The danger my dead relatives face is wrongful conviction of some odious crime, or at minimum, slander by insufficient evidence I find in “the box.” Its obvious Albert could wander away from truth as easily as a politician stumping on the campaign trail.
I was born in 1943, three years after Albert died, so I’ve never heard his voice or seen his mannerisms. When he told my mother his untruthful stories, was there a mirthful timbre to his voice, a mischievous twinkle in his eye, or a submerged chuckle accompanying the conversations? I’ve never, ever considered my mother a gullible woman who could be fooled by a con man, yet there is every indication she took Albert at his word. Albert’s two sons and most of their children have passed, so I’m unable to get their take on him. My sisters have little recollection of him, so I’m limited to information in “the box.”
What I do know is that Albert had a certain charm and sense of humor, which he used to his advantage; he could have written the book on “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” As a young man, he convinced hundreds of Italians to sell all their possessions and board French steamships headed to America. As a Metropolitan Life Insurance employee, he sold insurance policies worth millions of dollars, both personal and commercial.
His career with Metropolitan Life started as a sales agent in Saint Louis in 1890. Within three years, he was promoted to assistant superintendent, and in his fourth year to superintendent. He was transferred to St. Joseph, Missouri for a year, and then to Davenport, Iowa. His supervisory skills left a trail of increased sales and motivated agents. The next seventeen years were spent superintending other agents in Kansas City, where he settled and bought a home at 1100 Bales Avenue.
From here, it becomes a little unclear. On December 9, 1912, the article on Albert’s arrest is printed on the front page of the Kansas City Star. Twelve days later, on December 23rd, the Superintendent of Agents, Mr. Stewart, requests Albert’s resignation, citing unsatisfactory conduct. I’ll have to edit a previous blog, because I wasn’t paying close attention to the records on Albert’s career at Metropolitan Life. I thought his retirement banquet closely followed the resignation request, but I was wrong by four years.
This is where Albert’s skills with influencing people came into play. He refused to turn in his resignation. Albert had clearly embarrassed the company with his behavior, but somehow, he maneuvers a transfer to the Wilmington, Delaware branch of the company where he works for the company for four more years.
Mr. Fiske, the vice-president of the company, said this of Albert four years later at Albert’s retirement party in Wilmington, Delaware: “Mr. Alberti always gathered around him as friends the principal people of the places in which he lived.”
Mr. Fiske recalls a previous luncheon in Kansas City, where Mr. Alberti gathered together eighteen or twenty men from prominent walks in life. It’s obvious that Mr. Stewart’s request for Albert’s resignation didn’t stick because Albert had far too many influential friends, both within and outside the company.
I’m not sure when Albert’s divorce was finalized with Charlotte Sarah, or when he and Laura were married. Laura had to finalize her divorce also before she could marry Albert. Whether Laura joined Albert in Delaware is unknown.
Charlotte Sarah stayed in Kansas City, where she died four years later, and four months after Albert’s retirement in April of 1916. My mother’s notes say she died from a “broken heart.” I don’t know if she had actual heart problems, but she had other significant health issues, and I’m sure the pair of scissors left in her by an incompetent surgeon didn’t help.
I made another error in assuming Albert fully funded his own retirement banquet in order to save his pension. It appears Metropolitan Life ponied up a substantial amount for the extravagant affair at the Dupont Hotel in Wilmington.
As proof that Albert had fiercely loyal friends in Kansas City, many of them from outside the company boarded a train for the eleven hundred mile trip to attend the retirement banquet in Delaware. From the home office the vice president, the fourth vice president, and many of the men Albert had mentored, made the long trip. Mr. Stewart, who had asked for Albert’s resignation, did not attend.
Mr. Remington spoke in behalf of Mr. Stewart at the banquet, and the guests joined in a message of sympathy to Mr. Stewart for his unspecified illness, and hopes for his speedy recovery. There was a tongue-in-cheek quality to his condolences. I’m sure Mr. Stewart’s health would have been greatly improved if Albert had been run over by the train arriving in Delaware.
Other friends of Albert traveled to the banquet from as far away as Chattanooga, Tennessee. The guest list included the current and previous mayor of Wilmington, several of the Duponts, of the gunpowder company who were also the owners of the hotel, and various presidents of prominent banks and trust companies. A number of Metropolitan Life superintendents and company lawyers sat at the main table. The Wilmington Evening Journal named 20 of the most prominent guests. In all, there must have been near 100 guests in the elegant, four star dining room.
Not one to forget the lesser paid employees of the company, Albert also invited a large contingent of medical examiners and their wives. There were nurses and clerical staff in attendance whose annual salaries were near the national average in 1916, which was $687.00. The cost of living makes one wistful for times of yore. You could mail a letter for two cents, buy a loaf of bread for seven cents, and buy a house for around three thousand dollars. Albert was making a hefty $12000 a year. His pension after retirement was $6000 annually, which he collected for the next twenty five years.
In the main dining room, also known as the Green Room, fumed oak paneling soared two and a half stories from the mosaic and terrazzo floors below. Rich forest greens, browns, and ivories, embellished with gold, decorated the room. Six handcrafted chandeliers and a musician’s gallery overlooked the opulence below. The Duponts set out to build a hotel that would rank among the finest in Europe. The intricate detail – its carved woodwork, gilded ceilings, and elaborate marble and mosaic floors – required the labors of 18 French and Italian craftsmen for more than two years. I’m sure it was not lost on Albert that the hotel was built in the Italian Renaissance style. Over the years, Charles Lindbergh, Prince Rainier, John F. Kennedy, Katherine Hepburn, and recently Whoopi Goldberg and Reese Witherspoon have booked rooms in the hotel.
Today, it is still a world class hotel, and I will add it to my five gallon bucket list. You can still order a Four Star meal in the famous dining room, but the hotel rooms may not provide the sterling silver comb, brush and mirror sets that were placed on every dressing table in 1916.
I’m not sure how guests were dressed for Albert’s banquet in 1916, but I’m certain that some of the clerks and bookkeepers that attended had never set down to a four course meal of this caliber, and set in such an elegant room. Blue Point Cocktail, whatever that was, and Cream Portuagaise was served with radishes, celery and olives. Patties of sweetbreads with mushrooms, half chicken Reine a la Roche, Salad Florette, and petit-fours of Neapolitan ice cream were served.
Here’s the menu for a Sunday night Four Star meal at the Dupont 101 years later.
It appears not much has changed with the exception of price. Still, $35.00 a plate doesn’t seem all that unreasonable for a three course meal with Sautéed Breast of Duck as one of the menu choices.
There are six trains departing daily from Kansas City, destined to arrive in Wilmington, Delaware 32 hours later. If you’re a descendant of Albert wouldn’t this be worth the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake dessert?
I know I promised to make this the last blog on Albert, but some promises are meant to be broken. Albert moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas in 1930 and lived within walking distance of the Crescent Hotel. The hotel is famously haunted, primarily due to the con man that purchased the hotel in 1937. He defrauded cancer patients out of millions of dollars with a phony cancer cure, hastening their deaths with a useless mix of watermelon seed, brown corn silk, alcohol, and carbolic acid. Albert died in 1940, the same year the con man was sentenced to four years in the Leavenworth Penitentiary, in Kansas.
Until next time. I know the next blog will be post Halloween, but the Crescent hotel is haunted year round.