Sunny and Ralph prepare to introduce top executives and spouses from several East coast manufacturers to a typical Texas Style Barbecue and Dance. The party favors were cowboy hats and bandanas (shown in background) for all.
Two Beautiful Entrepreneurs
I have no idea whether most wealthy people today resemble either the fictional, tight-fisted Ebenezer Scrooge or the modern tech billionaires who seem to want to change the world to fit their own political paradigm. But I do know that the two wealthy entrepreneurs who became part of Sunny Wilson’s life were, like her, beautiful people who loved life, who loved work, and who loved generosity.
Perhaps their early struggles to survive financially forever marked them with compassion for others. Perhaps it was because they became wealthy through their own creativity and hard work. Perhaps their pattern of life is still the norm for self-made people.
Or, perhaps the American culture was different then. After winningwars in both Europe and Japan, seemingly unbridled opportunities appeared everywhere as the United States embraced a hard-fought peace. Perhaps that optimism provided a more buoyant outlook for more people than the world had ever known before.
At any rate, Mary and Ralph left a legacy worthy of documentation, admiration, and emulation. Neither one ever suffered from depression, drunkenness, or drug addiction because they were having too much fun just living their lives, as in the picture above.
Mary approached her work and her business from the standpoint of her Christian beliefs. After being left holding the bag with two young children, she went into overdrive, learning to place her future in her own hands instead of depending on a husband. Her first solid precept became that there should be no difference in one’s attitudes and actions whether in the church pew or in the market place. She became a beloved Bible teacher at her home church as well as a wealthy woman.
Not only was she generous at church and when rewarding her demonstrators (the women who sold her decorative items), she also gave outright gifts of money to those in need. She frequently tried to cover a specific need for a temporary setback.For example, she had helped Sunny start her side business of selling decorative objects for the home by lending money to buy the samples, then personally tutoring her in the art of selling by the party plan that was popular at that time. Within a few months, Sunny’s side business far outstripped her salary.
Mary was gregarious, reaching out to others to recognize their genius, even when they believed themselves to be worthless. She was a superb listener, often winnowing the words to get down to the underlying problem, then assisting them find a way out.Since she worked primarily with women who were in a crisis of some sort, she frequently spent hours drilling into them: “You can if you think you can.”
Mary was a combination of psychotherapist, coach, and cheerleader. She helped her representatives learn to make money and thus increased her own bottom line every single year.
Ralph, on the other hand, appeared to most people in Temple to be the epitome of the hard-boiled boss. He had little patience with any hint of laziness or lack of responsibility.
He had learned to work with plaster after leaving a small farm in Indiana and moving to California to “seek his fortune” as a young man. At that time in Los Angeles,Fox was putting up grand movie theaters decorated to the hilt with ornamental architectural features. So he headed there to learn how to make the molds for plaster in various forms, install the finished product, and see that it was painted appropriately. He began as an apprentice, worked his way up from journeyman to foreman because he taught himself (and then others) how to do it better and faster. After becoming the straw boss with one group, he left to start his own company.
He made a great deal of money decorating Fox Theaters, churches, and other buildings in flamboyant California. After almost three decades though, he got bored and sold his company to someone else. It was probably excellent timingbecause the elaborate movie theaters soon lost their popularity. Even the churches began to accept modern architecture’s austerity.
Part of the agreement was that he would not open up a competing business in LA orstart any business within the state. So Ralph looked into Temple, Texas and decided to build a plant there producing the new melamine counter tops like the Formica brand.
Only his were called Wilson Art, with designs by his grown daughter.Soon he developed ways to get the finished goods to the buyer with a network of regional warehouses and a secret system that implemented deliveries in less time than any competitors could match. And his business flourished beyond all expectations.
He demanded a lot from anyone who worked at the plant in any position. If someone did not perform well, he was fired. When traveling to visit the sales reps or warehouse managers, he often took them and their spouse out to a fine dinner with lots of entertaining conversation. But, if he sensed a lack of honesty or a good work ethic,he would go into the office the next day and hand them severance pay because of what he had learned during the previous evening.
If there were a crisis at any location, the needed employees were expected to work extra hours until the problem was solved, even if that meant a week of 12-hour days. And no one ever appeared to resent that dictum.
Like Mary, he was a listener, filing away in his memory names and details of family members that he had not even met and referring to them weeks later.This real concern was for both the shift workers and the suits in the front office.
