I remember the phone call well…….My husband, Jay and I were just into the beginning of our second year of marriage. He was a recent graduate from USF in Tampa working his first job and traveling the country opening stores for a retail business. I was in my second year teaching at the first Middle Magnet Technology School in the state of Florida. We were living the wonderful young married life, actually bringing in what seemed to be a significant amount of money for two people who made a habit of eating way too much tuna and Raman noodles while married and still going to college. We bought our first home ( a townhouse), played on a co-ed softball team together, and had a wonderful base of friends that we enjoyed. The only thing I wanted to change in my life was a quicker commute to work in the Tampa traffic.
My parents called one evening to tell us that after many years in the family construction business they were liquidating the business and planning to retire. A business my father started by building farm structures in a small rural section of Live Oak known as Luraville, and my mom managing the books and cooking lunch and dinner (often for my family and the men who worked for them), and raising three daughters. The business was in our house and I remembered being infuriated as a teenager that my phone time could only happen well after business hours, as the home phone line was also the business line. I was frequently required answer the phone, provide “coverage” for my mom if she had to leave the house, distribute paychecks on Friday, and would even have the humiliation of having to ride in the company truck to town with the workers when I overslept and missed the school bus. I would make them drop me off a ½ mile from the school so my friends wouldn’t see me in that truck with ladders and tools hanging from all sides. On occasion I would help my dad on some weekends and school holidays. Watching him do a service call or a sales call and watch him always be honest, and always do what was right. He was a man who could be trusted. He didn’t have to tell me that, or anyone else for that matter. He proved it every day by standing behind what he said and what he sold. He was firm and fair with his employees. Whether you worked for him, or he worked for you, you always knew where you stood. There was no gray area.
I don’t think I realized at the time, but I was absorbing. I watched my parents in my early childhood years struggle to make ends meat with a small farming business in an era that farming was not a good business. I watched and absorbed as my mom and dad boldly stepped out of their comfort zone of generational farming to make a better life for their family by starting a construction company. I watched as the phone rang more frequently, we hired more field help, and a part time book keeper. I watched as some of the same customers would call back for more work.
I was completely oblivious at the time, but the seed was planted…