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In the '90s, two companies were using the same motto. They arm wrestled to see who got to keep it.

In 1992, Southwest Airlines and Stevens Aviation fought a battle over which company should be allowed to keep using their nearly identical punny slogans.

In October of 1990, Southwest Airlines unveiled a new slogan: "Just Plane Smart."

Southwest Airlines was founded in 1967 by Rollin King, an investment consultant, and Herb Kelleher, an attorney. Kelleher served as the company's CEO from 1981 until 2001 and oversaw many different initiatives during his tenure.


One of those initiatives was a marketing campaign around a new motto: "Just Plane Smart." Southwest proudly unveiled the punny new slogan in October of 1990, and it seemed to go over well.

A recent picture of Southwest planes. Image by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

Most people seemed to like it. But there was one notable exception: a guy named Kurt Herwald.

Herwald was the CEO of Stevens Aviation, a (much smaller) company that sells and services small aircraft.

Stevens Aviation, it turned out, had a slogan of their own, the very similar and also punny “Plane Smart." And Stevens had been using it in their ads for years prior and may have had it trademarked.

In late-1991 or early-1992, Herwald noticed that Southwest was using very similar words, and out came the muscle. But in this case, the "muscle" wasn't the Stevens Aviation legal team. It was the forearms of Kurt Herwald.

Herwald sent a unique cease-and-desist letter to Southwest ... challenging their chairman to an arm wrestling match.

The letter, sent to Kelleher's attention, is reprinted below ( via Inc.):

Dear Mr. Kelleher:

We LOVE your new ads that use the clever, creative, effective "Plane Smart" theme! We can testify to its effectiveness since we've been using it in our own ads for a long time. In the true fun-loving spirit on which Southwest Airlines was founded, we challenge you to a duel to see who gets to keep "Plane Smart" — big ol' Southwest or little bitty Stevens. (Please — no lawyers!) We trust that you accept this challenge in the spirit intended. ... No litigiousness implied at all. We challenge you to a sleeves-up, best-two-out-of-three arm wrestling match between you and our chairman, at high noon on Monday, January 27, 1992...

Respectfully,
Stephen D. Townes
Executive Vice President
Stevens Aviation

P.S. Our chairman is a burly 38-year-old former weight lifter who can bench press a King Air — or something like that...








If that sounds like a ridiculous thing to ask of a major, publicly traded company CEO, well, that's because it is.

But Stevens was right — Southwest has a longstanding tradition of being somewhat ridiculous. (For example, the company's stock symbol is LUV, a reference to "love," of course, but also to Love Field in Dallas, where Southwest Airlines hoped to operate from originally.)

Not only did Southwest reply, but CEO Kelleher did so personally, with style.

Dear Mr. Townes:

Our chairman can bench press a quart of Wild Turkey and five packs of cigarettes a day. He is also a fearsome competitor who resorts to kicking, biting, gouging, scratching, and hair pulling in order to win. When really pressed, he has also been known to beg, plead, whine, and sob piteously. Can your pusillanimous little wimp of a chairman stand up against the martial valor of our giant?

Best regards,
Herbert D. Kelleher




And shortly thereafter, Stevens and Southwest scheduled an arm wrestling match, dubbed the "Malice in Dallas."

Best two out of three, winner gets to use the name and makes a charitable donation as part of the deal.

And, while this was probably not in the contract, the two sides agreed to have a whole lot of fun in the process.

They hired an official/emcee who wore a massive wig, symbolic of fight promoter Don King; they rented out a Dallas-area wrestling facility; and, even though this was in the age before YouTube, they filmed faux pre-fight "training" videos of each of the competitors. And, thankfully for those of us in the YouTube era, they also filmed the match.

Kelleher (left) and Herwald (right) face off. Image via Southwest Airlines Archive (Unofficial).

Here's round three, below. Herwald is the one in the maroon polo shirt. Kelleher is the guy in the headband and T-shirt with cigarette in his mouth, playing to the cameras.

In the video below, the arm wrestling match ends within the first couple of minutes, but it's worth watching until the end because some weird stuff happens (like, an impromptu wrestling match breaks out):

Stevens Aviation's CEO won the match and with it earned the exclusive right to use the "Plane Smart" slogan.

After the match, he immediately announced (as was clearly preplanned, given the novelty check that soon followed) that Stevens was going to continue to allow Southwest to use the motto in exchange for a $5,000 donation to Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.

Kelleher presents the check made out to Ronald McDonald House. Image via Southwest Airlines Archive (Unofficial).

Both Stevens and Southwest got a nice PR bump out of the creative way to avoid litigation (and associated legal fees), and for Stevens in particular, it likely led to rewards.

As Priceonomics notes, "Stevens Aviation, previously a peon in its industry, rose to prominence: It experienced a 25% growth over the next four years, during which its revenues rocketed from $28 million to over $100 million."

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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