SOLOMON, JAKE

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JAKE SOLOMON

Jake Solomon was born in Orange, New Jersey on November 30, 1935. His father was a buyer for Bamberger’s in Newark, NJ, a division of Macy’s. His mom was his father’s secretary, so they apparently had a good relationship .Jake came along 2 years after they were married. As this was the end of the Depression, his family did not have much money. Somehow, Jake’s parents were able to buy a house in Maplewood at the South Orange city limits.

Jake was an only child until 1943 when his younger sister was born. There was so much difference in their ages that he doesn’t remember interacting with her very much.

This bucolic relationship was not to last very long. His father passed away in 1946 from a brain tumor. That changed their lives. Jake’s mother returned to the work force, and worked for four years. Unbeknownst to him, she reconnected with an old friend from Bambergers. He was the sporting goods buyer there. His mother decided to remarry, moving the family to Wilmington, North Carolina.

This was a stressful time for Jake, as he completed seventh grade in New Jersey and left all of his friends behind. In North Carolina, entering 8th grade with no friends or acquaintances , he was mostly a loner. The situation changed a bit the following year when he entered high school and met three other loners, and they formed their own tightly knit group.

Jake entered University of North Carolina in 1953, majoring in pre-med. That did not last too long because his grades were never good enough to get into med school and he really could not stand the sight of blood. So he changed his major to business administration. He really enjoyed this period, particularly the sports program. During his senior year, 1956-1957, the basketball team went undefeated. It beat Michigan State and Kansas with Wilt Chamberlin, in triple overtime 2 nights in a row for the national title. Jake also joined Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, where he met a really great bunch of guys, some of whom he still remains close to. It was the first time he actually joined an organization.

Following graduation in 1957, Jake was re-classified 1-A in the draft. Not wanting to take his chances with that, he applied for Navy Officer candidate school. He was accepted and reported to Newport, RI in April 1958. He was commissioned in August 1958 and ordered to Navy Supply Corps School in Athens, GA. This was a 6 month course. At that time, duty assignments were made based on class standing. He chose duty on a supply ship, USS Zelima, home ported in Alameda. This was a most enjoyable duty; the ship was a converted liberty and its mission was to transport food to other ships –its motto was “Feeding the Fleet”. On board over the course of 2 1/2 years, he held every position in the supply department, except cargo officer.It was while he was stationed on the Zelima, that one of the other officers talked him into going on a blind date. Reluctantly, he agreed to go and met a most wonderful woman, Karin Lazar. At the time she was a senior at UC Berkeley. And they married 2 years later but not before he left active duty and entered the Naval Reserve. Jake had accepted a position with Davidson’s, a Macy division in Atlanta, seemingly following in his parents’ footsteps. He became buyer of boys’ wear about the time they got married in 1962, at which time he moved his bride to Atlanta. She worked for CDC, the communicable disease center as a researcher.

Although married life was great, professional life was not so much so. Jake realized that to get ahead in retailing, one had to leave one store and be hired somewhere else. There was no transfer of seniority or benefits. So after much discussion, he returned to active duty in 1964. They really wanted to get back to the West coast, and the Navy obliged by sending him to San Diego to run the commissary store there. At the time this was the largest grocery store in the world in dollar sales. Jake was stuck in the commissary store system, and subsequently ordered to run the stores in Adak, AK and Charleston, SC. Now it was 1968 and they wanted to return to the West coast. The Navy was guaranteeing next duty station for people who volunteered for duty in Viet Nam. This was one of the hardest decisions he had to make; he knew that there would be long-range implications for the family. But they decided that he would volunteer to go to ‘Nam.

While his wife and young sons (they had 2 by then) stayed in San Anselmo with her parents (she got the worst of the deal), Jake became the Supply Officer of a repair ship, USS Tutuila, in country. Their mission during the first half of his tour was to repair the gun boats that went up rivers in Viet Nam and Cambodia. During the latter half of his tour there, they were converting Vietnamese navy landing craft to “monitors” – essentially shallow draft gun boats.

Following his Viet Nam experience, the Navy upheld its part of the bargain. He received orders to Naval Supply Center, Oakland. They found a great house in San Rafael which they were smart enough to purchase. Jake has now lived in this house for 45 years. He finished out his career as Supply Officer for the Naval Schools Command that was located at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. He retired from the Navy with 20 years’ service.

One of Jake’s neighbors asked him to assist the company that he worked for. Jake did, first part time then full-time. Jake handled all the financial aspects of this small company – Granco Pump Co. It was owned by a Louisiana family. The general manager and Jake saved it twice from financial failure – probably a big mistake. It should have failed. But it was a challenge. He left this firm in 2000. He has been retired since.

Life changed totally in 2007 when Karin was diagnosed with cancer. She was treated for 3 ½ years, before she passed away from the disease in 2011. It was because of her dying that Jake was very receptive to joining SIR.

Glen Ohm invited him to a luncheon in January 2012, and he was very ready to be a part of Branch 47. He considers this one of his best decisions. When he joined, he never expected to be an officer in the branch. But he was on the executive board in 2014, Little Sir in 2015 and Big Sir in 2016. For Jake, the members of Branch 47 are his extended family, and he considers many of the members among his best friends. He has been active in branch 47, attending as many outings and activities as he can. This is where “the action” is in SIR. He is hiking Chairman for Branch 47, and recently joined one of Branch 47’s two bowling teams.