Sunday, July 18, 2010

An American Story

Timid people don't make a great nation.

So I'm proud to say that I come from a long line of difficult people. I've got a photo of me as a baby in diapers sitting on my grandfather's sickbed shortly before he died. He's smoking a cigarette and glaring at the camera through his bifocals. I love that picture. Nobody told him what to do.

When he was about 15 he and his father got to butting heads, so he hopped on a train and away he went. This was about 1905. Somehow he ended up in Detroit and got a job as a driver for an owner of one of the new automobile factories. That's how he learned about business among other things, I guess.

I wish I knew all the details. I've heard he wrote an autobiography before he died but some good woman in the family decided it was best his colorful stories went to the grave with him.

In any case, he wasn't all rascal. I know that when he heard his father was too sick to carry on his dry goods business, he came back to Nashville and took it over for him and eventually started a company like SouthStar serving cut and sew factories. He built it into one of the biggest employers in Nashville. It wasn't that simple, though. Along the way he was partners in a factory that went bankrupt. He had a sideline too into the early flying business that ended when his plane crashed.

He was bullheaded! As my mother says, trying to tell him anything was like hollering down a well. Does this sound like someone in your family? Or maybe YOU? It wouldn't surprise me! You have really got to be a contrarian to carry on in the sewing business, or to start out in it. It's dying, you know. Except that we get calls every single day from folks who've got a better idea about fashion, or canvas, or any fool thing and they can't or won't got to China to get it made.

I guess I'm saying you're a bunch of difficult people. But if you ask me, that's the best kind of people to have as customers. You're as American as it gets.