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Bob Blake – Who Am I?

 

 
Put very simply my name is Bob Blake.  I have not engaged in any very unusual business activities during my career nor participated in any exciting ventures during the war.  But in putting this talk together I began to think how each of us is affected by our childhood environment, our education, our job related experiences and our social contacts.  Looking back I found it interesting to note some of the world events which swirled around me without any particular notice on my part and others I remember very vividly – some to have a direct influence on my life and some very indirect.  Maybe some of these will strike a response chord in each of you.

Look back with me to 1925.  The first edition of Mein Kampf was published by Adolf Hitler.  Churchill returned Britain to the gold standard.  The first transmission of human figures was made by television.  The Chrysler Corporation was founded.  Bobby Jones won the U.S. amateur golf championship.  Harold Vanderbilt invented contract bridge.  The famous court case of Darrow vs Bryan regarding the teaching of evolution in schools was heard.  The Dow Jones sold at 121.85.  The population of Canada was 9,500,000 and increased by 1 when I was born in London, Ont. the product of and English father and a United Empire Loyalist descendant mother.

Let’s jump 5 years to 1930 when I started my education in London.  Black Friday had occurred the previous Oct. sending the Dow Jones down from 381 to 198.  The Nazis were gaining strength in Germany.  Bell labs were conducting experiments with colour television.  Bobby Jones won the grand slam of golf. Max Schmeling was heavy weight boxing champion.

Another 7 years passed to 1937.  I started high school in London and I also started several activities that have maintained my interest to this day – bridge, golf, dancing and basketball – in the latter of course I am only an observer but I played high school, university and city league.  On the world scene the Nazi expantionary activities were starting in Europe and the Japanese were fighting in China.  The Dow Jones  sold at 159.42 (the depression low was 41.22 in 1932).

5 years later in 1942 – I started studying Business Administration at the University of Western Ontario and army training in the COTC.  World War II was in it’s most difficult days.  Japan attacked Pearl Harbour the previous Dec. and was taking over the Pacific Islands.  The first splitting of the atom was accomplished in the United States.  Joe Louis was the heavyweight boxing champion.  The Dow jones was still very low at 102.77.

Another 4 years – 1946.  The war had ended in 1945.  The first meeting of the UN General Assembly was held.  The Nuremburg war trials took place. 

 
 
 

 The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was formed.  I graduated from Western in Honours Business Administration and started my first job as a security analyst at Canada Life in Toronto (my Father had been an accountant and my early childhood ambition had been to play with papers and pencils like my Dad – studying at university I realized that I didn’t want to be an accountant but corporate finance, the workings of the stock market and the mathematics of bond yield tables were a real fascination to me.  The Dow was selling at 207.99.

In 1947 I moved to a similar job at the Northern Life in London.  The peace treaties were signed in Paris.  The Dow sold at 177.24.

In 1949 I married Noreen Luttrell as a result of a New Years Eve blind date and a 6 month courtship.  Chiang Kai Shek withdrew to Formosa from Mainland China and the Berlin airlift ended.  In 1950 Canada’s population of 14,000,000 increased by 1 when our daughter Lynne was born on Thanksgiving Day.  In 1954 Canada’s population of 15,500,000 again increased by 1 when our son Jim was born.  I was appointed Assistant Treasurer of Northern Life.

In 1959 I moved to Waterloo to become Treasurer of Equitable, responsible for all investments.  Castro becomes President of Cuba.  Khruschev visits the United States.  Jack Nicklaus wins the U.S Amateur.  The population of Waterloo 19,000 increased by 4 on our arrival.  The University of Waterloo was just starting.  The old fire hall, city hall and market building were all in use and there were factories along the main street.  Equitable was located in an old building behind the Bank of Montreal – now a parking lot.  Accounting was done by bookkeeping machines and card fed IBM equipment.  The assets of the company were $25,000,000 and the Dow sold at 602.94.

