Sunday, January 18, 2015

The LuLac Edition #2817, January 18th, 2015

I first met Jim Petrie, or “Pete” as he was known then on April 1, 1996. It was on the fifth floor of the Scranton Times building. I was interviewing to be an Account Executive (salesman) at Rock 107. The General Manager Tom Harpster and the Sales Manager Mike Patterson had just finished interviewing me. As I was looking over paperwork I heard a booming voice from the hall say, “A Major league umpire, John McSherry just died on the field in Cincinnatti”. He popped his head in the office to repeat the news and as I looked up I saw a tall man in business attire who was also wearing a Cleveland Indians cap! Instantly I knew this was going to be one heck of a ride with this guy. Our friendship was cemented later that day as he gave me a tour of the station and mentioned that his dad was a railroader just like mine.
My friend Jim Petrie died suddenly Thursday evening at his home at the age of 66. It is hard to believe this, let alone write something about him on this site. He was a regular reader, supporter, critic and poster of this blog. He went by “Pete”, “The Old Sarge” "Pete Cassidy" and a few other monikers. (His last e mail and post was sent on January 14th the day before his death. It dealt with Mitt Romney and I’ll post it at the end of this article in the comments section. And yes like all of you, he hated to be edited!) I’m going to tell you about him but in countdown form. It used to drive him crazy that I would do the top stories of the year in “countdown” form.
Back to 1996. Upon arriving at 107 I had the opportunity to work in the sales bullpen with this Indians fan. As was the custom back then, the new reps were paired with a few veteran ones and visited prospective clients. I was lucky enough to ride along with Jim. Besides being radio sales people who were Indian fans, we also found out that we had something else in common. We both loved the craft of radio. With clients we sold the product but also the concept of radio. Petrie explained the process of team building better than anyone I ever met. His idea was to have a sales staff that appealed to every demographic but to sell radio not as a commodity but as a tool for a business. He felt a given sales rep should mirror the client adding he thought it would be a bad idea for either one of us to call on a Fitness Club. A few months later they brought in a guy from Wisconsin who they paid big bucks to who essentially said the same thing. But he was a consultant. The next sales manager, the late Tim Durkin took all those materials and threw them in a giant waste basket on his first day on the job.
Petrie was also an veteran of WARM Radio selling the Mighty 590 when it was just hanging on. Even though he lived out of the area during the halcyon days of WARM he understood the pull the station still had on the area. He respected the remaining members of the Sensational 7 still there at the time.
Petrie had enormous respect for Joey Shaver who he worked with in sales as well as George Gilbert who sat across from him at that storied building in Avoca. Petrie also worked for Cable Rep Advertising before it was bought out by Cox Communications. His most interesting foray in radio though had to be working for Attorney Bob Cordaro who had the first FM Sports station in the market. He also managed a radio station in Tunkhannock owned by the Sherwood family.
During the 70s and 80s Petrie worked in the Music Industry in Nashville. He knew the town, knew some of the people who made stars out of the entertainers and would provide insights into some of the people who ran the town. He also worked for Dot Records when that company had two of the biggest hits by a female artist named Donna Fargo. “Happiest Girl In the Whole U.S.A.” and “Funny Face’. As a record promoter who went from state to state meeting with program directors it was a natural progression for him to go into radio. Jim could also tell you who was a jerk in the radio industry and who wasn’t.
Petrie earned his chops in the music business working in the warehouse in Cleveland for Columbia Records. Mention an album that was on Columbia in the 60s and he’d tell you the distribution number.
Jim was also a veteran of the Vietnam War. He was a Sergeant and saw combat. He was very proud of serving in the military but felt very strongly that the lessons of Vietnam were never learned. He made the distinction that if you were a veteran who served in battle that was way different than being a veteran who served in the same conflict. He would often say, “There was a big difference dodging bullets in Saigon in 1967 versus loading trucks in Berlin on the same day”. In Vietnam he saw first hand the educational and racial inequities in this country evidenced by the men in his own platoon and would speak of it often.
I don’t make many friends at work. Never thought it was a good idea but Petrie became one of the few exceptions. Socially we’d attend mammoth Superbowl parties put on by his mutual friends and to a certain extent mine, The Haudenshields. We (me and Mrs. LuLac) socialized with his wife Kathy at places like Alfedo’s in Scranton as well as a few other places. One year we did the big Christmas Light Display at Nay Aug Park. Sadly it was all too infrequent because the four of us had a ball.
