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Interview with Franklin Block, April 5, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Franklin Block, April 5, 2007
April 5, 2007
Interview with Franklin Block, native Wilmingtonian and son of notable local figures Charles and Hannah Block. Mr. Block is an attorney, former state senator, and onetime chairman of UNCW's Board of Trustees.
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Interviewee: Block, Franklin L. Interviewer: Jones, Carroll / Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 4/5/2007 Series: SENC Notables Length 150 minutes

Jones: Today is April 5th 2007. I'm Carroll Jones with University Librarian Sherman Hayes at the Randall Library Special Collection Project. We're pleased to have as our guest today, Franklin Block. Mr. Block is a native Wilmingtonian. Son of Charles and Hannah Block. Both well known for their considerable contributions for Southeastern Carolina. Franklin is an attorney, a former State senator and has been chairman of the board of trustees for UNCW. He and his wife Wendy have given much of their time and talents to our area. Good afternoon Franklin.

Block: Good afternoon. Happy to have me.

Jones: Good! We're glad to see you. Let's start with your recollections of growing up in a very active environment, your household?

Block: To say the least, it was an active environment. My mother was very much involved in many forms of the community, many areas of the community. I guess from the very earliest recollections, she was involved in community affairs and that is something that sort of spilled over to my personality, I think. When you see that much going on in your own home, I think it's a good thing. It sort of inbreds in you a desire to do the same. And hopefully, that did happen. But actually in my household, it was two counterveiling balances. My mother was very much involved in the community, out doing a lot of things. My father on the other hand was exactly the opposite.

Jones: He as business.

Block: He was a businessperson. He was very much-- I hesitate to use the word 'loner' but that might fit. He just didn't have the inclination to be out in the public eye.

Jones: But he tolerated all of the goings on at home.

Block: He not only tolerated it, he thrived on what my mother did.

Jones: So, she was the apple of his eye?

Block: Oh yes. That's right. Because he wasn't the person that could go out and do a lot of this stuff that he lived through her. And I think that was a good thing. Because between the two of them, they kind of filled in the blanks for each other. I think that is perhaps the secret of a successful marriage. You put two people together and where one is weak the other is strong and vice versa. I think that is very much true in my parent's family. My mother was gone a lot. And with regard of my sister [inaudible]. My sister is much younger than I am.

Jones: How much difference is there between you and Mary?

Block: Ten years.

Jones: Ten years!

Hayes: Is that the whole family? Just a brother and a sister?

Block: That's correct. What that kind of meant was that we had two only children. We both grew up-- I went off to boarding school when I was 14. So, Mary was four. From then on, she was the only child in the house. When I came back after that, I came back with a wife of my own and a child of my own.

Jones: Goodness sakes, that was quick. (laughter)

Block: It was ten years later.

Hayes: We'll get to that.

Jones: Where did you go to school?

Block: For boarding school I went to a little naval prep school in Toms River, New Jersey called Admiral Farragut Academy. There were two of them. There is one up there and there is one in Florida. The one in Toms River New Jersey has since closed but the one in Florida is still going. And it was a good school. I sometimes look back and question whether or not 14 is the right age to go off to school. I think perhaps it is for some and perhaps it isn't. It depends on the child.

Jones: Well you say then you went off to school then you came back with a wife. Where did you go after Farragut?

Block: Well I had a-- what I describe as a very checkered undergraduate career.

Jones: Well you're not alone. (laughter)

Block: I was most definitely on the five year plan. When I graduated from Admiral Farragut, I started off initially at Chapel Hill, spent a year at Chapel Hill. And I transferred to Rensselaer, New York. Spent one semester there and that was a disaster. I came back and went to what was then Campbell College, now Campbell University. Spent a semester there. I did better. Then I went back to Chapel Hill for summer school. And that was another disaster. I could see where I was beginning to-- I was going down the wrong path. Somehow or another I couldn't get it all together. So, I came home and I found my parents saw the same thing. With all they handed me a letter when I got home from camp. I opened the letter up and it said something to the effect that your son has been accepted to the Citadel. I said, "Daddy, I didn't apply to the Citadel."

Jones: Daddy did. (laughs)

Block: He says, "I know."

Hayes: The Citadel is a military--

Jones: Yes, in Charleston.

Block: In Charleston.

Jones: And they take good students, don't they?

Block: Well, I don't know how I got in because my grades were nothing to rave about. They weren't horrible but they certainly weren't great.

Jones: But this was a military academy that would whip you into shape.

Block: I think that's what he had in his mind. I got there and after the first two or three days I ran into someone else from Wilmington who had the same college experience I had. And we stayed down there about a month and said this is not for us. We got to go someplace else. And I actually started to think about where it was that I was going to leave and go to. About that time-- this was about the second month that I was there. I went to the services on High Holy Days. The people whose house I was staying in, because we didn't stay in the barracks. (phone rings) Anyhow, the person I was staying with went to services and after services were over; people were staying there. He said I want you to meet somebody. I said fine. And he said this is a young lady named Wendy Barshay. Well, I thought she was the prettiest girl I ever seen in my life.

Jones: She still is.

Block: That was in 1956. So, we got talking. I asked if I could come up there. And in the story I like to tell; Wendy hates me to tell this story but it is absolutely the ice cold truth. I called her up and asked if I could-- she lived up in Summerdale, which was about 20 miles from Charleston. And I said, "Can I come up there on Saturday?" And she said, "Yeah." I said, "Fine, where do you live." And she said, "When you get up here just stop and ask anybody where Wendy lives." That's exactly what I did. I saw somebody standing on the side of the street and said, "I'm looking for Wendy Barshay's house." He said, "It's right over there." I got in there and then we started going together. We went together the entire three years.

Jones: She kept you in school?

Block: She kept me in school.

Hayes: That's 50 years, have you thought about that. You may not been married 50 years you've known her.

Block: Fifty years. I think you phrased it exactly right. Wendy kept me in school and kept me in the Citadel and the Citadel saved my life. If it hadn't been for the Citadel I don't know what what've happened to me.

Hayes: Can we go back to the Wilmington there a little bit? Has your family been here a long time? In other words are you an old Wilmington family, a young Wilmington family? I mean, grandfather? Beyond that?

Block: As old Wilmington goes, we're fairly young. My grandfather was an immigrant.

Jones: What was his name?

Block: His name was William Block. He came to this country from Riga, Latvia when he was very young. Family tradition has it that he was about 14 when he came here. He went to Baltimore where he had some relatives. He stayed there for a while and went to work for some folks. To make a long story short, he did the thing that probably was guaranteeing his success was that he married the boss's daughter. This was in the 1890 kind of period. He stayed there for a while. Then in the early 1920s, along the way he got into the manufacturing business, the textile-- the apparel manufacturing business. Actually, at the time they were manufacturing nightshirts.

Hayes: In Baltimore?

Block: In Baltimore, right. And I don't know exactly how that happened but it transformed itself into manufacturing men's shirts. So, in the early 1920s, he brought his whole family down to Wilmington. And it was a very interesting time, very different time than it is now. At the time, white people, at the very worst of the Jim Crow era. And at the time white people would not only not work in the same room with African Americans, they wouldn't work in the same building. It was horrible.

Hayes: Any sense of why Wilmington? Did the textile industry move south at that time?

Block: I think mainly because of the labor market here. There was virtually nothing else here with the exception of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. Still, I think basically an agrarian economy about that time. You see pictures of the beaches were very rustic at best. So, I think the main reason they came here was because of the labor market. I think that's true.

Jones: I read in some papers that I accessed for our special collections; that the other main reason was because of the railroad because it was cheap for distribution.

Block: Maybe so. I've never heard that but that may very well be true.

Hayes: Did he buy a shirt factory?

Block: I say he brought it-- I don't know how much of that he actually--

Hayes: Or he started it?

Block: The business was going up there and he transferred the headquarters of the business down here. It was small but he got it started down here. My uncle came down first and then my father and his brothers and all them. They came down. The original plant was over on Hanover Street, which is kind of the northern part of the city. They stayed there a long time and then moved over to Greenfield Street. They operate the plant on Greenfield Street and the plant did well. They had the one plant here and then the second one in Benson. Then they opened a third one in Benson, North Carolina. Then I think a fourth one was in Newport, North Carolina and a fifth one opened up in Rowland, North Carolina. They did reasonably well. The Second World War, they switched over to war production like everybody else did. Only one of my uncles actually went in the service. All the rest of them strange enough were too old to go into service by the time the Second World War came along; that included my father. To show that point, my father was 34 when he got married, which was in 1935 or 1936. I was born in 1936.

Jones: He kind of surprised his family when he brought down this little songbird.

Block: The story of hat is or the story my mother tells-- my mother was a professional nightclub entertainer.

Jones: Under a Nina Boo?

Block: Nina Ray.

Hayes: That was her stage name?

Block: Right. And she was playing with some really big time people up there.

Hayes: What was her real name?

Block: Hannah Solomon.

Jones: She was from Newport News?

Block: Portsmouth.

Jones: Portsmouth.

Hayes: New Hampshire?

Jones: No, no, Virginia. Town around the Navy people.

Block: My mother had gone to a conservatory. Peabody.

Jones: Right. Music.

Hayes: Oh that's right, very famous one.

Block: Right, music. She had gone there and I don't think my mother was particularly academic. So, that experience lasted about a year. So, she did the thing that musicians do. She ran off with a big band. She was touring the country singing with a big band. Somehow or other, she ended up back in New York. She was singing at a nightclub. I guess it was like a piano bar kind of thing called Number One 5th Avenue. She was there for a few weeks. But at her house, we have the New Yorker magazine. I don't know if you've ever seen that but in the section of the New Yorker, it's still in there.

Jones: We have a copy here.

Block: Oh do you? It's still in the New Yorker magazine; Going on Around Town.

Jones: About town.

