The Low Wages and "Psychic Income" of working for a Cape Cod weekly
Confessions of an advertising man
timed my visit to meet Malcolm Hobbs (on right), owner of The Cape Codder weekly newspaper on the Lower Cape, for late morning on a Thursday in September of 1964 while I was vacationing at Pat's family's shack in Truro knowing it was the slowest time for any weekly newspaper.
The redoubtable Madeline Curry was the receptionist, bookkeeper who (wo)manned the front counter in the summer of 1964, and when I asked if Mr. Hobbs was available, she cocked a wary eye and asked, "are you a newspaperman?"
Amazed and amused at her prescience, I admitted to being guilty of the crime.
She then asked, "what do you DO?"
I told her I was at present an advertising manager at a Connecticut weekly, and she said, "Good. Our ad manager just walked out."
You can imagine my consternation.
I had planned for this day for three years, and if I had arrived any earlier or later, I would have probably failed since Hobbs had to fill the job fast.
But I managed to arrive an hour after the position I coveted was vacated. It reminded me of the miracle of passing Patricia on that Greenwich Village street when she came searching for me in New York in 1959.
I asked the now friendlier Madeline why the gentleman had quit such a good newspaper.
She said the man's sister was one of the founders of the local John Birch Society, and Hobbs had written an editorial this week endorsing Jack Kennedy over Barry Goldwater in the upcoming Presidential election. The ad guy had quit in a huff over what he felt was a dastardly move by Hobbs.
Need I say more? A right wing zealot gave this knee-jerk Liberal his job on this sandy paradise.
Hobbs and I talked that date, and we corresponded when I returned to The Thompsonville Press, but he soon offered me the job at what I was getting in Connecticut, and Patricia and I arrived with sons Todd and Jay on February 15, 1965.
I gave the Breisky's a long enough notice to find and train my replacement who turned out to be Patricia's best friend's husband, Dick Kiusalas. Dick later followed me to the Cape as ad manager of The Register which was printed at The Cape Codder printery before starting his own business, the West Barnstable Table Company.
The final irony to my departure from Connecticut came when I was approached by the owners of the 100,000 circulation Springfield Shopping News during this time between jobs and offered two-and a half times what Hobbs was going to pay me.
I thought about their offer for all of twelve seconds, and told them "thanks, but no thanks", and headed to Cape Cod and the rest of my destiny.
Working for less and enjoying it more
I began at The Cape Codder in February of 1965. Mal's Managing Editor John Ullman had told me my salary included "psychic benefits" like already being here in our sandy paradise after work each day and on weekends rather than for two weeks each summer .
Mal Hobbs was a flawed and cold man, but he taught me three important lessons:
The last line was offered when I resisted attending any more Orleans Board of Trade meetings after a of couple years. The group, which later morphed into the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, was then comprised mostly of motel owners and old guys with no business but who had nothing better to do but sit around the Legion Hall in East Orleans getting slopped and chewing the fat. None had the remotest possibility of becoming advertisers, but I guess Hobbs didn't want to attend himself so he made me "rub hide with that herd."
At least the obligation had one sweet result.
I'd been away from Greenwich Village now for four long, pot-less years, and I hadn't visited Provicetown yet where I eventually connected with several old Beat buddies, and so I hadn't smoked a joint in that long.
Then in the mid-1960s the state narcotics folks felt it important to warn motel owners here how to detect the smell of that noxious weed should any of their summer help be potheads.
At the next Board of Trade meeting the narcs made a presentation to the assembled motel owners and others, and laid on the table samples of the popular drugs of the era.
The heroin and cocaine were kept in sealed containers, but the narcs wanted the attendees to recognize the smell of marijuana, so they opened one of several one ounce packages of pot, dumped the contents in a dish, and got the grass smoldering.
They invited each of us assumed innocents to pass over the smoking pot dish and get a whiff.
I made sure that I was at the end of the line, and when I returned to my seat there was one less pot package on the table.
I don't know if the narcs noticed its absence, but I knew that if they did, they wouldn't say a word.
After all, what policeman wants to let people who he was robbed?