Tinker's Dam

Tinkers Dam Fix-it Shop: My First Ad

Deb NelsonFLASHBACK November of 1975, a young girl of 21, hard-earned Bachelor of Science Degree in Advertising and Resume in hand. That was me, I had just landed “a job” with The Austin Sun working on straight commission.

“Straight commission. 20% of sales, but not on ad layout fees,” Glen Riley, the Sun’s first ad sales manager barked.

Marty McKenzie, whom I had worked with at The University of Texas Advertising Department, had referred me to the position, although she can’t remember doing so.

I was pretty broke. I mean, weren’t we all? I had just put myself thought college, worked through it all and paid for it all myself, and I did not even have a car. Glen Riley, bless his heart, he hired me anyway. What’s to lose, right? It was a straight commission paid position; and he wasn’t giving me any established accounts.

Well, no matter…I had a bike and I was fearless, or so it would appear. I went to work immediately. It was crazy, selling ads on a bike–the weather hot, sticky, and I was all dressed up for business, (in those days we dressed for business) and found myself a little sweaty and somewhat disheveled. But I did it. I did it because I believed in The Austin Sun and what we were doing and saying.

I will never ever forget my first ad sale. I can remember filling out the ad contract like it was yesterday, hoping and praying he would sign before he changed his mind! How did I find my first ad victim? I was riding my bike around in circles in Austin, trying to get up the courage to ask someone to buy an ad in an alternative news magazine. Then I saw it…A friendly place, a big white house at 3400 Kerbey Lane with a sign, yes, a business sign! TINKERS DAM FIX IT SHOP. That was the beginning of my ad sales career at the Sun.

The rest is history. I earned enough money from selling ads to buy a car! It was my first car, a Blue Plymouth Valiant. Over time I cultivated relationships with clients who also believed in the Austin Sun, such as Lone Star Beer, Thundercloud Subs, Whole Earth Provision Company, The Whole Foods Store, Wheatsville Food Coop, Oat Willies, Armadillo World Headquarters (when Ramsey was there…).

As the Austin Sun’s Third Ad Sales Manager, I was able to organize YEARLY contracts for double page spreads (for the 6th Street Scene and 6th Street Restaurants) with featured menu in the center and business card ad sized ads circling around the featured restaurant menu.

Each issue, we had a double page spread pre-sold, and pre-designed. With the yearly advertising contracts we were earning an stable income base, but by then it was, “too little, too late,” and the Sun was sold to Jay Stokes and Bill Barton. I have been an independent creative entrepreneur ever since.

Since then, besides raising a daughter, I have founded many small businesses including:

The AdStuff Company – For the past 23 years (www.TheAdStuffCompany.com)

Brand Me Green – specializing in digital catalogs and “go green marketing” (www.BrandMeGreen.com)

Author Your Dreams Publishing Company – Four published books www.AuthorYourDreams.com)

The Dating Passport – A patent pending Dating ID (www.TheDatingPassport.com)

Vacation Rental Guru – eBooks and Information for vacation rental property owners  (www.VacationRentalGuru.info)

Vacation Suites Global – vacation rental property (www.VacationSuitesGlobal.com)

Abundance Day (www.AbundanceDay.org)

And others. I sincerely value and appreciate the training I received at the Austin Sun, including the “implied vow of poverty” and invaluable lesson of learning how “to do whatever it takes.”

If it hadn’t been for that unique “self-training” opportunity proffered at The Austin Sun, I would not be the joyful creative-entrepreneurial-writer that I am today! And there’s an Austin Sun Legacy in my daughter.  She took my creative entrepreneurial lifestyle to a whole new level…she never had a job…strictly free lance. Now she is a successful Fashion and Beauty Photographer out of NYC; and is being flown to London this weekend for a commissioned shoot for a prominent England Magazine.

Her work has appeared in magazines all over the world, including Harper’s Bazaar Mexico, Vanity Fair Italia,  Display in Spain, Magazine cover in China, Australia, Nylon Magazine (US); In Style Germany and We (US) and coming up, Elle (Russia) to name just a few. Should you be interested in Artistic Edgey Photography of the 2000’s check out her work at JamieNelson.com. Very Unique. She learned the lesson from me that I learned from the Austin Sun, “to do whatever it takes.”

Yes. Absolutely, those were some wild and crazy years; with moments we all should like to forget–like the nude staff parties at Manor Villa; imbibing purple mushrooms in Bastrop; and oops, I can’t (conveniently) remember those other embarrassing indiscretions!

Yet, if I am to properly express sincere overflowing thankfulness for the lessons learned, character developed, creativity sparked, and the journey taken; I must also acknowledge those immature moments!

Right now, I collectively thank EVERY PERSON in service in any way, (including the advertisers) to the Austin Sun with imparting those intangible, yet life-giving gifts, talents, and strengths that are part of who I have become.

And I sincerely appreciate and thank Bill Hood and his humble heart for the impetus he has given to this rich moment of reflection! Thank you one and all!

Deborah Nelson
Ad Sales, Advertising Manager Austin Sun, 1975

Editor’s Note

Etymology of Tinker’s Dam – Merriam-Webster finds tinker’s damn in print since 1839 and suggests that it derives from tinkers’ reputation for swearing. The spelling tinker’s dam is attested since 1858, and there is a disagreement over whether the term originated from tinkers’ swearing or instead from their use of small, single-use dams to hold solder. The latter explanation has been offered since 1877; on the other hand, the phrase tinker’s curse is attested since 1824 and the phrase worth a tinker’s cuss is attested since 1854, for which reason Etymonline considers the “dam” derivation an “ingeniously elaborate but baseless” invention of later writers.


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