Jerry's View: Saving my skin; I'd rather be lucky than good
One afternoon, a few weeks after I took over the paper in 1952, I got a call at the office. "Good morning, White Center News," I proudly answered. The man on the line said " This is Dick Scrawge and I want to place an ad in your paper," he said.
"Okay Mr. Scrawge, I'd be delighted to help you," I replied. He proceeded to explain that it would be better if I came over to his place to discuss. I said I would be happy to come over and where exactly would that be was my next question. "What do you mean, we're where we've always been, you idiot!, right here next to Harney's store!"
"Oh, I said, I am quite sorry, I thought you said your name was Scrawge!, but you meant you are calling from Dick's Garage," I answered.
He wondered how the Kent News-Journal had let me go!
So began my illustrious career as a newspaper publisher. I have managed to bungle my way through more than 60 years of miscues and mistakes, like the issue of the paper where I ran a letter to the editor about about a car dealer and an unhappy customer. It seems the customer was sold a car that broke down a few minutes after he took possession of same and the dealer was on the way to the bank with a check.
When the customer walked back to the dealer to complain, the dealer replied that "all sales are final." This did not sit well with the customer so he painted a big sign on the car and towed it through White Center with another car. The sign said "LEMON" and indicated the dealership name. He also sent me a letter to the editor complaining about how he was treated.
I ran the letter. A week later the dealer was hopping mad, showing up at my office. It appeared he had a small pistol tucked into his belt as he made his way across the street. He barged through the door, pounded a tight fist on the counter and demanded to see me. I had seen him coming and ducked into the back shop alerting my editor that I was "out" for the day. My editor was quick to adapt saying" Sorry sir, but Jerry is not in the office today, can you come back and shoot him later?," The dealer stormed out as quickly as he had arrived, never to return. I lost a customer that day but saved my skin.
Some months later I was working late. I had recently sent my union employees down to work with Al Sneed at the Burien-Highline Times. It was tough making a living then too so I hired some non-union part time workers to help me get through the month. My secretary spotted two "suits" coming across the street to talk with me about how my paper was being produced. They insisted that I use "union" labor from a letter I received a few weeks prior. I locked the press room door as they rapped several times, shouting " we know you are in there Robinson. We know you are using non-union labor," they added.
I did not answer.
They knew I had sent my union staff to Burien but were unwavering in their attempt to convince me that I should have kept them in White Center, a big union town at the time. Eventually they left, thinking I was likely not going to come out. Two months later I re-hired some fine union printers and saved my skin once again.
The very next year I needed to buy a delivery truck for my burgeoning business. My shop foreman told me his son had a truck he would be willing to sell me. I said okay, have him bring it over. The kid showed up but I was busy on the phone. He disappeared for a few minutes and returned to wait. I could not get off the phone in time so the kid disappeared again. A third time was the charm. I went outside, looked at the truck and paid him $200 cash. I returned to work for the rest of the day.
To my dismay, at 6 p.m., I discovered not a single tire on the truck had any air. Apparently the kid was going back and forth to Minotto's shell station, on the corner, to fill the tires and return the truck to the spot in front of the building. I was duped by a 19 year old kid. It cost me another $100 to add tires to that truck and Lou Minotto was very happy to sell them to me. I held no grudge. The truck worked fine and I thought I was getting a good deal to begin with.
Staying in business this long is about being lucky and having a good plan to avoid making mistakes. I had one of the two. I made lots of mistakes but I was also lucky.
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