After our week long vacation in Aruba in the summer of 1991, I found myself ruminating on my pending retirement from Production Operators Inc. in January 1992 when I would be sixty five. I wanted to stay involved with the company on a part time basis but the Chairman, Carl Knobloch did not want that. He did agree to me being a consultant at one third of my salary for one year. I had received through the twelve years of employment, several stock options, including some recent ones that could be exercised like all the others, 25% per year for four years, that would be valueless if I was no longer with the company. The corporate stock option plan allowed them to be accelerated by the Board of Directors if they so decided. In his usual frugal way, Knobloch only agreed reluctantly to the acceleration of some of them. I appealed by letter to the Board to have them all accelerated but the Knobloch “yes-men” directors agreed with his decision even though the industry practice was generally to make the concession. I thought that my loyal twelve years of service deserved better but I had to be satisfied and, as our stock had gradually got better and I did the mathematics, I was. Because I , as President, was considered as an insider by law, I was not allowed to exercise the options or sell the stock for six months. This kept my fingers crossed during that period worrying that the stock would go down, but fortunately it continued to rise. We had a catered retirement lunch for all the Head Office employees, at which Knobloch said all the appropriate things and presented me with a very nice state-of-the-art combination telephone answering machine, fax and copier that I had personally chosen, after being tipped off that they didn’t know what to give me. Twenty three years later, I am still using it. I was for a year, allowed to keep my company car and to still represent the company at meetings of the Equipment Suppliers Association, PESA. One of the two Oil-Patch directors who was retired and knew everyone in the industry, was responsible for our company to be a member and later, for me joining their advisory board. This also allowed me to play in the oil-exclusive Spindletop Golf Tournament. This is a two-man team event and I was able to thank the director by inviting him to be my partner. It was difficult to get into the tournament as there was a waiting list but the name of my partner who had once been President of PESA apparently got priority. I played in it five times until 1992 when they discovered I had retired. The event was always first class with valuable prizes and one year I won a really nice leather golf bag. Doris enjoyed the evening black-tie events with nationally known entertainers and music.
In 1978, when I was still working at Adcom Wire in Jacksonville, FL the now universal 401k, the tax-deferred retirement benefit, was introduced and I immediately contributed the maximum amount of $1500 that, at the time, I had to borrow from my bank. After 14 years, the maximum gradually increased and by the time I retired I had a surprising sum. This, together with a relatively meagre profit sharing plan at POI gave me a nice nest egg. This was important to me because POI had no pension plan and my retirement fund was mainly from POI stock I had purchased and the stock options. I then discovered that the exercising of an option is a taxable event and later, when I was allowed to sell some stock, the profit above the exercise price was taxable at the individual employee’s annual rate. When 1992 was over, I owed 40% of my last annual pay to the US Treasury. (Our stock option plan called for POI to pay half of the exercising tax but obviously did nothing for the profit tax. Even the amount the company paid became taxable the next year at the individual rate.)
On retirement, the first thing I had to get used to was how to plan my day. Tidying up our garage didn’t take long and I didn’t want to play golf every day. Even Doris had to learn to put up with me and was heard to say, “I married him for better or worse but not for lunch.” Golf did in fact become a large part of it and I started playing three times and occasionally four times, a week. After a while, my name came up on the waiting list for permission to have one of the limited number of
private carts at the Champions Golf Club where I played in a group called the Forty Thieves, the name given because we had a few rules of our own and did not follow every rule of the R. and A. or the US Golf Association. It was extremely convenient being able to leave my clubs on the cart in our garage, put on my golf shoes and take off, using a garage door closer as I go.
In retirement, it is difficult to think of vacations because every day is a vacation day but we had planned another trip with my British army buddy and his wife and it was our turn to plan it in the States rather than in the UK. We flew to Los Angeles and met them, Dick and Mary Carrington, to go on a leisurely drive up the Coastal Highway to San Francisco. We first went to Yorba Linda, the birthplace of Richard Nixon and the new Nixon Library that had just opened in 1990. I was never a fan of Nixon but when he abolished the draft for Viet Nam in January 1973 he became very popular with me and our two sons, Nigel and Nick whose draft numbers were close to making them eligible to be called into the military. The war officially ended in April 1975 after 20 years of conflict.
The Nixon Library was very much in its early stages but we were shown the impressive plans for the future. Our first point of interest on our trip north was the Hearst Castle in San Simeon that was started in 1919 and took several years to build, for the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst. It is on 127 acres, has 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, swimming pools , tennis courts, extensive gardens, a movie theater and even a private zoo and an airfield. In its hey-day guests came from everywhere and included all the movie stars and politicians, even Winston Churchill. They could fly in or come by private train from Los Angeles. All guests were required to attend the evening dinners in formal dress but otherwise were expected to entertain themselves on the property and its wide range of options.
After driving further and enjoying the many interesting towns and picturesque scenery at all points, we went to the Sequoia National Forest to see the giant trees,
including the General Sherman, the largest living tree (by volume), in the world. It is 275 feet tall and 36.5 feet diameter at the base. We left the sequoias and drove down to the lower elevation city of Fresno where, on the way up we hadnoticed a winery that had afternoon tours. We arrived too late for the last tour but we were admitted to the sampling room and were given a description and a tasting of their wines. As we sat and chatted, we noticed Mary had fainted on a bench at the side of the room and we knew she had not had any wine. While we tried to revive her, the winery attendant called 911 and an ambulance came and took her to Fresno Hospital. I have a photo of her feet just going in the ambulance with a sign in the background that said, “Winery Sampling Room.” Dick was able to get the emergency room to accept his British insurance and they soon revived Mary and we were itching to go as it was getting late and we had another 50 miles to get to our motel reservation. They wanted to keep her under observation and were reluctant to release her but we finally got away at about 9.00pm.
Our motel was close to one of the gates to the Yosemite Valley where we had, with some difficulty, made reservations at the famous Ahwahanee Lodge. They were full and only had one room available but it had two double beds and as we were good friends, we agreed to share it. Seeing this wonderful valley, with the surrounding mountains and water-falls was the high point of our trip but that is another memory for another day.