Marc Wyse's father wanted him to be a lawyer. His mother wanted him to be a doctor. Instead, he became an advertising executive. In The Way I Saw It, Wyse narrates his rags-to-riches tale of the American dream come true: cofounding Wyse Advertising and working more than sixty years in the business.
In this memoir he tells his story of the boy of immigrant parents who grew into an advertising icon that spawned famous theme lines like, "With a name like Smucker's, it has to be good," "Ask Sherwin-Williams." An advertising legend and consummate salesman, his client list included American Express, Applebee's, BFGoodrich, Clairol, General Dynamics, GE Lighting, Goodyear, Kelly Services, Marathon Oil, New York Yankees, Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, Sherwin-Williams, Smucker's, Stouffer Restaurants Hotels & Resorts, and Timken.
The Way I Saw It shares both the life lessons and business lessons learned on the journey to success. Wyse delivers the message: Act like a turtle and never be afraid to stick your neck out.
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The way I saw it.
By Marc Wyse Christopher Johnston
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Sheila Wyse
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThey Called Me the Kinsman Cowboy
I don't know about you, but I grew up in a great time and in a great neighborhood. Maybe I say this out of nostalgia all these years later, but if I look at how kids live and play today, I can claim with confidence that ours was a simpler era.
My life in Cleveland began, fittingly, on a Monday, April 9, 1923, when I was born Marcus Allen Weiss. The stork had deposited my brother, Jacob (Jack) Edwin Weiss, almost exactly nine years before me on April 4, 1914. The Weisses lived downstairs in a two-family home at 3645 East 154th Street, just south of Kinsman Avenue in the Kinsman neighborhood. My parents rented from Mr. Wurtzner, who lived upstairs. My window looked at our neighbor's house. I could almost touch it. As sure as sunrise, the milkman placed milk bottles in our milk box, and a local baker regularly dropped off hard rolls or biscuits at our door.
Back then, it was mostly a Jewish and Italian neighborhood, but there was a great mix of ethnicities. My friends came from all different heritages, and a diverse group of neighbors would come over and sit on our big front porch and talk. A bunch of the tough guys from the neighborhood liked to hang out at the bowling alley on the corner of Kinsman and East 154th. Across the street, streetcars would turn around and go back downtown to Public Square.
Even though we didn't have a lot of money, the world overflowed with wonders for an inquisitive boy. We played with guns we made from cut-up inner tubes. We'd take the rubber and use it project small pieces of wood. If you got hit by one, you had to play dead. I was a pretty good shot. That's why they called me The Kinsman Cowboy.
East 154th was built of bricks and could get quite slippery, but that never stopped us from playing baseball or touch football in the street. Jack owned a football, so all of the kids would come to our house to play. In fact, Jack was always giving us balls or equipment to play sports, as he was very generous in ensuring that his little brother had fun or finding time to coach my friends and me how to play.
Our field of dreams was the extra lot behind our garage on East 156th that was in Shaker Heights and was known as Ritchey's Field, where we spent many hours playing softball or baseball. Like my childhood friend Sydney "Skippy" Friedman always says, "As long as somebody had a bat and a ball, twenty kids could play." We'd watch the adult softball leagues, too, where the guys would wear T-shirts with their sponsor's names, like Comella Sporting Goods or Chase Brass. There was always lots of action. Sometimes they'd get into fights. They were rough guys, but some of them were good athletes. That lot was also where our garbage cans resided. So, I would tell people, yes, I live in Cleveland, but my garbage cans are in Shaker. Of course, sometimes we'd start fires in the big trash cans, because we figured out that if you put a potato on the end of a stick, you could have a scrumptious baked potato snack.
I love swimming, and I've had a thing for swimming pools my whole life. I've had one at almost every one of my homes. I guess my passion for pools all started that day when I was five or six and I decided we needed one in our backyard. I took a shovel and started digging out our grass. Then I put our garden hose into the hole and filled it up. My first pool ... would come many years later. This time, all I got was a lot of mud.
