The mail had just been placed on his desk. C. W. Coleman nodded his thanks and absently sorted through the delivery ”then seized a particular business letter and rose to his feet. He held the envelope up to the light and then headed downstairs to the sales floor.
Coleman found Mil Batten writing up the ticket after selling a suit.
"Yes, Mr. Coleman?"
"New York," said Coleman, indicating the envelope.
"New York?" repeated Batten with the most tentative of smiles as the manager handed him the letter.
"Mind if I wait?"
"No, of course not," said Batten. He
J. C. Penney Company
330 West 34th Street
New York 1, NY
And the typed addressee and simply worded destination:
Mr. William M. Batten
C/O C. W. Coleman, Manager
J. C. Penney Company
Parkersburg, West Virginia
He took a
Finally, perhaps, Mil Batten was getting on track. As he unfolded the stationery he thought of the irony. Named Most Likely to Succeed in his high school yearbook, Batten had been spinning in circles since he dropped out of graduate school two
Returning to Parkersburg, his home town, Batten's anxiety would not diminish until the arrival of the New York letter. Not that he couldn't find work. Unlike millions of men at the time, he was consistently employed and earned good enough money. "The problem," he said, "was that I was treading water. The jobs were either morally compromised or led nowhere. And I was in love and wanted to get married, which was out of the question until I could
So he finally made a very unlikely move.
One day Mil Batten
What he had not learned about the J. C. Penney Company from C. W. Coleman and from reading in Coleman's library of Penney materials, he had learned at (of all places) the University of Chicago. Bored with reexposure to economics and other subjects he already knew, he once spent a week in the business library
Batten decided that he was willing to work long hours for low wages in Parkersburg ”if, once under the company's wing, he would be free to look for career opportunities lying elsewhere in the Penney world. Coleman not only agreed; he immediately got a letter off to John Keys, a personnel executive in the New York Office. Announcing to Keys that he had reemployed Batten, Coleman then praised his work
But Mil Batten is destined for greater things than we can offer him here in Parkersburg. In other words, John, here is a talent for the Company to cultivate. So I say with confidence: put this man in a big store under a progressive manager and watch him go.
Break number one.
John Keys turned out to be Batten's second break. The personnel man prided himself on being a talent scout; he also had unusual patience and a sense of humor. Batten was sent on interviews with managers of two prominent Ohio stores, both of whom offered him
Even a big operation like the Penney Company with its then 1,500 stores could offer precious few management-trainee jobs during the Depression. Batten
He looked up at Coleman with a smile. "It's good news." Keys had written:
Dear Mr. Batten,
I believe that we have finally found a store and manager that will meet with your approval .
This was the large downtown store in Lansing, the capital of Michigan, that was managed by the