Friday, June 08, 2007

"Reaching Out To The City Lights"...Chapter Eleven

In general, business continued smoothly with the expected hassles and stressful moments, but overall, no major problems arose.

After a couple of years operation in our new format and premises, the Kolotex Group of Companies faced a take-over. The original owners of Kolotex, the Lieberman Family of Melbourne who had been ousted a few years earlier during a take-over by Paul Kornmehl and John Louwes came back with a vengeance determined to regain control of the company. This they did after much in-fighting between the factions. I linked in on all telephoned conversations between John Trimmer and the head office and power-players in Sydney, making verbatim notes of everything that passed in those conversations. It was a reasonably stressful time, but eventually a conclusion was reached, which was satisfactory to each party. Pride, also had been a major factor in the take-over; one Jewish power against another. The structure and day-to-day operation of our Queensland office didn't change. It continued forward without a hiccup.

Upon the successful completion of the take-over, the new heads of the company, led by Chaim Lieberman, visited Brisbane to meet with all the "top-dogs" of the department stores. A special luncheon was organised by John at the Tattersall's Club. After much discussion and "to and froing" with the committee of the Tattersall's Club, a men's club that is steeped in tradition, I received "special dispensation" and was allowed to attend to the "greeting and meeting" of Kolotex's special guests. I was the first female, ever, to be permitted to enter their hallowed halls to attend to such a function. My role was to welcome our guests and usher them into the main dining room of the club. Once I fulfilled my "chore", I left the men to their exclusive domain and luncheon,returning to Baxter Street. It was quite a feather in my cap to have been allowed to attend the commencement of the function, not that anyone out of the immediate circle were aware of the "breaking of tradition" and my small part in the history of Brisbane's Tattersall's Club.

Our offices and warehouse in Baxter Street became a "happy family", with the staff, most of the time, working together in harmony. Baxter Street bordered on the Brisbane Exhibition grounds. Every year when the exhibition and its fairground attractions came to town the traffic around the area was horrendous, but we managed to utilize the disruption. Another young man, Peter King, had joined our merry band. Peter was employed as a city sales representative in training, to assist John Trimmer out in the field. Rather than attend the Brisbane Exhibition, which lasts for ten days, I came up with a light-bulb idea. Gathering money from the staff, with enough left over for Peter's entrance fee into the showgrounds, he became the chosen one to go to the show where he purchased the decadent fare on offer, such as creamy waffles, Dagwood Dogs (Corn Dogs to those in the northern hemisphere), Tasmanian potato chips and whatever other disgraceful, but delicious food we could think of! We had a good little plan in operation. Arriving back laden with food, the rest of the staff eagerly and hungrily descended upon him. He was the most popular young man in town!


The Wednesday public holiday for the Brisbane Exhibition became the company's "Staff Picnic Day". Reflecting back as I write this story, I'm beginning to think I spent the majority of my time, not attending to the important clerical matters, but to creating fun events! That's not entirely true, but perhaps it was I who coined the phrase "multi-tasking"...I enjoyed expanding the horizons of my position, wanting to make it as interesting as possible. And, as I like "fun", why not, I ask?

John, Shirley, their two boys and I would be the scouts, arriving at the chosen picnic area a couple of hours before the others and their families, etc., so that we could claim the whole area, squeezing any "foreign" inflitrators out. By the time the rest of the crew arrived, the campfire would be under way, with the billy bubbling away and hot cups of tea at the ready for those interested or cold beers for those with a more desperate thirst. The day was filled with games of cricket and touch football and a barbecue lunch. The day's celebrations were paid for by the company. The day following the annual picnics, a battle-scarred, weary staff dragged themselves to work but our aching bodies with their pieces of missing skin weren't enough to stop us re-hashing the happy events of the previous day.

