1926-1965: A Beautiful Woman in a Blue Organdy Dress
Mr. Herzstein would meet Ms. Ethel Ann Avis, an operator at the Western Union office while sending telegrams. It was love at first sight and they would be married in September 17, 1927. With Ethel’s investment and Al’s entrepreneurship, they would begin Big Three Industries where Mr. Herzstein would remain as Executive Vice President until 1965.
• Mr. Herzstein had taken a job with Mr. Smith’s company and “got a flunky’s job of doing everything that needed to be done,” as Al once explained to a reporter. Smith never drove a car and Herzstein was his official chauffeur. Another of his numerous job duties was to send telegrams. He really enjoyed talking to a certain operator who had a wonderful voice. When he asked her name, she replied, “Just ask for operator 32.” One day he was in the Western Union office and saw, as he always described her, “…a beautiful lady in a blue organdy dress.” After asking a few questions, he discovered that she was Miss Ethel Ann Avis, Operator 32.
• Ethel Avis was from Fulshear, Texas, a community 30 miles southwest of Houston, where she was a member of the Fulshear United Methodist Church. A mutual friend finally convinced Ethel to go on a date with Al, who picked her up in his Model T Ford Truck. It was love at first sight, and they married on September 17, 1927, six months after their first date! Their honeymoon was spent in a shack with no running water located in the Kemah area – Al always referred to it as “the bungalow.” Ethel was, as he said, his “helpmate.” He credited her as being the secret to his success. It was through Ethel’s support, and her new car, that Big Three Industries was born!
• In 1930, Al Herzstein approached B. K. Smith with an idea: if oxygen, like groceries, is a commodity that must be replenished, why not market it? With her permission, he then sold Ethel’s Ford Coupe and invested $2,369.20 in the Smithweld Company. This company went on to become Houston Oxygen, Sabine Oxygen, Big Three Industries, and finally Air Liquide. Mr. Herzstein worked for Big Three as Executive Vice President until his retirement in 1965.