Monday, August 16, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 139

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 44
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 19
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 14


I had moved most of my family to New Hampshire and we were now settled into our new home. Adam was busy enjoying his first year at The Boston Conservatory and we usually only heard from him once every few weeks. He invited us to attend a play in which he was asked to perform titled, “Savage In Limbo.” It was an honor for him to be asked because it was primarily a play for the senior students and Adam was only a freshman. He warned us that the language was a little rough and he didn’t want us to be shocked. We weren’t shocked. Adam had primarily performed in comedies or musicals in the past and it was refreshing to see him in a serious drama. His performance was excellent and, when it was over, a professor from the college came over to us and praised Adam for his strong performance.

Since I was now living over one hundred miles away from my two collectible stores I needed to trust that all of my employees would continue to act in an efficient and professional manner. I trusted my manager, Chris, to oversee everything and to lead the staff by word and example. Chris had been with me for almost ten years and I had always been impressed by his dedication to the business and his interest in keeping our customers happy. I had big plans for Chris to eventually take over the company while I was away. I even had him written into my personal will. I was shocked when things began to unravel at the Worcester store. The potential problem in my delegating so much responsibility is clear. The situation that developed was not unique, but nonetheless extremely disappointing. Changes had to be made.

During this same time period, Mal and I (and many other volunteers) were very busy getting ready to put on the big musical of “Annie” at the school that Cassy attended in New Hampshire. Our show had completely sold out three weeks before the performance but the owner of “The Christ Life Center” allowed us to sell a few more tickets for the balcony area of their building. These tickets sold quickly too.

As usual, two weeks before the actual performance, the play seemed doomed to be awful! Some kids still refused to learn their lines, several songs still needed work, some sets were still not built, and our pianist had to work at her full-time job and she couldn’t always make it to the rehearsals. By March 26th, 1999, the first day of the real performance, everybody pulled it all together and put on a really great show! The audience loved it and commented on what a great uniting event this was for the school. Remember, almost half of the entire school participated in this production!

Not everyone at the school was happy though. A couple of teachers complained that the play took too much time out of the students schedules and that some of the kids complained that putting on a play was much more work than they anticipated. I explained that by comparison to the athletic program, which only includes ten to fifteen students for any one sport, the play was actually less of a commitment of time and energy. Basketball and volleyball players practiced every weekday for several hours and then traveled in busses for hours to play in the out of town games, all at a great cost to the overall school budget. This play actually made a profit, which went back into the general school budget. I also explained that if the students came to the play rehearsals with all of their lines and songs memorized, there wouldn’t be as many stressful moments. We also had a complaint from a parent about a scene in the play where several characters pretended to smoke cigars. I realized that we just couldn’t please everybody. Overall though, almost everybody enjoyed the play. When the second performance ended, even the students who complained that it was too much work asked what play we were going to do next year because they wanted to be involved again!

Once the play was over, it was obvious that I still needed to deal with the situation at my store. After a concerted effort to fix the situation, I parted ways with the manager on April 1, 1999.

Next chapter: Now what was I going to do?! I need a new manager!
Pictures: Cassie performs as Annie again in “Annie” for Laconia Christian School

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