Saturday, December 15, 2012

My first job in advertising...sort of

I started working in summers when I was 14, in Coney Island.

My father had an ice cream parlor there but he didn’t let me work for him, he believed I should work for somebody else since fathers are too soft or much too hard on their own sons.

I went to work for a Greek friend of my father’s and his son went to work for my Pop.
He got the better deal than I did; his father was rough on the help.

My first job was working at a souvenir stand in Steeplechase amusement park, my second year I worked for another friend of my Father’s and his son worked for my Father, this went on for about 3 years.

At 17 I decided to get a job more closely related to what I was studying, I was attending the High School of Industrial Art, SIA. I found a job with a sign painter; I assumed sign painting would be sort of like advertising (I could use my Caslon skills).

I got this job at a sign painter on Ave U in Brooklyn named Gus. It was the first time I worked for a non-Greek, even though he had a Greek name, maybe he would pay better.

The first week I painted backgrounds, mostly white enamel, Gus was a minimalist sign painter. I never touched any lettering. Gus would occasionally let me fill in some lettering he outlined; I was making progress.

He tells me one day that we have to go take down some three-dimensional letters from an A&P in Queens.

This store was on a hill and Gus sets up some ladders, rather precariously; he hands me a screwdriver and tells me to start removing the letters as he scoots up his ladder.

I am terrified of heights and keep dropping the screwdriver and make absolutely no progress in removing the letters.

I tell Gus I cannot do this, I hate heights, especially on a ladder that is precariously balanced.

Gus looks at me sadly and delivers this killer line.

“ Sorry kid, you don’t have it in you to be a sign painter, you better find something else to do in your life”.

Could this be the end of my advertising career so soon?


  1. I remember you telling me this story Greg and I loved it. Years ago I read somewhere that Richard Burton, the actor had said, "standing on a chair was too high for him."

  2. That’s a very good insight Daniel. The internet has enabled people to do so many things. I cannot even imagine what difference a few decades can have on our present ways of doing things.

    Stacy Crownover

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  4. It's great to see a blog entry from you again. I missed them. You're a fantastic storyteller as well s a great thumb-wrestler. Although you've been known to use the Birbil Fingerlocker, an illegal move in 14 states.