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Dan Ellis -- Computers
Electronic Business Services
A computer salesman had caught the ear of Congressman Long as well as my political associate, an attorney in the Young Democrats. Gillis Long lost his election but immediately started his reelection run for Congress and needed continued support. We promoted the idea for a computer business to Gillis Long. Earlier, they brought the idea to me since I was an unemployed school teacher, but with proven managerial skills. Gillis put up $2000 as seed money and Electronic Business Services, Inc. was formed.
We rented office space in the International Trade Mart and I was Manager. I knew absolutely nothing about computers, accounting, or selling, but I did have knowledgeable contacts in the municipalities and department heads of governments in the Greater New Orleans Area. I accompanied the salesman to make sale openings. All that most people were aware of at that time was IBM IBM IBM.
Once we landed some contracts, I was introduced to a guy who was a Programmer. I had no idea what a programmer was and after two weeks I asked, "what was expected of a programmer since the guy did nothing all day long." The salesman then stated, "He can't do anything without a computer. We need a computer!"
Lo and behold I found myself on a flight to Arizona in mid August. And lo and behold I signed a contract for a General Electric computer. For the first time in my life I encountered a maze of boxes hung together that were called a computer.
When the computer arrived, I had it installed at 100A Jefferson Hwy.
That site had gone un-rented for a number of years. The large open area had only one room in it with a large steel plated door that was 5 inches thick. When negotiating the lease for the place, I dealt with three brothers named O'Dwyer who were operating a bowling alley named O'Dwyer's.
For background, their older brother, George O'Dwyer had originally opened a swank gambling casino and operated it under the name O'Dwyer's. It opened in 1949 and closed in 1951 along with many other establishments in surrounding Parishes to New Orleans. During its heyday, O'Dwyer's offered dice, roulette, slot machines, and other games of chance. When raided by the Sheriff's deputies for operating illegal games in a private home, George suffered a fatal heart attack.
I can't recall what caused me to select O'Dwyer's, but the place was large and the rent was reasonable. The air-conditioning unit was huge and could put out a lot of fridge which the large computer components needed in the 60s and 70s.
More decisions were imposed upon me a former teacher, somewhat skilled in politics, but never having operated a business of consequence and never really understanding the nature of the business that we were engaged in, or the complexities of computers. We had already signed some contracts with two municipal cities to do their tax rolls. I was quite handicapped with the lack of knowledge about computers, programming, and accounting and had to rely on the salesman.
When it came time to alter the building space that we had rented, I employed my brother, Augie, who at the time was working offshore on the oil rigs. His primary schedule entailed two weeks on and two weeks off giving him some freedoms to do some carpentry work. Ever since Augie was a kid, he always stuck by me to do odds and ends so it was natural for me to engage him to create the Keypunch room with work stations and electrical outlets along the four walls.
The four or five Keypunch operators became accustomed to him and his work as he appeared in tattered work clothes. He was always a very friendly guy and charmed people quickly. Regardless, it was a big surprise to everyone except Jenny when I announced that Augie was taking the position of Supervisor of Operations in charge of the keypunch department and also was to be the Computer Operator. He was eager to learn and this he did with the help of the programmers in his taking over the Computer. To relate to the task, the computer room was 15 feet by 35 feet filled with equipment that was large and appeared much like square boxes. That was the computer of the 1960s my mother said that it looked like rows of washing machines. As we took on more accounts, end of month runs were usually performed through the nights.
When I was faced with the salesman spending too much money on what he called promotions in addition to membership in country clubs at the expense of the new company, it came time to break ranks – and then I also became the salesman.
With the meeting of various people in and out of politics, a string of businesses unfolded, each larger than the previous with more attributes and more and more partners and employees. At first, Jenny was my personal secretary and as each business grew and merged into the next, Jenny became an integral part. I encumbered her with more and more duties and she accepted every charge. I was the president of multiple companies, each with different partners but all complimenting each other in the growing computer industry that was taking place nationally in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Our performance in the beginning was providing services to small and large businesses with our large in-house computer. Most services rendered were of an accounting nature including payrolls, inventories, billing and monthly statements, etc.
In time, because of my educational background, we started a series of computer schools that extended to multiple cities and southern states. We later started selling computers and customized programs to large and small businesses throughout the New Orleans area.
Work Hard Play Hard
Our early businesses were located in different buildings downtown. We moved when growth made it necessary. Our business was almost a 24 hour performance. Many times I slept over at the office in keeping projects moving.
I retained membership at the New Orleans Athletic Club which provided many downtown conveniences. Our salesmen or key personnel were called upon to entertain out of town clients or prospects by treating them to dinner and a tour of the French Quarter night clubs. We would often wander in to the NOAC, through its back door at four or five in the morning and flop out on cots awaiting the staff members to open for the day. This was a Members Only club with guests permitted. I was always happy to treat male employees or out of town guests to the following amenities.
Pick up a couple of towels, get a locker to put clothes in, wrap a towel around my waist and head for the steam rooms 15 minutes in the wet heat and 15 minutes in the dry heat then head to the scrub room where one of the attendants would place me against a marble wall and turn on the fire hose full blast yelling, "Hold your balls!"
