The Glendale College Foundation is selling immortality to pay for tennis courts.
Immortality comes in two sizes of dark brown tile. At the low end, $125 will buy a tile 4 inches high and 8 inches wide. The premium tile is 8-by-8 and costs $300.
Neither one may look quite as elegant as a headstone. The buyer's message, consisting of up to 64 letters, is glazed in black block letters on the tile's glossy face. The advantage it holds over a headstone is the owner's satisfaction in knowing that it will be seen every day by people who are having fun.
They'll be having that fun on the tennis courts that were completed by the college last year on the hill rising above campus. There are six courts. The college could afford only four. So the foundation, a private organization that raises money for the college, borrowed $250,000 to complete the plan. The tiles will service a large part of the debt.
As they're purchased, they'll be fixed with epoxy into the fascia of the championship grandstand, giving permanent recognition to those who helped.
There is space for 660 of the large tiles, proportionally more for the smaller ones. But sales have not been especially brisk in the first six months. By last week, 58 large tiles and 51 small ones had been sold.
Foundation Director Ann Ransford, who thought up the tile sale, first mailed solicitations to everyone in the same ZIP code area as the college. Then she tried June's graduating class. There wasn't much response. Now Ransford and several volunteers are going door-to-door, so to speak, in Glendale's financial district.
Last Wednesday, Ransford visited two banks on Brand Boulevard, taking along Dave Greenbaum, chairman of the foundation's tile committee. Greenbaum is a pro. He owns a San Gabriel Valley firm that sells flooring products.
They first called on Wes Nash, senior vice president and branch administrator for Valley National Bank. Nash received them in a modest conference room under the black-and-white gaze of two rows of founders and board members, among them baseball great Casey Stengel.
Greenbaum, who wore a yellow-and-gray argyle sweater, did most of the talking, addressing Nash on a personal level. They were old childhood friends and attended Glendale College at the same time.
He said he had met several friends in the lobby.
"Everybody banks here," he joked. "Anyway, Wes, I know you're busy."
"Do you have all your accounts here?" Nash inquired sharply. He had decided to resist.
"All my accounts?" Greenbaum said. He mumbled something evasive.
"But anyway, Wes, I know Glendale has given you a lot over the years and now we have a way for you to give a little bit back."
He explained about the courts, then made his pitch.
"Over the years, people have talked to you about buying a $100 raffle ticket, or going to a dinner for 150 bucks, and you do it and it's here today and gone tomorrow," he said. "For $125 for a 4-by-8 tile or $300 for an 8-by-8 tile, you can have something that is permanent. Your name and whatever message you have will be there forever."
He said sales are beginning to snowball.
"If I did this full time, it would be a very easy project to sell because I see this thing catching on."
"It's like flooring, is it, except it's on the wall?" Nash asked with a chuckle.
Nash said his company already contributes to the college and other worthwhile causes.
"How many projects are behind this one?" he asked.
Greenbaum was ready for that one.
"You're concerned that if you should buy a tile that I'll be hitting you up six months from now with something else. Is that what you're saying?" he asked. "Well, I'll tell you to your face, somebody may be hitting you up, but it won't be me. I'll assure you that."
Those were the magic words.
"If I can get the bank's name on it . . . and you guarantee me that he won't be back, I won't get Greenbaum, except to come back as a customer," he said, "I submit."
With one tough sale behind them, Ransford and Greenbaum walked up the street to Fidelity Federal Savings & Loan Assn. where Albert J. Clemens, senior vice president, was expecting them. Clemens led them to a spacious conference room with a wall of glass overlooking the city. They sat at one end of a 20-foot conference table.
Greenbaum began his pitch again.
"Now, you have, over the many years, been hit up for buying raffle tickets and the $150 dinner or the $300 dinner for you and your wife and these are good projects and good worthwhile charities but, as I said to Ann before, it's here today and gone tomorrow. This is a donation that is forever. It lasts forever."
Clemens soon cut in. He'd already made up his mind.
"I guess if I wanted to put my whole family's name down there, I'd have to go with the larger one?" he asked.
Greenbaum wasn't done.
"As I say, the nice part about it, Al," he went on, "is it's forever. It's like buying something that lasts for an eternity,"
Clemens tarried a few more minutes about tennis, banking and civic duty. Then he returned to his busy day.