People Are The Key #socs

The bulk of my career (twenty years minus one month) was spent with a company that changed hands several times while I was there. When I started, it was Management Science America, or MSA. After another company, Mine Safety Appliances, who also called themselves MSA, objected and took my MSA to court, we had to be sure to indicate that we were "MSA, The Financial Software Company" (later just "MSA, The Software Company") and we gave them a free license to our Payroll system, which I believe they run to this day.

Whenever someone started with the company, they were given a Tiffany key pin like the one shown above, a large one for the women, a small one for the men. Our corporate motto was "People Are The Key," and it was a way to remind our clients (and ourselves) of that. When you started, they gave you a silver key. After five years, they gave you a gold one, and after 10 years, the women received a gold key with a pretty good-sized diamond in it, while the men received both a gold key with a tiny diamond and a clock. I received my gold key in July 1989; four months later, we were sold to Dun & Bradstreet, who owned our biggest competitor. D&B announced their intention to merge the two software companies together, and we were ordered to 86 the keys.

The president and CEO of MSA was a man named John Imlay. He owned the majority of the stock, and when the sale was complete, he became a very wealthy man, in addition to remaining as CEO (and having the opportunity to fire his counterpart with the company we merged with). He decided to take the money he made and start The Imlay Foundation, which "helps entrepreneurial and established community organizations expand their capabilities and reach," according to its website. The keys had been John’s idea (you never called him Mr. Imlay; I did once and he told me "Mr. Imlay was my father, I’m John"), and since we were no longer using the key device, he adapted and adopted it for his foundation. He retired after about five years and spent the rest of his life running his foundation, playing golf, purchasing a minority interest in the Atlanta Falcons, and going around making speeches. He passed away in 2015.

Meanwhile, the rest of us poor bastards who were left behind had to learn to work together. As one friend of mine put it in an all-company meeting after the sale, "who are we supposed to hate now?" Another friend said that our new motto was "No longer to be confused with Mine Safety Appliances." (He had a bunch of them, including "It’s not just software, it’s one damn thing after another.") It gets complicated after that…


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now this public service message from CBS.

Song of the Day: Cliff Nobles & Co., "The Horse"

Cliff Nobles, who had moved from Mobile, Alabama to Philadelphia, originally signed with Atlantic Records and recorded several singles for them, none of which went anywhere. He formed Cliff Nobles & Co. with Bobby Tucker (guitar), Benny Williams (bass), and Robert Marshall (drums), and with the help of producer Jesse James got a recording contract with Phil-L.A. of Soul Records.

Their second single, in 1968, was "Love Is All Right". It was recorded with a horn section that later would become part of the band MFSB. The flip side of that record was "The Horse," which was nothing more than "Love Is All Right" with the vocals removed. As luck would have it, "The Horse" caught on with radio stations and the listening public, selling a million copies in three months and being awarded a Gold record by RIAA and reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and the Hot Soul Singles chart, kept out of the #1 spot on the former by Herb Alpert’s "This Guy’s In Love With You." Nobles, realizing he had a good thing going, continued to release instrumentals and eventually an album titled The Horse, which reached #159 on the Hot 200 albums chart.

The Friday 5×2: KNAK (1280 AM Salt Lake City), 12/5/69

We visited KNAK in Salt Lake City earlier this year, so let’s jump a little ahead from that and check out their survey from December of 1969. There are 12 songs here, because there are two double-"A" side songs, which you’ll see shortly.

  • #10: The Tokens, "She Lets Her Hair Down" True one-hit wonders (1961’s "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" reached #1 and was their only Top 40 hit), they reached #61 on the Hot 100 and #43 in Canada with this. Seems strange. I heard this for the first time today.
  • #9: The Grass Roots, "Heaven Knows" A minor hit that reached #24 on the Hot 100 (Cash Box had it at #13 and Record World had it at #12), It was sandwiched between "I’d Wait A Million Years" and "Temptation Eyes."
  • #8: Stevie Wonder, "Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday" Stevie hadn’t reached his "woke" period of the early ’70’s just yet and was still cranking out songs like this, which reached #7 on the Hot 100, #5 on the R&B chart, and #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • #7: Neil Diamond, "Holly Holy" Neil’s changing record labels from Bang to Uni resulted in his being better promoted. This followed the success of "Sweet Caroline" and reached #6.
  • #6: The Beatles, "Come Together"/"Something" Allen Klein, who had been hired to run Apple, had this single released because the company needed the money. It went to #1 in the US and #4 in the UK.
  • #5: Mel & Tim, "Backfield In Motion" Mel & Tim hailed from Holly Springs, Mississippi and moved to Chicago, where they were discovered by "The Duke Of Earl," Gene Chandler. This was their only song to reach the Top 40 on the Pop chart; it reached #4 on the R&B chart and they had a second hit on the R&B chart, "Starting All Over Again," in 1972.
  • #4: Three Dog Night, "Eli’s Coming" Great song by a great songwriter (Laura Nyro) and performed by a great band (Three Dog Night). This was their third Top 10 sinle in a row, raching #10 in the US and #8 in Canada.
  • #3: Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Fortunate Son"/"Down On The Corner" two A side songs helped this to #3 on the Hot 100. Creedence had five records reach #2 but never one that went all the way.
  • #2: Peter Paul & Mary, "Leaving On A Jet Plane" A song by John Denver that ended up being PP&M’s only #1 hit.
  • #1: Diana Ross & The Supremes, "Someday We’ll Be Together" Their last #1 together, as Diana Ross would start her solo career in 1970.

