Hot Dog

I loved this guy, and he contributed so much to others. He was a superb athlete. He moved like a cat. What was most unusual about him was his lack of self-awareness and voice.  His background was small-townish, and he had a conflicted history with family life until he came to us for a job. We gave him stability and anchored him to the ground.  And he gave us and others back in spades.

He had a remarkable creative mind when it came to activities and bringing them to people of all ages. The problem was that he did not acknowledge or appreciate his capabilities. A wonderful and memorable event will make this clear.

He was first employed as a specialist at Camp Shasta during the sixties. He taught swimming and lifesaving and ran the waterski program. In his limited free time, he gave it all to camp and groups. A perfect example: Sunday was usually my day to get involved with all of camp, and I would put together games and activities that brought all together.  Pure fun and games were the objectives. As events would have it, I was trapped by other issues. He stepped into the breach, and the very next thing was everyone having a wonderful time playing games he invented. When it came to activities, he was creative—the best.

When the International Youth Hotel opened, he did everything for the staff and kids. He ran the food counter, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, and more at no charge, earning the nickname “Hot Dog!”

On one occasion, the president of the Hotel told me that a major national association would be holding a convention for thousands, and their children were being invited. Family inclusion was an issue rarely faced previously in Las Vegas. “Can we do this? He asked. 

He told me we might have as many as a thousand kids to entertain for the day. “Is this possible, and what do you think we need to do?” A few hours later, “Hot Dog” came and told me it could be done and the stuff he would need, including the staff’s assistance.

“No problem,” was my instant response. Staff and I became participants awaiting his instructions.  Our Inner Circle is in action.  

The day came, and about 1000 kids of all ages came together with our entire staff in one great hall. “Hot Dog” created and facilitated one of the most wonderful days of fun and active participation I have ever witnessed.  The Youth Hotel program was honored throughout Las Vegas. The world-renowned International Hotel and its president as leader became the star of Las Vegas in the early seventies. What followed is a story I’ve told in my books.

When I began to do workshops for organizations throughout the country, I often invited “Hot Dog” to come with me and create some recreational time and games for my adult audience.  Unique to my serious lectures on power and leadership is that we also found time for fun and games. He always did the job for the participants and me.

Back at the Youth Hotel, we had a hotel person come daily to clean (spotlessly) the facility. In a short time, he attached himself to “Hot Dog” and helped in any way he could. Soon he was helping staff with children, and in a very short time, he was with us seven days a week. He asked if he could come to the meetings we held each month at our home. “Of course,” we said.  And, when he came, he brought his wife.  He was a gift, and he and “Hot Dog” became a team to benefit all. When the Youth Hotel closed, “Hot Dog” came with us to Tahoe. When that closed and I began to lecture, he eventually reverted to who he was when he first came to us. I think I know why, but that’s another story. 

I am the clown—I can make you happy too—We play together


The New Hire

Like so many others, he came out of the Vietnam “sadness,” deeply scarred by his experiences. He was a medic, a hero, and ready to get on with his life. When he came to me looking for a job, he was not yet ready to take on more battles and wanted something to do that was entirely different from anything he had done in the past.

It only took minutes for me to know I would hire him, and when I did, he asked, “why do you hire me since I have no experience with children?”

I told him it was no problem and not to worry. I would help him learn. I knew then that he was a gift coming into our life. And, maybe, we were a gift in his life? 

In no time, he became a member of my inner circle. If a job needed doing, he took it on. If he needed help, he asked and was given what he needed. No task was undertaken without him also taking full responsibility. Other staff members recognized him as a leader and readily cooperated with him. He led in whatever he was called upon to do. 

Our staff was in training for over six months before the Youth Hotel opening, and he facilitated them earning some money doing various jobs for the hotel. He made it easy for Lenette and me to do our jobs, her to design and outfit, and me to deal with the administration and other details.

Sometime later, Hilton Corp. purchased the International Resort and Hotel. The Youth Hotel died soon after, as did the Hotel itself. We moved on, and as a result of fulfilling a request to study a failing resort at Lake Tahoe, we were hired to implement the program we designed. I chose a select crew to join us at Lake Tahoe. I wanted the best people to ensure that the family program we designed would succeed.

