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In the beginning, after we had bought "Owen's Garage" in 1954, we concentrated on how to make ends meet. We stayed open seven days a week with long hours. No time off for pleasure, not even one day for the first year or two. Then when we got some good dependable customers, and could meet our obligations with ease, we started to relax somewhat. I would not be available in the repair shop on Sundays anymore. One client was so upset that he said, "I work all week, Sunday is the only day I have time to bring in my truck to get it greased." "Sorry, Jack, but that is the only day of the seven I have off too."
One Sunday, a fellow came in and asked if he could get his car fixed without having to pay for it. "Oh, and why would I want to do that?" "Well," he said, "being Sunday, and you are not doing nothing maybe I could bring my car in and you can help me fix it." "Sure, (says the politician), I will book you for the same day that Christmas and New Year fall on the same day; then we have two days at once and together we can do a real good job." Then of course we had our charge customers. By now, we pretty well knew whom we could trust. The rest required cash on the barrel for service.
An interesting event happened one Saturday afternoon. A guy with an Oldsmobile came in and said his generator was not charging and asked if I would fix it. "Sure I will if I can, but if the armature is burned out, there is no hope of getting a replacement today. Brushes I have in stock." He told me to go ahead and find out what's wrong. Yes, the armature had shortened and burned out. He said he could not wait until Monday, so put it back together so he could drive home. After the job was done, I told him he owed me five dollars for labor. "No way," he said, "I owe you nothing. You did not fix my generator. I am a policeman in Hamilton, and I am not going to pay you for something you did not fix." In no time, I sealed his escape by parking the tow truck in front of the Olds. Then he said, "I am gonna call the police." I said, "Boy, you are in luck. An O.P.P. cruiser is coming down the road." He ran out and stopped the cop. They talked for a while, then the O.P.P. officer drove away. The fellow then got five dollars and handed it to me. "Sorry, it costs $7.00 now, my time is worth money and you wasted more than $2.00, so call yourself extremily lucky." He paid and left unhappy.
One steady client asked if we had trouble with giving credit. He said he knew all about people, so he gave us some good advice in the form of a poem:
Yes, we took it to heart, because if we were left with an unpaid bill of, let's say $10, it took $100 to make up for the loss, if one made 10% profit. Sometimes people came with heartbreaking stories why they didn't have the cash on them, so please give me some time to pay. "Sorry, you don't get no credit at the supermarket, and we are no finance company." So I would ask: "Can I borrow some money from you so I can go shopping? I will pay you back." Then they looked at you as if you were crazy, ha, maybe I was. Beware became the password. In good or bad times, there were always unsavoury characters out to try to rip you off whenever they could.
Business was good at the greasy end, but how about the front where Ma was managing the gas pumps, the confectionary store, listening to people's problems, but most important of all, raising a family of four children.
Can you imagine, one kid with a wet diaper which needed to be changed, another crying because life was not evolving to this youngster's liking, and while Mama was feeding the youngest, the store bell would ring. A client came in for a ten-cent bottle of pop, then hanged around because he needed someone to listen to him rattle on about his disappointments in life. Then a car pulled in for a dollar's worth of gas and at the same time the phone rang, someone wanted to talk to the mechanic.
To really experience a life like that without going stark crazy, to keep on plugging like that without complaining, that person must have had a heart of gold. Well that person was the sweetheart I married. No woder I would not trade her for a ton of gold bricks, a new bicycle, or a trip to the moon. This became intolerable for sure, but what were we gonna do about it? There was only one way out. Sell the whole place: house, store and garage.