How Hameroff got into advertising is a story of courage, persistence, and willingness to change. Born in Cleveland, Ohio to Russian immigrant parents, like his three brothers and his sister he’d begun working at an early age to bring in money for his family. One of his first jobs at 13 was with a circus, and he traveled with a number of circuses during his teens, absorbing the techniques of person to person sales, sometimes as a “barker.”
The “barker” had the soul of an artist. Since grammar school Hameroff had loved to draw and paint. As a student in Ohio State University he planned to be a fine arts major, but switched to business administration when he realized he had little taste for the life of a starving artist.
The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 bought Hameroff’s studies to a halt, and he joined the Army Air Corps. There his artistic ability was quickly recognized and he trained to camouflage aircraft and other military equipment. Before long, however, he was brought down by pneumonia, and eventually received a medical discharge. He worked again for a time in a circus until he could save enough money to return to his studies at Ohio State. He graduated in 1947, determined to become a success in advertising, a highly competitive profession. He’d been advised to learn the trade by getting a job with an established firm. “Getting a job” wasn’t easy. Hameroff was living in Columbus, Ohio where there were 41 agencies serving clients. He remembers knocking on the doors of all of them twice before Herbert Byer, of Byer and Bowman, took him on as an assistant account executive. Eight years later he decided he was ready to have a go at starting an agency of his own. He recalls with justifiable pride that when he left Byer and Byer he took none of the agency’s clients with him.
But it was a very tough transition. “To be honest,” he said, “the first years were very, very, lonely. I’d sit by the phone for days, with nobody calling.” He eventually began staying home every Tuesday to call prospective clients, finally landing accounts with four automobile agencies.
Gene and Terry (Zwelling) Hameroff’s two sons, Steven, a teacher and writer, and David, an attorney, live in Tucson, AZ. Gene was widowed in 1998, after an adventurous marriage of 53 years.
In the midst one of those “adventures,” in 1963, the agency was not doing well. Gene himself, he admitted, was “down mentally.”
Analyzing what seemed to make the difference in just about everything, he made a decision that would chart the future course of his life. He signed up to take Dale Carnegie classes in how to develop a winning attitude: “The Power of Positive Thinking.” A positive attitude is the trademark of Gene Hameroff’s life to this day.
Along with building a multimillion dollar advertising agency, the author taught classes periodically at Ohio State University, Franklin University, and Columbus Technical Institute. In 2000 he retired and moved to the community of SaddleBrooke, near Tucson, Arizona, where he could golf every day, pursue his lifelong passion for painting, and share an active life with friends.
Hameroff’s 2013 articles in the Saddlebrooke newspaper led not only to a popular book (this one), but also to a well articulated prototype for seniors who might never set a foot in the cactus country of Southern Arizona.