Abe in the Wall Street Journal

Meg Cox, the Wall Street Journal reported who interviewed me said that among all the people in the world involved in this new pastime, my 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.

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 things in that story is something I still remember—Hula Hoops and Pet Rocks. I am old enough to remember seeing Pet Rocks in the most exclusive department store we had—Rikes, at the then new, Salem Mall.

Rikes and everyone else sold those gaudy plastic hoops called, “hulu hoops.” People tried to look cool swiveling their hips to make the hoop go round but it was not to last very long. And like “A Lump of Coal” in a draw string sack lots of stores also sold at that time, the whole business went out of business, leaving people with lumps of coal, stones and plastic rings.

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 school property tax.

I built a new office behind my house using proceeds from a couple of books I wrote for Grumbacher in England. That was in 1981 and I am sitting in it today (February 2011) typing this on an iMac computer.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Since people all over the world knew me, some business people wanted to cash in on it and asked me to do a television show for them. And I agreed to do that. I flew to West Palm Beach, Florida and in 7 days complete 13 television shows – each show lasted ½ hour.

But, in the end, my world of calligraphy came down like the other fads, hulu hoops and pet rocks, and is showing no signs of ever coming back. I lost my enthusiasm for calligraphy primarily because the people who did the TV series for 13 weeks bought my company. And I was not allowed to compete for 5 years. I got sick of it and had a garage sale to get rid of our inventory.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 by Data Cube
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