Back To Wichita

 

In the winter of 1945 Loren Kennedy wrote to ask me if I would be interested in coming back to Wichita again. I told him I might and Frank Hollow, their President at the time, on a business trip to New York, came up to Providence to interview me. We sat around the dining room table and I showed him samples of my work and he seemed to be very impressed. The poor guy came down with the flu and had to stay in bed in a hospital a few days and be treated by the house physician. I loaned him a radio to kill time. I did not know at the time that he was a rich successful oil operator and The Western was just a sideline with him. He was called the "boy wonder" in Wichita oil circles because nearly all of the wells he drilled were producers and not dry holes.

 

He later wrote me a letter and offered me a job at $6,000 per year and would pay my moving expenses. It was not what I should have asked but in many respects we thought it would be more secure than doing what I was doing and it would be nice to live back near Bertha's folks and where we had a lot of friends. We waited for about three months before we made up our minds. Livermore and Knight did not come up with enough incentive for me to stay there so I quit and moved to Wichita May 1st, 1945, leaving the family behind.

CA Seward, Loren Kennedy, Vern Day, Lloy

At work at Western.

Ten days after I took the job in Wichita, Frank Hollow died. I wrote back to L&K to see if the position they had offered me was still open but I missed the boat there although they said they would be glad to take me back on my old free lance basis. Whether or not I would have been better off going back nobody will ever know. L&K did come out of the doldrums and with Richard Knight at the helm they really went to town, becoming a large organization which eventually by mergers and large capital became Printing Corporation of America. I doubt, though, that I could have gotten anywhere, for they, like so many others, figured artists to be a dime a dozen.

After I had been at The Western about a month Loren Kennedy, Ernie Bullinger and myself were sent on a trip to Eastman Co. in Rochester to take some instruction from them on some of the new developments in camera and color correction work. This gave me an opportunity to go to Providence to see the family where we made up our plans for the future.

So I returned to Wichita and we put our Providence house up for sale. Bertha got hold of a real estate agent and it was not long before they had a buyer (so she said) who would pay $32,000 for the place. The buyer put up $2,000 and the realtor, instead of putting the money in escrow, kept it themselves. Bertha did not know anything about business and I was far away in Wichita. She went just about nuts trying to run things by herself, but as far as we knew, we had made a sale.

 

In the meantime, I was looking for a house down here I thought Bertha might like. In August of 1945, I went up to Providence and brought Bertha back with me so she could help find one we would like. We did not find any so I drove her back in a couple weeks. Left the kids with a hired housekeeper and her sister Clara.

While up there we decided we needed two cars so we decided to buy anything we could find. The war was just over and scarcely any cars were on the market. Fortunately we had a Hudson dealer who was an acquaintance of ours and he sold us a Hudson 8 for $1,800. That taken care of, I drove the Buick back to Wichita.

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Their Wichita Home.

I again started looking at houses down here and finally found the one we now live in, which I was sure Bertha would like. The deal we thought we had sewed up in Providence turned out to be a fraud and we had to hire a lawyer to shake loose the realtor and we put it on the market ourselves and sold it to Mr. Corey for $23,000 cash, which was just what the Wichita house cost, so we considered it a fair trade. A few months after we moved down here, the realtors in Providence were going to sue us for a commission; said they had showed the house to Mr. Corey. Well, rather than go to court over it, Lester Morris, our lawyer here, advised me to offer them $500 as a settlement, which they accepted. That was some experience and taught me some lessons on how to deal with realtors.

So finally Christmas, 1945, I took a few days off and went to Providence to help Bertha get organized to move. We decided to take everything with us regardless of the cost. We had learned from our experience moving from Fort Worth that you can’t get a decent price from used furniture. It cost around $900 to move, of which Western paid $600, had it loaded on a brand new van and it moved us without incident. We stayed the last night at Lydia Sanborn’s, and started out for Wichita in the Hudson. I had left the Buick sitting at Millers where I was rooming. We were right ahead of a severe cold wave and the Buick was pretty well frozen up when we got to Wichita. Went out to the house where it was nice and warm and slept on the floor, the furniture arriving the next day, on New Years, 1946.

