There were no mad men — or women — at a recent reunion of former CJRW employees. Just jovial colleagues drinking and laughing about old times.
Dozens arrived at Lost Forty Brewing in Little Rock, and memories flowed as freely as the beer brewed on the other side of the barroom wall.
Colleen Considine recalled a superior who would summon her to his office by ringing a bell. Considine, who started as a receptionist and worked “in everything but accounting” at the venerable Little Rock advertising agency, eventually drew the line when another boss got a whistle.
Now at Acxiom Corp., she shared 1990s memories with Amy Meins. “We were roommates for about six months. Now when I see a cockroach, I think it’s tiny compared to what we had.”
Chip Culpepper of Mangan Holcomb Partners and Robert Stebbins, now director of sales for SourceOne Output Technologies in Little Rock, reminisced about the constant noise of “the world’s largest dot-matrix printer,” with Culpepper providing the sound effects. “We sat right next to it,” Culpepper said.
“It was like an open classroom and I was the kid with ADD,” Stebbins said. “I kept thinking, how am I going to work in all this noise?”
Stebbins and Culpepper snapped to attention when Craig Douglass, the agency’s director of account services during the dot-matrix days, sidled up. “How do you keep that great tan?” Stebbins asked. “I just blush whenever I’m around you, Robert,” Douglass replied, deadpan.
Bill Page, former account executive and an organizer of the event (and now the HR director at Arkansas Business Publishing Group), pointed out Craig Smith, a former creative director who wrote a book that was made into a movie starring Christopher Walken. The book was “Ladystinger”; the film was “Scam,” co-starring Lorraine Bracco.
A glance across the room was like looking through a stack of CJRW yearbooks. Karen Reynolds and her husband, Mike, were at a table greeting Chuck Jones and Martha Hendrix. Dan Daugherty was along the wall talking to Debbie Strobel and Michael Whitt. Arlin Fields was an early arrival, followed by Maria Walker, Melinda Massey Sprayberry and Laura Cook. A little cheer went up for Mary Nowalk, Kathleen Wilson, Sherry Gavin Byrd and Pat Torvestad. Bill Weaver was there, gesticulating, along with Bob Lyford, Sarah Monroe James and Alan Crancer. More arrived after nametags had run low, and others couldn’t be cornered by an Outtakes outsider.
Amid the laughter, there were poignant memories. Tom Steves, the longtime public relations executive who worked at the agency when it merged with Woods Brothers Agency in 1990, was recalled for writing heartfelt notes. “He died in a tragic motorcycle accident” at age 68 in 2009, Meins said. “He was the most kind, generous man I ever knew.”
Stebbins recalled that Culpepper had been in his wedding, and that agency co-founder Jim Johnson had designed T-shirts for it. “I still have mine,” Stebbins said, “but I can’t fit into it anymore.”
Meins recalled the day she and Paula Eifling, among dozens of others, were laid off. “If memory serves, it was April 10, 1997, 3 p.m. or thereabouts,” Meins said. “I was only 23 at the time, so I enjoyed a fairly easy bounceback. What I didn’t realize was that I would still be friends with most of those people 20 years later. Such a great place to start out.”
Eifling, who did the work of a graphic artist, suspected that her antiquated title — typographer — made her vulnerable. “It was one of those holdover titles, but I think when the consultants came in and saw that, well, she’s got to be obsolete!” She soon wound up at Mangan Holcomb.
Culpepper recalled how he once slipped on ice rushing to a “mandatory” meeting of huge import. Braving treacherous roads, he got downtown by the appointed time, 8 a.m., only to find himself alone.
“The phone rang and it was Ron Robinson [now the agency chairman emeritus],” Culpepper said. “He asked me to tell everybody that the meeting was being put off until 9 o’clock. I said, “Ron, I’m the only person here!” Eventually everyone arrived, and Robinson announced the Woods merger.
As the stories rolled, Meins, who now handles PR for Colliers International, put her fresh-out-of-college experience at CJRW into perspective after two decades in the business: “Every job that I’ve got since has been based on someone I met while I was at CJRW.”