One funny incident occurred on a New Year's Eve. From Christmas through mid to late January most of the staff took their holidays, in particular our sales representatives, as it was the most appropriate time of the year for them to be away from their territories. Business was always slow during those times, so it was also a good time to let the other staff take their leave. The office and warehouse operated on a "skeleton" staff. I was always one of those "skeletons" by my own choice. Holidays meant nothing to me. I preferred being at work. Debbie, one of the clerical staff and I covered all angles and things that needed to be done. With the New Year weekend beckoning, I decided to close the office early on the Friday, around mid-day. Locking everything up, Debbie waited for me outside at the top of the stairs leading out of the building. I had to phone into the security firm to advise them that the building was now unattended until the following Tuesday before joining her. Having done that, Deb and I were about to leave the building when in the distance we heard a faint..."Lee...Lee! Are you there, Lee...is anyone there?" Debbie and I looked at each other in askance. Again, a faint muffled cry sounded in the background. Then the penny dropped. Simultaneously, Debbie and I broke out laughing. Opening the door to the warehouse section, we discovered the young storeman, the only other staff member that day. He'd been in the toilet when I'd locked up. I thought he had already left the premises. Poor Chris...he walked out, his blue eyes, under his sun-bleached blonde hair, as large as saucers, if not dinner plates! He thought he was going to spend his long weekend and New Year locked in the toilet! Poor guy, he didn't receive much sympathy from Deb and me...just laughter!

Another promotional evening to launch a new line of panti-hose was being organised. This time the theme was built around Marilyn Monroe. I spent weeks coercing the city radio stations offering them gifts of panti-hose in exchange of any tapes they had of Monroe singing. My bribes succeeded and I gathered together a lot of recorded material. I then approached an advertising agency, giving them a black and white photograph of "MM" in her most famous pose from "The Seven Year Itch"; the one where she stands over the air vent on the sidewalk with her dress blowing up around her thighs. When I received the free-standing, over six feet cut-outs of Marilyn blown-up and backed on very thick, heavy cardboard, I could hardly believe my eyes. They were magnificent. We were ready to go!

Again models suited to our particular theme were chosen. My office became their dressing room on the nights of the functions, and during the day it was filled with racks of their clothes. Most of the time, I was busy in the staff room finalising the evenings' food or assisting John set up the displays and sound equipment in the showroom. Our new national Marketing Manager, Bob Tiffin, flew to Brisbane from Sydney for the opening evening. He'd only been with the company for a of weeks. He arrived full of hot air, arrogance and ego. I took an immediate dislike of him. Tiffin was a person who found it difficult to look another in the eye, and when he did manage to do so he appeared to look down at you with a half-smart smirk on his face. It was apparent he thought Brisbane and Queensland to be "Hicksville". John Trimmer, like me, wasn't impressed with this so-called new "whiz-kid", but we held our tongues and treated him graciously, when our time permitted. There was little time to waste worrying about the attitude of an upstart from the "big city". He would be out of our hair the next day. We had more important issues at hand to be completed before the "curtain" went up on the evening's presentation.

Our guests arrived, eager for the night's event. By this time, the Kolotex Queensland office had gained quite a reputation amongst the retailers and its competitors for its grand stagings of such promotional launches. We were the only ones putting on such lavish openings of new products, and of course, word spread quickly throughout the trade. Deservedly, John was held in very high regard amongst his peers in the industry and amongst the retail trade. Not only did he have years of experience in the fashion industry, he was an intelligent, knowledgeable gentleman. One of his strongest traits was his sincerity and integrity. He called a spade a "spade". He had an excellent command of the English language, when he spoke, everyone listened.

During John's "talk" on the benefits and highlights of the new panit-hose lines, I noticed Tiffin scoffing and smirking. I eased myself to his side. Without wanting to draw the attention of our guests, I nudged him and quietly, but firmly, told him his behaviour was out of line and for him to "shut up", act according to his position within the company and show respect to the speaker and host. He was acting like an arrogant brat and I didn't give a damn who or what he was. Heeding my demand, he held his tongue and smirks throughout the rest of John's "sell-in". However, his good behaviour didn't last once the business part of the evening was over.

