Death of a Salesman: My grandfather, Jack Postaer.
April 27, 2012
Advertising runs in our blood. My father was in it for 50 years, the “P” in RPA is his. My brothers are both practitioners in Adland. Jeremy even found a way to make money as a voice-over. Can you say “Bing?” Before retiring, my mother was an art buyer for several Chicago agencies, including FCB, when they still called it that. And then there’s me. I took to this business as if God himself told me to.
Yet maybe we need to go back farther than my father, to this man, Jack Postaer. My grandfather earned a living actually selling stuff, as a green grocer and later a cab driver. As a teenager he sold ice from the back of a truck, this when they still used horses. Air conditioning was called Lake Michigan. And people surfed the radio. Obviously, I don’t remember him as a workingman (he retired when my memory started!) but some years ago I went through a period when I asked him untold questions about his youth, where he lived, how it was…
My grandfather lived much of his life on Chicago’s south side, going to Maxwell Street to buy and barter: eBay from a truck bay. Hard core retail. For men like Jack, the American dream meant selling. During the Great Depression, selling even harder.
Maybe the Postaer gene for it, then, started with him.
When my dad got his first “career” job, writing copy for the venerable Sears Roebuck Catalog, Jack was mighty proud. Brokenhearted when he quit, to write jingles on Michigan Avenue. Much, much later when I started my career at the famous Leo Burnett Company, Gramps was over the moon. If, on occasion, The Chicago Tribune’s George Lazarus deemed one of us worthy of his column the phone rang before we got the paper. Jack understood the greatness in selling and loved that we got it, too.
Grandpa Jack died yesterday, peacefully, at the age of 99. I’ll bet the silver dollar he once gave me that when he sees Leo Burnett in Heaven he’ll be sure and show him those clippings.
Finally, many of you are friends of mine on Facebook. On behalf of our family I’d like to thank you for all the kind words. It was deeply appreciated.