Charles Wright, Fighter for Funds
DOROTHY G. BELL
EX-PRIVATE CHARLES WRIGHT fought in the Great War-fought with his youth, his health, his strength, and
sacrificed them all gladly for humanity. Today, a cripple in hospital, on a total disability Government pension, he still fights—fights with his heart, his soul and his wits—still for humanity. His battle is with promoters of worthless stocks and vendors of equally bad securities who ruthlessly prey upon his comrades in adversity and misfortune—incapacitated soldiers like himself.
Out of $200,000 which he has endeavored to recover from various vendors and promoters he has already gained for the losers $70,000, and he is still carrying on, but he must work slowly. His body, broken on the machine of war, is so shattered that it renders him absolutely helpless for weeks at a time and always he is partially paralysed from the waist down so that he can move only with difficulty and walks with the aid of a stick. But the spirit that bid him—and others who fought—carry on through those ghastly years leads him on to battle, day by day, in the face of adversity and pain.
His sympathy with the sufferings of other men, his shoulder-to-shoulder love of his comrades of the Great War and his British respect for fair play prompted him to make this his unique profession upon his return from overseas. Yet in all the six years of his work he has never accepted remuneration nor has he sought one client. His reward comes in the relief of his own troubles while wrestling with those of others. He began his work while still confined to his bed in a Hamilton hospital and from that time his almost uncanny ability to size up stocks and bonds and to advise wisely in the cases of “insecure securities” spread, through the medium of his friends and hospital inmates, far afield.
His first case was that of a badly wounded man who lay in the bed next to him. Wright learned this man’s story during the long, weary hours of sleepless nights and pain-wracked days. He learned of the man’s knowledge of his approaching death, he learned of the love he bore his fifteen-year-old daughter— alone in the world except for her dying father. Then, after more long days, he learned the man’s real burden. All his earnings, all he had sacrificed to save, had gone into stocks—worthless stocks. The soldier’s last hours were being made miserable by the knowledge that he must die and leave his little girl unprovided for.
From that moment Mr. Wright began his wonderful work. There was no time to waste. His comrade was to undergo a serious operation a few days later.
“It is timed for ten o’clock Thursday morning. At ten o’clock on Thursday morning I know I will pass out,” he told Wright and nothing would turn him from that idea.
For The One Who “Went West”
XXTRIGHT was ill himself. Nevertheless he dragged ’ * himself out of bed and told his comrade’s story to the promoter of the “bad” stocks. Though this particular manager may have been a rascal, his heart was not of stone and after certain negotiations the money was refunded.
“I lost no time in re-investing the money—this time in Victory Bonds,” said Charles Wright to me. “When I got back to hospital, I found the man had become much worse and had been moved to another floor in preparation for the operation next morning. I sat with him all night and talked through his last, long hours. I told him of the safe investment I had made and it seemed to make him completely happy. But he kept saying to me over and over: ‘At ten o’clock, Charles, at ten o’clock, but I go happy now’.
“It was strictly against all rules of the hospital to admit any other patient into the operating room, but at ten o’clock when they came for him he had my hand in a firm grip and refused to let go. I went with him to the operating room—but there was to be no operation. On the stroke of ten, while the doctors were preparing the anaesthetic, he passed out, as he had said he would.
“But he died with a load off his mind and his conscience at rest in the knowledge that his little girl was provided for. This was in 1917. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of turning over to this girl, on her twenty-first birthday, a total of more than $1,500 — the original investment including
nearly fifty per cent, by her interest coupons.”
And so Charles Wright’s first service to a stricken comrade was rendered—the first of many—services that later became his profession.
Though it happened that the recovery of
the funds of the first client was comparatively easy,
Wright was to learn that there are difficulties and dangers to be faced in connection with the return of money invested in a company’s stocks or bonds and in requests for reimbursement. But he had been a bond salesman before the war; he knows the business of bonds; he knows salesmanship and he uses his knowledge as his point of attack, his line of defense. He has lost none of the art and, more often than not, he “persuades” the seller without a fuss—though there have been clashes.
“I got put out the other day,” he announced with a smile of sheer enjoyment. “They tackled me and put me out on the street. I still like the ‘rough stuff,’ though I can’t make as good a return as I once could. They say my fighting days are over, but you bet they’re not,” and the veteran’s eyes, snapping fire, confirmed it.
