I’ve had people point out factual errors and omissions on this site before, usually in a good-natured effort to contribute to the research I share freely with the world as a hobby. Once in a great while, some of the corrections are a little snarky or a little demanding. I cope.
But I’ve never before had someone threaten litigation against me because they objected to a sentence I wrote about a chain that ceased to exist several decades ago. Until this weekend, that is. Yes, it’s true. Someone actually threatened to file suit against me because of a perceived slight to his family name in my feature on Fresno chain grocers. It would be funny if it weren’t such a sad commentary on our culture.
By way of background, I do much of the research for my Places sections using city directories, which are almost universally more accurate and comprehensive than telephone directories. Per these listings, one of the smaller regional chains that served Fresno during the 1940s through 1960s saw an absolute drop in its store count within Fresno between 1940 and 1951 (there was a slight increase in 1944), and I noted this by saying the chain had “remained fairly stable with some relocations, but relatively little growth in numbers of stores.”
A descendent of the chain’s founding family emailed me Saturday, insisting that I remove the phrase and informing me that his family not only started “the first grocery chain west of the Mississippi” but that they had also owned thirty stores from Reedley to Bakersfield. I’m extremely skeptical about the former claim, but I don’t dispute the latter. The fact remains, though, that city directories show this chain had one less Fresno store in 1951 than it did in 1940. The number of stores the chain may have had in Reedley (or anywhere other than Fresno) is irrelevant.
You’d think I had denounced the chains’ founders as scalawags and scoundrels rather than reporting some largely inconsequential, documented information.
The individual who emailed me did point out one factual error about a subsequent chain, also managed by his family, which I corrected. In the interest of clarity, I also edited the page to mention specifically that my store counts were culled from city directories. I would have done this even if he hadn’t resorted to the pathetic (and rather silly) tactic of threatening a frivolous lawsuit that any judge would have laughed out of the courtroom.
My point here is not to discuss the history of this particular chain, but to comment on what a sad and depressing commentary this is on our society. This website is a hobby for me. It’s what I do for fun. I don’t make any profit here; any revenue from the ads is used for hosting the site and for research.
The fact that someone would threaten me in such a manner saddens me and angers me. What the hell is wrong with people like this that makes them believe that their only recourse when something upsets them is to threaten frivolous litigation? What gives these folks the idea that people will only listen to them if they scream “lawsuit” loudly enough? I don’t need this sort of aggravation; this is supposed to be fun.
I really feel sorry for this guy. It’s sort of pitiful when you think about it.
Full text of the message I received:
Subject: Groceteria: Lawsuit (Justesen’s)
Date: April 19, 2008 11:54:01 AM EDT
You made this statement below on your website
Justesen’s and Black’s remained fairly stable with some relocations, but realtively little growth in numbers of stores.
This is my great grandfather, grandfather and my dad’s grocery chain (Justesen’s)
First of all, it is the first grocery chain west of the Mississippi pal!!!
Anton, Chris, Tony, Buddy were all presidents of the Grocery Association (then CGA.
We owned (my family), 30 grocery stores from Reedley California to Bakersrfield, CA>
If you are going to mention Joe Alberston and Tony Justesen in the same article.
You better do your research.
I insist you take the phrase downn about Justesen’s.
Consider this a ceast and desist order.
Oh and by the way, the president of Food Banks in California was Anton Justesen and his son was the president of the major Grocery Trucking Association ever.
Do your homework before you diss my family’s name out there.
If I do not hear from you within 10 days….
I will be forced to file suit.
But if you really are interested in the grocery business from a chain perspective, your whole 1940 statement is incorrect.
Think about it.and I quote from you:
However, Black’s would not last until the 1960s, nor would Justesen’s. The larger stores of each chain would eventually become part of a new chain, Food Bank, which made its first appearance in the early 1950s.
And my response:
In the interest of accuracy, I have clarified the statement you mentioned on the Fresno page of Groceteria.com to state that my comment on the number of Black’s and Justesen’s locations in Fresno is based on listings in the Fresno city directories of the period, which show the following numbers:
Number of Justesen’s stores in Fresno in 1940: 5
Number of Justesen’s stores in Fresno in 1951: 4
Number of Black’s stores in Fresno in 1940: 6
Number of Black’s stores in Fresno in 1951: 4
In addition, I have noted that the Food Bank chain was also connected with the Justesen family.
You may view the revised page here:
Thank you for pointing out the error about Food Bank and the need for clarification on the earlier point. I appreciate notification of any factual errors or omissions for which you can offer documented proof.
I maintain this website as a means of sharing my hobby with the world. It is free, I do not make a profit from it, and I do not charge people for enjoying and using my work, which I complete with my own limited funds for my own amusement. I offer the site freely, with no warranties expressed nor implied. I am not a professional. Most of my readers appreciate the site, take it for what it is worth, and contribute as they can.
I assure you that I meant no disrespect to your family. I’m sure that they were very good and hardworking men who deserve my respect, and they have it. Men from that era were members of a generation that fought its battles honorably, rather than by threatening to sue anyone who managed to upset them.
Again, this is my hobby. It is not my career. I have made these clarifications on the site in the interest of historical accuracy. I would have done so even if you had not resorted to the reprehensible tactic of threatening frivolous litigation that you most certainly realize lacks both basis and merit. It’s a sad and depressing commentary on our society that so many people believe others will only listen to them if they scream “lawsuit” loudly enough. Thanks for helping to further undermine my already shaky faith in the concept of human decency.
I do not appreciate your threats, and I frankly don’t ever want to hear from you again. I’m sure the feeling is probably mutual, so I hope that we can consider this matter settled and therefore can avoid any further contact.