As the guests mingled, ate and sipped on their choices of beverages, I noticed Tiffin had had more than his fair share of alcohol and his behaviour was getting out of hand. One of our major buyers from a well-known chain of department stores was in his line of fire. She, the buyer, was no shrinking violet but I could see she was uncomfortable from his unwanted attention. I grabbed her eye and beckoned her over to me. I said I had noticed what was going on and would take care of the situation, thereby not causing her further embarrassment. Diffusing the situation, once again, I took Tiffin aside and told him to "wake up to himself...that he was "our" guest...he was representing the company and head office and that his behaviour was way out of line." The buyer who was the centre of his unwanted, uncalled for attention was an important player in the industry. His drunken advances certainly wasn't the way to conduct business. He slunk off like a mongrel dog and for the rest of the evening kept not only out of my way, but that of his chosen "prey".

At the end of the night, John was my chauffeur home, but on the way we had to drop Tiffin off to his hotel. While John was locking up the premises, going through the necessary security measure, I bailed Tiffin up against the wall in the car park and told him exactly what I thought of him and his behaviour, telling him I didn't give a damn what position he held within the Kolotex Group of Companies. He was a newcomer within the ranks and I doubted he would stay employed by the company for much longer, so he'd better start making enquiries about another job. I also told him that John Trimmer had more knowledge in his little toe, than, he, Tiffin would ever have in his whole body and mind. By the time John appeared, Tiffin was a cowered little mouse of a man. I was so angry, I didn't care how he felt.

The next morning Tiffin arrived at the office very meek and mild. John drove him to the airport to put him on his flight back to Sydney. On his arrival back from the airport, John came into my office and said, "Tiffin was very quiet this morning. He hardly said a word during the drive to the airport." It was then John became aware of what had ensued the previous evening. I told him all that I had said and done. He laughed, thanking me...and said the great Aussie term..."Good on you, Lee!"

Tiffin lasted about another four to five weeks with Kolotex before he went on to spread his nonsense and ignorance on some other unsuspecting employer. He wasn't missed by us and we never heard of him again.

To Be Continued....

38 comments:

  1. You are an interesting person, Lee. I enjoyed the latest Chapter. Thanks for sharing your life.

    Left you a comment on your Robyn tribute post. Bless her, she will, like me, realize after a while that cats are a necessity for remaining sane in this world.

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  2. Hi there Marc...nice to see you. :)

    It was so sad...Robyn love Oscar so very much. I hope, in time, when she feels she is ready, that she does get a kitten...as you say...they certainly do keep us sane...I know mine make me laugh all the time. Not sure about the sane bit though when I think about it...I think they've caught some of my insanity! Hehehehe!

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  3. BTW Lee, You talk (previous post) about Google, as if it is a person. The company programmers wrote a program to look at blog entrys, search requests, and your profile, to pick those silly adverts, and add them to your blog.

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  4. I'll check back tomorrow. It's late here.

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  5. One of my brothers has made a habit of, when being 'dressed' down by a lady, as you did that young man will say, "Wasn't I married to you once?"
    If I ever start up a company I want you on my side and not working against me.
    I'm not scared of you. Really I'm not. Madam.

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  6. That "young man" was in his thirties at the time, Cliff and should have known better. He was older than me, but that meant nothing to me. He was a drop-kick. His behaviour and attitude were way out of line. I'm never backward in coming forward...no matter who it may be I'm dealing with...when they are in the wrong...they have to deal with the consequences. ;)

    You can come out of your hiding place now, Cliff! lol

    Yep...I know that Marc...but my comments and thoughts remain! ;)

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  7. And when I say "thirties"...he was closer to 40 than 30...so it was way past time he had a lesson about the facts of life! ;)

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  8. Nasty male specimen. Marketing people are supposed to be good socially but this one obviously not. Good for you Lee and he didn't last long as predicted.

