By LIBBY CLUETT
As some in the community may already know, the Index's former ad manager and ace senior advertising representative, Mary Jo Watson, has decided to hang up her hat and retire – sort of – after 34 years selling ads for newspapers.
She officially retired in mid-January. But, if actions speak louder than words, she hasn't fully retired. She continues to walk through the Index's back door several times each week to work on selling advertisements for the Index's publication the “North Texas Star.”
Watson, honored at a retirement party at Palo Pinto Nursing and Rehab – one of her long-time clients – recalls a long history, not just with the Index, but in newspaper and media advertising (she once worked at a radio station, too).
“I've seen so many changes through the years,” she said, recalling when, at the Index, they had to manually wax down ads and used proportion wheels. She also recalls Velox – a type of photographic paper, used to make a photo-negative of the newspaper page, which became synonymous with the newspaper process in the mid-to-late 1900s.
A Whitt/Perrin native, Watson first worked at the Index in 1994, after moving back to the area with her children Lacy and Brian. They moved from Livingston, Texas, after her husband, Darrell Watson, died in 1992. In Livingston, she had worked in newspaper advertising since about 1979.
When she started at the Index, Mel Rhodes, publisher and managing editor, was a reporter. He has worked with her in several capacities.
“Losing Mary Jo as a full-time salesperson was no small 'bump in the road' for the Index,” said Rhodes. “She has long been an important asset to this newspaper, someone you could turn to in a pinch and know that if it was humanly possible she would deliver.
“Of course she has worked decades at her trade and truly deserves retirement; and I hope she enters into this retirement knowing she made a difference here – at the paper and in the community,” Rhodes added. “Her customers were dear to her and she served them well. All the best, MJ!”
In the early 2000s, the economy was good and Watson said she recalls having the most fun of her career, working with the likes of Anna Kertok, Vicky Shelton and Gina McClure.
“We just had a ball. The economy was good and we were … doing real well,” she said.
“I've had some good times and some really hard times, but lots of fun,” she added.
At her retirement party in late January, Kertok gave Watson a handmade award, which included indelible memories of what she learned from her mentor. These included what not to wear and “how to love people who weren't so loveable,” Watson said.
Mary Gray, a relatively new ad rep at the Index, made Watson a cake closely resembling a newspaper, with headlines from papers where Watson worked. In addition to the Index, she sold ads for the Hood County News, the Graham Leader, the Painted Post Crossroads Magazine and Polk County Publishing.
The icing headlines read: “Mary Jo Watson retires after 34 years in the newspaper business,” “Loyal customers say 'farewell' at retirement party,” “Inside exclusive interviews with her animals,” “Future plans include enjoying life,” and “Future plans include grandkids and gardening.”
Watson was well-known in the office for her vegetable garden that produced an abundance of zucchini, squash and tomatoes. When not at work, she is often seen with her granddaughter, Lara Jones, who Watson helped get started with raising show animals; and she enjoys watching the Perrin 14-year-old play softball. Watson is also known as someone who has rescued many dogs, strays found along Palo Pinto and Jack County roadways.
It seems a little odd for this reporter to hear her cohort has retired and then see her almost as frequently as before retirement. However, Watson is no longer one of the last ones leaving the building – pushing into the wee hours working on her ads; and she seems to be getting a little more sun on her face and appears to walk with a lighter step.
When asked what principles she would espouse to those coming into sales, Watson noted, “You have to have a dual roll, you work for the customer, too.
“You're always honest an upfront. You don't ever, ever not be honest with a customer. It will come back to haunt you.
“I was real blessed when I was hired. I worked for three past presidents of the Texas Press [Association] – Roy Robinson, from Graham, Jerry Tidwell, from Granbury, and Alvin Holley, from Livingston,” she said, adding, “Alvin (her first boss) sent me to Austin for lots of training with Texas Press.”
She said the TPA training reinforced honesty, service and getting to know customers in person, rather than initially meeting and selling over the phone.
“I've seen lots [of prospective salespersons] come and go. And some people think they can make everybody a salesman; you can't. It's either there or it's not, you can't make it,” she said. “You have to be real outgoing and you have to love people and you've got to understand that you're not always right, the customer's first.”
“I always felt I was of value to the company,” she said of being included in strategy meetings, in which she was able to contribute from her extensive advertising and newspaper experience.
“I've had a lot of fun here,” she said, turning her focus on the Index. “I have always loved Mineral Wells.”
She said she grew up in Mineral Wells, mostly in Dr. Yeager's office, where her mother, Lois Kincaid – a Perrin native – worked. She added that her father, Eugene Kincaid – a Whitt native – was a night-shift helicopter pilot supervisor at Fort Wolters for Southern Airways.
At home in her grandparent's Perrin homestead, she now enjoys gardening, remodeling, “fixin to plant an orchard” and her rescued dogs, Flemish giant rabbit, Begal cat, goat, named Lila, and her three granddaughters' three horses.
“Of course I'm retiring early, I could work several more years. But, I want to be with the grandkids and gardening and horses and all that … I already have my onions planted,” she said.
Watson noted that her granddaughters Megan and Katie Watson moved to the Bryan-College Station area last summer and now she will have more free time to visit them.
“But this has been a wonderful career; I've met so many people,” she said. “It's just been unbelievable the people I do know.”
She said her adjustment has been hard and she wants to continue to be a part of the Index and advertising. Work with the North Texas Star “keeps me out in the public and being able to be a small part,” she said, adding that she will be able to call on customers from Granbury, Weatherford, Graham and make new customers in places, like Jacksboro, where she has already pounded the pavement.