During my childhood, and while I was teaching at Walden School, my favorite uncle was Paul, a sophisticated man of many interests. He and I shared several tastes—photography, woodworking, and raising purebred dogs; he was also assembling very fine collections of African and Peruvian art, almost unheard of in America in the 1940s. Paul’s photographs were artworks themselves; several were used in major product advertising campaigns. Paul did things to a fare-thee-well, getting deeply involved in every subject he touched, for instance becoming an expert in the cultures whose art he collected. He was also extremely progressive in his politics, as my mother and I were.
My mother came by her sympathies naturally. She and all of her close Chicago friends leaned to the left in political terms. My mother and Ruth Tishman, Paul’s wife, also quite liberal in politics, were the antithesis of the other women in the Tishman clan in that and in many other ways; my mother’s and Ruth’s interests, values, and sets of friends set them dramatically apart from those of the other Tishman women.
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After I’d been teaching for two years, Uncle David suggested to me that I come into the Tishman Realty & Construction firm, as all my male cousins were doing. real estate firm, I’d be joining my favorite uncle, Paul, although he said nothing to me one way or another about joining the family firm, for reasons that I would soon discover. 1947, I believe my uncles had two reasons for bringing me in. The first was the family culture; all Tishman males were expected to become part of the company. The exception was my older brother; he had graduated Johns Hopkins, but his physical and mental difficulties kept him from full-time employment. Their second reason was that perhaps my engineering background would be of assistance to them in construction. After a long period of Depression and war, the real estate business was finally booming again, and Tishman Realty had many projects waiting to be built, owned, and managed.
As soon as I joined the family firm, I discovered that Paul, my favorite uncle, was no longer on the premises. I was told that he was on medical leave but was expected back at some unspecified time. I later learned that he had taken a leave to undergo psychoanalysis— something in which he believed, although his brothers did not—and to re-evaluate his future course in life. The combination would soon cause him to resign from the family firm and to begin his own general contracting firm. To state it simply: Paul liked construction but had decided that he could no longer work well with his oldest and youngest brothers, David and Norman—and so he had gone out on his own.
When I joined the family firm, there were seven other Tishmans on the roster: my uncles David, Norman, and Alex; David’s sons Bob and Alan; and Alex’s sons Edward and Bill. Later, Norman’s son Peter joined, which made nine Tishmans. As if that was not complicated enough, David and Norman were married to sisters. 1948, David became chairman of the board and Norman became president of the firm. It was presumed that after Norman retired—some-thing not expected to happen anytime soon—the leader would be the oldest of the cousins, David’s oldest son, Bob, who was a decade older than me. My youngest cousin, Peter, was a decade younger than I was and twenty years younger than Bob.
Tishman Realty was organized more or less in three parts. When I joined, David, Norman, and Bob handled the acquisition of properties, financing, and the like—what today we’d call real estate development. Norman was also involved, with my cousin Alan, in the leasing and management of the Tishman-owned properties; it was understood that when Norman became the overall boss, Alan would completely take over leasing and management.