Mirror employee devotes 52 years to business

If you ever purchased a copy of the Altoona Mirror at the Logan Valley Mall, chances are Jim Campbell was responsible for getting it there.

Campbell, a single copy sales and customer service representative in the circulation department, has had a lot of responsibilities at the Mirror, but they ended Friday. It was the day he retired after being in the business for 52 years.

At age 75, Campbell is believed to be one of the longest tenured employees in Mirror history.

“I feel like I have known him forever,” said Dan Slep, circulation manager, who recalled being a youth when he first met Campbell. At the time, Slep’s family owned the newspaper, and he would sometimes accompany his father or grandfather to the office.

“Jim is a joy to be around,” Slep said. “You give him a job, and he does it. He is dedicated. He is always here. You can count on Jim.”

Slep said Campbell’s personality made him a valuable employee.

“He represents the Mirror well,” he said. “He has so many friends out there that are customers. He will be missed, not only inside the Mirror, but outside the Mirror.”

Campbell has worked in the circulation department for the past 12 years, but through the years he worked in two other areas.

His favorite job was selling ads.

“I did advertising for 30 years,” Campbell said. “I sold back page and display advertising. I had customers downtown when it was thriving.”

His accounts were the smaller stores, such as Nick’s Men’s Shop and Endicott-Johnson Shoes. He later sold ads in Hollidaysburg where Lasser’s Shoes and Rhodes Gift House were among his customers.

“I had quite a few customers. Enough to keep me busy,” he said.

The job was challenging and stressful at times, especially if sales dipped and he had to face the advertising manager.

“One time I made up a full page ad for a customer, and then he told me he didn’t want to run it,” Campbell said. “I had to go through [advertising manager] Mr. [Richard] Beeler to cancel the ad. It was a little stressful to say the least. [The ad] was worth a pretty good sum of money.”

Campbell said during his three decades in advertising, he worked with a lot of different managers who often stepped up the pace and goals for the department. But no matter what the demands, he accepted the challenges.

As a matter of fact, he had to overcome an obstacle to get a job in the advertising department in the first place.

Campbell quit high school in 1954 (after finishing his sophomore year) to join the Navy where he served with an anti-submarine squadron.

His parents had divorced, and it was his way of providing financial support for his mother and younger sister and brother.

But Beeler would not accept him as an advertising salesman without a high school diploma.

“I took the GED test, and I passed it,” said Campbell, who didn’t even brush up on his academics before taking the exam.

The best part of selling ads was “working with people the customers and the company co-workers,” he said, flashing that smile he seems to have for everyone.

He also enjoyed getting out of the office every day.

Actually, all of Campbell’s jobs at the Mirror allowed him to get out of the office – whether he wanted to or not.

Excluding the few boyhood years when he was a carrier, Campbell started at the newspaper as a bill collector in 1960.

It was a responsibility he shared with his uncle, Jim Carles, who originally told Campbell about the opening. They started their day at the Green Avenue office, but spent most of it collecting advertising payments from downtown merchants.

“We only had one company car in that department. Uncle Jim had it one day, I got it the next. One day when it was my turn to walk, it was 15 degrees below zero,” Campbell said.

Times changed, the Mirror moved out of the downtown area, and Campbell had a company vehicle to fulfill his duties in the circulation department.

One of his duties was picking up unsold copies of the Mirror at stores downtown and throughout the Altoona area, in addition to a weekly trip to Williamsburg, Alexandria and Huntingdon, where he picked up unsold newspapers and collected money from vending machines.

Each morning, he also visited the Logan Valley Mall, where he distributed the Mirror at the Street Corner News and stocked five vending machines. Maintaining the vending machines in downtown Altoona was another one of his roles.

“He’s a jack of all trades,” said Mike Berndt, single copy manager and Campbell’s supervisor.

“He does everything from servicing vending machines to dropping off special publications, like Alleghenies Adventure. He picks up returns, drops off papers if a store is short and deals with the stores.

“He’s real easy-going and always willing to help. He may plan to do one thing and I will change it around, and he will say, ‘OK.'”

Campbell said he and Diane, his wife of 48 years, have no set retirement plans. They have two daughters, Lori of Tipton and Kimberly Anne (A.J.) Delerme of Duncansville along with five grandchildren.

They may spend time with family or visit his sister Carol Jane Hantula in Los Angeles or his brother Ed in Boston.

As far as why he stayed at the Mirror for about 10 years beyond the average retirement age, Campbell said, “The people are all so likeable. I found a home.”