Jack Allen — Ad Man + Photographer + Painter

Y&R New York As my old boss in New York used to say, “Where else can you have so much fun and get paid for it too”. Every morning I'd get on that Long Island train and head into New York. I usually got a place to sit from Levittown and I could get my sketches done and then I had a leisurely walk from Penn Station up to 39th and Madison. I could stay underground if it was raining. On a nice day it was beautiful. People watching and I got to see the latest Doyle Dane Bernbach's latest poster in the subway.

On a hot day it would be sweltering. There was no air conditioning in old 285. We would put towels under our arms to keep the sweat from ruining our drawing. Guerney Miller would pop in about 9:30. Guerney and I shared an office. He was our sketch artist and if our client demanded a more finished sketch Guerney was the man. At noon Guerney would bring out his guitar and have a jam session. That drew the music lovers.

When I went to New York, my uncle gave me three of his suits. He was a banker. Well, that’s how I looked, like a banker. Guerney made fun of me and took me down to J Press and got me a proper hat and of course a Brooks Brothers Suit and shoes to match. My wife would never let me hear the end of this. I must have worn that suit to bed.
One day I was sitting in the office I shared with Guerney, and Bob Hope walked in. I swear to god. Bob Hope.

He was doing some promo for the agency so the account executive thought he'd give the troops a thrill. What a thrill. We had a real conversation with him.
Later in life I met Bing Crosby and that kind of completed the two road boys.
It was strange being one on one with the stars of the galaxy like Irving Penn and Norman Rockwell. I never did get used to it.

A picture of yours truly in the headman's office in Y&R NY after we won the art director's award.
Of course the troops had to gather and it was all-new to the kid on the left.
Fred Sergenian 'Sarge' imagine telling him you were leaving Y&R and going back to California.
I still shudder. The guy on the right is Fred Papert, of Papert Koenig &Lewis fame to be.

There were 75 art directors at Y&R when I was there and a lettering man and a type-setter and a raft of production people and a little grey haired lady to usher the work through and three art buyers.
It was strange, but it worked just fine.
Telling my boss I was leaving was the most difficult thing I've ever done. I felt like a traitor. I still do.

San Francisco was warm and exciting. Foote, Cone & Belding was on the top floor of the Russ Building and when the wind blew the building swayed. I know because I worked there many nights.
The people in this story are Ford Sibly; head of office, George Richardson: head of S&W account team, Pete Peterson: Assistant Account Executive. George kept a bottle of booze in his desk for celebration and we managed to find a few times to celebrate. S&W let us run the show and we pushed it as far as we dared.

We got them to go with a full-page color ad in newspaper and got Herrero to design it. It won an award in the New York art directors annual. That made Joe Blumeline, our client, very happy. He felt he was getting his moneys worth. Meanwhile, Ford Sibly was sinking into alcoholism and head office was sending a new man out. Clients were scattering and heading for the door.
Honig-Cooper, sensing an opportunity, pounced on it.
I didn't like the idea of working for Honig-Cooper so I looked to Holst, Cumming & Myers, as they needed an Art Director. And they had a ton of Matson Lines work with two ships due to come on the South Pacific Route, and one more on the Hawaiian Route.

The map painted on the model’s forehead at the studio of Butte, Herrero and Hyde and then we rushed him to our studio and shot him.
We also did a photo shoot with two models to Hawaii and one of the models got measles and was confined to her cabin the whole trip so the other model had to carry double load. She was not happy
I worked day and night. When they turned the heat off in the building, I would take the drapes off the windows and catch a little sleep. It was fun work, designing menus and all sort of non-ad stuff.

Y&R San Francisco George Richardson invited me to his place in Novato. He was moving to Y&R (SF) and wanted me to come back to run the art department. I agreed since I was now, thru with Matson Lines. It's funny how the names kept changing on these agencies. Y&R was a great agency. Don Sternloff was head AD when I joined them and he was much loved by the troops. Which made me dog shit since the writing was on the wall.
I was teaching at the Academy of Art at night and I followed the old Art Center motto, drive them, hard. If they survived, they were keepers. I found two keepers: Mik Kitagawa and Dave Sanchez. I hired them.

Sternloff was let go and I was anointed. The agency had the number one show on the air, Maverick with James Garner as Maverick and that was pure gold in the advertising world. Plus we got Langendorf Bread and we turned Kaiser Industries loose on Mik and Dave. Our plates were full and we were completely busy DAY and NIGHT. Mik and Dave wondered what they had signed up for.
After a few years of this, it wears on you, and it wore on me. I developed an ulcer. I had told myself I would quit this business if I got sick, so I marched in and turned in my badge. They sent out an AD from NY, Mason Clark, and I went home to recoup. Now what do I do?

