New York, 1970 – 1978
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Last Updated May 12, 2020

 Chapter 14 : New York, 1970  to 1978

I was hired by Fred Brownson to work in a venture company he started.   Fred had work as the venture capital investment manager for IMCO and wanted to start his own company to provide financial planning services to wealthy individuals.   He could not get the company funded by IMCO and found outside investors.  We had an office on the 9th floor of a building at 104 East 40th street about two blocks from Grand Central Station.   Fred found a house for me to rent in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, where he lived with his family. The town was about a 35 minute train ride up the Hudson river shore from New York City.

We lived in that house, probably 381 Broadway, next to Draper Park and in easy walking distance from the train station, for two or three years and then bought a house at 76 Pinecrest Parkway, about a mile further from the train station.   We lived in that house when Paul was born in 1973.

Brownson & Associates

I and Ed Macklin were the first employees Fred hired.  The plan was for the firm to grow and have a number of offices, partners and clients in big cities around the U.S.   My primary job was to be responsible for the computer programs we would use in providing service to clients.   A program had already been designed and was being created by a hired programmer, George Olson, who lived in Detroit.  George delivered a well designed framework that would generate reports needed for our client service.   However, it had almost no code that would assist in entering data and calculating projected flows (income, expense, investments etc. ).  This was the data that would be used in the reports generated by George’s program.   That was my job and I enjoyed it.   I also modified George’s code to adapt to future changes.  The program was written in a language called  PL/1.

Though the firm managed to survive, it did not thrive. I think I was there about 5 years and over that time Fred gave me a lot of administrative work to do. We had a secretary but she could not do much more than type.  I was tasked with “compliance” with the various state and federal agencies we had to deal with in our business.  I did not much care for this work and was not particularly good at it. Either Fred or I had to do it and he had a lot to do.   Fred was a workaholic and put a lot of energy into servicing clients, seeking clients, seeking investors and seeking investments for our clients.

One fact that I think tells a lot about Fred.  Our office was on the 9th floor and the building had an elevator.  To keep himself in shape, Fred, who was only a year or two older than me, would walk up the stairs rather than take the elevator.  He lived his life that way.

The firm did not prosper and after about five years Fred told me that I could either attempt to become a partner, providing financial services to clients, or leave.  Fred did not want any further work done on our computer program. I did work with a couple of clients but found that this was not something I wanted to do and did not excel at

A year or so before I left the firm Fred hired Barbara Chirse.  Barbara was an attractive black woman just under five feet tall and a bundle of energy.  She was very bright and very articulate.  She picked up all the administrative stuff that I had been doing, and more, and did it well.  I taught her to use the financial


I found a job with a Time Sharing company, Comshare, out of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Our office was on an upper floor in a building directly across Park Avenue from the New York City library, about three blocks from Grand Central Station.  This was probably around late 1974 or early 1975.  I was the technical manager for the NY City office.   We had a manager, about 4 salesmen, me and and a technical assistant.   We sold computer services that allowed clients to use a “luggable” terminal connected to a phone to run programs on our main frame computers in Ann Arbor.  It was interesting and kind of cutting edge.  I did some work with AT&T Long Lines (the long distance division) that I am proud of. One of the programs we offered clients was a data base system called Composit.  It was somewhat state of the art at the time, though not a relational database, and I learned a lot from working with it.

Unitarian Church, Couples Group

Bonnie had helped start a Unitarian church in Columbus, Indiana, and I had become active there.  When we moved to Hastings she became involved with a Unitarian church there and I eventually also became active there.  This was during the 70’s and the women’s movement was very strong.   Bonnie became involved in a “Women’s Consciousness Raising” group.  This eventually evolved into a “Couples Consciousness Raising” group.   Members of the group took turns as leaders and the 6 to 10 couples that attended became social friends.  Most of us had children around the same age.  The group began to go away together for weekends, renting a summer camp that was available in the non-summer months.  The camp we went to most often was called Madison Felicia.

I very much enjoyed the couples group meetings, the social activities, and the weekends.  Each adult had a job on the weekends.  My job was usually to look after the kids during free times, especially in the mornings after all the adults had been up late.  I loved it.  I loved the kids and enjoyed spending time with them.