Block: And it said about my mother singing at Number One 5th Avenue. But anyway, the story my mother tells is that my father came into see the nine o'clock show. He came in and saw the nine o'clock show and proposed at 12.

Jones: I've heard that story. (laughs)

Block: (laughs) I don't know how that happened but considering if you knew my father, it is more remarkable maybe that he would do something like that. They ended up getting married about a year later.

Jones: Go back World War II, my understanding is that Block Shirt Company evidently made over a million shirts for the military.

Block: Oh, a lot more than that.

Jones: Was it a million a year?

Block: I'm trying to convert that into dozens. That's 80,000 dozen. I can't remember how many factories they had then. But they probably could make about 2000 dozen a week; maybe even closer to 3000 dozen a week.

Jones: They had some of the same retainers; people working for them that they had from the very beginning.

Block: Yeah, and that's another powerful story. When I graduated from the Citadel, the first thing I did was-- I graduated June 6th. I got married June 14th.

Jones: Her father must have liked you an awful lot. You were jobless. (laughs)

Block: No I wasn't jobless. I knew where I was going. I was going in the Army. When I graduated from the Citadel, I already had my orders to go in service.

Hayes: Was that an automatic? You didn't have to go into the service or was that part of it?

Block: In those days--

Jones: There was a draft.

Block: Unless there was some--

Jones: What year was that, Frank?

Block: 1959.

Hayes: In other words people from the citadel would logically always go into the service?

Block: Not 100% but I would say most did. There was a lot that did.

Hayes: Would you go in as an officer?

Block: Most. There was some that did not. I couldn't imagine myself going through everything I went to down at the Citadel and not getting a commission. So, I wanted very much to do that. And I did. So, I was commissioned like a day before I graduated. And so, I got married June 14th and then August the 4th, I reported out to Fort Sill, Oklahoma from basic. That's where the artillery school is. That was a good experience. I mean I was 22-23 years old. Wendy was 19 when we got married. To me, going in the Army, particularly as an officer, gives a young man an opportunity to learn leadership skills that would take him ten years to learn.

Jones: If ever.

Block: In civilian life. And it's a great transition from being a boy in school, a college boy to being hopefully some sort of responsible adult. And so I enjoyed my military experience. It probably-- I think I often pondered this. I think very much that I probably would have stayed in the military had it not been-- I just had other things that I needed to do.

Hayes: How long were you in then for?

Block: I was two years in active duty and then another eight years in reserve.

Jones: Reserves.

Hayes: But then you came through a period there with Vietnam. Were you at risk going back in at active status? You never got called?

Block: I never did. I was in the reserve doing a good-- not a whole thing, but a good part of it.

Jones: Vietnam didn't start until after you were--

Hayes: Well in 1965 he went in.

Jones: He was a Reserve.

Hayes: Well as a Reserve, I was surprised he wasn't at risk for a call back is all.

Block: See, I got out in 1961 and I was in the reserves for eight years. So I was in the service until '69-70.

Hayes: Was artillery your specialty? Through the whole time period?

Block: Well, actually when I was in the Reserves, they assigned me to a combat engineer battalion. But I was in there as a communications officer. And that's exactly what I had done in the artillery group, which is like an artillery regimen. It's the same thing that I did. In those days, of course, everybody went in. It was just a great experience for me.

Jones: You still had the draft.

Block: You still had the draft.

Jones: You might as well just go and get what you wanted.

Block: Oh yeah. But when I was in the Reserve, we were expecting any day to get orders to get activated.

Hayes: That's what I was thinking. It just never did.

Block: It just never did. Which I think is one of the great problems of Vietnam War. I think it's a great problem of any war that we've been fighting like all the wars we fought recently is that we send our troops to war before we send our country to war. I don't think you can do that. When you put young men's lives at risk, they need to have the backing of every single person.

Jones: Yes they do.

Hayes: That is a tragedy of the Vietnam War. I don't know if we are doing that as badly now. I think there is a better separation that those people fighting somewhere deserve our support as individuals.

Block: That's right.

Hayes: I'm a Vietnam era too. I didn't go in but when those people came back, it was almost like they were the problem.

Jones: That's right. That's true.

Block: It was horrible. And I couldn't understand that. But I think to send troops into combat without asking the country first, let's go to war. Let's send the country to war. I've often proposed what in fact I will consider what I will call the Block Doctrine. It is the doctrine I would institute if I were President of the United States or if I was a member of Congress.

Jones: Well, go ahead, everybody else is running. (laughter)

Block: The Block Doctrine would say that anytime the United States troops are committed to combat for longer than 30 days, the draft is automatically reinstituted. Automatically reinstituted. People have to know that if they're going to ask those young men to make sacrifices, they've got to be willing to make sacrifices too. They can't say why don't you all go out and fight somewhere. I'll just stay here and do whatever it is I want to do.

Jones: Let me ask you this along that line. During the war, you were living at home. You had not yet gone to boarding school or were you? When were you 14?

Block: What war?

Jones: World War II. I know your parents hosted Sunday evenings, a lot of the servicemen for dinner. With all the young ladies around, your mother was quite active in that way. What did you think about that? Were you at home? Did you think anything about it?

Block: I was nine when the war was over.

Jones: But still, it must have made some sort of an impression. I would think at nine seeing some servicemen twice your age in some cases would have been like this.

Block: I remember it very well. And I remember going out to the military bases around here with my mother. On one occasion they put on a play up at Camp Davis. I was in the play. One traumatic event that occurred, my mother-- they used to have a lot of P47s at that station up there. I went up there with my mother and one of the- it wasn't one of the pilots but one of the ground crew took my out and sat me in the cockpit of a P47. I thought I was hot stuff. And the only problem was that they closed the canopy. And after they closed the canopy, I couldn't get it open. (laughs)

Jones: Was this summer?

Block: I was like eight or nine years old. I was sitting there trying to open up the canopy. That's one of the things I remember. Finally the ground crewman explained to me what I was doing wrong. He finally got it open.

Hayes: You mentioned High Holy Days. You are Jewish by religious and ethnic background?

Block: That is correct.

Hayes: What was Wilmington's Jewish community? It's an old community. Did you feel your parents came to an accepting community? Or were there issues related to that?

Block: There were issues, there always are. The Jewish community in Wilmington is very old.

Jones: It is the oldest in the south, isn't it?

Block: No.

Jones: No, Atlanta is.

Hayes: North Carolina for sure.

Block: Actually, I think New Orleans I think would probably be older. Charleston might be older. But it's kind of hard to say what's considered old because there have been Jews living here since the 1600s. But it has certainly a very interesting Jewish community. The story I always like to tell is most well known story about someone Jewish here is Arthur Blumenthal. He was a Wilmington boy. Went to Princeton. Was an all-American football player.

Jones: Mr. Everything.

Block: Absolutely everything. I guess after he graduated from Princeton, he came back here and fell in love with a non-Jewish girl. I don't know if it was his parents or her parents or both parents wouldn't allow them to marry. So he ran off and joined Lafayette's Escadrille. He lasted about as long as most pilots lasted in Lafayette's Escadrille about four or five weeks.

Jones: The girl he fell in love with took forever-- if she ever got over it too, right?

Block: Well, she was my across the street neighbor when I grew up.

Hayes: You're kidding. Do you know her name?

Jones: It is in one of Wilbur's books. (laughter)

Hayes: So it's not a secret then.

Jones: It is not a secret. He talked about it, or did talk about it.

Block: I always thought that was an interesting story and I thought that it was nice what his family did. They donated the land for-- behind the county airport, which is theoretically Blumenthal field. It had Airport at Blumenthal Field. So, that's one interesting story. But there are actually several immigrations of Jews into Wilmington. The very, very oldest I think were [inaudible] Jews and there's none of them left now. The second immigration was primarily German Jews. Those folks came over in 1840. Then the third immigration is the eastern European Jews who came from 1890 to 1910-1912; somewhere along there.

Hayes: Were the Schwartzes friends of yours? Schwartz and that family. Was that the German or was that a later one?

Block: By the time I came along- when I was very, very small, I remember talking to some German Jewish people here in Wilmington. They would tell me how their grandparents left Wilmington because it was in the war zone.

Jones: I heard those stories.

Hayes: Ooh, World War I, you mean?

Jones: No, no, no.

Block: No, the Civil War.

Hayes: Oh Civil War! Oh my goodness.

Block: That's how long they had been there. I guess by the time I was coming along, that group of people were pretty much dying out. Although there were still-- there still are a few of them around but there is very, very few of the German Jewish groups here that are still Jewish. Then came our group, which was essentially east European although my family did not necessarily come from Eastern Europe. It came from Riga, Latvia, which is more west. The majority was considered Eastern Europe. But when the eastern European group first got here, there was a lot of tension between them and the German Jewish group.

Jones: Is that when the split happened?

Block: From day one.

Jones: I mean for the separate synagogue and the temple.

Block: Right. Exactly. There were two different congregations. Now, today, that distinction no longer exists. It is completely gone.

Hayes: So you're saying the original split was an ethnic split as far as social?

Block: It was more of a socioeconomic split.

Jones: It didn't have to do with one being more traditional than the other?

Block: That was part of it; there was a religious aspect of that as well but the German Jewish group considered themselves-- and consider themselves, in fact it was true; they were much more socially advanced.

Jones: Halchtoich. [ph?]

Block: They were much more cultured. They were much more better educated. They were much more assimilated.

Hayes: They had been here a long time. If you say Civil War up to 1890, that's 30 or 40 years.