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  9. Nice read. Locked the poor guy in the toilet. That sounds like a knee slapper. You are one tough lady when it comes to protecting the company. Good on you.

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  10. Hi lee ~~ Enjoyed your latest chapter
    and glad things turned out OK when you put that creep in his place,
    I am sure John really appreciated you
    and all the extra work you did.
    I see you got some cold weather after
    saying you wanted it. Your chicken and veggie soup sound delish!!
    Awful storms in Sydney and Newcastle.
    Take care, my friend, Love, Merle.

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  12. Hi Lee, That was a wonderful addition to your 'true tales'. I especially liked the kicking butt of the foolish male. I have come across both men and women in similar situations and agree that a firm and strong reaction is needed to 'wake them up' of their senses. Some people cannot see past their noses from looking at their own reflections in their glasses. 'He' was a prime example.
    I have learnt a great deal from that 'type' of person. It is indeed one of life necessities to watch what comes out of ones mouth.

    xox Nic

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  13. Lee, Brett Battles is doing another give away of his Novel. Stop by my site, I have left a link to his blog.

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  14. I think all of us have run into a Tiffin character sometime.

    What has me curious, though, is exactly what are Tasmanian potato chips. As a potato chip aficionado, I had to Google the phrase and got NOTHING! Is it a brand? I know you didn't make it up.

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  15. Great story. Laughed at the poor guy in the toilet! I. like you, often used to work over Xmas - and you could have a lot of fun doing so! I wouldn't have liked to get on the wrong side of you if I'd been working for that company! you were obviously great at arranging sales promotions and those sound like fun picnics at the beginning!

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  16. when I fired up Satan, the evil laptap I was rewarded with your new chapter. Thanks, I love to start my mornings with a quite cup of coffee and a good read. LoL big time about Chris in the bathroom. Now please explain to this Southern what billy bubbings happen to be. You know with my imgination went wild. I loved the BOUNCER in you. Tiff was a NUMBER ONE --- HOLE as we say in the south. looking so forward to the next chapter.

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  17. Hello, jmb..yes, marketing folk are supposed to be excellent at PR but that guy defintely wasn't! He was a rude specimen of a person.

    Hi Steve..You're correct...I was very protective and proud of our set-up in Brisbane and woe behold anyone who was a smart-ass like Tiffin was. I loved what I was doing and was very loyal to John and had a lot of pride in what we had and were achieving. I will pop in re the book, again. Thanks.

    Hey Merle...the cold snap is great, as is the chicken soup! ;)

    Nicole...there are quite a few like Tiffin, unfortunately...and I've run across my fair share over the years, that's for sure.

    Dave..."Tasmanian potato chips" were chips/French fries made especially out of potatoes from Tasmania and they were great! Why or how, I really don't know but maybe it was just that "fairground attraction" that added something extra to them. :)

    Hi Welsh...it certainly was a funny incident with Chris locked in the men's toilet...the look on his face when he came out was priceless! Our picnic days were always a lot of fun and everyone looked forward to them.

    Lady Di...a "billy" is a real true blue Aussie term...Billy tea is made by boiling the water in a utensil named a billy, adding the tea immediately after removing the billy from the fire, when the water has boiled, and allowing the tea to draw for a time. Then often one of several methods is employed to make the tea-leaves settle to the bottom of the billy before pouring, preferably into enamel, mugs known as pannikins to make it a bit more authentic. A billy was often made from a largish can then a handle made from wire is attached. Of course, one can buy billy cans but it much more fun making your own billy. One method for "drawing" the tea was to swing the billy (filled with boiling water and the tea leaves) around over one's head...but I've never been quite game enough to try that one!

    Below are the words of the first verse of our well-loved and famous "Waltzing Matilda", written by Banjo Patterson...in it you will note mention of the "billy".

    Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
    Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
    And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled
    "Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me?"

    I laughed at the "bouncer" in me...I think I must have that certain gene! ;)

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  18. I must say, I have had a giggle anout what a "mans world' the world of panty-hose seems to be!!!!

