Saturday, July 28, 2012

‘’No way, that raise is much too much’’.

I started at McCann in 1960 as an assistant art director, straight out of Pratt, with a salary of 5,000 dollars a year, it was a good beginners salary, I was in a big agency and the future seemed great.

I was lucky to work on some great accounts with terrific people, the agency was set up with art groups, this was before art directors working direct with writers. I used to work with a writer on the sly; he would show his work with layouts and my ads all had copy, not just the visual, we were a little ahead of the time, at least at McCann.

There was lots of overtime and super money, basically I did pretty good, money wise…I took the subway home to Coney Island and charged for a cab (suggested by my boss).

Sometime in1961 I get a raise, I then made 7,000, with a higher rate of overtime and expenses, and I am making closer to 12 grand a year. When I told my father what I earned and what I did, he said,” shh, do not tell anybody” It was good money then. Try explaining to a Greek candy maker what an art director does.

At a base salary of 10,000 dollars the overtime stopped.

I was doing some good ads and had bosses that were generous with their praise, the upstairs took notice and I was summoned to some 30 something floor one evening. Big offices no cubicles, each guy had a secretary, drinks, cigars, mad men stuff. The executive Creative Director calls me into his office, the last time he did it was because I was cursing out a client, to myself, at 10 pm. This time he tells me I have a terrific raise, 10,700 a year. He is making out like it was a big deal. I would lose money if I took that raise. I told him I would accept a raise of 9,800 a year.

He now thinks I am crazy, I curse in the hallways and reject raises or negotiate them down.

I had done the math, 9,800 would make over 15,000 with the overtime, and no way was I taking 10,700. Overtime was necessary even if you didn’t get paid for it, it was a competitive world, and everybody was working all hours. Under 10 grand and you got paid overtime, over 10; you did the overtime but didn’t get paid.

I tried to ask for a bigger raise or a lower one…he just thought I was nuts.

He finally gave me the raise that got me off overtime…maybe that is what he was after all along.

Soon after that I left McCann with a McCann guy to work at the Ladies Home Journal, interesting time, great experience, some funny stories, tough women editors, no overtime. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

 The last overtime check I ever got was the McCann one.

I never turned down a raise or tried to negotiate it down, up yes, down no.


  1. OMG! I just read this and realized that you and I both worked at Ladies' Home journal at the same time. I was there from 1964 to 68 and then worked for them out of office in the 1970's. I have even written about the experience on my blog "A Rolling Crone." Here's the link: It's called "magazine divas part 2--the party's over." My starting salary was I believe $75 a week and I did NOT get overtime. Also, I think you were on a different floor. Would love to exchange stories with you about Poppy Cannon, Betsey Talbot Blackwell, Eve Auchincloss, etc. In fact--maybe we can get together to tell stories in Greece. I'm flying to Greece on Monday and staying for a month. Traveling with my daughter and grandbaby. Nick is already there. Where in Greece do you live? Write me at to let me know.

  2. I did comment. I am not vindictive. It didn't take so I had to reset my password and go through all the s**t they put you through. Anyway, what I tried to say was that it is a really good story. People don't remember how much you could buy back then for a buck. Gasoline was only 29 cents a gallon. You could be making $100 bucks a week and save for a nice vacation. An apartment was less than $100 a month.

    You were actually making a very good salary for that time. I think I was very happy back then. Maybe also because I was young.