Block: Actually from the 1840s or so. That's a long time. There's good reason for it was true. When eastern European group came, they were kind of crude. They hadn't had a chance to acquire much polish. You could see why they didn't necessarily want to be seen in a restaurant with a bunch of loud mouths. It made a lot of sense. I don't know if I would have felt any differently than they did. But that changed. At one point, it got to the point in our synagogue that it only took one or two generations for the eastern Europeans to sort of catch up or maybe even surpass what that other group had done. At one point, it is no longer true by a long shot now, but at one point I could sit in my pew in my congregation and look at the mayor of Wilmington, the Chairman of the County Commissioners, The City Council Members, Former State Senator and President of the Chamber of Commerce all within four pews of where I was, which is indicative of something that I think is critically important. North Carolina generally and I think Wilmington in particular, has been very welcoming of the Jewish people. That goes back to what I think is the-- it goes back to Zebulon Vance who you know as the Governor of North Carolina during the Civil War. Zebulon Vance wrote a speech that he called, "The Scattered Nation." And it was a ringing defense of the Jewish people. And he delivered it literally hundreds of times. People ask him to come and deliver that speech. I think that he set the tone in North Carolina for the relationship between the Jewish people and the general community. He was a very bright guy, a very far thinking guy. Not necessarily universally loved or lovable for that matter but he was certainly very, very good to the Jewish people and Jewish people loved him at the time. I think that set the tone for North Carolina. I often said that North Carolina is probably-- I don't know if this is really true or not but I sometimes kind of think it is true. They often said that the Golden Age of Judaism was in Spain right before the Inquisition start in the 1400s. I said that's wrong. The golden Age of Judaism is right now; right now in this country.

Jones: You're saying that now?

Block: Yeah. This is the best it has ever been. This is one of the-- in the United States since the founding of the country; this is the first time in history, that being Jewish was a choice and not a condition.

Jones: Do you feel, Franklin, that some of our international problems that are added to this that there's a feeling among some people to go to bat for Israel over the Palestinians and that sort of thing? Has the Jewish Nation become a very important factor worldwide? It always has been, but now people are more accepting.

Block: I think so. That's a very complex subject. We could spend literally hours and I'd be glad to do that.

Jones: I will tell you this, on a lighter note, I know that there were a number of Jewish families that lived in the neighborhood where you grew up. I know one woman had an adored son. She told him you can marry anybody you want, as long as they're not northern or Catholic. You can even marry a Jew.

Block: (laughs) Even so.

Hayes: A good question though, is the Jewish community here connected to these world events? They're an active community, so it's not.

Block: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Hayes: I'm trying to get the sense, although they were widely accepted, they didn't assimilate to say we are involved in all of these things.

Jones: The Schwartz family is, I know for one. They are very involved.

Hayes: They are an active group for whatever positions they see themselves as involved.

Block: Yes. We are very much involved. I can speak for my own family. We are very much involved in Jewish affairs. Not just here locally but to some extent worldwide. For example, my wife Wendy is getting ready to go to Ethiopia on behalf of some Jewish people. Going to Ethiopia if you can imagine such a thing. So, that's another story that-- there were two groups. One group is called the Falasha. And the story of the Falasha is sort of legend. When Moses was coming down after the exodus from Egypt, when he turned right to go into Canaan.

Jones: (laughs)

Block: (laughs) [inaudible] They decided to go straight. And they went on down to Africa and settled in Ethiopia. They've been there from time and memorial.

Hayes: And they are Jewish? It is a Jewish settlement?

Block: They are Jewish and they were identified a few years ago. They have very interesting facial characteristics. They have very chiseled features, very sharp features. But they are still black.

Hayes: There is also the whole tradition of the Ark of the Covenant that is still believed to be in-- maybe there was some of that involved too.

Block: Probably so.

Jones: What is Wendy going to be doing there.

Block: As I was saying, there were two groups. One is called the Falasha. These people were Jewish, albeit it is a form of Judaism that is totally unlike anything that any Jewish person in this country has ever seen. But there's another group called the Falashmuras. The Falashmuras were Jews but they converted to Christianity. What Israel did a few years ago was the Falashas, the ones that were Jews, were being put upon by their neighbors and they were getting killed. So what Israel did was got a bunch of airplanes and went down and got every single one out.

Hayes: I remember that.

Jones: That's right.

Hayes: And how are they doing? The assimilation into Israel was extremely difficult.

Block: Oh yeah. And I've talked with some of these people and actually met with them on occasion. They are interesting. Culturally, these are people that never talked or cut on a light switch. They had never seen indoor plumbing. Culturally, they were way behind the curve. The first generation of these folks probably had a long way to go but their children and their grandchildren who are now coming along pretty well, being better assimilated. Anyway, the group that Wendy's going down there to see are actually Christians. But they have a Jewish heritage. And they are going to take them to Israel too. They are in the process of doing that. I'm not quite sure what Wendy's job is going to be in all that but she's going over there to be part of that transfer of these people who are right now Christians to Israel. Of course, they're delighted because anybody that lives in Ethiopia is very happy to go someplace else; any place else for that matter.

Hayes: Is Ethiopia now going through struggles with the Islamic as well? It used to be a Christian nation but now I think the Islamic splintering and all of that.

Block: I am not familiar with that part of it.

Hayes: It is not a particularly pleasant place right now.

Block: But she is going over there very soon.

Jones: Good for her. Good for her. Were your cousins involved with these things along with you? For example, whatever you did in religion as far as helping out with the activities that your parents were involved in? Your mother? Or was it a separate entity?

Block: Not too any extent that I am aware of. I had an unfortunate incident. And this is no secret so I don't mind. I'm not spilling the beans or anything. When I got out of the Army, I of course, went into the shirt business.

Jones: I wanted to ask you about that so go ahead.

Block: I worked in the shirt business as a plant manager and then later vice president of manufacturing. I was doing fine. Business was thriving. I won't go into all the details but a family split developed. It was, my point of view, very serious. So, we decided the best thing to do was to merge the company, because otherwise it was going to fall apart. So, that's what we did. We merged it with a conglomerate. I believe it was called conglomerate at the time, out of Atlanta called National Service Industries.

Hayes: By merge you mean, it wasn't a purchase; it was a joining together.

Block: It was stocks.

Hayes: Stock exchange. As opposed to them just buying your stock. I'm trying to say the word merger in the business technical sense.

Block: Right. Right. In order to save the company, we did in fact merge with them. Very shortly thereafter, they and I came to a parting of ways. That translates to I got fired.

Jones: By?

Block: By National.

Hayes: So, the bigger company that is now owned by everybody? By merging?

Block: We were a very small part. It was a billion dollar company. We were just a little piece of that. I guess it was an important part.

Jones: Obviously, it had to be.

Block: We traded at that bottom line. But then I came to, like I say, a parting of ways under unpleasant circumstances. The only good thing was that I had a five year contract. So, I could do anything I wanted to do for five years. I decided at that point what I'd like to do more than to go to law school.

Jones: Good for you.

Hayes: Had you been thinking about this a long time. That's not something you do right away.

Block: Not while I was working in the shirt factory. It didn't really occur to me. When I suddenly had not that much of a future, I decided I better do something. I couldn't go back in the shirt business, thank goodness because it would have been-- that business no longer exists in the same sense we had it.

Hayes: Were you seeing transition even at that point into a decline as far as--

Block: Yes. Very definitely. That was another thing that affected our decision; more and more of our shirts that we were selling in this country were being imported from offshore.

Hayes: This would have been in the seventies. Is that when this happened?

Block: Yes. Very early seventies.

Hayes: It had already started to shift away.

Block: Yeah and we were doing our share of importing. But we were, because of the circumstances at the time, it makes no sense now. It's laughable now. But at the time we were very concerned. We didn't know what direction all of this was going to go in. So, what we did was set up a literally separate company that--

Jones: When you say we, are you talking--

Block: Our company, Block Industries, set up a separate company that did all the importing. It had its own invoices. You had the same sales force, salesmen handle the line but it was totally separate. That later fell by the wayside, but at the time nobody really knew how things were going to play out. But ultimately the importing of all apparel for that matter except for some very specialized kinds of things is all-- all the production stuff is going offshore.

Jones: Was your father still living at this time?

Block: He was. My father died in 1978.

Hayes: Did he stay active in the business clear to the end? Or did he finally retire?

Block: No. He retired, I think, about the time we merged and maybe right before we merged.

Hayes: Was he really able to separate himself? Some people say they retire and then they never quit. They don't really quit.

Jones: Oh, God do I know that one. (laughter)

Block: I'm sure you do. When National took over, any time you merge your company like that, they always tell you we're not going to do anything. You're going to run it just like you always did.

Jones: Sure, as long as it's my way. (laughter)

Block: That doesn't happen. So I think it was no longer his and his brothers' to run. That's essentially, I hadn't gone into that but my grandfather had three sons and a daughter. My father being one of the three sons, there were two other sons. One of them was not married. My father was Charles Block. Nathan Block was Dave and Freddy's father. Then my Aunt Ester had a son and a daughter. Her son, Howard Gould, was involved in the business also.

Hayes: So it really was a family. Lots of people involved. Now, your undergraduate degree, what did it come out in? Engineering?

Block: I got a Bachelor of Science in Commerce.

Hayes: So, that was preparatory, at least useful coming back to the business. Was that a difficult decision to make or was it just logical that you were just going to be back in the business?

Jones: I was going to ask you if this was expected of you.

Block: It was no decision to make. The decision had long since been made when I was three.

Jones: I kind of figured as much. In fact that was one of the questions, were you expected to go into the business with your dad and uncle?

Block: It was more than expectation. It would have been very difficult.

Jones: You were the only son.

Block: I was the only son. Right. Keep in mind my cousins were involved in my generation. In my father's generation there were essentially four people involved. In my generation there were four.

Hayes: It's a family business and there's nothing wrong with that. That's exactly what people do.

Block: It could have worked out really well. I have to say though, when I got fired it was gut-wrenching.

Jones: I understand that there were some severe problems there.

Block: There were some very severe problems.

Hayes: Did you sue the company? Is that what happened then? I'm from out of town. I don't know any of this.

Block: Yes.

Hayes: So you did. That's good. And won I hope?

Block: I did. If you consider winning, I got money. I watched my money for the time.

