The Thumbtack Bugle

San Francisco, 1976: You have dialed (415) 751-4022. A click, and one of those new answering machines begins speaking. It says …

“Hello! You have reached the lejurious office of the Thumbtack Bugle, high atop Third Avenue. Right now, we’re out on motorcycles, putting up posters all over town, but this machine would be as happy as a machine ever gets to take any short message you might care to leave. I’m now going to make a beeping sound by magic. Behold!”

And then a beeping sound. Another thrilling chapter of …

The Thumbtack Bugle — We distribute your posters to bulletin boards all over town!

When I was very young, perhaps 9, I was visiting at my grandparents farm, 8 miles north of Henrietta, Texas. Two-storied, white with a red roof, it stood atop a hill with a wreath of tall trees around it.

“Unless you toot your own horn, same horn shall not be tooteth!”

With my grandmother in her cool, shady kitchen, I chattered. The conversation must have related to taking credit for one’s accomplishments, because she said, “Unless you toot your own horn, same horn shall not be tooteth!”

Honest, those were the exact words she used. She didn’t talk like that all the time. She was making a joke. And, at the time, I thought it hilariously funny. I laughed and laughed. It was so funny that, here 50 years later, I can quote her words exactly.

So perhaps it was fated …

In the days when I’d started my first business, Simple Simon Bookkeeping, my first client was Phil Groves who had just set up his ice-cream shop, Raskin-Flakkers, in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco.

About a year later, I had several bookkeeping clients, and my daily hours (1-4pm Monday-Friday) had begun to seem busy! On many days, I actually got several calls!

This particular day, it was Phil Groves calling, and he’d got a motorcycle. He had therefore decided to start an advertising leaflet, a single printed page called the “Thumbtack Bugle”, containing short classified ads, and he would tack this leaflet on all the bulletin boards all around San Francisco.

Since I had regular telephone hours, he wanted to know if I could handle the telephone communications? We made some arrangement, and I was the marketing front-end for the Bugle.

He sold darn few classified ads. It took an eternity to put up all the flyers. Even carrying other folks posters along for ten dollars didn’t make it worth-while. Therefore he attempted to hire two half-wits to do the job. They lasted about two weeks, and the Bugle went into mothballs.

A year later, and one night I had a dream. In the dream, I’d been to Marin County, to look at an apartment, and was driving back across the Golden Gate bridge in an open, red convertible. The sun was glorious, the air clean, and in this dream I thought to myself, “Now that Paul (my younger brother back in Texas) has gone off to college, he’s not using his dirt-bike motorcycle any more. If I had him ship it, I could start up the Bugle again!”

I woke up, and began making my plans. I called Phil Groves and made a deal, then figured out how to change the rates, the route, and to focus on carrying posters for other folks.

I made a logo. It was a bugle on a cord, held up by a big thumbtack. From the bell of the bugle came the large word: “Toot!

With this logo at the top, I designed a new poster, a big one, that said “We distribute your posters to bulletin boards all across town.” While I was laying it out, a phone call interrupted.

It was a religious group, calling long-distance from Nevada City, California. They had a poster to go up. Was this the Thumbtack Bugle? Were we still in business?

“We are,” I said.

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3 Responses to The Thumbtack Bugle

  1. David Alger says:

    Great blog. I’m the current owner of the Bugle. Hope your life and days are enjoyable.

    -David Alger

    • bloggard says:

      Hey, David,

      Just checked out your website. Great!

      (It’s a long time since we did 112 boards for $18.45. But then I can also remember when I got a haircut for 25 cents, actually.)

      It’s funny to see text on your webpage that was originally written by me, and other text originally written by Bob Christoph (and probably some from Jack McDonough), and now to see your original text.

      Did you know that you are mentioned in the first two original Guerilla Marketing books? (Or it it *me* that’s mentioned in the those books?) Nope. I guess it’s the Bugle itself that’s described there.

      Feel free to call if you wish. My phone’s on the contact page. I’d love to hear how the Bugle came into your capable hands.

      — the Bloggard

  2. Carol says:

    what an interesting string of events….

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