Memoires 8

My college roomie and lifelong friend

LIMA, PERU IN THE ROARING 1920S:

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, more a decade before Sandy’s birth, a series of events would occur that would impact the lives of Sandy and his family for many years to come. A dashing young American Army Major was stationed with his wife in Lima. He served as the military chargé d’affaires. The Major was a handsome, charming, hard drinking gambler married to a wealthy U.S. socialite, and daughter of the first Democrat and first Jewish Governor of Utah. The Governor had come to the U.S. from Germany at age 14, just before the Civil War began. He was headed to Cincinnati where there was said to be a large prosperous German community, but he fell asleep aboard the train and missed his connection in Columbus, ending up in Terre Haute, Indiana. After the Civil war ended the young man moved to St. Louis where he and his brother established a clothing business. A bad debt that potentially wiped out the business sent him to Wyoming in an effort to collect, but the debtor had disappeared, so the young man continued on to Utah. He dabbled in various businesses including owning hotels in Ogden and Salt Lake City, silver mines, and the railroad. He built an amusement park outside Salt Lake City that thrives to this day. He invested well, particularly in the foundering oil business, and those investments would eventually make him and his descendents very, very wealthy.

 

The governor's only daughter enjoyed the wealth and status as a member of the upper class. She craved adventure and the Major provided it. Many of her family members thought she had "married down" by wedding the charming, handsome career Army man with no prominent family history. The Major was high maintenance, especially with his preference for the good life and assorted gambling activities. And while the Major was a gambler, he did not often win and his gambling markers were usually picked up by his wealthy wife. But even the wealthy have their limits.

 

During his stint in Lima, Peru the Major continued to gamble and the markers continued to accrue. When the marker tally was completed after a series of losses the Major owed about $35,000 (which by today’s standards would be near a half million dollars). His wealthy wife refused to pay the markers and the cub threatened to arrest the Major if he was unwilling or unable to pay his gambling markers.

 

The Major pleaded with his wife to pay the markers for if he were arrested his career as an up-and-coming Army officer would be over. She did not want to give in but neither did she want to see her husband disgraced and have his career ruined so she turned to the only person she thought might be able to help. She phoned her friend, the Ambassador (Sandy’s grandfather) and asked if there was anything that could be done to minimize the debt. Even with her wealth she would be hard pressed to cover the vast amount of his losses. The Ambassador said he would do his best to try to negotiate a settlement. The Ambassador went directly to the President of Peru and pointed out that to arrest an American Military chargé d’affairs for a gambling debt was bad politics and would indeed be a sticky wicket that would cause a huge embarrassment not only to the Major, but to the U.S. Army and to the government of Peru. The president contacted the owners of the club and together they agreed to settle the debt for about 20% of what was owed.

 

The Major's wife paid the negotiated amount – about $7,000 ($100,000 by today’s monetary standards) and thanked her friend the Ambassador profusely. Each time they met thereafter she reminded him, “If there is ever anything I could do to return the favor, please let me know.”

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