Hayes: And that isn't satisfying if you really wanted to keep working in what you did.

Block: Right. Almost in any kind of lawsuit, you never really get compensated. You just cut your losses. To that extent, I cut my losses. If I could go back and do it again and not have it worked that way, I probably would have done so. But, like everything else though, in retrospect, it was absolutely the best thing that could have happened to me.

Hayes: Because of the career shift?

Block: The career shift.

Jones: What is that saying? God works in strange ways.

Block: That's exactly right. I believe that. I really believe that.

Jones: I do too. I absolutely do.

Hayes: But at the time it can seem very strange. (laughter)

Jones: You particularly in your family had, from what I know, from what I've read and the papers that I've seen, had a very emotionally wrenching time because it did involve family.

Block: That's right.

Jones: So that would be difficult for anybody.

Block: It was very difficult.

Hayes: Then you go to law school, so you're now-- does Campbell come back in the picture?

Block: No. (laughs)

Hayes: No. (laughs) I knew they had a law school. I see maybe you're going to pull back.

Block: (laughs) Actually, Wake Forest comes into play. My grades in undergraduate school were not exactly anything that you'd want to write home about. I was not at the top of my class so to speak. ARI [ph?] at that time was becoming difficult to get into, to law schools. But anyhow, after I got fired, I didn't even know about the Stanley Classes and Courses [ph?] and things like that. I just went out. They had some books at the store and they had LSAT.

Jones: I was going to say. You read the law for your LSAT.

Block: I did. And I studied those books like mad. For several, like a month or two before I took the LSA. I did okay on the LSAT.

Hayes: The LSAT being the Law School Aptitude Test.

Block: That's right.

Hayes: Did you have to take it to qualify even before they talk to you, right?

Block: It helps. I guess the two things they look at in most cases are just your grades at undergraduate and your score on the LSAT.

Hayes: But you were bringing something quite different. I world of practical knowledge, had been manager. They surely must have-- did you have to go for an interview then?

Block: Yes. And that's what got me in. If it hadn't been for the experience that I had, I would never have gotten into law school. I'd had a lot of experience with labor relations, labor unions and negotiations within unions and things like that. That was something at the time that I think the Dean of the law school had an interest in. I went into them on my--

Hayes: Do you want to talk about labor unions?

Jones: I was going to ask you, what part of law did you specialize in?

Block: It wasn't that. I'm glad to talk about it.

Hayes: There's a very famous, is there a strike or something tied to the-- but that wasn't your generation. That was much earlier.

Block: That was much earlier. That was in 1940. I'll tell you a couple interesting stories about that. They went out on strike. I wouldn't exactly the circumstances the strike was but they were striking. It was kind of in the fall when they were striking. Strikers didn't have a strike fund or anything like that. They were just out there. These were not rich people. So a lot of them are in financial straits. They weren't earning any money because they were living off the salaries they earned at the shirt factory. My grandfather, being the kind of guy that he was, he would go out there and pay the strikers, give money to the strikers.

Hayes: Doesn't that defeat the purpose? (laughs)

Block: (laughs) And when I was in the factory which was 25 years later, we still had people that were paying us back. It would come out of nowhere. We'd get an envelope out of the mail. It was anonymous. Here's $10.00. I thought that was really great.

Hayes: The strike didn't last long then in 1940?

Block: What happened was on December 7, it ended. I said 1940 but it was 1941. It ended on Pearl Harbor. One of the really interesting things that I just heard of, didn't know about until maybe six months or a year ago, you know who Arthur Miller is? The playwright. In 1941 he was working with the New York Times. The New York Times sent him down south to record a bunch of stories about the south. One of the stories he recorded was about our strike. He came down. I heard the tape. You could hear him talking. He was describing the strike and talking to the strikers. They were singing songs, critical of my family. I guess that's what strikers do. He covered the whole thing.

Hayes: I think the archives are in the Library of Congress or somewhere. There still is a set of his tapes and so forth about that. We're trying as a library to see if we can get those because we're just in the local history. Not so much about him but only because he's famous has anybody paid attention, but that is fascinating.

Block: I'm not sure who in my family has it but I know somebody's got it. I heard it. I listened to the tape. It may be my daughter. She may be the one that has it.

Jones: Where is your daughter now?

Block: She's in California.

Jones: Don't you miss the kids?

Block: Oh, terrible.

Jones: That's a talented group you've got there.

Hayes: What children do you have?

Jones: The DeLoach [ph?] family.

Block: DeLoach.

Jones: Charming. She's wonderful.

Hayes: Tell us for the record. You two know but nobody listening to the tape knows who--

Jones: We're going to come to it.

Hayes: We've got another five minutes on this part and then we'll take a break. The factories were unionized very early then when you think about it.

Block: They never were unionized.

Hayes: Oh they weren't.

Block: No. That's part of it. The story ended December 7 and they went back to work. There were no more strikes, no more organizational efforts or anything like that. Then again, about 1967 I was the plant manager of the Wilmington plant and we got hit again. It was an acrimonious kind of unionization effort. There were a lot of really nasty things going on. They had filed a lot of unfair labor practice charges against me, which I thought I was totally innocent of. I got smacked anyhow. They had the majority of the people sign union cards.

Jones: Out of fear?

Block: That's what I said.

Jones: This is the group that was paying you back and loved to work for you.

Block: A lot of the same people. Yes. Anyhow, this was many years later. It was 26 years later. But the union got the majority of the people to sign union cards and they were having an election. Then we won the election. The majority of the employees did not vote to have the union as a bargaining agent. So they brought a court action, under what was then called the Mel Boone Doctrine. What that says essentially is that if the union is trying to organize a plan and the majority of the employees sign union cards before the election, they all at the end claims the unfair labor practice is involved and the union loses the election, the court can designate the union the bargaining agent in spite of the election. And that's what they did. They designated the union as the bargaining agent. So our case, I think initially, went to the D.C. surrogate. When it was heard at the D.C. surrogate level and one of the judges on our panel was Warren Burger. But he dropped off early on because he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. They ruled against us and they said you're going to have to bargain with the union, which is what we did for a whole year. That was a long-- every two weeks or so we'd have to go down and negotiate. Finally it got to the point where it was becoming apparent they didn't have the strength to mount a strike and they knew that we weren't going to give in. So, what they're going to do is sign a sweetheart contract with us, just to get the equipment to work and so we kind of figured that. So, what we decided at that point, it had been over a year, so we went in a position where we could ask for another election. So we did. That time we won the election again. They just disappeared after that.

Hayes: Did the plants go away? There are no shirt factories now? You're talking 1967 and then a merger in 1971?

Block: 1972.

Jones: 1972 and that's 35 years ago. There are no plants now. So, what happened? They're gone? They just closed?

Jones: There's a building over there.

Block: It became much more economical-- several things did. That was just one of the things. One of the things that happened, it became much more economical to import than ever we could actually afford here. Second, and I think this probably was the main, probably had more of an effect even than that, because we could always bring shirts in and still continue to sell them. The retailing industry changed a lot. The small mom and pop stores have all but disappeared. You don't see very many of those. That was the mainstay of our business.

Hayes: Actually the small, specialty men's store that sold good shirts and the Block Shirt was famous?

Block: We were not at the top of the line. We were kind of towards the bottom of the line as far as the price range goes.

Hayes: But you weren't JCPenney or--

Block: We were. Belk's was a big customer of ours. That was kind of the place where we were at.

Jones: But that was local. You're comparing to today. You can go into any shopping mall anywhere in the country and see the same stores and the same merchandise.

Hayes: Let's just take a break.

(tape change)

Jones: Okay. This is tape two. We're picking up with Franklin Block on April the 5th.

Hayes: I might get for the record-- what's your full name, Franklin?

Block: Franklin Lee Block.

Hayes: Okay, good. Thanks. And you were born?

Block: November 24, 1936.

Jones: When we left off, you were talking about where your wife, Wendy, was going to be going and what she was going to be doing.

Block: Wendy's very active in some charities; namely, one called United Jewish Community, which is the largest sort of an umbrella charity over a number of things, and she has a national office within that charity.

Jones: Good for her.

Block: She chairs what is really a very small section of that fundraising effort. The charity itself raises a lot of money, billions of dollars, and her little division doesn't raise very-- not in that category, but it still raises a lot of money. And so she is very, very active in it, believes strongly in what it does. It raises money-- particularly her division raises money for people overseas, primarily Jewish but not entirely.

Jones: Is this for education and...?

Block: For everything.

Jones: Everything. Hospitals, etcetera?

Block: Right. I mean they raised money for Katrina. They raised money for the Tsunami and a whole lot of-- all these things. But it's still primarily for Jewish people, but it's not necessary just for Israel. It's for Jews wherever they may be. And the most-- once you get out of Africa, probably the most destitute of Jews still live in the FSU.

Hayes: In where?

Block: The former Soviet Union.

Hayes: Oh, really, the former Soviet Union?

Block: And so they try to stay abreast of what's going on over there, what those folks' needs are, and they travel there. Wendy and I both went over there a year or two ago.

Hayes: Which particular country was it at that point?

Block: We went to Georgia.

Jones: Oh, wow, that's the heartland, the farmland.

Block: Right. And so we went to a town that's called Tbilisi why, as I've said numerous times, if you ever get a chance to go to Tbilisi, stay home.

Jones: Okay.

Block: It is really-- some parts of it are very beautiful, but kind of most of what you see is buildings propped up with railroad ties, just poor.

Hayes: Just poor?

Block: Dirt poor. And we went to see some of the people that we're supporting over there who lived on the 10th floor of a walk-up apartment, and it has an elevator.

Jones: But it doesn't work?

Block: Hasn't worked in five years. And no hot water. You get up there. We saw one poor guy who lived in a-- no heat, no hot water, lived in an apartment and was like 80 years old or something, had been a railroad executive from the time when it was the Soviet Union and had been promised this huge pension when he retired. And, of course, when the Russians left, they slammed the door and walked out. They didn't do anything to take action.

