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Moving up to high society in America

Posted by John T. Reed on

Class warfare and envy

Marxists including the Democrats, are totally about class warfare and pandering to the envy and resentment lower class people feel toward towards the upper classes. 

Implicit in a class warfare business model is the assumption that you are born into your class and stuck there forever.

American social mobility

But the business model of America has long been that we do not have inherited classes. Your income, education, and associations determine the closest thing we have to a class in America. 

The poor shall be rich, and vice versa

Thomas Sowell often points out that the identities of “the rich” and “the poor” are fluid. The current rich are often the former poor and vice versa. In America, resenting “the rich” is a waste of time. The American Dream is to become one of them.

I am an example of that. So are a bunch of our wealthy friends. Upward mobility is alive and well in America. My father was born on a 500-acre subsistence farm in West Virginia given to an ancestor of his in lieu of pay for his service as a Revolutionary War officer. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school.

First high school grads in their families

My mom grew up in Philadelphia daughter of 1800s immigrants. Her father was a vehicle mechanic; her mother a housewife. My mom was the first in her family to graduate from high school. My dad wanted to own his own variety store. He did, but it failed. My mom wanted to be a housewife, but before that to be one of the women who wore white gloves to work in the city (secretary or retail clerk) as opposed to the women who worked in factories. She was successful at achieving that becoming a executive secretary.

Complicating my path was that my dad became a mean drunk, couldn’t hold a job, and forced my mom to become the bread winner.

Drunk, kept man

Nowadays, that would HELP me get into a top college. Back then it was a like-father-like-son secret to be kept from the admissions department. West Point had a father-son dinner for kids about to ge to West Point in Philly. I did not want to miss anything having to do with West Point so I went. I was embarrassed when they went around the table introducing ourselves and I was the only one at the father-son dinner without a father. I was asked if he had passed away ot been killed in one of the two then recent wars. “No,” I said quietly.

I went to West Point and got a bachelor’s degree and to Harvard for an MBA. 

Dining at the Pacific-Union Club on ‘Snob’ Hill

I was inspired to write about this because we recently had dinner with another couple at the Pacific-Union Club on Nob Hill in San Francisco. This is the former mansion of one of the five founding big shots of San Francisco: James Flood (silver). The other three who also had mansions on Nob Hill (jokingly known as Snob Hill) were Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Collins Huntington, and Mark Hopkins (all railroad money). On Nob Hill today, there is the Pacific-Union Club, the Crocker Mansion, the Stanford Court Hotel, the Huntington Hotel, and the Mark Hopkins Hotel. 

There is a similar club in in the metro area where I was born and raised, Philadelphia—the Union League. As I said in a prior post, my mom used to almost genuflect whenever we went past it, explaining to my brothers and me that was where the rich, high society people hung out. There was no thought that my brothers or I would ever set foot in such a place. You had to be born into that class, she assumed. And in the 1950s, there was still some truth to that legacy stuff.

So how did her oldest son manage to set foot there in 2018?

Reciprocal Clubs

First, I can stay at or eat at or just hang out at the Union League in Philly as a member of the San Francisco Marine Memorial Club. Private clubs like those around the world have reciprocal arrangements that allow each others members to use the other clubs when they are in that area. I have stayed at them in NYC, Boston, Chicago, Vancouver, Canada, London, Sydney, and Paris.

What did I have to do to be a member of the Marine Club? Get an honorable discharge from the U.S. military and pay $125 a year. (We are now life members as are our sons—that costs a lot more.) All of you readers of mine with an honorable discharge should become a member of the Marine club even if you are not in the San Francisco if only for the reciprocal clubs.

We canNOT go to the Pacific-Union Club as reciprocals because that only applies to when you are OUTSIDE OF THE SF AREA.

‘The League’

So we were there as guests of a couple my wife knows through the Symphony League of San Francisco—a charity group that is pretty high society. My wife has a title and job in that organization. She is now on the nominating committee to select the next presidential candidate. Basically, if you are a member and volunteer to perform some of the necessary work there, you become a board member and sit at one of the head tables at functions, etc. To become a member, I think you have to be recommended by a current member. Not quite inherited royalty.

I once went to meet her at one of their functions. There not going to let me in because I was not on the list of approved guests. I said, “Well check for my wife’s name. I’m here to meet her.” When I told them her name, they came to attention and said, “She MADE the list! Come right in.”