The vet that did such a remarkable job for us in Las Vegas and my other inner circle members came to take over and operate what was a tennis club (29 tennis courts), condos, apartments, restaurant and bar, pools, and other resort facilities. I selected our vet to be the marketing director, a job he had never done before. 

He began slowly but picked up speed as his experience grew. In time he achieved a near miracle with articles in airline magazines and other media, and our resort filled up with reservations for the coming summer. Other members of our inner circle did their job as if pros in the resort business for years. A full house was expected, but it rained all that summer, so cancelations came as fast as the raindrops.

No problem, as he sold out the resort for the coming winter snow scene. Once again, we had a full house of reservations, but, as luck would have it, the rain continued all that winter, meaning no snow and canceled reservations. The resort owner offered to sell it to us for pennies on the dollar. This was during the Carter period, and high-interest rates made it impossible to find an investor. We sadly let it go, and we moved the Inner circle into our home while Lenette and I left for our seven-and-one-half-month Mexico adventure. 

Our vet and former marketing director found a job with a major Casino and Resort Corporation. It took a while, but he was recognized as an exceptional talent and began his upward climb in a very tough business. He ended up head of marketing and sales. He earned it.


Another Exceptional Individual

I’ve been writing this series of essays about individuals who stand out from the crowd. Everyone is an individual, but few are special, unique, and “one of a kind” in attitude and behavior. This is what I care about. 

There are no names, although some will be easy to identify for those who lived or worked with them at one of our programs.  Our work with youth and our young staff ran from 1948 to 1975 when serendipity played its cards.  These serendipitous events occupied my learning and teaching for the next 35 years. And please note that I loved both occupations thoroughly.

This story is about a brilliantly creative preschool teacher we hired to work with our children and young staff. She loved the little ones and the relationships she established with her young and inexperienced staff. A few staff members clearly realized this master teacher was a gold mine of child knowledge. Accordingly, they took her every word and deed to heart. Between her and them, they created one of the finest preschool programs anywhere.

The woman I speak of was exceptional in her approach to the care and education of the young. Two co-workers recognized her “artistry” and attached themselves to her. They all achieved incredible things with their students. It was beyond gratifying for those of us fortunate enough to observe and facilitate. These young teachers became award-winning educators in the California and Nevada Educational systems.

 Lenette designed the entire facility, which we called “Children’s Campus.” It was a unique model for communities, providing services for preschool through teens. This program led to Lenette and me designing and operating the Youth Hotel in the International Resort & Hotel.


Another Person of Interest

The Red Squad at Camp Shasta comprised teenage boys and girls. While they received no pay, they attended and enjoyed all the activities at Camp at no cost. Members of the Red Squad worked as assistants with the specialists and did the labor projects at Camp. Some of them were very mature and undertook their given tasks with total responsibility as full-grown adults. The story that follows is about one of them.

Every member of Red Squad was given the right to participate in all of Camp’s staff meetings, which usually took place in the evening after our nightly campfire. Most always came. Perhaps they were enticed by the food the kitchen would prepare. Even an Army moves on its stomach. Camp staff and Red Squad certainly did!

The Red Squad member I write about was his own person with his own voice. He did not relate well with his peers but always did an exceptional job when given a task, even if it was difficult. He was strong, capable, and even creative when doing a job. Still, as I mentioned, he was highly independent and seemed uninterested in interacting with the Red Squad as a social entity.  

A few years later, as an adult, he became an entrepreneur, married, and had his first child. I was invited to attend one of his staff meetings, where I listened and watched his approach and way of relating to his staff. He spoke passionately about his vision while they listened intently, seemingly mesmerized. I remember he never once asked for anyone’s thoughts or input. He was the leader, and he knew what he wanted. Ultimately, his inability to see beyond himself shattered whatever dreams he may have had.

Much later, when I began to study power, communication, and relationships, I believe he was, at least to his mind, his staff, and probably a few others, “charismatic.” Yet, that was a bubble of his own making and one he could never escape.


Unique and Uniquely Missed

The woman I write of was a gift to all of us, particularly to Lenette. She was Lenette’s right hand and her left. When she was operating a preschool in Colorado on her own, she did an admirable job. Dedication, integrity, and honesty are how she lived her life. Tragically, she died much too soon. How can anyone explain this?