Hayes: Now is the whole area poor or just the Jews?

Block: Everybody. Everybody.

Hayes: Everybody, okay.

Block: Nearly as I could determine. I didn't get into the other parts of the society.

Hayes: So it's just a poor area?

Block: The place is just dirt poor, although they've got some very nice areas. It's sort of a resort area, and people come from other areas to go down to the ocean.

Jones: On the Adriatic?

Block: Right, yes. Anyhow, the charity she works for raises money for that, also raises money for the people in Israel, and that's anybody in Israel. They don't really make any distinctions as far as what your religion is or anything like that. It's just whoever happens to be there. And that's what's interesting about Israel. You're always thinking of it as a Jewish country, but a full 20, 25% of the country is something other than Jewish. That includes mostly Arabs, and these are not Palestinians. These are Israeli Arabs, who are-- you don't hear much from them. Occasionally you do, but most of the time, they're pretty satisfied. They're probably the only Arabs in the world that vote in free elections that are really genuinely free and can and do elect members to the Parliament. There are Arab members of the Israeli Parliament. There are Arab units in the Israeli army. No one ever talks about those. And so I don't know what's in their heart of hearts, but at least outwardly, most of them seem to be pretty well satisfied with the status quo, and you can understand why when you see the average income or the per-capita income in Jordan or Egypt is less than $2,000 and the per-capita income in Israel is $17,000. Now, which of those two countries would you rather be living in? She still raises money to help essentially very, very poor people who still live in Israel, too, because there are a lot of poor people there, as well. And the country is growing like mad, but at the same time, there's a lot of people there who hadn't quite got into the mainstream of that growth, and they need to be cared for. We talked earlier about the Falashas coming out of Ethiopia. That's where a big part of what they do goes in that direction to raise money for those people. They have special, I guess, like kindergartens or pre-schools where they bring these kids in to teach them the most fundamental things about living in that society. But it's--

Hayes: And have you been involved in charities your whole life? I mean, in other words, we talked about that early on that your family was involved.

Block: Right.

Hayes: Did you just accept that as a...

Block: As a part of my life, yes.

Hayes: Just a normal thing?

Block: Right.

Jones: But you enjoy it, don't you, Frank?

Block: Oh, I do. And what they say is you make a living out of what you get, but you make a life out of what you give.

Jones: That's true.

Block: And I kind of believe that. And Wendy and I give a lot of money to charity, but as I've said numerous times, and I believe this from the bottom of my heart, I've never given a dime to charity that I didn't get back immediately.

Jones: That's right. That's true.

Block: And immediately. I mean not a year from now, but I mean within weeks or days, I get it back immediately. And so, really, I can't afford not to give.

Jones: That's a wonderful philosophy.

Block: Wendy has done a lot of charitable things. She did the fundraiser for Thalian Hall, which at the time was the largest fundraiser ever done in New Hanover County.

Hayes: Was this where they were going to restore it and...?

Block: To restore it, yes. And she raised, I don't know, $4 million dollars/ $5 million dollars, which was a lot of money at the time.

Hayes: Still is.

Block: It still is. And she also did the fundraiser for the Hospice Center here.

Jones: That's a beautiful place.

Block: And that turned out well. Almost in every case, almost anything we got done around here, we could've done with thanks for the Camerons. They are always major players, and they help us.

Jones: You were saying a moment ago that one of the things you're proudest of is your involvement with the museum.

Block: Right.

Jones: Tell us about that.

Block: Well, again, that was-- I mentioned the Camerons, and they, of course, are major players in that.

Jones: Right.

Block: Bruce and his family gave $4 million cash and $2 million in land...

Jones: Land, mm-hmm.

Block: ... for the museum and with the challenge that we go out and raise another six to build it with. And that's what we did. And we had a lot of good people doing a lot of good work for that. And we raised about six-and-a-half million to get it built, and they hired what everybody believes, I think is probably true, the best museum architect in the United States, Charles Gwathmey. And he did things like the addition to the Guggenheim, the Fogg Museum at Harvard, the Henry Museum-- I think it was out at the University of Washington. They're really outstanding museums, so he was a real talent in that area to stand up as an uptown boy who came from Charlotte. It was-- his father was a painter, also, that was sort of a mentor of Claude Howell.

Jones: Oh, really?

Block: Oh, yes.

Hayes: I didn't know that connection.

Block: Claude Howell, they traveled with him to Europe when he was just a kid.

Hayes: Isn't that interesting.

Block: But anyhow, Charles Gwathmey is probably the best that was available. Of course, reasonable people can differ on the appearance of that building.

Jones: Well, it stands out. It is so different for this area.

Hayes: It's a wonderful building.

Block: Yes, it is much more advanced. And, of course, I'm too much of a traditionalist to say that that would've been the way I would've done it had I been Charles Gwathmey.

Hayes: Well, they didn't ask you, right?

Block: They didn't ask my opinion on it, that part of it. They just said, "Go out and get the money," and that's what I did.

Hayes: Why don't we go back to law school? So here you are, not a youngster. Did you have to move to Wake and everything?

Block: Oh, yes. We went to Winston-Salem, rented a house up there.

Hayes: How long did that take then?

Block: Three years.

Hayes: Three years, the whole program? They didn't give you any extra credit for life experience?

Block: No, no. Law school, you don't get that. You're supposed to have all the life experience you ever will have before you get there. But it was a good experience. I can't say it was a really enjoyable experience for me because when I went to law school, I was 37 years old.

Jones: You were a little older.

Block: Yes, a little older.

Hayes: And you had children at the time?

Block: Yes.

Hayes: How old were you?

Block: Teenage children.

Jones: How many children did you have?

Block: Have three.

Jones: Three. I didn't know that. I knew you had two at least.

Block: Right, right. Going to law school was-- the whole time I was there-- I have to say this in all honesty, I was scared to death, and the thing I lived in mortal fear of every moment I was there, was failure.

Jones: Why?

Block: I was scared to death that I was going to not be able to make the grade because I was never the greatest student that ever came down the pike, although I probably did better in law school than I ever did any other place. But the idea of having to come back to Wilmington and say, "Well, you know, law school wasn't the thing for me, and I decided to quit," or something, make up some story, that just kept me in a constant state of anxiety.

Hayes: But you really intended always to come back to Wilmington?

Block: Always.

Hayes: Yes, so your roots were here, and you weren't-- this was an interlude, but you were really Wilmington committed. That's interesting.

Block: Right, absolutely.

Hayes: Because many a person would have chosen to say, "I'll go to law school, and now I'm heading to..." somewhere else, right? It would've been a logical--

Block: It would've been, but there other forces in play.

Jones: Well, law was something you wanted, too.

Block: Oh, yes.

Jones: So if you wanted it, you were apt to really full-force put your mind to it.

Block: That's the only way to do it. It had to be a total commitment on my part, but I didn't want to feel like I had ever been run out of a place, and I had been fired from my job.

Jones: There you go. See, you have that background.

Block: And I was determined that I was going to come back here. And I kind of felt, hether it was true or not, I kind of felt that maybe some people felt like, "If he got fired, he must've done something wrong." And in my mind, at least, that was not true. The lawsuit brought that out, but not everybody knew about the lawsuit.

Hayes: And they don't follow that. They...

Block: Yes, they don't-- nobody cares. So I was just determined that I was going to be able to come back to Wilmington and make sure I could satisfy myself that I had correctly established a reputation that correctly interpreted my abilities.

Hayes: Good. And you succeeded.

Block: And I hope so.

Hayes: Well, you made it through law school.

Block: Made it through law school.

Hayes: And they didn't give you any breaks. It doesn't sound like they gave you any breaks at all.

Block: You feel sorry for this old cat.

Hayes: That's right. They didn't care either.

Block: They didn't care.

Hayes: And great professors-- are there some of those people that you just look back with fondly?

Block: Well, yes, now I do (laughs), I didn't then.

Jones: Wake is one of the finest law schools in the South, isn't it?

Block: Oh, I think it is, yes.

Jones: Now, Mr. John Burney will tell you it's the only place.

Block: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Without questioning that, and John Stevens [ph?], I don't know if you remember him...

Jones: Right.

Block: ...would no doubt say the same. He was one of the guys that-- if I have to-- there were several people who were instrumental in getting me in law school, but if I had to pick one that did more than anything else, it was John Stevens [ph?]. He was a guy that-- I mean he'd bend over-- he went way beyond the call of duty to help me out and get me into law school. And most people-- first of all, I'd never get into law school, but of course I did, and I got in with a lot of help from a lot of other people and that was one of the guys.

Hayes: But you had to deliver. I mean law schools are pretty...

Block: Once you get in--

Hayes: ... anonymous. They don't care who you are once you're in there, right?

Block: That's right.

Hayes: And you have tests and grades, and you better do it, right?

Block: Well, not only that; they say law school is a three-year-long line standing to get the ticket to take the bar exam.

Jones: That's a knee-shaker.

Block: Well, I'll tell you the story of that, too. That was another story. I got through law school, and by the time I got through law school, my son was 16 years old, and he had a girlfriend. And after I graduated from law school, I was going to take the bar exam in August, and on the July 4 preceding that August, we were taking the bar review course, which was something you have to take, and my son said that he wants to take his girlfriend to Wilmington because we were coming back for the July 4th weekend. And so we said, "Great." And we were-- actually, we stayed-- our house was rented, so we stayed with Billy and Seymour [ph?] __________. We were staying in their house. And Seymour will remember this story. It's not a good story. Came down there, and I can't remember all the details, but my son said to me, "Dad, I want to take the car, and I want to go to the movies." And so I said, "Okay." And so he took his girlfriend. They went to the movies. And after a while, Steven [ph?] called us, and he said, "Irene didn't like the movie, so she got in the car and drove off, and she was supposed to come back and pick me up. She hasn't picked me up yet." And so I said, "Gosh, I wonder what happened." And so I got in my car, and I knew where the theater was. It was actually on what is now College Road, and it was actually two lanes at that time. I remember that. And I went out there, and I started driving down the street, and the street was blocked. It was blocked by the police. And I was walking up there. Got out of my car. Had to think of what might be happening, and I got out and walked up there, and I said, "What's the matter?" He says, "Been an accident." And I said, "What kind of car?" Described my car. And I said, "Oh, crap."

