January 2002

Joe Radder -
60 Years and Millions of Words Later

by John BINDER

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Recalling his childhood, Joe Radder said, “I could always make my own fun. A chair turned on its side became an airplane cockpit, a card table set up on four chairs would be a Hall bakery wagon and our sunroom on Coolidge Drive in Snyder was a trolley car.” He still loves street cars and is past chairman of the Citizens Regional Transit Corporation and chairman of its Vintage Trolley committee.

After the crash of 1929, Joe’s parents had to scratch to make ends meet. “My Mother had to work in my Dad’s pharmacy. So, instead of going home after school like the other kids, I had to jump on a bus and go in to the drug store.” Recalling those days he said, “Actually that experience would serve me well in later years because I got to play with city kids of various ethnic groups. That couldn’t have happened in the suburbs.”

“I was having too much fun in high school to be a good student,” he said. “But the years I spent at Amherst Central High School, the teachers there and the friends I made were to be of lasting value. I especially remember teachers like Elsie Walker Waldow who convinced me that I had some talent for writing.”

After graduating from Amherst, he went to work as a trouble shooter for National Outdoor Advertising. Simultaneously he was taking evening courses at U.B.’s Millard Fillmore College.

“The sign company job was a scary one,” he said. “I had to clamber up on steel frames, sometimes five or six stories in the air, to replace a burned-out bulb or remove a broken piece of neon tubing. I soon got used to it,” he said, “but I never really got to like the job, especially in the middle of winter.”

And so, every Saturday morning, Joe Radder would tour the advertising agencies and department stores, toting some hypothetical ads he had written, to try to better his lot in life. Finally he was hired to write copy for the Wm. Hengerer Co. “To a depression kid like me,” he remembers, “the 22 bucks a week salary seemed like a lot of money.”

Six months after Joe Radder’s 21st birthday the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Soon he was in an Army uniform taking basic infantry training. Luckily, he escaped the infantry and was assigned to the 7th Armored Division. “We might as well have been in the infantry,” he said. “They worked us up to 25 mile hikes with full field pack. Today I’m lucky to be able to walk my daily mile.”

After desert training in California, field maneuvers in Georgia and an Army Administration course at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), Joe went overseas with the 7th Armored in 1944. The division trained for a couple more months in England, then they went across France with Patton’s Third Army. For the Battle for the Bulge, Joe’s outfit was transferred to Hodges’ First Army. That would be home for the 7th until the Americans met the Russians and “we all celebrated VE Day”.

Home again in 1945, Joe rejoined his wife of two years, the former Marguerite Scudder, and their baby, Joel. Today Joel is general manager of Village Import Auto Sales in Williamsville. Their youngest son, Jon, is in charge of customer support services for PaperClip, a software company in New Jersey. There are five grandchildren...D.J., who is in film production in California, Aaron, a musician in Pennsylvania, Nicole, who teaches in Virginia, Alysia, a senior at SUNY Plattsburgh and Matthew who is in the fifth grade at the Meeting House Hill School in Connecticut.

After the war, Joe Radder planned to go back to work at Hengerer’s, but a better opportunity presented itself at an advertising agency called Baldwin, Bowers and Strachan. There he became a radio writer, writing program scripts as well as commercials for Iroquois Beer, Sattler’s, Kenmore Motors and the Lincoln-Mercury dealers. Later he would help the agency pioneer TV writing and production for clients like Trico and Milk for Health.

In 1957, BB&S was purchased by the Rumrill Company and they made Joe creative director for print as well as broadcast media. At Rumrill he worked on the Dunlop Tire, Keebler Biscuit and Graphic Controls accounts.

In 1962, Joe left Rumrill to join Comstock & Company as creative director. There he would produce award-winning campaigns for M&T Bank, Carborundum, Fisher-Price Toys and Pratt & Lambert Paints. In the early ‘70s he and three other Comstock executives bought a minority interest in the firm. In 1974, they bought out the company’s founder and Joe became executive VP and later president and CEO. Under his direction, the agency grew to be one of Buffalo’s largest, serving clients like McDonald’s restaurants, Columbus-McKinnon and the Erie County Savings Bank.

In 1980, Joe Radder and his partners sold the agency to Healy-Schutte, Inc., and after two-years, Joe retired to spend as much time as possible with his wife, who was dying of cancer. They purchased a condo in Florida, and even there Joe worked part-time, writing a weekly restaurant review which appeared in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, called “Dining Out with Josef”.

When Marguerite died in 1982, Joe returned to Buffalo. “I knew I had to go back to work,” he said, “and my best opportunities were in Buffalo where people knew me.”

In 1983 he opened his own small advertising agency. Joseph H. Radder Marketing, and operated it for eleven years. His clients included the John Bunn Company, the Xorbox Corporation, Keyser Cadillac, Horizon Human Services, Skill Buick, the Pharmacists Association of Western New York and several of its member pharmacies. He still produces a quarterly newsletter and weekly ads for Snyder Pharmacy.

Since retiring a second time in 1994, Joe has been working as a freelance writer for several publications including Living Prime Time. “I like the work for Living Prime Time best,” he said, “because I get to meet so many great people when I’m doing the research for the biographical pieces assigned to me.”

Joe Radder has also written a full-length novel, and is currently working to get it published.

Plans for the future? At age 81, Joe Radder says, “As long as my pacemaker keeps on ticking I plan to keep on working, at least until the Good Lord finds some work for me to do up there.”

Sixty years, a quadruple by-pass and millions of words later, Joe Radder is still going strong.

John Binder is a freelance writer.


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