Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When In Rome ... or with Romans

As a pre-teen my father invited me to join him and a group of local engineers touring a paper manufacturing plant in Canton, NC. This plant was a supplier of paper to Dad's employer, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and many of the men on the tour were employed, in various capacities with the company. I don't recall a great deal about the tour, but I do distinctly recall the great life lesson I learned. On arrival, we were greeted by R. J. Reynolds products in the reception area. We met in a large boardroom with cigarettes, only RJR brands, on the table and side tables along with ashtrays. Everywhere we visited in the plant from the lowest employee to the highest officer had a pocketed shirt with a pack of RJR cigarettes clearly visible through the pocket. It was as if they had picked see through shirts for the occasion.

Many years later, as a officer in a local corporation, I was negotiating brick selections with Paul Fulton, President of Sara Lee, for local corporate offices. Paul desired that the brick be "Carolina Blue". If you know Paul, you know why!. I was working with local brick manufacture Pine Hall Brick attempting to please my client. Although they could broker such a brick it wasn't their brick. I received a call from their sales manager with a strange request. He asked for a meeting of all of their corporate officers with Paul. On inquiring of what their intentions were he stated that they fully intended to drop their drawers and reveal that they ALL wore Hanes underwear. Hanes being one of Sara Lees companies at that time. I told my partner, who had the best relationship with Paul, about the request. He picked up the phone, called Paul, and I could hear the laughter on the other end. Next morning we received a call from Paul requesting samples of every brick Pine Hall made. Guess what is on those buildings today!

Both of these incidents were long before I read this excerpt in Frank Tursi's 1994 book Winston-Salem, A History shortly following it's publication:
There is a story, supposedly true, about the state highway commissioner, who came to Winston-Salem in the late 20's for a meeting at the Hotel Robert E. Lee. He sat down with the mayor and the men who welded the real power: the city's tobacco and textile manufacturers and bankers.

The highway commissioner lit a cigarette that wasn't made in Winston-Salem, and a hush settled over the room. Someone finally slid a pack of Camels across the table and told the commissioner that he would be expected to smoke them while in town.

The state man stood up and began to undress.

"What in the world are you doing, man." one of the astonished city representatives asked.

"I just remembered," the commissioner replied, "I don't have Hanes underwear on either."
The lesson learned? When a check was placed before me for purchase of a new King Air 300 aircraft, from Piedmont Aviation during negotiations for construction of a new computer center for Piedmont Airlines, I did not hesitate to sign my name on the line. I already had on Hanes underwear, kept a pack of Camels and Texas Pete on my desk, though I never smoked in my life and can't handle hot sauce. To this day I can only eat Krispy Kreme donuts! Have a box?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Love to have your comments here.

Because of the nature of this blog, all comments are moderated and will not appear until they are reviewed. All comments will be approved unless they are found to be blatantly inappropriate, vulgar, and abusive or attempt to reveal the identity of anyone involved with this blog. NO comment with a commercial link will be accepted!