“I’m not just as handy as I used to be with the old
weapons,” he explained, attempting to clench a feeble fist, “but I have others. I went up to the office of the attorney-general and borrowed a man who could fight with his hands, if need be. We went back together and then they let me talk. I won my point,” he added, after a moment, quite as if it was a matter of course.
Some Sold in Good Faith
WRIGHT has been for six years in Toronto under treatment at Euclid Hall. Therefore, though he has helped men and women in many parts of the world, most of his work is centred in Toronto and perhaps it
could not be a more appropriate place for a profession
of this description, for there appears tq be plenty of scope in Ontario’s capital for vendors of worthless securities.
Mr. Wright, however, is convinced that most of these worthless stocks and bonds sold to Canadian crippled soldiers are sold in just as good faith as that in which they are bought. Often they are sold by ex-soldiers themselves to their friends. These men get caught on an attractive proposition, are schooled to believe in it,
Left a wreck by the fortunes of war, shut out from old associations, Charles Wright has found an interest, fighting the man who sells fraudulent or unprofitable securities to his friends, the veterans.
invest a little money in it themselves, and then, because they are sincere in their beliefs, they think they are doing their friends a favor by
persuading them to take shares in it.
One soldier who left the hospital and was anxious to make his own living was tricked into believing that a certain mining proposition was an excellent paying proposition. He was easily inveigled into first buying and then selling stock and the first place he went after he became a salesman for this firm of “wild goose” promoters, was the hospital from which he had just been discharged. Through his enthusiasm to let his friends in on this wonderful deal he received a great deal of money. When the mines failed to pay the promised dividends he and his friends lost all they had put into it. This boy was very much distressed and no less astonished to find that he has been duped and that he, in all innocence, had, in turn, made dupes of his comrades. He worried over the affair until he became ill. Wright took up the case, fought it, and received money back on the grounds that misrepresentation had been made to the salesman.
Charles Wright’s observations lead him to believe that women, as a whole, are much more conscientious than men and that they are less inclined to have anything to do with a firm in which they have not implicit faith.
“Never, in the course of my work, have I found a woman selling worthless securities with a knowledge of it,” declared this fighter for funds. “A woman once sold one of the boys at the hospital some bonds that were honest, but that had at the time she sold them absolutely no market value. She sold them in all good faith. I tried to recover the lad’s money from the company but failed. I knew, after investigation, that it was an utter impossibility—yet some weeks later some of the money was returned to him with a promise of more later. Every few weeks he received a payment until the amount of the original investment had been repaid. Sometimes it was a very small one, but always something. The saleswoman, I learned later, through her bank, had made the payments from her own account. I seldom find any quarrel with the salesman—and I seldom approach him on the subject of re-imbursement because I know that in nine cases out of ten he has made his misrepresentation quite unwittingly. The fault lies, usually, higher up.”
But there are salesmen, unfortunately, who deliberately lie in wait for their chance to prey like vultures on those weaker than themselves.
“I remember a particularly deplorable case of this kind,” continued Wright, and his face, happy and bright in spite of the drawn lines in it, clouded over at the unpleasant recollection. “A blind boy, with both arms shot off, was urged by two salesmen to buy a large number of shares in an oil company. They told him that in a few months he would be financially independent on the dividends they would pay. They went away with all the money he possessed. Several months later when the helpless man had heard nothing he became uneasy. I examined his certificate and found that the paper contained no signature whatever —nothing but a great red seal. The blind boy had paid every cent he owned for an absolutely worthless sheet of paper.”
Wright proved that it was an out-and-out swindle on the part of the salesmen, and the company, which was one of good repute, was glad to make amends for their salesman’s despicable action. This was a case where a man’s disabilities had been taken advantage of —deliberately, cold-bloodedly.
Mania for Speculation
A NOTHER lad, very young and almost totally i capacitated, came to Wright one day as pleased
a woman after a successful bargain sale.
“Look at all I got for $500!” he exclaimed.
Wright looked carefully and found that the shares which the boy thought to be worth $100 a share were valueless. , No wonder he got a lot for $500! So he set out immediately to get the boy’s money refunded and managed to get it all back but $50.
Some men have a mania for investing in wild-cat schemes.
