I was out!! Michigan State University had unleashed another starry-eyed graduate into the world. My graduate advisor had suggested that I might want to stay on and enter the newly-developed doctoral program. I figured that I already had enough book learnin’ to land a job and start getting free cars. In any case I knew, in my mind at least, that I had been assured a job from the father of my summer campers. All that was left was to put together something called a resume and buy a suit that didn’t smell of repo man sweat. The time had come to enter the intoxicating world of advertising. I wanted to set up an appointment to follow my instructions to “look me up when you graduate, Tom.” My mentor’s name was Ted Teegarden, and he worked for McManus, John & Adams in Birmingham, MI. They handled the Pontiac account. I wrote requesting an appointment with him. I also wanted to give the agency time to set up my new office and order my new Pontiac. Several days later I received a reply. His secretary wrote, “Mr. Teegarden would be delighted to see you next Wednesday, at 9 AM.” I was in!!!! I was living in Lansing, MI. My house was 87.4 miles from Birmingham. The day of the meeting I got up at 5:00 AM, and left an hour later. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t late for my first day at work. It was June of 1971 in Michigan. The last of the winter snow had melted the day before, and this glorious day now presented us with 89 degrees and 410% humidity. My college car, which I lovingly referred to as The Flying Coffin, had no a/c. I made the drive down with the windows open, the wind blowing through the car. My neatly Aqua Netted hair now made me eerily resemble Phyllis Diller…on a good day. I pulled into the McManus, John & Adams lot at 7:30 AM. This gave me time to take care of three things: run across the street to the Sunoco station to use their restroom; while in there, use paper towels to try and dry the raging rapids that used to be my armpits; and to wet my hands and try to mold my hair back into something that at least approximated roadkill. It was now Showtime!!! I presented myself at the reception desk. A few minutes later, Ted Teegarden came out to greet me. We went back to his huge corner office. Yes, I thought, this will be great. He told me about the agency, what it did for Pontiac. He asked questions of me. “What motivates you?” “Why car advertising?” “What are your goals?” Great questions, but why was he asking them when I should be looking at my new office? We toured the agency. We ate lunch in the executive dining room…yes, an executive dining room. He spent the entire day with me, telling me things I would have never learned from a book. Then came the cold dose of reality question: “Well, Tom, where else are you interviewing?” What! What? Wait! I had no answer. I didn’t know anyone at any other car ad agency. Ted then opened his desk drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper that was the Holy Grail of heavy-breather agency and car company contacts in Detroit. “Tom,” he said, “here’s a list of some people I know. I’ve contacted each of them. Use my name to get in for an interview.” That day he had given me something better than a job, he gave me insight into the career I had chosen, and he had given me a golden ticket to find a job. Ted Teegarden was a great mentor. He displayed a kindness and caring attitude toward people that is becoming increasingly difficult to find these days. He had spent an entire day escorting this gawky ad tyro around. I thought the day couldn’t get any better. Just then, Ted’s secretary walked in and looked at me. “Sir, your mother wants you to call home.” Ted jumped up and offered me the chair at his desk. “Here, use my phone. I’ll leave and give you some privacy.” It was now 4:00 PM. I called home. Mom answered. “I’m glad you called, dear. A recruiter from some place called Campbell-Ewald asked the ad department chairman for a list of five graduate students he should interview while he’s on campus. You’re one of the five.” I almost wept with joy. Armed with my new contact list, I knew that I’d ace the interview. “This is great news, Mom. When is my interview?” “Well, dear,” she said, “I’m afraid it’s at 5:00 today. That’s only 55 minutes from now and you’re in Birmingham. Should I call and tell them that you can’t make it?” “Nooooo, Mom. I’m on my way!” I ran past Ted and thanked him profusely for taking up an entire day for me. I sprinted to the parking lot and fired up The Flying Coffin. It was now 4:10 PM and I was 87.4 miles from my chance for a free car. I would not miss this interview. Go Speedracer, Go!!!
Next: The Pink Pony Strikes Again!