Sunday, July 29, 2012

We Built Our Business

   History of B&B Printing and Advertising, now Bison Printing, Inc.

   A 40 step history on how one can achieve success in the USA.

  1)  Started the business in our home basement.
  2)  Put up sign in cow pasture five miles outside of town.
  3)  Sought churches as our first customers.
  4)  Went to Harris Printing to borrow his folding machine.
  5)  Went to Harris Printing to borrow his stitching machine.
  6)  GROSS income the first year: $8,000.
  7)  Lived on savings.
  8)  Got a part-time job as a mail carrier.
  9)  Started to do negative work for Piedmont Label Co.
10)  In 1980 bought Depot Street building. Made payments with savings.
11)  Began renovations on Saturdays.
12)  I became a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, a sheetrock guy, and a painter.
13)  Moved business to town.
14)  Got a loan to brick the exterior of the building.
15)  Started office supply business to draw people to printing.
16)  Bought larger presses. Made payments with savings.
17)  Bought adjoining Locker Plant (defunct frozen food storage place).
18)  Gutted and renovated the new space on Saturdays.
19)  Sharpened my plumbing, electrical, carpentry, wall hanging and painting skills.
20)  Moved equipment into renovated Locker Plant.
21)  Renovated a portion of the first building to lease to Arthurs Business Service.
22)  Bought four-color press and more binding equipment. Made payments with savings.
23)  Each of the 7 people working for B&B Printing earned more than we did as owners.
24)  More of our capital pumped into equipment and delivery trucks.
25)  My wife and I packed a lunch EVERYDAY.
26)  First son joined the business straight out of Virginia Tech.
27)  Bought adjoining building to Locker Plant.
28)  More renovations on Saturdays.
29)  Moved heavy equipment again to new building.
30)  Second son joined the business two years after graduating from VT.
31)  All aspects of business upgraded to new digital technology.
32)  Now three buildings jammed with employees and equipment.
33)  Third son joins the business, graduate of Radford University.
34)  Together, the whole family eats their daily sack lunches.
35)  My wife, Emily, died.
36)  We purchased 40 acres of industrial land on the outskirts of Bedford.
37)  My sons and I designed layout of a new 50,000 sq ft industrial plant.
38)  Three families mortgage their assets to make payments on this $1,000,000 project.
39)  Over the last ten years, over $3,000,000 worth of  new equipment has been added.
40)  Nearly 50 families depend on their income from  Bison Printing, Inc.

After twenty years of practically taking no time off, our sons insisted we take a lengthy vacation.
Did the business fall apart while we were gone? No.

We built our business, because this is America!  Praise God!


Friday, July 27, 2012

1943, A Flashback

I've started to rework my first book. A TIME AND PLACE, The Making Of An Immigrant. A book of 130 short stories with numerous pictures and drawings. I'm rendering the book to be available soon in E-book format.

Here is the first page:

A flash and a big bang, a cold cellar floor, and a fear of falling from a window– these are the only things I distinctly remember as a three-year-old.
The air raid sirens, the approach and roar of bomber planes, those memories came alive only, when 30 years later I and my family visited the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. As I entered a wing of the museum, dedicated to World War II, sounds of bombers and sirens played overhead as a background to the exhibit. These sounds evoked dreadful emotions in me, so much so that I had to leave the building. I simply could not cope with them.

S├╝dbahnhof, one of several train stations of Munich, stayed busy in 1943. Our four-story row house faced the rail yard and also the western sun. The rhythmic sounds of rail cars and steam locomotives became a soothing accompaniment to everyday life. My father shipped out to war from that same station. 
The wide window sills of the building extended outward and overhung the exterior wall. A basket-like wrought iron cage surrounded the lower half of the window from side to side. Mom used that window sill to grow geraniums as well as parsley and chives. The windows closed from the inside and kept the miniature garden exposed to rain and sun. My first memories of fear and trembling came when Mom decided I needed some fresh air and sun. She placed me, three years old, out on that ledge. I could not help but look three stories down to the sidewalk below. Sister Dagmar, then just an infant, also got to enjoy some sun as well.
The air raids of that time also made a dreaded imprint in this little fellow’s mind. The peace of the moment was often shaken by the ever more frequent, piercing screams of sirens. Each scream seemed to come through the windows, the walls, the curtains, the ears, the head, and straight to the soul. These death blasts never respected whether we were sleeping or swallowing our first spoonful of hot cereal. Instantly, in high emotional agitation, Mom and I, she carrying baby sister, raced down the long flights of stairs to the basement of the tenement. I do not know why, but once down there, I always sat and looked at that window . . . one small window up high.  It was level with the sidewalk outside. That window, it made me tremble so. The three of us sat on the damp floor, leaned against a cold wall and looked at that window. Many other people huddled around the walls of that cellar. All mesmerized by one source of light, that window. The light through that window did not stream from the sun, since most bombs rained down at night. Nor did it come from street lights, since power was cut off the render the city dark to the enemy. The light came from burning buildings. One burned so close by, it singed the window curtains in the apartment. 
The bursts of orange flashes, accompanied by earth trembling explosions, were a gauge in one’s mind as to how close every bomb hit. They were all close, because no rail yard was spared. Never any tears or screams came from the huddled. Fright is not accompanied by tears and cannot be consoled by one’s own emotions.
The last etching in my child’s soul came when the worst expectation became reality. A tremendous burst of white light, an earth shattering shock, the little window exploded amid an enormous flash of hell and was no more. The disintegrated window became the final blanket that put to rest the hell of a three-year old.
Soon after, the government evacuated most women and children. We were allowed to live in a small town in lower Bavaria called Griesbach.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Water, Sustainer of Life

One of my projects on the "Honey-Do List" has been to re-line the fishpond. It had leaked for over two years, due to a friendly Lab dog taking his daily bath in it.