Jones: A parent's worst fear.

Block: And so what had happened is that Irene was driving, it was a wet day. It was raining. Somehow or another, she got in the wrong lane.

Jones: Oh, no.

Block: Got hit right in her door, and they had to cut her out of the car, took her to the hospital. She had a severe head injury, and she was completely out of it. She was in a coma. And so I called Wendy, and we all got over there and talked to the neurologist, and he said, "Well, she may make it, she may not." So it was up to us to call her parents, and that was one of the worst phone calls I ever made in my life. I can recall now telling them what happened. They immediately got in the car and I guess, I think, I don't know if they flew down or drove down, but they came, and she was in a coma. Well, she was in a coma for like four or five weeks.

Hayes: Oh, my God.

Block: So in the meantime, while she was in the hospital here, I had to go back to continue the bar review course, which was very difficult. That was constantly preying my mind. But we got up there, and finally, the time came for taking the bar course, and I'm still with a-- to say I had a heavy heart was greatly understating it because it was our responsibility, and she may have been driving the car by herself, but the fact was she was a 16-year-old girl in our care. And so I went to take the bar exam, and the bar exam at the time was three days. And if I remember-- my recollection was that I had taken the first day of the bar, and we were coming back at night, and the telephone rang. And it was Irene's mother. And she said, "Somebody wants to talk to you."

Hayes: Oh, God! She came out! Oh!

Jones: What a wonderful mother!

Block: So she came out of it the day I started taking the bar exam.

Jones: That was a good omen.

Block: It was. That was a good omen, and she is-- I think she had some lingering effects from that, but she got a master's degree from someplace in social work.

Hayes: On with her life.

Block: Yes, on with it, and things have worked out.

Jones: So there you are. Another example, yes.

Block: So, anyhow--

Hayes: So you did better those second two days. You pulled it out those last two days.

Block: I wasn't going to go, so I was in good shape.

Hayes: So when you came back to Wilmington, what kind of law were you interested in? What did you practice? Anything particular?

Block: Not really, not from the beginning. At the very beginning, I did whatever came through the door. And then towards the end of my practice, I started narrowing things down. I did most of the business-related tax stuff, a lot of bankruptcy work, and that sort of thing.

Hayes: Are you still practicing?

Block: No, no, I'm retired. It was almost nine years ago, I guess, eight years ago, eight years ago.

Hayes: Because I thought lawyers never retired. I mean if somebody calls you...

Block: Well, they say when it comes time to retire, you know it, and I knew it. It was time for me to retire. But I had an actually good time. I had a great partner most of my law practice, Web Trask.

Jones: Oh, yes. Were you with the Trask firm?

Block: Well...

Hayes: The two of you were a firm or--

Block: We were Block and Trask.

Jones: Okay.

Block: So he and I practiced together for 16 years or nearabouts.

Hayes: And you mentioned his dad was Raiford who has lots of ties to the university?

Block: That's right. Gave the land, I think--

Hayes: Or sold the land.

Block: Sold the land. (laughter)

Jones: Yes.

Hayes: I think the family said at a great discount.

Block: [inaudible], yeah, right. So anyhow, I practiced with him, and then later on, I practiced with Lee Crouch.

Jones: Oh, yes?

Block: He was-- because we were on together just a very short while, maybe like three or four years or so.

Hayes: What motivated getting into the politics end of it? I mean is that a logical thing for lawyers, or were you just-- your own interests?

Block: That's another long story.

Jones: You keep talking, and I'm going to go get you some more water.

Block: The way that happened is I do a lot of sailing, when I've got the time, and one of my favorite things to do is go sailing.

Jones: Any particular kind of boat? I mean big boat, little?

Block: I had a 35' foot shore [inaudible] sloop, and it was a good seaworthy boat, and I decided I wanted to sail to Bermuda. And so we decided that that's what we'd do, and what I was going to do is put together two crews, one to take it over and one to bring it back. So about a year before we were to go over, we started having these meetings down in my office to plan, divide up responsibilities, so the different people would know when one person would have too much work to do and spread all the work around because it took a lot of preparation to get on the boat and go that distance out in the ocean because you can't run out to the grocery store when you're 300 miles out. So we started having these meetings, and at the meetings, one of the people that was going to be on part one of the cruise-- we had a doctor on each of the two crews. [inaudible] was on was the doctor was on one of the crews coming back. And he mentioned that Karen was considering at that time running for North Carolina State Senate.

Hayes: Right. Well, she was county commissioner at that time, was she?

Block: I think she either was or had been.

Hayes: Yeah, alright.

Block: And she decided-- we wanted to make sure that we planned the trip in such a way that it didn't interfere with-- that was the second primary, which I think was like in May. So he wanted us to plan the trip a little further out to do it in June. And so we said fine, and we were kind of working around it. Took the June date. I mean this was seven, eight months, maybe longer than that, in advance of that date. And so we started making all these plans to go. One day, he came in and said-- I don't know exactly. Can't quote him exactly, but essentially, the message was that Karen had decided not to run and that there wasn't any other Democratic candidate. And--

Hayes: And it's getting late?

Block: And it's getting late, and this was almost probably in December or November, something like that. So I started thinking about that, and I said, "Well, Karen's not going to run. There's no other Democratic candidates who will run. It's got to be some Democrat." And so I decided to call the Democratic headquarters, and I asked them if I decided, would they support me. Well, that wasn't exactly met with a lot of enthusiasm. There were some people that said, "Hey, you can never win."

Hayes: Well, you hadn't run for-- I mean you were not involved at all? Were you a long-time Democrat or active in the party back in the--

Block: Wendy had been. Wendy was president of the Democratic Women, but I had not been.

Hayes: So you were a novice, say...

Block: In every respect of the word.

Hayes: But you were a lawyer?

Block: I was a lawyer. And I had been appointed a United States magistrate and had served about seven, eight years as a United States magistrate. So that--

Hayes: Now, what is that? I don't understand what--

Block: That's the lowest level federal judicial officer. They have a lot more responsibility now than they did when I was in it, but they're below a federal district court judge, but they do have the jurisdiction to try some misdemeanors, and I think they can have, with the agreement of the parties-- I don't how it is now, but usually with the agreement of the parties, they can try civil cases.

Hayes: Oh. So you were doing that for-- and you can still continue your practice and do both of those?

Block: Right. I was a part-time U.S. magistrate.

Hayes: Okay.

Block: And what they had in small communities around the country. And so I was bad at it, so I got my paper, the name in the paper a lot. And so I figured I had some name recognition in the community plus from my days out at the shirt factory. So anyhow, I felt like that I could at least make a showing. So I told the democratic party if they would support me. I think the final attitude was, "Well, nobody else is running, and so we might as well just support him." But anyhow, they-- ultimately, they came out in support of me very strongly and--

Jones: What year was this, Frank?

Block: When all this was going, it was 1986.

Jones: Okay.

Block: And...

Hayes: And who was your opponent then?

Block: A fellow by the name of Franklin Williams.

Hayes: Franklin!

Jones: Oh, I know Frank Williams. Good friend of mine, and his wife.

Block: Yes, right. And--

Hayes: But he did serve in the legislature.

Jones: He did.

Block: He was an unelected incumbent when I ran.

Hayes: Oh, okay, so he had been appointed that for several years and--

Block: Unexpired term of Chip Wright. Chip Wright I think is the name. He was the senator before him who'd gotten-- had had gotten appointed to be in the Utilities Commission.

Hayes: So we have a pharmacist against the lawyer, so there you go.

Jones: He's known as the pill man. That's what he calls himself, the pill man.

Block: Is that what he calls himself?

Jones: His e-mail is pillman, "thepillman."

Block: Somebody telling me that when I first started running, I didn't know who was running I guess, and they said, "Oh, you know, you're running against a drug dealer."

Hayes: Oh, no!

Block: I said, "What?" But they quickly straightened that out.

Hayes: Oh, man! A gentleman race or...?

Block: There is no such thing.

Jones: In front of others, I don't think so. Behind the scenes, you might be able to shake hands and eat lunch together, you know.

Block: Yeah, yeah, right. But anyhow, that's a subject for another tale. But I ran against him in my first election. I ran against him again in my second election.

Hayes: Then you won the first one?

Block: Right.

Hayes: And how long is this senator's term then?

Block: Two years.

Hayes: Just two? Oh, it's not like it's federal... That's too bad.

Block: Right.

Hayes: So every two years you have to...

Block: Everybody in the legislature runs every two years.

Jones: Just spending half your time running for office, it seems.

Block: Oh, yes. It's terrible. Well, it's both a good idea and a bad idea. My thinking, it makes everybody very, very responsive to the needs or the interests of your constituents because you're always running, which is the reason that they have the House of Representatives run every two years. It has a definite down side since that you're always fundraising. Just those two things you do, until you get really, really settled in the position where you don't have to worry about competitors and stuff like that. But, anyhow, it was a good experience, and I enjoyed it. I ran three times. I had four political elections and won four times. I've never lost an election.

Jones: So what made you not run again?

Hayes: So you were in for six years or eight years?

Block: I was in for six years.

Jones: Six.

Block: Yes, right. And what made me decide not to run? Well, what I tell everybody is I had all the fun I could stand.

Jones: Okay.

Block: But, no, it was a good experience. I never went into it with an idea that being a career track for me anything like that. It was strictly with the idea that I was going to do it for a while.

Jones: You were serving your community, yes.

