Born in 1924 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and raised by his tuba playing father, John started studying cornet and playing in the grade school orchestra at age eight. Two years later he progressed to playing second cornet in the El Kahir Shriner’s concert band of which his father was the business manager. In the seventh grade he formed his own small polka band with school friends and began playing paid jobs, and joined the American Federation of Musicians Union, Local 137. After a year of this he was bitten by the swing era bug and began studying jazz improvisation and arranging…no more polkas. His progress in both technical ability and jazz interpretation led him to be playing in professional dance bands all through high school and on extended tours with territory bands during the summers.
At age seventeen, on Sept. 10, 1942, John enrolled at the U. of Oregon, majoring in music, playing, in the ROTC band, and joining the Army Enlisted Reserve Corp . On Nov. 22, 1942, two months later, all of the reservists received telegrams from the U.S. War Department saying that they were activated. The promised two years at the U. of O. ended in three months. John spent the next four months in desert training in Texas, seven months in jungle training in Florida’s Okefenokee Swamp then was assigned to the 66th Infantry Division. It sailed for England in 1944. The 66th embarked for France in late 1944 to reinforce troops at the Battle of the Bulge. John’s ship, The HMS Leopoldville, didn’t quite make it. It was torpedoed and sunk seven miles north of Cherbourg with a fatality loss of 42% of the troops. John swam about 100 yards to the destroyer, HMS Brilliante, saving himself. After troop replacements, the 66th Division saw 137 days of combat action against the Germans in France and Germany. During his service John was promoted to sergeant and awarded the Combat Infantry Medal, the Bronze Star and French Legion of Honor medals. Thinking of his youth, he said, “I had the best of times for seventeen years and then worst of times for 3½ years, no music, plenty of fear, heartache, and the discomfort of a freezing European winter”.
Discharged from the army in February, 1946 back in USA. He enrolled at Lewis and Clark college, earning Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Music. degrees and to the U. of Washington for an M.A. in music composition. Returning to Portland, OR, John spent a year teaching on the faculty of Lewis and Clark College while forming a dance band, the Johnny Reitz Orchestra. Realizing that he was earning more from his band than teaching, he then devoted full time to playing thirteen-week touring circuits twice per year from Los Angeles to Florida, the mid-west and the northwest, booked by Associated Booking Corporation. In 1965 the band was contracted to be the house band at Portland’s Hoyt Hotel. The show room seated 750 people and a large dance floor which elevated to stage height featuring Las Vegas type floor shows. The band’s two weeks contract extended to three years.
After many years of playing and successful investing, John took his broker’s suggestion that he become a licensed stock and bond broker. His orchestra and music contracting business continued on with a brokerage career of 48 years, which led to the funding and founding of Paulson Investment Co. The company grew in about twenty-five years from two offices in Oregon to 38 offices in nineteen states and was then sold out to an international company. At age 96 John is still very active in music, playing with two large jazz groups in the Tucson AZ area as their jazz-trumpet soloist. He was recently featured as a soloist with the Tucson Concert Band, and always as the cornet soloist with Tucson’s DixieCats and his own trad-jazz group, the Harbor Patrol Jazz Band during summers in Portland.