His charity was primarily cash to help anyone in a bind meet an unexpected need. Few recipients ever asked for help, but instead were shocked when he privately slipped two to five hundred-dollar bills into their hands.
He also insisted on paying all employees well —— actually the wage rates were higher at his plant than anywhere else in the county. The unions tried every few years to win the representation of his workers. But every attempt failed because he already provided more benefits than their collective bargaining could promise. Many of the line workers stayed with his company their entire working careers.While all the foremen and the company officers were well-regarded, no one ever captured hearts like Mr. Ralph did.
Mary and Ralph had no delusions of grandeur, i.e., changing the world or even amassing a fortune. Each, at one time had desperately needed money to pay their own basic expenses. Each one found a way to control the amount of money coming in – that is, they looked for and chose a form of entrepreneurship. Both admired generous people and both patterned their actions after their mentors.
Neither Mary nor Ralph gave a flip about whether their new friends at the club or the new members of their boards approved of them, their family, or the way they lived their lives. Each one just kept doing the next right thing whether it was paying for someone else’s kid go to college,quietly buying a new transmission for an employee’s old car, or improving the distribution process for products.
Toward the end of the party, when even the host and hostess relax because the Eastern Dudes had decided that Texas hospitality was far more entertaining and more gracious than they had ever imagined
Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather
Final installment of this particular series.
This Is A Beautiful Woman: https://wordpress.com/post/oneeyehalfsense.com/1877
O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.
America is unique in the history of the world. It is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people, accomplishing beautiful feats. Although quite imperfect, there persists a thread of greatness in the U.S. that still attracts more would-be immigrants than it can possibly accept.
Unlike countries tied together by common blood lines, the United States is a different model tied together by the principles of natural law. Our raison d’êtreis established in the Declaration of Independence. Every subsequent law implements the fact that all men, whatever differences they may have in skin color, talents, ancestry, wealth, or intelligence are created equal. That is, each one is entitled to equality of respect and opportunity, but not the equality of circumstances.
During two-hundred and forty-two years since the founding, this type of government and environment have produced men and women of uncommon valor, talent, and generosity. While the country has, unfortunately,produced criminals in the government, in the churches, and in the general population, it has also unleashed an unbelievable amount of creativity that benefits everyone. The fields of technology and machinery alone have transformed the daily life of people in every corner of the world.
Five times in the twentieth century, American military forces offered their wealth, their weapons, their time, their talent, and their lives to save people in other countries from tyrants. Today, on July 4, 2018, we at One Eye and Half Sense, honor that particular beauty – the beauty of selflessness.
Arlington Cemetery – Procession to the burial site.
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine Till all success be nobleness, And ev’ry gain divine!
O Beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
The US Cemetery at Normandy, just above Omaha Beach is pictured above. As you walk around the cemetery with row upon row upon row of crosses and Stars of Davids, it finally begins to dawn on you the enormity of the sacrifice that Americans made to save Europe in World War II.
Having talked to two survivors of the D-Day invasion, I assure you that those 18 to 30 year-old young men were frightened by what they saw and what they endured. And yet, they bravely obeyed in spite of their fears, in spite of trembling hands, in spite of vomiting at the carnage surrounding them. And where they could not obey original orders because of snafus, they improvised. There is no way to thank even the ones who came home and lived long lives, much less the ones who perished defending freedom.
This is the original quote by General Clark at Anzio, Italy. Part of it was carved into a wall at the Normandy Beach Memorial.
“On Memorial Day we visited the American cemetery at Anzio and saw the curving rows of white crosses that spoke eloquently of the price that America and her Allies had paid for the liberation of Italy. “If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest, it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: all we asked of Italy was enough of her soil in which to bury our gallant dead.” ” General Mark W. Clark
Another view of the Normandy Memorial Cemetery. American soldiers volunteered to die for their own people and for the oppressed people across the ocean whom they did not know and whose language and customs were foreign to them. They were idealistic young men who wanted to preserve freedom for others.
Over-view of the Normandy Cemetery showing the Memorial Building which houses artifacts and documents about the battle.
None of us are forgetful of other wars brave American soldiers have fought in since the decisive World War II: Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East. The United States has paid a high price with both blood and treasure in conflicts that some have deemed unnecessary. While God determines whose decisions were righteous and whose were selfish, the unique people of this unique nation remain loyal, diligent, and obedient even when sent on questionable missions because they “more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”
December 16, 1960 Rehearsal Dinner for Kaye and Her Knight in Shining Armor
Right to left: Sunny, Ralph, and Kaye’s Cousin
Life with Father – Kaye’s Chosen Father, That Is
Although both Sunny and Ralph obviously enjoyed each other’s company from the beginning, no one would call it a whirlwind courtship. After all, they both were responsible adults with demanding jobs and limited free time. Sunny’s younger son still lived at home. Besides, Dallas was a two-and-a-half to a three-hour drive from Temple.Since both had grown or almost grown children, there were additional serious considerations that young singles don’t even contemplate.
