The Upleger Years

(Learning How to Audit at Waco’s Greyhound Station)

Around Christmas 1957 I started to work at the A. C. Upleger & Company, C. P. A. firm.  I really needed the job because Dee was on the way and, in fact was born early morning January 18, 1958.

I got the job because Daddy taught Sunday School and Jim Hendrix was in his S. S. class. Plus, I had some experience in public accounting at Scott & Timmons while I was in Baylor.

At that time, Jim acted as managing partner at Upleger even though he was only about 25 years old.

The other partners were as follows:

  • Arthur Upleger was about 74 years old at that time and really did everything as he very well pleased. More stories about him later.
  • Billy [Jackson] had a few good clients like Central Freight and Dyneshine in St. Louis.
  • Charlie [Hinson] was probably about 65 years old and not in good health. He operated as a lone wolf and was the nemesis of Jim and all the staff.
  • Harry Roberts was about 60, nervous as a cat, and had several small clients. The staff included an old bookkeeper by the name of George Hoeffert. He was about the same age as Mr. Upleger and kept to himself.

Other accountants on the staff were Bob Vickery. Ed Graeter was a “public accountant” and about 45 years old. He taught me many things, such as where the files were and how to get things done—very practical stuff.  Billy McClain was about 30.

We had four women as office staff—all having several years’ experience.  One took me to task severely because she had to type from my handwriting.  I did try to write more plainly after she chewed me out. Dawn, our main typist, was Miss Goody Two Shoes, but was an excellent typist.  Everything that went out the door was typed in those days.  Another raunchy old lady (probably 30) named [Irene] did a little bit of all the office duties.  Our receptionist was the ultimate in raunchy.  I very well remember her giving us the one finger salute down the long hallway as we went out the back door for coffee.  One of the first days I worked there she came into my office scratching herself inappropriately and said “…this is what Mr. Smith does.”  The same day she told me about one of the staff having an affair since “…I would find out anyway”.

I learned much about how to get things done over coffee.  The Greyhound bus station was right behind our office and had good coffee in the restaurant.  Every morning at 10:00 and afternoon at 3:00 all of the staff, plus Jim, who were available would go out for coffee.  It was learning time and fun for sure.

Upleger had the “Cadillac” practice in Waco.  Most of the old-time businesses both in Waco and many outside Waco were our clients

More about Mr. Upleger.  Both of his parents emigrated from Germany, I believe, in the 1880’s and Mr. Upleger was born in Michigan.  He graduated from N. Y. U. and became one of the nation’s first CPAs (I’m not sure they were called that at the time).  He ultimately became the President of the American Society of Accountants, a predecessor of the AICPA.  He was an aristocratic old gentleman who hung his pince-nez around his neck on a chain until he needed to read.  He was, of course, one of the first members of the Texas Society of C.P.A.’s.  He was very active in Masonic organizations and, as a result, we did audits on the Shriners’ Hospitals for Crippled Children in Chicago, General Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in Washington.  In addition, along the way we performed services for the Grand Chapter of Texas O. E. S. and other Masonic organizations.

Heaven only knows how many presidents of the U. S. he knew personally—probably beginning before Woodrow Wilson and all the rest down through Dwight Eisenhower and perhaps beyond.

Upleger’s tax and consulting clients included little old “widder” ladies with lots of money.  He very seldom did any work on the clients and when he did, he would screw it up.  Hence, Charley and other staff members got the opportunity to straighten things out.

I failed to mention above that he was Imperial Auditor for the Imperial Council (another Masonic organization).  The SHCC and the Imperial Council had investments in stocks, bonds, and other securities at that time that approached one billion dollars.  Think of what that would be worth at today’s dollars!

He charged his clients whatever amount struck him without regard to complexity or time spent and much of the time he collected up front.  It was a standing joke that the price could be $375.00 for one return and a similar return would be $65.00.  Since no time records were kept at that time it made no difference.

I will divert from Upleger for a minute to tell one of the stories Charlie [Hinson] told me.  Once Hinson traveled to Temple to do an audit.  In those days the 40 miles from Waco made it more convenient to just overnight in a Temple hotel—no motels in those days.  Mr. Hinson left his belongings in the hotel room and went to dinner.  When he returned, he found a note in his room that said “get out of town or else something bad will befall you”.  Mr. Hinson said he finished the job, left Temple and nothing ever came of it.

Which reminds me of a favorite Upleger story.  This, too, took place between Temple and Waco. Upleger always wore a fancy, expensive pocket watch.  Once he was in Temple and left the hotel room for dinner leaving his fine watch in the drawer.  When he returned his watch was gone. Later, he was returning to Waco and picked up a hitchhiker along the road.  As they were pleasantly talking, Mr. Upleger asked the hitchhiker what time it was.  The hitchhiker pulled out a pocket watch and told Upleger what time it was.  By golly, the hitchhiker had Upleger’s watch! Upleger demanded that the thief give back his watch. Under threat of severe punishment, the man gave Upleger his watch and was kicked out of the car in the middle of nowhere.  The rest of the trip home was joyful because he had his beloved watch back.  When he got home he unpacked his suitcase there was his watch–which was identical to the ”thief’s” watch.  Thus, the story of Mr. Upleger’s criminal history.

Upleger was a joy and a show to travel with.  He was always wanting to play a game—next one to see an Oklahoma license plate or a black cow, or a pony.