I loved cats, too. I thought they were so agile and entertaining to watch. I decided one day to trap and catch all of the cats in our neighborhood. I ended up with fourteen cats in our basement. My mother got very angry, because all of the neighbors were yelling at her, saying, "Your son's got our cat!" But I kept them in the basement in boxes and in the mangle for the sheets until the neighbors came one-by-one and reclaimed them all.
Who needed money? So many easy pleasures all around.
The older I got, the more I treasured the time I shared with my family, too. There was no better way to spend a freezing cold winter's night. We seemed to have more fierce winters then, with snow up to your chest. But our house was always warm. I was the one who went out to get coal from the pile, and then Jack and I would shovel it into the furnace. Then we would all sit around the living room and listen to the radio, mostly classical music.
We had a big kitchen that made a great gathering place. For breakfast, we'd have milk dishes; for dinner, we'd have meat dishes, since they had to be kept separate. We also had to keep the silverware and the plates for each separate. We had another set of each for Passover, when we had to take our everyday silverware and dishes out of the kitchen and replace them with the Passover ware.
Because of all of those wonderful meals where we would talk about what happened in school that day or what games we played, I have always believed the family that eats together stays together. You need to communicate and know what's happening in your family members' lives. I made sure we did it with all of my kids, too.
After dinner, my mother would wash the dishes in the big, deep sink while Jack and I played or drew pictures or did homework at the kitchen table. She was what is known in Yiddish as a "bolabusta." In other words, she knew how to take care of her family and her home. When she cooked or baked, everything was delicious. When she cleaned or decorated, everything was immaculate.
Every Friday for Shabbat, she baked challah bread, and she boiled chicken and carrots with some spices so that she could serve her fresh bread with chicken soup. After dinner, she always cleaned the kitchen floor. Once it dried, she covered it with newspapers to keep it clean. Saturday morning we would go to temple. Then by Saturday night, the papers would usually all be torn and messy, but they kept the floor clean for a day or two.
No matter what we were doing, we just enjoyed being together, gathering around the radio or sharing meals or listening to my father read stories from the Jewish newspaper to my mother. They would laugh or comment on the story, but Jack and I never really understood what they were about, since we didn't know much Hebrew. Throughout their marriage, my parents always spoke Yiddish or Hungarian to each other, which we didn't know, either.
But it was a precious language to these gentle, hard-working European immigrants. Both my parents were born in the fall of 1889 in a small town, Gernyes, near what was then Hurst, Hungary. The borders have since changed hands several times, sometimes Hungary, other times Czechoslovakia or Russia. Their little town in the Sub-Carpathian region of Europe is now known as Kopasnovo, Ukraine.
My father's name was Leib Angelovich. But his name would change, too. He married my mother, Jennie Herskowitz, in Gernyes. They later sailed on the S.S. Kronprinz Wilhelm, departing from Bremen, Germany, on November 15, 1910, and docking at the port of New York on November 22.
My father enjoyed telling us the story of what happened to our family name once they arrived at Ellis Island. According to the misspelled passenger list, "Leib Anczilowicz" was a laborer who couldn't read or write (though he did sign his naturalization papers), had paid for the ticket himself, and arrived with a grand total of $28 in his pocket. After waiting in line for what seemed like hours, they finally stepped up to the kind but officious guard at the immigrant processing desk.
"What's your name?" he inquired.
"Leib Angelovich," my father responded.
The guard nodded mechanically and said to them, "See where that white line is? Go stand behind that line."
My mother and father walked over to the line. "Now your name is Weiss," the guard informed them. Weiss, of course, is German for "White." Had they been sent to stand behind the black line, our name would have been Schwartz, which is German for "Black." Thus, when my parents settled in Cleveland, their names were Louis and Jennie Weiss. What a strange, transformative experience it must have been for all of those brave souls journeying to America.
