I was told to grab a camera and go downstairs to the business office to shoot some photos of Missourian Accountant S.P. Neal celebrating his 70th birthday and the anniversary of 48 years with the newspaper. Two of my photos of the celebration ran on the front page of the paper, but this picture I shot with a little half-frame camera on a lark one day when I was walking through the office captured more of the essence of the man.
Minimal contact with accounting
I had minimal contact with the folks in the accounting department. From time to time, though, one of the staff would be dispatched up to the newsroom to beg me to deposit my paychecks so they could balance the books.
See, even though I was only making $50 a week, plus another $20 or $25 in freelance photo money, I didn’t have all that many expenses. I lived at home, so about all I needed to survive was a little cash for gas and photo supplies. You could get a pizza for about three bucks and Lila worked at the Rialto, so movies were free.
I had more money left over on Missourian pay days than when I was making 20 times that in later years.
Newspapers offered lifetime employment
Mr. Neal started working for The Missourian in 1918, right out of business college. The paper itself was only 14 years old. His 70th birthday coincided with his 48th year with the paper. I searched for his obituary, but couldn’t find it so see how many more years he worked. [See update below.]
Given color TV
The paper and his coworkers chipped in to buy him a color television set. That was a little funny, because it was newsroom style to pretend, as much as possible, that radio and TV didn’t exist. We would refer to “a local television station,” even though there was only one.
Bean counter AND cartoonist
In addition to his math duties, Mr. Neal served as the paper’s cartoonist in the 1930s. He picked up the nickname “Coach” about the same time. He thinks it might have been because the Central High School football team had defeated a Paducah, Ky., team through the use of a strange play which Mr. Neal illustrated in The Missourian.
A man you call Mister
Mr. Neal was one of those old-time, classy guys who made working at newspapers special. You may have noticed that I usually refer to folks by either their first or last names in this blog. S. P. Neal was one of those folks who earned the “Mr.”
S. P. Neal Obituary
My friend, Shy Reader, is better at searching than I am. She sent me a copy of Mr. Neal’s obit. He went on to work another 10 years, retiring as secretary-treasurer in 1976. He died Jan. 2, 1987, at the age of 90.
4 Replies to “S.P. Neal Celebrates 70th Birthday”
This made me reflect upon how lifetime employment in the corporate world has become a thing of the past. Those old time work environments really were like families, based upon mutual trust.
I also worked with Mr. Neal. The fellow in the picture with Mr Neal admiring the TV is Keith Reed, general manager. Two great fellows.
My dad worked at Marquete Cement for over 40 years. It really was a “family” environment. I remember Christmases when he brought home the “catalog” to choose a gift that “the plant” would buy. I remember going down there with him when he would be on vacation and pick up his check. Everyone knew you, smiled, waved, had a word to say. They even were concerned about the individulas and their families if some one was sick or in the hospital.
On the flip side, I also remember when the plant was bought out and how things changed. The locals were still the same people with the same cares, but company wise the family aspect went away. I still remember the names of those local company “big shots” who were really everyday people who cared. They would grab a bag at the packing plant or get their hands dirty to help another out. You don’t see much of that today in the “super” companies. All had pride in their work and loyalty to their employer! Yes, there were probably exceptions, but they were not the norm.
S.P. Neal (“Grandpa” to my cousins and me) stayed on at The Missourian for a while after his retirement, keeping the seat warm behind his desk in the far-right corner just behind the counter in the main business office. I still remember the delight he took in squiring me, a young lad at the time, through a tour of the editorial and press rooms. There I had my first whiff of printer’s ink and solvent. There’s no doubt he fostered my abiding love of printing and art, both of which I still pursue, and both of which inevitably remind me of him.