A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 129: Trouble: Our Middle Name

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When Joe found out we wanted to sell, he came right over and liked very much what he saw. Yep, this was exactly what he was looking for: a nice repair shop, used car lot, a little store and a house to live in. He said he did not have any money, but he would trade his house in on the business as a down payment. We got hold of an honest real estate man and asked him to appraise the house. He checked everything and estimated the value at $10,500. Our place at Port Robinson Road was worth $18.000, we told Joe. He agreed to that. It would not have made any difference to him anyhow, even if we had told him twice that amount.

To get everything legalized, we engaged Bill Swayze, an up and coming young ambitious lawyer, who just started off on his own. He also knew the reputation of Joe, so he suggested to make the mortgage papers so that Joe would have to pay monthly. This way, if he missed a couple of months we could start eviction proceedings immediately. Let him make the payments to our office so I could keep track of it first hand. "Oke Bill, it sounds very good. We'll go for it. Right, Ma?" "Yes, I agree."

So it came to pass. Joe and family moved in May 1962 to the east side of Welland, and our family went to 173 St. George Street in Welland South.

My, what a change. Here we had running water, as much as we would ever need, a basement with central heating and an upstairs with four rooms. Now Ma could spend most of her time tending to the young family and do most of the paper work for the business. Another beautiful advantage here, the school was just a hop and a skip away, the children did not even have to go on the road, and the church was only a couple of hundred meters down St. Augustine. Yeah, our house was in a holy neighborhood on the corner of St. George and St. Augustine. Also residing on St.George were three policemen: Sid Smith, Stanley and the other, I forgot his name. I think it was a nice place all around. Kids could play in the school yard or look for adventure in the bush at the end of the street.

Billy was the proud owner of a motorized car, which I had made out of a trade-in on a new lawn mower. This machine was self propelled, thus wide open was about walking speed. For safety sake, I had it set up so that they had to sit in the contraption, step on a pedal and keep it down to make it go. It sure was the envy of the neighbour kids. All they had were little carts they had to pull themselves. In a way I guess they were happy to have a vehicle like that around, now they could hitch up their wagons to Billy's machine.

One time I counted seven wagons tied behind in a row, most had a kid in them too. Yes, life was great. So why did I give this chapter the above title if everything was so great? Well, for about three years, until the spring of 1965, all was fine at Port Robinson Road, or so it seemed. Joe made his monthly payments. He sold gasoline and a few old cars.

Then one Saturday morning, we got a phone call from Cecil Gardner who lived across the street. He asked if something was wrong at our old place because he did not see any movement and this was around noon. No, we didn't know, but we would come over right away.

When we arrived, the front door was locked, but the back door to the house was open. Well what did you know? Everything was gone, the whole kit and kaboodle.

Anita Raymond, who worked at the hospital, came home at midnight and had seen a moving van in front of the store, but had thought nothing of it. While we were there, the telephone rang. I said hello. The caller wanted to know when Joe was gonna put his fender on. Apparently, this man needed a front fender for his Pontiac, and he paid Joe $75 so that Joe could get one for him. He had already been waiting several weeks. I said, "I feel sorry for you, but I am afraid you have been had. Joe disappeared, and with him, your fender. You may not be the only one who got duped."

Monday morning, I went immediately to Bill Swayze's office to find out if Joe was behind in his payment. The office was closed. Now what? From the neighbors, I found out that Swayze the lawyer was gone. He had cleared out his trust account including the last few payments Joe had made.

We talked to Goodman, our new lawyer. He knew all about Bill Swayze. It seemed Swayze had quite a sum of money in his trust account - about $200,000 - which disappeared with him. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but as far as I know, he is still running. We lost about $400.

Don't worry about your money, Goodman said, "If he is not captured, the bar association will make up for it. Give me all the documents related to the transactions and we will straighten it out." "Oke, here you go. Will it take long?" "It takes a while to get the place back into your name because it has to go through the court unless you can get Joe P. to sign off." Ha, fat chance. The BA oil company had a reward out for anyone who could find his whereabouts. Oh well, then we waited.

Many stories went around but none of them were very nice. One of them was very interesting in seeing how a criminal's mind worked.

George was a very good customer of ours. He worked at Atlas Steels. Every night after work, he stopped in at the Temple Club, had a few good strong ones, whisky that is, then stopped in at our place. He drove a big Oldsmobile with coil springs all around but no shocks. When he came to a stop in front of our store, the car bounced up and down for quiet a while. George sat in there and enjoyed it tremendously until it stopped.

When Joe P. moved in, he became real buddies with George. They both liked the same fluid entertainment. It seemed Joe talked George into buying a new car - a used car that is. Joe said he could get him a very nice car for a good price, but it had to be cash money.

So George went to the Atlas Credit Union and drew the cash out and gave it to Joe. Joe got the car and with it the necessary papers to sign. George signed and got the car. Some weeks after Joe was gone, George got a call from the finance company. They told him he was overdue with his payment. "What do you mean," George said, "I paid cash for that car." "Not according to our records. We have the I.O.U. note duly signed by you." I hate to think of what George thought of his old friend.

Now we also found that Joe had two more mortgages on the place. Yes, it was hard to believe anyone would put their money in a second and third mortgage on this place. The lure of high interest got them sucked in, probably. I talked to one person who had some of his money in the third mortgage and he admitted he got hooked.

Since we couldn't sell the property, we might as will rent it out. We found a fellow who had a Sunoco station on King Street and would like to move in. He had a highway tractor on the road as a broker. He paid the first month's rent and when there was no money for the second, he realized it was better to move, after I told him in no uncertain language how important it was to pay his bills.

A short time later, Carl Electric stopped in to enquire about the property. He said he was interested in buying it. I explained the predicament we were in for not having the deed. He did not think this would be a problem, if we could come to an agreement and get the details worked out. He was willing to sign the papers and pay when the deed came through. Ma and I talked this over and came to the conclusion that we would not be able to do much better. He seemed to be a dependable fellow with a good business going. If we got the proper papers made up by Goodman, the lawyer, and Carl signed it, we couldn't go wrong. We didn't get no money now, but at least the place was occupied and would be looked after.

Then the same year, in December 1965, the federal government froze every transaction which was going on at this date. Stop all deals: buying, renting or selling which were going on along an eight mile strip east of Welland. The government was routing the Welland Canal east around the city and needed the land. Ours was included.

The way it worked, the government would appraise the real estate at the going price, then pay an extra 10% for the inconvenience of taking it away. If you did not agree, you could get your own appraiser and come together with the officials to make a deal. It did not take time for us to make up our mind about the price, it was more than we had sold the place for.

However, another surprise awaited us. The taxes on the property had not been paid by Joe for the last three years. We should have known. Before this was all settled, Carl Electric was in the place for a year. Since we could not sell it to him any more, we figured he owed us rent for the use of it. He did not agree to that. Back to the lawyer where Carl argued that he had put so much money into the place to fix it up and built the garage to his special specifications, it would pay for the use he had for this year. We did not pursue it any further. End of this adventure and our first experience in business for ourselves in our adopted country. Ha.


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