Louis Weiss was the oldest son of seven children. Several of his siblings stayed in Gernyes, and several immigrated to other countries. One brother, Simkha moved to Budapest, where he married and had six children, and then emigrated from Hungary to Israel in 1947. Sam, who went by Arthur here, came to Cleveland with my father and lived with us for many years. He loved us very much and often gave Jack and me dimes or quarters when we were kids. (Uncle Arthur once financed the construction of my first car: a red wagon that I meticulously added lumber and homemade wheels to, and then fell apart on its maiden voyage down a hill.) Their sister Helen came to Cleveland for a while, but ended up settling in Oakland, California. With unfathomable sorrow, we lost loved ones to the Holocaust. Fortunately, several of our surviving family members immigrated to the U.S. and Cleveland after World War II.
Earlier in the 1900s, a significant number of Jews from Marmaros County, Hungary, had fled other horrors such as pogroms and conscription into the Russian military and sought freedom and a chance to achieve a better life in Cleveland. Together, they organized the Marmaroscher B'nai Jacob Society in the Woodland neighborhood. My father was a member of the self-help, religious society, which later became the Green Road Synagogue. Actually, I now know many of the details about my ancestors and the chain migration at that time thanks to my lovely wife Sheila, who had my father's family genealogy researched and written as a 70th birthday present for me.
Our last name mutated one more time, when, as an adult, my big brother Jack legally changed his to Wyse, while I was attending Dartmouth College in the mid '40s. When I returned to Cleveland in 1946, I legally changed my full name to Marc Wyse. It made sense to have the same name as my brother. My mother eventually changed her last name to Wyse, some years after my father died.
In his mid 20s when he got to Cleveland, Louis Weiss, like many immigrants, knew he wanted to start his own business some day. First, however, he needed to secure a decent, regular income to pay for his home, food and family. He had to learn English, even just enough to communicate with his employers. A friend and fellow immigrant from his town in Hungary bought a big truck and started a company called New York Star Moving. Knowing my father was an ideal employee, standing at a husky and strong 5'6" and 200 pounds, he offered him a job. To his surprise, young Mr. Weiss turned it down and instead accepted a job as a dishwasher at Allendorf's Restaurant in downtown Cleveland.
A fast study, my father quickly mastered the art of soup making, with the training of the chef, who had graciously taken him under his wing. On June 12, 1919, when he filed his Declaration of Intent to become a citizen of the United States in Cleveland's U.S. District Court, he indicated that he was employed as a cook, and that he and my mother were then living at 2308 East 97th Street. Cook wasn't his dream position, though.
Soon, the entrepreneur in him drove Louis to partner with another friend, a Russian immigrant named Janowitz, to open a restaurant and bar at East 9th Street and Superior Avenue in Cleveland. Not too long afterwards, The Fireside Restaurant went bankrupt. My father, who ran the kitchen, believed the primary cause was Janowitz's son, the bartender, who was partial to helping himself to the cash register. Freely and frequently.
Next, despite the Great Depression, my father opened a restaurant at 2027 Superior Avenue in 1934. This time, wisely, he was the sole proprietor and operator. Today, more than 75 years later, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, an eastern suburb of Cleveland, displays a photograph of Weiss's Restaurant in its permanent collection.
The restaurant served Hungarian and Jewish cuisine. Each day, my father lovingly prepared fresh batches of his tasty lentil or bean soups, while my mother baked her unforgettable pastries, including her famous Delco cookies loaded with sweet fruit or cheese fillings. To this day, we still keep a copy of "Aunt Jennie's Delcos" circulating throughout the family.
Through winter winds or summer swelter, I remember tagging along with my dad at 4:00 am to the Central Market on Woodland Avenue and East 55th Street, which served as the main produce market at that time, to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for the restaurant. I would help him carry the bushel baskets to the car. Every year, he would buy a new Chevrolet. Every year. I guess that's where I got my love of cars. That and I don't like to walk much.
At the restaurant, I would watch my dad slice and dice all of the fresh vegetables very quickly. When I would try it, he would yell, "Hey, watch your fingers!" He'd say it with a smile. My father always had a big smile on his face.
I also helped bus tables or make sandwiches or assiduously completed any other tasks I could handle. When I got older, I pushed a cart packed with boxed lunches around to the neighboring businesses. At the time, it was Cleveland's garment district, and the offices of The Plain Dealer, the city's daily newspaper, were located nearby on Superior, as they are today.