“I knew one man who just kept me busy all the time,” said Charles Wright. “I’d no sooner get him out of
one ‘jack-pot’ than he’d turn right around and invest in another. He was the most gullible man I have ever had anything to do with.” When he gets an “S.O.S. call” from his comrades in financial distress, Wright says it is his policy, first of all, to make a thorough but quiet investigation of the company—and
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the stocks—responsible for the soldier’s misfortune. He works through different bond houses, financial concerns and banks. When this is concluded he knows exactly the standing of the firm with which he is about to deal.
“The real ‘crooks’,” Charles Wright informed me, “are the easiest of all to handle, for if they know that you have ‘tumbled to’ their proposition they will go to almost any length to keep you quiet. During my early efforts I was persuaded several times into allowing my clients to sign a paper which gave their word not to say anything further about the matter. This was foolish, as it enabled the swindlers to continue. Since then I have done away with the necessity for that altogether.
“Perhaps the most difficult case to handle at all times,” he continued, “is that in which the stock sold is perfectly legitimate but with little or no market value.”
Wright makes no rule about doing to others as he would they should do unto him. He is apparently not aware of the fact that in the continual driving of a weak and tired body to do the bidding of a strong and ever-energetic will, he is making a continual sacrifice for his fellow men. He seeks no help or reward for himself, other than the pleasure he gets out of his work of helping others. Yet he finds help upon every turn, for he is known among the returned men from one end of Canada to the other.
“I am not looking for assistance among the men with whom I deal,” he asserted. “They usually have too many liabilities. They could not give much help if they wanted to. Yet, I find appreciation, kindness and assistance just where one might least expect it,” and the eyes in the tired face lit up again.
“I needed $100 once in the worst way,” he went on. Needless to say the $100 was
not for his own uses. “I didn’t have it;
I thought I couldn’t get it. Then right out of a clear sky, a chap whom I had never seen before—a man with both arms off— offered to lend it to me. It was all he had in the world and I cautioned him that he might never see it again. ‘That’s all right, Bo.’ he said, ‘you take it.’ It is these little things that make life so worth while —even now.
Some of Life’s Bright Rays
AND again, when I was struggling to - recover the money of a man who was suffering for want of it, negotiations were held up for lack of the lawyer’s fee. I went to see the manager of a well-known bond house, who had been exceptionally kind in helping me to recover money for my clients. Imagine my astonishment when he told me roughly to get out of his office. ‘Go to your bank,’ he told me, ‘what’s a bank for if it isn’t to borrow money from when you’re broke?’ I assured him that my bank would not advance me money without securities, which I.did not have. It made no impression other than to anger him further. The next day, however, the money was advanced to me through my bank. I learned later that the manager himself had ’phoned the bank manager and agreed to make good the loan if I didn’t.”
Wright’s keen sense of humor has carried him successfully through many of his own trials and those of others. All he has been through seems only to have deepened that characteristic. His face, rather white, drawn and tired and very serious, lights up suddenly with keen enjoyment at an amusing thought and he finds much to laugh at in his life. Neither is he adverse to making himself the subject of a joke.
“There are times when I can not quite trust myself and when I can not be depended upon. Once when my condition was such I spent every cent I owned on mining stock which proved to have absolutely no market value.” \
“Couldn’t you rescue yourself from that predicament? Couldn’t you have recovered your money just as you recover other people’s?” he was asked.
“Yes, I think I could prove that the company had no right to sell me anything in the condition I was in at the time of the sale,” he said seriously. Then his face suddenly broke into one of his broad, sudden smiles that is one of his chief charms and confessed, rather sheepishly, that he still had a lingering hope that they would be worth something some day.
Wright’s methods of procedure, he claims, include anything effective that may be within the law.
“It is just selling,” he says.
Just selling in this case, however, means selling back to a man something which he knows to be valueless and which he has sold that he may be rid of it. A sale of such a nature requires a little exceptional skill.
Charles Wright admits that the Lord helps those who help themselves, but his illness, his long, weary years of suffering, have given him a new angle and he takes his viewpoint a little differently and lives up to it. “Anyone else often can help another better than he can help himself,” is his philosophy, and that is how he spends his days, helping others—better than they can help themselves.
There are those who wonder why Charles Wright works so hard for others, what he gets out of it, and why he is willing to spend the remainder of his life worrying over other people’s problems. It is because he must have a definite interest in life, an incentive to live, to be happy, to reach beyond the confines of the hospital walls. He finds it possible through this service to others.