And that’s The Friday 5×2 for December 6, 2019.

Song of the Day: Hugh Masakela, "Grazing In The Grass"

As long as I’m on the subject of instrumentals from the late ’60’s, this is a fun one from South African trumpeter Hugh Masakela. "Grazing In The Grass" was written by Philemon Hou and was released in May of 1968. It rose quickly to #1 on the Hot 100 and #15 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was #18 on the year-end Hot 100 as well. Hugh’s recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.

The following year, lyrics were added by Harry Elston, a member of The Friends of Distinction. Their release reached #3 on the Hot 100, #5 on the Hot Soul Singles chart, and #5 in Canada.

Writer's Workshop: Purposes and Porpoises

Harbor porpoise. Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Do you ever see a word and immediately think of another word that kind of looks like it, and you just have to follow it? I saw that today’s prompt was "purpose" and immediately thought "porpoise." Porpoises are similar to dolphins, except they have a shorter beak and different teeth. And the weird thing is, their closest living relative is the hippopotamus. Go figure.

You’ll be happy to know that I’ve dealt with my sudden need to learn everything there is to know about porpoises, which was the purpose of the last paragraph. Let’s move on.

The big question, it seems, is "what is my purpose in life?" What is the meaning of life in general, and specifically what’s the meaning of my life?

The first thing that came to mind was the Baltimore Catechism, which was the fundamental training we received in Christian Doctrine when we were in first and second grade. It has this to say about it…

God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.

And this…

To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.

All of which sounds wonderful, and they’re certainly things that I strive to do. The question is "How?" It doesn’t really say. Then I remembered my Religion textbook, and these two pictures that stood side by side. One picture showed a man and a woman, he in a tuxedo, she in a wedding gown. Under that picture was the legend "THIS IS GOOD." The second picture showed the same two people (ostensibly), he in a cassock with a Roman collar, she in a nun’s habit, with the legend "THIS IS BETTER." Okay, so the big push that started in Catholic school was to join the priesthood or religious life. I’ve kept up with my classmates from St. Ignatius School, Class of 1970, and as far as I know, no one became a priest or nun. Two guys went to the seminary for high school, and both were home within a couple of years; both are married with families today. We all seem to have opted for good rather than better.

So, I did what any self-respecting adult in the 21st Century would do: I Googled it. (Except I used Duck Duck Go, a search engine that doesn’t track you.) I found this page on the blog of a man named Mark Manson, who calls himself "Author, Thinker, Life Enthusiast." The post is titled "7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose." It’s a pretty interesting essay, which you can read on your own. One question on his list was this:

What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?

I thought back to 1964, when I was 8, and thought about what I liked to do back then.

  • Draw
  • Listen to the radio
  • Watch TV
  • Make noise with the guitar I got from my cousin Tim (who was Teddy at the time). I couldn’t actually play the thing, but a lot of the things I did by pounding on it and slapping the strings are actual techniques that people like Tommy Emmanuel use today. Willy Cusick, my friend, had a ukulele which he played kind of the same way I played the guitar, and the two of us would make noise together. We even wrote dumb songs together, with names like "I want to go crazy over you" and "Green and yellow bubble spider" and "I like to eat." Which reminds me,
  • Write dumb songs
  • Wander the neighborhood, on foot and on my bicycle
  • Etc., etc., etc.

And I realized, the only things that I do now are "listen to the radio" (the 21st Century equivalent, anyway) and "watch TV." I let 8-year-old me down. No wonder the kid’s crying. I feel like crying myself.

I needed that article when I was 8, you know?