When I wasn't working at the restaurant or playing sports, I was at school. Somehow, though, I managed to find ways to work wherever I was. I guess I had a lot of energy, and I have always enjoyed the sense of accomplishment. When I attended AJ Rickoff Elementary School at East 147th Street and Kinsman Avenue, there was a huge, open front lawn inside of the iron fence that surrounded the school property. So, for gym class, they would give us push mowers, and away we would go. We loved cutting the grass. It was fun.
I moved on to tougher physical and mental challenges at Alexander Hamilton Junior High School at East 130th Street between Union and Kinsman avenues. I wasn't my full height of 6'2" yet, but I was still pretty tall for my age. I grew up playing basketball and had no problem making the varsity squad. Of all the sports I played, basketball was my absolute favorite. I had a lot of other interests, though. Writing was one of them, so I served on our school newspapers throughout junior high and high school.
At Alexander Hamilton, I ended up serving as managing editor of our paper, the Hamilton Federalist. Our faculty advisor, Virginia Fallin was an incredible journalist and mentor. The lessons I learned from her have stayed with me the rest of my life. She taught us how to prepare and conduct productive interviews as well as how to write clean, concise copy that was interesting and informative.
One of my favorite article assignments for her was to interview Ken Keltner, the great and sure-handed third baseman then in his rookie season for the Cleveland Indians. I had seen many games with Jack at League Park and the new Municipal Stadium, which a lot of people thought was too big for baseball. At the time, the Indians alternated their games between the two facilities. Keltner was the nicest guy and spent a lot of time with me to make sure I had a good interview that ran in our May 13, 1938 issue of the Hamilton Federalist. He talked about how he had dreamed of being a Major Leaguer ever since he was 14 and playing sandlot ball in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then got his start in the minor leagues in 1937 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He predicted that the Indians would finish at the top of the division, but they ended up in third place that year, 13 games behind the dreaded New York Yankees.
Keltner played all but his last season (13 games with the Boston Red Sox) with the Indians, and is most famous for halting the Yankee's future Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio's Major League record hitting streak at 56 games on July 17, 1941 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I was at that game, and witnessed the historic sports moment from behind home plate. Many years later, I met Joltin' Joe at a business event. When I told him I had seen Keltner's great plays that day to snatch up every one of his hard-hit balls, all he said was, "I was there."
By the time I attended John Adams Senior High School, I had reached my full height and was pretty quick on the courts. I played forward on the varsity basketball team for four straight years. Although we never won the East Senate League championship, we had some pretty good teams, and I always loved playing. I loved our coach, too, Ed Kregenow, who was a real gentleman. When we went on dates after games, we could get an ice cream cone at the shop across the street for a nickel and see a movie at the Imperial Theater at East 142nd and Kinsman for a dime.
I wrote for the John Adams Journal, the school newspaper, and ended up serving as the managing editor. We had a remarkable journalism teacher and faculty advisor for the paper, Verta Evans. She taught us how to write tight, sensible and comprehensible stories. Under her guidance, when I was the editor, the National Scholastic Press Association named us the best high school newspaper in the country.
Excerpted from The way I saw it. by Marc Wyse Christopher Johnston Copyright © 2012 by Sheila Wyse. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Jennifer Wyse....................xi
Chapter 1: They Called Me the Kinsman Cowboy....................1
Chapter 2: Destined to be a Self-Made Man....................11
Chapter 3: Wyse in Business....................22
Chapter 4: A Little Luck Never Hurts....................31
Chapter 5: If You Don't Take the Shot, You Won't Make the Bucket....................50
Chapter 6: It Takes a Great Client to Buy a Great Campaign....................57
Chapter 7: There's No Such Thing as No!....................72
Chapter 8: When You're Hot, You're Hot....................77
Chapter 9: Roll On, Big-O!....................101
Chapter 10: The 80s: Decade of Change....................106
Chapter 11: Creativity Wins!....................116
Chapter 12: Savoring the Glass Apple....................126
Appendix A: Wyse Advertising All-Time Client Roster....................134
Appendix B: Wyse Guys: The All-Time Employment Roster....................139