Block: Wendy did not like it.

Jones: I can understand that.

Block: Yes, and Wendy-- and in retrospect, I understand it a lot better now than I did then. I mean I've left on Monday morning, and I didn't come in until Thursday night.

Hayes: I wondered about that. So during the session, which can go on for months...

Block: Oh, yes.

Hayes: ... you're really gone. And how do you do your own business? That's the other question.

Block: It's very difficult.

Hayes: Because you still have to make a living. They don't pay-- doesn't pay serious money.

Block: I think when I was in-- I can't remember the exact number, but something on the order of $12,000 a year.

Hayes: You can't live like that.

Block: Which is not-- maybe what they do-- what they call it is you're a citizen legislator, and that's not a bad thing. I think that's a good thing. What it forces is you don't-- well, what it forces is no professional politicians, although that's not 100% true now. You have very few professional politicians. What you have is people who have some resources of their own or--

Jones: They'd have to.

Block: They have to have, or sometimes they have a reporter who says, "You're worth more to us in the legislature [inaudible] than you are on the job, and so you run with those people and pay you're their salary. But what it freezes out is a guy that's just a working man, and you don't have any right like that. But that's both good and bad in the sense that everybody up there has been successful at doing something, and--

Hayes: Is it dominated by lawyers at your time? Was it mainly lawyers?

Block: It was not mostly lawyers, but it was certainly a higher percentage of lawyers. There's a lot of lawyers in it. But that makes sense because I mean laws-- what your legislature does--

Jones: But this is it.

Hayes: This is what you're interested in.

Jones: The average individual cannot read some of these bills and some of these measurements and understand really what they're all about.

Hayes: I think that's the point, isn't it?

Jones: Yeah. (laughter)

Hayes: That was a joke. For the record, that was a joke.

Jones: Yeah, he does stand-up comedy.

Hayes: Sorry couldn't resist.

Jones: So that was for--

Hayes: So involvement went to university then. You're not necessarily on the board right now, but you have been on the board of trustees for an extended period of time.

Jones: And you were chair at one time, right?

Block: Twice.

Jones: Twice.

Block: The way that works is that that was I gubernatorial appointee, and what you do is you get appointed to a four-year term, and at the end of that, they can appoint you to one more four-year term.

Hayes: And there's limits.

Block: That's it. That's the limit of the amount of time.

Hayes: Were you a senator at that same time?

Block: No, I couldn't have done that.

Hayes: Yes, would've been a conflict of interest.

Block: Right.

Jones: Well, you couldn't have done-- yeah, okay.

Block: I think Harry Payne, in fact, was on the board of trustees for a very short period of time but had to drop off when he-- I think he was appointed, if I remember, that's when he was appointed chairman of employment security Some state job.

Hayes: So when was your tenure? What eight-year period were you?

Block: It was pretty much the same time as Jim Leutze's time. He came a little bit before I started, and he left a little bit before. Well, he didn't actually leave very much before the end of my term. So I was pretty much-- Jim and I were here pretty much at the same time. And I have to say this about Jim, that he was absolutely the right person in the right job at the right time.

Hayes: Great.

Block: I just think the world of him, and I think he did such an outstanding job at the university, and I couldn't take anything away from Chancellor DePaolo because I think she is the right person in the right job at the right time.

Jones: At the next time. It's a different phase.

Block: Huh?

Jones: It's a different phase now.

Block: Different phase. The university has moved on. Different kind of talents are required, but Jim was just, I mean he was just a great guy.

Hayes: What were some of the big issues that you remember then from-- that's a long time period.

Block: Yeah. Oh, I had a lot to do with-- my memory fails me, but always something to do with tuitions, and one of the big issues was-- came later to be a bad word-- equity funding.

Hayes: You bet.

Block: And that was something where no matter what happened, no matter how we changed the system, UNCW always ended up at the bottom of the pile when it came to getting money from the state. We were always at the bottom. And they kept changing the formulas, moving things around, resizing it. Always the same place.

Jones: Do you know any reason why?

Block: I think that there was, a lot of it's very entrenched in interest. I mean money and education is the name of the game, and so I mean who's going to give up their money: Chapel Hill or State?

Hayes: I think some of it was tied to the fact that we were very small and had a base funding and then grew very, very fast, and the growth money didn't catch up for your size. So we're the most efficient and under-funded, but we were so efficient because we still grew without the money.

Block: That's right.

Hayes: And as a board member, one of your responsibilities then was to try to change that, right? At a political level or at a...

Block: At any level we could. And, of course, I think Jim was gathered, fully leading the charge on that, and they went through all these real fancy studies about doing it different ways, and they went through all these miscegenations, and then when they ended up at the bottom of the pack. So I don't know. I mean there are so many schools that have got political interests that are being addressed, and I think sometimes it could make-- they say, "Well, we're going to give everybody a 10% increase." Don't do that. It could get worse. If you're already behind, and they can't get a huge amount of money, you get zip. So I don't know. Those are the kind of things.

Hayes: Well, did you have a sense-- so you were-- earlier, you were in the senate. Did you have a sense-- some people feel like Wilmington has always been at the end of the food chain. I mean is this more than just the university? Did you feel like a legislature ignored us or...?

Block: If you look at a map of the state of North Carolina, we belong to South Carolina. They're behind you and straight across, and it drops down to pick up Wilmington. I don't know why was done, but I surmise it was forgetting to save North Carolina our port. And South Carolina had Charleston. Virginia had Norfolk. And North Carolina without Wilmington, maybe Morehead.

Hayes: Well, Morehead was much later.

Block: Yes. Maybe we wouldn't have had a port. So I assume that's why that was done, but it was, I mean-- until I-40 was built, we were in another world.

Jones: That's true.

Block: And so I don't think there was any-- and we were definitely not the center of gravity in the state of North Carolina.

Hayes: So did you feel that in the legislature all those years? I mean always pushing?

Block: It started to begin to change.

Hayes: Was it? Okay.

Block: You know, with Mark Best [ph?] and I, and all that-- now, he's from Dare County, and that mean he's a pretty definitely an Easterner, but the one immediately preceding it, the one before him was Lisen [ph?] Ramsey, who was from the western part of the state.

Jones: That's a different country.

Block: Take a look at Western Carolina right now. They get more-- a lot more-- they've got more square-foot push-through than we do. So there's all kinds of political forces at play when it comes to that kind of stuff. And one of the big issues when I very first got on the board was the funding for the Marine Science Center, and that was a big issue. And there was one professor at one of these schools that actually said when we did get the funding that that's the end of marine science in the state of North Carolina.

Hayes: Oh, gee.

Block: Yeah. (laughs) But, no, that was the attitude.

Jones: They just figured this place was at the beach.

Block: At the beach. That's right. And we were trying to-- and one of the big things that I did when I was in the legislature was trying to get funding for state ports. Well, you know, anybody I talked to said, "That's a pork barrel, and we're just trying to get some pork money to help the state-- you know, to help with state pools." That's a statewide issue. That keeps North Carolina--

Hayes: Still is. The stuff they ship is from the rest of the state is from here.

Block: Well, actually, there, it's another problem because most of the stuff on the western part of the state is through Charleston because it's actually closer.

Hayes: Is that right?

Block: Yes, a lot of it gets to Charleston, which is a problem if they're trying to-- then it became an issue of, "Oh, we've got to get the same kind of money as Morehead." Well, Morehead will never be this important--

Jones: Never, ever.

Block: It's just too far away.

Jones: Ever.

Block: It's a lot further.

Hayes: What about-- I would guess you were influential in the whole concept of campaign for the buildings. That was in your time period.

Block: Which building is that?

Hayes: You know, the big push to have an actual bond issue.

Block: Oh, yes.

Hayes: We're coming to the end of that now, but it was your board that really helped with that.

Block: Yes.

Hayes: And why did that work then? Was it just the right time?

Block: I think Molly Broad was the person who came up with that and at the time-- the first time I ever heard of that, and I'm not claiming credit for the bond issue. I'm sure that I'm not nearly a big enough player. But the first time that I actually ever thought about a bond issue was in-- they used to have this thing where once a year you had to go up to Molly and sit down with Molly and the chancellor. She would evaluate the chancellor. And she'd say, "Look now," and anyhow, we were talking about needing money for all these important projects and talking about it, and I said, "That just cries out for a bond issue," and that was the first that I'd ever thought about that.

Hayes: But you had to go up for one building at a time. That was the model before.

Block: Right.

Hayes: It was very political.

Block: Right.

Hayes: And the whole state was falling behind. And sort of the idea of a systematic plan to go forward was really quite unusual for the legislature. I mean I think it was a compliment to them that they bought into it. Wasn't there-- there actually was a referendum, though. I didn't know if you, as board members, were called on to actually...

Block: Well, we could be supportive of it.

Hayes: Be supportive, yeah.

Block: Well, I think, of course, the past was a big help in getting a lot of that stuff done. I don't think the marine science building was a part of that, if I remember correctly.

Hayes: No, not the first one.

Block: I think that was a separate appropriation in the legislature.

Hayes: Yeah, I might point out for you, you talked about the effort to get additional funding, which you called the catch-up funding or whatever-- equity funding.

Block: Yeah, equity.

Hayes: And just a few years after Rosemary DePaolo came here, we did make a leap forward, and she acknowledged that it was those years of your board and Jim Leutze hammering on. In other words, those things don't happen overnight.

Block: Yes, overnight, right, sure.

Hayes: And I remember at the celebration, former board members and Jim Leutze were invited back because it takes forever to change those, right? I mean you probably started on that at the start of your eight years...

Block: And are still working at it.

Jones: Well, I've heard a number of people refer to this university, this plant here, as the "crown jewel of Wilmington." I've also heard people say, "Well, our medical center is the crown jewel of Wilmington." And I'm thinking, well, you've got them both now, which you didn't have before.

Block: Right.

Hayes: I don't know that you have to have one crown.

