University of Nevada, Reno




From Chrysler to concessionaire 

By Earl


EarlAfter I got out of school, there were 8 of us children. I have two brothers, both older than I was, so my dad worked in the mines and they had a big strike and a railroad strike at that time. That was in Kentucky. So I said, "Well, if I can get a job, I will go to Detroit and get me a job." So I went to my neighbor's and borrowed $50 from him and let my dad stand good for it. So I went on Sunday and on Monday I went to Chrysler, and the guy said, "What do you want?" I said, "I want a job," and he said, "Why didn't you say so?" So I took the examination that morning and went to work that evening. I was too young to work on the machinery. So they sent me back over there. That was when they had the fluid drives. You had to have the fins and stuff to put the fluids in there.

So they were drafting for the Korean War, and I went ahead and joined the Air Force. I was there six years, and then when I came back, I went back to work for Chrysler, because they held my job. And then I told them I wanted to go to school on the GI Bill. So I went to barber school, and I did that for a few years. But while I was working, I took $35 for me to live on and sent my dad the rest of the money. I started out making $75 a week. You had to buy everything. They didn’t have washing machines. You had to send everything out to the cleaners. I didn’t have a car then.  $75 a week was good pay.

I went to school and worked the summer in Michigan and then went to Kentucky a few years after that, and got married. Then I left Kentucky and went to Delaware with my wife and my kids. So I got up there in Delaware, and when Kennedy was elected, we weren’t doing much in the barber shop, so I went to the dentist to have a tooth pulled, he gave me penicillin, like today, but that evening, I couldn't even move. Couldn't get into my car. They took me to the VA and they thought I had rheumatic fever. Here’s what they wanted to do. They wanted me to take this steroid. They were so expensive, and me having two kids then that I couldn't afford it. And I just let it go. I got better though. I had to get better. I didn’t have no money. I just rested until I could move.

One time I was in there when my car froze up so I had to walk about 7 miles to get to work, and then I went ahead and I had several barber shops—one at the University of Delaware and at shopping centers. Then I decided after that, glass coating was coming in, where they would spray it on the windows. So I bought a franchise in that. And I went to Atlanta, Ga., took my family and went down there. My family didn’t like it down there, so I moved back to Delaware and bought me another shop, and then I just kept on. I started out with the window shades, and people told me "Well, they wanted awning," so finally I got into awning business too. And I had the best shop in Delaware with awnings.

In the meantime, I had got a job with DuPont. I had a customer who was an electrician there, and he put my name down with DuPont, and one day they called me and asked me if I wanted to work. I said, "Sure I want to work." They said, "Well be up here a certain day," so I went up there and got a job, and I worked at several jobs there. If one plant was laying off, they would find me a job somewhere else, and they offered me a job where they had the emblems—they had cows, rats and dogs, so they offered me a job there and they sent me down there and said, "We have rats, we have dogs." I said, "I don't even have a dog, I don’t like dogs." So they sent me somewhere else. But they always kept me a job.

In 1979, I got divorced. My wife wanted to go back to Kentucky, where she's from, and I didn't want to go back. There was nothing in Kentucky for me except to go into mines, and I didn’t want to do that.

After I retired from DuPont, I was still working in my awning business, and then I had open heart surgery, and I didn’t have the strength to work. So I said, "If I'm not going to work, I'd just as well go where the sun is shining." That's why I came out here. I came here in 2000. I bought a house up here. This guy sold three houses on my street and asked me if I wanted to sell mine. He told me what a guy could get with mine, but I said, "Sure, but I don’t want to wait three months." He said, "I'll have it sold for you in seven days," and he did.

So I went and bought a Winnebago. After I bought the Winnebago, I said, "If I’m going to travel, I’m going to need something to pay my expenses." I got five deep freezers and a trailer and went to Louisiana and planned to sell ice cream at the state fairs. And then I had a stroke in 2004. My daughter and her husband from Kentucky came to get me. I had five kids—two boys and three girls. I lived with them for a while after I had the stroke and went to the hospital and did therapy and got better.

Once I got better, I wanted to go back into business, and I found a flea market. But they already had someone selling ice cream. And so I took my rig down there and sold chocolate-covered bananas. I didn’t know anything about it. I had to try different ways to make them. I lived on the Winnebago and sold four kinds of chocolate-covered bananas. I had peanut butter, orange, butterscotch, and plain chocolate. I did that for a couple of years.

Then I took my rigs down there and set it up where the carnival was at. The guy who owned the carnival asked me if I wanted to go with them. I told him he would have to give me a while to think about it. I did go with them. I went to Georgia and went to Florida, and they had one place in Miami, they were having a hurricane coming through. I said, "I'm not taking my rig down there to have it tore up, because I'd have to pay for that." I came back up to Disney World and stayed three months. And then I came out to Arizona. ...

I haven't made a lot of money, but I think I made enough to always get by on.


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