Satisfaction guaranteed at old insurance company

By Don McAlavy: Local Columnist

Back in 1979 I was asked to write up a history of an old insurance company. This company is not in business anymore, and what follows is not a history of that insurance company but some items that might prove interesting.

The newspaper in Portales ran a brief item on May 14, 1929, saying: “T. F. Blackburne has sold his insurance business to Roy Smith of Portales.”

The Blackburne insurance company was really in Clovis and the name “Roy Smith” didn’t suit C. Roy Smith. Since there was a Roy R. Smith Cleaners and to avoid any confusion, Roy Smith of Portales just added his first initial to his name — C. Roy Smith.

Now for the rest of the story:

“Sometimes an insurance agent’s job is very frustrating; other times it can be very gratifying to help a person in trouble,” said Sam Covington of Clovis. He had gone to work Feb. 15, 1954, for this abstract and insurance company at East Grand Avenue and Main Street.

Take the time that Sam had this unusual claim:

“ I was in the front of the office at the counter when an old man came in,” said Sam.

“What can I do for you?” Sam asked.

“Well, I got this here insurance policy. It says I’m covered for falling objects and broken glass,” the old man said.

“Well, that’s about what part of your coverage says,” Sam told him. “What are you claiming?”

“Well, my light bulb over my bathtub burned out. I got a chair and put it in the bathtub and climbed up and screwed out that burned-out bulb. It slipped out of my hand and dropped into the bathtub and broke. Well, don’t that make it a falling object and broken glass? I had to put in a new light bulb.”
Sam, very politely and kindly said, “Yes, you are right. How much did a new bulb cost you?”

“Twenty-five cents,” said the old gentleman.

Sam walked slowly over to the cash register and picked out a quarter and came back and handed it to the old gentleman. The old gentleman smiled, put the quarter in his overalls and left. That, said Sam, was the fastest insurance claim settlement his business ever had.

But the story that Neil Durham told about one of his insured customers tops them all. This person was reported to have explained an accident this way:

“The accident was not my fault. If that other guy had been driving down Mitchell instead of Main Street, we would not have collided.”

Born in Wellington, Texas, Neil came to Clovis in 1940, and started work in this insurance company in 1945.

Bill Kinyon, born in Stillwater, Okla., first came to Clovis in 1951. In about 1967 Bill came to work for this insurance company. Bill tells of how one idea he had backfired. He had read in a magazine that it was a good business idea to write a customer whose homeowner’s policy an insurance company had and ask him for his auto business — or vice-versa.

“I drafted a letter and sent out about 12 as test cases,” said Bill. “I had described how it was better to have both policies with the same agent and company. We got one response. This guy called me and said he thought that was a really good idea and that he was moving his homeowner’s policy he had with us to an insurance agency across town where he had his auto insured!”

This columnist had the pleasure of writing up the long history of this insurance company in 1979 as it was the company’s 50th anniversary. I regret to say that this insurance company no longer exists. (I learned later that the old gentleman with a broken glass claim, at that time —1950s— was my divorced father, H. H. McAlavy.)