For 33 years, David North designed cars during General Motors' glory days. But he got his first lesson in turning a profit by selling newspapers on a Billings street corner.
In the late 1940s, North sold the afternoon paper from the doorway of the Crystal Lounge at the corner of First Avenue North and North Broadway. His father, a part-owner of The Billings Gazette, worked across the street from the Crystal, in a ground floor office at the Northern Hotel.
With the corner location and the Crystal's angled entryway, North could sell papers to traffic along both streets.
The newsboys bought their papers for 3 cents and sold them for a nickel.
“You had to guess how many papers you thought you could sell,” North said. “If you ended up guessing wrong, you didn't have any profit.”
It was North's first lesson in risk versus reward.
When he worked at General Motors, executives often viewed car designers as dreamers. But, when North pitched an idea, he let the “money people” know that he realized his job was to make a profit.
North's first big break at GM came when he designed the Pontiac GTO, which was introduced in 1964 in response to America's craving for unbridled horsepower.
North, who became the auto giant's chief designer, was responsible for other classic designs including the Cadillac Eldorado, Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera. He and his wife, Pat, moved back to Billings after he retired from GM in 1991.