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  19. No sympathy for Chris, :), I am with you on that one I almost couldn't stop laughing when I read that. On the other hand you are right, Tiffin was a JERK, and he should of known better. Maybe some of what you said to him stayed with him and he learned a few things.

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  20. Hi Rebecca..there probably are more men in the fashion industry than women...it was men who first made panti-hose...plus our company produced handbags, together with men's and womenswear and the company was headed by men.

    Hi Sandra...Yep, Tiffin was a jerk...I doubt he learned anything and has probably continued through his life remaining a jerk. At least my words to him shut him up for the duration of his time with us...after that...he was on his own and continued to be an annoyance and an arrogant person to everyone else, no doubt. Some leopards can change their spots but the majority can't! ;)

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  21. I see (or read) why you are proud of Kimberley Busteed, you'd have replied to critics as she did.

    This series is well worth the wait for each part. Back to reading quietly.

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  22. Here is the Saturday kitten update.

    Went to Pets Mart to get kitty supplies today and found the neatest cat toy.

    You know those cards that you open and it plays some pre-recorded thingie like Happy Birthday?

    They have now stuffed a microchip with the tiny speaker and battery into a small toy mouse. It has a motion detector that turns the thing on and produces a real authentic squeek with each grab and swat. It comes with a bracket to go over the top of a door, and 5 or 6 Ft string with a stretchy section attached to said mouse. The kittens went nuts!

    They wore out twice before bed time. haven't seen them for over an hour now.

    Have a good afternoon Lee, I'm for bed.

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  23. Hi Lee, great reading... please remind me (nicely) to be on my best behavior if we ever meet, I don't want to be a Tiffin.
    How a bout a picture of you posed with your Marilyn cut out.

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  24. Hi, Gto..I can't, never have and never will suffer fools and that guy was the leader of the pack, I think! ;) Thanks for visiting...it's always nice to see you.

    Hiya Marc...I can just imagine Pixie and Spec having a great time...they are so great to watch. I've just come from being out most of the day and my two are going crazy here...I think they're happy to have me back home again. :)

    Hi Peter...I have no pics and it's a pity I don't. It would have been great to have a couple amongst my memorabilia.

    I won't need to remind you, Peter...you'll soon find out if you behave like he did! ;) Hahaha!

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  25. lee,
    If variety is the spice of life then you're one hot tomale, girl! ;-)
    If I may borrow a recently read term; Good on you Lee.
    rel

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  26. Ahh..."variety" is the spice of life, Rel...it's what makes the world go around. :)

    I've always been interested in lots of things and have wanted to do lots of different things...I've managed to achieve a few.

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  27. So is the Brisbane's Tattersall's Club still exclusive to men or did your entry nudge a crack that became a gaping hole?

    I love that you speak your mind. But, I'm of the same nature. Not everyone likes a straight shooter. I'm sure glad your boss appreciated it. That punk needed to be cut down to size. Yeah you!!

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  28. Hi Robbie,

    A couple of attempts have been made by women over the past years, the latest only a matter of months ago for the club to change its rules to allow women to join but all attempts have failed with the committee voting a resounding "No" each time. I agree. I don't see there is any need for the Tattersall's Club to open its doors and membership to women. By tradition it is a men's club. Special evenings are organised wherein the members can take the spouses to dinner there...I think perhaps its once every month or so...I forget the exact format now. Tattersall's have special horse race meetings. I feel if women are so desperate to join a club such as Tatt's, they should form their own exclusive club along the lines of Tattersall's.
    It's one of the last bastions where men can mingle with their peers without females being present. I can't see anything at all wrong in that. Some traditions are worth holding onto...if the business/career women wan to join an exclusive club...let them start their own...along similar lines to those of the Tattersall's Club.

