“DON’T SHOOT! DON’T SHOOT.” TALES FROM MY ADDMASTER DAYS—THE CORE OF MY PRE-WRITING LIFE
About three weeks ago, I heard that my old boss, Jack Clary of Addmaster had died—and immediately wrote a tribute to him (check out PART 71 or enter CLARY into the search box).
I was quite upset. He gave me my first real break—and I liked him personally. Still, he had lived a good, long life—kept his companies alive during an era when U.S. manufacturing was being exported—and had had the satisfaction of seeing his sons, John and Hugh, take over. In fact, the Addmaster Corporation of California is 50 years old this year. In my day, it made adding machines—and one of the first printing calculators. Now it makes check printers (the ubiquitous gadgets that writes mysterious things on the back of checks you cash). It has adapted, invented, improvised, and survived in an extremely hostile commercial environment. That is no small achievement.
One of my favorite memories of Jack concerns a trip he made from California to check the Addmaster subsidiary I had founded, and ran, in London, England. It is about a 6,000 miles flight and most people arrive exhausted—and ready for a drink, a meal and sleep at best.
Jack—a one man example of the American work ethic at its finest—would have none of it, and immediately insisted on being driven to our new distribution facility which was located in Mitcham, Surrey—a suburb of London not far from Wimbledon of tennis fame.
I was quite taken aback at this because, apart from the trip, it was a Sunday; traditionally a day of rest. Nonetheless, I drove him and his second in command, Art Damschen—both mentor and friend—to the facility where our operation was located, only to discover that I didn’t have the key that opened the main gate—even though I had the key to the facility itself. We were but one unit in a small gated compound.
“We’ll climb over the wall,” said Jack. The stone wall was no more than eight foot high, and if we helped each other, we could manage it. On the other hand, we weren’t dressed for an assault course—and it was scarcely normal executive behavior.
Art and I looked at each other, but obediently followed. We made a step with out hands, and Jack was propelled to the top. I did the same for Art with Jack helping from the top. Then I was hauled up rather inelegantly. We were all lined up on the top—like a row of pigeons—when a local policeman arrived in a Morris Minor (about as un-dramatic a police car as you can imagine). He climbed out of his vehicle, with the ponderous authority of the law, then looked at us with some incredulity, because clearly we did not look like criminals. Then Jack cried out: “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”
The policeman removed his cap, scratched his head, and then burst out laughing. Not only did we look ridiculous, but English police—apart from specialized firearms units—don’t carry guns.
I jumped back down to the road and explained—and “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” became a catch phrase within the company thereafter.”
The following day I took Jack and Art to a presentation by a new advertising agency I had hired. This presentation was both extremely important to the agency founders, Brian Shrimpling and Geoffrey Cridland, and equally important to me.
We all settled into comfortable wing-chairs to watch—and within minutes jet-lag caught up with Jack, and he was not only asleep, but snoring. Brian and Geoffrey looked at me in consternation. I beckoned to them to continue because marketing would in the end be my decision; and I thought Jack could use the sleep.
After about twenty minutes, Jack woke up—not having heard a word—and immediately shouted: “I don’t agree.”
The two agency founders went pale—Addmaster was their first client--and Art and I practically died laughing. Mad Men indeed!
Jack had what I can best describe as a gruff sense of humor, but took our kidding in good part. He was work oriented to excess—in my opinion—but he was intelligent, thoughtful and kind. I have never known a man ask so many questions, but he supported me to the hilt—even when I made mistakes. They were good days; and we both worked and played hard.
Both Jack and Art—the latter in particular—put considerable effort, and no small expense, into introducing me to to the U.S. I was sent, in turn to Las Vegas and Palm Springs—and Disneyland. In those days, Vegas was a relatively small city, and much pleasanter than the present urban sprawl. In 1971, after flying back to LA from Vegas, I was somewhat taken aback to find that the Vegas bound counterpart of my Hughes AirWest flight—we must have passed each other in flight—had collided with a jet fighter (an F-4B Phantom) and all aboard had been killed. That news, which I heard over the cab radio just after landing at LAX, gave me a singularly strange feeling. A few minutes, perhaps even a few seconds, and it could have been my flight that had ended up as a fireball.
On another trip we flew to San Francisco—nominally to look for new products that I could market in the U.S.—and we stayed in that rather splendid hotel, the Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill. The top floor contained a marvelous bar called Top of The Mark which featured a truly spectacular view of San Francisco. Art and I spent more time in truly fabulous hotels, bars and restaurants in the U.S., the UK and Europe than I should probably admit to. But we talked a lot of business too, and Art was an excellent teacher; and, above all, it was fun.
One of the companies on our list to check out was a relatively new start-up called Intel. Art, who loved new ventures, thought it might go places.