 

To get back to my taking the job at The Western I was not too impressed with the outlook but since Hollow had died there was nothing to do so I thought to stick it out and hope for the best. Another disturbing factor was the fact that they also hired Charley Fellnagle as Creative Art Director shortly before they had hired me. So Charley took care of the creative work and I took care of the production. So it turned out that I had only one-half the responsibilities which suited me fine. Believe me, after what I had gone through prior to this I was ready for a more relaxing job.

 

We worked along for several weeks without a company President. Louis Ely, George Blue, Mrs. Hollow, Frank Larcher and a few outsiders held most of the stock. Mrs. Hollow held the most stock and she needed to sell for inheritance taxes. I believe I could have bought her out, but I did not have enough confidence in myself as a businessman to get her controlling interest by investing my life savings. A couple of men evidently got the word that I had some money to invest and they talked to me about pooling our resources and buying her out. Of course each of them wanted to be President.

Prior to the family moving and the real estate deals, Western had  not as yet settled on a man to be President. Contact was made with Otis Wells of Kansas City who had made a reputation as a go-getter and he was offered the opportunity to buy out Mrs. Hollow. He came down in July to take over and shortly after he hired Ivan Mahan as Sales Manager and Carl Kinney as Business Manager.

 

I bought fifty shares of common stock and 8 ½ shares of preferred for which I paid $5,850. Years later the preferred was paid off and the common split 42 for one. Before this, I bought Sally Haden’s 50 common and 8 ½ preferred. At this writing I own 4,170 shares of common (I sold Bob Wells 30 shares) which makes me the second largest stockholder next to Otis Wells. Since it has never paid dividends, its ownership has never done me any particular good. However, it has a high book value which someday may make it very valuable.

 

Wells was a good business man all right and our business grew very well. Charley and I with the help of Lloyd Foltz, Orlan Voth, Chick Wentzell and a couple others handled the art work very well. Our building was the same one Vincent built in 1927. As business grew we gradually took over the entire building, first kicking out the drugstore on the corner and later the garage on the first floor and basement. Then Wells wanted to get rid of the Office Supply Department which took up the remainder of the first floor.

 

Our Secy-Treas. Mrs. Haden thought this a good opportunity for her to get in business for herself. She wanted to make me a partner and I said I would put in $5,000. About the time we were ready to close the deal, she went off her rocker, had to take her to the hospital and give her shock treatments. I naturally withdrew my commitment and we finally sold the office supply department to Earl Duke who moved the stock to a building across the street. That might have been a gold mine for just after that happened, business began to boom due to the reactivation of Boeing when they started to build the B-47 bomber and Beech and Cessna boomed also.

When we moved to Wichita, Bob was able to get a job at the Western as a pressman’s helper. Being mechanically proficient, I thought he would like working around a litho press, but after a couple of years he quit and started to work as a tile setter for Fortneu. In 1951, the Korean War came along and he was drafted to go to Korea, so that was the main topic of conversation around here then. We wrote him a lot of letters and sent packages to him. He got into heavy fighting, was with the 15th Infantry Regiment as a PFC in the 3rd Division and was wounded once. He returned in one piece, he had married just before going into the service.

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Clarence and sons Charles ( L ) and Robert ( R ), Christmas, 1988. Notice Clarence’s “Wintry Day” in  the background.

Charles was going to Intermediate and East High School and graduated in 1952. He used a couple of scooters for transportation. In 1950 we bought a 1949 Ford station wagon and Charles used this to go to school until he graduated. While going to school, he became infatuated with Lily Hoshaw and he was no more than out of high school than they got married. We tried to talk him out of it but could not and we finally gave our consent for him to marry at nineteen.

 

While in school, Charles was extremely interested in radio and electronics. He set up a very efficient ham radio outfit in our basement. He took up electricity and drafting in high school and the Kansas Gas & Electric Company hired him right out of school and he has been with them since, except for a couple of years when he was drafted and was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va.