Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



I like roofs more than most people. I married a roofer’s daughter. My father-in-law, Cecil Shustick, had a roofing company in Columbus, Ohio. He was an orthodontist before being a roofer. (Look it up. It’s true.) He was an orthodontist in the early 1950s. His father owned a roofing company. Cecil had a wartime neck injury, so he didn’t relish standing all day at a dental chair, so he became a roofer. Also, orthodontia wasn’t, as yet, a big moneymaker in central Ohio in the fifties. Cecil did mostly estimating. He ran a 27-man, 9-truck company.

roofer-fleet2Gutters are interesting: copper, galvanized (the worst) and coated. Cecil didn’t offer me the biz. He should have, my father always said. My dad swore Cecil should have at least given me the opportunity to say no.

Dad, I ain’t moving to Cow-lumbus to run a roofing company!

Cecil Shustick (w/ ciggy), 69. (1978)

Cecil Shustick (w/ ciggy), 69. (1978)

When Cecil retired, he sold the business to Don The Goy, who ran the biz into the ground. Cecil lost a lot of money on that, and so did I, indirectly.

If I had taken over the business, I probably would now be in a nice house in Bexley, Ohio, with a stack of workers’ comp claims in front of me. (A lot of roofers are overweight drinkers with back problems.) That wouldn’t be much different than the way I did wind up!

pina-coladaCecil was a bon vivant, who kept a quart of piña colada by his bed for dry throat, due to antihistamine overuse, he claimed. He liked top-shelf goods: Chrysler Imperials and Chivas Regal. And he didn’t like sweating. Cecil said, “If man was meant for jogging, he’d have hooves.” Golf was his game.


I didn’t know the early Cecil. I knew the retired Cecil — the guy in the velour warm-up suit with the Marlboros.


Cecil Shustick, U.S. Army Dental Corps, circa 1942

Don Whitehead, an A.P. correspondent, filed a dispatch, Dec. 3, 1943, with the Fifth Army south of Rome:

In one large, roomy cave Capt. Cecil Shustick, Columbus, Ohio, and Lt. Samuel Clarkson, Lebanon, Ky., set up a medical detachment station. On the little ledge, a charcoal fire was burning to take the damp chill from the air . . .

The Italians had used the caves as storage places for vegetables, fruit and grain.  When the Americans came along, they moved into them and used them as command posts, medical stations and billets.

This is a valley of hell – a man-made hell of thunder and lightning . . . The guns never cease their striking. Whole batteries of them roar in unison with a concussion that shakes the earth.

Cecil Shustick came home a major with a Bronze Star. He fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino, Italy. Cecil kept things light and bright. You’d never know about Italy.

A version of this first appeared 1/12/11. This one is for the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.

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1 Alice Stratton { 12.07.16 at 9:47 am }

Thanks, Bert, for this homage to my dad. He was the best. Taught me how to horseback ride and burn off my cankor sores with a septic pencil.
He told me to change my socks everyday– gleaning this ritual from blistering army marches. I changed my socks everyday for 58 years. Then I wore the same pair for 2 days–nothing bad happened.
He loved Vernor’s ginger ale, celery tonic, and vodka gimlets. Ate kippers, halvah and sardines.
I don’t remember pina colada by the bedside–just a stack of Playboy’s.
There’s always a dark side–enemas, spankings, deceptions.
The light is stronger.

2 Ken Goldberg { 12.07.16 at 10:08 am }

Whew! Took me all day to get through that…. Thanks for sharing all this. I don’t recall the 2011 version. My father really was offered his father-in-law’s large, successful business, though it was so far from my father’s interests and areas of expertise I couldn’t imagine it i a million years.

3 Mark Schilling { 12.07.16 at 9:30 pm }

Post college my father offered me a management trainee job at a JC Penney in Springfield. I didn’t take him up on it. My two brothers joined the family biz, though. Neither became lifers and I can’t say I blame them. Retail is tough; Dad didn’t need piña coladas to pass out on the couch…

4 Mike madorsky { 12.21.16 at 5:48 pm }

bert what a nice tribute to one of the “Greatest Generation”. Yes we owe them all a lot, mom’s included.
Alice, it’s a “styptic” pencil. My Dad had one next to his Gillette safety razor and the Gillette Blue blades. Stops bleeding.
Best to u and Bert for a Happy Chanukah and New Year.

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