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And Justice for All

In January of 1978, I received my pin commemorating five years of employment at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. As I gratefully took the pin, I was so glad that I did not take my father’s advice on that day Hazel Bowen called. Dad perpetually saw the glass half empty. He warned me at the time that I shouldn’t bite off more than I could chew and that I should stay with what I knew. Those words actually made me hesitate then, but just for a moment; I was pretty sure that egg-serving jobs would still be available should I fail at selling advertising. I took the step of faith that day in 1973 and learned that failure or success has much to do with frame of mind and that giving 100% bears fruit. I had the pin to prove it.

I was exceedingly proud to be a part The Fort Worth Star Telegram. The original building at 400 W. 7th Street in downtown Fort Worth charmed me with its style and history. The newspaper was founded by Amon G. Carter Sr. in the early 1900s and was delivered to some counties by stagecoach at that time. Mr. Carter coined the phrase “Where the West Begins” which is still part of the newspaper masthead today. Amon Carter Sr. and The Fort Worth Star Telegram were a huge part of Fort Worth’s cultural and business history but the stories I loved best involved the personal side. When Amon Carter’s son and only child, Amon Carter Jr., was old enough, he was given a job selling newspapers on the corner of 7th and Taylor. Amon Sr. was the first to buy a paper from his boy and he kept the change in his desk until the day he died. During World War II, Amon Jr. was taken prisoner in North Africa. The senior Mr. Carter left no stone unturned until he located his son and began smuggling information and supplies. Amon Jr. used some of those supplies to publish a newspaper for the prison camp – on toilet paper. Shortly after I began working, the newspaper was sold to Capital Cities but Amon Carter Jr. remained as Publisher. Most days, he could be seen crossing 7th Street to Burger and Shake where he sat on the second stool from the left and consumed his hamburger and vanilla milkshake.

It was during these early years of my work history that I developed my love for downtown Fort Worth. I enjoyed shopping at Monnig’s Department Store, especially the bargain basement, and having lunch in their tea room. I loved hearing the bells of Fort Worth Christian Church chime the hour and it made me feel part of something bigger to see tall buildings going up around me.

It was another time in the business world, a time that carried pitfalls that are shocking when compared to today’s work environment and protective regulations. As with most sales jobs, most of my pay was earned in commission. Hard-earned vacation was a bitter/sweet event in that no compensation existed for lost sales, meaning that a week of vacation brought at least a 20% decrease in income for that month. Then came the day I learned that the outside sales people did collect commission during vacation time. My naïve self marched into the manager’s office for an explanation. I was shocked to hear him say “the outside sales team are all men and have families to support; the phone reps are all women.” I did not claim any label at the time and “feminist” was not a wildly popular term of the day, but my sense of injustice was intense. After all, I was a family of one with a mother living on disability. I could not let it go. I surveyed 25 major newspapers across the nation and learned that 23 of them, one of which was our major competitor, paid ALL sales people commission compensation for vacation days. I sent the results, accompanied by a carefully penned letter, to the Human Resources department. I was not brave enough to sign my name. A short time later, we were called into the break room, one side of the room at a time, to hear the outline of the new plan for vacation compensation for commission. I could not keep the smile off of my face. My intent was to inform and complain; I did not dream that the power of my pen could effect actual change. Although I did not sign my epistle, I got the idea that management knew that I was the crusader.

The new policy was the talk of the break room for weeks. Another favorite topic was my engagement to a foreigner, from “I-Ran.” In spite of the language barrier, Abbas Saniei and I experienced love at first sight and my role as full-time wife and mother seemed to be on the horizon. My intended was attending college on his family money and was quite impressive when he visited my office in his tailor-made suits. His English was improving and his manners were quite European and intriguing. At that time, the Middle-East was not big news and the inequities and disputes of those distant countries were the last thing on most people’s mind. That was about to change.

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