I always drove since he was a terrible driver.  He always drove big, fancy Buicks with the sides scraped up and dented in though the car was new.  We all laughed and joked that he really didn’t need a new car, but just a new “hull”.

Behind our office was a huge gas meter that stuck out and was dangerous but avoidable with care.  Mr. Upleger always parked next to the building closest to the meter.  One day Dawn bought a brand-new car that she really proud of.  I think it was her first new car.  She parked right next to Mr. Upleger and left the car all day.

When she left for the evening, she came back in screaming—someone had dented and scraped the entire side of her car.  The culprit had driven the great big Buick that was sharing paint with her new car.  I do not know how the matter was resolved since Mr. Upleger vehemently denied being the culprit though the evidence was plain to see.

Once he ran into the aforementioned gas meter and walked away without doing anything or telling anybody that gas was spewing from a 1-inch pipe.

He once ordered “Welsh Rarebit” in a Bryan hotel.  What is “Welsh Rarebit”?  I still don’t know.

Another funny while I think of it!  Joe Hendrix told me about he and another staff person auditing the Lott, Texas school district.  The tax collector was also the town grocer and the only place he had for the auditors to work was at the table where produce was prepared.  There were no chairs so two one-by-four boards laid across two apple crates served as their chairs.  Joe said it worked out ok after they realized that, if one stood up, both had to stand up simultaneously, in order to prevent their butts from being pinched!

Back to Mr. Upleger—–early each year Mr. Upleger and I made car trips down to Burkhead Manufacturing in Houston.  Usually, Mr. Upleger walked in and promptly asked for our check for the audit ($1,300) and was ready to go home.  He left me to do the work, except for one year when he stayed with me the two days it took to do the work.  After I completed the work, we (meaning I) drove us back to Waco.  Since Posh Oltorf, who owned Burkhead, lived outside Marlin, Mr. Upleger wanted to stop and visit with his old friend.  So, stop we did and were warmly greeted by his old friend.  Since Oltorf knew Mr. Upleger loved his bourbon, Oltorf scurried around and only could find vodka in his cabinet.  So, Charley twiddled his thumbs while they talked about the “good old days” while downing their vodka martinis.

They offered me some, but I declined since I had never in my life had even a swig of anything alcoholic.  True story—as far I knew everyone except me had at least tried beer—but not me.  To make a long story short and because I remember very little of the trip home—well, I guess that is the story because I only remember being very dizzy and yet driving to 35+ miles home.

In early February each year Upleger, Ed Graeter, and I made our annual trek down through Calvert, Hearne, and Bryan-College Station.  The two of them would drop me off at Jay Swingler Chevrolet in Calvert and go to Hearne where Ed would do the tax work on clients there.  Also, Ed picked up tax work from Hearne Ice Company.

After I finished work at Swingler I would somehow get to C. S. Allen Hardware in downtown Calvert.  What a fascinating store!  Old wide-paneled wood floors with a huge potbelly stove burning in the back of the store.  The shelves were lined with tools, hardware, and other stuff that had accumulated over the years.  There is no way to tell how old anything was because the store had been in business for at least 75 years.  Nothing had ever been discarded!  “Pony” Allen was always happy to see us and made our stay enjoyable.  When Ed and Mr. Upleger finished in Hearne they would come back to Calvert and pick me up.  Then the three of us would go to Bryan-College Station.  I would do the work at a department store while Ed worked on Hilshier funeral home and some feed and fertilizer company.  The feed and fertilizer factory was so antiquated that Ed often joked about the three guys using the shovels to mix 10-20-0 fertilizer. He wanted to be the guy with the third shovel!

OK—another diversion!

I can’t forget the assignment that seemingly would never end.  The water department of the city of Waco had no control account over accounts receivable, hence no way, except by accident, to discover defalcation of receipts.  You know what happened next.  Sure-enough, problems were discovered because many days’ receipts were larger than the deposit.  The detail of receipts for the day was determined by the total of the amounts taken from the stub ends of postcard bills.

Forget the details, but over a span of several weeks, we discovered shortages totaling in excess of the fidelity bond and then quit the project.

Now, I will go back to my story about the Upleger firm!  Are you ready?

Joe Hendrix was hired right out of Baylor in about May of 1958.  Joe was and is an excellent accountant.  He is the only person I’ve ever seen who could run an adding machine with his left hand while writing with his right hand! True story!

A little later Jim hired my old friend from the neighborhood, John Cawood.  John got his Baylor degree the hard way.  He already had a child or children before he graduated.  He was the bane of the night school professors since he was the class clown and often missed class.  Yet he always had great test grades.

One summer was the “great” Fairfield summer.  Fairfield was about 70 miles from Waco on the road from Dallas to Houston (now I-45), but at the time was a hilly two-lane dangerous road populated by many trucks that only cleared the hills with difficulty.  (Forget the previous sentence since we came from Waco and only had to cross that road at the edge of Fairfield—anyway, it was interesting to me!)

One spring day the County Auditor of Freestone County fell dead of a heart attack on the courthouse square in Fairfield.  He had $200 cash and county receipts of $198 in his pocket. Obviously, that caused some suspicion in the little town so we were called in to investigate.  As I recall, Jim and Joe Hendrix, Bob Vickery and I made the first trip to Fairfeld.