Vita Sua in a Bygone Mobile
(Part 1 in a series: A Late Start)
Mobile Bay Times
I started on my vocation rather late in life.
I was just a month away from my 31st birthday, when I first entered the doors of SRC, members of the New York Stock Exchange and other principal stock and commodity exchanges.
It perhaps was appropriate that my first day on the job was March 17, 1952, which was St. Patrick's Day. It was also appropriate that
the office of SRC was
located next to the
I had been hired as
by PD, the Mobile
manager for SRC.
Now PD, a lifelong
Mobilian, had his
roots solidly in the
Ol' Sod and like most
people of Irish descent, he was inordinately proud of that fact. And, like many whose ancestors came from the Land o' Erin, he had an extreme weakness for the "creatur."
Most of my readers will have memories of their first days on various jobs. They are invariably among the longest days of a lifetime. Everyone else is too busy to help much, you have no idea what you are to do and so you sit around and wait out the slowly-ticking minutes until the end of the day. Others are performing, with ease, tasks that seem very complex and difficult to you and you are wondering if you have not made a mistake by taking the job. Later on, you will find that the tasks are really routine and that you can perform them as well as anyone else, but, on that first day and the succeeding few days, you are, indeed, a lost soul.
I don't remember how the market did that day, but I surely remember what happened after it had closed.
The bell in New York rang at 2:30 p.m., Mobile time, as it always did. The other account executives, HJ and KR, along with the dozen or so "tape-watchers" in the small office vanished, leaving only PD, myself and the three lady employees, two board markers and a wire operator.
PD, who had worn an outrageous green beaver hat to the office for the occasion, beckoned me into the small private room in the front of the office.
Without a word, he pulled out a pint of whiskey from a desk drawer, along with two glasses and poured out generous drafts.
I was a bit stunned, to say the least. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and while I perhaps deserved congratulations for surviving my first day on the job, it seemed more appropriate to wait until the day had ended. But, I reasoned, it's St. Patrick's Day, obviously a special occasion for my employer, so I hoisted my glass, along with his.
I found that PD, not satisfied with toasting Ireland's hero once, repeated the procedure several times. We engaged in idle conversation for a time until the last few drops disappeared and then Erin's son advised me that he was off for Callaghan's Irish Bar and Grill, inviting me to join him.
I was tempted, but declined, probably a wise move, considering that a non-Irishman packed in with Sullivans, Callaghan's, O'Rourke's etc. like sardines in a gin mill might be risking life and limb.
PD was back in the office the next morning, somewhat the worse for wear.
I had stumbled on to the job at SRC through the good offices of Father SO'J, dean at Spring Hill College.
PD had asked Father SO'J to recommend a graduate of the school as a prospective account executive. I don't know whether I was Father SO'J's only choice, or whether I was the only one who would accept the job.
Regardless, PD had been trying to contact me for several weeks in the fall of 1951. At that time, I worked days for the Mobile City Recreation Department and evenings as a sportswriter at the Mobile Press Register. PD kept calling the paper in the day, trying to reach me. Instead of leaving word, when he was informed I wasn't in, he'd call back the next day.
This could have gone on forever or until PD lost patience had he not one day talked to our mutual friend, McEvoy, who worked at the paper. One evening when I arrived for work at the paper a bit early, McEvoy, who worked days, was still on hand and he hailed me, "Hey, A, PD has been trying to get in touch with you."
McEvoy told me who PD was and how I could reach him.
It was quite a coincidence, but I had recently gotten interested in the stock market. I had set up a monthly investment plan with a local over-the-counter dealer, S & Co., and was investing in a mutual fund, II. And I had purchased 15 shares of a local company, Hollingsworth and Whitney, from the same dealer.
There was no great future in the my job as a supervisor with the City Recreation Department so I was greatly interested in PD's offer. I was making $226 a month, plus a $25 car allowance with the city, so I held out for $250 a month with SRC, after PD had proposed $200. I also insisted that I be permitted to retain my part-time evening job at the paper, at least for a time. I was not all that sure that I was cut out to be a salesman and I did not want to cut myself adrift from all other sources of income.
As it turned out, I wound up with a third job.
My principal duties with the City Recreation Department involved supervising the "black" programs, there being at that time, separate programs for the races in the city.
The civil rights drive, during these days, was gathering steam, but there was no great pressure to integrate recreational activities in Mobile. However, MM, the city recreation director, was well aware that such a move might come and she was most fearful of it. She knew that I had established a good rapport with the blacks and so she urged me to accept the part-time job that essentially would involve the same duties I had been performing full-time.
I was rather reluctant to do so. I had gotten PD to accept the idea of my retaining my newspaper job and he had gotten the New York Stock Exchange to grant permission for me to do so. I did not want to go back and ask that I be allowed to work at a third job. I decided to yield to MM's entreaties and say nothing to PD about it, reasoning that a new supervisor to work full-time would probably be hired in a few months and I could give up the job.
Of course, I was glad to earn the extra money.
As it turned out, even though a new supervisor was hired after about a year, I retained my part-time job. I had gotten used to having the extra income and did not want to part with it.
The CRD job consisted largely of organizing various sports programs for children and adults. Since I had been doing this sort of thing from about age 12 on, it was duck soup for me. I did much of the work during idle minutes at the paper.