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.



This post is for everybody who read my Wall Street Journal article about my dad and wants more info on him. (The article, which was in Monday’s WSJ, is linked here.)

My father, Toby, got a letter from a Piney Woods Arkansas man, extolling my dad’s homemade foot powder: “Mr. Lesbert: Do NOT stop making the powdor! Do NOT stop!!” Toby used to make the foot powder in the basement. The company was Lesbert Drug Co., named after my sister, Leslie, and me. My dad stopped making the powder. The Arkansas man was about his only customer.

Then Toby started selling cosmetics. Then he starting buying buildings . . . on and on. He was the Jewish Willy Loman. (Kind of like how Dave Tarras — the klezmer clarinetist — was the Jewish Benny Goodman.)

My dad schlepped me to banks. I remember a banker who called my dad “Teddy.” That was weird. My father’s given name was Theodore and his Jewish nickname was Toby. This banker liked to talk Tribe (baseball) and his wife’s spaghetti recipes. The banker was a “people’s person,” he said. (Maybe he was a dogs’ person too.)

My father was not a people’s person. He was the Lone Ranger. He got the mortgage and we got out of there.

My dad owned one LP record, of the Ohio State marching band. My dad owned stock records. Toby bought his first stock, Seaboard Air Line, when he was at Ohio State. Air line meant train line back then. Air line was the shortest distance between two points — the way the crow flies. My dad never made money on stocks. He was too busy buying and selling and not holding. Toby was a stockbroker —  a “customer’s man” — for about six months in 1955 at Bache & Co.

He liked numbers. He was totally a numbers guy.

Confidential report (1958): “On the basis of an analysis of the personal history and psychological test results, we believe that Mr. Stratton has the experience and ability to successfully handle his present position [at Curtis Industries, a car-key manufacturer]. He has shown personality characteristics, however, which may cause him to be difficult to get along with and, therefore, a supervisory problem.”

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1 Wyn Lydecker { 09.21.21 at 10:59 am }

Really enjoyed your op-ed in the WSJ about your father owning his own business. I really loved the part about wearing a tie. Great lesson! Your piece made me think you might enjoy a book I co-authored about starting a real estate services company and growing and selling it. The Purpose Is Profit: The Truth About Starting and Growing Your Own Business. (My co-author was the entrepreneur, not me.)

2 joyce powers { 09.22.21 at 8:08 am }

Good Morning Bert,
I enjoyed reading “My Father….”
Our fathers both had a chemistry degree from Ohio State.
My father was born in 1921 and died at 64 around 1985.
Your dad manufactured foot powder in your basement. My father manufactured a cleaning fluid called “Slick” in our basement.
I enjoyed reading this “slice of life” about your dad, Toby!
xoJoyce Powers

3 Kenneth Goldberg { 09.22.21 at 9:10 am }

True, Benny Goodman wasn’t that Jewish. As for Willy Loman, that’s kinda up in the air. I’d like to think “not” (even if actor Lee J. Cobb was (in 1951 film)….

4 Don Edwards { 09.23.21 at 7:37 am }

Wonderful article. Made my heart ache for that generation – as did the WSJ readers comments.

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