However, Kaye and Ralph kept developing their friendship with occasional lunches out at various Temple restaurants. These meetings often included discussions about the boys she was dating.Kaye quickly learned to detect approval or disapproval through fleeting facial expressions and probing questions. Those questions usually helped her see possible flaws that she should consider before getting too involved.
She also got a taste of his extreme generosity at one lunch in a local two-bit cafe that he frequented enough to know the waitress personally. Once when she was away from the table, he quietly explained that she was a single mother with two grade school children trying to make ends meet. When the waitress returned, he asked about the children and offered a small tidbit of fatherly advice. As they left the restaurant, Kaye happened to see the bill and realized that his tip was more than the cost of the meal.
During Kaye’s senior year, she met the man she felt certain would be her “knight in shining armor.” So within weeks Kaye, her “knight,” and her “chosen” father met in Dallas so Sunny could meet him too. The two generation foursome doubled dated that Saturday for a lovely evening of dinner and dancing. Everyone passed the first test — and many subsequent tests, double dates, and family gatherings. In December of 1960, after Kaye had graduated and had begun her teaching career, Ralph gave her away to her “knight” at their small, familywedding in Belton.
Perhaps one of the reasons it took Ralph and Sunny such a long time to walk down the aisle themselves is that they had so little time alone. When in Dallas, Sunny’s mother, son, and some of her friends were nearly always included in their “dates.” When they were in Temple or at the hunting lease for a weekend, Ralph’s friends and family were invariably present, day and night. Actually their courtship lasted long enough for Sunny to pick out her own friends and feel entirely at home even before movingto Temple and settling in.
Once marriedSunny quickly changed her role from executive assistant to the president of a small company to that of supportive wife for the owner of a somewhat larger company.Privately, she loved giving elegant dinners for his friends and business acquaintances. In fact, she became a legend in her own time for gracious hospitality. Other wives in town soon began to emulate her distinctive menus,memorable decorations, and refreshing approach to entertaining others. She also traveled with him on his frequent business trips across the US, always easing any awkward situations and making friends with difficult people.
Bell County Junior Livestock Show
Publicly, back in Temple, she devoted much time and attention to furthering his charitable goals by assisting local children. Ralph always had a soft spot in his heart for them. He never failed to support the high school band, the 4-H club, or the Future Farmers of America group whether they were from Temple or from one of the surrounding small towns. But his biggest soft spot was for The Boys Club in Temple. In fact he gave land near his plant and built a building for it before it officially became the Boys and Girls Club of Temple. He also left provisions and instructions for the club in his will to assure its longevity.
Neither Kaye nor her older brother had any idea whether Ralph’s will included them or not. But after their mother’s marriage, they both approached him privately to ask that he not leave anything to her children. Their desire was fortheir mother to never worry about money again. Besides, they wanted to maintain friendly relationships with his children long after his death. All of Sunny’s children were both healthy and educated and strongly believed they could face whatever life threw their way.
Unfortunately, that will was probated much too soon. In 1972 Sunny became a widow for the second time in her life.
After Ralph’s funeral, none of the family could count how many people had come forward to personally tell of ways that Ralph had helped them in time of need, like paying off unexpected medical bills, defraying the cost of car repairs, or even liquidating obligations to a local loan shark.When any of them came back to repay him, he always refused. Nearly all of these stories were news to the family because he had never mentioned any of these financial adventures. Sometimes the person had asked for help. Sometimes Ralph realized they were in trouble and offered to help on his own.
Once again, after the funeral and the company had cleared out, Sunny faced life without a husband, but with many happy memories. Fortunately this time, neither children nor finances were a big problem. She bravely started out again on a new path of additional civic, church, and charitable work. For the first time ever, she joined women’s clubs, finding several in Temple that appealed to her interests.She still entertained a lot. She took each of her grandchildren, one at a time, to Europe with a local tour group. With the blessing of energy and good health, she lived comfortably alone for another forty years.
