A few weeks ago, I wrote a couple blogs on Keepsakes and Sharing Stories. These blogs intended to relate and connect to the idea of keeping memories alive. I often listen to NPR and especially like Story Corps episodes. While listening to a couple podcasts this week, I realized that I did not know the story behind several of my keepsakes. In my Keepsakes blog I shared a picture of the truck my Dad used for his first business. I stated:
I have a replica of a 1948 F1 Green Ford pick-up in my office. The significance is my Dad started his first business using that truck. He believes “we are all made up of potentials which can grow to be actuals” so that’s what I believe!!
So now I was wondering, what IS the “story” of this truck and Dad’s first business. All I knew was Dad loves trucks and he had a hauling business. I had no “story” NPR describes Story Corps as:
Stories of the human heart. A candid, unscripted conversation between two people about what’s really important in life: love, loss, family, friendship. When the world seems out of hand, tune in to StoryCorps and be reminded of the things that matter most.
SHARING AND PRESERVING THE STORIES OF OUR LIVES
I knew the truck, and the business was important to Dad. I wanted to preserve this story. I interviewed my Dad to find out more. Below is the story.
Dad, I have a replica of the 1948 green Ford F1 truck in my office. You gave it to me many years ago as an incentive to work hard and achieve my goals. I know the truck represents your first job. I do not know the details of the job so let’s discuss it a bit.
What was your first job and why the 1948 Ford F1?
As a lover of trucks AND a devout believer in the free enterprise system I stepped out on faith and traded my 1931 Model A Ford Coupe for the truck and started a hauling business. At the time of purchase, in 1954, I had no idea that this truck was the first of a series for Ford that is known today as the F150 and the most popular seller worldwide for over 60 years.
Tell me more about the truck.
As I relive those days and think about the truck’s overall appearance most folks would towed it to the scrap heap rather than overhaul it. The seat had springs popping through the seat covers, floor mats in pieces, exterior dents, tears, and blemished finish. It was not much to look at. Within the first week I needed to replace transmission. I had already obligated myself to a credit of $200 in trade for repairs. I was at wits end about what to do next. I made a call to the dealer and he settled by problem by sending a wrecker to tow the truck and repair it at no cost.
Why did you want to start the hauling business?
My part-time work at the service station was not steady enough but it was a good fill-in. I had the truck payment, I helped out at home including a new washing machine, and managed to buy 8 acres of wooded land in the city limits. Age and experience at age 15 and up kept me from my most desired work with trucks but the ol’ F1 gave me a start toward being a real trucker. My high school time was 100 percent daytime – no sports. The only night activity was Wednesday night prayer meeting. My nights were school assignments, paperwork for business and calls for hauling work. There was no TV and only one radio and it was in the kitchen for mealtime. Usually there was livestock duties also. My coal/wood customers were also customers whose cinders and trash were done by the F1.
You were in high school when you started the business, right? How did you manage school and work?
Yes, I was in high school when I started the hauling business. My high school time was 100 percent daytime – no sports. The only night activity was Wednesday night prayer meeting. My nights were school assignments, paperwork for business, some livestock duties and calls for hauling work. There was no TV and only one radio and it was in the kitchen for mealtime.
Timing during my school week was most critical since I had 1½ hours to make two coal pickups before the mine closed. As I exited the school bus and headed to my truck, I started unlacing my white bucks and coat. Then changed clothes, as I drove, to combat boots and a work coat. A very patient and proud mother, who always stressed free enterprise, was eager to daily wash those coal-dirty clothes for her businessman son to use the next day. Food never tasted so good as we sat at mom’s table after a rail yard coal pickup. Dad often helped on weekends when the work was most labor intensive.
Tell me more about the business. What services did the hauling business do for your community?
***My first job was to pick up a load of wood scraps for grandma’s two wood stoves at a sawmill 15 miles away. That round trip was full of doubts, fears, and apprehension. I had become a businessman. From this first load forward, I was able to make truck payments and satisfy my personal needs for high school.
***My hauling included loads of trash, cinders, scrap wood products, coal, and pickup /delivery services. The only mechanical loading into my truck was from coal mine chutes. This meant I had to unload the coal by shovel. Hauling many loads of wood meant piece by piece throwing wood in and out of the truck. It was time consuming and exercise intensive, indeed.
***The coal hauling for our household and my grandparents was a much different exercise. That coal, free for pickup, had fallen off the railcars. I loaded up in pieces by hand and placed into 5-gallon buckets. Then carried to the truck out along the road. The rougher the engineer treated the cars, the more I cheered him on as my payload increased….more coal fell off the train and was free if I was willing to put in the work to gather it up. It was like finding black gold.
In what ways did the business grow or expand through the years?
While still in high school, business was successful in a big way with the F1. So much so I bought a second truck. A 1953 Dodge pickup (Heavy Duty) and with a fluid drive transmission. The Dodge had been “run hard and put away we” in southern Illinois terms. A cattle dealer hauled huge animals and bent the bed of the truck, the rear fenders were loose, but the paint was shiny and the “job rated” emblem on the grill was pristine. From a distance this truck looked too modern for a kid whose household had never had a family auto and few modern conveniences.
I will never forget a fellow student telling me I could never pay for that thing and go to school.
To the surprise of my classmate and others, business got even better. To everyone’s surprise my competitor, with a big, black, shiny Ford dump truck, even turned his truck over to me for big loads and busy schedules.
Why did the business close and what were some of the outcomes?
During the years of my hauling company I kept my school grades up and both trucks going. I even filled in at the local service station on weekends. Much to my surprise in July 1956 I received a 4-year full scholarship to college. It was most unexpected. Mom was disappointed when I phased out the business. She had dreamed of the day of many more trucks and endless opportunities for my business. Sometimes I wish I had followed mom’s advice. I loved that business too.
How did this work and having your own business make you feel? What are your thoughts about how this first business helped you with your future career path?
Any businessman could not have been prouder than I was during those days. It was amazing what determination and obligation did for me. I always said, “We are all made up of potentials which get to be actuals under the stress of circumstance.” I have never believed in luck – through faith we meet opportunities and combine them with work and realize results that some may call “luck”.
This country affords many opportunities for those with faith, willingness to labor, and some management abilities. There are endless opportunities.
Wrapping Up & Looking Forward
I learned from this story that success does not happen overnight. If you work hard, it would eventually pay off. I am not dreaming big enough if I can achieve my goal overnight. Each day is an opportunity to do better, be better, be useful, and enjoy life…each day is an opportunity to “learn as you go”. This learning is not just intellectual improvement. This learning is social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and motivational. At the end of the day you are stronger, wiser, and happier.
Stories can translate to a sense of identity and well-being…do you have a story to share OR a partial story you might want to explore?
Thanks for reading.