The gentle, goodnatured dog went on to dog heaven, and our pond became an unattended attraction, an unattractive drain pit that generated mosquitos and a family of frogs. Not a bad little ecosystem in itself.

In years past we did have goldfish living in the pond, but the neighboring raccoons soon discovered the refreshing snacks.

After removing years worth of muck, leaves and pine needles, I relined the pond and began dripping water from a hose.

This little stream supplied about one-hundred gallons in a 24 hour period.

I recalled a long ago experience, and also brought to mind an eyeopening fact of life; how much water do we, in this country, waste.

Some years ago I had the privilege meeting an elderly widow. She lived in the woods alone in an eighteen century, rough-cut box house. The tin roof glowed red with rust, the porch had sagged on the low end, and the steps to it had rotted years earlier. The kitchen faced the dugout rock and dirt bank and the door from it led to a level side yard.

She had electricity to the house, but over the years found living without it worked quite well. She walked the single, five-hundred yard path to the road, met with friends and purchased her beans and sidemeat from the country store.

She swept her weed and grassless yard with a straw broom. The chickens long quit their scratching around the house, but never learned not to drop their black and white excrement where visitors may be walking. Thus the straw broom.

She didn't have a dug well to draw from, but a constant drip from a stubby pipe protruding from the rock bank to the side and back of her house. On a flat rock under the drip a white enameled bowl caught the precious water. The chickens and her pooch found an ever present source of refreshment out of that bowl. When she needed water for herself, the flowers, to do dishes or cook with, she simply planned ahead and changed receptacles. A narrow-mouthed jug did the trick. The chickens could not reach it, and the dog went to the creek.

The last I heard the lady was ninety-six. She chewed her homegrown tobacco when she worked, and smoked her pipe while sitting on the porch.    . . . No locks on the door. A shotgun did a better job. No insurance, no investments, no ulcers. . . .  


Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Would You Like?

The question, "What would you like?" is only relevant when there is an option.

Think about it. If there were no choices, you would not have to ask your precious child, "Would you like strawberry shortcake or some whip cream covered brownies?"

Or, "Would you like me to take you to Mary's house to have fun with her new video game? Or would you like me to call Hanna and we'll go to the mall together?"

"Would you like?" is never asked in countries were options are not offered. If a bowl of beans is ones meal of the day, there is no choice other than to eat it or not eat it.

In all my life, my mother never asked me, "What would you like?" She simply placed a plate of food and a glass of milk in front of me. Unless I was sick, I sat until I finished what she thought I should eat.

We never had clothes to choose from either. There were Sunday clothes and during the week clothes. We only went as a family to wherever the grown-ups took us. We went to bed when Mother said so. We were told where to go, what to do, and how long to stay at it.

Even after I had married and had children, Mother would be glad to see us, but always chose what she wanted to serve us. At one point my wife Carol was introduced to oatmeal soup. I remember it as a 1944 classic. Just a hot, water-based, runny oatmeal, seasoned with soy sauce.

How can you spoil a kid when he has no options? He simply grows up being governed by the authority of his parents. No problem listening to teachers either. Respect for the Police, and future employers.

This has nothing to do with encouraging the child, as it should be. Help it to develop a talent and good character.

We recently watched a Little League game. One of the team's player went to the dugout cooler and got a bottle of drinking water. He unscrewed the cap and proceeded to pour the entire bottle through his soft cap. He gleefully watched it run through and splatter to the dugout floor. A short while later, he retrieved another bottle full and poured it over one of the baseballs washing off the dirt. After the entire bottle again splattered onto the red clay dugout floor, he promptly bounced the clean ball into the red mud. (Is your dander up yet?)

The kid then whined to his mother in the stands and she came with a large bottle of Gator-aid for the darling boy. He opened the full bottle and took one small sip. I didn't see the large bottle again. Shortly after that, he stuck his lips through the chain-link dugout fence and hollered to his mother "I want nachos! I want some nachos. Maaaaam . . . Nachos.

At that point I decided that I needed to write about this.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coping with the Aftermath

Coping with life's unexpected struggles and calamities should almost be a welcome part of living.

First it teaches that we are not in control.
Then it shows us exactly what kind of a sap we are by believing we have it all figured out.
When an upheaval disturbs our comfort we have choices to make. We can either whine and complain, or we can rig, improvise, engineer, contrive or cobble together a temporary solution. After all, we are Americans.

Being able to live in a country where we have the freedom to invent and expand our ingenuity is a blessing. Just think of the billions of people around the world that have been stifled so long by oppressive governments that their willingness to improve is replaced by dependency.

I'm deeply encouraged by the generosity and willingness of neighbors, friends and family to help one another during these last suffocating days. The power outage and oppressive heat has truly brought out the American spirit. We are a compassionate people, and I'm sure an improvising bunch as well.

Before the heat struck, Carol's blooms stood tall and glorious.

Then the power failure. Just like all our wimpy friends we "suffered" without air conditioning. We packed up the frozen stuff and dragged it to the cabin which reportedly had power.

Once settled in and in bed for the night, a vicious lightning storm hit the area. We got sapped. No power. After a day of borrowing a neighbor's generator, we dragged all our food back to Bedford, which had restored power.

While in Floyd, we toasted our waffles on the grill and brewed our coffee directly into our cups.

Then for sure, before heading back to Bedford with bags full of frozen food, I had to take a dip.

Ahhhhhhh . . . .