But finally the time came to close up shop. So she moved all the way to Montana to live with her youngest child, fulfilling the long-standing Southern custom of the youngest taking care of the elderly parent(s). And there she started another new life, this time coping with the vagaries of old age: loss of vision, mobility, and impaired hearing. But she is cheerful, polite, and eager to compliment others, just like she’s always been. She still faces life like a determined sheep herder from the Llano Estacado.
Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather
This Is A Beautiful Woman: https://wordpress.com/post/oneeyehalfsense.com/1877
Picture from an Awards Dinner for Home Interiors, Inc. in 1960. Mary Crowley is on the left, Sunny Wilson is on the right, next to Mary’s son, Don Carter. I apologize for the damaged photo and not knowing the names of the two women in the center. This is the only photograph I can find of Mary and Sunny, although many were taken during the years they worked together.
Entrepreneurship Opens The Door
Mary Crowley, the Sunday School teacher who had organized her class to bring prepared food and groceries to Sunny’s family during the winter of recovery, stepped into her life again in the late summer of 1954. This time she became the light at the end of the tunnel that finally started Sunny on the beautiful road to solid ground financially.
Mary had a special understanding of Sunny’s predicament. Years before she, too, had been left with two young children, but without a husband’s support. To put food on the table, she began working in a local Montgomery Wardsand discovered she had a knack for salesmanship.She also realized that as the bread-winner, she needed more than a high school education. So she put herself through business school while working at the department store, and then moved with her children to Dallas, Texas.
There, she became an accountant/salesman for one of the larger downtown furniture stores. During the Post War building and baby boom, she grew more and more aware of the huge numbers of the young families buying their first homes and wanting to make them beautiful.So she began sharing information with customers about putting pictures on the wall, selecting pretty lamps, choosing complementary colors in the upholstered furniture, as well as explaining the store’s finance terms. Very soon she became their leading salesman.
But in early 1954, (while Sunny was recuperating at home) Mary left the established business to work on a new venture with Dick Kelly selling decorative objects for the home on the “party plan.” They called it World Gift Company since most of the merchandise was imported, similar to the products now sold at Pier One. Dick made the executive decisions, while Mary became the sales executive to recruit and train the women who became their independent representatives.
They sold each new recruit at least one large suitcase full of samples to show at the party. Then she trained them with many creative ways to use the items for home decor and got them started by presenting at the first two or three parties that the newbie booked.The official training continued every Monday when Mary showed additional possibilities for using the decorations; she also shared stories about how and why each imported item had been made and used in its country of origin. And she made the sales meetings the most upbeat, inspirational programs anyone could imagine.
When Mary realized that selling insurance was providing neither the income nor the satisfaction that Sunny wanted, she recruited her to sell for the new company part-time while she also taught school as she had done the year before. Sunny couldn’t begin to pay for the cost of the suitcase full of samples and sales aids that she needed, so Mary kindly lent her the money and let her repay the debt over several months of work.
When school started in September, Sunny had to miss the Monday sales meetings, but again Mary came to her rescue by offering extra phone support as well as tape recordings of sales talks.Also, she mailed out inspiring sales letters every week to every one involved with new stories and new ideas about the products.So, Sunny happily addedteaching home decorating lessons at parties to her lessons in poetry and public speaking at her school.
Each month became less of a struggle with money than the month before. By the end of the school year in 1955, just one year after facing total financial destruction, she decided to leave teaching her beloved students to selling full-time because it was so much more profitable. And she had the privilege of spending all of her working hours concentrating on creating beauty. One year after that, she had earned enough rewards from World Gift Company to win a one week free vacation in Mexico City for herself and as a high school graduation present for her daughter.
When some disturbing issues arose between Dick Kelly and Mary over executive decisions in 1957, Mary left World Gift to begin her own company, Home Interiors. She asked Sunny to join her as executive assistant. The two had become close friends in the previous three years and knew they could work well together. And Sunny had social and business skills that complemented Mary’s talents.
Home Interiors grew rapidly. By 1983, at its twenty-fifth anniversary, sales topped $400,000,000. And profits were over $20,000,000. By the early 1990’s, after Mary’s death, sales were over $850,000,000. Her son, who had continued to run the company, sold it during the nineties.
But Mary and Sunny had led the company to its early successes as great friends and as co-workers.The friendship continued, but the business relationship ended when Sunny’s daughter finally found the man of her dreams – a step father. But that’s another chapter in the life of this beautiful woman.
Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather
This Is A Beautiful Woman: https://wordpress.com/post/oneeyehalfsense.com/1877