Friday, January 11, 2008


I was always confused about what I wanted to be when I grew up. However, if I had waited around until then to chose, I would have never been much, since I am still waiting to grow up!

I once took a correspondence course in airport management, and all I can remember about that exercise is a few of the airport three-digit identification codes (i.e. TYS = McGee Tyson in Knoxville). So, that never got off the ground (sorry for the pun)!

Later I thought I would like to be a hematologist, so I hoped to be a paramedic in the Air Force. Well, that choice was hardly my call, so family and friends thought I might end up in law enforcement having served as a Security Policeman.

Chasing down people and writing tickets for something I did quite often myself did not seem right for me either!

So time passed and after I was discharged, Connie and I continued to live with her parents until “we got on our feet.” As it turned out, we lived there for six years while I went to the University of Tennessee, Connie worked as a beautician, Corey was born, and we finished building a house!

It was not as bad as you probably imagine since her parents had a four level home (including the basement) with plenty of room and privacy.

The ground floor was designed so that should they ever grow old, or become disabled, they could live on that self-contained floor. It was complete with a kitchenette, large living room and fireplace, a bedroom, and a full bathroom. So, we actually had our own apartment and could have cooked meals down there, but we never did. We all lived and ate as one large family unit.

Mr. Harmon, Connie’s dad, introduced me to the publisher and editor of “The Harriman Record,” Walter T. Pulliam. Walter just happened to be looking for someone to collect the local advertising from the shops and stores in downtown Harriman. Wal-Mart had yet to come in to kill the downtown and business was very brisk up and down the six block stretch in those days, and easily supported the weekly newspaper.

I took the job he offered and I settled in as if this was to be my destiny. It was very rewarding and fulfilled my creative desires, and I enjoyed seeing all the store owners weekly and helping them stimulate their weekly sales.

It was not long before I really got interested in the advertising game, so I started looking into further education, and picked up a UT curriculum catalog. I had not been to school in almost five years and the information I found inside the catalog was intimidating – math, English, history! It just looked hard, even on paper! So, I put the catalog away and continued down the path before me.

When the 1968 Christmas issue was being planned, Walter assigned me the extra duty of selling additional “ads” for that holiday special issue. The only real purpose such “ads” serve is to allow the shops to thank their local customers for their support during the year, but the truth is most of this kind of advertising is never read, and is lost among all the Christmas stories and recipes. It was basically extra year-end revenue for the newspaper!

Walter hinted at a percentage commission if the extra ad sales went well and added that normally the “special issue” carried an additional thousand inches in advertising. So, I was determined to out do the old record and sold over three thousand inches in advertising. I could not help but think about a 10% commission!

As it turned out, Mr. Pulliam did not want to discuss any commission and went on as nothing was ever mentioned about it. I finally broached the subject one day and he denied ever having discussing the situation. So, I went home and fumed over it most of the night.

For several days I was obviously upset and did not try and hide my disappointment. Several of the employees there had heard the discussion and more than one mentioned to Mr. Pulliam that it was unfair.

One morning, just after I arrived for work, Walter shuffled up to me rather stiffly and poked a check out at me and said “Here!”

It hit me that he was simply making this offer because of the pressure of others and, of course, my attitude, but by then I was over it. I looked at the check, which was written for much less than 10% of total sales, and stuffed it back into his hand. By then there were several other employees standing nearby, so I told him in a calm, but firm voice, “No sir, you keep it; apparently you need it worse than I do. School starts in a couple of weeks and I’m going and no one will ever treat me this way again. The end of the week will be my last day here.

A few short years later, after I graduated, I worked for Walter’s competitor, Paul Page, the owner and editor of the “The Roane County NEWS” in Kingston, Tennessee. Both newspapers were in the same county and engaged in an undeclared war of competition for circulation and advertising sales through the 70s and 80s.

Oh, I went and talked to him after graduating, but only because he sent word. I told him I already had a job, and even told him what I would be making. His eyes and expression told me that he could, or would, not pay anywhere near that figure so I left, shaking his hand cordially.

I used him a couple of times as a means of getting annual raises, so he served a purpose for me that he never knew. I would simply tell my new Mr. Page, that Walter had called and wanted to talk to me. Mr. Page would rush into accounting every time and come back with a new offer!

Shamefully, I also used to tease Walter by standing across the street with a couple of friends, all of us carrying clipboards and each pointing up and down the street, as if planning something huge near his building. Each time Walter would call Paul and ask him what was going on, “You coming to Harriman?” he would ask. He was terribly paranoid that the other newspaper would try and cut in on his business and build a local branch in Harriman.

Mr. Page would mention the call later and ask me to stop harassing the competition, but he knew “Mushy don’t forget!”



Debbie said...

You couldn't stay away , could you? I don't see you in the image.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Hammer said...

I've been promised bonuses before and then lied to. I know how you feel. At least you got him back 10 fold.

A man is only as good as his word and some men are no good at all.

Lin said...

Wow, when you make a comeback, you do it with a vengeance. I figured on finding one new post but you've managed one per day - you're a dynamo.

Great story and better to know that I wasn't the only one to ever get jerked over by an employer. Loved the 'comes around' with him.

BRUNO said...

Just couldn't STAND all that free-time, eh?

Well, I for one am glad you didn't let your "life" end HERE, that's for sure!

We've still got PLENTY of things for YOU to discover for US....!

Suldog said...

Excellent story. You stood on your principles, instead of accepting the money. As always, doing the right thing paid off in the end. Good for you!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Awsome dude. Yea, I see ya there. This is the stuff I wanted to read. See, there's a wealth of information and wisdom you can lay out for us without gettin' too personal. Love it. Keep it comin'. It's fun to see your life evolve and then try to think where I was and what I was doing at that same time. We ere in San Antonio while you worked at that last paper. Dad retired from there.

*Goddess* said...

Damn. Wish I had the balls to just up and leave a job to better myself when I wasn't treated right.

Mushy said...

Deb - Look at the pretty guy in the first photo at the top center!

Goddess - If you had "the balls" I wouldn't love you so much!

Les Becker said...

I found you, you handsome devil.

Thanks for the second edition of your life, Mushy - I was really getting a little down in the dumps to think the Moochings were going to fade away...

Mushy said...

Thank you Les...I've been waiting for your comment!

Buck said...

Ah, principles. Often invoked, rarely stood by. Ya done good, Mushy!

Anonymous said...

Just like a frieght get it there by this time and I will knock on a fuel bonus..been there did that Mush there are all kinds like that..but you store it away in the memory bank..sooner or later they come knocking for a favor to help them out..and then you put the screws to em...nice to have you back young man..:)

jan said...

This brought back memories of selling advertising for the local paper. But when I was promised a commission for selling the Christmas section, I went into the publisher's office and announced that I wouldn't leave until he wrote my check. It worked.