Jones: You can spread it around, and PPG is another crown.

Block: So think of it as a tiara.

Jones: There you go!

Hayes: I like that.

Jones: There you go. So I'm just thinking kind of ahead here that with the-- there's a lot of building going on here now. Everybody knows that. Try to park. You did this afternoon. If it weren't for holidays...

Block: I know, I know it.

Jones: But with the movement downtown along the riverfront and you're talking about support, could I ask you for your opinions about what is happening or what they're talking about happening with the port? I've heard one segment say, "That will never happen down there. It can't. There's no infrastructure."

Hayes: Speaking about that, you're talking about there's a proposal for a major port in Southport right now.

Jones: Yeah, I'm sorry, yeah.

Hayes: But maybe even broader than that, you've been a long-time family here, and you've come back and served here and continue to. What are the next big issues for Wilmington and, in your opinion, for the next 10 years?

Block: Let me talk about the port for a minute.

Jones: That is a huge issue.

Hayes: That is a big issue, yeah.

Jones: For a number of reasons.

Block: Right, right. And I like the idea of expanding port facilities, and you probably saw in the paper where RC Soles has introduced the bill for a road study to get down there apparently one infrastructure that they had. Well, if you think that things are bad now, you should've seen them before I-40 maybe. It was really difficult to get into Wilmington. That was, I think, extremely detrimental to the port. I don't know exactly. I mean I couldn't prove any numbers about what effect this had on the port generally, but I think it's got to have a positive effect.

Hayes: Oh, definitely.

Block: I think that the port can be a good part of the future economic growth of the area. Good transportation, good communications is always beneficial to economic development, and I think that that's something that this area could take advantage of. So I don't know. I like the idea of the state port. I like the idea of expanding the state port. And I think that putting it down there where they're talking about doing it will have less interference with other forms of economic development and right below Sunny Point and it wants to be next to the same point. I don't think you could put too many houses down there next to Sunny Point.

Hayes: Sunny Point being a major munitions transshipment point?

Block: Right. I've heard it said that it's the largest ammunition-handling depot in the world.

Jones: I've heard that.

Block: And so I think there was a lot of stuff down there, and you don't want to be next to it if somebody like strikes a match. I think that's-- anything happening is the unlikely an extreme. There's all kinds of buffers and all that kind of stuff so you can separate it. And I don't even know if it's still exactly as it was. I assume it is. But I think that that's probably a good location. I think it would be a great asset to the area in general. There's no reason why Wilmington shouldn't be as large as Charleston and why it shouldn't be as large as Norfolk. Should have the same economic basis as those two cities. I can't think of any reason except for being port facilities and larger and more accessible than ours.

Hayes: Right.

Block: But I think this is a step in right direction.

Hayes: Other major issues you want to comment on? What do you think is coming? You're not going to retire totally? You know you'll be involved.

Block: (laughs) I don't know. I think-- well, you can kind of speak in macro terms that-- I've lived-- my era was the Cold War Era. From the time I graduated college to the time I-- almost to the time I-- right before I retired, that was one of the dominant forces in the world. Not once during the period of the Cold War did I ever think to myself, gee, whiz, something bad might happen around here, and we might get hurt in some way, and maybe my children might be affected in some way. And the Cold War is over, and whatever you want to call this thing we've got going on now, it is most definitely a war, and it is a hot war. And for the first time, I feel like, gee whiz, something bad could happen here.

Jones: On our shore?

Block: Not on our shore. I mean Wilmington.

Jones: That's what I'm thinking. That's what I'm saying, on our shore. That's right. It would be reasonable to suspect that could happen.

Block: Yes, I mean because, certainly, we're exposed and there are a lot of military targets around here.

Jones: That's right.

Block: And I don't know how you protect yourself. At least during the Cold War, you had MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. If they dropped a bomb on us, we're going to drop a bomb on them.

Hayes: Right.

Block: Well, now, if you get a bomb dropped on you, you don't even know where it came from.

Jones: Well, it doesn't have to be a bomb.

Block: Yes, that's right. It could be just anything.

Hayes: Right.

Block: Somebody could--

Hayes: Different time.

Block: Yes, and they could--

Jones: But this is how our wars are going to be, well, if they fought, avoided taking part. You know, from now on, it's no longer rules of engagement.

Block: Right.

Hayes: On a social level, do you see us able to keep growing? In other words, you talked about the size of the port but also just the housing and the people? I mean when you were growing up, the city was a town of 20-some thousand?

Block: 30.

Hayes: 30,000, and now the metro area is 300?

Block: Yes, is that what it is?

Hayes: If you count Brunswick, Pender.

Jones: Oh, you're talking about that. Yeah, New Hanover County total is 106,000.

Hayes: But you have to include Pender now has become.

Jones: Brunswick is the fastest growing county in the country.

Hayes: So those are 300,000-some thousand who see Wilmington as the hub.

Block: Yes.

Hayes: In fact your husband's work with World War II, we were about that in World War II, which I can't visualize how you had that many people around here with an infrastructure for 20.

Jones: In this way, how do you, do you feel I mean with growth and so forth, and we've got a lot of these things available here: museums and all the arts and so forth. It's marvelous. But since your mother was one of the first, if not the first, to try to revitalize homes downtown, how important in your feeling is it with PBD on one end and perhaps a convention center and then to keep downtown as it was, to preserve it in an older way and yet use it? Is that going to happen?

Block: Well, I guess it can happen in some modified sort of way. I don't think you can freeze downtown in time and say that you'll never change it.

Jones: No, that's back to the future.

Block: That's right because needs change, people change.

Jones: Right.

Block: That's not to say that we are to take all our beautiful old homes and tear them down. They shouldn't. I think things that have true historic value should be preserved, and I've met a lot of things downtown with true historic value. That doesn't mean that everything needs to be preserved. There's a lot of stuff that's old and ain't very good looking and that has no real historic values. Just because it's so old, doesn't necessarily mean historic.

Jones: Careful now.

Block: I'm getting on the edge.

Hayes: He was talking about us!

Jones: Well we're close the same age.

Hayes: Well, I'm getting there.

Block: We won't go into that. Okay. But anyhow, I think that everything should be done with an added at the historic overlay areas an all that kind of stuff need to be protected. But at the same time, I guess a certain amount of judgment has to be exercised. And, I don't know, if General Motors wanted to build a major office building downtown, and it's going to employ 5,000 people.

Hayes: We should be interested.

Block: We should listen to what they have to say. We'll find a place to put you.

Jones: I'm kind of sorry Dell didn't come down and build a place down here, you know they were looking at us.

Block: Who was that?

Jones: Dell Computers.

Block: Were they really?

Hayes: Well, that's interesting growth, and the retirement of the next generation coming in, the baby boomers, my generation is making a difference.

Jones: Are any of your children living here, Frank?

Block: Not now.

Hayes: Yeah.

Block: The main concern in this whole concept is quality of life.

Jones: Right.

Block: What is the thing that's going to improve the quality of life of the people of that area.

Jones: That's what this is about.

Hayes: That's good.

Block: And if something is going to improve the quality of life, you've got to think very long and hard before you not do it because there's a snail darter something like that, not that the snail darters are not important, but they need to be protected, too. But sometimes a rational weighing of the good and bad of anything needs to be made.

Jones: Well, sometimes do you think they have to seize the moment, the opportunity is there, take it?

Block: Sometimes yes, exactly right.

Hayes: Right.

Block: Sometimes opportunity only knocks once.

Hayes: Why don't you end by telling us a little bit about your kids because we keep referring to them? At least we can get them on the record and say that they exist. What are your children?

Block: Have three children. Have a son, Steven, very interesting guy. Have a daughter, Amy, and a daughter, Ellen, both a variation of people.

Jones: Yes they are.

Hayes: And they live in different parts of the country?

Block: My son, Steve, lives in Seattle.

Hayes: Wow.

Block: He is graduated from Hoggard. Went to Chapel Hill, got a degree in Slavic studies, then went to Middlebury, got a master's in Russian. Then went to-- started at Wake Forest but didn't graduate from American Law School, and for a long time did trade with the Russians.

Hayes: Wow.

Jones: Good Lord.

Hayes: Interesting.

Jones: And how old is he?

Block: He will be 47 next month, yes, 47 next month. But then one day he came in, and he says, "I'm quitting trading with the Russians." Okay. I'll tell this story quickly. Said, "I'm quitting trading with the Russians." I said, "Why are you going to do that?" I said, "What are you going to do?" He said, "I'm going to go to Tulane, get an LLM in admiralty law."

Hayes: My goodness!

Block: I said fine. So in the meantime, he writes a script, which was actually published, and Barnes & Noble carried it. It was a book about the Russian mafia.

Jones: Oh!

Block: One of my favorite stories is that Wendy read the book and came and got old Steven and says, "Steve, I want to ask you a question, and I want a yes or no answer, and I don't want any explanations." And he said, "Okay." And Wendy asked, "Were the experiences you wrote about in that book experiences you actually had in Russia?" And he said, "Yes."

Hayes: Oh, my goodness!

Block: And it is nasty folks over there.

Jones: I know. So Amy and her husband and children live in California.

Block: Right.

Jones: So where in California?

Block: They've lived here for a long time.

Jones: Yes.

Block: Bought my old house back that she was raised in.

Jones: Yes.

Block: And her husband, Mark, was working for Chase Manhattan Bank and got a new job with Balboa Insurance Company and is major--

Hayes: Transferred. And your second daughter is in?

Block: Lives in Charlotte and was a realtor but now a full-time mom married to an architect.

Jones: They've all done well. You should be proud, you and Wendy, both. Good people.

Hayes: And we really want to thank you for sharing this with us, all of our people.

Block: My pleasure, I've enjoyed it.

Hayes: Thank you very much.

Block: Great to be able to talk about yourself. (laughter)

Jones: Well, it's been interesting. It's been a lot of fun.

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