One thing for sure, she had her own voice and did her best to provide those she worked with an environment where they could find their own voices. We were together for almost 20 years and remained close until she left us. And she was a “lucky pup.” She would drop a few quarters into the slots when she went shopping at certain grocery stores, and lo and behold! She would hit a return, and often it was a considerable one. She is missed.

Another also comes to mind. He was like one of my arms. Reliable, principled, strong, honest, creative, and dedicated to whatever task he took on. He was with us from the fifties through the early sixties before he passed, far too young. Like our beauty above, he had his own voice and used it to benefit others in ways that they, too, could find and use their own voice. Both of whom I write are remembered for who they were and what they gave to us and so many others.

Now and then, people converge who are destined to come together. Whether it be by way of serendipity or fate, we will never know. What we do know is that certain people we meet in our life fit so perfectly in ours that when they leave us, we feel and know the space they created was exceptional and special, never to be filled again. We are blessed to have shared a period of life together that was as meaningful as it was.

We meet, benefit—Meant or a pure accident—It does not matter


Unique, Yet Self-Centered

These events took place when the person I’m writing of was a 10-year-old who saw the world through his own unique lens and continued to do so throughout his life. The story that follows is an example of his singular point of view. 

At Camp Shasta (1960 to 1970), each group of 8 campers, with their counselor, and junior counselor, were given a cabin where they could do anything with it they wanted to. Including adding rooms, a deck, saw holes, paint or just live in it as is. All with the agreement that every cabin at camp, boys and girls, had to be kept spotless and ready for a daily inspection each morning after breakfast. 

The boy I write about came to get me so he could show me what he did to his cabin. Excitedly, he pointed out the huge hole he had made in the wall next to his bed.

“I can see the stars and the moon, too,” he said proudly.

I congratulated him for finding a way to be inside and outside at the same time. It was his voice being expressed. His problem then, and what remained his problem, was that his voice was all that mattered to him. If others had a voice, he did not care. Wrapped up in his self-centeredness was how he lived his life.  He had his own unique voice, but sadly, it was the only one that meant anything to him. 

A side story: One cabin at camp had practiced and prepared for a horseback overnight. They spent many hours training with the wrangler. On the day that they were to head off into the wilderness for their rare adventure, I had the job of inspecting cabins, and their cabin was a mess.

I told them and their counselor, “No horses until your cabin is spotless. Get me when ready.” 

They called me back minutes later and seeing that their beds were loosely made, I said, “no dice.”

All of the campers, including the counselor, screamed at me. They were very anxious to get to the corral. Once again, I left, and a half-hour later, they came for me. That time, I found the cabin in military shape. Beautiful! “Have a great overnight.”

And they had a memorable time.


The Unique People I Know

I shared the story of Jeff and my blood family. From this point on, I will share stories of the unique people I have known, including children, staff, professionals, entrepreneurs, and their key and exceptional people. Admittedly, I’m not sure where any of this will take me. I accept the challenge because I believe we are all born unique. Even so, few of us can remain unique because our initial caregivers take our voice from us.

So, let me explain what I intend when I use the word “voice.” Our voice is ours, and only ours, never another’s. It is ultimately what we see, hear, feel, and think from deep within ourselves, not what others might see, hear, feel, and think. Our voice is “one of a kind,” and no one else’s.

When those who have created us receive us, they might have all kinds of thoughts about what they would like us to be and become. They want us to be healthy, bright, and, if a girl, beautiful. If a boy, strong and athletic. Or, they are simply thrilled to have and nurture us “to be” whatever and whomever we are and wish to be. In other words, whether they are conscious of this, they want our voice to be our own. So, those I choose to write about are, in my eyes and experience with them, special, unique, and “one of a kind.” Hence, the essays to come.

I believe I am my own self, and I never gave this a moment of consideration in all my past years. As an old man, it’s impossible to avoid. Visitors bring with them their memories of our relationship. However, it’s wonderful to hear what they say about our times together (whether as former campers, staff, leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs, and their key employees). Their perception of me is illuminating because I never stopped to know myself at the time since I was busy working hard to know them. 



If you are given only one sister, and she’s like Annette, how blessed you are. She was one of the kindest and most giving people one could be. Always there, always listening, always helping. She was her mother’s daughter. If there was a problem with being the only girl in the family, it almost always had to do with the one bathroom and the demand for it. Somehow, we made it work, but it was not easy.

