Friday, October 16, 2009

Tom (The Bear) Taylor

Tom (The Bear) Taylor

October 22, 2009

Tom (TheBear) Taylor

In September 1964, he was a transfer student at Marist College from two semesters at The University of Connecticut.

I was a transfer student to Marist with one semester from Belmont Abbey College, North Carolina. Nice place, Belmont, but North Carolina in 1963 tried to kill me. Really.

I was crossing the bridge over I-85 one fine day, my freshman beanie folded in my belt (I read the rules; no where did it say we had to wear the beanies on our heads), when a late ‘40’s or early ‘50’s Pontiac came ‘round the cloverleaf and pulled parallel to me, on the railroad bridge over the Interstate.

A young man got out, yelled, “Hey, yank!” and fired one, maybe two shots—the one, given that nobody was available but me, was sufficient—and catapulted me into a flat-out run back to Belmont Abbey.

An English Benedictine brother listened to my breathless tale and asked me if I had taken down the car’s license plate number. I stopped breathing and looked at him. He shrugged and said, “Son, do you how many cars they got around here look exactly like that?”

At Poughkeepsie, we transfer students wound up together in the luggage rooms of Leo Hall, which we called, “The Pit.” I think he and I, apparent opposites, shared the same sense of humor.

His name was—is— Tom Taylor. “The Bear.”

He was from Bethel, Conn. (the approved abbreviation in those days). He had gone to UCONN on a football scholarship, pledged for TKE, and quit in disgust over the Animal House atmosphere, when Animal House wasn’t even a script, yet.

We were both 18 years old, days apart in fact. We both took 18 credits a semester and picked up required courses at schools closer to home in the summer, I, so I could graduate with my class; he, so he could graduate a year ahead of time and get busy.

In 1966, he and his close friend, Bobby Finn, and several other business major/football enthusiasts, founded the Marist College Football Club as a private company.
They got permission to use Marist’s name. They hired a coach, Larry Levine, and played in a small league of all-new football clubs that included St. John’s University (which had dropped football as a school sport years before, after a player died on-field), St. Peter’s, Manhattan College, Iona, Sienna, and Seton Hall University.

I was Marist’s equipment manager. I shudder to recall that I actually issued a high school football helmet (painted by a local auto painter and purloined along with much other equipment from a defunct, Mid-Hudson, Catholic High School) to protect the likes of the head of Mike Botty, a returned USMC Vietnam veteran with two steel plates inside his otherwise unprotected head, which, being a Marine, he used as a weapon.

Botty’s head survived. I think Botty is now—if he hasn’t retired—the PR guy for the NY area U.S. Postal Service.

After 1966, Finn and Taylor bought a Poughkeepsie nightclub called Willie’s and did extraordinarily well with it. I joined John Casserly and his friends in befriending a group there called, “The Pigeons,” who were coming out with a recording, but not under the name, “The Pigeons,” but under a stupid name, a crackpot name, a no-count, forgettable name, from which I tried desperately to dissuade them: “Vanilla Fudge.”

Finn also started his insurance business, which has served him well, too.

Taylor went to work for Modern Printing, in Norwalk, which was owned by his father and two partners. Tom had worked summers there since elementary school in every capacity.

When he started with Modern, 85 per cent of the company’s business was printing the mail-order texts for a company called Famous Artists/Famous Writers Schools. Tom immediately went to work diversifying the business, buying new, “web,” presses and selling contracts to the likes of the Hilton Chain and other big companies that had begun to rely heavily on direct marketing (junk mail).

When, “Famous,” went bankrupt, five or six (or eleven, who knows) years later, their printing needs comprised only 15 per cent of Modern’s business. Tom had saved the company.

Eventually, he bought out all three partners. Also eventually, every time you or I opened a Newsweek or a Time Magazine and cursed at the postcards that fell into your lap, Modern had printed them.

Tom hired a president for the company, (which he sold a decade later) and started an industrial-commercial-MR residential development business that now puts him in the position of owning industrial parks, condominiums and...well, he told me at the last President’s gala that he’d sold off his construction company.

(Yeah. Me, too. I got rid of my construction company.).

In his spare time, Tom also beat Las Vegas at blackjack, I mean, beat ‘em, and wrote an $88 per copy book about how to do it, and quit. He also beat alcoholism, I think before the 1970’s had ended.

And he also did what I said he would do. From the age of 18, he wanted to be rich, and a high school football coach.

(Impossible. I know, I know. You think I don’t I know this.).

Since they were mutually exclusive goals, he first got rich, then handed himself over for $1 a year to a local high school, and coached them from the very bottom of the state rankings to state champions, at least twice.

Then, he moved over to the small, private Canterbury School, where he and Alice (high school sweethearts, married over 40 years, now) built a house they live in on campus.

By that time, Tom taught a few courses on business and the Vietnam War, and maybe one or two other subjects, and brought that school’s football team from statistical nonexistence—I mean, non-existence—to, first, Connecticut State Champions, then, the All New England championship.

The opponent coach for that final All-N.E. game made the mistake of answering a TV reporter’s on-air question about how he thought the game would go. He said, “Well, all I can say is, this is a long way to drive for a trophy.”


I’m meeting him at end of this month at Marist, where he’s now in his first (or second—(I misplaced a year; can’t find it.) year coaching and recruiting and teaching and inspiring kids, and I hear they’re considering making a big deal of me, because I can talk through a stroke.

Hell, I wrote one of Tom’s lit. papers.

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