Unfortunately the couples group was part of the process that lead to my wife leaving me for another man in the group, Gil Hart.  Gil left his wife, Connie, to marry Bonnie.  Gil’s children were older, the youngest, Zoe, was about 14 when the divorce occurred.  Paul had been born while we were active in the couples group and was only 4 when Bonnie divorced me.  Matthew was 8.  I did not handle the breakup of my family well.  I am ashamed of how poorly I handled it.  Ironically, I am also proud that I did as well as I did.  It was an utterly terrible experience for me, by far the worst experience of my life. 

Though I have had a fairly satisfying life since then, with some wonderful experiences, I carry painful scars to this day.  I have avoided Bonnie as much as possible since she left me.  I am ashamed of how petty I have behaved in relation to Bonnie but I am still not able to do other than that.  One of the factors is the level of psychological pain I feel in relationship to anything to do with Bonnie.  The divorce tainted all the memories of I have of that marriage.

I have some recent notes on this, but the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pages I wrote during the early years after the divorce were damaged in a flood and, I’m glad to say, thrown away.

Though I have a lot of joyful memories of the couples group I would have gladly skipped all of them, and Star Island and Pinewoods,  if I could have kept my marriage and family.

Star Island

Several couples from the UU couples group had attended week long summer conferences at a UU Conference center on Star Island, 10 miles out in the Atlantic off Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Though Star Island is more important to me than many topics in this list, I will limit my comments here, for now.  If the muse grabs me at some point later, I may expand.

I took my son, Matt, to my first week on Star Island in, I think 1974.  I took Bonnie and Matt the following year.  Paul, born in 1973, was still too young.  I loved my many experiences on Star Island.  I was probably as happy in the weeks I was there as I would ever be.  I continued going with Bonnie through 1977.   Then the divorce.  I did not go back till 1981 and went a few more times after that, including weeks with Elaine and weeks alone (IRAS conferences  and one family week).

The music, especially singing late at night with Pru Gabert and Bob Thayer, the chapel services, the sea, the separateness of the island and some undefinable magic charmed my soul.

Pinewoods Folk Music Club

The Pinewoods Folk Music club (as I call it) is the New York City Folk Music Society.  They held fall and spring weekends at Camp Freedman, near Falls Village, Connecticut for many years.  I began going on weekends around 1974 and continued going until I left New York in 2004.  There was also a winter weekend at Solway house near Saugerties, NY each year.  There was a span of at least 15 years where I attended every weekend except one.   I loved the music, the singing, the comradery, the wonderful setting of Camp Freedman on a small lake/pond, and the joy of it all.

Paul went with me on a number of the weekends and I like to think this was part of what lead to him being such a good, and enthusiastic singer.  Matt went with one or two Pinewoods weekend and remembers meeting Gordon Bok there.  Gordon Bok was a fairly well known folk singer at the time.

I also took Matt and Paul to a “Bernie Clay” weekend at Camp Freedman, probably in the 1980’s.

Starting in 1977 I began to go to folk music week at Pinewoods camp in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Often close to half of the 100+ campers at the week were from the New York Pinewoods club.  The weeks were even better than the weekends.

I have so many memories, so many friends, so much to be thankful for related to my involvement with this community of singing friends.  I dated a number of wonderful women after I was divorced, but somehow I always ended up going back to Elaine.

Merrill Lynch

While I was working at Comshare, a friend named Ed Macklin, was hired as a Vice President of a Merrill Lynch startup subsidiary, PCPG (Personal Capital Planning Group).  I had worked with Ed at Browson, Rehmus and Foxworth and he had started a similar service housed in Bankers Trust and then went to Merrill Lynch… around 1977 I think.  He hired me as the top computer guy for the small firm and I began to work in the Merril Lynch building in the Wall street area downtown, about two blocks from the World Trade Center.

I think I worked there for around 3 years before Merrill Lynch pretty much closed down the subsidiary.  It was an interesting time in my life.  I liked the people I worked with, I was responsible for interesting computer stuff and training young people.  The Apple II came out in 1979 and the computer world was changing rapidly.  In some ways this was the biggest professional opportunity I ever had.  Unfortunately our business plan was not commercially viable within Merrill Lynch.  I may explain all this someday together with some of the fun experiences I had while working there   My marriage to Bonnie fell apart during this time. This was entirely her choice. Though my behavior as a husband contributed to the problem, her infidelity and falling in love with another man was, in my opinion, the primary problem. .

I found out about Gil Hart in December of 1976.  Bonnie decided to divorce me in the fall of 1977 and I moved out of the house in 1978.  It was a horrible experience and I regret to say I never completely recovered.  The divorce, and Bonnie’s rejection damaged my self confidence, self respect, and, as I see it, my soul.