After our wedding in April 1949 in Beverly Hills, my husband, Sam Josefowitz, and I started our lives together in New York.
Sam and his brother David came up with the idea — adapted from the Book of the Month Club — to start a record of the month club. David was a violinist and conductor and was familiar with the music scene in the city. Sam and I would often go to night clubs to listen to jazz combos for David to record both known and unknown artists on red vinyl.
These recordings were promoted as Record of the Month clubs using many different genres of music. The clubs included Jazz Tone Society, Concert Hall Society, Opera Society, Handel Society, etc. As the number of subscribers grew, they planned to expand their mail-order record clubs to foreign markets, eventually adding mail-order book clubs, which were still unknown outside of the U.S.
Sam decided to combine a four-month exploratory business trip with our honeymoon; this was to become the standard for all our vacations for the next 25 years, mixing business with holidays. We visited five South American countries: Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru to determine if we could establish local businesses to begin Record of the Month clubs. Sam found business partners through friends’ referrals and looking through phone books, identifying who might be interested in exploring a partnership. This was 1949 and there were very few tourists; people were always eager to meet and do business with Americans.
I have many memories of that trip. I had a cousin living in Rio de Janeiro who was happy to show us around. He gave me an enormous aquamarine he had found in a local mine; it was almost white instead of the more valuable blue color. Sam put it in his coat pocket.
At the next leg of our journey, Buenos Aires, the customs officers looked through our luggage. In patting us down, they discovered a bulge in Sam’s coat and found the stone — “a diamond we had not declared,” they said. Not listening to our protestations, we had to wait four hours for a jewelry appraiser to come to the airport. The appraiser laughed upon seeing the stone and gave it a $5 value. I still have that stone, which indeed looks like a very dull diamond. We were finally released to continue to our hotel that faced the famous Copacabana Beach, where topless was the fashion.
Our next stop was Santiago, Chile. There were no jets yet, and because the Andes were higher than a DC3 could fly, the plane flew between the mountain peaks. It was unnerving to see land above us and the wings almost touching the sides of the cliffs.
After our stay in Chile, we flew on to Lima, Peru. There we were welcomed by friends of friends of ours. We were invited for dinner in their home. I admired the beautiful embroidered tablecloth and an unusual ashtray carved out of agate, a semi-precious stone. I was not familiar with the Peruvian custom that if a guest admired an object in your home, you had to give it to them. The next day, muchtomy embarrassment, a package withthe tablecloth and ashtray was delivered toour hotel room. I still have both.
While in Peru, we wanted to see Machu Picchu. Sitting in the one-engine plane, we were given a small tube to put in our mouth to breathe in oxygen. Upon arrival in Cuzco, the oxygen tube was removed, and we were supposed to be able to breathe on our own. The sudden change in altitude from sea level to 13,000 feet was difficult. I felt ill, could not catch my breath, said I could not stay, and asked when the plane would be departing. “In three days,” I was told.
As there were very few tourists in 1949, the plane only made two trips a week. So we stayed in the only hotel in Cuzco. As our room was on the second floor, the only way I could manage to get upstairs was by crawling up on all fours.
The next day in Machu Picchu was not much easier, unbeknownst to me, I was pregnant. Upon arrival back in Lima, I was bleeding and was rushed to a hospital. Due to the altitude, I lost a baby I did not know I was carrying. (Ten years later, during an unpressurized Air Morocco flight, I miscarried again due to the altitude, but by then I had two healthy children.)
The four-month honeymoon/business trip was over. We had successfully established several contacts for start-ups of mail-order record clubs, which eventually expanded to a dozen countries and included book clubs.
Natasha Josefowitz is the author of more than 20 books. She currently resides at White Sands Retirement Community in La Jolla. Copyright © 2019. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.