Ads Pay Off

This is the popular Chiva stop in front of Casa Muller or Muller Building in the heart of Calidonia in front of El Cruce. Image thanks to La Critica Libre.

A popular Chivita bus driver was my first customer.  So I began to see for myself how the ads pay off.. Image thanks to La Critica Libre.

Once I was back in Panama City some good changes came my way. One morning my uncle Pinky ordered me to follow him, leading me to believe it was for another job and we wound up at a garage and gasoline station owned by the gentlemen who organized the “Dos Pinos” Cooperative, a new and exciting development in Panama as well as the rest of Central America. The Twin Pines or “Dos Pinos” logo blazoned on the front of the station situated right on 12 de Octubre Avenue became familiar and somehow comforting to me..  So I followed along with my uncle. The next week he had more surprises for me. “This is your garage,” he said, “you play with the lift and any other equipment, until you get confident at using them. I have to be at work” He was working as a clerk on Albrook AFB at the time.

In thinking up ways of attracting more customers to the garage and coming up with ads I conjured up memories of my art classes at the Instituto Nacional of Panama. I started making placards and worked hard on the art work worthy of a good grade from my professor Ramos. I discovered then that I had a love for the arts just for art’s sake. In the meantime, I was also discovering that I knew more about automobiles than I had thought. Luckily, I found a pair of dirty white overhalls and washed them clean again. I would wash them in the evneings when I was done with my garage work and put them out to dry. They would be dry the next morning. I was still unaccustomed to the fact, however, that was actually on my own and in charge of a genuine business that served automobiles and I was somewhat concerned that business was coming in slowly. After all, in those days automobile traffic was not an issue like it is today and most of the drivers that drove by our station weren’t even aware that a mechanic was on duty there. So, my artfully painted signs were beginning to take effect.

In so far as my own convenience was concerned, I would have to leave the area daily due to the fact that there were no places locally for me to purchase a decent meal. The whole neighborhood, in fact, was devoid of stores and places to eat. I made it a routine then to lock-up the garage shop, get something to eat downtown and come back with ample time to finish some repair work to earn some money to care for myself. I considered purchasing more drawing paper to use for advertising, and also some tools such as colored paints and pencils towards my project to advertise the shop. By then the old hunger pangs came sharply into my small frame forcing me to leave for my old downtown Calidonia area haunts so I could purchase something to eat. During these first days at the shop, I was yearning to find that rare book or mechanics manual to help me build up my skills.

After finishing my lunch at some fonda or other, if I didn’t decide to hang out with my old neighborhood friends from Magnolia building, I would head back to the garage. One day I even shopped around the old Instituto Nacional neighborhood and found some tools for drawings. I made it back to the shop eager to see my art work advertising the mechanic shop. After fixing up my customer service area I then proceeded to place an old folding chair out for my customers to sit while I worked on their vehicle. In fact, I made the area into my personal shop and office.

The following day, I decided not to sit in public view while I drew my signs knowing fully well that I would draw a curious crowd. So I would wait for nightfall to do my artwork and then sleep inside with the doors locked. I would spend my time copying some of the methods I had used in school as a kid. The quiet nights helped me focus a lot on my methods that I had learned from my Uncle Albert Scanterbury and others I had seen as a kid and copied from other Westindian sign painters who would display their creations in the storefront window.

Finally, one night I started placing them on the wall inside and the around my office desk I and set up that area as a place where I’d meet customers and other visitors and especially the ladies. I then placed a special sign on the outside of the shop, hoping to attract costumers to my special “Wash and polish, or “Simonizing,” services that made autos look like they’d just come from the factory inside and out.

It wasn’t long before I was attracting the guys who worked pumping gasoline at the pumps outside. One afternoon a frantic first costumer, a bus driver, appeared at my shop in a panic wanting me to “revisar” or check out, his “Chivita.” I gave him a reassuring nod that I knew what to do for his vehicle which had suddenly stopped working for him. All this, I reasoned, was brought in by my colorful signs and ads that I had pasted up all over the shop.

This story continues.

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