17 Battery Place in New York City.
How many people know the exact work address of their father? Or their grandfather? I do.
Up until a few years ago, 17 Battery Place was the epicenter of freight forwarding and international trade here in the USA. And that’s where my father and grandfather worked.
17 Battery Place is at the southernmost tip of Manhattan Island. It has a great view to the Statue of Liberty and it had a great view of all the vessels entering into the various piers along the Hudson River.
I am the 3rd generation in a family with professional and career ties to logistics and international trade.
It seemed like the most natural and perfect career choice for me: it was super challenging and one was always busy. As my father told it, “when the dollar is strong, we import a lot… when the dollar is weak we export a lot.”
That sounded like guaranteed job security to me. Only a mortician had it better!
And in listening to my father’s stories about his work, it seemed so strategic, yet so obviously straightforward: for instance, he would tell us how they would send a container loaded full of laxatives to some far-off country one week and then follow it up a week later by a couple of containers loaded with toilet paper.
That’s genius, I thought! Except it wasn’t true.
Then he told of the true story of the Export Manager from the Standard Oil Company coming to the offices of Caldwell & Company in the early 1900s in order to use their telephone! There were so few telephones available in New York City at that time; only the freight forwarders or trading companies had them. When I heard that story, it was like I, through my family, was part of history. Of course, the Standard Oil Company was split up in many pieces and is today ExxonMobil.
After the Second World War, my grandfather participated in the coordination of the Marshall Plan, which was a U.S. plan to supply economic aid and assistance to a war-torn Europe. Transportation would be critical to the program’s success and my grandfather played a role in the implementation of this post-war effort, taking several trips to Washington, D.C. in the later 1940s to assist with the effort.
My father started his career in the 1950s with Caldwell & Co. and rose through the ranks from accountant to Treasurer to Vice President.
In researching my family history for this article, I couldn’t help but ask myself whether the professional lives of my father and grandfather were easier or harder than my own. Given the advances we have made in technology, communication and transportation, the immediate and most obvious answer would be a resounding “yes”!
But I believe that today, we have stresses and challenges of a different sort that cancel out those multitude of advances.
We are now all a part of the global economy, a 24-hour work day, and technology that keeps us connected and busy even during our vacation downtimes. With the proliferation of laptops and smartphones, we remain tethered to our work, even after we have left the office. I am convinced that our total work hours have increased.
I wonder whether I will look back 30 years from now and say that 2015 was part of the “good old days”?
As my father does now, I am sure the answer will be “yes, those were the good old days”.
The coming decades will see the proliferation of 3-D printing, more free-trade agreements, more open borders and certainly advances in transporting cargo and material around the world.
With all of the inevitable upcoming advances, those future days will seem, to me, like a much simpler time for logistics and business, in general. But will my sons and daughters see it that way too?
I can look back on a strong family legacy in logistics and I am very proud of their accomplishments in this field. Even today, in meeting with colleagues of the “contemporary” world of logistics, they’ll ask “aren’t you Quentin’s son?” I am honored to say, “yes, I am!”
As I continue my work in logistics, I strive to achieve the career and family successes that I see in my grandfather and father. They will always be the true North of my compass.
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