand-by units.
(f) During this time the Waukesha Motor Company developed the Hesselman spark ignition diesel fuel burning engine and I became so familiar with the design of this unit that I was called upon to make installations and to service them, both from a commercial and experimental angle. This gave me a full and detailed knowledge of gasoline, natural gas, and diesel engines. I continued to read and study gasoline and diesel engines under the direction of Mr. J. B. Fisher and Mr. Arthur Pope, Chief and assistant chief engineers of the Waukesha Motor Company.
(g) In 1935 I was asked to teach the design, the care and operation of the Diesel and Hesselman engines which the Waukesha Motor Company were then building. I was given complete charge of this work and carried on classes which were attended by engineers, mechanics, and executives of the various customers of the Waukesha Motor Company. I resigned in 1935 for a better position. At the time of leaving my salary was $250.00 per month.
6(a) I accepted a position as Industrial Branch Sales Manager in the Tractor Division of the Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
30 (b) Con’t.
(b) I was immediately transferred to the Sales Promotion Department. Salary $225.00 per month. (A bonus of ½% went with the Industrial Branch Sales Manager’s position). In this capacity I carried on education work on the design and service and operation of the Spark Ignition Diesel Fuel Burning engine this company was using, and also upon the design and service care of the Tractors, Motor Patrols, and other items of road machinery they manufactured. During this time I visited every branch of the Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company in the United States, sometimes carrying on classes of instruction to as many as 150 people. I also spoke before other organizations such as the Paving Engineer’s Club, Chicago, Illinois, and the Altoona Engineering Society, Altoona, Pennsylvania. My salary was increased to $275.00.
(c) In 1938 I was made Industrial Sales Manager for the Southwest Division at a salary of $325.00. In this position I had under my supervision, seven industrial Branch house organizations, totaling 50 people, and indirectly I had working for me the dealer’s organization under these branches. Their total personnel were around 300 people.
(d) In 1938 I was made Industrial District Manager for the state of Minnesota and North Dakota. In this capacity I worked directly with dealers in the two states who employed about 30 people. I assisted contractors in estimating their work, recommended proper machinery for the work they had to do, and assisted in setting up repair shops for both the contractors and the dealers where needed; checked parts inventory and service records. I was paid a salary and bonus and earned between $4200.00 and $4400.00 a year. In May 1941, I was discharged, no reason given, and was told I would be given a recommendation and listed as having resigned. Incidentally the company had just come through a severe strike, and their defense orders were such that very little equipment was available to the dealers.
7.(a) In June, 1941 I went to work as an expeditor for the Procurement and Expediting Section of the Zone Construction Quartermaster’s Office, Omaha, Nebraska. I handled construction machinery. I was given this appointment by executive order #3564 of October 8, 1940, and given a rating as Engineer (p-4) Salary $3800.00 per annum.
(b) I was transferred to the Omaha district office of the U.S. Engineers when the Zone Construction Quartermaster’s Office was absorbed by the Engineers, and was made Assistant Chief of the Mechanical Section. Had under my supervision six people.
(c) In March 1942 I took and passed a Civil Service Examination and was given a rating as Senior Engineer (Mechanical) P-5 calling for a salary of $4600 per year.
8.(a) On April 21st, 1942 the 8th Civil Service District, St. Paul, Minnesota wired me that the Office of Emergency Management requested my transfer from the U.S. Engineers. I accepted the transfer and took the position of Administrative Officer in the office of the State Rationing Administrator (Grant McFayden) Lincoln, Nebraska. My civil service classification in this position is an Administrative classification of CAF-12 salary $4600.00.