    Below is a bit of information on the Tatt's Club:




    "Membership is open to gentlemen 21 years and over at Committee discretion. A proposer, seconder and three referees are required, all of whom must be members of the Club. There are a number of membership categories.
    Tattersall’s is a private membership club located in impressive freehold premises in the heart of the Brisbane CBD (corner of Queen and Edward Streets).

    Tattersall’s Club was founded in 1865 by a group of gentlemen who were prominent in both business and in the thoroughbred horseracing industry in Queensland. The Club derives its name from Tattersall's, the London horse auction mart and “subscription rooms” founded in 1776.

    For over 100 years Tattersall’s Club has been associated with the growth of Brisbane and Club membership now spans all the professions, government, commerce and sports.

    In 1997 the Club’s redevelopment was completed to include the Healy Room Fine Dining Restaurant, Functions Rooms to cater for 300 patrons, 18 rooms of accommodation, fully equipped Gymnasium, 25 metre indoor heated swimming pool, Library and administration offices.

    Tattersall’s Club offers all the elegance and style in traditional and historical surrounds and is committed to excellence in all its facilities and service.
    Committee and Executive."

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  29. Hi Lee

    It was so good to see another episode of your story up...I made a cup of coffee to go with it. Loved the kick in the ass you gave that Tiffin bloke...well done! As for poor Chris looked in the loo, I'm surprised he was able to make his way out...he'd have been peeing himself with fright!

    Glad the wind has dropped but NSW are still getting a pounding...poor things. I couldn't imagine anything more frightening than water that just kept creeping higher...unless it was a bushfire.

    Hope you're keeping warm...I put the winter doona on the bed yesterday. It was lovely to snuggle into a cosy bed last night.

    Take care and keep cosy.

    Robyn

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  30. Hi there Robyn...it sure turned cold all of a sudden. Saturday was a beauty. It came as a bit of a shock to the system, that's for sure! I hardly poked my nose out the door. But yesterday was a glorious day...I went to friends' home for a leisurely lunch that lasted about six hours...it was fun, as usual with loads of good food, wine, conversation and laughter.

    Tiffin certainly was a drop-kick and deserved all he got!

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  31. Hi again lee ~~ Thanks for your comments about the Ben fireman story. We definitely should hear more good stories more often. But bad news seems to be what sells papers etc
    so the mighty dollar comes into play
    AGAIN. Take care, Love, Merle.

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  32. Another interesting tale of your involvement with Kolotex during its expansionary period.
    So what happened to all of those holidays ? It sounds as if it was almost akin to a happy holiday over the Christmas/ New year period.

    I was wondering if you have any contacts with some of your former colleagues. The company certainly has an interesting history. As you your no doubt aware, it was finally acquired by Pacific Brands in 2003, just prior to their listing as a public company.

    They seem to be struggling against imports but still have I think a significant market share of hosiery in Australia. I think the latest advertising is under the banner of voodoo isn’t it?

    Best wishes

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  33. That is sad but true, Merle.

    Hi Lindsay...yes, once in a while I hear from a couple of ex-co-workers. Debbie is now a lecturer on marketing at a university here and has her Phd. in marketing, for one. John, sadly,has passed away, but Shirley his wife and I are still very good friends. We are in contact frequently and see each other regularly. Gavin and Andrew, their two sons, are still a big part of my life, as well.

    Yes, I knew about Pacific buying Kolotex."Voodoo" caused a bit of controversy amongst some quarters when it came out due to the name. The hosiery industry isn't what it used to be, I think...perhaps I'm wrong. But I don't think it's as exciting as it was in the days I'm describing.

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  34. Lee, congratulations on wining the ARC of The Cleaner. I saw you listed on his site.

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  35. OH! I didn't know, Steve...thanks for informing me...wow! I never win anything! Thanks. :)

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  37. ha ha..Good on you, Lee! Hey, CORN DOGS too..or Dagwood dogs. You guys were a bunch a fun. I wish I could find a place to work like your place but I am suspicious I would have to find a You there too to make it fun. On to the next installment.

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