June 29th, 2017


Lead Copywriter, J.C. Penney Co.


JC Penney Company had a shiny-new office building, their national headquarters,  on 6th Avenue at 56th Street.  They wanted someone to write for their growing catalog sales department.  I think they would have hired any warm body that could use a typewriter and form an English sentence.  I fit the bill.

Writing for the catalog involved knowledge of the products, which meant dealing with merchandisers and buyers.  It also involved working with the art department, proofing staff, and members of one’s own work group.  All this was considered good preparation for working at an ad agency, something I never did.  When I finally felt it was time to leave Penneys, what I found was an offer  to work at Grey Advertising on the Anacin account.  I did not take that job.

I started out as just one among many copywriters, but quickly advanced to being a department head.  I lobbied for a larger office space, and our lead group of 4 writers got a large corner office on the 32nd floor.  Corner offices are usually big-wig territory; we had lucked out.  We were in the northeast corner of the building, which meant there was a clear view to the north, overlooking Central Park to Harlem above, and east to Queens and Brooklyn.  On a clear day, you could see almost forever.

I have to admit it was not an arduous job.  I had lots of time to read Tom Wolfe’s daily  column in Women’s Wear Daily, delivered to my desk every morning.  Plus the Times — gotta keep up with the news and society if you’re gonna write advertising that appeals to The People.  And then there were the two- to three-hour lunches, many of them strictly liquid.

In short, I had a good time.  And when I did decide to “drop out,” I found it easy to pick up some money doing the work on a freelance basis. Five years of full-time, and then three of freelancing, when I felt like it.  Life was good.

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