My Twelve-Year Fling with the Wall Street Journal

October 18, 2023 at 6:55 p.m.
This cartoon by Pat's son, with its scary bear and bull, perfectly illustrates Pat's Wall Street themed piece
This cartoon by Pat's son, with its scary bear and bull, perfectly illustrates Pat's Wall Street themed piece Pat D'Amico

The recent hype about the Barbie and Ken movie took me back to my fling with The Wall Street Journal. In the late 1980s, my son was finishing up his business degree at Seattle University and was required to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal.  I had always been an avid newspaper reader and I had a tiny stock portfolio, so this was right up my alley. I spotted a cartoon and a couple of light verses in a spot on the editorial page that was always five inches across but varied vertically depending on how many verses were used. It was called “Pepper…and Salt.”

I decided I had nothing to lose so I typed (using a manual typewriter) four of my own verses on four separate pages, added a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) and sent it off to the editorial page editor. In about three weeks, the SASE came back. Inside, were three poems that had been rejected but it also contained a small strip of paper that looked like it came from an office machine. Printed on it was the name of my poem about Barbie and Ken and the number 10. Nothing more. I rejoiced in the hope that they had accepted it. I also hoped the 10 meant that I might be paid.
As one might imagine, I ripped open the paper every weekday morning, checked “Pepper…and Salt“ and dreamed of seeing my poem printed there.

I did a little happy dance when a check for $10 arrived in April of 1988. When the poem finally appeared the following September, I cut the five-by-five-inch square out of the paper, hurried down to Bartell drug store, put ten cents in the copy machine and generated a copy of the poem—along with the cartoon and another poem—to mail to my mom in Bellingham.

I kept sending and they kept buying for the next twelve years. They published 184 poems in all and sent me a check for $10 each time. In 2000, on one sad day, I received a letter in the mail telling me that they would no longer publish light verse. They had purchased and paid for 30 more poems, and they kindly returned the rights to me. Here is the first published poem (Doll of No Recall), one about bulls and bears, and the one I felt compelled to send to the editor sometime in 2001:


Oh, Barbie and Ken, I knew you when
You appeared in the social scheme.
Even in those days, your yuppy ways
Were every little girl’s dream.
More is the pity, you got broken and gritty
So somehow or other we parted.
Your worth is respectable, now you’re collectible,
Leaving me broken hearted.

When I was just a child and confronted by my fears,
The things I thought would get me had fangs and pointed ears.
Nothing much has changed—my periodic scares
Are still from hostile animals only now they’re bulls and bears.


Dear Wall Street Journal, may I have a word?
I’m a reader, a writer and a seasoned old bird.
I remember the days when “Pepper…and Salt”
Had relevant rhymes, then some grinch called a halt.

They were killed, they were axed, a fait accompli
With hardly a word or a eulogy
They saved the cartoons, but some hired whacker
Chopped them down to the size of a cracker.

The poems carried truth and the poems carried thought.
The poems made us laugh at ourselves and our lot.
You could put them all back. Call for poets again.
We’re waiting right here at the end of a pen.

Bean counters won’t care. Your profits won’t drop.
We only got paid ten dollars a pop.
The power of mirth is immense and eternal
So please put some back in the Wall Street Journal.

This photo of Pat D’Amico, longtime contributor to Northwest Prime Time, was taken the day of her 70th high school reunion. “I kept my mom’s house in Bellingham and the renters are wonderful. My daughter snapped the picture while I was looking around with great pleasure,” says Pat.


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