A Businessman Aloft

by: Robert Boucheron

Part 1, of a 3 part glimpse into the wondrous real-life adventures of Pierre Boucheron…


Pierre Boucheron, my grandfather, was the first advertising director of the Radio Corporation of America under David Sarnoff in the 1920s. He worked on sales and marketing for other companies, including Farnsworth Radio and Television, established in 1938. He wrote magazine articles on the new technology of radio and television. In 1939, he wrote in pencil a reflective piece that remained unpublished. Here is an excerpt…

Today is August 22, 1939. It is my birthday anniversary, and I have reached the half century mark. It all seems hard to believe and leaves me with mixed feelings. Physically I feel quite fit, mentally a bit fagged out. I now hold what is probably the most important job of my life, General Sales Manager of a new but very promising radio company, promising because it is on the threshold of participating in the latest marvel of the century – television.

This day has started grandly. At 5 AM, I was on my way to the Nashville airport and at 6 AM aloft and en route to Washington. A beautiful and cool day as we flew some 7,000 feet above the Cumberland Mountains. A delightful, simple breakfast served by the perfect, efficient nurse-stewardess of the American Airlines, a truly lovely person.

A fellow passenger wore a miniature naval aviation pin on his coat lapel. His son was a lieutenant in the Navy, an Annapolis graduate, he proudly said. He looked not the father to a naval officer, yet there were signs of a man of parts here. Closely written notes in a worn notebook! A special fountain pen to write them with! A very old and much used geographical handbook. And lo! an altimeter in a small carrying case, like the one I always wanted and finally got at Los Angeles last March.

And now on train to Philadelphia to see the first showing of Farnsworth radios at our jobber, Trilling & Montague. Trilling of 1917 Gunner Trilling fame, but now alas what a mercenary though smart, adroit businessman.

While aloft I wrote four letters, smoothly and clearly thought out, to four people who have been very close to the four important phases of my life, people whom I must remember and salute on this red-letter day, my 50th anniversary. One of these is my business chief. I thanked him for participation in what may prove a future bonanza. If this is to transpire, it must occur within five years!

Is this beautifully clear and, for this time of year, cool day prophetic of happy days and years to come? Certainly yesterday was a headache, for I was terribly unhappy with my poor performance last evening at the J. L. Perry Company dealer meeting. Here again I was forcefully reminded of the great necessity of advance preparation when staging a presentation of this kind. I knew all this in advance, but there was no help for it. I arrived by plane at noon and was immediately in a whirl of meeting reporters, photos taken, interviews, etc., not to forget a 5-minute broadcast over Nashville station WSIX. A radio interview with Jim Turner, an old-time radio man of Cleveland who said he knew of me for years! On this occasion I acquitted myself to my own satisfaction, but oh, how different at night. I must never allow this sort of thing to happen again, a thing forced on me by the rush of the occasion and ineffectualness of the principals involved.

I have not gone in for diary notes in years, but today I feel I must try to jot down some of my innermost thoughts, reactions, ambitions, and hopes for future happiness. For unlike the great German philosophers who said there was no happiness because “realization means quick satiation,” I do believe there is happiness, although it is not wealth and fame but doing the things we love best. For me that is love of the sea and things nautical. That is why I look to the day when I shall launch my Aloha III.

And now we pass an inlet to the Chesapeake Bay somewhere near Havre de Grace, Maryland. It was here in the summer of 1932 that I boarded the Aloha II. She had arrived from Camden manned by my beloved Westy [C. R. Westbrook] and the inseparables Jay Quinby and George Hopkins. What a reunion on that glorious Saturday morning! And the duck bought by Jay at Annapolis as Sunday pièce de résistance, only to become pet of the cruise and later pet of Jay’s children. Such days can of course never again be relived. For Westy is dead. And Jay is divorced. And George is remarried and a prosaic house owner in Milford, Connecticut. And I am landlocked, not 300 miles as in Atlanta of 1929, but some 800 miles at Fort Wayne, Indiana, from the nearest body of salt water!

I recall my first flight on a regular commercial passenger plane back in 1932. We were barnstorming for RCA, and our last stand had been at Kansas City. We took one of the original Ford tri-motor planes leaving at midnight and due in Camden at 7 AM. We were all pretty woozy from too much libating and brought more of the same on board. It was August, and we ran into thunder showers all night. It was EHV’s first flight and for Hartley and Graham, too. We finally got home much the worse for wear. Flying in those days was a hazard indeed. Since then I have flown thousands of miles all over the country, for RCA, for Remington, and for Farnsworth. What a time-saving device! And how much more comfortable and cleaner! Not to mention the ease of buying tickets on credit by means of the so-called script card, with its 15% reduction later billed to the company.

Part 2: Greenland Assignment

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