(by John A. Ross)
Sometime in the early thirties, the mighty Senior Rosses, J. G., J. W., and A. F. C., made a major decision to allow Ian and myself to become Shareholders - and even Directors, (I think) of the Company.
Long will I remember our first Meeting in Uncle Jim's Office. He, of course, ran the Meeting with Minute Book and all documents in front of him. The Meeting started and he covered a lot of ground. I waited patiently for either J. W. or A. F. C., to question a decision Uncle Jim made, or make some suggestions. Not a word out of either one of them. Finally Uncle Jim came to some question about a house they owned on Grosvenor Avenue in Westmount. I thought that something should be done about it and so I said "Well why don't we rent it in the meantime?" Boy oh Boy! If we had had silence up until then - except for Uncle Jim - the silence now was deadly. He put down the paper and glared at me. Who was I, the first time at a Meeting, to open my mouth? All eyes turned on me.
After the Meeting was over Uncle John took Ian and myself into his Office and told us the history of the Ross Realty from it's inception. One must, of course, remember that the three Rosses had given their lives to the building of P. S. Ross & Sons and we know to-day what a wonderful job they did, as did those who came after them and continued the good work. I believe they did their very best to employ the best men they could find to look after the Ross Realty while they looked after P. S. Ross & Sons.
Uncle John then went on to explain how they had bought land all around the then center of Montreal, so that as soon as the City expanded on any side they would be in on it - could not lose! There was only one fault - the City did not expand out into the suburbs. It just grew in the center, with more apartments going up and few people buying homes. And then, of course, at that time we were just coming through the 1929 depression,
He then went on to say that they owned over $2,000,000.00 of land but unfortunately had not made a profit since 1918! To say that I was shocked is putting it mildly. I asked him about some of the figures and how they arrived at them? So he explained one property they had for a long time, so each year they added on to the cost the real estate taxes for the year. So you can imagine how the cost went up and made the land harder to sell under the circumstances. I asked him if it would not be a good idea at some time to cease adding on taxes and sell the land - even at a loss. At least it would bring cash into the Firm which they need in the worst way. Needless to say, such a suggestion was pretty stupid - and not the way to run the Ross Realty.
During those years Arnold Heeney, lawyer and of course later, an important figure in the Government, was the Firms lawyer. You never saw anything like it - he formed as many companies as the "Insulls" (don't remember the correct name) in Chicago. Anytime things went wrong Arnold would form another Company and transfer certain assets and then if that went broke - fine, at least the Ross Realty was O.K.
After our first meeting, I went in to see Ian the next day and said - "Look, Old Boy, from what I saw and heard yesterday don't you think both of us would be smart if we went in and resigned right now?"
Of course we did not. The Ross Realty went into Bankruptcy or Liquidation in 1935.
Anyone want to buy my few shares I've got framed
on the wall? Won't cost you much!