miners in scranton        I was telling a friend of mine about my old friend Fred Kail. I don’t remember why I mentioned Fred . I don’t even recall right now who I was talking with at the time .


Fred Kail had left Austria in 1921 as Frederich Ignatz Kail von Eggenberg . He met a cousin of his in Scotland and the two of them worked for awhile at the British colony in Kenya . I think it was Kenya . They were teenagers .


He was the black sheep of the family , Fred said . He had a fine aristocratic education but had a thirst for adventure . He’d skipped out to Scotland against his father’s wishes .

Fred had two carved wooden figures in his little apartment from those days in Kenya . They were both naked , a male and a female . When any woman came to Fred’s place he’d hide the figures . He hurriedly  put them in a closet . Fred had been raised a gentleman , old style .


His parents were minor aristocracy . His father had been an Austrian ambassador to Russia . An uncle was a bishop . They were big shots until WWI . During the World War the family lost all of its money ,  Fred told me . They had titles still  but no land and no money any  longer .

I met Fred’s sister . She had been a concert violinist .  When I met her she was an ancient old person living in a ranch house in Sunland . Her minorly aristocratic von Eggenberg nose was high in the air , every bit a European aristocrat . In name and attitude, at least .  I met a brother , too , who lived in a huge but broken down Victorian house in a lousy south L.A. neighborhood . He was    ” Herr von Eggenberg.” His nose was in the air , too , further than the sister’s . miner 1903

Fred was having none of that aristocratic stuff .  Fred spoke up for the working man .

He described how he and his cousin found their way to Canada and got jobs as farm laborers . Fred spent the first few days watching for the farm owner , expecting him to ride up  on a white horse and survey his lands .  Fred didn’t speak enough English , yet , to realize that one of the men working along side of him was the farm’s owner . Fred told me that as soon as he realized this , he knew that north America was the place for him .

” Always respect the working man , ” Fred would say .  He had had a painting business . I met him in his older age when we both worked cleaning student apartments around UCLA . I think I got  $ 1.80 an hour . Fred probably got a small bit more , but I was a student making pocket money and Fred depended on his salary to supplement his Canadian social security . He drove an old car that  could be  heard  a block away growling and gruffly coughing up the road  , belching black exhaust smoke , and looking distinctly  peasantish  , very un-aristocratic .


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1909 police arresting steel strikers Pitt

I watched Fred put up wallpaper in my mother’s dining room once a long time ago . He was swift and neat and deft  and the finished product not only pleased my mom but the wallpaper looked fine for at least the next thirty years . Seems like it took Fred no time at all to put it up . That wallpaper  lasted longer , as it happened , than Fred did .

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I was reading an article by David Lazarus in the L.A. Times this morning about the gap between executive pay and worker pay in the top 100  U.S. companies .  McDonalds workers get $9 an hour . The top McDonalds CEO gets $4,500 an hour . The Walgreens CEO , at a salary of $4 million , makes 134 times more than the average worker . The CVS CEO takes the cake , though , at $12.1  million compensation , which is 422 times greater than the average CVS  $28,700 salary . They claim , Lazarus says , that they need such obscenely high CEO  salaries in order to attract high-calibre people . Lazarus call this explanation an added insult to working people— and he’s right .

I used to hear that explanation at contract negotiation times  when the school board would fight tooth-and-nail to hold teacher salaries down but would  hire a questionable new  superintendent at an outrageous salary . And with  perks , of course , with high-priced perks . We teachers would hear the same slap-in-the-face insulting explanation : their  pay needs to be so high to attract the best people .

I think Fred’s turning over in his grave . But  maybe he’s welcoming  CEOs in when their times come , sharing a smoke with them , no doubt , and breaking  it softly  to  them that they’re now in his income bracket .


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2 responses to “Fred

  1. I think I would have liked Fred. Thanks for the introduction.

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