I was very fortunate to have a father, even if it was for a short time. He was the best teacher. My dad was a house painter and before that he was a furniture repairman and finisher, and from what I hear, he was one of the best. Born in 1924, he grew up during the Great Depression and then went on to Korea as an Army Air Force Engineer. My Dad used to tell me some pretty cool stories, but one thing I remember vividly was how he took what he had and made it work for him. That rubbed off on me quite a bit, especially since my father was my hero. The name of my company is dedicated to him as it was one of his sayings about people or work.
I remember one day my father and I were getting dressed to go out when he asked me, “Do you like to put your shirt or pants on first?”
“Well, I like to put my shirt on first,” I replied.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because it’s easier to tuck my shirt in when I pull my pants over my shirt,” I said.
“Oh, I never thought of that,” he said.
“What about you?” I asked.
“I like to put my pants on first,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“In case any girls come in the room,” was his answer.
I knew then that he had to be the smartest man in the world.
Here’s another memory of my father’s influence in my life. I got in trouble at school in the first grade and the teacher put me at a desk at the back of the room. The desk had three tall sides and no one could see the tremendous beautiful engraving I was creating on all three sides. Dog gone it, I was going to teach them a lesson for punishing me this way! I dug quite the masterpiece out of that wood.
One day, I walked into class and went right over to the chalk board and erased everything on it. While doing so, I said in a loud authoritarian tone, “I am the teacher today.” I turned around and there was my dad in his white overalls painting the masterpiece of a desk I had engraved. I was in shock. I put the chalkboard eraser down, went to my original seat, and looked towards the front acting like he wasn’t there. All I could think about was school getting out and having to go home. You see, my dad never told me he knew what I had done to that desk. He just got his tools and came and fixed it. When my dad got home that night, I didn’t get a spanking, not even a talking to, but my attitude changed – slowly.
That’s one of the reasons for I began working every summer after I turned six. I was a rambunctious kid and my father would have me sand and putty as high as I could reach. He didn’t put up with any half-stepping.
When I was about eight, my father and I painted the woodwork in a house. Since the window sills were low in the bedrooms, I got to paint those. My dad always checked my work. I’ll never forget the time he looked at the bottom of the sill on the side and said, “You missed this.”
I said, “No one will ever see it.”
“I see it,” was his answer.
That lesson has stuck with me these 45 years and I try to model my life, my work, and this business after that type of attitude.