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Archive for August, 2009

Where’s my Yale education/ paved road to the white house?

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

When my mom moved out of the house in Pittsburgh there were a lot of odds and ends that ended up in boxes that are now in my Basement/ Garage/ Rock and or Roll train wreck. One of those items was a daily diary that my grandfather kept. It’s not like a diary in the aspect that he listed his hopes and dreams or boys he had crushes on. It was more of an appointment book with notes. There are about 4 lines per day and some days there’s an entry and some days he skips it altogether.  At the beginning of the year this year I dug in and found the notebook from 1949*.

Every day when I start work I open up the notebook and check on that day, 60 years ago. Here’s a selection:

Today, Aug 3, (Wednesday) 1949: “G. Witherspoon-Thomas, Caltex Producing Dept. Lunch with Ken Gold and Jack Detwhiler + Caltex Engrs. A. Rutan & wife”

As far as I can tell**, Caltex was the “California Texas Oil Company” formed in 1936, as a joint venture between The Texas Company (later Texaco) and The Standard Oil Company of California (later Chevron) which according to wikipedia was formed to market the oil that had recently been discovered in Saudi Arabia.

Grandpa was working for Westinghouse at the time, so for sport I search for a variety of combinations of “caltex”, “westinghouse” and “1949”

I find the following:

  • Repeated mention of Caltex v. USA, a semi-historical case researched at length by folks such as Harry Truman, which was designed to break some of the monopolies of the day.
  • In 1949 partners Caltex, Westinghouse and Bechtel began work on the Atomic Energy Commission’s Van de Graaff nuclear accelerator at Los Alamos, New Mexico.
  • Emperor Yumiyoro of Japan claims in the late 40’s that Japan was not defeated by General Eisenhower, but in fact by General Electric, sighting many deals with companies such as Caltex and Westinghouse “robbing the Japanese people by charging unsuitable royalties”

Interestingly, this is the area where the most information is. Apparently both Westinghouse and Caltex had extensive interests in post war Japan. Again and again the two names are associated with business deals that are designed to profit from the depressed post-war Japanese economy. 

Also interestingly, my Grandfather did extensive business with Japan in those days. I mean, I wasn’t there or anything, but there’s a bunch of Japanese stuff that we got from Grandpa and a whole stack of pictures of him and Japanese businessmen.

Even more interesting, in a report declassified in the 80’s, Westinghouse and specifically the division that my grandfather worked for, were the main team that built the fuses for the first atomic bombs.

It’s wonderful. It’s one tiny little page of a appointment diary, and yet… in my imagination, it uncovers a sinister conspiracy of a major US company with middle eastern holdings to at once end a  world war and then profit massively from it.***

However, I might be making all this up and maybe I just can’t read his handwriting.


*He starts in 1946 and runs solidly into the 80’s

**and this is just me and the internet who are talking, a with a healthy amount of props to Wikipedia

*** If this is the case…where’s my post war trust-fund and huge Swiss bank account?