Another life

Hi everyone,

Yesterday Sandy and I signed a lease allowing a new company to move into my old office building in Springfield, where I worked for thirty-five years from 1973 to 2008. It was the home office of Glenstone Block Company. I was owner and president.

During the day my world centered on the manufacture and sales of concrete blocks for the construction industry. We had a plant in Springfield, one in Branson, and a stocking yard in Camdenton. At one time we also operated half a dozen True Value and ACE hardware stores in Springfield, Kaiser, Branson West, and Camdenton. At it’s peak, the company employed over one hundred men and women.

This week I pulled out a scrapbook created as a gift for me in 1993 by my secretary Dixie Nyer. Memories came flooding back as I turned the pages, pausing over faces I haven’t seen for many years. We were all so young! I’d forgotten about the newsletter I occasionally wrote (with ample help from several others in the company). A company survey had shown that employees wanted to know more about how business worked so I wrote a series of articles about a fictitious small businessman named Fernando who started a company to manufacture Belly Button Lint Cups. Poor guy had a heck of a time figuring out how to control his inventory, price his product, keep his expenses in check, and somehow make a profit.

It was another life, filled with meetings, decisions, trying to keep up with trends and stay ahead of competition. Several of the people who helped make Glenstone Block Company what it was are gone. I’ve lost track of most of the others. One, I’m happy to say, my former administrative assistant Elaine Gold, still comes to my house once a month to pay bills and do my filing. Okay, I’m spoiled. Another ex-employee, Karen Stewart, now performs the same duties at our gift store, Gamble’s.

Dixie, herself a writer, penned this poem for the opening page of her gift scrapbook. It’s over the top but Dixie never got over the fact that I hired her when she was down and out, cleaning motel rooms and barely making it. I hired her to do our advertising and picked her from several applicants with strong credentials. I chose Dixie on two counts: she was a writer and she professed to dislike advertising. I figured that would give her a reason to come at our ads from a different point of view, and she never disappointed me. I can still hear her squeal of joy over the phone when I called to offer her the job.

To the Main Man

Ever the gentleman
and the great scholar,
Ever the kind friend
if you should holler,
Never a harsh word,
never a frown,
Never a dark mood
dragging him down,
Full of good will and
spontaneous laughter,
Eager to help you find
what you’re after –
Spritely in step
and cheery in tone,
Making the work place
feel like a home —
Champion of children,
the needy and weak,
Defending the cause of
those who can’t speak,
Just and impartial,
whatever the cost,
most incredible BOSS!
— dn

When I sold my company, I became a fulltime writer after a lifetime of writing before work or after I got home. I was 71.

21 comments on “Another life

  1. There is not one word in this essay that surprises me. What a world this would be if all bosses were like you (and my husband)–working hard to do the right thing for the employees and the company.

    • Thanks, Jane. Dixie was quite a gal. One time someone called with whom I didn’t wish to speak. I buzzed Dixie to ask her to tell the person that I was not available. She stormed down the hall to glare at me, spun on her heel, and I could hear her on the phone telling the party, “Mr. Harrison told me to tell you he’s not available at this time.” After that I took my #^$ phone calls.

  2. What a great post. I didn’t know any of this about you, David. And that poem–a wonderful gift. It’s so nice to have someone remind of us of what they like and admire about us sometimes:>)

    • Thank you, Laura. I was Editorial Manager at Hallmark in Kansas City when, in 1972, my dad called to ask if I would consider moving home to take over the company he’d started in 1945 so he could retire. So that’s what I did.

    • Good morning, Teresa! I appreciate your sweet comment. I pulled out the scrapbook to find a picture for someone else. Now I’m having a fine time recalling old memories.

      • So true, Teresa. I don’t remember the last time I had a picture printed. I have good intentions but it’s just too easy to leave them in the phone or other camera. Our scrapbooks these days reside in folders on a computer, perhaps shared in DropBox.

    • Hey, brother Bill! Good to hear from you. Still hope to see you passing through Springfield one of these days.

  3. So there is hope for all the would-be writer’s out there who still have day jobs. . .and aren’t quite 70. Great post.

  4. David, I wrote a biography about you once upon a time, but you really filled in some blank spots today – something nice to read as I clean out my office and come across some of great memories of my time at UCM.

    • Hi, Naomi! You must be walking down memory lane for sure. So many moments and people to recall. Good luck with the job of packing up. I did that when I left the block company after all those years. I’m glad I kept the scrapbooks and other mementoes.

  5. Dad, I really loved reading this one! Your nostalgia kick-starts mine, of course, because I remember so much of this and remember Dixie. Of course, many of these details are new to me. I loved Dixie’s tribute and the story of her handling your phone call! I think Teresa summed it up best. You have truly been great at everything you’ve done (and you’ve done so many things!), but foremost…you are a great human being. And with so many people saying it…it must be true! 🙂

    • Hi Jeff. Thank you so much. Whatever I’ve accomplished, I owe it all to my M.O.W. I’m terrified of the woman. Glad you remember Dixie. She was one of a kind and very special.

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