Then escorted to a cell booth with a long high table where I would get up and lay flat on my back. The attendant, Black or Mulatto, would cover my body with a sheet and soap me down while spraying water all over my torso as he would scrub me down then flip me on my backside and do the same routine. This would last about 20 minutes and then he would lead me to a large room with cots and dim lights and place me on a cot with mattress and ask if I wanted my Rub at that point or later. I would usually ask for a sunlamp placed on me and to have my massage after 15 minutes. The Attendant would then start the massage on arms, legs, stomach, and back using creams and alcohol in his rubbing. Then he would powder my body completely and wrap me in a sheet like a cocoon and let me sleep for an hour or two. He would wake me at whatever hour I requested and have a Bloody Mary waiting me.
I then would go to the lockers to put on my clothes and find my shoes polished and waiting. Then breakfast in the club room and off to the office about five or six blocks in walking distance.
Boxes and Boxes
Our earlier businesses were mostly intent on computers. The first computers were quite large and were made larger by inserting memory racks into open slots or by additional boxes added on. The major components that made a computer were the processor, the memory, the storage, and the printer. Each one being a box and if you wanted a larger computer, new memory boxes and new storage boxes were added.
As years passed, some of the components got smaller and eventually reached a point when the processor, the memory, the storage, and the printer were integrated into one box. Therefore, being in the computer business in the early days was quite costly. To stay ahead, one needed to have the most current computer models, which meant retraining programmers and operators and finding new quarters.
We finally settled down in 1978 by rendering a lease purchase of a fine two story building at 3225 Danny Park. We were able to use most of the space for the multiple companies operated. The largest space was required for the classrooms that were placed on the second floor. The school also wound up being the biggest money maker that allowed Jenny and myself many 2-3day vacations to Florida and Mexico in addition to purchasing the large Mexican Villa. The new building also gave Jenny and I separate quarters to work from so that we were not constantly underfoot of the other. When she was my secretary, togetherness was fine, but once she started heading up the school she had her own set of employees. My job pertaining to the school, continued to be curriculum development and teacher selection as far as the school was concerned and I could easily conduct those considerations from my office downstairs. My job was still overall marketing and supervising over all the computer related businesses.
Some of the businesses, particularly the earliest ones were started by ending the previous organization and bringing on new partners. Others were started as multiple corporations with different individuals as partners. Some were operating in multiple cities. And others were short term experimental corporations to see how far they would fly.
Changes in Technology
As computer technology changed, we changed with it all the way to the end when services and products by local firms couldn't continue to compete with the larger firms that were able to expand into regional or national areas even though they were creating large debts in doing so eventually most of them going bankrupt while harming all the locals.
Nearing our end in the computer business, we rented computers to conventions and closed all the schools except the one in New Orleans. I put Jenny in control of that and with my supervision it became quite profitable. Money poured in affording us larger houses, more trips, and more expenses. We reached a point, nearly 20 years down the road, where Jenny was working all day and night which slowly reduced my presence other than for day hours.
Businesses operated Name Location Dates
Electronic Business Services Inc 9/7/63 Int'l Trade Mart 1963 - 1966
Electronic Data Processing, Inc - 12/30/63 100a Jeff Hwy 3/66
EDPI 8/25/67 Maritime Building 800 Common St 6th Floor
Electronic Data Processing of NO 5/12/66 325 St Charles 8th Floor - 5/12/66
Computer Systems Programming 1/02/67 325 St Charles 8th Floor
Interstate Computing Inc. 1/31/73 325 St Charles 8th Floor
Interstate Computing Inc. 348 Baronne Street
Interstate Computing Inc. Executive House Bldg 344 Camp
Interstate Computing Inc. Plaza Tower Bldg
Computer Products, Inc. 5/ 2/72 - 5-9-77 Executive House Bldg 344 Camp
Professional Educators, Inc. 5/30/73
Exclusive Schools, Inc. 6/11/73
Diablo Data Systems, Inc. 1/ 5/77 to 1980
Compunetics, Inc. 5/9/77
Computer Products Int'l, Inc 8-28-81 Ingram Bldg Veterans Mem. Hwy
Computer Library, Inc. 1981 3225 Danny Park Bldg
Dirty Book/Bourbon Street Press 6/1/81
AAA Computer Rentals 1979
Computer Services Corp 3/27/80
Computer Shoppe, Inc. 1977 Cleary Ave, and later at Ingram Bldg
Health Network, Inc 1982 3225 Danny Park Bldg
We had our ups and downs with the changes of economy, but the most rewarding financially was Computer Library which Jenny and I co-owned and operated. After having so many weak and untrustworthy sales personnel, I placed Jenny in charge of sales. She was already my secretary and in charge of accounting, having succeeded after having a series of bad in house accountants, in addition, she was also in charge of the keypunch department Whatever her role, she proved up to the task. Jenny had proved to excel in any job put in her charge!
In her sales capacity, she purchased a large brass bell which she had hung just outside her office door way. On the completion of a sale that paid cash, check, or credit card she would ring the bell three times often even before the new student exited the building.
She was "Outrageous!"
The Dirty Book – A failed business of 1981
In seeking a new source of revenue based on the computer industry, I became the first to publish computer porn called the "Dirty Book." Before its failure, the book was getting national attention even being written up in Playboy and Hustler magazines. However, it was Playboy publications that caused my book's demise by refusing to continue running my ads that were costing me $800 a month for nearly a year. I put out three quarterly issues before calling it quits. On a scale of 1 to 10 the content could hardly be called naughty. Even my advertisements were not naughty as displayed above.