San Mateo Garage

Why don't I try photography? OK, I bought a Hasselblad and I was off. I got some models to pose for prints and rented a garage with a skylight in San Mateo. I cobbled a portfolio together and let it be known I was starving and got a call from Portland, Oregon. It was from my old friend, Pete Jenkins and it was work. Meyer and Frank wanted a series of NP ads hi-lighting M&F, full page too. I got a designer, Dick Snyder, and an Account Executive, Perry Leftwich –and I put a darkroom together in the garage. I hired models and when clothes arrived from Portland, we shot up a storm.

We designed ads and they wanted MORE. We were a hit. I had visions of forming an agency and we pitched Harrah's club. It went well and Bill Harrah wanted us but his ad manager got him to change his mind (the ad manager was afraid of losing his job) so we didn't get the account.
Dick Snyder had trouble with the free-lance world so we disbanded.
And Perry went back to salary.

M. Halberstadt Meanwhile, the photographer Milton Halberstadt invited me to lunch and suggested we might pool our talents. He had a beautiful studio in North Beach and I said yes, quicker than dirt.

At first we had fun—as Hal liked the sets he was so good at putting together—and I liked the people. So we fit well (Bank of America). And we enjoyed lunch at New Joes. And Hal was a Master Photographer so I was learning every day.

Chicago Rep, Jack Kapes Another thing fell out of the blue. Jack Kapes, an agent from Chicago. Jack was looking for photographers to represent. It seems Art Directors in Chicago would dearly love a trip to San Francisco to work with a San Francisco Photographer and get away from that Chicago cold.

And so it started. Leslie Sal Co, Cilux Paint, Champion Papers. They came out with their wives for a little vacation and of course we showed them the town. We were beat by the time they hauled anchor but richer by far and just like the Tea Trade, we had established a trade route. One of the fun ones I recall was when Pillsbury sent me to Jamaica and then I shot the cake at Hal's studio.

Vanderwater Studio As in many things, they don't always work as planned. Hal and I parted as friends and I moved to Vanderwater Street in my own studio, next to Veneto's Restaurant. Years of work came out this Studio.

More work in the very busy mid-1960s.

Eichler was a great one that got you a sure medal in the art show. Working with Sidjakov was such a pleasure. Pacific Telephone was another winner and putting Wally Summers in a phone booth as Superman, had to be my biggest thrill. Honig-Cooper surprised me when they hired me to shoot a Levi's series and the kids we hired turned out to be wonderful. One of the greatest AD's to work for was Hal Riney. You had to burn rubber as he was never satisfied but the work was superb and you could be very proud of it. The free ones were often the most exciting as the Christmas Card ad for BBD&O showing all their kids. It was like herding cats. But I loved it.

One Super Star that was champing at the bit was George Coutts. The Joseph Magnin AD had tons of talent. I had a few drinks with him on a late shoot one night and when I finally said good night and locked up, I went out to my car and dropped the keys in the street. I didn't see them so I got on my hands and knees and just then a police car came around the corner. He flashed the light on me. "Can I help you sir?" he said, ”I'm looking for my keys to my car”, I said. "You better not find them”, he said. One of the hazards of flying at night.

Sutter Street The Portland People at Dawson, Turner & Jenkins were putting pressure on me to start a branch of DT&J in San Francisco and sent a young fellow down to help in that endeavor. First we had to move to Downtown, Sutter Street. Then we had to get agency type furniture and all while photography was going on. Nude photography for Avon. I scoured the model files in SF but they were light on the right kind of nudes so I flew to Los Angeles, found a young lady that fit the bill and booked her. She arrived on a Monday and the clients arrived from Chicago and Sidjakov, the package designer arrived, and my assistants got to work and the young lady stripped. She had no modesty and said her parents were nudists and they had been that way as long as she could remember. We photographed uninterrupted.

Dawson Turner & Jenkins brought a political type pollster down to shake the tree on the Pete McCloskey race against Shirley Temple Black for Congress. He won. Again, I got a call from Dawson, Turner & Jenkins. They wanted a campaign of newspaper ads, full-page size.

