Monday, November 29, 2021

What I told my Sales Team today - My Cousin Revitalized Central Park in NYC

My mother is an unintentional revisionist historian, which means she typically gets the gist of a story correct, but sometimes flips around the names of the main characters, or the location, or some other inconsequential part of the story. Unless that is, if you’re the subject of the story. My brother’s and I typically have to make 1-2 factual corrections when the entire family is together, to either transfer blame or accept full credit, whichever is the appropriate case. So, whenever my mother is relating a story, you’d better pay close attention. This naturally leads me to a story I shared with my sales team today about listening.


I took my parents up to the Charleston area to see their Great-Grandson (which is code for me going to see my grandson) for Thanksgiving. On the way back, as we rolled around Starke, Florida down toward Ocala in Highway 301, my mother began to reminisce about the weekend trips her family would take “before the war”, which means before WW2. Because during the war there was not enough gasoline for casual Sunday drives. After the war, things didn’t return to the way they were, so all her Sunday drive stories are from “before the war.” One of the destinations mother’s trips (along with her brothers, mother, and my grandfather) was San Antonio. My grandfather was a birder, which is hunting language for someone who likes to hunt fowl. He preferred shotguns to rifles, and fishing to shotguns, maybe because he also liked to drink.


There is an Exit sign on Interstate 75, north of Tampa, for St. Leo College and San Antonio, but until this conversation with mom, I always thought San Antonio was a thing, not a place, which in fact it is. It is a place where my grandfather owned some land for hunting back in the 30’s. It’s the place mom was telling me about as we drove down Florida Highway 301, for the millionth time in my life. So, I learned there is a San Antonio, Florida. I already knew my grandfather hunted, and drank, but I never knew he owned land north of Tampa for hunting. 


My grandfather was Wm Wallace Shafer, he’s actually half Shafer and half Dysert. The Dysert’s had lots of daughters, who married and left Missiouri, one of those daughters who left was Gertrude Dysert, older sister to my grandfather’s mother, Daisy Dysert. Daisy left as well, but not until 1917, when her husband, Dr. Wm Walter Shafer announced that come spring, the family was moving to Florida. He’d had enough of making house calls in the Missouri winter, via horse and buggy. One of Daisy’s older sisters was a woman named Gertrude Dysert, she married David Ewing and settled in San Antonio, which is where mom’s story had moved to. From Sunday drives in Florida over to San Antonio, it was now about Aunts and Cousins. And Gertrude’s Ewings “had money”, because they’d built a lot of Army AirFields around San Antonio during the war.


As I drove and listened, mom told me how her Grandmother (Daisy) and Grandfather (Walter) went “out” to San Antonio so Daisy could attend her sister’s (Gertrude and David) 60th wedding anniversary. It was a big deal apparently, as Gertrude was still able to wear her wedding dress. It had a high neck, according to mom. Well, my Great-Grandfather (Walter) had a heart attack while in San Antonio and my mom’s father (daddy), my grandfather (Wm Wallace), had to “go out” and bring them (Walter and Daisy) from San Antonio once Walter was well enough to travel. Needless to say, I had a lot of questions in my head. First, I didn’t know there were a lot of Army AirField locations in Florida, up north of Tampa. I knew there were some, but not “a lot”. Second, I know San Antonio is probably a bit of a drive in the 1940’s from Lakeland, but why did my grandfather have to go get them?


So, I asked, “How come he had to go get them, couldn’t they just drive back?” To which she replied, “Not from Texas they couldn’t”. Ding, Ding, Ding-Ding-Ding. Somehow the conversation had moved from a small hunting tract in San Antonio, Florida, to San Antonio, Texas. 


Which was followed by, “Oh yes, Texas, and one of my cousins redesigned and refurbished Central Park in New York City.” Wait…what???


Yep, it turns out that Mrs. Elizabeth Browning Barlow Rogers, a hero to many New Yorkers for her work to revitalize Manhattan’s Central Park is my cousin. She’s a Wellesley College and Yale University educated, world renowned landscape designer, preservationist, and writer (Wikipedia). And she’s also my Second Cousin-Once-Removed. Our birthdays are one day apart, and 28 years. 

Saving Central Park


So, what’s my point? It’s this, we need to listen and listen carefully to what our clients and prospects are saying (and mothers), and in particular to the words they use. We need to listen for anomalies in the things that are said as we listen. Phrases like “go over” as compared “go out to” should compel us to ask, “What do you mean, go out to?” It’s amazing what you will learn, or perhaps relearn as there is a good chance I knew this story already, but was not wise enough to remember it.


My dad’s parents made bathtub Gin in Greenwich Village during prohibition, but that’s a story for another time.





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What I told my Sales Team today - My Cousin Revitalized Central Park in NYC

My mother is an unintentional revisionist historian, which means she typically gets the gist of a story correct, but sometimes flips around ...