“I never ignore a hunch.”
These are words that 1948 Woodbury graduate Jim Sauls has lived by, and his hunches—both in business and otherwise—have served him well for over 92 years.
Sauls is part of a generation of alumni who attended what was then known as Woodbury College, located on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. It was his generation that served in World War II and went on to help produce the post-war economic boom in the United States. And Sauls played critical roles in both of these moments in history.
“At the time I was there, Woodbury was filled with GIs who had returned from the war,” Sauls said in a recent conversation. And they were eager to get their education and make their way in the world.
Sauls wanted to study business—with a focus on advertising and marketing—and Woodbury offered him the opportunity to do it with some of the best faculty available.
“What impressed me so much at Woodbury was the fact that the faculty seemed to be experts in their fields,” he said. “They weren’t just academics. Success was part of their experience.”
One of those faculty members was Hal Evry, who eventually became good friends with Sauls. In addition to teaching students at Woodbury, Evry served as a political consultant in the campaigns of California Gov. Goodwin J. Knight and Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty, among others. He was even the subject of a 1966 Life magazine profile on his acumen at running successful political campaigns.
Beyond the knowledge that he gained from Evry’s classes, Sauls also gained something else as well: a soulmate. One day, after giving what he felt was a particularly clever presentation in class he noticed one student in the back of the room who seemed entirely unmoved. When he approached her to ask if she had anything to say about his presentation, Doris Sheldon deadpanned: you gave a presentation?
Sauls was immediately smitten. After a courtship that included evenings dancing at the Hayward Hotel’s famed “Rhythm Room” and tea at the Biltmore Hotel, Jim and Doris were married. They were together until she passed away 55 years later.
Saul’s journey to Woodbury, and his eventual success in real estate that followed, were preceded by a few seminal years that not only changed the course of his life, but changed the course of history as well.
Born in a rural town in the marshes of South Carolina in 1925, Sauls was attending high school in nearby Georgia on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, initiating the United State’s entry into World War II.
Like most young men of his generation, Sauls rushed to join the service after Pearl Harbor and soon shipped off for training in the navy. His initial duty, following boot camp, was to serve on the USS New York, a World War I-era battleship that was being used to escort and protect merchant ships in the Atlantic.
Eventually, Sauls had the opportunity to volunteer for the navy’s submarine service—a tantalizing opportunity for a young man looking for adventure—and he was chosen to become part of the inaugural crew of the USS Skate, which was then being built and would eventually launch from Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, CA, just north of San Francisco.
In the fall of 1942, southerner Jim Sauls made his way, via a cross-country train journey, to California for the first time. And he never looked back.
After serving in the Pacific theater of the war on the Skate, including taking part in a daring Christmas Day-attack on the prized Japanese battleship the Yamato, Sauls moved on to serve on another new sub, the USS Apogon, where he finished his war-time service.
By the time the war ended, Sauls had seen service in both the Atlantic and Pacific. He had been addressed alongside his peers by President Franklin Roosevelt in Hawaii. He had visited Iceland, Scotland, the Marshall Islands and beyond. And, like so many of his generation, he found that the war had played a fundamental role in his life, one that he relishes discussing even today.
Sauls experience during the war helped to focus him on what would eventually come next, his career. So, following another hunch, he moved to Los Angeles and decided to study at Woodbury, which— then as now— was an institution, focused on producing career-ready graduates.
That hunch, like the others he has had in his life, has served Jim Sauls very well.