All of them wanted caustic soda. A ton, five tons, a hundred tons .
The guy from South Africa had a boat in Antwerp. A Liberty ship for ten thousand t ons of calustic soda .
That was quick , I am going to be rich in a minute .
So I went to Solvay the only producer in Europe at their address 33 rue du Prince Albert ,and asked for the export manager .
A huissier, a man dressed as a funeral director but very chic, took me to the second floor, the executive floor of that Victorian Building ,and asked me to wait for the export manager .
He was an impressive man 60 year old , and looked very important.
In fact so important, that his chair was on a platform and from up there he asked me what I wanted.
I want caustic soda. Tons of it for export to the whole world .
He smiled , surely the first smile that day .
” Young man , caustic soda is the basis for soap, and you know what , there is no more soap in the world since 1940 when the war began .
You are too young to remember how people were using soap to wash, to shave ,to clean clothes .
Now they use a cloth with loose sand and they rub and rub and rub.
You seem a very nice young man, but you will not find a kilo of caustic soda available, for the next ten years .”
He was very nice at the end and said goodbye, I will not see you for the next ten years .
Obviously he had no idea that there would be a Plan Marshall that would save Europe .