Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hula Hoops and Pet Rocks By Abraham Lincoln

Years ago, when Jerry Leiber was the postmaster, The Wall Street Journal interviewed me for a story in their newspaper. Meg Cox was the reporter and the story she was writing was about the new phenomenon called, “Calligraphy.”

I would learn later that she found me by talking to people involved in calligraphy in the large cities: New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Among all the people in the world involved in this new pastime, she said, one name kept popping up. This person who went by the moniker, “Abraham Lincoln.”

More curious than anything, she called and asked to speak to, you guessed it, “Abraham Lincoln.” My wife, Pat, replied, “May I ask who is calling?” “Meg Cox, from The Wall Street Journal,” she answered. Pat mouthed the words, ‘Wall Street Journal,’ and handed me the phone.

“Hello, this is Abraham Lincoln,” hesitantly. That began my only conversation with the reporter from that famous publication. When the story appeared in print; the phone calls began, starting with the East Coast and working throughout the Time Zones to California. The problem was: We didn’t have a telephone number listed and my daughter, “A. Lincoln” did. She was swamped with phone calls all day long: People wanted to speak to Abraham Lincoln.

Jerry Leiber, the local postmaster, was stunned to see my name in The Wall Street Journal. When I walked into the post office he was all smiles and said nice things about me in front of customers. Among the comments I still remember is, “Abraham is the only businessman in this area to make the front page of The Wall Street Journal.”

I didn’t really consider myself a businessman since I had no store front and employed no people. My wife, Pat, worked with me in the business but I would not count her as an employee. She owned half of the stock in the company and was my equal in more ways than one—she ran it.

The article was on page 1 in the newspaper and was long enough to be continued on an inside page. My name wasn’t even in the first part, which is a good thing, but it was in the last couple of paragraphs. There it told about my new company, “Calligrafree,” and the supplies we sold, and my role in the promotion of scribes around the world.

That was about it. But the fact is that the last thing you read is really what you remember when you read a newspaper. And if the last paragraphs have unique information of some kind then it is sure to be remembered and the first parts are forgotten. Newspaper publishers and editors and journalism schools have yet to figure that out.

One of the persons interviewed for the article, besides me, was a man from Chicago who was then dabbling in writing with a quill feather, said something like: Calligraphy would last like Hula Hoops and Pet Rocks. When I read that part, it jarred my brains because I was hoping this calligraphy business would put my kids through school; or, buy shoes, bread and butter and pay the property tax.

I must say that it did support us for a number of years and even led to me getting a 13-week television series, co-sponsored by Parker Pen Ltd. I appeared on a number of daytime talk shows — people were interested in my starting the calligraphy business and becoming famous in doing it. They were also interested in my name and relationship to President Lincoln. But, in the end, my world of calligraphy came down like the other fads and is showing no signs of ever coming back.

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