Lifestyle

Once an employer, now looking for employment

A sign of the economic times ... at one time, Wayne Pullman provided jobs. Now, he
A sign of the economic times ... at one time, Wayne Pullman provided jobs. Now, he's looking for work. He drives with a 'Need Work' sign in his truck window.
— image credit: Ron Bates

At its peak, J. Wayne Pullman's Publishing Corporation of America, Inc. had 66 employees and published business, industrial and manufacturers directories in California. He founded the company at age 27 and guided it through the economic ups and downs of the 1960s, '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s. For seven years, he produced the San Juan County Fair Premium Book.

"It's better than fair: The job Wayne Pullman did pulling together this year's County Fair book," Ian Byington crowed on his San Juan Update in 1999. "Working with Christine Miller (the fair boss), over a hundred advertisers, and with David Norris doing a bunch of the layout ... looks good."

But Pullman said his company — which paid salaries with advertising revenue generated from the directories it produced — couldn't survive the economic downturn of this decade. In 2006, he and his wife, Ann, lost their Four Seasons Farm to foreclosure. Today, Pullman is looking for work (378-3714).

In these tough economic times, Pullman is the island everyman, his story a reminder that many of us are one step away from needing help:

At one time, a self-employed businessman who gave people jobs, supported local 4-H, contributed to the local agricultural economy, sold produce at the farmers market, and was quick to help a neighbor in need (he once drove to Oregon to pick up his buddy, Jim Fred Lehde, after Lehde's truck died en route to California).

Now, looking for work.

Indeed, an increasing number of islanders will be able to relate to Pullman's story: San Juan County's jobless rate was 7.9 percent in January, slightly higher than the statewide rate of 7.8 percent. That translates to 670 islanders out of a job. And the Friday Harbor Food Bank has been serving more than 100 people a week since June. Before that, "we were lucky if we hit 40 a week," Food Bank president Dorothy Lawson said.

Despite his own economic downturn, Pullman hasn't lost his sense of humor. "Do you know what the difference is between a recession and a depression," he asked. "A recession is when a neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours."

And he's willing to take on any kind of work. Pullman will start taking caregiving classes next month, with the goal of providing in-home care. In the meantime, "I'll just about take anything — yard work — I'll take anything. It's amazing the things I can do that I can't think of."

Pullman is multi-talented. While his wife tended their 55-tree orchard, Pullman raised chickens, pigeons and rabbits; he sold eggs, and rabbit and squab meat at the farmers market.

"I'm real good with animals and I'm good with people. I'm a people person," he said.

Pullman is also good with dogs. He is devoted to his red heeler and black lab. "You know Bill Gates? He doesn't have enough money to buy my two dogs," he said.

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