As the assets of the company increased my titles were changed and I retired in 1986 as Financial Vice President of Equitable.  When I retired the assets of the company were $500,000,000.  Accounting was done by personal an large computers and information was available on instant access.  Waterloo’s population was 65,000 with over 15,000 students at the University of Waterloo.  Equitable had been in its new building for over 15 years (I was Chairman of the building committee).  The Canadian economy had been buoyant for 3 years after earlier rampant inflation and high interest rates.  The Dow sold at 1800.  The population of Canada was 26,000,000 and increased by 1 as our first grandchild was born – Sarah – the darling of Grandpa’s eye.

So what have I been doing since I retired?  In the first place watching and helping with the development of our two grandchildren.  Sarah as I said was born the year I retired in 1986 (she attended my retirement party at age 1 month) and David was born in 1992.  Sarah now has her M.A.  in Environmental  Geography and is employed by the federal government in Ottawa.  David has just graduated from high school (good old KCI) and is concentrating his activities with a rock band (Courage My Love) in which he plays bass guitar.
Taking early retirement allowed my wife and me to indulge to a greater degree in our interest in travel.  Over the next 25 years we visited many countries including Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, the Far East, Tunisia and Mexico.  Boat trips on the Rhine,

 

 

Dnieper, and Mississippi.  Trips to the Greek Islands, Malta, and Iceland.  We attended over 20 Elderhostel  programs mostly in the eastern and southern US.

I have played golf at Westmount since moving to Waterloo and still shoot my age occasionally.  I have played in Scotland, Ireland, Tunisia, Spain, Mexico, Thailand and many places in the U.S.  I started curling at Westmount and have recently graduated to using a stick.  I have dipped my toe in most of the oceans of the world, straddled the Atlantic Fault in Iceland and crossed the International  Date Line.  My most favorite country to visit is Ireland but  am most content lazing and puttering at our cottage in Haliburton that we have owned since 1964.

I have been an active member of First United Church, and have been Chairman or Treasurer of the Board of Trustees for the past 10 years.  My wife and I have belonged to the Toronto Ragtime and Jazz Society for about 30 years and I played in the Toronto banjo band for a short period of time.  In addition  to Probus I belong to the K.W. Gyro Club and the Retired Business and Professional men’s Club.

We lived in the same house on William St. from 1959 until 4 years ago when we moved to the Waterpark High Rise Condo.  It was a culture change and difficult to leave behind almost 50 years of memories.  But the timing was good as Noreen suffered some heart issues that we might not have been able to handle at the house.

A major avocation has been a continuing interest in the financial markets and events affecting them.  I have kept a quarterly journal of the movements in stock prices and interest rates as well as the major events affecting these for the past 25 years.  In preparing for this talk I reviewed some of my comments and financial figures.  For the first 15 years interest rates came down from very high levels and the stock market moved up steadily and then we moved into a roller coaster effect staring with the burst of the high tech bubble 90 – 91, the twin tower terrorist attack and a recession followed by a strong recovery from 92 – 96 and then successive worldwide financial problems.  You have all lived through them but the outstanding thing in my mind is the resiliency and long term optimism of our economy – Canada is fortunate with its oil and mineral resources and strong banking system.
In any case the TSE was 3,000 in 1986; 11,400 in mid-2000;7,400 om Sept.1, 2001 and then down 10% on Sept. 11 and further down to a low of 5,678 in Sept. 2002.  Then up to over 12,300 in Apr. 2006 and 14,600 in July 2007 when the subprime mortgage crisis started,  Down to 8,600 in early 2008 and now up to the 14,000 level.
What have I learned from all of this?
  1.  Enjoy your family and friends
  2.   Be proud of being a Canadian
  3.  Be prepared
  4.  Take advantage of opportunities
  5.   Work your way through adversity
  6.  Take a long view – a better day is coming in life and the stock market

I have written a wishful thought in summary:

A financial person named Robert

Saw his investments go into orbit

He sold one by one

To golf in the sun

Shooting his age was always his target
 
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