How the transistor radio and Merle Haggard’s Truck Drivers Blues taught me to set goals
The third office phone rang today as I was helping one of our truck drivers with a customer’s delivery issue. Our office procedure is to answer by the third ring unless we are on another line.
However, sometimes when all three lines are ringing at the same time, it just gets overwhelming and I will ask permission to answer the ringing line. This was the case today.
A dear friend was on the phone and I could tell she needed a shoulder for just a minute. Listening carefully my friend shared her troubles and thoughts. As our conversation continued, she shared the concert she had attended and some of its events.
Deeply disappointed I had missed the local concert I told her I had listened to Hag all the time when I was a kid. After our conversation had ended, my thoughts continued to wander back to the summer of my seventh-grade year. Merle Haggard’s song, Truck Drivers Blues played on my transistor radio as I lay across my twin bed, tapping my foot to the beat and humming along.
It was that year that I wanted a record player. The big thing then was LP records of country singers like Merle Haggard and his hit songs. As far back as I can remember this was the first time I wanted something so badly. Of course, back then I did not know that I would be setting a goal. I was a country bumpkin kid just wanting a cool portable record player and LP records all my own.
Early signs of an entrepreneur
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was lying on my bed, reading a book from the library with the country-western radio station playing all the hits. My favorites included Haggard, Lynn Anderson, Buck Owens, and Dolly Parton.
Living seven miles out of town with both parents working summer could be adventurous, hard work, and sometimes boring. Twice a month my mom would drive us into town to the local library. A summer reading program allowed those who wanted to participate in group reading and individual reading contests. We always came home with an armful of books to read over the next two weeks until our return trip.
In between our reading, playing, and listening to music we all had chores to do while mom and dad were at work. The only deadline we had was each of our duties had to be complete before they came home from work. You can imagine five kids ranging in age from 11 to four rushing at the last minute to get their job done before the doors opened and in walked the parents.
On one of the radio shows, an advertisement touted the newest record available in stores for Merle Haggard. Oh, how I wanted that record. As a pre-teen, it was a big deal to own your own personal LP record and record player.
However, even with both parents working to provide for a large family, there was no way that fit into the budget or plans of my mom and dad. My mom told me that if I wanted it badly enough she would allow me to work if I would save the money to purchase it myself.
One of my mom’s friends sold Avon at the time and knew that I wanted to earn extra money. She offered me a percentage of my sales and I could work her rural territory on my bicycle safely.
At the same time, we continued to work weekends with my mom in grandma’s vineyard. We made $.50 an hour there and combined with my Avon sales I was saving a good amount of money each week.
I still needed more though as the RCA record player I wanted was not cheap. One evening after my dad finished the newspaper I looked through the want ads for any job that was available for a kid underage. Back then we did not need a work permit…imagine doing this now!
I found a part-time job at the Cinderella Motel on the Sacramento River in my hometown. The only problem was we lived over seven miles one-way from the job. Mom and dad could not drive me in as my brother, sisters had swim practice, and they had to go to work.
That did not stop me. I was determined to get my record player. I applied for the motel house cleaner job and got it. I rode my single-speed bicycle every day to work. After cleaning a minimum of six rooms or more, my day would end.
After the long, hot ride home, there were chores. After chores, deliveries awaited me, as my Avon customers were anxious for their lipsticks and colognes. I guess youth has its rewards, as I never got tired. I remained focused on my goal.
Hard work, persistence paid off
Finally the day I had been working for came. I had enough money to purchase the RCA record player I had my heart set on. The next stop was to buy that LP, Merle Haggard’s “Truck Drivers Blues”.
Driving home with my mom, I could not have been prouder. I am not sure my smile could have been any broader either. When we pulled into the driveway, my sisters met me at the car. They were curious to see why I was so excited. They all thought I was nuts for working so many hours and in the heat of summer no less.
When I plugged in the record player and put that vinyl LP on the turntable the moment I had worked all summer for was finally here. As the sound came out those small speakers, we gathered around to listen to the Truck Driver’s Blues on my very own record player.
Today in our auto transport business, we set goals, too. With each customer’s order, we do our best to use our preferred truck drivers first. They have a proven record of accomplishment and we have developed a good relationship with them.
Business is about making money, but in nationwide auto transport, you must think about more than money. When we serve our customers and put their needs first, the money follows.
Looking back at my past, the pattern has continued to build on the solid foundation of customer service. Yes, money was my goal. However, to get the money I first had to serve the hotel room guests with a cleanroom. My Avon customers expected a friendly visit along with the new catalog and order. My grandma and grandpa expected a good day’s work for a day’s wages.
Therefore, serving others with a whole heart and mind allows the rewards to flow to the one giving to others. I am so thankful to my friend, Betty for sharing her attendance at Merle Haggard’s concert. I am sad I missed it, but happy to remember the year those country singers helped me set my first goal.