Barney Karbank’s father Arthur owned a fish market. Arthur didn’t want Barney to work in the fish market because he was concerned that the wet, slippery floors would be dangerous for Barney (Barney had polio as a child). Also, the work was physically demanding and the work environment was not very pleasant. Arthur observed that his fish market customers who worked in the real estate business tended to drive new cars and had nice clothes. He suggested to Barney that it might be a good profession for him.
After looking for many months for a job in the real estate business, Barney got an interview at the James B. Welch Realty Co. The Welch Co. was a well-established firm which handled mostly residential properties, mortgages and financing for home. The interview lasted no more than 15 or 20 minutes.
“I can’t pay you anything,” Herb Meyers, the Vice President of Welch, told Barney, “but you can hang around here, learn about real estate and maybe sell a few houses once you get your real estate license.” He decided that an unpaid job that gave him an opportunity to learn the business was better than no job at all. He began in December of 1946.
He earned a salesman’s license in two months and became friends with the other salesmen. His willingness to perform chores such as delivering papers to title companies despite not being paid, ingratiated him to the salesmen and the staff. “Anyway,” he said, “I was learning something about the business, and I was more than happy to do that”, said Barney.
In the nine months Barney worked for the Welch Co., he was able to sell two houses, earning about $300 commission on one and $500 on the other. Living at home helped him keep his expenses low. His biggest expense was the five-cent an hour parking meter in front of the office on 10th & Grand and gas for his car, a 1941 Olds with an alarm system from his time selling jewelry.
When the president of the Welch Co. died suddenly, Barney joined six co-workers who moved to the Charles F. Curry Co. Barney called the time he spent working for the Curry Co. a tremendous learning experience. “I had some pretty savvy tutors at Curry,” said Barney. “All of us sat at desks in a large open bullpen. The fellows there were very patient in answering the countless questions I would ask.”