Chapter 13  (1) (2) (3)  (4) (5) (6) (7)

1956 — Cornet Stores

Can Anyone Say 'Duh?'
(Previous Page)

I Could Print the Signs —

But How Would I Dry Them?

I started Cornet's screen printing department by building a drawing board and a table on which to do the printing, along with a few screens that would accommodate 3' X 6' paper banners.

The next challenge was figuring out where to put each banner while its paint dried, a process which would take about 15 minutes. The room they gave me for the shop wasn't large enough to accommodate a set of professional drying racks, but I quickly found a solution.

There was an empty hallway adjacent to the room, and I strung four "clothes-lines" from one end of it to the other. The banners would then be hung with clothes-pins on these lines. Each line held 26 banners, meaning the there was room to hang a banner for each of Cornet's 100 stores, with space for four extras.

The system worked fine except for one thing—as I carried each banner to be hung, the paint in the printing screen would start to dry, making it difficult to print the next banner. I needed a helper.

With another person hanging the banners, I could print them fast enough to keep the screen from clogging. When I explained this to Joe Cornet Jr. he replied, "No problem," and had one of the warehouse workers sent over to give me a hand.

Well, if ever there was a guy for whom the word "duh" was conceived, it had to be Leroy. I wish I had taken notes on all the dumb things he did during the few weeks he was helping me—but here are a couple that resonate in my memory:

I showed Leroy how to grab a freshly-printed banner by two corners and carry it carefully into the hallway and hang it up without smearing any of the wet paint. He picked this up very nicely and did a quick, thorough job of getting the banners on the lines.

After we'd been printing for a while, I asked Leroy to count how many we'd done. He said okay and disappeared into the hallway.

Well, counting the banners shouldn't have taken more than a minute or two, but he had been in the hallway for several minutes—and I began to wonder what was going on. As I approached the doorway, I could hear Leroy's voice saying, "thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen," followed by a short pause, and then: "seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty."

So I went in and could see that Leroy was counting the banners one at a time, starting with the first line and counting back toward the wall.

Do It the Easy Way

"Leroy," I said, "why don't you just count the banners on the first line, and then multiply by four?"

Well, I might as well have been speaking Swahili for all that meant to Leroy. He had no clue as to what I was talking about.

"Let me show you," I offered.

So I counted the first row, which totaled 12 banners, and said, "Four times twelve equals 48, Leroy—so we've printed 48 banners."

Leroy just stood there giving me a blank stare, which told me I was going to have to come up with a different method for keeping track of our prints.

Anyway, I went back to the work table—but Leroy remained in the hallway. After he hadn't returned for a while, I headed to the door to see what was detaining him.

That's when Leroy walked back into the room with the biggest smile I've ever seen.

"You were right," he cheerfully said, "there's exactly 48 signs in there."

After that I counted the banners myself.

(Continued in Next Column)

Another Classic Leroyism

The solvent we used for thinning the paint (and for cleaning up after printing) came in a five-gallon can. So, using a funnel, we would pour the thinner into one-gallon cans that would be easier to handle on the work tables.

One day I called to order another five-gallon can of thinner, but was told they were out of stock. However, I was told, they could send me five one-gallon cans at the five-gallon price.

"Wonderful!" I thought. This batch of thinner wouldn't have to be poured from one container into another—and we would end up with five extra one-gallon cans, which could be useful around the shop.

When the thinner arrived, I asked Leroy to find a place for it while I went back to work at the drawing board. After a few minutes I heard a splashing sound—and wondered what was going on.

As I looked around the drawing board, I could see Leroy carefully pouring the thinner from the one-gallon cans into a five-gallon can. When I asked why he was doing this, he seemed puzzled by the question.

"Well, the thinner always comes in a big can," he said, "and I thought you would want this in a big can, too."

Anyway, they finally gave me a different helper—but, as things turned out, I wouldn't be with the company too much longer anyway.

Disturbing Rumors

I had been hearing some rumors that Joe Cornet Sr. wasn't too pleased with the way his sons were handling the business, and that he might decide to return and take over the reigns. I had only met Mr. Cornet Sr. a couple of times—and found that I didn't feel as comfortable in his presence as I did with Joe Jr. and Bob.

Furthermore, when he stopped by to look at my screen-printing operation one day, he was very noncommittal, and I couldn't tell if he was pleased with what he saw or not.

This got me to thinking that I should be looking around for something else, in case my Cornet job should suddenly come to an end.

Well, I don't know whatever happened among the Cornets because I did find another job offer rather quickly and decided to go ahead and take it. Here's what happened:

Our chief competitor in the small-town dime store business was Rasco, who had a chain of stores similar to Cornet's. I had been in a number of their stores and had noticed that they didn't have window banners of the type I had been making for Cornet, and I had heard that they were paying an outside printing company for their counter cards and other signs.

So I decided to approach them with a proposal to build them their own screen-printing department, just as I had done for Cornet. They seemed interested in the idea and said they'd get back to me in a few days. Well, three days later they called and said I could start to work the following Monday morning.

I was elated and asked what time in the morning I should be there.

Well, I showed up on Monday morning, just when they said I should—but I told them I had changed my mind and wouldn't be taking the job.


I guess you could chalk it up to being young and restless. Creating a job for myself with Rasco seemed so easy, that I thought maybe I could just go ahead and start my own business.

So I went to Puerto Rico.

Don Edrington's Home Page     Shy Guy from Hollywood High     Brief Bio   All Stories

Prologue   Ch.1 Alameda - Los Angeles 1939-40   Ch.2 Echo Park 1943   Ch.3 Virgil Jr Hi 1944   Ch.4 Le Conte Jr Hi 1945-46
Ch.5 Gower Gulch 1946   Ch.6 Hollywood Hi 1946-47   Ch.7 Drop Out 1948   Ch 8 Norma Jean Salina 1948   Ch 9 Fort Ord 1949
Ch.10 Fort Belvoir 1950   Ch.11 Korea 1951   Ch.12 Back to Civilian Life 1952   Ch.13 Cornet Stores 1953   Ch.14 Puerto Rico 1955
Ch 15 Signs by George 1956   Ch 16 Mexico 1958   Ch.17 Fullerton 1960   Ch.18 Fallbrook 1973   Ch.19 Costa Mesa 2000

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