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Thursday, June 25, 2015


Sometime ago a reader posted a couple of comments about me being just a 'salesman'. He or she noted there is nothing wrong about being a salesman. That reader thought my 'job' is pretty much like being a sales clerk in a store. No more, no less. Later in response to another comment on another blog I posted a pic of a snappily dressed used car salesman with the notation 'not Gary Thomas'  as if to disprove that I am a salesman. I don't wear Hawaiian shirts, gold chains, sun glasses. Nor do I smoke a cigar or look particularly untrustworthy.

A few years ago I was invited to dinner during Fantasy Fest at the Cafe Marquesa . I decided to wear some old beads I had stored in a box. While I was searching through boxes looking for the beads, I found the wallet I used when I was still in elementary school. Inside I found school photos taken of me and some friends taken between 1957 through 1959. Included in the wallet was my identification card as an OFFICIAL MEMBER of the JUNIOR SALES CLUB OF AMERICA. Seeing that card brought back a wave of memories and internal ruminations about how I got to Key West and where I am in my life. It started with SUPERMAN.

When I was a kid primary concerns were candy, things to amuse themselves with, and not getting beat up. I lived in Denver from birth until I moved to Key West in 1993. In the mid 1950s I would ride the Continental Trailways bus from Denver to Sterling Colorado to spend a week with my three second cousins - all girls my age and younger. I would always take a SUPERMAN comic book to read on the bus ride. I was 11 years old in 1958 when I took my yearly trip to Sterling. There was a full page ad which lured me into becoming a 'salesman' for the Junior Sales Club of America.  DOUBLE CLICK HERE to see a larger view of the ad.

As soon as I returned from Sterling I cut out the coupon and mailed it to Springfield 1, Mass. A few weeks later I got my OFFICIAL MEMBER identification card and a sample box of 'all occasion' cards which I promptly hawked from door to door in my neighborhood. I earnestly plead the efficacy of buying a box of all occasion cards because you never know when someone would have a birthday, get married, have a baby, become ill, or sadly die. You just need a box of cards for all occasions. It worked. I sold the required number of boxes. At $1.25 a box of cards was a 'deal' since back then $1.25 was more than a lot of people made for an hour's work. My mother sent the money I had collected to the Junior Sales Club of America headquarters. A couple of weeks later headquarters shipped the cards to me. I promptly delivered the all occasion cards to my awaiting customers.

In the early fall of 1959 headquarters sent me a sample box of Christmas cards together with a list of prizes I could earn. The Kodak movie camera pictured at the top left hand corner of the above ad caught my eye. I sold the required number of boxes in no time. The prize was mine.  I started shooting movies as soon as my 8 mm Kodak movie camera arrived. A year later I got a projector for Christmas so I could finally see the movies I shot. I decided I was going to be a cinema photographer and end up in Hollywood.
When I delivered the Christmas cards a neighbor lady up the next block told me that I had been knocking on her door ever since I was a little kid - always trying to sell something. She said the first time I went to her house I was really small and had a wagon filled with canned goods out of my mother's kitchen. OMG! I guess the reader who said I am nothing but a salesman was right!

There was another ad in the SUPERMAN comic to which I also responded. That ad was to request a printed pamphlet from Charles Atlas who was going to change me from a 75 pound wimp into a muscleman. Although I sent the coupon, I never received the pamphlet from Mr. Atlas. He must have known I had lied about my age when I mailed the coupon. I was destined to be a wimp for life.

SUPERMAN has been the idol of boys who admire strength for generations. He was morally straight and fought the bad guys. And he always won. As I look back on it years later, SUPERMAN's strength, power, and moral rectitude was partially what motivated me to become an attorney. I grew up in a the western suburbs of Denver just after World War II. The Jefferson County schools were always top rated in the State of Colorado. Plus America was on the move upward in the 1950s. At least where I lived everybody was moving up in life. I recognized that I had an advantage by living in a community that was participating in America's upward mobility.

 In my early teen years I really envisioned going to California to become a cinema photographer. I wanted to attend the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara to learn the craft. First in junior high and later in high school, I started to take an avid interest in politics. I admired President Kennedy and watched how he responded to the racial unrest and political strife. A lot of people hated Kennedy. I remember hearing anti-Catholic rants; Anti-Irish rants; Anti-Joseph Kennedy wealth insults; Anti-civil rights comments such as 'give them an inch and they'll take a mile' or 'who do you trust less a Mexican or a n***er?'.  Most of the negativity quieted down after President Kennedy was assassinated. I felt a tremendous sense loss after he died. I forgot about becoming a cinema photographer. One day I announced to my family that I wanted to become a lawyer. I figured as an attorney would give me entree into politics. Hopefully one day I would get elected to public office where I could change things for the better.
Left to Right: Marcia McGinley, Ben King, Gary Thomas
In 1964 I was seventeen years old and got involved in the campaign of three Democrats who were running for the position of county judge in Jefferson County Colorado.  The county seat is Golden, Colorado - the place where Coors Beer is brewed.  Democrats Frank Jamison and Dan Shannon got elected to the bench.  C. F. Johnson, a Republican, won the third judgeship race. Later Judge Jamison took me under his wing and became the male father figure I needed after my dad died the week before I graduated from high school. I put myself through college and law school. Judge Jamison helped me get summer jobs during college.  I eventually clerked for him while I attended law school. As a lawyer and as a man, I looked to him for advice and counsel when it sometimes seemed the world was not a nice place. And he was there. Always. It was Judge Frank Jamison that became my mentor, my SUPERMAN.

I was admitted to the Colorado bar in 1972. I became an attorney in a five man suburban Denver law firm. Later I did commercial loan workouts for two Denver banks. I worked in the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) from 1990 until December 1993.  I worked on multimillion dollar assets some of which were extremely complex in nature. I had more personal satisfaction working at the RTC than I did in law or banking. I only quit that job to move to Key West after I purchased a guest house here.

I operated the guest house for almost two years. I made the decision to sell it at a time I was having personal relationship issues. I made a bunch of money and successfully invested it just as the stock market started to soar during the Clinton years. Later I decided I needed a job to keep myself busy. I got a real estate license.

Selling real estate in Key West is not a part time job. The people who make good money do their job every day. They are listing new properties, showing properties, attending home inspections, handling customer issues, and maybe even writing blogs. Helping people achieve their dreams is very rewarding. But it is a seven days a week job. 

The little kid who mailed the coupons in the SUPERMAN comic (one to sell cards and the other to get muscles to avoid getting beat-up) became the man who would become a lawyer to help others not get beat-up in the court room and the guy at the bank (and later the government) who had the job of recovering money from people or businesses that would not pay it back. The little kid is still inside the old guy writing this blog. My mission now is not to get the bad guys - it is to get the good buys.

And that, Dear Reader, is how SUPERMAN got me to Key West where I became a SALESMAN.


Joseph Graham said...

Another stellar blog, Gary. I love reading about the homes for sale, perusing the photographs, and dreaming. The occasional blog of a more personal nature, like this one, is the icing on the cake! Thank you for all that you do.

Gary Thomas said...

Thank you, Joseph!


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.