The evolution of the National Black Chamber of Commerce – Part 6

Beyond the Rhetoric

Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow ow oped | 8/1/2019, midnight

Harry C. Alford

Here we were – racked up with broken bones in the Las Vegas Sunrise Hospital. Word traveled fast as we were bombarded with phone calls from well wishers from all over the nation. Kay’s brother Chuck was sent out by her father to look after us. My cousin, Michael Crawley, drove up from Los Angeles to do the same. Pretty soon the “MGM Fire Couple” was in the press from coast to coast. We did a phone interview with the Detroit Free Press and the Los Angeles Times and those stories were replicated in papers for the following month.

Everyone was so nice. I called Avis about the car rental and they said don’t worry about a thing. “We will find it and bring it back to LAX. There will be no charge to you.” On our return flight back to Detroit, United retrofitted the first-class section of the plane so that Kay could lay on a gurney - next to my seat. There was no cost!

Prior to going to Las Vegas, I convinced Kay to resign from her job at Colgate-Palmolive. It was time for us to start planning on becoming entrepreneurs. Johnson & Johnson would soon have a surprise for us. It was getting out of the baby diaper business. Those employees who elected to assist in the selling of existing inventory would receive a nice severance package. I chose that option. We weren’t quite ready for me to start our entrepreneurial endeavors.

While helping J&J in shutting down the diaper operation, I began shopping for new employment. My choice would be the Hanes Hosiery division of the Sara Lee Corporation. They were transitioning from using sales brokers to a direct selling force. My initial duty would be to construct a sales district headquartered in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We thought that to be exciting and accepted their offer. Thus, we moved to the Twin Cities.

My sales district would encompass Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. I would have eight sales representatives under my management. Kay would be at home on the mend. My new job gave me a lot of free time to look after Kay as she slowly recuperated.

We asked our attorneys in Detroit to help us find a new doctor in Minneapolis for Kay’s back. We chose one from the internet and asked them to do due diligence on the guy. They informed us that we had just chosen the 2nd best back surgeon in the world. What luck! The doctor informed us that our doctors in Detroit “Had it all wrong”. Kay needed “fusion” back surgery. This would ensure a healthy future. It also meant six months of limited activity.

There was just one big problem. The fusion surgery would cost about $20,000 and it was considered a pre-existing condition. Therefore, Aetna Insurance would not cover the cost. The Sara Lee corporation had a great answer to that. The class action lawsuit from the MGM Fire was in the works. When that got settled, I could reimburse Sara Lee for the cost of the operation. They were so nice! It all worked out.