A Reader Wrties by Jean Hutchinson Schmitt: The unfair violent, world of men

February 01, 2002

Two names in the news this week brought back memories of my youth. My first job after business school was with the advertising agency in Minneapolis that had the contract with General Mills to promote the new breakfast cereal, Wheaties.

Although I was only 19 and not in the art department — it was my job to send radio script by teletype to Chicago, i.e., "Guiding Light" — I suggested to a man in the art department (I hadn't leaned yet this was not a smart move) that all little boys liked baseball and if we could get Ted Williams, the 23-year-old, 6 foot 3 inch, handsome, famous baseball player, to be photographed at a breakfast table with two young boys in baseball uniforms eating Wheaties, this might sell.

A few weeks later I was filling in for the receptionist at the switchboard by the elevators when I saw him get off the elevator and he smiled at me. Naturally, I smiled back. I have forgotten which executive he asked for but I'll never forget that almost immediately Mr. Greenwood, the grumpy old office manager, said he would take over the switchboard — most unusual — and ordered me to go to a storeroom where there was a carton of Wheaties and I was to select only the largest and most perfect flakes to be photographed.


The head of the art department never told me Ted Williams had been given the contract, took credit for my idea and made sure I never spoke to Williams. Shortly after this I went to work for a stock brokerage firm where I made twice the salary I had been paid at the advertising agency and was taken home in a limousine.

Ted Williams was admitted to a hospital last week. And he will never know that it was a naive, young girl from Eagle Bend, Minn., who got him his first big advertising contract.

In September 1948 my husband and I were in an elevator in Neiman Marcus in Dallas when just before the doors closed a well-dressed man entered. I didn't see his face but I tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he was Herb Marcus' father. (The tailoring in his suit was so flawless I thought he had to be someone connected to the store.) He turned around and glared at me and said: "No, I'm not, but I'm his uncle… The man was Stanley Marcus, the son of the founder, who died this week at age 96. His nephew Herbert was the manager of the Officers' Club at Ri Hato, APO 838, in Panama and had been my bridge partner. I went to this airbase, not too far from the Costa Rica border, when I needed to get away from the rat race in the Canal Zone where the ratio of men to women was 1,600 to 1.

My husband was in the store because I wanted him to buy a tuxedo and Mr. Marcus graciously escorted us to this department and introduced us to the salesman. I don't recall him asking any questions about Herb. Perhaps he didn't like him.

I have known only one Muslim. He was an Egyptian named Ismael, who was an exchange student at the University of Minnesota. My husband and I were in Minneapolis visiting my mother over the Christmas holidays when the national convention of the Cosmopolitan Club was held on campus. I was a member of Indiana University's chapter so I attended two conferences because Indiana had not sent a delegate.

Ismael, I believe, represented the University in Alexandria, Egypt. He was 23 years old and lived in a house in St. Paul with a woman his father paid to accomodate his sexual desires. The woman did not go out with him, nor was she even considered a friend. He told me a story, which I shall never forget, about an Egyptian family of two sons, only one of whom was married. One time when the married son was out of the country, his brother raped his wife. When her husband returned, she told him what her brother-in-law had done. The men in this family then decided the only way they could eliminate the shame that included their name was to kill the girl. And that is what they did.

Ismael was not embarrassed by this story but I was more than embarrassed. I didn't see him again. I never want to see him again.

Now let's see how American men behave.

I called Al Kalin last week to compliment him on his well-written column on the watering stations in the desert. Then I asked him how he equated these efforts with the sting men pull every year on the poor doves. He said he didn't have to answer that question. I don't think he had an answer.

A very helpful sheriff's deputy, Sgt. Avila, researched the law for me on baiting fields, to make it easy for men to kill birds like sitting ducks. Little marksmanship needed here, fellas! The Migratory Treaty Act makes it illegal to kill ducks and geese by baiting fields — that means growing a crop and then leaving the seed to attract the birds. (Was it a woman who spearheaded this law?)

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