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Schoenfeld, Clay (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 48, Number 9 (June 1947)

Badgers you should know,   p. 21

Page 21

gh/ Ud,
Reprinted by special permission of Saturday Evening Post, copyright 1946
Curtis Publishing Co.,
Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.
                    IN SPRINGING THE UNEXPECTED."
  native of Westport, Wis., now
  $60,000-a-year advertising man-
  ager of Gimbel Brothers' De-
  partment Store in New York
  A female huckster from the
University of Wisconsin has set
all the Beautee Soap salesmen ol
Fifth Ave. on their collective ears.
She's Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, '18.
The Saturday Evening Post has
given the Wisconsin Alumnus
permission to reprint the follow-
ing   excerpts   from    its recent
article, "That's Not Blasting-
That's Bernice," by Hambla
  When Bernice Fitz-Gibbon took over
Gimbel's advertising department early
in 1940, it was whispered in retail-
advertising circles that Greeley Square
was about to experience a Fitzkrieg.
A Fitzkrieg is a blitz of words spring-
ing from the rapier-sharp and highly
imaginative brain of Miss Fitz-Gibbon.
It gets up steam in Miss Fitz-Gibbon's
office at the lower end of Greeley
Square, keeping assistant copy writers
in a perpetual state of jitters. It rolls
on, gathering fury as it progresses, to
enemy territory-Macy's, at the upper
end of Greeley Square.
  To two people, "Frederic Gimbel, man-
aging director of Gimbels, and Miss
Fitz-Gibbon, a Fitzkrieg is a thing of
profit and pleasure. To Frederick Gim-
bel it brings sales-Gimbels' business
increased 96 per cent from 1939 to
1945, against a general Manhattan and
Brooklyn department store increase of
47 per cent and a Macy increase of 50.3
per cent. To Miss Fitz-Gibbon it brings
upward of $60,000 a year, and -excite-
ment-the latter as necessary to her as
food, and that is pretty necessary.
  Miss Fitz-Gibbon-in private life the
wife of a New York lawyer, Herman
Block, and mother of two children-is
one of the highest-paid advertising
  .. .. . _- _ Jl - 1 - TT_--I - 'I1 CJ __ IA T - __- .1_
WV1IIICILI  1  ll  t IU  u IlIv  : )L,4a]blV, C.  J-, .I'D  01LU
who, 18 years ago, as head fashion copy
writer for Macy's c o i n e d Macy's
famous   slogan, "It's smart to   be
thrifty," and who said of the first
strapless evening gown, "How do you
keep it up night after night?"
  Bernice Fitz-Gibbon looks as prac-
tical and businesslike as a bank pres-
ident. Her aura of solid efficiency is
heightened by large, coldly intelligent
gray eyes, an extra chin or two, and
about 40 pounds of surplus weight. She
wears black dresses with V necks or
black dressmaker suits, such as have
been offered to substantial matrons for
the past 20 years. Light-brown hair is
piled haphazardly on top of her head.
  However, appearances can be deceiv-
ing. Certainly Miss Fitz-Gibbon belies
the Irish whimsey which fills her soul,
the sort of thing that causes her to buy
unimproved farms in inaccessible areas.
  Next to hot verbal conflict, which is
almost food and drink to her, there is
nothing she loves more dearly than to
explode bombshells in the midst of
peaceful gatherings.
  Bernice Bowles Fitz-Gibbon was born
on a farm in Westport, Wis., shortly
before the turn of the century-she
won't say just when.
  Three of her grandparents were
Irish, the fourth, Scotch. From 6 to 16
she attended a convent. The mother
Write for Survey Graphic
  TWO BADGERS were featured
writers -in the January issue of Sur-
vey Graphic, which was devoted
entirely to a consideration of the
Negro problem in the US.
  L. Lewis Henderson, MA'31, wrote
on "In the Cotton Delta," a survey
of the semi-feudal system of planta-
tions where Negro life "half slave and
half free" is still part of the picture.
Mr. Henderson, son of a tenant
farmer in the cotton country, has had
varied experience in the %outh as
country editor, businessman, and
field worker for federal agricultural
  Charles Dollard, '28, wrote on "In
the Armed Forces," where experience
in World War 1 afforded convincing
lessons as to the waste and ineffi-
ciency of segregation. Mr. Dollard,
executive associate of the Carnegie
Corp., was from 1942 to 1946 a rrem-
ber of the staff of the Army's Infor-
mation and Education Division, with
the rank of lieutenant colonel. He
was chiefly responsible for two out-
standing wartime army manuals,
20-6, Command of Negro Troops,
and M-5, Leadership and the Negro
superior, Miss Fitz-Gibbon says, was
extremely fussy about words and de-
veloped in her the interest in words
which she thinks is responsible for her
success. She was graduated from the
University of Wisconsin in 1918 and
taught English for a year before mov-
ing to Rockford, Ill.
   Just t h e n t h e Register-Gazette
 brought in an advertising manager
 from New York at the fantastic wage,
 for Rockford, of $125 a week. Miss
 Fitz-Gibbon inquired what the city edi-
 tor was getting, and found it was $50
 a week. "That was my first awareness
 of advertising," she says. And right
 there the newspapers and literary mag-
 azines lost Miss Fitz-Gibbon.
   Miss Fitz-Gibbon's next stop was
 Chicago. She joined Marshall Field's
 college--squa4 ---at-$18aweek,-with the*
.idea it would get her into big-time ad-
vertising. (The article relates that Miss
Fitz7Gibbon sold ribbons and furniture
for Marshall Field for a time and then
taught advertising in a Chicago high
school before moving on to New York.)
   Macy's started her at $50 a week,
 and in three months she was raised to
 $75. In 1925 she married, an event still
 remembered by her Macy colleagues
 because Mr. Block (her husband) was
 the only person with whom Miss Fitz-
 Gibbon didn't argue. "My husband just
 won't argue with me," she explains a
 bit sadly.
   By 1928 she was earning $15,000 a
 year as head fashion copy writer.
   She stayed with Macy's until 1935,
 when her salary was cut. "They'd been
 telling me about all the millions they
 owed me for 'It's smart to be thrifty,'"
 she recalls sourly. In 1936 she took over
 the advertising department of Wana-
 maker's New York store for a reported
 $25,000 a year, and came to Gimbels
 ,from there in. 1940 under a salary-and-
 bonus arrangement which more than
 doubled her Wanamaker earnings.

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