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Motorists pull in to fill up at Billups, selling gas for 18 cents a gallon. photo courtesy of USA Archives
Uncle Henry

Some of Mobile's latter day Southern belles in crinoline grace the entrance to the old Roxy Theater at the local premiere of "Gone With The Wind." photo courtesy of USA archives
Mobile Bay
Building Relationships
Attorneys at Law
Vita Sua in a Bygone Mobile

Part 18 in a series: With X in our wake, it should be smooth
sailing. Instead, we find ourselves "in deep trouble."

Previous installments: 1, 2 , 3 , 4567, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.

By A.D.
Mobile Bay Times
Business was slow developing at EFH despite our good fortune in retaining most of our accounts. Transferring these accounts was a slow process and, although the bear market had ended two months before our departure, as is always the case with bear markets its demise did not become apparent for many months. People weren't exactly falling all over themselves to buy stocks from anyone.

Meanwhile, we were
learning that our new
employers had far
tighter operating rules
than those we worked
under at SR. Each new
account was to be
subjected to a rigid
credit survey. Any
time a customer was
late in making payment
for a purchase an
"extension" had to be
obtained and a good
reason given for the
late payment. All
orders had to be
marked "solicited" or "unsolicited" and there were many other nagging rules, quite a number of which we only discovered when we broke them for the first time.

These were mostly stock exchange rules that should have been applied at SR as well but which were never enforced. Our new employers did not know that we were not familiar with them, so they were quite unhappy and somewhat disbelieving each time one was broken and they were informed that we had not known the rule.

Our back office work was done in New Orleans and the people working there were very unhappy at having another burden placed on their shoulders with no additional pay or help provided by the regional office. The fact that we did not know EFH's procedures or many of the stock exchange rules which they took for granted, added to their unhappiness.

The kingpin of the NOLA back office was a gentleman named Merlin H.

A larynx operation had robbed Merlin of the usual method of speaking and he had considerable difficulty communicating with anyone.

He regarded himself as the final authority on all rules and regulations and I suppose he did know them well.

His favorite expression, which he usually delivered over the wires connecting our offices, was "You're in deep trouble." He seemed to delight in finding something wrong and exaggerating its importance. It got to a point where we were "in deep trouble" as soon as we stepped through the office doorway each morning.

A salesman needs to be a happy, vibrant person if he is to persuade anyone to buy his products. There were days when I'd come to the office, brightly primed to "do a ton of business," then get one of those "deep trouble" messages from Merlin, lose that happy, bouncy feeling and wind up with a poor day.

But we all persevered and I wound up the year with a mediocre production, a big drop from the year before. My combined pay, SR plus EFH, was also a considerable decline.

We learned that G, for all his wealth, was a parsimonious old soul.

We made the
decision in early
December to buy
six or seven
hundred ornate
Christmas cards
to send to our
better customers,
reasoning that it
was worth the
expense that first
year when we
were struggling
desperately to
bring all our
accounts to our
new firm.

The bill came to more than $200 but we didn't ask G's okay because we did not feel that the amount was out of line, circumstances considered.

When the old man got the bill, he exploded. He was on the telephone to me at once.

"What's this bill for Christmas cards? Did you okay this?"

"Yes, sir," I replied.

"You know we can't spend money for this. You had no business doing it."

"Yes, sir," I replied.

Many more expostulations followed from the New Orleans end of the line, each answered by a polite, "Yes, sir."

Finally, he got tired of these replies.

"Goddamn it, can't you say anything but 'yes, sir?'"

"No, sir," I replied.

We did send the cards and they were well received.

(Next: G gets his money's worth. Joe P's a pal. Or is he? I have a choice. But it is no choice at all.