Emma Hays, 68, lives in Hammond. She has operated her own business out of her home for decades. She was riased in East Chicago, one of 15 children. Here she is shown with a painting done by her brother. It depicts her childhood. | Supplied Photo
Updated: July 13, 2013 6:07AM
“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
— Maya Angelou
Emma Hays lives a few blocks west of Hammond High School. She is a widow who has raised one son.
Hays, 68, graduated from Bishop Noll Institute. She enjoys paper tole, Tai Chi, yoga, dance and is the founder of Lakeside Advertising Specialties, Inc.
“I was one of 15 children,” Hays began. “I had seven siblings older than me and seven younger.”
You were raised in East Chicago.
“Yes, it was the best place in the world to grow up. We had all kinds of people from the South on our block on Olcott Avenue. There was a little Nazarene Church across the street from us. My grandma went to that church on occasion. That was our show on Saturday night. It’s kind of disrespectful, but we would all sit on the front porch and watch those folks. They were very entertaining. They were happy and clapping. They’d walk into the church clean and come out disheveled and sweaty.”
What is your maiden name?
“Gutierrez. My mother was born in Copper Hill, Tenn. She married my father from Mexico. She was only 15 when they got married. My father couldn’t speak English and my mother couldn’t speak Spanish.”
Well, being as you’re one of 15 kids, I guess mama and papa managed to communicate in one way or another.
“Being right in the middle, I was the baby of the first seven. They all moved out within a three-month period. So, I became the oldest of the seven younger siblings. My mother worked. I kind of raised the kids from age 12. I cooked, cleaned. ... On a Saturday, I can remember washing clothes for 12 hours on a wringer washer. I hung them outside. We didn’t have a washer and dryer.
“We had a coal stove until 1954. See this painting? That’s my mother. My brother Carl drew that. I had a little bitty couch on this side of the room. I’d watch Mama rock the babies at night. That’s the coal stove. Daddy would get that stove beat red.”
Other childhood memories?
“We used to play ‘release.’ We’d have 10 or 15 people on each side. There was a circle and 15 kids would run and hide all over the neighborhood — behind trees, on top of buildings. ... The other 15 people would chase you. Once they tagged you, you had to stand in the circle. But your teammates could sneak inside the circle and release you.”
And you were probably all skinny as rails. A lot of kids don’t get that kind of exercise nowadays. I’m sounding like an old man, but it’s the truth.
“I can remember one overweight girl, but I think that was probably a glandular thing.”
You married a man originally from Oklahoma.
“Yes, we worked in the same office for Champion Rivet Co. Beryl died in 2004.”
“Like me, Richard graduated from Bishop Noll, and then the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He was the prototype for the first Hispanic G.I. Joe. He was the only Hispanic kid working for Hasbro at the time; they used his face for the model.”
You’re a cancer survivor.
“Yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 36. I’m still here. You’d think by now, they’d find out why so many women get breast cancer. I never smoked a day in my life.”
Tell me about your business.
“I started my own business because I was doing so well at my other job at an advertising company.”
“My boss had to pay me a very high commission because I had like a $2,000 sale. Instead of being grateful, he threw my commission check at me. It landed on the floor. My dad and my husband told me to go into business for myself. And that’s just what I did.”
Good for you.
“Every customer I had stayed with me. My boss sent his wife over here begging for me to come back to work for him. That was in 1981. When I quit my other job, I already had seven sales and didn’t even have a name for my company. I am what I am because of my customers. Great people — very loyal.”
What exactly is your
“It’s an ad specialty company. I’ve had a number of artists work for me over the years. If you need a logo, my artist can make it up for you. Right now, I’m using Marty Lakotos for an artist. In the past, I’ve used my tango partner, Charlie Capek. He’s known across the nation.”
Some of your clients through the years?
“Inland Steel Co., LTV, Bethlehem ... The mills, they stopped doing business with me when Mr. Mittel bought all the companies. There was somebody in his organization who sold ad specialities. Right now, I’m working for Local 1010 and Joblink in East Chicago. I do a lot of things for school teachers and the local credit unions.
“I don’t sell printed ads. I sell T-shirts with logos on them. Pens, pencils and coffee mugs, too. Jackets and hats are popular items.”
Tell me more.
“Cincinnati Line is one of the companies we’ve used for years. They make the jackets and hats right here in this country. I only deal in American-made products. The union shop we use is called Team Louie out of Kansas. We buy pencils from a place called Cameo Line which also is a union shop. The coffee mugs we get from a place called Visions, which is a union shop.”