1926: John Whitacre Jr is Born

In 1920, the Volstead Act made Prohibition the law of the land. The Whitacres were ‘wets,’ except JJ’s wife, Cora, who was a ‘dry.’ Some time and energy were spent in the 1920s to provide beer and liquor for the family group. I was born May 22, 1926.

JJ customarily spent the winter in Miami. He had become increasingly deaf, which was a great frustration, as he was unable to participate in the political process to the extent he would have liked. In the words of his son-in-law Art Estep, JJ didn’t start to ‘enjoy life’ until Art introduced him to the pleasures of golf in the morning and the racetrack in the afternoon in Florida. JJ was interested in the horses and came up with some can’t-miss betting schemes that in practice did miss. One year they were successful, when Art subsidized a ‘timer’ who would go to the track at 5 a.m. and time the horses working out. Several days later when the horses ran, the betting was successful enough to finance a week’s stay at The Greenbrier on the trip home.

The prosperous economic times of the 1920s brought on a shortage of railroad cars. Whitacre-Greer felt the the location of its factories on the Tuscarawas branch disadvantaged WG in obtaining cars, as it was more difficult and expensive for the Pennsylvania Railroad to service the branch, compared with factories located on the mainlines. We hired an investigator whose sole work for the year was to report car deliveries weekly to our factories versus factories on the mainlines going through Alliance and Dover. With this persuasive data, we filed a complaint with the Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulated railroads. The ICC issued a ‘cease and desist’ order against the Pennsylvania Railroad, ensuring our factories received a fair share of the available cars. When we get to the chapter on the 1950s, we will see how this order again helped the company.

JJ observed the start of the great Florida building boom of the 1920s and saw an opportunity for extensive sales of fireproofing. When he returned to Ohio, he leased many factories to make fireproofing, booked orders, and made and shipped tile by the railroad. Before long, customers complained that tile were not being delivered. A check with the railroad revealed 150 boxcars of fireproofing tile backed up in Cincinnati, with no possible way of getting the cars to Florida in a timely manner with existing facilities. The problem was unsolvable in the short term, so the ventured ended with Whitacre-Greer buying back the leases on the plants it had leased.