Covering Meier and Frank’s “Jerry Frank” who was making a run for Governor. The success of this campaign led to an offer to move to Oregon and an “offer I couldn’t refuse”. The agency, Dawson, Turner & Jenkins, got swallowed up by Lennen & Newell, then somebody else, then Richardson, Seigle, Rolfs & McCoy became somebody else and Macy's bought out Meier & Frank–––and I started designing work for the Port of Vancouver:

and I figured it was time to retire.
By this time they had done a pretty good job of brainwashing on me as how beautiful Oregon was and I was resigned and my wife and I weren't getting along. (Old story) So we went.

Solo-ing It-In Oregon Tons of work. Had my own way, pretty much. Nice people.
Jk Gill’s, Oil Heat, Port of Vancouver, Blue Lake Green Beans.
Oregon. Oregon, what have I done? Left everything for the unknown. Politics, know the Governor, know the Senator, work on his campaign. Packwood's in trouble.
Work. Work. Jk Gill’s. A stationary store.  A big stationary store. Many stores. Why not give it a cluttered look. I found a young artist that had a great "busy" look and had him do an ad. Perfect. And Newspaper ads for Kasch's Nurseries. White Satin Sugar: A perfect place for Herrero to strut his stuff. As well as sweet photos.

Oil Heat Dealers. A collection of dealers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho that service and sell heating oil to homes in the Northwest. Reminder ads that are visible, aught to do it.

A rumble this summer by hippies threatened to spill into riots. I suggested we put up a series of billboards that say, "WAVE TO A COP TODAY" –and sponsor a music festival in McIver Park (a mile away from downtown). It worked. I was also involved with "lighting the bridges in Portland" which taught me "stay away from Architects". The things I did with Frank Farah at this time: we designed and Frank illustrated the walls of the Bend, Oregon Bus Station. Quite something, in Bend.

The sale of agencies was humongous. I never knew who was going to be my boss on Monday morning. It got to be a joke. My friend that started this whole thing, Dick Turner, had jumped off Suicide Bridge. And Pete Jenkins, his partner, had taken his ill-gotten gains and fled to Europe.
I became an account executive and married one of the Oil Dealers that I was fortune enough to stay married to for 46 years until she died last year.

William Cain Advertising I met Bill Cain on one of our Oil Heat trips to Hawaii and looked him up when I got back to Oregon. Bill was the owner of William Cain Advertising and had just had a revolt from his crew and they had walked away with his star account. Nike. He did have another account, Louisiana Pacific so he wasn't totally wiped out and he needed an art director. What the hell. We had a good time I still had Port of Vancouver, Bill had Louisiana Pacific, and everything swam along. Until Bill decided to sell the agency– including "my Port"–– to Gerber Advertising.

Gerber Advertising After the dust had cleared, I agreed to work for Gerber for 10 years (I actually worked for twelve) In that time I produced ads for Louisiana Pacific Windows and many other products.

Painting
I retired at 65 to paint
I said to myself, "what am I going to do with myself when I retire?"
"Paint"
"But I don't paint"
"Try"
So I tried. And my wife said, 'What are we going to do with all these paintings?"
I did 25 paintings a day.
"Paint slower"
I found a slow style. Wysoki
It was peaceful, fun and it was slow.
It took me a month to do a painting.
My wife said "good boy".
"Now let's get rid of this painting.
So I called a Jigsaw puzzle company and soon I was painting another one.
And another.
I've now done 96.
They rejected most for being too salty.
But happy wife, happy life

–that tuned in jigsaw puzzles.
Jigsaw Puzzles

Politics. That is what I would say most typifies Oregon. Small-town Politics.
I learned to love the people and the quirks and the laid back life.

Looking back I suppose what we did isn't so important but it sure was exciting and alive. We were making beautiful statements and bringing art and commerce together in a new, bold way.
We can be proud of the work we did and now that I'm out to pasture, I can see the work we did is so much superior to much that is done now because it mattered to us. Our 1/8 of an inch made all the difference in the world and was worth fighting for.

Thank you, Ann and Piet, for shining the light on the 50's and 60's.

Jack Allen

Editor’s Inclusions:

We welcome your comments on this story or to say hello to Jack. All comments will be reviewed before forwarding to Jack.


I don't know if Jack remembers, but he called me at KPIX and offered me the job as AD at Y&R.( I was in his ad class at the Academy) I got Mik (Kitagawa) the Job at KPIX and told him about the offer, and if I don't get the job maybe you will. So I helped him pull his portfolio together and we both applied for the one job, on the same day, with Jack. We were so inexpensive he could hire us both for the same money.

Dave Sanchez