About the author
Excerpt from the Introduction to You Bet Your Laugh:
Another echo from that time that continues to resound all these years later is my first date with my then-future wife, Ruth. On Friday, October 18th, 1957, we went to see Tammy and the Bachelor starring Debbie Reynolds at the Roosevelt Drive-In in Jersey City, New Jersey. (As it turned out, the character played by Walter Brennan recruits Leslie Nielsen's character to work with him in his advertising business.) Ruth and I dated for seven years. We decided to wait to get married until I had completed my two years in the Army and graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
I worked for a couple of companies in New York City and New Jersey over the next nine years. Then one day I approached my wife with the idea of starting our own advertising and sales promotion business together. At that time, we had three young children and our finances were tight—we had only $600 in savings. If Ruth had expressed the least bit of doubt, I would not have taken the chance at the time. I am so grateful she loved the idea. She was very enthusiastic about it and had complete confidence we would succeed in our new venture.
I went to the bank soon afterwards and secured a 90-day loan for $5,000 to begin our business in one-third of the basement of our home in Landing, New Jersey. We purchased used office furniture for $95 and a typewriter from Kmart for $125. On June 1st, 1973, Jay R Associates (which later became Jay R Advertising) was born. Our goal at first was simple—to feed the kids! I went out on sales calls and Ruth handled all the office work. Fortunately, we secured orders from AT&T, IBM, Nabisco, and several pharmaceutical companies in the first three months, which enabled us to pay the loan back on time. We had a great deal of fun working together. One of our first orders was from a pharmaceutical company for a large quantity of four-inch tall rubber erasers in the form of a senior citizen named Minnie holding a sign that read, "Liberation from Constipation." (This was a tie-in to magazine ads the company was running at the time.) After this order, the company became a regular client, so to speak. I was surprised to discover that this eraser is memorialized as part of an online Museum of Kitsch! You can view a photo at awmok.com/?s=minnie.
Three years later, we moved to the nearby town of Succasunna. We upgraded our office space to a larger basement area in our new home. The business continued to grow as we added BASF, Johnson & Johnson, The Wall Street Journal, and People magazine to our list of clients. One memory that stands out is when I received a call from a potential customer who asked for help with a rush order. He needed a very specific kind of briefcase that he planned to present to a parting executive at a dinner the following evening. His regular vendors were not able to find it anywhere. With her magic touch and much research, Ruth managed to locate the company in Tennessee that manufactured it. We had the briefcase shipped overnight to our office and then I delivered it in person that afternoon. Within the year, that company become our largest customer.
Four years after that, we bought an office building on the main highway in town just two miles from our home. The business continued to grow and we eventually employed ten people. Space was getting tight, so we began looking into a bigger office space so we could hire more people. Just as we were ready to sign the contract for the new building, Ruth hesitated. She brought up the idea of selling the business instead and retiring while we were still young because, as she said, you never know what's going to happen. I initially hesitated, but after thinking it over, I knew she was right yet again—she was very insightful and had tremendous instincts all her life. Within three months, we sold our 14-year-old business to Robert Lieberman, president of All-Ways Advertising in Bloomfield, New Jersey.