Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pretzels for lunch; the Food of Struggling Writers

My story, “Writings of Elwin Adams” was published in the January 1970 issue of “Magazine of Horror”. My first had appeared a year earlier in the January 1969 issue. Of the stories I wrote in the horror genre, “Writings of Elwin Adams” was probably the most well received.
It was republished in an anthology of 13 stories edited by E. C. Bertin in 1975. This was published in France and I never received a cent for the reprint. The title of the book was “Histoires D’Objets Malefiques” (“Objects of Evil Stories”). It would not be the only foreign anthology to republish stories I wrote and not pay me for the use.

A year ago I was able to obtain a copy of this book.

“Magazine of Horror” was an international publication. You could find it on most newsstands back then, usually near the bottom row. It was one of the small, 7 inches by 5 inches, pulp fiction magazines such as Amazing Stories, Thrilling Detective, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Analog.

I had my fans. Here is a letter to the editor from Canada:

If C. J. had thought some more about it, he or she may have realized “Yar Grenue” was simply a twisting of my name, “Yar” from Larry and a jumbled Eugene; however, Elwin Adams was loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft and the story was set in a landscape that Lovecraft would have recognized.
This was a good start for my year as far as my writing career was concerned, but the rest of my life wasn’t working so well. I was unemployed again having resigned from North American Publishing Company. This also meant I wouldn’t be writing anymore anonymous reviews for “Media & Methods”. It also meant I wasn’t receiving a regular paycheck either.

Around the fourteenth of January an editor from “Philadelphia After Dark” called and asked me if I could write a feature story for them. Of course I could! That first feature turned into a series of essays on Children’s Theater in Philadelphia.
That first feature took me to the Children’s Repertory Theatre of Philadelphia located on Rittenhouse Square. “Philadelphia After Dark” even provided me with a photographer on this outing, who snapped several shots that illustrated my article.
My story was popular enough I was soon sent out to The Pocket Playhouse, which was located in what was then streets of hippie stores and cafes on the West blocks of Lombard and Samson just before the river.
Children’s Repertory was a very serious training ground for future actors. The plays were performed by children for children under the direction of its founder, Dr. H. Walter Wenkaert, who spoke with something of a German accent. The Pocket Playhouse was somewhat different, although just as concerned with inspiring children toward the theater. All the plays here were performed by adult actors, who lived together as a commune. They did adult plays, but once a week performed
children theater.
The picture on the right may be the old Pocket Playhouse as it is today. This building is on the corner of 23rd and Samson, which seems about right. This whole area has been gentrified since I haunted these streets and most of what was there in the 1960s-70s has been replaced by new apartments.
I was very enthralled by both companies, but my third subject did not impress me positively at all. I went to an invitation-only premier and reception of a new children’s theater. Those I interviewed were elite snobs. Adults performed the play, but it came across way over the children’s heads. Children attending the other two theaters had been laughing and applauding and into the plays, but here the kids appeared restless and bored. I did not give it a very good review.

The photo on the left with the number 31showing is the site of The Mask and Wig Clubhouse where I believe Quince Pie was operating. Actually the address is 311 S. Quince.

I was thrilled to be publishing, but I wasn’t making enough money from my pieces to support Lois and me. I was paid $64 for “Writings of Elwin Adams”, and that was the most I got for anything. That really was not a bad fee at the time for a short story. In today’s dollars it was almost equivalent to $400, but even in 1970 $64 didn’t go far enough. So I was spending a lot of my time looking for a steady job.
I had revisited Accounts Receivable at ARCo, but I hardly knew anybody working there now. Accounts Receivable was falling apart. There was talk of breaking it up into smaller sections. My old favorite manager, Donald Jones was retiring. There had been a big meeting where the higher ups came and bawled out everybody in the department for the low quality of their work. They even fired two people. Tom Black, who was the fellow that replaced me didn’t last. He simply went to pieces and was out on a health leave. I relized I had made the right decision on leaving when I did.
I was accepted by Crowell-Collier into their Management Training Program, starting at $150 a week. It would jump to $190 a week after two months, but a week into the training turned it down because the hours were between 1:30 Pm and 9:00 PM and that would have prevented me from continuing in college.
Of course, I couldn’t attend college that semester because I didn’t have any money.

Oh well, I really didn’t want to sell encyclopedias anyway. I would have much rather wrote for “Collier’s Magazine”, but it had ceased publication in 1957.

I was offered a job of being a companion for a quadriplegic young man. I would push his wheelchair around a college campus and assist him in classes, feed him and help him with his lessons. Another guy would take care of his medical and physical needs. My recompense would be free room and board, a salary and all my college expenses paid. The catch was the college was the University of Vermont and Lois and I would have to move there, but that was not why I turned down the job. The guy I was to be a companion to, was a nasty, miserable person. Think the Bubble Boy in the Seinfeld TV show. I just didn’t want to be around him.

Wilkie Buick offered me a job as Assistant Controller at $155 a week, but I turned it down too. Why? Because everybody around me was saying look for a writing job, don’t waste your talent keeping books of numbers.
On January 21, a hiring manager from  Knight Newspapers called me to come in and take some tests. I had taken some tests there the previous week, so I guess I passed. If I did well on this second round I’d be writing marketing copy for the Inquirer and Daily News. So what, it was still writing something, wasn't it?  Starting pay was $125 a week.

I wrote four ads for them, two for the Inquirer and two for the Philadelphia Daily News. There was one print ad and one radio ad for each publication. Those were all I ever did there.

Meanwhile I was living on soft pretzels for lunch.

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