Doing Business Houston-Style In the 1970s

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Ah, the `70s in Houston. A time when men were men, oil companies had balls, and political correctness was some distant dream (or nightmare).

It was a time built for men like Edward Mike Davis and the Tiger Oil Company.

A stack of memos written -- we guess we should say "purportedly written" -- by Davis to his employees has been making the e-mail rounds of energy-industry types, and they provide a hilarious look into Houston way back when.

Click on through as we take you on a guided tour of one man's descent into, as it turns out, Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In the first memo, we meet Davis as the kindly boss he is, gently reminding employees of Tiger Oil's domestic business that the workings of Tiger Oil's international business are, perhaps, not in their bailiwick. Or, as he puts it, "What the employees of Tiger Oil International Inc. do is none of your damned business!"

Also note the P.S.: "On days you have to work, and you think you should be off, you wear slouchy dress attire. That will not occur in the future."

The second memo: Use the typewriter, dammit!

Next: Stay out of the kitchen! (Bonus nostalgia points for Houstonians who remember Jamail's.)

"I swear, but since I am the owner of this company, that is my privilege...There will be absolutely no swearing, by ANY employee, male or female, in this office, ever."

The next one is long, but the highlights include:

"We do not pay starvation wages, and there are some people left in this world who want to work. I am not fond of hippies, long-hairs, dope fiends or alcoholics."

"Anyone who lets their hair grow below their ears to where I can't see their ears means they don't wash. If they don't wash, they stink, and if they stink, I don't want the son-of-a-bitch around me."

"There is one thing that differentiates me from my employees. I am a known son-of-a-bitch, and I care to remain that way."

January 13, 1978: A new policy. "Do not speak to me when you see me. If I want to speak to you, I will do so. I want to save my throat. I don't want to ruin it by saying hello to all you sons-of-bitches."

February 22, 1978: A new policy, revised. "Any supervisor who has anything to say to me, day or night, the fastest way he can say it to me is too slow. The terms about not talking to me meant I do not have time to stop and talk to everyone -- saying hello, goodbye, goodnight, etc. -- that is what I was talking about. If you have business with me, the fastest way is too slow -- day or night."

Levity outlawed: "There will be no more birthday celebrations, birthday cakes, levity, or celebrations of any kind within the office...If you have to celebrate, do it after hours on your own time."

Charity begins at home: "I do not appreciate people coming into my office and helping themselves to my candy, cigarettes, medicine and other personal items...I don't mind giving, but I would like the privilege of knowing it and giving myself."

No feet on the furniture: "I am paying you to work -- not slouch in your chair with your feet up on a desk or table."

The horror of dirty rugs: "[I]f people cannot carry their coffee without spilling it on my rugs, we will do away with the coffee pots entirely just as we did away with the food." (So much for Jamail's.)

And, finally, some anti-cancer crusading: "I suggest you people buy enough cigarettes to keep here for yourselves to smoke because, by God, you will not go and buy them on my time."

A little over two years after that memo, Tiger Oil filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Must have been all those long-haired, stinky, cursing, coffee-spilling, cigarette-buying, hello-saying employees.

-- Richard Connelly

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