Today: Laid-off by his employer, an entrepreneur is born.
Dear Reader: Today’s story is fictitious but inspired by a real life Depression era family. Its intent is to offer you hope and encourage you to use your skills as the world is confronted by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
“I’m sorry Pop but we gotta let you go,” said the boss to James “Pop” Samuels. “But I’ve been with this Ford dealership for 15-years,” pleaded Pop “and was its top salesman.”
“Yes, I know,” replied the boss as he stared at a showroom full of unsold cars. “Times are so bad; I gotta let nearly everyone go. This dealership probably won’t survive and I’ll be on the street too.”
It was Tulsa, Oklahoma 1936 and the Great Depression relentlessly ravaged the U.S. and nations across the world.
Pop Samuels was everyone’s friend, the man people always turned to for support. He bought the baseball uniforms for the kids’ leagues, books for the library and instruments for the school band.
But at 50, Pop was now out of work and with a wife and three children to support, and with a car payment, house payment and medical bills, he too could soon be in dire need of a helping hand.
“I lost my job today,” he told Agnes and the children, as he choked back tears. “But don’t worry. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I KNOW something good is going to come of this. No matter what happens, I will take care of each of you. We will not split this family up.
Eight year old Becky, the youngest child and cute as a button with her blond pig tails, blue eyes and round rimmed silver glasses, threw her arms around her dad “It’s okay, she said. “My dolly Miss Fitz and I will pitch in too. We can grow vegetables and help with the housework.”
“Thank you Becky,” Pop replied with a gentle smile and tears in his eyes. “I know money is going to be tight. But what this family really needs to pickup its spirits is an adventure. It is summertime and we are now free to go anywhere.
“My brother in San Bernardino [CA] has been asking us to visit,” Pop continued. “And now is the perfect time. I’ve kept the car in top condition and it’s ready for the 1500 mile journey.”
The next day, that big black box of a Ford had suit cases strapped from one end to the other and the family packed themselves in. Headed west to California, they lowered the windows and felt a fresh breeze welcome them on their journey.
As they sailed down the highway, a sense of excitement gripped the family for they would see the timeless red bluffs and deep crevasse of the Grand Canyon. They would experience the Colorado River as it began as snow melt from the highest peaks and become a raging blue torrent racing to the Pacific Ocean.
But as it turned out, it was the unexpected that would profoundly change their lives. Cars of that era were notoriously unreliable unless they were well maintained as Pop did. Many people kept tools and spare parts in their car trunks.
When they got to Arizona, the sun baked down as waves of heat simmered above the black pitch road, which cut through the middle of the seemingly endless desert. In the distance, they saw a car pulled off to one side, all four doors were open as that family tried to keep cool.
“Are you all right?” Pop called out to them. Sitting in the car was a forlorn family of six, including an elderly grandmother. “We’re in real trouble,” a man called back. “We’re hot and thirsty and we don’t know how to fix our car. We could die out here in this heat!”
They were all perspiring heavily and were greatly relieved when Pop pulled over and gave each of them drinking water. After making a few repairs, he soon had them back on the road.
During this trip, Pop repeatedly stopped to help stranded families repair their cars and get them going again. Many had no money to pay him but it didn’t matter for Pop wouldn’t charge anyone. He always shared food and water with them, forgetting he could soon be broke.
“Do you realize Pop,” said Agnes as they crossed into California, “that with your auto repair skills you rescued many families. Times are so hard people can’t afford new cars. But they could afford to pay for repairs, especially if they were done by an honest, cost effective mechanic.
“In Tulsa and everywhere else banks are seizing peoples’ homes for non-payment,” Agnes said, “and putting families out on the street with their furniture and clothing. When our money runs out, that could happen to us too.”
Pop swallowed hard. “What do you propose,” he asked Agnes as the children leaned forward to hear her answer.
“It’s very simple,” she replied. “When we return home you make your hobby your business.” “But a business requires money,” he answered “and we don’t have it to invest.”
“It’s not a problem,” replied Agnes. “You already own your tools and there is plenty of vacant shop space. Landlords will charge practically nothing because they have nothing to lose.”
Pop nodded his head in agreement as he thought about what Agnes had said. And he relaxed as he suddenly saw a bright future ahead. Until then he was afraid that at 50, no-one would hire him and now he realized he didn’t need anyone to hire him, he would hire himself.
When they returned to Tulsa, Pop rented a small vacant gas station, no money down. “I’m glad,” said his first customer. “My family and I know your reputation. You are kind, honest and capable and it is vital that my old car can get me to work each day.”
“Thank you,” replied Pop at first hanging his head down and then looking the man in the eyes. “I promise you outstanding workmanship and it is a pleasure to have you be my first customer,” he added as he shook the man’s hand.
From then on word of mouth spread and Pop built a giant business. And with the money he made Pop became even more generous to his community, at a time when it was desperately needed.
Recently Becky, now in her early 80’s, was asked what her fondest memory is from that long ago trip. She leaned back silently in her chair, her silver gray hair pressed against the chair top and a wistful look came into her soft blue eyes as a smile beamed across her face.
“Remembering my dad’s kindness,” she said, “Because of his caring and generosity for those in need he built a successful business. But he showed us there are far more important things in life than money, even in the worst of times.”
Success Tip of the Week:
If you want to start a business, remember success comes from sincere caring and generosity to others, not the pursuit of money. As for today’s financial crisis we will get through it together, just as people did during the Great Depression.
In the next KazanToday:
Learning to savor life’s little moments.