In the last ten years because our work schedules, ailments and commitments we did make the time to have lunch at least 3 to 5 times a year. More when I was recovering from cancer. We’d usually meet at The Grande which was halfway from his home in Abington Township. He never shared my fascination with Abe’s on South Main but we did hit places like The Glider Diner as well as The Ber Deli and The Dough Company. We’d usually camp out for a few hours. When Petrie greeted me, before he shook my hand or said hello, he’s just stride right up to me and start on a topic of the day. Here are a few examples:
“So…..for me the All Time Career Home Leader is Hank Aaron and the all time season record holder is Roger Maris”.
“So……why can’t George Bush dodge wars like he does shoes thrown at him”?
“So……doesn’t this new Pope (this was Benedict) look like a James Bond villain?”
“So…..who did the software for the roll  out of this health care plan, Romney or Dan Quayle?”
It was an abrupt salutation and brought grins and looks of shock to people near us.
Petrie was of the same mind of me regarding friendship and loyalty. He was there for me when my mom died, and during the whole cancer situation 6 years ago. One of our favorite pastime at lunch was wondering when a certain local sports station would ever change their commercials and promos. Petrie said that they were more regular than the proverbial bear in the woods. He would exclaim, “All it would take is a minute to change them, what are they thinking?”Then we both concluded that they weren't thinking at all.
Petrie was retired but was still dabbling in songwriting with a partner Shawn Zona. As a matter of fact he wrote the lyrics for the video “Uncle Willy” a story of a Vietnam War vet that can apply to any conflict. He was once offered a political job but turned it down because he felt he wasn’t qualified enough to do it justice. The people offering him the position were stunned even going so far as to call him an ingrate. I even went nuts on him about it. But he was adamant. He had a gut feeling and in hindsight, he was vindicated. The people who made the offer, well let's just say they aren't reading this in Lackawanna County. Regarding broadcasting, he never fudged ratings numbers and never promised anything he couldn’t deliver.He was a man of integrity.
As a critic of LuLac he offered positive suggestions and was a constant champion of what we did. He even wanted to do a treatment for film of one of my books but alas there was too little time.
He was knowledgeable, smart, handsome and articulate. One has to wonder how many people of his era, with his institutional knowledge and talents were bypassed by prospective civic leaders and employers because they aren’t a member of an alphabet generation.
Jim Petrie was immensely proud of his wife Kathy as well as his son Matthew. Whenever we met, the conversation would always focus on his wife’s work in health care and Matt’s career in Law Enforcement. He was a dual citizen of Ohio and Pennsylvania traveling frequently to see the Tribe and The Cavs. I think, like many he just gave up on The Browns.
Petrie’s relationship with the Catholic Church pretty much mirrored what many people our age feel about it. But unlike some, he actually stood by his convictions. I’m not sure he ended up as an atheist or an agnostic because that was on our lunch agenda this time around. He used to joke that he wanted someone to scatter his ashes over a fence at Cathedral Cemetery in the middle of the night to make sure the Diocese never got a dime out of him.
Whatever he believed in the end, I know that he always lived by the rule that you treat others the way you wanted to be treated. in my opinion the way he lived his life........... well to me Jim Petrie was one of the most Christian men I ever had the honor to call friend.


At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim Petrie's last post to LuLac:
By the way. I’m all in for Mitt Romney in 2016. What a great American especially those 5 years safe in France converting Catholics to Mormonism. How’d that work out Mitt aside from keeping you far from the cold draft. The Vietnam War will never be over as long as “men” like Mitt and Dickless linger on the scene and the earth! Never resented those who didn’t go, just those super patriots. Gotta include Bill.
Nominate Mitt and we wont even have to have an election.

At 12:59 AM, Blogger David Yonki said...

Jim Petrie's last post to LuLac:
Thanks my friend. Consistent to the end. You will be missed.

At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was "Pete Cassidy" a character in your radio novel????

At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Tom Borthwick said...

It was nice to read this. I've known Jim my whole life. I'll miss him dearly.


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