She married Jim, a friend of Pete’s, and had two girls. The younger one (Lindy) needed to be in a dryer and warmer climate, so Annette and Jim decided to move to L.A. Since I was a student at UCLA, I moved in with Annette and her family. Anette’s marriage was never idyllic, and I became a third parent to the girls. We sang and told stories, and I took them to UCLA every so often. In summer, they came to Purple Sage. We were close. 

After the war, everyone but Joe and his family moved to Los Angeles. Annette and Jim went to Palm Springs often and eventually decided to move there. Lenette and I lived in Las Vegas and were making some meaningful money, so we invested in a Condo Annette and Jim could live in. They loved Palm Springs, and we visited and stayed with them.  

Sometime after Pa died, we visited Annette and Jim in Palm Springs. Annette immediately came to me and told me that she had suffered profound sadness since Pa’s death. While she had gone to a psychiatrist and psychologist for help, no one or treatment had helped her.

“Can you help me?” she asked.

I suggested she write Pa a letter. “Tell him everything about you. It may take a year but tell him the truth about your growing up and your life. Do not avoid anything. You’ll laugh, cry a bunch, and re-suffer growing up. Scratch the untruths, and re-write the truths. When finished writing to him, read it one last time, then burn the pages.”

I live my life over—but memories change nothing—now I understand 


My Brother, Bob. A Sad Story

Bob was my younger brother. Five years younger than me and fifteen years younger than Pete, the oldest. He was born a blue baby, and although he became the tallest of us all, he was a diabetic who required daily insulin. As he grew, I took more responsibility for him and often would take him with me. He had a few friends and did okay in school but was never wholly himself. Today I can say that he lacked self-confidence and that I, more than anyone, oversaw and protected him.  

In the 50s, as a teenager, he worked at Purple Sage, assisting in any way he could. When we built Camp Shasta, Bob was a strong contributor. He always did what he was asked to do. At 18, he joined the service and eventually became a highly thought-of x-ray lab technician. He was a tremendous caregiver and loved working in the VA hospitals. The Army wanted Bob to stay in the service, but he met a girl in Chicago and chose to get married. That was the beginning of the end.

Bob and his wife had two girls, and while Bob had a variety of jobs, he had difficulties keeping them. He was a caregiver and needed to be this as his life’s work. Working in traditional jobs was not his cup of tea. His marriage disintegrated, and we moved him in with us. When with us, I had a friend that hired Bob. He seemed happy, as did his boss until the boss discovered Bob was stealing petty cash. I confronted him, and we had a fistfight. I knocked him over the bed, and the fight was over, or so I thought.

Bob’s life continued to fall apart. We gave him the money to live in a small apartment, and it was there that we believe that he decided to take his life by not taking his insulin shots. We were at Shasta when Pete and Hy discovered his body.

I see him today—A smile and willing helper—we all have sadness


Us Ogulnicks

The Ogulnick siblings, from oldest to youngest, are Pete, Annette, Hy, Joe, me, and Bob. I’ve shared that we lived in an apartment on the West Side of Chicago. It’s where I was born in 1926 and lived until after the service when I left Chicago for UCLA. But this is the story of my sister and four brothers.

Pete was bright, assertive, and a brilliant salesman. He was also high-strung and, although small in stature, willing to take on anyone and anything. He loved music, from Chicago Jazz to classical and opera. When he got his first job (For all of us, making a living was a driving force, not education), he brought some cash home for Ma and Pa and classical records. He was 17, and I was 7, but he insisted that I be with him when he played his records. I owe him much for gifting me a love for classical music at an early age, and it remains so to this day.  

Nine of us, including Pa’s mother, were living in a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment, which made for challenging times, and conflict arose frequently between Pete, Hy, and Joe. I was never involved but preferred peace between them. Ma did her best, but it was Annette that arranged temporary cease-fires between them. Conflict continued between them until Pete moved out.  

Pete began to work for a major insurance company and was one of their leading salespeople in the country. When the war started, he immediately volunteered but was turned down several times because he was blind without his glasses. Frustrated, he worked in a torpedo manufacturing plant during the war.

Pete and his wife Shirley had two children (Elyse and Ron) and lived a good middle-class life. Pete made a fine living; they had a nice home, traveled, and dined at the best restaurants. When Lenette and I needed money to buy/build Camp Shasta. Pete mortgaged his home for us.