Friday, February 09, 2007

1961...I get involved in a shocking IBM “Cover-up”

The handsome man pictured here is Thomas J. Watson, Jr. He succeeded his father in 1952 as President of IBM. You can tell by his pose and demeanor that he was very proper, to say the least, and he insisted that the IBM employees emulate his example. The adorable little boy pictured is my middle child, Matt.

In 1961 Dutchess County, NY, was dominated by IBM which provided 60 percent of its manufacturing jobs. Some of our friends worked there and we had heard them complain about the very strict dress code. That was about all I knew of the company until I visited there on a hot summer day in 1961.

IBM provided quite a few amenities for their workers and one of these was a lovely country-club complete with a large swimming pool and a wading area for the children. My husband and I and three children were still living in Manhattan so it was a treat to escape the heat of the City and meet my friend at the club. As I recall I only had my middle child with me that day and we came toting bathing suits, shovel and pail, towels and lots of sun-tan lotion.

My first inkling of the rigid rules and regulations came when I took my little boy into the big pool with me. The life guard told me in a very stern tone that the wading pool was there for the children and they were not allowed in the main pool. “Oh, well”, I thought, “we’ll just go play in the wading area”.

Matt had his little pail and, although there was no sand, he loved pouring water from the pail and watching it splash. After all, he was just a year old so he was easily entertained. Alas, it was not to be so. I was told again that I was breaking the rules! No pails allowed!

I was getting a little annoyed at this point but I decided to let it ride and to just enjoy the sunshine and the perfect day. I knew that Matt would be more comfortable out of his wet and clammy swim suit so I slipped it off and gave him a good drying with my towel. I was just about to put his little fat legs into a cute pair of shorts when a very loud voice boomed out, saying “THERE IS NO EXPOSING ALLOWED AT THIS CLUB. COVER UP THE BODY IMMEDIATELY OR YOU WILL BE ESCORTED OFF THE PREMISES.”

“Horrors”, I thought, “how could anyone do such a thing at a public swim club?”, and I looked around to see who the awful pervert could be. It took me a minute to realize that the accusation was directed at me !

That did it. With all the dignity I could muster I packed up my few items, including the shovel, the pail and the little shorts that I decided NOT to put on my baby. And to add insult to injury I took his little hand and WALKED him across the length of the pool on our way out...his EXPOSED fanny saying loud and clear what I thought of their rules and regulations.!


Blogger KGMom said...

Ginnie--what a wonderful story. You have me sitting here chuckling.
My aunt worked for IBM most of her adult life, and I have not heard from her the IBM was strict. I will have to ask.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Maya's Granny said...

Good for you! How odd they were.

11:03 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

Bravo! I'm actually bowing down here (you an't see, but I am). Good for you!

12:49 PM  
Blogger dmmgmfm said...

I am so proud of you for taking a stand. How awful it must have been for the employees to have to abide by those strict standards.

I wonder what caused him to be so prim and proper...

1:18 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

Yay Ginnie! That kind or pretense needs a fanny in its face!

2:13 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Oh man, that story takes the cake!!! And good for you for sticking to your guns. If the pool ain't good enough for your son then it ain't good enough for you. My ann always had that policy with us Grandkids, and so did my mum too.

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well way to go Ginnie. I hope you both paused for a long pee in the pool before leaving.

Obviously the pool overseer was a dedicated IBM employee....

Indecent Behavior Monitor

6:23 AM  
Blogger Mortart said...

Ginnie, I once spent an entire day with Tom Watson Jr. I was assigned to write a cover story about IBM for Business Week. The company's PR guy thought I would get a good feel for IBM if I were allowed to follow Watson as he functioned as CEO. I started by meeting Watson at his home in Greenwich, Conn., driving with him to Hq in Westchester County (I think it was Armonk or some place close to that) and then observing him at work. It was a fascinating experience. As I recall, the newspeg was the introduction of the 360 mainframe computer. I remember Watson Jr. as being a very prim and proper guy, and the corporate rigidity that you experienced obviously reflected his own personality. We failed to get a good photo of him to put on the magazine's cover. Instead, the cover featured a photo of the innards of the computer itself.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Chancy said...

Ginnie - Great story. Way to go!

2:27 PM  
Blogger Suzy said...

This is a great story, Ginnie. You're a regular agitator, aren't you?

5:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That rigidity of outlook nearly destroyed IBM later

4:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that's what I call 'CHEEKY'! :-)

8:31 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

No Nude Babies! I would have left too. Good story Ginnie!

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, this was priceless! LOL
You are MY kind of woman, Ginnie. Good for you! Imagine being that bent out of shape over a baby. Shaking my head. Great story.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Beryl Ament said...

Reminds me of the time in the early 70’s when it was very HOT and we were about to leave for Iowa. There were four kids under four and their clothes were washed and packed ready for the trip. So when my three-year old son wanted to splash in the plastic pool in the back yard, I filled the pool and let him jump in au naturel. I intended to run in and find some undies, but I couldn’t leave the other kids. Next thing I knew, one of Grosse Pointe’s finest was leaning over the back fence, telling me I had broken some ordinance or other. He couldn’t see in from the street (and neither could any passing pervert) so I assume he was alerted by one of my neighbors. I always regret not being more assertive with him.

4:38 PM  

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