The couple who took us to the Pacific-Union Club are a Harvard College and Harvard MBA husband and his Radcliffe graduate wife. Radcliffe was the sister school to once all-male Harvard College. Radcliffe has since been subsumed into Harvard.
The couple themselves are members of the P-U Club. Not sure how much it costs, but if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. The husband has been a top executive and board member of multiple companies in the area for decades. He uses the club every week day for his workout and morning shower. 
I am not sure how humble their families were. A famous Congressman from the mid 20th century is a relative of the husband. In addition to knowing my my through the Symphony League, they are huge fans of my novel The Unelected President. When I was finishing the novel, I got to talk to George P. Shultz, one of two people who has held four cabinet positions. That was at a dinner party at the home of the couple who took us to the P-U Club for dinner. Shultz, a former marine is also a big wig at the Marine Club.
So is the Pacific-Union Club worth it? Well, the dinner we had was fabulous. It we could go there on out own, it would be one of our favorite restaurants in SF. It had the second best service we ever had after Jean-Georges in the Trump International Tower and Hotel at 1 Central West in Manhattan and just ahead of Tour d’Argent in Paris.
It has other facilities that we did not see or use. But our host uses it daily. I go to 24-Hour Fitness most days. It costs far less I am sure ($35 a month I think) than the P-U C and from what our host said, I think we have more machines at my club.
But there is another dimension to be affluent that some readers may not be aware of. The affluent judge expenditures by what percentage of their net worth it is. And with the affluent, the breath-taking-to-most membership cost is probably a fraction of one percent of their net worth. In other words, not an amount of money they need to think about. Is it nice to be a member of the P-U C? Absolutely. So they join. The amount is too small a percentage of their net worth to waste any time thinking about it.
I recently explained this net worth thought process when talking about how much I have been enjoying my new car—a Lexus LC 500—which is expensive. My wife and I did not need to do without something to buy it, se the price is therefore essentially irrelevant.
One FB friend said of it, “I don’t need to fancy car,” implying that I did NEED it, a psychiatric defect of some sort.” I LIKE it. I can afford it without forcing my wife or myself to give up something else to have it. That is why I got it. 
The accusation that it represents some character or psychiatric defect suggests that the speaker once tried an expensive car and preferred to do without it thereafter. More likely, he has never owned such a car thereby leaving him open to a charge of sour grapes.
Same goes for “not needing no fancy club.” Probably few people NEED such clubs. In some lines of work—like high finance or wealth management—you may actually NEED it. But for most members, it’s nice, they can afford it. Only buying things that are cost effective is a manifestation of a middle net worth situation and mindset.
People who do not move in these circles probably regard those who do as insufferably snobby aristocrats. Indeed, the wall of the men’s room at the P-U Club is covered with framed editorial cartoons making fun of the image of private clubs including the P-U Club. The Three Stooges Depression-era movie shorts were very fond of perpetuating and making fun of the rich, snobby, American high society crowd.
In fact, the “high society” of San Francisco are arguably the nicest people in the metro area. And if you acted like those people in the Three Stooges shorts, they would likely not let you join or expel you from the group. They are aware they need to make a good impression on society as a whole and especially that they must go against type to use a Hollywood phrase. Basically, they have nothing to prove and do not mention things like the P-U Club unless it comes up in the normal flow of a conversation.
And just getting in the door of places like the P-U Club is not enough. You have to feel like you belong there not like you are going to be thrown out at any second if you reveal you are not one of the chosen few. I have scenes about that in my novel The Unelected President where Mike Medlock and his family express concern about someone walking into the Oval Office and being angrily thrown out.
I had the feeling when I first entered West Point. “What it little old me doing here?” But it goes away. Ditto to a far lesser extent when I entered Harvard. The most salient time we had that was when we went to arguably the world’s greatest restaurant—Tour d’Argent in Paris on our honeymoon. It was the restaurant featured in the Pixar movie Ratatouille. We had previously been intimidated by fancy restaurants in the US. After the honeymoon, at even the fanciest U.S. restaurant, we would joke to each other, “It’s nice, but it’s not Tour d’Argent.”
How could I, a mere commoner, feel comfortable sitting the fire in the club room at P-U Club waiting for our hosts? I had previously sat in the private clubs at West Point, Harvard, the Plaza Hotel in NYC, private elite clubs in NYC, Boston, Chicago, London, Paris, Sydney,Vancouver, the other private clubs in San Francisco. Hell, they guys who would keep you commoners out are working off a list that my wife MADE.
So is it a knock on America that it took my family so long to move from high school grad VFW member parents to supping at places like the P-U Club? Well, my parents could have done it themselves. My dad’s teachers urged him to go to college. He rejected it out of hand. The Army also encouraged him to go to OCS, with the same result.
Oookay, but that kept him out of this world we now live in. He was just ignorant. He never knew any such people as my wife and I now are. He had no idea this existed other than as some distant, unachievable world. He had a lifelong inferiority complex about growing up on a farm and being a country boy. He took great pride from Eisenhower, another farm boy, becoming president of the U.S.
My mom’s dad wanted her to quit Catholic high school and go to work during the Depression to help the family financially. Her mom saved her from that. She had no urgings to go to college from teachers that I know of, but she could have graduated from college back then if she had decided to do it. But like me dad, she knew no one who went to college. It would have been like going to Mars.
She finally worked with college people—naval architects and engineers at the New York Shipbuilding Corp. In Camden, NJ during World War II and they impressed the hell out of her. And through all my childhood, she extolled the virtues of college and engineers and insisted that I be a college man.
In short, my parents could have made the leap to the crowd that my wife and I are now in, but they were too ignorant of it to try.
The SAT is part of the change in social mobility in the US. Harvard, etc. used to be legacy and white gentile and all that. But the SAT made intelligence and academic success the main criterion for top colleges, not who your parents were. Simultaneously, legacies, racism, religious discrimination, and poor people discrimination fell out of favor, which helped me.
I have lots of West Point and Harvard friends who have the same story as I roughly speaking.
I tell you all this to: 
1. Counteract the Democrats’ efforts to turn America into Karl Marx’s 19th century class-based Britain.
2. Show you what’s possible in America today.
3. Show you the specific, surprisingly doable paths that give you access to these seemingly forbidden places in America.
4. Explain the actual mindset of “high society and affluent” America as opposed to the nutty image of it depicted in those Three Stooges shorts and the framed cartoons in the P-U Club men’s room.
If you want better for yourself and your family, climb up to it. This is America.

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